Friday, February 25, 2005

Tsunami pics

The couple didn't make it, but their digital photos of the tsunami did.

Via Instapundit.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


I'll be out of town until March enjoying time with my family. I will be unlikely to post while on vacation.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Taranto replies

James Taranto has responded. For those new to my blog, on February 16 I speculated that Taranto was the author of the unsigned WSJ editorial that characterized blogosphere critiques of Eason Jordan as "vendettas of amateurs." I appreciate the traffic from Taranto's reply; here is what he wrote:
Amateur Hour

Blogger "David M" wants to know who wrote Monday's Wall Street Journal editorial on the Eason Jordan kerfuffle, which caused a blogosphere brouhaha with its references to bloggers as "amateurs":

[Excerpt from my post omitted]

David forwarded us his blog entry, asking if we did indeed write the editorial. That is a question we cannot answer, for Journal policy is to keep the authorship of editorials confidential. An exception is made when editorial writers are nominated for prizes--which means that bloggers who wish to learn who wrote this editorial should be rooting for the author to win a Pulitzer.

Isn't this a perfect example of how bloggers are amateurs (amateur: "one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession")? If David enjoys puzzling over the authorship of newspaper editorials, more power to him--but it's hard to imagine anyone making a living that way.

There's also something sweet in how the bloggers have taken such offense at the editorial. Rather than bask in their victory, they are focused on letting the world know how much they crave the approval of the big boys at the Journal.
Taranto's reply prompts a few thoughts:
  1. This seems as close as Taranto can come, without violating Journal policy, to a public acknowledgment that he wrote the editorial.

    UPDATE: Taranto replies via e-mail:
    Of course, in response to No. 1, it's also the closest I could come to a public acknowledgment that someone else wrote the editorial. Cheers, James
  2. In his reply, Taranto sets up and destroys a strawman. He defends the use of amateurs to describe bloggers, arguing that bloggers are generally unpaid for their efforts (true enough, with some notable exceptions like, well, Taranto). But the blogosphere's quibble was not with the Journal's characterization of bloggers as unpaid, rather the quibble was with the Journal's characterization of bloggers as incompetent (amateur: "one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science"). The editorial stated that chief among CNN's obligations was
    to show the good judgment and sense of proportion that distinguishes professional journalism from the enthusiasms and vendettas of amateurs.
    This is ambiguously impugning the judgment of the amateurs.

    And where, I ask Taranto, did the amateur bloggers show bad judgment? What I read of the blogs asked for the truth of what Jordan said; some demanded a transcript or video. They were not clamoring for Jordan's scalp; rather they were seeking to draw attention to the incident, and to learn the facts.

    As even the Journal's Bret Stephens--who was present for Jordan's remarks--wrote, "Mr. Jordan made a defamatory innuendo." Jordan, a prominent executive in a prominent international news organization, made a defamatory innuendo about US troops at a prominent international conference. And bloggers demanded to learn the facts. Does that sound like poor judgment on the bloggers' part? Perhaps to Taranto, but not to me.
  3. Taranto illustrates his point by commenting that I must be an amateur because "it's hard to imagine anyone making a living" by "puzzling over the authorship of newspaper editorials." Presumably then, Taranto was not expecting to get paid the day he wrote this piece [emphasis in original]:
    So who wrote this Times piece? Beats us. ...[I]t's an unsigned editorial!
  4. My thanks to Taranto for so kindly pointing out two typos in my post. James, any time you'd like to come help edit my blog, you're welcome. Heck, I'll even give you a user name and password and let you write your own posts.
As I've stated before, I like Taranto's writing, and I usually agree with his point of view. I'm just not so sure he's on the right side on this one.

Moving on, here is what a few others have written about the exchange:
  • Darn Floor:
    Taranto responds in such a dismissive, condescending manner that . . . well, it wouldn't surprise me to see Taranto in the blogosphere's crosshairs soon (if he's not already.)...

    Perhaps Taranto hasn't noticed, but his "Best of the Web" is essentially a blog, pointing out newsbits from across the web and commenting on them. The only difference is that Taranto gets paid to write his blog while the "amateurs" he sniffs at do not.
  • Cockalorum
    Taranto's response sounds like an admission and a follow-up tweak....

    Anybody who reads Best of the Web knows that Taranto likes to twist noses, but this reaction strikes me as pretty arrogant. The Eason Jordan remark at Davos wasn't the first time he had made such outrageous statements, and the fact that he was in a position with a lot of power over a major news organization makes it a story that deserved more attention. I don't know why the WSJ wants to shield him, but it suggests that the "Good Ole Boy" syndrome extends even to big conservative papers.
  • Gantelope:
    A few days ago, some MSM publication (I think it was called the Waltz Treat Journal) chided bloggers for engaging in an amateurish vendetta against CNN exec. Eason Jordan. Not considering this bit of whine spectating to be particularly newsworthy, we chose not to bother our readers with it.

