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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Department of question-begging yacht names (via email) 

Tonight, as I write this, there is a gorgeous yacht of Cayman Islands
registry moored at Antibes. Its name: "New Life".

When I see something like this, my imagination runs wild. Discounting
almost immediately the possibility that the witness protection program has
suddenly taken a turn for the lavish - why bother when you have Gitmo at
your disposal? - I lept to the assumption that tax or, er, "traceability
considerations" drove the owner's decision to live in the Caymans and cruise
the Riviera during High Season. If that were true, does the name "New Life"
signal a quantum leap in the yachtsman's Q of L or, more nefariously, an
inability to return to his OECD country of origin?

Of course, there is also the chance that the fellow chose a Caymans Islands
registry because it seems to be something of a flag of convenience for the
yachting world. But that doesn't explain the name, does it? Maybe,
therefore, our yachtsman shed the world of work or simply a wife and is,
shall we say, starting over in one respect or another.

Or maybe our yachtsman IS the wife.

What's your favorite explanation?

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"Terror in the Skies" follow-up 

Regular TigerHawk readers will remember that I blogged the early phases of the "Terror in the Skies" story, in which a writer named Annie Jacobson described her suspicions and her fears on observing 14 Syrian men acting strangely on a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles. My posts were here, here, here and here. My contributions have been trivial, however, so if you want to follow every jot and twittle of the story go to Michelle Malkin and just start scrolling through the last two weeks.

Suffice it to say that Annie reported her concerns, and the 14 musicians were detained in Los Angeles for a while by federal investigators, who eventually concluded that they were who they said they were and sent them on their way. Since then, various people both on and off the record have responded by accusing Annie Jacobson of racism or paranoia, although many people have been very supportive of her vigilence. So the question remains, was she a vigilent and careful patriot exposing yet another hole in our security regime (i.e., that bombs might be assembled on board from apparently benign components brought on the plane notwithstanding airport security)? Or was she a paranoid racist who, at best, is the unfortunate product of the risk inflation peddled by the Bush Administration?

Now Spoons weighs in with a rant against Jacobson's critics, which includes the following:
Remember one of the main criticisms of Jacobsen's story? Namely, that where were the reports from other passengers on the flight?

Here's one:

The passenger, who was riding in first class, said the constant foot traffic and strange behavior she witnessed in the front cabin frightened her as much as it did Annie Jacobsen, the first passenger who publicly reported the incident.

"I thought I was going to die," the second passenger told The Washington Times.

* * *

The second passenger said she did not share her concerns with the flight attendants because "I thought I was just crazy, and I didn't want to be the crazy person on the flight that stands up and says something is wrong, but I will now in the future. I praise Annie for what she did, because I didn't have the guts to."

I'm on Annie's side, too. The ultimate truth of Annie Jacobson's allegations is immaterial. The important thing is that she did what we are all supposed to do, which is be vigilent. The fact that the 14 Syrians may not have been casing the plane for more lethal purposes could not be less relevant. The only guilty people in the event were the "investigators" who failed to ascertain that most of the Syrians had overstayed their visas -- that is breathtaking incompetence in the post-9/11 world, especially when are deporting cute European women (OK, French women) who commit the apparently new offense of coming to the United States too frequently, even if they have always left within the required time. I hope upon hope that the various culpable law enforcement agencies are taking corrective action, and these fools will never again question a huge group of alien men without checking the validity of their papers.

The pantheon of stupidty expands post-hoc to include those who complain that Jacobson was paranoid, or worse, racist. Fourteen Syrian men on one flight, with one-way tickets, walking the aisles in groups while the seatbelt light is on and the plane is descending in Los Angeles for the final approach, and we're supposed to ignore them because to question them or report them might be insulting? Come on. In reporting this event to law enforcement officers Annie did as any strong and loyal citizen should do, and in writing about it she did as any honest blogger would have done.

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This just in 

'Kerry, Bush compete for voters' attention' - headline, Associated Press


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Friday, July 30, 2004

Colin Powell is in Baghdad 

Talk about dropping in unannounced. Good for him.

Here's the story.

Let's hope for the day when these visits don't have to be so secretive.

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Kerry's speech: a links dump 

I missed Kerry's speech last night, sitting as I am in a hotel room in Dublin, and unwilling to sleep through my tasks for the day, which include interviewing candidates for the position of European controller for my company. My failure to see his speech will not, however, prevent me from blogging it, lack of accountability being one of blogging's best features.

I took a quick swing through the big bloggers this morning, and thought I would pass along the most interesting observations in something of a link dump:

From Andrew Sullivan, who has recently teetered on the edge of endorsing Kerry, much to the irritation of Spoons, Allah and others. Writing that Kerry's goal is obviously to "bring the troops home," Sullivan quotes what he says is the entire passage on the war on terror and concludes:
No mention of democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan. No mention of the terrorist forces that are amassed there. No reference to the elections scheduled for January. No mention of Iran. And the whole point is about process - about how to wage a war, not whether it should be waged. This is a man who clearly wants the U.S. out of the region where our future is at stake, and who believes that simply by taking office, other powers can somehow pick up the slack. Memo to Kerry: no other powers can pick up the slack. They don't have the troops or the technology or the will. His strategy is pure defense. This sentence is his strongest threat: "Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response." So let's wait, shall we?

Hugh Hewitt makes much the same point.
The Kerry Doctrine: Once we get clobbered, I'll try and figure out how to strike back.

Lileks jumps ugly on one of Kerry's strangest sentences:
"I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as President."

This really intrigues me. I agree that Vietnam was a defense of the United States, inasmuch as we were trying to blunt the advance of Communism. So: only Nixon can go to China. (Only Kirk can go to Chronos, for you Star Trek geeks.) Only Kerry can confirm that Vietnam was a just war. This completely upends conventional wisdom about the Vietnamese war, and requires a certain amount of historical amnesia. Why does this get glossed over? The illegitimacy of the Vietnam war (non-UN approved, after all) is a key doctrine of the Church of the Boomers; to say that service in Vietnam was done in defense of the United States is like announcing that Judas Ischariot was the most faithful of the disciples. Imagine if you were a preacher who attempted such a revision. Imagine your private thrill when everyone in the congregation nodded assent. The past was more malleable than you had ever expected.

Michelle Malkin tags Kerry for repeating the "bake sale for body armor" myth, and points here for the debunking of that nasty MoveOn urban legend. Malkin also serves up a conspiracy theory, suggesting in a detailed fisking that Theresa helped write the speech.

Atrios links to a union hall, complete with hardhats nodding away over "jobs" and "middle class" tax cuts.

Brendan dumps a lot of photos, and thinks that Kerry did a great job.

Virginia Postrel makes a very snarky comment about how ugly the delegates are! She's right, by the way, but it is also quite safe to predict that the average attractiveness of the people in Manhattan in late August will decline catastrophically with the Republicans in town.

Dan Drezner wrote a thoughtful post, and is now leaning Kerry (although barely). He says that "this is the section that the Bush team will have to rebut":
Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming mission accomplished certainly doesn't make it so.

As President, I will ask hard questions and demand hard evidence. I will immediately reform the intelligence system - so policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted by politics. And as President, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to.

The rebuttal, it seems to me, is obvious: we had to. That is obviously open to argument, and it is a topic I will take up here in detail before the election, but no thoughtful supporter of the Iraq war believes that we had a real choice in anything other than its timing.

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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Al-Qaeda in Iowa, Part II 

Apparently the "California officials" investigating Michael Wagner, the fellow arrested in Des Moines earlier in the month for driving while unbelted, say that he "has a credibility problem."
According to court papers, Michael Wagner, 44, told authorities he knew of a terrorist plot to blow up trains in San Diego and knew people tied to al-Qaida.

But California officials say a search of his home found no evidence to back up his claim. Wagner, a Navy veteran and Muslim convert, appeared in federal court in Iowa Tuesday on weapons charges. He's being held without bail.

So let me get this straight: Hawkeye troopers pick up a Muslim carrying weapons, documents in Arabic, flight-training manuals and night vision documents. Said Muslim offers up information about Islamist plots to blow up trains in California. "California officials" search his home, find no evidence, and declare that the guy has a credibility problem.

Candidly, I think they're projecting.

But then, his parents say he's a pacifist. Now I just don't know who to believe.

And by the way, isn't this like questioning 14 Syrians and not remembering to check whether their visas have expired?


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Carnival of the Liberated is up... 

For those of you who don't know, Ryan of SoundFury publishes a weekly survey of Iraqis who blog in English, "Carnival of the Liberated." It always makes for interesting reading.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Delsman Rumsfeld? 

I have a question: Why are millions of people Googling "Delsman" and "Rumsfeld" in various sequences and formations? Would one of you who is hitting my site with this strange query please leave a comment explaining your interest?

