G. A. Cerny
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
  Killing time...
All a publisher has to do is write cheques at intervals, while a lot of deserving and industrious chappies rally round and do the real work.

She was feeling like a mother who, in addition to notifying him that there is no candy, has been compelled to strike a loved child on the base of the skull with a stocking full of sand.

He moves from point to point with as little uproar as a jellyfish.

He was white and shaken, like a dry martini.

I may as well tell you, here and now, that if you are going about the place thinking things pretty, you will never make a modern poet. Be poignant, man, be poignant!

I was so darned sorry for poor old Corky that I hadn't the heart to touch my breakfast. I told Jeeves to drink it himself.

...playing with the P. G. Wodehouse random quote generator
  Vaclav and the Wolf
The occupation’s flaws were many, and they all lead from Baghdad back to Washington. The heart of the problem has always been the Bush administration’s almost theological conviction that American power is by nature good and what follows in its wake will be freedom and democracy. This is sometimes called American exceptionalism, and it’s another idea that the Iraq war should lay to rest. But at least one idea should be salvaged. In the last years of the twentieth century, with the liberation of Eastern Europe, the tragedies of Bosnia and Rwanda, and the qualified success of Kosovo, a new conviction began to stir in certain quarters of the liberal democracies—that regimes don’t have an absolute right to slaughter their own citizens, that the democratic powers should intervene when it’s feasible to stop the worst atrocities and create the kind of security in which democracy has a chance to grow. This was always a fragile minority view, and it has become a significant piece of the collateral damage inflicted by the Administration’s blunders in Iraq. The war has everyone from George Will to Michael Moore sounding like an unsentimental realist with no patience for any American involvement in moral messes overseas. The closest analogy to the Iraq war is the aftermath of the First World War: we’re in for a bitter reaction against “liberation” and “humanitarianism” and the other lofty words that sent American troops into Falluja and Najaf. The Administration has given idealism a bad name, and it will now take years to rescue Vaclav Havel from Paul Wolfowitz.

George Packer, The New Yorker 
  Things found in books
This post by Old Hag reminded me of a Penguin paperback edition of The Odyssey that I picked up in Crete-- it's a law that every American tourist in Greece has to carry around, if not actually read, a copy of Homer.

The book was in English, of course, but trapped in its pages was a postcard in German. The postcard was of the cemetery where the remains of the German soldiers killed in the Battle of Crete are buried.

No writing on the back. I've no idea how it ended up in The Odyssey, but it's an appropriate bookmark to use in the great epic of men trying to find a way home from a war. 
  At first light on Sunday, three young women walked into a scrubby field just outside their refugee camp in West Darfur. They had gone out to collect straw for their family's donkeys. They recalled thinking that the Arab militiamen who were attacking African tribes at night would still be asleep. But six men grabbed them, yelling Arabic slurs such as "zurga" and "abid," meaning "black" and "slave." Then the men raped them, beat them and left them on the ground, they said.
"They grabbed my donkey and my straw and said, 'Black girl, you are too dark. You are like a dog. We want to make a light baby,' " said Sawela Suliman, 22, showing slashes from where a whip had struck her thighs as her father held up a police and health report with details of the attack. "They said, 'You get out of this area and leave the child when it's made.' "

Emily Wax reports on rape as instrument of policy in Sudan in today's Washington Post.

See also this BBC piece on American policy there. The Christian Right has its good points.

UPDATE: Powell's visit to a refugee camp in Darfur. 
  Sullivan's annulment
Sullivan makes a stand for privacy, and accuses the Chicago Tribune of employing a double-standard:
If Jack Ryan's sealed divorce papers are legitimate objects for perusal (and you are prepared to force the issue in court), why not Kerry's? Can't you just wait for the Chicago Tribune to explain why they won't pursue the story?
[...]
Now tell me how that [the Trib's reasoning] doesn't apply to Kerry. In some ways, the Kerry divorce may have more public ramifications, because Kerry was also granted an annulment, indicating that the marriage, strictly speaking, was never fully valid in the Catholic church. Why? Was this special treatment for a powerful pol? On the Trib's reasoning, isn't that worth investigating?

But,
Let me be clear: I think Kerry should be left alone. But the press has absolutely no good reason to do so, now they have trashed any semblance of human privacy that we might still be entitled to. So we will now see the real ethics of the Chicago Tribune: that they are a partisan attack machine, shredding people's privacy for their own political agenda.
(emphasis added)

Sullivan should no better that to start throwing around accusations of hypocrisy. In a March post headed "Memo to the Boston Globe" he wrote
How about looking into the annulment issue?
[...]
I wonder how much Kerry paid for his. Why doesn't someone ask him? 
  Sadly, No! gets results! 
  The Friends of Ralph Nader
AP reports:
A watchdog group says it will file a complaint with federal election officials, accusing two conservative organizations of illegally helping Ralph Nader's presidential campaign, possibly with support from President Bush's re-election campaign.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington planned to file its complaint Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission. It says the Oregon Family Council and Citizens for a Sound Economy violated election laws last week by telephoning people and urging them to help Nader get on Oregon's ballot in November.


The old school term was "ratfucking."  
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
  A Dream Vacation
Doug Arellanes, where I stole the link, gives a translation
  Women leaders in Slovenia
According to a sociology course given at Brandeis, anyway. 
  The dangers of walking under the influence, while not as well-publicized as those of drunk driving, are considerable.
(via Idle Type
  Fareed Zakaria
The Bush administration has never really understood the security problem in Iraq. To do so would require that it face up to its own mistakes. The original sin of U.S. postwar policy remains the decision to go into Iraq with too few troops. A larger presence would have intimidated and thus deterred some of the opposition and, in places such as Najaf and Karbala, forestalled the rise of local militias.

But the second important mistake has been to discount the size of the insurgency and its local support. For many in the administration it was an article of faith that Iraqis would welcome the American occupation. So it was impossible for them to accept the idea that ordinary Iraqis could be helping the guerrillas. That's why Donald Rumsfeld always dismissively referred to Iraqi militants as a bunch of "dead-enders." Administration officials objected to the use of terms such as "insurgents," and claimed that most of the troublemakers were foreign terrorists.

As has happened so many times regarding Iraq, ideology clouded analysis. The best-equipped, best-trained army in the world has not been able to crush or even find the "dead-enders," whose operations have grown in size, skill and organization. Fourteen months after the fall of Baghdad, Iraq's main airport remains closed, the road from the airport to Baghdad is a free-fire zone, several other key routes linking the country are extremely dangerous, and attacks on infrastructure, civilians and troops are a daily occurrence.