    Blogger David M believed otherwise, speculating yesterday on the authorship of the WTJ piece. We're embarrassed to admit that we need a little help following Dave's argument. Can someone please tell us who this James Toronto fellow is? (Isn't Toronto the name of the Canadian president?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

First use of verb to fisk

I was browsing the LGF dictionary. (I actually enjoy browsing dictionaries in general--you're getting a sense of my inner nerd here.)

For those who are interested, the LGF dictionary gives a good sense of the character of the LGF community as well as some insight into the lingo of the self-named anti-idiotarian wing of the blogging community.

I started with the word fisking. The LGF FAQ defines fisking as follows:
It's derived from Robert Fisk... and refers to a point-by-point debunking of the kind of lies and/or idiocies written by those of the Robert Fisk persuasion.
The LGF dictionary, which notes that the term fisking probably did not originate on LGF (as several other terms did), cites the above definition and also adds that the first documented use of fisking on LGF was
[John B. 5/21/2002 11:00AM]. The casualness with which John B. used the term makes it seem likely he expected people to already be familiar with its meaning.
If that was in fact the term's first use on LGF, then the term indeed did not originate there. Instapundit, Tim Blair, and a Free Republic commenter used the term about six months earlier.

Via Google and some helpful e-mailers, I found a little more about the term's history:
  • Dec. 5, 2001: Free Republic commenter "sheik yerbouty" used the term fisking ("More Arab 'Fisking' ") in reference to a Robert Fisk article on the terrorism. There was no implied meaning of a point-by-point debunking.
  • Dec. 10, 2001 (This is the date on the Independent's web site. I suspect it was actually published earlier since Andrew Sullivan's critique of the piece appeared on Dec. 9.): British journalist Robert Fisk reported being sympathetic to a band of Afghans who attacked him:
    They started by shaking hands. We said "Salaam aleikum" – peace be upon you – then the first pebbles flew past my face. A small boy tried to grab my bag. Then another. Then someone punched me in the back. Then young men broke my glasses, began smashing stones into my face and head. I couldn't see for the blood pouring down my forehead and swamping my eyes. And even then, I understood. I couldn't blame them for what they were doing. In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find.
  • Dec. 9, 2001: Andrew Sullivan wrote "The Pathology of Robert Fisk," a line-by-line critique of Fisk's piece.
  • Dec. 15, 2001: The seeds of fisking were in place, if not the term. Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds wrote,
    MARK STEYN ADDS THIS ESSAY to the many lampooning the appropriately self-loathing Robert Fisk.
  • Dec. 19, 2001: Aussie blogger Tim Blair became the first blogger (the first I've encountered, anyway) to use the term:
    He deserves a righteous kicking, and I think Natalie might be first in line with the Fisking boots.
    Note that Blair's use of the term referred to getting physically pommelled--as Robert Fisk reported happened to him.
  • Dec. 24, 2001: Reynolds used the term. With Reynolds' use of the term its meaning was moving from physical pommelling to its current sense of oratorical pommelling:
    ...the holiday season afflicted me with too much charity and cheerfulness to give her the sound Fisking that she so richly deserved.
    Note that, like the the LGF commenter cited above, Reynolds used the term casually as if it were already known in the blogosphere.
  • Mar. 29, 2002: Reynolds used the term again: "NOW SIMBERG IS FISKING FISK."

  • Aug. 10, 2002: Reynolds called fisking a "popular blogosphere term" and linked to a definition of the term by Eugene Volokh. Unfortunately, the Volokh link appears to be dead, but Reynolds also quoted the definition:
    Volokh also provides a superb definition of the popular Blogosphere term "Fisking:" "a thorough and forceful verbal beating of an anti-war, possibly anti-American, commentator who has richly earned this figurative beating through his words." Couldn't have said it better myself.

    Volokh also neatly capsulizes the history of the term: "The term refers to Robert Fisk, a journalist who wrote some rather foolish anti-war stuff, and who in particular wrote a story in which he (1) recounted how he was beaten by some anti-American Afghan refugees, and (2) thought they were morally right for doing so."
  • Nov. 21, 2003: Reynolds cited two more definitions of the term:
    I like this definition:
    fisking: n.
    [blogosphere; very common] A point-by-point refutation of a blog entry or (especially) news story. A really stylish fisking is witty, logical, sarcastic and ruthlessly factual; flaming or handwaving is considered poor form. Named after Robert Fisk, a British journalist who was a frequent (and deserving) early target of such treatment. See also MiSTing, anti-idiotarianism.
    There's also this one:
    verb. To deconstruct an article on a point by point basis in a highly critical manner. Derived from the name of journalist Robert Fisk, a frequent target of such critical articles in the blogosphere (qv).
    So there you are. A recent article in The Spectator misused the term, suggesting that "Fisking" is something that Robert Fisk does. That's not the standard usage, though.
Does anyone out there know any early use of fisk as a verb? Let me know.
Note: This post has been updated when I have found earlier citations.