UPDATE (from Dublin, 7-29-04, 11:05 pm Dublin time): Thanks to an anonymous commenter, I now know why forty people a day have been hitting my site with the Google search "Delsman Rumsfeld" and variations on that theme. It seems that the Onion is running a "story" about Donald Rumsfeld springing to the defense of his "fat girlfriend," one Mavis Delsman. Heh.

But why, pray tell, are these searches hitting TigerHawk (and pretty much only TigerHawk -- there are only two other hits coming up on Google)? Because on January 26 I put up this post, which discusses an entirely different Onion story involving another fictional "Delsman."

It seems, therefore, that there is somebody at the Onion with a good friend, or terrible enemy, who rejoices in the name of "Delsman."

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Al-Qaeda in Iowa? 

This is making me re-think my opposition to seatbelt laws:
Court papers say a motorist stopped along Interstate 80 earlier this month told state troopers he knew people tied to al-Qaida, and that there were terrorist plans to shoot trams and trains in San Diego.

Michael Wagner, 44, of San Diego, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Des Moines to being a felon in possession of body armor and weapons. Officials said they found flight-training manuals, Arabic documents and night-vision goggles in the vehicle Wagner was driving....

On July 14, a state trooper stopped Wagner's sport utility vehicle near Council Bluffs after the trooper noticed Wagner was not wearing a seat belt.

And why would a fellow named Michael Wagner know about "Muslim communities in San Diego"? This is a scary story.

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The United Nations co-opts the "Olympic spirit" (via email) 

BBC World is running a spot for the Olympics that I bet we won't see in the
United States, at least if the IOC knows where its bread is buttered. The
ad runs an Olympic swimming event backward, and a vaguely familiar voice
tells us that for him, the "Olympic moment," is not at the point of victory,
and not when one competitor pulls ahead of another, and not even when the
event begins, at which point the reversing tape shows the swimmers in
mid-dive at the beginning of the race.

For the speaker, the Olympic moment is before the race begins (the swimmers
are now bent into their stance before the gun), when "no nation is greater
or smaller, stronger or weaker than any other. For me, that is the Olympic
moment."

Then the camera cuts to the speaker, who I only then understood to be Kofi
Annan.

This ad is interesting to me at many levels. First, the IOC obviously
thinks it is in the interests of the Olympics to identify itself with the
United Nations in an almost romantic sense. This strongly suggests that the
average perception of the United Nations among the educated BBC-watching
citizenry of the world must be startlingly different than mine, or that of
most observant Americans.

I think of the United Nations as a necessary evil, reflecting in its
bureaucracy the corruption of the developing world and in its politics the
aspirations of America's enemies, so I wouldn't want to identify my used car
dealership with the UN. It tells us something about the world that the
Olympic authorities apparently feel quite differently. Their focus groups
must be telling them something.

Second, while the ad is on its face benign, it is easy to perceive it as
anti-American. The vehicle for Secretary-General Annan's message of global
equality is women's swimming, an event that America has dominated since the
end of the Cold War. More to the point, the idea that the world would
somehow be a better place if no nation were bigger or stronger than any
other is both idiotic as a dream - wouldn't such parity mean almost
perpetual war? - and a slap at the one nation that is in fact manifestly
stronger than the others (at least this year).

Third, I did not recognize Kofi Annan's voice, and I consider myself quite
internationalist by American standards. The ad was clearly constructed for
an audience that would recognize Annan's voice, which suggests that BBC
World's viewers see a lot more of him on TV than I do.

Finally, I obviously think of the Olympics differently from the typical BBC
viewer. For me, the Olympics are all about national rivalry, not
one-worldism. I really have no interest in the sports themselves, with a
couple of exceptions, and pay no attention to most Olympic sports other than
once every four years during the Olympics. I'm all about the medal count,
and especially love events that are fraught with symbolism. When I think of
the Olympics, I revere the "miracle on ice," the Hungarian and Soviet water
polo teams turning the pool pink with their blood in 1956, and Jesse Owens
humiliating Hitler in Berlin in 1936.

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Monday, July 26, 2004

Hippy chick pie wagons and the return of Jimmy Carter 

USA Today decided it would be a good idea to secure the services of Michael Moore and Ann Coulter to cover the Democratic National Convention, each from their own perspective. That cartoon of a newspaper then rejected Ann's first column, so Human Events picked it up, complete with USA Today's annotations.
“Apparently," said Coulter, "USA Today doesn’t like my ‘tone,’ humor, sarcasm, etc. etc., which raises the intriguing question of why they hired me to write for them in the first place. Perhaps they thought they were getting Catherine Coulter.”

Ann raises a good question -- what could have possessed the mayonnaise of American newspapers to think that its readers would suddenly want red pepper? Here's a glimpse of the column they rejected, the starting point for the title of this post:
Here at the Spawn of Satan convention in Boston, conservatives are deploying a series of covert signals to identify one another, much like gay men do. My allies are the ones wearing crosses or American flags. The people sporting shirts emblazoned with the "F-word" are my opponents. Also, as always, the pretty girls and cops are on my side, most of them barely able to conceal their eye-rolling.

USA Today: EYE-ROLLING? AT WHAT?

Democrats are constantly suing and slandering police as violent, fascist racists -- with the exception of Boston's police, who'll be lauded as national heroes right up until the Democrats pack up and leave town on Friday, whereupon they'll revert to their natural state of being fascist, racist pigs....

As for the pretty girls, I can only guess that it’s because liberal boys never try to make a move on you without the UN Security Council's approval. Plus, it’s no fun riding around in those dinky little hybrid cars. My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call "women" at the Democratic National Convention.

Ann's column roars on and on in more or less the same vein, interlineated with editor's remarks that prove, at least, that USA Today had no idea what it was getting into when it engaged her. Buried in the heap of scorn, though, is the usual sharp observation that bears repeating:
For 20 years, the Democrats wouldn’t let Jimmy Carter within 100 miles of a Convention podium. The fact that Carter is now their most respectable speaker tells you where that party is today. Maybe they just want to remind Americans who got us into this Middle East mess in the first place. We’ve got millions of fanatical Muslims trying to slaughter Americans while shouting “Allah Akbar!” Yeah, let’s turn the nation over to these guys.

The return of Jimmy Carter, the President who taught Islamist jihadists that Americans would cut and run, is the most powerful evidence I have seen that the leadership of the Democratic Party does not understand the nature of the enemy that we confront today.

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Sleazy guests ruin it for everybody 

'Sleazy guests prompt call to ban hotel porn' - headline, Reuters.

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Saturday, July 24, 2004

Riviera blogging: St. Tropez to Cannes (via email) 

In a departure for me, I have managed to spend a beautiful Saturday in July
"living large." A colleague and I had the day to kill, so we got up early
(after a grossly inadequate sleep, in my case) and drove into Cannes.
Against all odds we found a parking garage not far from the point of
embarkation for les bateaux au St. Tropez, and grabbed the mid-morning boat
after a short pause for a cappucino reload.

The trip takes about ninety minutes, and the scenery is quite nice. Not as
awesome as the fjords of Norway or as mysterious as the phallus mountains of
the Li River, but easily the equal of, say, the coast of California. Of
course, the tiny little people visible on the coast are even more socialist
than Norwegians, Chinese or Californians, but that is really neither here
nor there, so to speak.

In any case, we arrived at St. Tropez at 11:30, and booked our return for
4:15. So we had to use our time efficiently. As will be obvious to the
reader, efficient we were.

The two of us are very easy to please, in that we are willing to make one
attempt at seeing the big sight in town - in this case a fortress - but are
also able to deal with the fact that it was closed for two hours in the
middle of a Saturday during peak season. Suffering that one defeat, we were
content to wander the town's streets looking for optimal cafes. That we
did, and in five hours drank beer three times, ate one croque monsieur (the
world's ultimate expression of the ham and cheese sandwich), and slammed
down some excellent ice cream. We also ogled all the beautiful yachts, and
the very beautiful people on their decks, and walked along a couple of the
narrow little gravelly beaches.

OK, three beers, a ham sandwich, and a public ferry ride really isn't living
large, at least compared to partying on a huge yacht recently arrived from
the Cayman Islands, but it beats sitting around a "several" star hotel
watching the BBC and hoping for a good internet connection.

Frankly, the yacht society of the Cote d'Azur looks like a giant amount of
fun. This time of year they are stacked up in the harbors from Monaco west
to Nice, Antibes, Cannes and St. Tropez, and probably dozens of lower rent
burgs in between. Some of these babies are so huge they look like small
cruise ships, and they have to anchor offshore. Others, still large enough
to make an Atlantic crossing, back up to the quais and host seemingly
endless floating cocktail parties. These boats come from all over the world
- the huge ones all seem to have vaguely Arabic names and show "Doha" on the
stern (no obvious cocktail parties on those), while the smaller ones come
out of suspect banking havens in the Carribean. When four or five boats of
Cayman Islands registry line up together, you get the impression that the
owners might be business associates in addition to fellow yacht enthusiasts.
Indeed, you wonder if they aren't doing business with the sheikhs from
Qatar. But maybe I'm just suspicious.