Zakaria suggests that the new Iraqi government negotiate with the insurgents. He makes a strong case. 
  Czech dissident puppetry
Czechoslovakia, now an undisputed leader in puppetry, began its saga in the nineteenth century. The Czech language was banned by the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, but puppeteers performed in Czech as an act of defiance. During the Nazi invasions, puppeteers resisted, despite the forced closing and banning of literally hundreds of theatres. Anti-fascist plays by Karel Capek...were staged in underground venues along with theatrical interpretations of modern poetry. During public performances, they used allegory in order to slip subversive (and with audiences’ expectations, anticipated) remarks past the censors.
Kerry Mogg, A Short History of Radical Puppetry
[quoted by CLASSical Liberalism, cited by Hit&Run's Jesse Walker
Monday, June 28, 2004
  We handed over sovereignty two days early, "to forestall guerrilla attacks with a secretive ceremony." We haven't established a level of security that would allow us to even have meaningless schedules go off on time. Even the CPA's own website, at the time of this writing, doesn't mention that Iraqi self-governance began some hours ago. Perhaps they know something...

This is not two days early; it's a year late.

UPDATE: They fixed it. The CPA's website now directs you to the U.S. embassy's website.
Please update your bookmarks. This site for the CPA-Iraq Coalition will no longer be updated. It will remain available for historical purposes until June 30, 2005.  
  I so knew this was going to happen. I did. 
Sunday, June 27, 2004
  Mark Steyn is full of it
I'm a little sad, actually. Steyn's a good, often original, writer, with a real talent for invective. Too bad he doesn't bring even the slightest bit of skepticism to his column today which argues for the case on Atta/Praha being open.

The Czechs are sticking to their story that Mohammed Atta met with a big-shot Iraqi in Prague.
Meanwhile, the CIA is sticking to its story that Mohammed Atta was in America at the time of the alleged meeting -- the basis for this assertion being that his U.S. cell phone was used that day. That, of course, is no proof of anything, except perhaps of what's wrong with U.S. intelligence. Oh, and also of the inadequacy of U.S. immigration "records."


I've dealt with these points that Steyn parrots before, and I won't do so again. Will Steyn stand by this a year from now? Or will he forget it?

Well, I won't forget it. 
  "In Sudan, Death and Denial"
Please read this article. 
  Paul Bremer: the gift that keeps on giving
A good story in this morning's Washington Post on edicts given by Paul Bremer that will continue to be in force after the handover of sovereignty-- does that need scare quotes?-- this week. It's "an attempt to promote his concepts of governance" after he is gone.

Some of these concepts are deeply troubling:
Among the most controversial orders is the enactment of an elections law that gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support.

Also, taxes are capped at 15% of income. This might appeal to the libertarians in the room, but it's hard to square tax policy by American fiat with Iraqi self-governance.

Not that it matters much. As Chandrasekaran and Pincus note:
It appears unlikely that all of the orders will be followed. Many of them reflect an idealistic but perhaps futile attempt to impose Western legal, economic and social concepts on a tradition-bound nation that is reveling in anything-goes freedom after 35 years of dictatorial rule.

The orders include rules that cap tax rates at 15 percent, prohibit piracy of intellectual property, ban children younger than 15 from working, and a new traffic code that stipulates the use of a car horn in "emergency conditions only" and requires a driver to "hold the steering wheel with both hands."

Iraq has long been a place where few people pay taxes, where most movies and music are counterfeit, where children often hold down jobs and where traffic laws are rarely obeyed, Iraqis note.


To be fair, some of the ideas aren't that bad, perhaps even wise. Inspectors-general for every Iraqi ministry, for instance. But:
There are some doubts about my work," said Nabil Bayati, the inspector general in the Ministry of Electricity, who is charged with rooting out waste, fraud and abuse. People in the ministry, he said, "don't understand it yet."  
  Russia, "net exporter of democracy"?!
More plausible than "Russia, exporter of sobriety" I suppose. 
Saturday, June 26, 2004
  One more once on Atta/Praha
The Prague Post reports that Zeman and Gross aren't just distancing themselves from the story; they're blaming each other for starting it in the first place.

Even Stephen Hayes, not the most skeptical of journalists, has noted that, in private, Czech leaders have been backing off the tale for some time now.

Case closed
  "weakening a nation at its very roots"
Is there any part of FDR's statement, appropriated by Sullivan to attack Michael Moore, that doesn't apply to the constant assertions of Iraqi involvement with Al Qaeda by the Bush administration? 
  Fucking-A well told: Josh Marshall on the Iraq/Al-Qaeda links:
We have had unfettered access to most of the internal records of the deposed regime, though some were destroyed or looted. We have had Saddam and most of his top government officials in custody, along with much larger numbers of former soldiers and intelligence officers.

On the al Qaeda side of the equation, we haven’t bagged bin Laden yet, but we have many key al Qaeda operatives and Sept. 11 masterminds in custody — Ramsi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheik Mohammed being only two prominent examples.

Furthermore, we must assume they and the deposed Baathists have all been submitted to what we might generously call the third degree plus.
Given that we have all of these men and materials in our possession, we’re really not looking for hints and allegations anymore.
In fact, given the totality of our access, it would be surprising if we didn’t find a few instances of isolated contact — unfettered access to the Pakistani or Saudi intelligence archives and cadres would undoubtedly yield many, many more.
We should be in a position to unearth close to the whole story, if there were any story to tell. And there’s only one reason we’re not unearthing it: It’s not there.
 
  For him, this is unequivocal
"I will be seeking to proceed toward formation of a government which will not rely on the support of the Communist Party," said Gross.
"I hope that I will manage to fulfil this pledge and I will do all I can to do so," he said.


How reassuring. "Endeavor to persevere..."

Rob Cameron writes:
[Gross] could try to create a minority left-wing government, supported by the largely unreconstructed Communist Party. But the Communists are still political pariahs in Czech party politics, and Mr Gross knows such a move would be political suicide.

Would it? I'd like to think so, of course, but I'm not so sure. 
Friday, June 25, 2004
  Regulate the mail-order bride trade?
Perhaps:
Thanks to the Internet, there are now hundreds of agencies where lovelorn Western men can find brides from Eastern Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. But the business remains largely unregulated, and critics say it leaves many women vulnerable to abuse. This week, parliamentarians at the Council of Europe recommended measures to make the business safer for women -- and men.

The article goes on to quote, ahem, Joe Weiner:
"How can you regulate matchmaking?” Weiner asked. “It's almost impossible. If you're asking every marriage agency all over the world to check criminal records, forget about it -- it's a physical impossibility. A little bit more education for the woman would be a better idea -- in other words, before a woman gets a visa or passport, that country [could] give her some [information] to look at, or maybe [the woman] should check out the agency [first]. Who are they, are they members of other organizations, how long have they been going. I think that's the best you're going to be able to do."