Update: Related posts here, here and here.

Thanks for the link, Zom.

Arlen Specter has Hodgkin's disease

Arlen Specter's office announced today that the senator has Hodgkin’s disease (a cancer of the lymph system):
Senator Specter said: “I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents; and I’m going to beat this too. I have a lot more work to do for Pennsylvania and America.”
The press release is here.

Have blogs of the left and right helped Bush?

U.S. News columnist Michael Barone comments on blogs and politics:
So what hath the blogosphere wrought? The left blogosphere has moved the Democrats off to the left, and the right blogosphere has undermined the credibility of the Republicans' adversaries in Old Media. Both changes help Bush and the Republicans.
(Link via Pith.)

Who wrote the WSJ's "vendetta of amateurs" piece?

I recently posted about an unsigned editorial in the Feb. 14 Wall Street Journal, which essentially defended Eason Jordan against the "vendettas of amateurs" (that is, bloggers). The piece has been roundly criticized by such as the Washington Times, the National Review and others.

As Jim Geraghty has pointed out, Hugh Hewitt's producer was led to believe that the unsigned WSJ piece was written by Bret Stephens. But Hewitt then corrected the record:
I have been informed that my producer's calls with various people at the Wall Street Journal yesterday were not intended to give the impression that Bret Stephens wrote yesterday's editorial.
So that leaves the question open: If Stephens did not write the piece, who did?

My guess is James Taranto.

[Disclosure: While I do not know Taranto, I read his column regularly. I have been acknowledged (under my non-blog name) in his Best of the Web quite a few times. And he once edited the online version of a WSJ op-ed piece to insert a link to my blog, for which I am grateful. We tail-end bloggers need all the help we can get.]

Why do I think Taranto wrote the piece?
  1. It is entitled "The Jordan Kerfuffle," and as regular readers of Taranto know, kerfuffle is his favorite word. (For evidence see last item here. Or here or here. Or the eighth item here or here.) He also particularly likes kerfuffle in headlines. (Search for "best headline ever" here and here.)
  2. Taranto linked prominently to the piece in his Feb. 14 BOTW column.
  3. The tone of the piece is similar to the tone of Bret Stephens' (Feb. 10) piece on the topic. And Taranto has written (also on Feb. 14) that he defers to Stephens' expertise on the topic. So if Stephens didn't write it, Taranto may have.
  4. The tone of the piece is not dissimilar to Taranto's tone in disussing discussing the topic on Feb. 15.
  5. One other possible writer, John Fund, seems not to have written it. As one Edward Tabakin notes in a letter published on Hewitt's blog, Fund seems to distance himself from the most egregious parts of the editorial.
All of the above evidence is admittedly circumstancial circumstantial. Is it enough to convict?

Note: Tip of the hat to Jim Geraghty who alerted me to Hewitt's post, and who took the time to send me an update when Hewitt updated his post. Garaghty is a big-time blogger as well as print writer who does not know me from Adam. Always nice when a big name treats a tail-ender with respect.

Update: See related post here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Stanford and Berkeley: Diversity in all things except political viewpoints

On Monday, AEI hosted a conference entitled, A "Liberal" Education? The Effects of Ideology in the Classroom.

At the conference, Prof. Daniel Klein presented Ideology of Faculty in the Social Sciences and Humanities. It presents some fascinating data on the political affiliations of the 1497 tenure-track faculty at Berkeley and Stanford. A few snippets from Klein's presentation:

  • In the Stanford humanities departments, there are 72 Democrats and 2 Republicans.
  • By comparison, the Stanford social sciences seem downright diverse with 72 Democrats and 8 Republicans.
  • In the social sciences and humanities at Stanford and Berkeley combined, the overall ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 16 to 1.

The numbers are overwhelming. Read the presentation for more.

Note: A piece I wrote last year on political giving at Ivy League schools revealed Democrat-Republican ratios in the same ballpark.

Bush=Nazi: Give that man a silver key

Mark Steyn:
I'm not worried about Iraq. As they demonstrated on Jan. 30, they'll be just fine. The western front is the important one in this war, the point of intersection between Islam and a liberal democratic tradition so mired in self-loathing it would rather destroy our civilization just to demonstrate its multicultural bona fides.
Steyn explains:
[W]hen Chariho Regional High School art teacher Lynn Norton set her pupils the task of expressing an idea three-dimensionally, Jeffrey Eden immediately thought of a diorama comparing Bush to Hitler. You might think that ought to be disqualified on the grounds that characterizing Bush as Hitler is about as two-dimensional as you can get, and it's less of a diorama than the diarrhea of leftist rhetoric, as poured forth by millions of drones and nude Marin County feminist protesters and European activist puppeteers. But there's always room for one more, and Jeffrey's schoolmarm was thrilled at the way he did it so cutely, draping a swastika on one side and the Stars and Stripes on the other, and putting in little plastic soldiers -- Nazi and American, though who can tell the difference, right? -- and then adding his own penetrating observations on both Bush (''Saddam had no affiliation with the Taliban'') and his predecessor as Fuhrer (''Hitler's own justification was his own hatred.'' Hmm. What a testament to the quality of Rhode Island's ''Social Studies'' curriculum).