In any case, it really is amazing how many astonishingly wealthy people
there must be strung along this coastline in July. And why not? Is there
any more lustrous string of harbors than here?

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Friday, July 23, 2004

The Dewey anology 

From an email thread that passed before me:
First guy: "Incumbents with a forty-something approval rating in mid-summer is in BIG trouble!"

Second guy: "40% approval rating mid-summer? No biggie. I've got three words for you: (1) Thomas (2) E. (3) Dewey.

"Dewey was a governor of NY, popular guy, made his name fighting crime. He faced an incumbent President who hadn't even been elected; he just got the job by default...who had WORSE approval ratings than George W going into the conventions. The right wing/redneck piece of this president's party was ready to desert him at the convention. The left wing mistrusted him and wouldn't even embrace him. The media laughed at him and portrayed him as an ignorant cracker. Everything he did was blocked by a hostile Congress. The world was a dangerous place and getting worse, and many voters blamed it on him, fair or not.

"Facing this dismal incumbent president was Dewey: charismatic moderate Republican, educated, flush with campaign money, good team of domestic and int'l advisors (like John Foster Dulles) in place. Dewey pulled well ahead in every poll by Election Day.

"And yet with all this fanfare, poll numbers and positive prognostication, Dewey lost! Thus, a cautionary tale to Kerry and his slick/phony smiling running mate: Put down the guitar and VO-5 hair gel and get out there and convince folks to vote FOR them, rather than AGAINST Bush. There is a difference."

Interesting. I had not thought of the Dewey analogy.

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Marine bumper stickers 

Strategypage has a long list of "Marine bumper stickers". Here are my favorites:
USMC: When it absolutely, positively must be destroyed overnight.

When in doubt, empty the magazine.

Martyrs or Marines, who do you think will get the virgins?

U.S. Marines: Travel agents to Allah.

Heh.

CWCID: Jet Noise.

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The ultimate waffle 

Kerry Dean Edwards is going to vote for Dubya. In Storm Lake, Iowa, if you can believe it.
Kerry Dean Edwards, 27, finds his name is bringing a lot of attention now that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry named John Edwards his running mate in the upcoming election.

“I guess I’ve seen (the names) around town on signs, but I never even thought about it,” Edwards said.

But the irony of the name is that Edwards plans to vote for President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

At least he isn't named Sharpton Lieberman, which would be a very difficult name for a kid growing up in Storm Lake.

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Thursday, July 22, 2004

We've created another anti-American (via email) 

After boarding my flight to Paris last night, while the passengers were
still getting settled, a crying French woman in her twenties asked if she
could use my cell phone. She explained that she had been detained by
immigration for six hours while "men weet guns" went through all her
luggage, and now she was being sent back to France. She needed my cell
phone so that she could call her boyfriend, who she believed had been
waiting for her at the airport. Since the border cops won't let detainees
make phone calls, the boyfriend was in the dark as to her whereabouts - the
plane had landed, but where was his girlfriend? She didn't look like a
terrorist to me, so of course I lent her my phone.

So how was it that Continental let her get on the flight to Newark in the
first place? Apparently her passport and visa were in order (so she said),
and she had been back and forth to the United States many times. That, in
fact, seemed to be the rub. According to this woman, the immigration
authorities declared that her frequent visits were "abusing American visa
rules," even if she was in technical compliance. Her point, once she calmed
down, was that all kinds of people come into the US and overstay their visa,
which she has never done. She just wants to see her boyfriend a lot.

I have heard these stories before. Lots of perfectly harmless non-terrorist
Europeans are turned away at the border for seemingly arbitrary reasons,
almost none of whom pose either a security risk or are likely to steal
American jobs. These people will not visit the US again voluntarily, and
will vote for leaders who take anti-American positions when we need
otherwise. Meanwhile, 14 Syrian musicians fly around in groups.

I'm sure it's tough for the INS to make these judgments, but I am also sure
that we are unnecessarily alienating people, one by one, that we do not have
to worry about.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

This is weird 

From Stratfor($):
Militants have taken two Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian hostage in Iraq. The group says it will behead them if their respective countries do not immediately withdraw troops from Iraq. None of the countries are part of the coalition in Iraq.

There are only three explanations for this: rank stupidity, factual errors in the reporting, or a forthcoming request for ransom. If it is ransom they are looking for, India would seem to be the only reasonable target. It has money and it is a democracy, so its government can't be totally callous. Since Egypt and Kenya have governments that revel in ignoring the interests of their own citizens, one would think demanding ransom from either of those two countries is a blood-from-a-stone undertaking.

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The giant TigerHawk business trip: Sporadic blogging 

I'm off to Europe for 17 days of meetings, presentations, flag-waiving and fine food. Not only do I expect to be tired and confused most of the time, but I'm fairly sure that my web access will be expensive and slow most of the time. Therefore, expect that blogging will be random and a bit off the usual topics. I will post via my Blackberry email when the spirit moves me, and will indicate an email post in the subject line, hoping as usual that you will forgive the attendant poor writing, sloppy formatting and rife typos.

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Scrappleface nails Berger! 

Sometimes the Scrappleface headline says it all:
'Berger returns U.S. Constitution to archives'

The money quote:
"It was an honest mistake," said Mr. Berger, who until this morning was an advisor to Democrat presidential hopeful John Forbes Kerry. "I accidentally wrapped the Constitution around my left leg and mistakenly secured it with rubber bands."

Heh!

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Microsoft pays the biggest dividend ever 

By a long shot.

This afternoon after the market closed, Microsoft announced that it would distribute $75 billion -- that's $75,000,000,000 -- to its stockholders over the next four years. The distributions will include a one-time $3 per share dividend, a doubling of the now routine annual dividend, and a huge share repurchase program. I believe I'm correct that no similar program has ever gotten close to this size, at least not in nominal dollars. It would be interesting if somebody smart would use the vast resources at his disposal to figure out whether there have been larger non-liquidating distributions measured in constant dollars.

Amazingly, the blogosphere seems to be silent on this story, probably because they can't get enough of Bergergate. Too bad, because this is huge news.

Herewith, a few TigerHawk comments and predictions.

First, it will be a big boost to the stockmarket, particularly the liquid tech companies. Why? Because a flood of new money will be coursing through the system, and it will get reinvested somewhere.

Second, in a couple of years we will see that Microsoft has started another trend. Nobody else can be as dramatic as Microsoft because nobody else has more than $60 billion in cash on hand. But now stockholders will have a precedent to cite to companies that are sitting on huge piles of cash -- if Microsoft can figure out how to distribute it after years of hoarding their money, then so can Cisco, Pfizer, and any number of other companies with lots of cash. And directors, who generally want to do what other people do, will feel more comfortable distributing significant cash to stockholders.

Third, corporate governance fetishists will applaud this. They will say that it is better that corporations distribute their surplus cash than blow it on management compensation or ill-considered acquisitions. There is a certain minimalist truth to this idea, although it is probably better applied to companies other than Microsoft.

Fourth, this will improve Microsoft's chances of fending off anti-trust prosecutions. Microsoft's huge cash hoard makes it scarier to people with regulatory urges. Once that hoard goes away, it is harder to fulminate against its corporate power.

Fifth, some people have argued that federal corporate tax law required Microsoft to distribute some of its cash (can't remember the rationale). That argument goes away.

Sixth, paradoxically, Microsoft is going to become an even scarier competitor in the software business. Why? Because it will no longer be able to acquire its way out of innovation crisis, either by diversification into non-software businesses or by buying competitors. Now it will have to innovate. This distribution may change Microsoft's culture.

Seventh, I believe this was in the works for some time. Big dividends are bad news for holders of options (the higher a dividend, the less valuable an option to buy the underlying stock), but neutral to good news for stockholders. Remember that Microsoft swapped its employees out of their options and into restricted stock last year. We now know that that transaction paved the way for this mammoth distribution.

I have more thoughts, but I'm tired so I will offer only this parting shot:

Eighth, if you own MSFT, don't spend it all in one place.

UPDATE (9:20 AM, 7-21): Tyler Cowen has more, asking inter alia whether Microsoft is signalling that it believes John Kerry will win.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

This is a tad counterintuitive 

'Study bolsters anti-depressants' link to suicide' - headline, MSNBC.com.

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Bergergate: Two questions 

If Sandy Berger, until today a foreign policy advisor to the Kerry campaign, took original classified documents from the National Archives and destroyed them, wittingly or not, and if in fact those destroyed documents would have material political consequence to the election for President, in what way would this offense be different from the underlying events in the Watergate scandal?