Please imagine the above delivered in "a thick New York accent," as Steve of PragueBlog urged in a post on Weiner and his business a while back. And, remember also these posts on the subject by TK and Petr.

In not particularly related news, Canadian strip clubs are recruiting Romanian girls, but Czech girls are also making a contribution to the global economy by shaking it:
Some 582 Romanian women were among a record 880 strippers given work permits last year to table dance in Canadian girlie bars, the statistics show.
[...]
The United States was a distant second as a supplier of girls last year at 31, the Czech Republic donated 28, Mexico gave up 21 and Bulgaria sent 16.

I found simply mind-boggling this sentence:
To obtain a visa, the women must show a resume to prove they can dance nude, pass an interview, medical and security checks.

A resume to show that they can dance nude? What are the interview questions? Are they in essay form? "Is there sex in the champagne room? Discuss." 
  What's with Czechs trying to set particularly stupid world records?
To je okurkova sezona?
First it was the guy hauling four trucks. Now, one of my countrymen had his dumb-ass buried in a coffin for ten days
A 50-year-old Czech man has survived 10 days buried underground in a wooden coffin without food and water, setting what he claims is a new world record, local media has reported.
Zdenek Zahradka, a holy man or fakir, was connected with the outside world only by a ventilation pipe and said the most difficult thing to endure during the feat was severe thirst.

Mr Zahradka said he spent most of the time sleeping or contemplating and sometimes spoke to friends through the pipe.
"While I was underground I thought about all the things happening in the world, and I realised that human life is so futile that we must be glad for the time given to us, we should respect our lives," he said.


Well, obviously his life is futile.

Perhaps Zahradka was thinking of Kafka's Hunger Artist. I was reminded more of a story by Chekhov
  "There's no word for this in any other tongue..."
Alex Zucker considers the ten most difficult words to translate.

Of American words, I think "cool" is surprisingly difficult. When I saw Almost Famous with Czech subtitles, it was usually given as dobry or something, but that doesn't really work. The Latin "dolce et decorum" might best capture the essence of cool.

And, while I'm up, take a look at this prague.tv discussion of Czech names that are...interesting. 
Thursday, June 24, 2004
  Minor story, major idiot
A Connecticut paper reports that a Czech trade authority has pulled from the market two U.S. tattoo inks:
The Czech trade authority has ordered the withdrawal from sale of two U.S.-made tattoo inks after they were found to be contaminated with mold, an official said Thursday.
Tests on the inks called StarBrite Black Magic and StarBrite Colors, which were imported to the Czech Republic earlier this year, allegedly showed contamination with acremonium, a mold often found on plants, said Miloslava Fleglova, a spokeswoman for the trade inspectorate.


The reporter contacted the company that manufacturered the inks, Tommy's Supplies:
Tommy Ringwalt, the company's vice president, said he removed the alcohol content from a small lot of StarBrite black ink after reading an article that claimed alcohol caused fungus, but he has since learned that alcohol actually kills fungus.
"Unfortunately, that's been an embarrassment to us and we've put the alcohol back in there," he said.


Stupidity...there's just so much of it.
 
  Preach on, Al:
...President Bush and Vice President Cheney have decided to fight to the rhetorical death over whether or not there's a meaningful connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. They think that if they lose that argument and people see the truth, then they'll not only lose support for the controversial decision to go to war, but also lose some of the new power they've picked up from the Congress and the courts, and face harsh political consequences at the hands of the American people. As a result, President Bush is now intentionally misleading the American people by continuing to aggressively and brazenly assert a linkage between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

If he is not lying, if they genuinely believe that, that makes them unfit in battle with al Qaeda. If they believe these flimsy scraps, then who would want them in charge? Are they too dishonest or too gullible? Take your pick.


I argued last year that it was a tactical mistake to attack an incumbent president. I'm not sure if I still agree with that or not, but I do know that it feels really good that Al Gore is saying what I'm thinking.

They have such an overwhelming political interest in sustaining the belief in the minds of the American people that Hussein was in partnership with bin Laden that they dare not admit the truth lest they look like complete fools for launching our country into a reckless, discretionary war against a nation that posed no immediate threat to us whatsoever. But the damage they have done to our country is not limited to misallocation of military economic political resources. Whenever a chief executive spends prodigious amounts of energy convincing people of lies, he damages the fabric of democracy, and the belief in the fundamental integrity of our self-government.  
  The NBA Draft makes fools of us all. All fans of the game, are, in their hearts, general managers. We know how to put together a team. We think.
But, as William Goldman said about another industry based on fantasy, "nobody knows anything."

Except maybe Jerry West.

The influx of high-school players (nine expected to go in the first round tonight) and little-known foreign players makes the draft harder and harder to figure out. Players from vastly different systems who have played against very different levels of competition are judged on a few workouts. The winners become millionaires.

Bill Simmons, a sports writer with a labored frat-boy schtick, republished this week a column on the draft with this amazing claim:
Whenever experts discuss the NBA draft, the phrase "It's an inexact science" always seems to pop up ... and it's an absolute crock. The draft is an exact science. Teams always make the same mistakes. Players always fail for the same reasons. The same dumb things always seem to happen.

Simmons claimed that every draft goes seven or eight players deep:
For instance, the 2002 draft goes seven deep ... and if you want to throw in the Brazilian Guy (Maybyner Hilario), that's fine, we can make it eight. So if you're Phoenix sitting at No. 9 this week, you're thinking, "All right, if we don't move up at least one spot, suddenly our odds drop from 90-95 percent to 50 percent." Why not just make a deal, for God's sake?

With the ninth pick, Phoenix got Amare Stoudamire. That season's Rookie of the Year.

He went on:
There isn't a more dreaded word during draft week than "Tweener" -- guys either too small for the 4-spot and too big for the 3-spot...or too small for the 3-spot and too slow for the 2-spot...
(2002 Example: Kentucky forward Tayshaun Prince ... 6-foot-9, 113 pounds. I can't even begin to imagine where an NBA contender would play him.)

How about on Kobe?

Simmons is actually no worse than most b-ball analysts, just more arrogant. Predicting careers in this game has a way of making everyone look dumb. Except Jerry West.

Consider Stu Inman, once GM of the Portland Trail Blazers. In his time, players spent at least three, and usually four, years in college. He didn't have to try and evaluate prep talent.

Inman made the consensus all-time worst number-one draft selection: LaRue Martin. 5.3 points-per-game while averaging 14 minutes per. That's his career.