Well, Jeffrey's 17. One day, with a bit of luck, he'll realize Bush isn't Hitler. If he were, Jeffrey would be in the Bush Youth doing patriotic exercises in shorts every morning and singing the special Texan lyrics to the Horst Wessel song, and he wouldn't have time to do dioramas of dissent. But what are we to make of everyone else in this sorry story? The art teacher who gave him an A. The 15 judges in the Rhode Island Scholastic Art Awards who awarded him their ''silver key.'' The proprietor of Alperts Furniture Showroom in Seekonk where the winning ''art'' work is proudly on display. Are there no grown-ups left in Rhode Island?

Photo: Providence Journal

Dissension in the ranks

The Wall Street Journal editorial page defends Eason Jordan against the "vendettas of amateurs."

National Review's Andrew McCarthy thinks the editorial is "not up to the paper's gold standard," and the Washington Times is "a little disappointed" in the Journal.

Monday, February 14, 2005

On Saddam, the UN and the war in Iraq

Andrew Sullivan comments in the (London) Times:
[T]he majority of Saddam’s income in the 1990s came from illicit oil deals — often with the UN members who were supposed to be enforcing the sanctions. The only word for this is a farce — with kickbacks.

Imagine we had followed the UN line and not gone to war. The corrupt oil for food programme would have continued, while pressure to remove sanctions increased. Saddam would have gradually rebuilt the ability to threaten the region and the world. Hundreds of shady businessmen, lobbyists and bureaucrats would have seen their bank accounts padded with lucrative oil contracts.

The Iraqi people would have continued to live in a fast-collapsing police state, kept barely alive by medicine and food supplies from the UN that were also the means to keep them under Saddam’s thumb. How on earth would this have been anything but a disaster and an injustice? Yes, critics of the war are right to say that we now know the WMD threat was greatly exaggerated. But it is equally true that we now know that the status quo the war critics preferred was inefficient, corrupt and deadly to the Iraqi people.

Maybe, but I'm getting flowers just in case

A.P. article:
Love Doc: Kissing Is Best Valentine's Gift

This Valentine's Day, forget the flowers and chocolate. Cherie Byrd has a better idea: Learn to pucker up.

Heart surgery

If you need heart surgery, make sure you get it done at a hospital that does lots of your type of case. And make sure the surgeon has done lots, too.

Here is the conclusion to a heart surgery study in the new Archives of Internal Medicine:
Conclusion: High-risk patients are more likely to undergo CABG [coronary artery bypass with graft] at low-volume facilities where their risk of dying is higher.
This study only deals with heart surgery, but it's a good rule of thumb with any surgery to go with a doctor and hospital with a high volume of the procedure.

[Note: I am not a doctor, so take any medicine-related advice from me with a considerable dose of salt. But I do spend a considerable amount of time thinking about medical practice patterns. People occasionally even pay me to do so.]

Would-be novelists, take note

Take the mystery out of writing your own WWII thriller.

Secretary Lieberman?

Today's Washington Post reports of "K Street chatter" that
[Sen. Joseph] Lieberman could be on an administration list to replace Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in the next year or so.
Which might go to explain the post-State of the Union smooch.

Keep in mind, however, that previous rumors of a Lieberman post in the Bush administration did not prove true.

(Via Drudge.)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Tsunami pics, redux

My post a couple of weeks back entitled "tsunami pics" (which linked to before and after satellite pictures of the tsunami damage) received more search engine traffic than any other recent postings here.

But now that the post has drifted off the front page, that search traffic has dried up. So here now is an attempt to gain back some of that traffic.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Easongate in the MSM

Here is how the NY Times (Jacques Steinberg and Katharine Q. Seelye) and the Washington Post (Howard Kurtz) covered the Eason Jordan resignation. I prefer Kurtz's article.

Update: The Times has more on Eason this morning (Feb. 14), and Jeff Jarvis is unimpressed.

Also, Reynolds covers the topic here, here and here.


From today's news:
...broadcast of explicit pictures of a French U.N. worker and Congolese girls and his claim that there was a network of pedophiles at the U.N. mission in Congo.
It appears to be fairly widespread. To quote Betsy Newmark,
This is much more terrible than Abu Ghraib. I wonder if it will receive half the attention that Abu Ghraib did.
Another take (from Ace, via Malkin):
The UN: We're Not Just About Billion-Dollar Corruption Schemes. We Also Rape Children.

While I haven't Kippled, I have Serviced...

Gerard van der Leun does a remarkable job adapting Robert Service's classic Law of the Yukon into the Law of the Blogger. Highly recommended for fans of Service and blogs.