True, Richard Nixon was both President and a presidential candidate, and John Kerry is only a candidate. Also, it came to pass that Richard Nixon knew that his delegates committed the crime of breaking into DNC headquarters, and two days into this scandal we have no reason to believe that John Kerry knew anything about Berger's theft until yesterday.

Of course, we don't know that he didn't know about it, either. When is the FBI going to interview John Kerry?

UPDATE: (12:20 AM Wednesday): Hugh Hewitt is talking about this on Dennis Miller. Miller thinks it is a Berger story, rather than a Kerry story. We'll see. Allah points us to a very interesting and utterly unsupported post.

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Annie's flight: liveblogging Scarborough follow-up 

Joe Scarborough is updating his story of last night (liveblogged here) that discussed Annie Jacobson's account of the 14 Syrian musicians on a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles at the end of June.

Scarborough has two airline types - a first officer and a woman from the flight attendant's union, and Dave Adams from the air marshalls service.

First, the pilot (not the pilot from the flight), Latane Campbell: "I would have to back up the passengers in this case.... I want to commend the passengers who were speaking with the flight attendants in particular.... Arabic men congregating around the men's room when the seatbelt sign is on is highly unusual."

Scarborough brings up the Woods case again, in which actor James Woods saw such a "practice run" involving four the cretins who murdered our people on September 11.

Jeanne Elliott, the flight attendant union rep, defends the actions of the crew on the flight, suggesting that there was lots of crew responsiveness behind the scenes, notwithstanding Jacobson's account.

Adams, the air marshall (apparently speaking for the Air Marshalls Service, says that the 14 Syrians were under surveillance the entire time, and that the marshalls were "constantly vigilant." The marshalls notified the authorities in Los Angeles.

Scarborough invites anybody who was on the flight to email Joe@MSNBC.com, and then moves on.

My question: Why didn't he ask why the investigators didn't ask to see the alleged band's instruments?

UPDATE: I just sent the following email to Scarborough:
Mr. Scarborough:

First, let me suck up: You are awesome, and have turned me into a committed viewer.

That having been said, I was disappointed that in tonight's show you did not ask Dave Adams, the fellow from the air marshalls service, to respond to Annie Jacobson's charge last night that the investigators didn't ask to see the band's instruments. That seemed like an unbelievably obvious question to ask, yet Jacobson said that the investigators said they hadn't "gotten that far into the weeds," or words to that effect. If you do follow this story, I would love to see you follow up on that.

Let's see if he follows up.

UPDATE (10:55 PM): Professor Bainbridge has published a reader email with a less dramatic but nevertheless curiously similar story.

The dilemma behind these stories is terribly difficult to resolve. Are we prisoners of observer bias, hunting for witches on 21st century aircraft instead of in 17th century Salem? It would be comforting to think so, were it not for two facts. The first is that we know there are many Muslims -- perhaps not as a proportion of the total but certainly in absolute numbers -- who want to kill American civilians as dramatically as possible. The second is that we know the 9/11 killers ran "practice runs" and reconnaisance missions. Does the second fact in particular decrease the probability that we are victims of our own assumptions, or increase that probability?

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Clinton National Security Advisor swipes top secret documents 

Unless, bizarrely, TigerHawk is your first stop for news in the day (which I would counsel against, by the way), you have already read somewhere that Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton's National Security Advisor and, like Joe Wilson, a foreign policy advisor to the Kerry for President campaign, is under investigation for having pinched top secret documents while "preparing" for his testimony in front of the 9/11 Commission. Of course, if you read the New York Times for your news, you would only know this bombshell -- and it is absolutely huge -- if you got all the way to the bottom of page A17. There you would read that:
President Bill Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel R. Berger, removed classified security documents from the National Archives while vetting them in preparation for testimony before the Sept. 11 commission and has become the subject of a criminal investigation, his lawyer said Monday night.

You would also read Mr. Berger's denials, and those of his lawyer, which suggest that there is no cause to think Berger is a thieving weasel or a spy because
Mr. Berger returned all of the documents and notes to the archives in October, within a week of his learning they were missing....
A simple replacement of documents "within a week of his learning they were missing." Sounds like a good and careful public citizen to me, and all very nice for the Kerry campaign, Sandy Berger and fans of the NYT, the ven diagram of which three entities is almost entirely overlapping, I daresay.
Comforting, that is, unless one happens upon the Associated Press's article:
Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket and pants, and also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio.

Berger and his lawyer said that he knowingly removed notes of classified material by placing them in his jacket and pants. This isn't an interesting enough factoid for the Times to include in its story? And why was the story on page A17? It was maybe crowded off the front page by this story? Unbelievable, but oh so believable.

The Times also does not tell us that some of the documents are still missing. Why not?

I've been watching the news for an hour this morning, and have not seen a reference to this story, except (of course) on Fox. Fox confirms the A.P. version, and says that Berger cannot account for certain of the missing documents. Fox says that he claims he must have "inadvertently thrown them out."

According to Fox, all of this was discovered when an archivist at the National Archives noticed Berger putting notes of classified material into his pants and jacket and reported it. The FBI eventually searched Berger's home to look for the still-missing materials, but only after giving Berger two months notice.

Hugh Hewitt proposes a thought experiment:
Ask yourself what would be going on in Washington, D.C. tonight, and on the network news, within the blogospere, and in the morning papers, if it had been revealed that Condi Rice was the target of a criminal investigation for removing classified handwritten notes from the government records relating to terrorism.


I have another question: What is it that the 9/11 Commission didn't see? Perhaps they should scan page A17 of The New York Times -- it seems to be where they put the important stuff.

Over to you, John Kerry.

UPDATE: Rob A. has more, particularly on the contents of the missing documents.

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Monday, July 19, 2004

Annie and Kevin Jacobson are on 'Scarborough Country'... 

...as I write this.

The Jacobsons are telling the 'Terror in the Skies' story on 'Scarborough Country' tonight. So far, it jibes with the written account, and the Jacobsons strike me as extremely credible. They may have misinterpreted the bizarre things that they saw, but they are not making it up.

UPDATE 10:10: Scarborough cracks me up. With a straight face: "Why can't 14 Arab men fly on the same flight in the United States?" Jacobson points out that seven of them were out of their seats when the "fasten seatbelts" light was on, and nobody else was.

I still believe these guys. If they are acting or otherwise making it up, they should get Oscars.

Scarborough: "Did any of the flight attendants tell these people to sit down when the plane was landing?" No, apparently. Kevin Jacobson says that the flight attendants were visibly terrified.

UPDATE 10:17: Scarborough: "Was this a case of post-9/11 jitters, or was there real cause for concern? Explain specifically how Arab men going to the rest room upset you so much." [Added in UPDATE: Annie says, basically, that "you had to be there, and see how they were acting." But she further] reports that pilots of commercial aircraft have written her about "dry runs" being conducted, which at least one pilot correspondant has referred to as the "airlines dirty little secret."

Now Pete Williams, NBC's Justice Department correspondant, follows up. PW: "The investigators who responded confirm in rough detail what the Jacobsons report. There were 14 Syrians on the flight, they were detained, and they were questioned at length and then released. The federal agents were satisfied that they were, in fact, musicians going to a gig in Los Angeles."

Scarborough: "Is this unusual? Do federal authorities detain Arabs who travel in groups regularly?" PW: This is what the federal agents want people to do. The FBI gets reports all the time of people taking pictures of bridges and power plants, or Arabs flying together on flights. What the Jacobsons did not know at the time was that all of these passengers were screened before having gotten on the flight.

Pete Williams is very calming and matter of fact about the incident, while remaining very respectful of the Jacobsons. He doesn't seem to think that this was a "dry run," but a gathering of Arabs that understandably raised concerns. Next up, the terrorism experts.

UPDATE 10:30: We now get aviation expert Michael Boyd, Larry Johnson (a counterterrorism guy), and Steve Pomerantz, a former assistant director of the FBI.

Pomerantz is "struck by the fact that nothing happened, and that the FBI conducted what sounds like a thorough and proper investigation." He basically thinks that this was a false alarm, like so many others.

Larry Johnson thinks that it "could have been" a trial run, but wants to divert the conversation into an inquiry into whether we are doing enough to secure the airs. He thinks we still have gaps, and that this episode illustrates what the weakness might be -- "we have not figured out how to detect liquid explosives." Bombs can be assembled in mid-air.

Michael Boyd says that "whether we believe the Jacobsons or not, dry runs are being made." Scarborough agrees, and cites James Woods' story, wherein the actor apparently witnessed one of the dry-runs prior to September 11. Boyd just hammers the state of commercial airline security, but he blew through his list of shortcomings so quickly I couldn't get it down.

UPDATE 10:45: Now we have Bogdan Dzakovic, a former FAA inspector. He joins the chorus of critics of airline security. Cites the whistleblower suit that he filed over pre-9/11 policy decisions. Douglas Laird, the former security director of Northwest Airlines, disagrees. He talks about reinforced cockpit doors, the screening of backage, and so forth. Laird talks quite learnedly of all the procedures that would have been triggered by 14 Syrians if anything bad actually were happening. I'm not convinced.