Twelve years later, Inman topped himself by making the worst second-pick in the history of the draft, and perhaps the greatest mistake in the history of the sport. Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. He was quoted as saying, "We already have a player like that." (He meant Clyde Drexler, and yes, he was nice, and, no, he wasn't like Mike.)

In between these two franchise-defining moments, Portland got the rights to Moses Malone when the ABA folded. They traded Malone in training camp for a first-round pick. When Bill Walton, then playing for the Trailblazers, heard the news, he only said, "You didn't trade him away, you gave him away."

And you know what? Portland still won a championship under Stu Inman.

So, anyone trying to tell teams what they should do tonight is a fool. They should feel Stu Inman's presence as they try to find the diamonds on draft night, just as Scrooge felt Marley on Christmas Eve.
But that won't stop me from telling the teams with the first two slots what to do:
1. Orlando-- coming off a terrible season, the Magic is barely a team. They could be one if they trade T-Mac for a player or three. The Phoenix deal seemed better for them than Houston's offer. Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson are a great pair of perimeter players. All you need is a defensive minded banger like Emeka Okafor. Howard might be the better player down the road, but if you can't win thirty games in the East, you can't think three years ahead. Restore credibility by building with a known quantity. Hell, with the right deal, the playoffs aren't impossible next season.
2. Charlotte better pray that Orlando doesn't see it my way. If they take Howard, grab Okafor and run. But if Orlando gets Okafor at #1, trade the damn pick. Yes, I know they traded to get the pick, but Charlotte doesn't even have a shell of a franchise. Putting an 18 year-old in the wasteland of an expansion team is an almost certain disaster. Short-term, a ten-win season. Long-term, Howard gets abused every night until his growth as a pro is stunted. Then, after three years, he flees.
The Bobcats need bodies-- and a better name. If Okafor isn't on the board, trade down and get two firsts or a first and a useful player. Just don't take Howard.

Boston, actually, would be a better place for Howard, since Paul Pierce will be there to take some of the pressure off while he comes up, and since they have no interior game at all. Boston's got three picks, and any number of jump shooters...

One more thing: Portland is expected to take Telfair. Portland makes one good pick every decade, and this won't be it. Stu Inman lives. Or is un-dead. 
  "What's he talking about, and why are we still paying him?"
Frankly, part of our problem is a lot of the press are afraid to travel very much, so they sit in Baghdad and they publish rumors.
Paul Wolfowitz

Howard Kurtz responds:
Paul Wolfowitz is basically accusing journalists of cowardice.
[...]
Aren't the reporters operating in an environment that administration officials predicted long ago would be a safe and democratic environment once Saddam was toppled?

He cites Maureen Dowd, who wrote in her column today:
Beyond sliming journalists (much as he slimes his hair with his own saliva in Michael Moore's new movie) who are risking their lives traveling around Iraq to cover the cakewalk that became chaos, Mr. Wolfowitz dodges the responsibility he bears for turning Iraq into a shooting gallery and Al Qaeda recruitment center.

I will add that more journalists have been killed in Iraq than have neo-con apparatchiks.

UPDATE: Wolfowitz has apologized
  Where's the beef?
Morton Kondracke, a Fox News commentator and a generally annoying example of Beltway punditry, hits all the Bush/Cheney talking points on the 9/11 Commission's judgement that there was no collabarotive relationshitp between Hussein and Al Qaeda. "There were contacts" and so on. But he does go on to say something worthwhile, if obvious, that's worth quoting:
Bush and Cheney vigorously reasserted a long history of "ties," but they've got to go further.
Cheney has repeatedly cited The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes as the best source of data on "the connection," the title of Hayes' book on the subject. But the administration has let Hayes be practically the only source, and it has refused to back up his reporting in detail.


Quite. Or, as E. J. Dionne put it, rather more succinctly:
The Bush administration should give us the proof or stop making claims it can't support. Put up or shut up. 
  Havel on Zimabwe
Zimbabwe's leaders know that the international community will cooperate with them only if they meet certain conditions. That is why they are trying to give the impression of democracy and thus escape international isolation, and why they distort the standard democratic mechanisms in order to create a semblance of citizens' participation. At the same time, they create legal instruments that violate human rights. Democratic institutions are partly controlled by the leadership, partly circumvented by it.
[...]
Totalitarian regimes may differ in small details — by the nature of their deviations, the degree of their representatives' contrivance, the degree of their cruelty and brutality — but their nature is the same. And so is the manner of resisting such regimes. 
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
  1-1 at the half
The BBC's web updates suck; ESPN's is much better. Come on, there's money in it for you if you keep it up for another 45 minutes!

UPDATE: Jesus saves...but Baros gets the rebound and scores. GOOOOAAALL! 
  I wasn't going, I hadn't been for years, my musical tastes have grown a bit since I was in college, but it's still a blow that the Lollapalooza tour has been cancelled. Christ, I guess I'm old. At least the "Lollapalooza Experience" isn't playing somewhere on the Vegas Strip. 
  The Germans are taking tonight's game very seriously.
(via Sadly, No!
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
  Czech police arrest human traffickers:
Czech police arrested 10 men Wednesday suspected of trafficking women to western Europe and the Middle East, a police spokesman said.
The men are suspected of using a Prague modelling agency, which has not been named, as a cover to bring in young women who assumed they were getting a potential break into the glamorous world of modelling. Once there, the women were sent off to countries such as Austria and Germany or Egypt and the United Arab Emirates where they were held in brothels as sex slaves.
Police said preliminary indications suggested at least 70 women had suffered such a fate at the hands of the 10 men arrested.
 
  Hayes on Atta/Praha
As I mentioned a few posts back, I've had a problem taking Hayes' book seriously because it's being taken seriously by the people who also believe in the Atta-meeting-an-Iraqi-agent-in-Prague story.

No sooner had I moved on from that post, Baltimore's own John Tabin alerted me to the newest piece from Hayes for the Weekly Standard, which includes a defense of sorts of the evidence for the meeting. The article is, as you might guess, a response to the 9/11 Commission Staff report.
The report makes no mention of the fact that five senior Czech officials are on record confirming the meeting. In private conversations, some of these officials are less emphatic than their public statements would suggest. Yet when reporters ask about the meeting, the Czechs refer them to their previous public statements confirming the meeting.

Hardly a ringing endorsement. In fact, it sounds rather like Czech officials standing behind their organization in public, even though they doubt the story.

No explanation is given as to how those Czech officials could be in any position to know that the identification by the lone witness is correct.

He then goes to Atta's cell-phone:
Cell phone records are interesting, but hardly conclusive. It is entirely possible that Atta would leave his cell phone behind if he left the country. In any case, the hijackers are known to have shared cell phones.