But how is it that the world's best blogger can confuse Service with Kipling?

(Hat tip: W. Stern.)

Update: Reynolds writes,
Some readers say that Gerard van der Leun is echoing Robert Service's Law of the Yukon, rather than Kipling's Law of the Jungle. But if I'm not mistaken, Service's poem was inspired by Kipling's.
This Rice University analysis lends some credence to support Reynolds' point. And FYI, here is Kipling's Law of the Jungle.

Eason Jordan resigns

Eason Jordan, CNN's news chief, has resigned in the wake of unsubstantiated allegations he supposedly made to a large audience about U.S. troops deliberately killing journalists.

Blogs played the major role in bringing the story of Jordan's remarks to to light.

For those who have not been following, read the round-up of the story here, with lots of links included.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Perhaps if the editors read their own paper

Seattle Times headline, Feb. 10, 2005:
North Korea admits to having nukes
Seattle Times, Feb. 11, 2005:
North Korea refuses to admit it has the [nuclear] program....

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Laffer shocked to think W incredibly good at economics

Arthur Laffer responds to a question from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Q: What grade do you give Bush on economics?

A: I'm really shocked by it. As you probably know, I was not a fan of his father's. I voted for Clinton twice. I really thought Bush (the elder) and Bob Dole were tax collectors for the welfare state. The reason I voted for Bush W. was more Al Gore than it was Bush. And now I am just totally a fan. This guy is just incredibly good at economics.

[Emphasis in original.]

(Link via Newmark's Door.)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Some bloggish navel gazing

Here are some stats on this blog for 2005 year to date. I've included the country, operating system and browser through which people access this blog. (All data are from

  • Countries from which this blog has been accessed in 2005, in descending order of number of page views:

    1. United States
    2. Canada
    3. United Kingdom
    4. Singapore
    5. Other
    6. Mexico
    7. India
    8. Australia
    9. South Africa
    10. Israel
    11. Netherlands
    12. Germany
    13. Malaysia
    14. Sweden
    15. Philippines
    16. Pakistan
    17. Japan
    18. Finland
    19. Brazil
    20. Switzerland
    21. Poland
    22. Indonesia
    23. Romania
    24. Portugal
    25. Norway
    26. Korea (South)
    27. Greece
    28. Guyana
    29. Syrian Arab Republic
    30. Argentina
    31. Spain
    32. Thailand
    33. Venezuela
    34. Vietnam
    35. New Zealand
    36. Ireland
    37. Puerto Rico
    38. Slovak Republic
    39. Turkey
    40. Trinidad and Tobago
    41. Taiwan
    42. Gibraltar
    43. Egypt
    44. Belgium
    45. Brunei Darussalam
    46. United Arab Emirates
    47. Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
    48. Colombia
    49. Costa Rica
    50. Czech Republic
    51. Hong Kong
    52. Hungary
    53. Italy
    54. Jordan
    55. Kuwait
    56. Sri Lanka
    57. Namibia
    58. Nicaragua

  • Operating systems used to access this blog in 2005, by percentage of page views:

    1. Windows: 92.94%
    2. Apple Macintosh: 5.97%
    3. Other: 0.62%
    4. Linux: 0.46%

  • Browsers used to access this blog in 2005, by percentage of page views:

    1. Microsoft Internet Explorer: 72.23%
    2. Mozilla: 21.53%
    3. Apple: 3.05%
    4. Netscape Navigator: 2.63%
    5. Opera: 0.49%
    6. Other: 0.07%

Biased AP?

The National Center for Public Policy Research is unimpressed with the AP's reporting on global warming:
News organizations using AP materials would be well advised to independently confirm information in AP stories before publishing.

Blog ethics

I've just come across two efforts to codify the ethics of weblogs:The blog is a medium in its infancy, and I expect there will be considerably more along these lines.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Saudis in America "on a mission behind enemy lines"

A new study of documents distributed in America by the government of Saudi Arabia is not very encouraging.