Candice DeLong, a former FBI profiler, takes us back to the Woods case, and argues that passengers should stay alert and act if they notice something weird. The principle being, I suppose, that reticence or deference in the face of lots of Arabs on a plane acting differently from everybody else is a mistake.

FINAL UPDATE: Scarborough reports that they are "flooded" with emails tonight. He reads an email received on line from a commercial airline pilot that says that he strongly believes that he has seen dry runs, and he is going to attend the program to arm pilots. Annie: "Someday, they are going to be all done with the dry runs."

Annie also questions the claim that a "thorough" investigation was done after the flight. She says that she spoke with one of the investigators -- she cited him by name but I missed it -- and asked him what kind of instruments the "musicians" had. He said that they "had not gotten that far into the weeds."

Weeds? While the presence of instruments would only show that the 14 Syrians were keeping their facts straight with their alibai, wouldn't the absence of instruments go a long way toward proving the Jacobsons' worst fears? How could the federal investigators have failed to ask to see the instruments?

I'm back to worried, but I'm done for the evening.

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What would flying heart patients do without researchers? 

'Researchers: Flying OK for heart patients' - headline, Associated Press.

Unless their arms get too tired.

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Follow up to 'Terror in the Skies' 

On Friday I wrote about the "scariest story" I'd read in a long time -- Annie Jacobson's account of a recent flight from Detroit to Los Angeles, during which 14 Syrian men acted strangely, perhaps practicing for a more sinister mission. I wasn't alone in this -- there are very few right-of-center bloggers who did not link to and write about Jacobson's article. Michelle Malkin, among others, has been all over it.

Well, Annie has written a follow-up piece. Read it, and henceforth keep your eyes peeled.

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Say it ain't so: Sheetz tagged for food poisoning 

The FDA just alerted me to an unfolding tragedy of unspeakable magnitude:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is issuing an alert to consumers that 57 cases of salmonellosis may be associated with food purchased at deli counters contained in Sheetz Gas Station locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia between July 2nd through July 9th.

Why is this bad news? Because Sheetz runs the best gas station/convenience store combinations in the country. The stores are brightly lit, have an excellent selection of snack foods, toiletries and reading matter, and sell good gasoline at reasonable prices. If it can happen to Sheetz, it can happen to anybody. Also, I cannot abide the risk that the food safety vigilantes in the TigerHawk household will oppose future family visits to Sheetz stores. Fortunately, we particularly favor the Sheetz facilities in Warrenton and Orange, Virginia, which -- praise the Lord -- do not seem to have been swept up in the FDA's alert.

Thankfully, the company has not been silent: No less a luminary than Steve Sheetz himself has responded to the FDA and his customers:
While there are still no definitive answers, it appears the contaminant came from an external supplier. Officials have reported that there is no link whatsoever to improper food handling or food safety practices by Sheetz employees.

I, for one, am reassured. Go Sheetz!

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The evisceration of Joe Wilson 

For everything you need to know about Joe Wilson, Iraq's attempts to buy "yellowcake uranium" from Niger, the duplicity of the New York Times, and the awkward silence from the Kerry Campaign, go to Tom MacGuire's Just One Minute and keep scrolling. Via Instapundit.

MacGuire demonstrates convincingly that Wilson's a joke and a liar, which you would think would give some pause to his employer, John Kerry for President. If the national media had a shred of a hint of an inclination to be fair to Bush, which they do not, this story would have been blaring from the front pages since June 29, the day after the Financial Times first revealed that there was a lot more to the yellowcake story than had been leaked by the CIA or reported in the American press. Instead, as this commenter points out, The New York Times reported that Bush's 16 words about the yellowcake were "now discredited" as recently as today, notwithstanding the clumsy backpedaling going on elsewhere.

The press, especially the New York Times (which published Wilson's original op-ed piece), isn't even trying to play fair on this one. It is too embarrassing for them.

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The actual meaning of Iran's ties with Al-Qaeda 

The New York Times reported yesterday that somebody on the leak-proof 9/11 Commission had previewed at least one bombshell to come from its final report in September, that Iran has much closer ties to Al-Qaeda than has been generally assumed. The import of this revelation, according to the Times, is that the Bush Administration dropped the ball by focusing on Iraq:
The final report of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks will offer new evidence of cooperative ties between Iran and Al Qaeda, including information drawn from intelligence reports suggesting that Iran provided several of the hijackers with safe passage in the year before the attacks, government officials said yesterday.

The officials emphasized that the commission had no evidence to suggest that Iranian officials knew of the Sept. 11 plot. But they said the evidence raised new questions about why the Bush administration focused on the possibility of Iraqi ties to Osama bin Laden's terror network after Sept. 11, 2001, when there may have been far more extensive evidence of an Iranian connection.

It remains to be seen whether the American fixation on Iraq has increased or decreased our leverage against Iran. On the one hand, the burden of the occupation of Iraq has diminished our capacity to take military action elsewhere. On the other hand, our presence in Iraq, in addition to Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and a couple of the other "Stans" in central Asia means that the U.S. military has effectively surrounded Iran. It also means that Israel has a clear path over Iraqi air defenses, should it come to pass that Ariel Sharon gets tired of "European methods" for dealing with Iran's nuclear capability. Also, for better or for worse, it is a safe bet that our understanding of the Iranian Shiite community is vastly deeper than it was 15 months ago.

All of that is interesting, but it is worthy of much more knowledgeable analysis than I am capable of. I have a different point to make here.

The Iranian/Al-Qaeda connection, including apparently official assistance, ought to be very surprising to people who denied a Saddam/Al-Qaeda connection on the basis that the Baathists were secular tyrants who hated us and Al-Qaeda are religious fanatics who hate us. Al-Qaeda is Sunni to the bone, and Iran is Shiite. The hatred of one for the other, which is historically manifest and has been cited so often as a reason why Iraq cannot forge a democracy from its different religious groups, had caused a lot of people to discount a connection between Al-Qaeda and Iran. If these two groups who hate each other so much can work together, why was it unreasonable to see a connection between the Baathists and Al-Qaeda, especially when there was, in fact, plenty of intelligence that pointed to such a connection, even if we have not yet proved "collaboration"?

CWCID: Jihad Watch.

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The jihadists win again 

There are press accounts that the Philippines has paid a ransom, through Malaysia, to get its truck driver back. If so, this reinforces a terrible trend, because it gives the jihadists a powerful new reason to take hostages. Not only will they demand strategic concessions, but they will ask us to give them the material means to finance their war against us.

Why do I say that this payment by the Philippines "reinforces a terrible trend"? Because it has happened before. To its eternal discredit, Germany seems to have laundered a ransom payment through Mali to achieve the release of various of its nationals foolish enough to vacation in southern Algeria last year.

Why do so many Americans demand that we work with our allies, when our "allies" are literally supplying Al-Qaeda and its affiliates with the money that they will use to kill Americans?

CWCID: Michelle Malkin.

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Sunday, July 18, 2004

How assumptions about effective leadership inform attitudes about George Bush 

The website of Harper's Magazine just published a list of things that President Bush is not, which Harper's terms "negative capability." The list comes from the President's own statements collected from the public record over the last seven years. Examples include:
The President of the United States is not a fact-checker.
I’m not a statistician.
I’m not a numbers-cruncher.
I’m not one of these bean counters.
I’m not very analytical.
I’m not a precision guy.
The President is not a micromanager.

You get the idea.

Whether or not the list in fact reflects poorly on the President, it is not unfair to assume that Harper's published the list so that their readers could get a good chuckle.

Indeed, both the national press and the flower and chivalry of the Democratic party make a habit of laughing, or complaining, about how Republican Presidents do not know a lot of facts. The press mocks or mocked Bush 43, Reagan and, to a great degree, Eisenhower for their detachment from the details. To my admittedly right-of-center eye, the press has always been much more impressed with Presidents and candidates who know a lot of facts -- Clinton is the archtype, but Gore, Mondale, Dukakis, Carter and Stevenson all impressed us with their command of detailed facts. Kerry seems to follow the same pattern.

In short, my gut impression is that a detailed fisking of national press accounts in the last forty or fifty years would reveal that journalists admire politicians that know a lot of stuff, and that at the national level Democratic politicians are much more likely to display knowledge of the facts and figures that so impress the press.

So why do journalists like detail-lovers, and why is it that so many Democrats seem to love the details?

Journalists respect people who have a great command of details because details are the journalist's stock and trade. Journalists gather facts and report them, and small differences in those facts can make a big difference in the quality and professionalism of their product. Indeed, journalists make a big deal out of catching people in authority -- politicians, generals or corporate executives -- in moments of ignorance or inconsistency. It is therefore not surprising that journalists, who know a lot of little things and have a fetish for consistency in others, respect other people who master details.