I will concede the possibility; how this somehow adds to the evidence that he actually was in Prague in April eludes me. The cell phone records are not conclusive, but they are consistent with the meeting being a fiction.

The various reasons, some of which I have given at rather tedious length, to doubt the meeting took place, are not mentioned by Hayes.

Hayes does bring up a genuine mystery, one that the report does not go into: Atta's other, documented visits to Prague. He does not hint at how those visits suggest a linkage to Iraq. Indeed, given that Atta did not travel under false papers then, and that he didn't lend out his mobile either, would indicate that the disputed April meeting was not consistent with Atta's usual habits.

Atta's trips to Prague remain a question; it's just that there's no reasonto give "Iraq" as the answer.

There is one more thing that Hayes omits: Edward Jay Epstein, the auteur of the Atta/Praha story. Epstein stands by his story, including the appointment calendar of al-Ani. I've dealt with it too many times to kick it again here. But for Hayes, the calendar would at least double the evidence of the April meeting. If, that is, Hayes thinks it exists.
His careful silence on the subject speaks rather loudly. 
  Michael Kinsley: "The Trouble With Optimism"
Could there be an emptier claim made on behalf of someone hoping to lead the United States of America than to say that he is "optimistic"?
Optimism may well be part of the American character, but it is pretty insufficient as either a campaign promise or a governing principle. If the objective situation calls for optimism, being optimistic isn't much of a trick or a distinction. If the objective situation calls for something closer to pessimism, the last thing we want is some Micawber whistling past the Treasury Department.
[...]
We don't want a president who sees the silver lining in every cloud. We want a president who sees the cloud and dispels it. We want someone who will make the objective situation justify optimism, not someone who is optimistic in any objective situation. If optimism is hard-wired into the American character, it should be especially important to have someone sober at the wheel of the car. Of course, such clear-headedness is a hopeless ideal. But it is odd that politicians of every stripe now promise that their vision will be clouded.

And if forced to choose between a leader whose vision is clouded by optimism and one whose vision is clouded by pessimism, there is a good case that pessimism is the more prudent choice. Another name for pessimism is a tragic sensibility. It is a vivid awareness that things can go wrong, and often have. An optimist thinks he can pop over to Iraq, knock Saddam Hussein off his perch, establish democracy throughout the Middle East and be home in time for dinner. A pessimist knows better.  
  It's easy to get names confused. I get Stephen Hayes and Edward Jay Epstein mixed-up all the time
Spencer Ackerman, minding the store at Talking Points, debunks Stephen Hayes' latest "evidence" of Iraqi involvement with 9/11. He links to several news stories, one of which, by Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder, gives the short version:
The U.S. officials said the lieutenant colonel's name is different from that of the man who met the hijackers in Malaysia. The man who met the hijackers wasn't in Iraq at the time the documents were dated and he's never been implicated in the Sept. 11 plot by any top al-Qaida operatives in American custody.

I'd always been skeptical of Hayes; he did that Weekly Standard piece on the "Feith memo" if you recall. Moreover, people touting his new book kept mentioning Edward Jay Epstein, the journalist who's been hyping the case for Atta's April 2001 meeting in Prague.

Epstein is still on the case, though his quibbles with the 9/11 Commission Staff Report aren't terribly convincing. Atta could have given his phone to somebody else while he was off in Prague, I suppose, but that seems unlikely. At any rate, it hardly counts as evidence that he did in fact do so.

Or, as Epstein put it in Slate:
Without those missing pieces—including cell phone logs, credit card charges, and interrogation records in the FBI's possession—the jigsaw puzzle remains incomplete.

That would seem to be exactly what the Commission Staff Report is based on; if still incomplete, the jigsaw puzzle is certainly closer to being filled in than it was when Epstein demanded those pieces that he now claims can be discarded.

And, oh yes, the calendar. Again.
A surreptitious search of the Iraq Embassy (presumably conducted after the defeat of Iraq) showed, according to a Czech official, that Al-Ani had scheduled a meeting on April 8, 2001 with a"Hamburg student." The staff report makes no mention either of the appointment book or of the "Hamburg student."

Now's a good time to ask a few questions: Did the "Czech official" say that the evidence was turned over to the Americans? Who has the appointment book now? Is that the evidence Cheney mentioned that the Commission had not seen? You still write, after some months, that the search was "presumably" conducted after the invasion; does that mean that you haven't asked your "Czech official"? Or is Jan Kavan no longer returning your phone calls?

UPDATE:
Predictably, right-wing bloggers have been hyping the "whats-his-name story," but not the multiple news stories about it. Glen Reynolds bills it, this afternoon, as an "interesting report." He asks, "Funny, I wonder why this hasn't gotten more attention."
He ignores, doesn't even bother to mention, news reports that the story is, to say the least, problematic.

Roger L. Simon wrote yesterday:
It's the mainstream media falling all over themselves to capitalize on every possible partisan statement of the 9/11 Commission. Now some of them may have to eat their words as it appears more likely that the Saddam-Al Qadea connection might have existed. Could they (or the commission itself) wait to analyze something that is obviously not simple (the same folks had lots of patience making connections among the Mafia where the links were similar)? No, of course not, when there is partisan advantage to be seized. Big loser: the American people. Even bigger loser: the truth.

Any bets on Rog eating some crow himself?

AND: As always, you really should check in with Ms. Cox
Monday, June 21, 2004
  This sucks: Slashdot-- "Hotmail Blocks Gmail Emails (and Invites)" 
  James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman: Murdered on June 21, 1964.

Some of us gave time, some of us a little blood. These three citizens of the world gave all they had.
John Lewis

Some of the best, most important, journalism I've seen has been done by Jerry Mitchell for the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi. He's focused on the racist crimes of the civil-rights era, the acts of terrorism-- and there is no other word-- that usually went unpunished. There is a strong possiblity that this case will finally be reopened.

Mitchell covered the ceremony in Philadelphia marking the fortieth anniversary of the killings. It is the first time that the town has had an official recognition of the day.
As the last rays of light slanted across the church's steeple, Goodman's mother, Carolyn, helped to lay a wreath on a memorial to her son and the two others slain.
Afterwards she spoke in soft tones, saying, "It's never too late for justice."
 
  Amazing
Sometimes I'm amazed not at my occasional screw-ups, inconsistencies and conflicts ... but that I haven't been guilty of more of them.
Andrew Sullivan

No bleeping comment. 
  Cheney Lies
Everybody act surprised. 
  Metaphor Alert:
The number of Germans who do not hesitate to take their household wastes across the border to Bohemia has been on the rise since the Czech Republic entered the EU on May 1, but the problem started in the early 1990s already, Klenci pod Cerchovem mayor Karel Smutny said.