The study covered documents intended for a Muslim audience and written largely in Arabic. Some of the findings:
  • [The documents] assert that it is a religious obligation for Muslims to hate Christians and Jews and warn against imitating, befriending, or helping them in any way...;
  • The documents promote contempt for the United States because it is ruled by legislated civil law rather than by totalitarian Wahhabi-style Islamic law. They condemn democracy as un-Islamic;
  • The documents stress that when Muslims are in the lands of the unbelievers, they must behave as if on a mission behind enemy lines. Either they are there to acquire new knowledge and make money to be later employed in the jihad against the infidels, or they are there to proselytize the infidels until at least some convert to Islam. Any other reason for lingering among the unbelievers in their lands is illegitimate, and unless a Muslim leaves as quickly as possible, he or she is not a true Muslim and so too must be condemned. For example, a document in the collection for the “Immigrant Muslim” bears the words “Greetings from the Cultural Attache in Washington, D.C.” of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia, and is published by the government of Saudi Arabia. In an authoritative religious voice, it gives detailed instructions on how to “hate” the Christian and Jew: Never greet them first. Never congratulate the infidel on his holiday. Never imitate the infidel. Do not become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Do not wear a graduation gown because this imitates the infidel;
  • [T]he Saudi propaganda aim[s] to replace traditional and moderate interpretations of Islam with extremist Wahhabism.... In these documents, other Muslims, especially those who advocate tolerance, are condemned as infidels. The opening fatwa in one Saudi embassy-distributed book, published by the Saudi Air Force, responds to a question about a Muslim preacher in a European mosque who taught that it is not right to condemn Jews and Christians as infidels. The Saudi state cleric’s reply rebukes the Muslim cleric: “He who casts doubts about their infidelity leaves no doubt about his.” Since, under Saudi law, “apostates” from Islam can be sentenced to death, this is an implied death threat against the tolerant Muslim imam, as well as an incitement to vigilante violence;
  • Sufi and Shiite Muslims are viciously condemned;
  • For a Muslim who fails to uphold the Saudi Wahhabi sect’s sexual mores (i.e. through homosexual activity or heterosexual activity outside of marriage), the edicts published by the Saudi government’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, and found in American mosques advise, “it would be lawful for Muslims to spill his blood and to take his money;”
  • Regarding those who convert out of Islam, the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs explicitly asserts, they “should be killed;”
  • Saudi textbooks and other publications in the collection, propagate a Nazi-like hatred for Jews, treat the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion as historical fact, and avow that the Muslim’s duty is to eliminate the state of Israel....

CNN's Eason Jordan

For those who have not been following, CNN's Eason Jordan has stirred up quite a controversy by supposedly making unsubstantiated allegations at the World Economic Forum that US troops intentionally killed journalists in Iraq.

La Shawn Barber is covering the issue in some detail:
(Hat tip to Slant Point.)

Update: More here from Michelle Malkin, who has spoken to one of Jordan's co-panelists, Barney Frank.

Where's Israel?

It is an unfortunate yet common practice in Arab countries to omit Israel from maps. This map on an official government web site is typical:

Note how the map finds room to print the names of Lebanon and Eritrea, but not Israel.

One notable characteristic differentiates this map from others of its ilk: It appears on an official US government site.

(Hat tip to a Dinocrat post which poses the question, "why isn’t Saudi Arabia in the Axis of Evil?")

Update: It has been pointed out that other US government sites--indeed other DOE sites--acknowledge the existence of Israel. Should this not go without saying?

The Weekly Standard on Bush's foreign policy

Stephen Hayes writes on the consistency of Bush's foreign policy:
Six months ago, foreign policy experts were dancing on the grave of the Bush Doctrine. Since then we've seen successful elections in Afghanistan, Ukraine, the Palestinian Authority, and Iraq, a renewal of the Mideast peace process--and, of course, the reelection of George W. Bush over his neorealist rival.

The Bush Doctrine would seem to be alive and well.
Robert Kagan and William Kristol second the concept:
President Bush never accepted the notion that Iraqis or other Arab or Muslim peoples are not "ready" for democracy. As a result millions of Iraqis (and Afghans) have now voted.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The New York Times versus capitalism and immigrants

An editorial in today's New York Times contains this classic line:

The problem of worker safety is compounded by the fact that meatpackers, driven by the brutal economics of the industry, always try to hire the cheapest labor they can find.
Is it just me, or does this sound like it could come from another once-respected source of information?

The editorial is about poor working conditions at meatpacking plants, a topic about which I know nothing; the Times' underlying claims could very well be true.

But the Times' implication that something is amiss because economic pressures cause a company to try to minimize costs reveals either fundamental ignorance of our economic system or a fundamental distrust of capitalism.

The point could have been mad far more strongly had the Times instead written,
The problem of worker safety is compounded by the fact that meatpackers, driven by natural economic forces, strive to minimize labor costs.
The editorial continues by stating that the meatpackers hire immigrants (Heaven forbid!),
whose language difficulties compound the risks of the job. The result, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch, is "extraordinarily high rates of injury" in conditions that systematically violate human rights.
I can only imagine what the Times editorial would look like if the meatpacking industry gave would-be workers an English language test, effectively eliminating many immigrants from being hired: "Meatpackers engage in discriminatory practices!"

If unethical companies are providing inappropriate working conditions, let's fix the problem. But it gives the cause no help to blame capitalism and immigrants.

A loss for the blogosphere

The State Department Republicans of the Diplomad say thanks and good-bye as they announce the end of their blog.

From their self-description:
A blog by career US Foreign Service officers. They are Republican (most of the time) in an institution (State Department) in which being a Republican can be bad for your career -- even with a Republican President! Join the State Department Republican Underground.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Saudi anti-terror conference, the UN and Israel

A global anti-terror conference starts tomorrow in Saudi Arabia. Of course the country most targeted by terror (Israel) is not invited and a state sponsor of terror (Iran) is.