Why do the Democrats seem to excel at mastering the details, and thereby impressing the press? I believe it is because the elites in the national Democratic Party are overwhelmingly lawyers and professors. Lawyers and professors are required by the practice of their profession to personally and specifically know the detailed facts that support their arguments and their decisions. Lawyers and professors display their own actual knowledge of facts in courtrooms, conference rooms and classrooms every day, and they derive tremendous professional pride from their ability to master and articulate the evidence that supports the statements that they make in those forums.

Why do Republicans, on the other hand, so often seem to blow the details? Because elites in the national Republican Party tend to be executives by training, whether from business or the military. Effective executives know that they cannot succeed for long through mastery of all the facts necessary to make a decision. Executives believe that their first job is to hire good people, and their second job is to set the direction of the organization. Sure, they will make the really big decisions, but good corporate executives and generals believe quite consciously that if they have to know the nitty-gritty details behind a policy recommendation they have failed miserably in the primary task of hiring and guiding competent people. To a well-trained corporate executive or general, mastery of the sort of details demanded at press conferences is at best a waste of time, and more likely an admission of failure.

In other words, the relevance of personal knowledge of detailed facts to the profesional success of lawyers, professors and journalists is very high, whereas its relevance is very low to the effectiveness of corporate or military executives. Democrats -- and journalists -- believe that it is important for the President to know a lot of facts personally. Republicans, who as a national party know a lot more about military and commercial leadership than Democrats, do not subscribe to the view that personal factual knowledge is more important than leadership ability.

Since journalists think so much like lawyers and professors, they tend to ask questions that they hope will expose gaps or inconsistencies in a President's personal factual knowledge, however meaningless that knowledge might ultimately be. This style of questioning usually works to the benefit of Democratic candidates, trained as they are to respond to detailed factual inquiries. It also means that journalists are often quick to equate a President's lack of factual knowledge with incompetence. This equation is false, but it goes a long way to explaining why so many people on the left -- lawyers, professors and journalists -- can't let go of the idea that George W. Bush is stupid. Since he could not succeed in a courtroom or a classroom or a newsroom, he must be.

Interestingly, it is the rare journalist who bothers to wonder whether it is in America's interests to measure the management of its executive branch against the unbelievably low standards set by law firms and universities.

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Friday, July 16, 2004

The scariest story I've read in a long time 

Read this story of an extremely harrowing flight from Detroit to Los Angeles just three weeks ago.  If the account is true, and it reads very credibly to me, terrorists are experimenting with assembling weapons or bombs once on board from seemingly innocuous components that can be smuggled through security.  And why is it that fourteen Syrians can get on our planes, sit in different seats, take their carry-on bags to the lavatory in sequence, and the airline can't do anything about it?  Because in the absence of an "event," it is apparently unlawful to question more than two Middle Eastern-appearing people on any one flight.
 
Read the whole thing, and wonder whether we've learned a damned thing.
 
CWCID:  Professor Bainbridge.
 
UPDATE:  Rob A. has more, including a rant about air marshall dress codes (we don't put them in uniforms, yet we make them stand out like sore dorks), and the possibility that the story above is a hoax (which Rob A., a fraud investigator, discounts).
 
FURTHER UPDATE:  A reader emails that the link is down, which is true (at least for the time being).  Michelle Malkin, though, has a slew of updates that seem to confirm the story as true, so read her updates and see if you can hunt your way around to an effective link.
 
UPDATE:  Link fixed.

UPDATE (7-18-04 8:45):  Back from vacation.  It seems that the band has been identified.  Maybe there is nothing here after all.

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Thursday, July 15, 2004

Man vs. wildfire 

 Posted by Hello

It looks as he is hosing down the surface of the sun.   Via FoxNews.

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Pig bait as tiger bait is jail bait 

'Woman faces charges in pig-as-bait case' - headline, Associated Press.

The Palm Beach County animal control folks, who have just pumped five rounds into an escaped tiger, are prosecuting a woman for offering her pig up as tiger bait.
A woman who offered to use her 5-month-old pig as bait to lure a tiger that escaped from the home of an actor who once played Tarzan will be cited for animal cruelty, officials said.

Linda Meredith, of Loxahatchee, put the pig in the trunk of her car and drove to the neighborhood where officials were searching for the tiger shortly after she heard of its escape.

Meredith asked officers to grab the hind legs of the pig, named Baby, or twist its ears so it would squeal and attract the tiger. The officers declined her offer.

Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control Director Dianne Sauve said Meredith will be cited for transporting the pig in her trunk.

While TigerHawk, notwithstanding his affection for tigers, does not agree that the Palm Beach animal control officers should catch grief for killing the beast, to spin around in frustration and prosecute a citizen who was just trying to be helpful strikes me as petty and cruel.

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Joe Wilson's credibility is shattered 

The blogosphere and a few others have pointed out that Joe Wilson, who wrote a scathing op-ed piece in the New York Times last year over the Niger "yellowcake" kerfuffle, lied to or mislead the public about each of his key assertions. Which is ironic, because Wilson's article and subsequent media orgy was the main substance of the "Bush lied" assertions that we have had to swallow for the past year.

Tragically, I don't have time this morning to parse all the details for you. Fortunately, this morning's lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal shreds Wilson, echoing the dissection that has been racing around the blogosphere for five days. You can't find any coverage of the "Wilson lied" story in today's NYT, though, even though that paper started the story. You can find an indirect reference to the yellowake scandal in a box on page A6 that implcitly redeems Bush's "16 words," but as far as the Times is concerned Wilson's reputation remains intact. True, the paper ran a very oblique story yesterday that mentioned one instance of facts "contradicting" Wilson in the 12th paragraph, but there is no mention at all on the op-ed pages, where the Times had previously given Wilson his megaphone. Somebody call Daniel Okrent.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Cool pictures 

Trust me. I mean, unless you really don't like to look at cool military hardware. A friend of mine asks "what other country does shit like this?" In only the most approving tones, of course.

CWCID: Amygdala.

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Khamenei blames Iraq insurgency on Americans and Isrealis 

Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has blamed the United States and Israel for the insurgency in Iraq. It's no surprise that he would say such a thing on its face -- after all, the United States invaded Iraq, which triggered the insurgency, and Muslim leaders blame bad weather on Israelis.

But he doesn't mean that the United States created the conditions in which insurgency could flourish. He actually means that the Americans and the Isrealis are orchestrating the insurgency!:
In comments made during a meeting with visiting Singaporean Prime Minister of Singapore Goh Chok Tong, Khamenei said: ``We seriously suspect the agents of the Americans and Israelis in conducting such horrendous terrorist acts and cannot believe the people who kidnap Philippines nationals, for instance, or behead U.S. nationals are Muslims.''

There is no report of Prime Minister Goh's response, but I'm assuming that it involved snorting shark fin soup up into his nose.

This is, obviously, a lie of such magnitude that even Michael Moore does not believe it: "The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not `insurgents' or `terrorists' or `The Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win." Or maybe he does, given the Paul Revenue metaphor. It's always a little hard to tell with Moore.

In any case, the Ayatollah Khamenei is one of Islam's most important leaders and he runs a country that is on the brink of getting nuclear weapons. Understand his point of view, think about the governments in history who unabashedly said such things, and consider whether most Americans are grossly underestimating the threat of radical Islam.

CWCID: Andrew Sullivan.

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More threats from the leaders of Iran 

The indispensible MEMRI catalogues some of the recent fulminations in Farsi from the leaders of Iran. Here's an excerpt:
Iranian Revolutionary Guards Political Bureau head General Yadollah Javani wrote in the conservative daily Kayhan, which is close to Iranian Leader Ali Khamenei:"Threats of this kind are nothing new, but Iran must respond to these threats. To deal with the invader, Iran will use all its capabilities within and outside Iran. It seems to me that in his [Hamedan] speech, the leader was referring to the use of all means of force, as Iran has in its possession all means of force on the highest level....

"Today we have in our possession long-range smart missiles which can reach many of the interests and vital resources of the Americans and of the Zionist regime in our region. Thus, if the enemies show stupidity and make any mistake towards Iran, [Iran] will certainly use all the means and capabilities at its disposal.

"Today we enjoy high deterrent ability, and if the enemy acts in madness and wants to try his luck, he will, as the leader said, quickly see his black fate, and will regret acting against Iran's Islamic regime."

In an editorial, the July 6, 2004 edition of Kayhan stated: "The entire Islamic Middle East is now a volatile and tangled trap, and will be set off by the smallest bit of silliness – and will reap many victims of the sinful adventurers… Indeed, the White House's 80 years of exclusive rule are likely to become 80 seconds of Hell that will burn to ashes everything that has been built.

"Iran's counter-response is likely to be called 'sudden death' and 'the Angel of Death suddenly revealed.' That very day, those who resist [Iran] will be struck from directions they never expected. The heartbeat of the crisis is undoubtedly [dictated by] the hand of Iran."