I repeat, metaphor alert is high.
(via Prague Monitor
  Clarity
"I'm not sure what's going to happen in Falluja, or for that matter, the rest of Iraq," said Col. Larry Brown, in a recent interview. "With the range of options being Jeffersonian democracy on one end and civil war on the other, we're probably going to end up somewhere in the middle." 
  Um, about that electrical output Fred
In his Sunday column, Fred Hiatt, the Washington Post's op-ed editor, describes some of the accomplishments of Paul Bremer's administration of Iraq:
A ruthlessly methodical executive, he set numerical goals for himself more than a year ago and mostly met them: electricity restored, schools rebuilt, provincial councils formed. Yet he can barely travel in Baghdad. Polls show that he and his occupation are reviled, and Iraqis who cooperate with Americans are less safe than ever. It's far from clear that Bremer's "building blocks" will survive.

"Electricity restored"? If Hiatt means that there is some electricity in Iraq, then yes. If he means that there the electrical power being produced there is equal to or greater than what was available before the invasion, then no. If Hiatt means that the CPA met their "numerical goal" for electricity production, that's a big no
Friday, June 18, 2004
  Let's just move those goal posts back a ways
In publishing a report that cited no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, the Sept. 11 commission actually meant to say that Iraq had no control over the network, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on Friday.
[...]
"What I believe the 9-11 commission was opining on was operational control, an operational relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq which we never alleged," Rice said in an interview with National Public Radio.
"The president simply outlined what we knew about what al Qaeda and Iraq had done together. Operational control to me would mean that he (Saddam) was, perhaps, directing what al Qaeda would do."


Did the English language do something really terrible to Bush and Rice? And they want payback? 
  Desperate. But not serious.
(via, again, Sadly, No!
  Happy Juneteenth!
The holiday remembers June 19, 1865, the day when slaves in Texas learned of their emancipation. It's gone national now, but few outside of the Fair Republic knew of the holiday even a few years ago.
Houston's observance is still the biggest.

I grew up in Texas, so I was always aware of the celebration, but I had no idea, even though I lived in Galveston, that all the parties were to mark the anniversary of the landing of a Union ship in Galveston's port. Never discussed in school, even though I took two years of Texas History.

I'm told that Galveston now has some official recognition of it, which is nice, though long overdue. It would be nice if Juneteenth took its place as a holiday all Americans celebrated. Sort of like St. Patrick's Day, where everyone is an honorary Irishman. Juneteenth should be like that.

See this NY Times piece from Friday for more. 
  Sullivan still doesn't check his own archives
As Sadly, No! warned yesterday, Rich Lowry at the National Review did indeed fall back on the talking point about the aftermath of WWII (or, as Sebastian puts it, "the old 'Iraq is doing way better than Germany was in 1945' trick).
Here's what Lowry came up with:
A year into the occupations of Japan and Germany, supporters of World War II should have been having second thoughts — at least if America then were operating by contemporary rules. In his provocative new book, Colossus: The Price of America's Empire, historian Niall Ferguson recounts the troubled rebuilding efforts in Japan and Germany that lend perspective to the "disaster" that has been the American occupation of Iraq during the past year.
Has the Bush administration's Iraq occupation been ever-shifting, contradictory, beset by bureaucratic squabbles and undone by events on the ground? So were the occupations of Japan and Germany. Rebuilding a foreign country in the wake of a war is necessarily untidy business, and can only succeed if a wide berth is given for surprises and mistakes.

This is almost beyond mockery, but a somewhat unexpected voice gives some. Andrew Sullivan:
One wonders under what circumstances, if this is the standard, could one criticize the Bush administration? Lowry's convenient answer: Never!

As I've pointed out before, this false analogy, though now seldom seen, was once quite popular. Back last Fall. With, for example, Andrew Sullivan:
NAZI NOSTALGIA: It existed in post-war Germany, as U.S. troops battled a rebellious population. That was in October 1945. Of course, the methods of terrorism - truck bombs, suicide bombers, etc. - were not yet fully perfected. But the idea that you can invade a country, topple a totalitarian dictatorship, disband the army and expect peace to break out overnight is preposterous. This is not to downplay the real problems in Iraq, but it is to put them in some kind of sane perspective.

I'm glad that Sullivan is able to admit the truth, of course. But I remain puzzled, even shocked, by his ability to ignore things that he has written. It's quite proper that a man reconsider his ideas, and there should be no shame if those ideas evolve. But "evolve" means something more than "ducking inconvenient statements."

An honest man would make some amends instead of attacking his faults only when he finds them in others. Sullivan is not an honest man, or even one with any respect for the truth. He damn well isn't Orwell. He's just another hack, more egotistical than most, and given, as all hacks are, to "reflexive, brain-dead, defensiveness." 
  Havel on North Korea 
  Who wrote this?
The question of nationality gave rise to another struggle in Bohemia. This country, inhabited by two millions of Germans, and three millions of Slavonians of the Tschechian tongue, had great historical recollections, almost all connected with the former supremacy of the Tschechs. But then the force of this branch of the Slavonic family had been broken ever since the wars of the Hussites in the fifteenth century. The province speaking the Tschechian tongue was divided, one part forming the kingdom of Bohemia, another the principality of Moravia, a third the Carpathian hill-country of the Slovaks, being part of Hungary. The Moravians and Slovaks had long since lost every vestige of national feeling and vitality, although mostly preserving their language. Bohemia was surrounded by thoroughly German countries on three sides out of four. The German element had made great progress on her own territory; even in the capital, in Prague, the two nationalities were pretty equally matched; and everywhere capital, trade, industry, and mental culture were in the hands of the Germans. The chief champion of the Tschechian nationality, Professor Palacky, is himself nothing but a learned German run mad, who even now cannot speak the Tschechian language correctly and without foreign accent. But as it often happens, dying Tschechian nationality, dying according to every fact known in history for the last four hundred years, made in 1848 a last effort to regain its former vitality?an effort whose failure, independently of all revolutionary considerations, was to prove that Bohemia could only exist, henceforth, as a portion of Germany, although part of her inhabitants might yet, for some centuries, continue to speak a non-German language.

The answer is here.  
Thursday, June 17, 2004
  Don't mess with Texas or we'll sue your ass.
(stolen from TMFTML
  Dispatch from another war
Waremouse posts a long passage from a book that captured entirely too much of Baltimore. It's quite relevant beyond this city. Read it. 
  The Post-war occupation of Germany meme might be making a comeback
Sadly, No! reports that Rich Lowry is fishing around.
When will this crap end? What type of silver bullet do you need to kill such an idiotic analogy
  "ODS Tories" has a nice ring to it
Nine Czech eurosceptic MEPs are joining the euro Tories as part of the political fall-out from last weekend’s European Parliament elections.
The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) made its request for a marriage of political convenience in a letter to Conservative leader Michael Howard.
The Tories welcomed the move tonight as a boost to their power and influence within the European Peoples Party in Strasbourg the majority and mostly federalist centre-right grouping in the European Parliament.
 