Powerline covers the issue here and here. They also carry this exchange between a Powerline reader and the Saudi embassy:
Reader Thomas Wuthrich... wrote:
What kind of monstrous joke is your country trying to perpetrate in issuing an invitation to its "anti-terror" conference to the world's foremost sponsor of terror, Iran, while shunning one of the foremost victims of terror, Israel?

It should come as no surprise to you when polls show that Saudi Arabia is among the countries least trusted by Americans.

And, no, I am not a Jew. I am merely someone who sees clearly.
Mr. Wuthrich received an unsigned response from the Saudi embassy information office:
Thank you Mr. Wuthrich. One of the foremost victims of terror??? I think not. Please keep in mind Israel is in violation of more United Nations resolutions than all other countries of the world combined. Iran is not in violation of any United Nations resolutions. Image is different than reality.
Powerliner John H. Hinderaker adds,
I haven't tried to check this out, but offhand, I wouldn't be surprised if it's true that--to phrase the point slightly differently--the U.N. has condemned Israel more often than all other countries combined. Which says a great deal about the U.N.
When I need information on the UN and Israel, I first check the work of Anne Bayefsky.

In particular, a Bayefsky piece from the Feb. 2004 Commentary magazine entitled "The UN and the Jews" sheds some light on the issue Hinderaker raised. And unfortunately the short answer to his query is that yes, the UN does single out Israel, and yes it says more about the UN than it does about Israel. Here is Bayefsky:
To judge by the UN’s official pronouncements, the Jewish state is the world’s archetypal humanrights villain. Over the past 40 years, almost 30 percent of the resolutions passed by the UN Commission on Human Rights to condemn specific states have been directed at Israel, which also has the distinction of being the only state to which the commission has devoted an entire item on its agenda.

As for the General Assembly, of the ten emergency special sessions it has convened in its history, six have focused on the purported misdeeds of Israel, from the Suez campaign of 1956 to the current dispute over the security fence. The abuse of this process has gone so far that the tenth session, originally convened in 1997, has become a permanent, open-ended forum; it has now been “reconvened” twelve times, most recently this past December.

Israel has been singled out in other ways as well. In the UN bureaucracy, it is the only country with its own standing inter-state monitor: the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. Established as long ago as 1968, this body has issued annual reports ever since. Another committee, on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, was established in 1975, on the same day the General Assembly passed the Zionism-is-racism resolution. Still going strong almost three decades later, with 24 members and 25 observers, it too summarizes its findings every year while at the same time sponsoring a full program of meetings, conferences, and publications. In 2003 alone, the UN bureaucracy generated 22 reports and formal notes on “conditions of Palestinian and other Arab citizens living under Israeli occupation.”

The UN’s response to an Israeli military incursion into the West Bank town of Jenin in April 2002 typifies the organization’s treatment of the Jewish state. At the time, even a report by Yasir Arafat’s Fatah movement recognized Jenin as “the suicider’s capital,” a place where organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad had sought shelter, among civilians, for their ongoing murderous operations. But the UN saved its venom for Israel’s armed response to the violence directed against its citizens. Terje Roed-Larsen, the organization’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, described the scene after Israel’s strike—a strike expressly designed to limit civilian casualties—as “horrific beyond belief.” Peter Hansen, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency, called it “a human catastrophe that had few parallels in recent history.” A UN press release was headlined, “End the horror in the camps.” Only much later, in mid-summer, did the UN Secretary General release a report on Jenin noting that the Palestinian death toll from this “massacre” was 52, approximately 35 of whom were armed combatants.

King Gyanendra of Nepal


(Source article here.)

Annan takes a page from Casa Blanca's script

"The secretary general is shocked by what the report has to say about Mr Sevan."--Mark Malloch Brown, Annan's chief-of-staff.

"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"--Captain Renault.

The NY Sun takes on Columbia U

Today's New York Sun asks of Columbia University,
How did a great institution of higher learning allow itself to be transformed into a platform for vicious political propaganda and hate speech directed against one country, Israel?

Annan takes a page from Dan Rather's book

"Annan vows action on corruption"--BBC headline, Feb. 4, 2005.

"'If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story,' Rather said."--
Washington Post, Sept. 16, 2004.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Good tsunami news

BBC: Police find nine emaciated tsunami survivors who've been living on coconuts for 38 days on a small island.

(Via Pundit Guy.)

UN oil-for-food scandal

Today the the Volcker Committee (the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme) released two documents:
  • An Interim Report. This is a 246-page document through which I have not begun to wade.
  • A Comparison of Estimates of Illicit Iraqi Income During UN Sanctions. This is a far more manageable six-page document into which I have dipped my toes.
The core of the Comparison of Estimates is a table with intriguing categories like Protocol & Smuggling Revenue and Kickbacks on Humanitarian Purchases.