I'm for taking what people say at face value.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

This guy can't be important 

According to the Associated Press and everybody else:
A confidant of Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), seen on a videotape with the al-Qaida chief as he talked about the Sept. 11 terror attacks, surrendered to Saudi diplomats in Iran and was flown to the kingdom Tuesday.

Khaled bin Ouda bin Mohammed al-Harby, a potentially valuable asset in the war on terror because of his closeness to bin Laden, was shown on Saudi TV being pushed in a wheelchair through the Riyadh airport.

The Saudis are beating their chests a bit over this capture, but the Americans think he's no big deal -- "an aging mujahideen," coming in from the cold.

If al-Hardy actually were important, the Saudis probably destroyed his value as a source by parading him in front of the cameras. Either that, or Al-Qaeda sent him in to serve up some misinformation. In any case, the fact that we know of his surrender so quickly after the fact strongly suggests that the publicity of his capture means more to the Saudis than the opportunity for real intelligence.

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The TigerHawk Sister weighs in with serious entomology 

Check it out. The X-Files reference is a huge bonus, don't you think?

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This is just one of the problems in criminalizing "hate" 

As suggested earlier by the Belmont Club and in the UPDATE to this post, the French hate crime was a hoax:

Just days after claiming to having been the victim of a cruel anti-Semitic attack that stunned France, a young mother confessed she fabricated the story, authorities said Tuesday.

Read about it here.

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Kofi Annan volunteers the United States to solve another global problem 

Kofi Annan seems to feel that the United States needs to do more about AIDS:
The United States must lead the fight against AIDS with the same commitment it shows in the battle against terrorism, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday.

"We hear a lot about weapons of mass destruction. We hear a lot about terrorism, and we are worried about weapons of mass destruction because of their potential to kill thousands of people," Annan said in an interview with the BBC.

"Here we have an epidemic that is killing millions. What is the response?" Annan said. "We really do need leadership. America has the natural leadership capacity because of its resources, because of its size."

Fair enough, in the abstract. But why isn't he berating the EU and Japan, the former being larger than the United States, and the latter being more than half the size? Why is there this presumption that matters of global public health are uniquely an American obligation? While this sense of entitlement may have made sense when the Europeans and the Japanese supported our interests in other spheres, why should Americans bear the obligation of leadership for social welfare projects that the Europeans are perfectly able to shoulder themselves? Are they so used to free-riding in military matters that they have forgotten that they can lead the way in other spheres? Or is it that they just want to expropriate the intellectual property of our pharmaceutical companies?

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Cell phones in public places 

Surprising as it may be to my too distinguished readership, I am going to take an unpopular position in this post, to wit: People who get in a twist about other people talking on their cell phones in public places should chill out and examine their own motives. A lot of them aren't troubled by noise, or their own noise. They're just "disturbed" by this particular kind of noise, and their irritation derives from their own selfishness or nosiness.

This morning, for example, I was -- and still am -- sitting virtually alone in the Starbucks at the Princeton MarketFair shopping center, happily plinking away at emails and suffering the hideous faux Arabian music that the store management has seen fit to pump over the sound system. My phone "rang" -- it vibrated, actually, 'cause I usually keep it on silent mode, just for the thrill of it -- and I paused to chat with a colleague who called while on his way to the airport. I spoke in conversational tones, no more, no less.

Suddenly and without warning, a rather large woman materialized at the table next to my easy chair, selecting it from among several other open tables that were not next to me.

Like a bat out of hell, she shushed me and asked me to stop talking on my cell phone!

Since I like to limit my enemy-making to the blogosphere, I smiled an accomodating smile and wrapped up my conversation.

Shortly thereafter, the fat woman's ugly friend (yes, ladies and gentlemen, an ad hominem attack) arrived and the two of them began gossiping cruelly about all sorts of appalling matters in a broadcast clearly audible throughout the store, notwithstanding the music, the cappucino machine, and all the other distracting interference.

Why, precisely, is prattling to your present friend morally superior, or less intrusive, than chatting in dulcet tones with your absent colleague?

Then, two guys with laptops at different tables started talking loudly across the restaurant, not just for a minute, but for an extended period. They're still going, and they are much louder than me on my phone. Yet the gossiping fat woman hasn't shushed them.

As far as I'm concerned, there can only be three explanations for this woman's behavior.

1. Rank, self-centered hypocrisy.

2. An ideological hatred of cell phones, or cell phone users.

3. Frustration over the unfulfilled dropping of eaves -- she could only hear one side of the conversation, and that annoyed her.

As a naturally loud person who is often shushed just for being loud -- I am sure that I have spoiled many a meal for innocent diners, which is why I avoid quiet restaurants -- I appreciate that some people "screen" better than others. If I'm too loud, I try to quiet down when people ask me politely. But do not single out one-sided cell phone conversations for intervention and then give other cacaphony a free pass. And if you are going to request that I be quiet, do not then burden me with the incessant flapping of your gums and shrill cackle of your scornful, derisive laugh.

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Monday, July 12, 2004

Defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment 

Four months ago, I promised to write only one post on the subject of gay marriage. Apparently, I lied.

Walter Olsen has a batch of links to Republicans, including bona fide conservatives, who oppose this perversion of the United States Constitution. "George Will, Lynne Cheney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudolph Giuliani, and Bob Barr are all on record opposing this wretched would-be Constitutional amendment, and they're right." Follow some of his links.

This cynical effort to amend the Constitution is mean-spirited, and morally indefensible. And it is making it almost impossible for those of us with gay friends -- or just a commitment to states rights -- to vote for Dubya this time.

That having been said, as I wrote in March, it is possible that the proposal and ultimate defeat of the FMA will do more to advance the cause of gay marriage than judicial activism alone can possibly accomplish:
[T]he pursuit -- and almost certain defeat -- of a constitutional amendment is a useful exercise. It is not that the proposed amendment isn't folly of the highest order -- I absolutely side with those who believe that this sort of prohibition does not belong in the United States Constitution. Rather, it is better that the issue be decided via the defeat of a constitutional amendment than by courts -- as in Massachussets -- or by defiant local officials, as in San Francisco, New Paltz, and any number of other liberal burgs. We learned in the years since Roe v. Wade that when courts bypass the democratic process to force acceptance of socially controversial matters it creates a political sore that will persist for a generation. If this issue is legislated away without the participation of legislatures, people will rage about gay marriage for a for a long time. If, however, we allow a vote on a constitutional amendment, the failure of that amendment -- and it will fail -- will be seen as tremendously legitimizing for gay marriage. There will then be some chance that people will accept gay marriage more readily than they accept a woman's decision to terminate a pregnancy.

None of this excuses those on the Christian right who will work hard for the passage of the FMA, but it is possible that this turmoil may eventually work to the advantage of gays and lesbians who want the right to marry.

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"One square kilometer" 

Mohammed of Iraq the Model posts today -- in the form of a dialogue -- on the positive changes he sees in a grumpy friend's neighborhood.
I became really angry, however I waited for him to finish then I asked him if I could answer. “Sure I want to see how you’re going to answer” he replied, putting a challenging face.
I said:
-you claimed that Iraq’s fortune was robbed an that you didn’t see a real change or any reconstruction and I will answer you with a picture that you have to see everyday because it’s within a circle of one kilometer around your house and you have to see this picture every morning while you walk out of your house for whatever business you want to do.
He looked at me and said:
-What do you mean!?
-Ok, let’s start with the first thing you see when you get out of your house . The first building you will see is that of the law institute for higher studies which was destroyed after the 9th of April. Was it destroyed by an American bomb? No, it was destroyed by criminals who carried out Saddam’s plan in “burning Iraq before handing it to the Americans” joined by some selfish people and other ignorant and simple Iraqis who didn’t understand that soon after the 9th of April all the state belongings that were Saddam’s have become all-Iraqis’ belongings. Alright, this institute was rebuilt few months later and now it functions in a way better than before and help to create a new law system that is honest and independent and to me this is another and more important addition.

Ok, now let’s move for few tens of meters and you can find the publishing house that used to publish Uday’s hateful newspaper (Babil) this one also was not destroyed by American missiles and we all remember how the thieves left it as mere walls with the vents missing their robbed air conditioners. Ok, what happened later; it’s working now with full power after it was reconstructed and now it’s printing Al-Sabah news paper that you buy every morning. To me this one was also rebuilt twice; once as building and equipments and once as a trust worthy press instead of the pathetic old propaganda machine. Now I’m going to move for only another ten meters to find the (open educational college) where teachers improve their teaching methods, this one, uncle was also not destroyed by American bombs but by the same way as the former two buildings and now we can see that it was soon reconstructed and a few days ago they celebrated the graduation of a new bunch of their students.