  If she'd injured her throat, the tour would have gone on. Been improved, too. 
  "Bush Reasserts Hussein-Al Qaeda Link":
President Bush on Thursday disputed the Sept. 11 commission's finding that there was no "collaborative relationship" between Saddam Hussein and the al Qaeda terrorist network responsible for the attacks.

Or did he? Read on:
"There was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," Bush insisted following a meeting with his Cabinet at the White House.
"This administration never said that the 9-11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda," he said.
"We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, for example, Iraqi intelligence agents met with (Osama) bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda in the Sudan."


The 9/11 Commission's report released yesterday made it very clear that there had been contacts, just like Bush says, but that nothing had ever come of these contacts, certainly no "collaborative relationship." Bush gives no basis for disagreement; he just mangles the language, deliberately this time, to question the finding of the report without providing any analysis or evidence. And that will be the sound-bite that leads the news tonight.

This is manifest dishonesty. If Kerry ever tried something so "nuanced" there'd be no end to the outrage on the right.

MORE:
The president is just sneaky. The vice president lies.
Fred Kaplan, Slate

AND:
MR. McCLELLAN:Well -- and we never said that there was operational ties involved in attacks on the United States. Let's be very clear about that. The President talked about that just a short time ago.
Q: What are people supposed to conclude, that they're having lunch with each other?

See Wonkette for more.

AND ALSO:
No More Mr. Nice Blog notes, with some amazement, Bush and Cheney are actually arguing with the US government on this one. Which they, um, control:
Republicans since the Reagan era have loved acting as if they were Sticking It To The Man. Nnever mind the fact that for years Republicans have been The Man -- they've controlled the White House, both houses of Congress, or both for 21 out of the last 23 years, and they've controlled the Supreme Court since Jesus was a corporal.

So now preppy, tweedy Tom Kean is driving the totalitarian tank and Bush and Cheney are the brave, lonely rebels standing in front of it.
 
  "...clearly, emphatically, embarrassingly, wrong."
Andrew Sullivan June 17, 2004
Could it be that Bush has not governed as a conservative in critical ways - and hasn't even governed competently in others? Let's list a few: the WMD intelligence debacle - the worst blow to the credibility of the U.S. in a generation; Abu Ghraib - a devastating wound to to America's moral standing in the world; the post-war chaos and incompetence in Iraq
[...]
From the fall of Baghdad on, we have seen little but setbacks. Our goals in Iraq now are limited to making the place less dangerous and oppressive than it was under Saddam.

Andrew Sullivan, June 20, 2003
GETTING CLOSER: What will the political consequences be if a) Saddam is captured and b) we get real new intelligence and data on the Iraqi WMD program? I think that's when president Bush gets out his saw and cuts off that big, high branch his Democrat opponents are now sitting on.

Andrew Sullivan, June 19, 2003
My bet is that we soon have a breakthrough in WMD evidence in Iraq - and that we are getting closer by the day to discovering Saddam himself. Bush and Blair will be vindicated more clearly than before; and this president will - once again - out-fox his mewling critics on the war.

Andrew Sullivan, June 16, 2003
With each front-page story in the New York Times and every report from the BBC predicting the q-word for American troops in Iraq, my optimism ticks up. This isn't to say that we don't have a hell of a task in Iraq and that some of it won't be tough on soldiers. But in the broader view, there are a handful of encouraging signs in the Middle East, all of which suggest that the Bush gamble on remaking the region is again defying skeptics. Egypt is now seriously engaged in pressuring Islamist terrorists to deal with the Palestinian Authority. The intervention of Arab countries in this dispute is central to any hope of even minimal success. My bet is that many of these Arab leaders have grown to respect Bush and even fear him. Iraq was a critical testing ground for this trust; and the president proved his mettle. 
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
  Staff Statement #16: Outline of the 9/11 plot.
Incredible reading. 
  One last time:
The panel also cited numerous pieces of FBI evidence in concluding that Atta never met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague on April 9, 2001, as Vice President Cheney and some other Bush administration officials have alleged.
"Based on the evidence available -- including investigation by Czech and U.S. authorities plus detainee reporting -- we do not believe that such a meeting occurred," the report said.


The Commission's report sheds some light on one of the reasons that investigators discounted the story of Atta meeting an Iraqi agent in Prague on April 8, 2001:
...investigation has established that, on April 6, 9, 10, and 11, Atta'a cellular phone was used numerous times to call Florida phone numbers from cell sites within Florida.

(Statement 16, page 8) 
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
  Vaclav Havel wins 2004 Delta Prize for Global Understanding
And he doesn't even have to change planes in Atlanta. 
  Brooks Bashing
David Plotz examines it in Slate, Nick Confessore practices it in the Washington Monthly. They both conclude that Brooks is a lightweight. Oddly, Andrew Sullivan offers a defense of his "friend" by saying, in effect, that he is a lightweight:
Brooks' pop-sociology isn't meant, as far as I can see, to be much more than a diverting take on current American culture. Is that such a frigging crime?

Criminal, no. Just irrelevant. Rather like a center-right Maureen Dowd; a decent writer, good at turning a phrase, but utterly incapable of offering anything like a real or lasting insight, and, it would seem, uninterested in trying.

Plotz and Confessore are rather gentle in their treatment of Brooks; both fail to mention one of his lowest moments.
History shows that Americans are willing to make sacrifices. The real doubts come when we see ourselves inflicting them. What will happen to the national mood when the news programs start broadcasting images of the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably, there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to defect from the cause.

That was in November, long before Abu Ghraib. In some ways prophetic, it's clear why he doesn't bring it up. It goes beyond mere war-is-hell boilerplate; note the phrase, "the brutal measures our troops will have to adopt." It seemed to me then to be an endorsement of just the sort of criminal behaviour that has shamed us in Iraq. Brooks is shocked by American misconduct; actually, he called for it.

Sullivan's defense is curious; he must be aware that everything in the case against Brooks-- dishonesty, inconsistency, bromides in place of thought or analysis-- would apply with even greater force to his own writings. Perhaps, he is even a little jealous that writers of the stature of Plotz and Confessore find him too irrelevant to bother attacking. At any rate, it is difficult to see how Brooks' lame attempts to explain away the chaos in Iraq, and his inability to own up to any intellectual responsibility for the mess, are "honest and forthright," as Sullivan puts it.