Bottom line is that there was a lot of illicit money. Here are the different estimates:
  • Coalition for International Justice: 9,583,000,000
  • GAO: $10,100,000,000
  • Iraq Survey Group Report: $10,946,000,000
  • US Senate PIC*: $21,149,000,000
So the estimates run from $9.6 to $21.1 billion.

* PIC=Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

"Iraqi Voting Disrupts News Reports of Bombings"

ScrappleFace is again good for a smile at the expense of western media.

(Link via Dr. Sanity.)

Freedom and heroism entwined with a hug

A picture on the front page of today's New York Sun captured a hug, an embrace between freedom and heroism:

AP/Gerald Herbert

An Iraqi woman and an American woman. Safia and Janet. Both had lost a loved one to those who would suppress freedom in Iraq.

Safia's dad was killed a decade ago by Saddam's henchmen. Janet's son was a marine killed recently in Fallujah. He was fighting so that Safia could be free: free from the Ba'athist tyranny that killed her father and free to vote and determine her nation's future.

Safia and Janet are being watched and applauded by the woman whose husband's resolve made Safia's freedom possible. And they are being watched by the world.

After the hug, they had trouble separating. Janet's son's dogtags became entangled in Safia's jewelry.

How appropriate: The symbol of the the American fighting man entwined in the trappings of one whose freedom his heroism made possible. May that heroism and that freedom never become unentwined in the hearts and minds of the world.

Update: Powerline points out that the Washington Post missed the boat on this one:
Today's Award for Cluelessness...

...goes to the Washington Post, which wrote in its coverage of the State of the Union speech:
The emotional highpoint of last night's event came near the end when Bush introduced the parents of a U.S. Marine from Texas, Sgt. Byron Norwood, who was killed in the assault on Fallujah, Iraq. As Norwood's mother tearfully hugged another woman in the gallery, the assembled senators and representatives responded with a sustained ovation, and Bush's face appeared creased with emotion.
"Another woman in the gallery"?? Is is possible that the Washington Post's two reporters were the only people in America who didn't grasp the point of the embrace?

SOTU Transcript

Here is the transcript of President Bush's State of the Union address, Feb. 2, 2005.

Partisan heckling on Social Security

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that was the Democrats heckling President Bush when he talked of the need to save Social Security. Apparently, they don't like it when presidents put phrases like this into the State of the Union address:
...until we have taken all the necessary measures to strengthen the Social Security system for the 21st century.

Let us say – let us say to all Americans watching tonight, whether you're 70 or 50, or whether you just started paying into the system, Social Security will be there when you need it. Let us make this commitment: Social Security first. Let's do that – together.
So why didn't they heckle President Clinton when he said those exact words in the 1998 State of the Union address?

(Hat tip: Protein Wisdom commenter Noelle Franzen.)

Update: More here from Byron York:
There should be no new spending — or, more importantly, no tax cuts — [Clinton said in February 1998,] "before we take care of the crisis in Social Security that is looming when the baby boomers retire."

A number of Clinton's arguments back then sound uncannily like Bush's today, if one makes a few adjustments for newly revised figures on Social Security's finances. "We have a great opportunity now to take action now to avert a crisis in the Social Security system," Clinton said, again in February 1998. "By 2030, there will be twice as many elderly as there are today, with only two people working for every person drawing Social Security. After 2032, contributions from payroll taxes will only cover 75 cents on the dollar of current benefits. So we must act, and act now, to save Social Security."

I hate to defend Bush by pointing out where he sounds "uncannily similar" to Clinton. But it does lend perspective to the partisanship of the Democratic heckling.


JustOneMinute examines Nancy Pelosi's response to the SOTU:
"We must reinvigorate the Middle East peace process..." Hello? Elections, Palestine, Iraq? Can you hear me now?
But the more biting words come from a commenter on the post:
I was driving home from work, so I listened. One advantage, I didn't have to look at Nancy Pelosi. One really big disadvantage, that meant I had to actually listen to her.
(Hat tip: Reynolds.)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005



The New York Times and blogs

Two weeks ago the New York Times irresponsibly ran an article which in the lede passed along unsubstantiated rumors which could have endagered lives.

The blogosphere, or at least some members of the blogosphere, had a field day at the expense of the Times and Sarah Boxer, the writer of the article. Notable was a post entitled "Shame on the New York Times" by Jeff Jarvis. The entry starts by stating that the Times story is
irresponsible, sloppy, lazy, inaccurate, incomplete, exploitive, biased, and -- worst of all -- dangerous, putting the lives of its subjects at risk.
Over the next couple of thousand words, Jarvis supports his case.

This week Times public editor Daniel Okrent responded to Jarvis.

And today Jarvis responds to Okrent. Let's just say he's not satisfied.

(Jarvis links via Instapundit.)

State of the Union preview

Two things we might see tonight:
  • A Bush proposal for a domestic spending freeze.
  • A large contingent of Senators and Congressmen with purple fingers.
Both items are rumored to be likely; I hope the rumors are true.