Ok, let’s take a look at the adjacent building which is for the transport department in the ministry of trade. We watched that building being robbed in the same way. Do I have to remind you sir that this building was rebuilt and it’s back to work?
I don’t think I have to; you see it every morning.

I’ll move for another 50 meters and cross the street where lies one of the former evil military institutes that was used to train professional butchers; it wasn’t a target for American missiles but was robbed by some sick people who left it as ruins, and you know uncle how the American unit in charge of this area turned it into a residency for students who come from other governorates to study in Baghdad. Now they have air conditioning, hot and cold water and decent bedrooms.

Ok I’m still walking within this single kilometer that you see every day and I’ll walk for another 100 meters to find the ministry of labor and social affairs; this building was not destroyed by American missiles but the thugs attacked it and ruined and robbed everything they found in it. Don’t you see this building every day with its new look after it was rebuilt and started to function again.

I’ll walk for a couple hundreds of meters in another direction to take a look at the beautiful building of the ministry of financial affairs; looting and fire caused more damage to this building than what a missile would cause, look at it now and enjoy its new look without Saddam’s portrait that was covering a whole side of the building.
Here my father tried to interrupt me but I insisted on going to the end with my speech and I added addressing everyone:
I didn’t exceed an area of one kilometer-that we all see and pass by every day-in this round. I have mentioned a lot of things but I also forgot a lot more like all the schools and public clinics that were rebuilt within this area. Now, do you still have doubts about where our oil money went?
And I’m not talking about the whole country here, have you asked yourselves why the exchange price is 1500 now instead of 2200 in Saddam’s days?
And do you think that a 100 times raise for some employees salaries doesn’t represent a part of the money you were talking about? Don’t you notice the private businesses that are starting and those that are booming?
Here one of my friends turned to our pessimist guest asking him “haven’t you turned an old dirty shop into a network gaming hall?”

Read the whole thing.

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Muqtada al-Sadr attacked 

According to Stratfor($),
Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr reportedly has been stabbed by an office colleague in a dispute over al-Sadr's authority in the country. The injury is not life threatening.

More evidence, perhaps, that the opposition in Iraq is fragmenting.

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Everything you always wanted to know about date palms... 

Mohammed has it covered over there at Iraq the Model. Next thing you know, date-eating will become popular among the Bushies.

Hey, that's not what I meant!

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Parsley blogging 

The flora is obvious, but can you see the fauna? Posted by Hello


Take a closer look:

 Posted by Hello


Here's hoping that the TigerHawk sister weighs in.

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Creepy Google search 

My referrers page indicated that somebody has Googled "2004 email and names of manager/ director and stuff of manufacture company in isreal," without the quotation marks. Probably so that the Googler can send all those people a hearty congratulations.

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Sunday, July 11, 2004

France's Vincent Chin 

Remember Vincent Chin? Probably not -- even I couldn't remember him by name. But I will always remember the case of the Chinese American murdered by a couple of laid-off autoworkers in 1982. These UAW losers beat Chin with baseball bats only because they "thought he was Japanese," as if that were somehow exculpatory. But the Japanese were to blame for everything in that time and place, so the Michigan judge of the case, one Charles Kaufmann, bought their pile of horsepucky and sentenced the killers to three years probation and $3000 fines. I was at Michigan Law School when Judge Kaufmann passed his sentence.

Bad facts make bad law. The Chin case probably persuaded a lot of people that we needed special hate crimes statutes, which are themselves a very bad idea. But that's a different rant.

Now it looks as though France is staring at its own fumbled hate crime, a case of mistaken Jewishness:
A young woman and her baby were attacked in a suburban train near Paris on Saturday by unidentified men who drew swastikas on her stomach with a pen in what police said was an anti-Semitic assault.

The six attackers who were armed with knives clipped the 23-year-old woman's hair, and cut her t-shirt and pants before drawing three swastikas on her body.

The men of North African origin also overturned the pram with her baby of 13 months....

Police said the attackers erroneously assumed the woman was Jewish because she was living in Paris' posh 16th district.

"Only Jews live in the 16th district," one of the men was quoted as having said.

There was no murder here, but I'm guessing that even so the French will give these North African Nazis a stiffer sentence than the Michigan courts imposed on the killers of Vincent Chin. If they catch the bastards at all.

UPDATE (7-12-04 9:00 PM EDT): Wretchard points to news stories that suggest the attack might not have happened, and the complaint a fraud.

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A duel in Weehawken 

Solomon points out that two hundred years ago today, July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. The History Channel's web site has the story. Remember it from school?
Affairs of honor were commonplace in America at the time, and the complex rules governing them usually led to an honorable resolution before any actual firing of weapons. In fact, the outspoken Hamilton had been involved in several affairs of honor in his life, and he had resolved most of them peaceably. No such recourse was found with Burr, however, and on July 11, 1804, the enemies met at 7 a.m. at the dueling grounds near Weehawken, New Jersey. It was the same spot where Hamilton's son had died defending his father's honor two years before.

There are conflicting accounts of what happened next. According to Hamilton's "second"--his assistant and witness in the duel--Hamilton decided the duel was morally wrong and deliberately fired into the air. Burr's second claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed. What happened next is agreed upon: Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach, and the bullet lodged next to his spine. Hamilton was taken back to New York, and he died the next afternoon.

Few affairs of honor actually resulted in deaths, and the nation was outraged by the killing of a man as eminent as Alexander Hamilton. Charged with murder in New York and New Jersey, Burr, still vice president, returned to Washington, D.C., where he finished his term immune from prosecution.

Burr had challenged Hamilton to a duel after the latter had savaged the character of the former in a hotly contested election campaign. While the "affair of honor" resulted in the death of one of America's greatest founding fathers and discredited Burr to the end of his days, you can't help but wonder if the existence of the practice of dueling wasn't a useful means of alternative dispute resolution.

In any case, it won't take a big chunk out of your day to read the whole thing.

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Blogging and the coverage in Iraq 

U.S. News and World Report has a column by John Leo that discusses the impact of blogging on the coverage of Iraq by the major news media. Exhibit A, according to Leo, is the abject failure of the Western press to cover Bremer's departure from Iraq:
On June 28, Paul Bremer gave a farewell speech as he stepped down as U.S. administrator in Iraq....

Word that Bremer actually gave the speech is something of a collector's item among American reporters. The Washington Post said Bremer left without giving a talk. The Los Angeles Times did worse. It missed the speech, then insulted Bremer for not giving it. A July 4 Times "news analysis" said: "L. Paul Bremer III, the civilian administrator for Iraq, left without even giving a final speech to the country--almost as if he were afraid to look in the eye the people he had ruled for more than a year." This is a good one-sentence example of what readers object to in much Iraq reporting--dubious or wrong information combined with a heavy load of attitude from the reporter.

So how do we know about the speech? Well, anybody who reads this or any other center-right blog knows that we know this (hey, a "known known"!) thanks to the spot-on reporting of Iraq the Model, long featured on the blogroll of TigerHawk and, according to Technorati, linked to from more than 680 other places on the Web. As Leo points out, "[o]ne blogger wrote: 'Bremer's farewell address had been common knowledge among readers of Internet blogs since at least June 30,' four days before the Times criticized Bremer for having given no speech."

Of course, Leo is a bit lame himself. Not only did he fail to attribute his "one blogger" quotation, but he admits that he had not heard of Iraq the Model either. Hmmm.

That the national press corps, and editors in particular, are so manifestly ignorant of the blogosphere betrays their insularity and, dare I say it, constitutes a failure of professionalism. Sure, it isn't reasonable to expect busy people to read 80 blogs a day, but you really don't have to do that. If you spin through three of four big linkers like Instapundit and Atrios and follow their links you will get the really obvious stuff - like Bremer's speech - and thereby innoculate yourself against the possibility that you will look like a total fool.

Of course, if you are an editor of either coastal Times, you live in your own little world where you do not know anybody who would vote for Bush 43 or enlist in the Army or set off firecrackers or go to a monster truck rally, and you don't read Iraqi bloggers either. So you do not even realize you look like a total fool, since nobody you run in to at the next celebrity fundraiser will embarrass you by asking how it was that the vaunted Los Angeles Times got scooped by Ali Fadhil, who gets 6,500 readers a day, without even knowing it.

UPDATE: USS Neverdock points out a doozy of a correction by The New York Times:
An article last Sunday about surprises in politics referred incorrectly to the turkey carried by President Bush during his unannounced visit to American troops in Baghdad over Thanksgiving. It was real, not fake.

Now, the entire aware world knows that the turkey was real, albeit not intended for the troops to eat. The myth of the "fake turkey" survives only in the world of the Bush-haters, yet Richard Berke and his editor managed to republish the "fake" turkey canard (pun intended) eight months after it had been discredited. Since it takes deliberate effort to write such a reference into a story, did they do it on purpose, or have they so completely inculcated the oral traditions of their social circles that they did not even bother to Google "Bush turkey Iraq"?

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