Of course, when Sullivan uses a phrase like "honest and forthright," you should turn your bullshit detector to its highest setting. 
  Ralph Wiley is gone
52. Too damn young. There was no mistaking his voice; everything he wrote you recognized as his from the first line. 
Monday, June 14, 2004
  In-fucking-deed. 
  Fallujah: What do we do now?
From USA Today:
"This was a noble experiment that may not work out," Col. Larry Brown, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force's operations officer, said this weekend. "The brigade has not performed as well as we had hoped."

His comments were the strongest indication from the U.S. military that the effort to contain the insurgency by depending on the Fallujah Brigade was failing. It also was a sign that the model - turning to former Iraqi military including those who served Saddam Hussein - would not solve security problems after the U.S.-led coalition hands sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30.

[...]
Brown said despite the apparent failure of the Fallujah Brigade to end the insurgency, a new U.S. offensive in the city was unlikely. The fighting in April was believed to have contributed to Iraqi disaffection with the U.S.-led occupation. Brown said the interim Iraqi government "will have to decide what they want to do about Fallujah and the Fallujah Brigade."

I have no idea what that last statement means in practical terms.

The LA Times described the situation yesterday:
Fallouja's status as an autonomous fiefdom — where local people say insurgents rule the streets and an increasingly austere brand of Islamic law has taken root — could embolden other towns, particularly in like-minded Sunni tribal areas, to challenge the legitimacy of the country's transitional government as a scheduled hand-over of power to Iraqis approaches.
And the woes of a U.S.-sanctioned security force in this city on the banks of the Euphrates could bode ill for efforts by the American military and occupation authority to appease rebellious pockets of Iraq by setting up locally recruited forces intended to co-opt insurgents. In the dusty streets of Fallouja, the early May pullback by the Marines to stave off close-quarters urban combat and the likelihood of heavy civilian casualties is touted as a glorious victory for the insurgents, who enjoy overwhelming support here.

I'm trying to see a possible solution here, some reason for optimism, but I'm coming up blank. 
  Is this an instance of too much irony? Or is it an example of a complete failure to grasp the concept of irony? 
  "Czech women stand on ladder of opportunity"
"Management consultant" or a clueless tourist? See if you can tell. 
  Interesting:
An 86-year-old ex-commander of a Nazi German army unit charged with murdering 164 people at the end of World War II worked as a double agent for the United States, Focus magazine says in its new edition.
Ladislav Niznansky, who is in custody in Munich, southern Germany, worked as a double agent for the Central Intelligence Agency while he was a member of the Czech secret service just after the worker, it said quoting CIA documents.

[...]
Niznansky lived unnoticed for years in Munich where he used to work for Radio Free Europe until he obtained German citizenship in 1996.

The points where World War II became the Cold War are, even for those of us who accept the necessity of both conflicts, rather chilling. See Chris Simpson's Blowback, sadly out-of-print. 
Saturday, June 12, 2004
  Czech elections for the European parliament: Klaus, Apathy in the lead
Petr is keeping tabs, and the Monitor will have full results come Monday. So far no surprises: ODS in the lead, a strong showing for the Communists.
One thing:
...fewer than one in three voters bothered to turn out, according to estimates released Saturday as voting ended.

So, the Communist share of the vote, estimated at 17% in the same exit poll, has to be multiplied by 1/3: 6% of the Czech population turned out for the Communists. And, it must be said, less than 4% stood up to be counted for the ruling party.
"We've never enjoyed a firm core of voters," Spidla said.

Ne, fakt?

No word on Nora Baumberger.

Glory of Carniola
suggests, with less than a fifth of Slovenes turning out, that:
...I would guess that the real reason people didn't show up was because they don't give a damn.
I don't blame them. Most Slovenes seem to understand the EU well enough to know that the Parliament is a minor player that meddles around in non-issues like animal welfare and consumer protection and can't even initiate legislation. Even the decisions it's allowed to decide on are supplied by the European Commission and then tempered by the Council of Ministers.
 
  Mmmm...do I like the cover with the anorexic cat or the one with the prophecies of Mrs. Nostradamus?
It's the Weekly World News reader survey
  BGO
It seems to me to be getting clearer and clearer that Abu Ghraib was not the work of a few rogue soldiers.
Andrew Sullivan

Gee, you think? 
  Serbs admit Srebrenica massacre:
A Bosnian Serb government commission admitted yesterday that Serb forces murdered thousands of Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 -- a massacre the government has always denied.

Well, sort of admit.

The article goes on to note:
...the commission's report, published yesterday, did not call the atrocity a genocide...

and
The top suspects for the Srebrenica massacre, Bosnian Serb wartime president Radovan Karadzic and [Ratko] Mladic, are still at large. Both were twice indicted for genocide, for Srebrenica and for the 43-month Serb siege of Sarajevo.

The NY Times story adds:
A 42-page report, commissioned by Bosnia's Serb Republic and made public Friday, admits for the first time that police and army units under the government's control "participated" in the massacre, which took place in July 1995.

"Participated"?

For more on Srebrenica, read this case study of how journalist David Rohde investigated the massacre.

 
Friday, June 11, 2004
  Get rich running a Kolache Factory franchise. 
  A long hot summer in Baghdad
Insurgents are stepping up attacks on Iraq's fragile infrastructure even as the U.S. pumps in billions of dollars to rebuild it. But with electricity in Baghdad flowing at less than half prewar levels and a scorching summer ahead, many Iraqis see the struggle to ensure adequate power as a metaphor for a U.S.-led reconstruction mission gone bad.

Sadly, No! has been on this for some time. Quite some time
Thursday, June 10, 2004
  Co?
From an "alternative guide to the Czech Republic":
But it's booze where the Czechs really come into their own. Whether it be Budwar beer or beche rovka - plum brandy to the uninitiated - there's no excuses for leaving the country sober.

Thanks, I think, to Sam Beckwith
  Ray Charles is dead
I'm going to stop blogging now and listen to "Ingredients In A Recipe for Soul." 
  Terrible News
Alex Zucker reports that Catbird Press has gone under.
Doperdele. 
  If you can't cut, then hack:
A disagreement between The Sun's managers and the leaders of its largest employee union has raised the specter of layoffs at Baltimore's oldest and largest newspaper, including involuntary staff cuts in the newsroom that would be the first in modern memory.

Denise E. Palmer, publisher and chief executive officer of The Sun, announced Monday that the newspaper would reduce its staff through a voluntary buyout plan, calling it "Denise E. Palmer, publisher and chief executive officer of The Sun, announced Monday that the newspaper would reduce its staff through a voluntary buyout plan, calling it "part of our ongoing process of aligning our people resources with the areas we feel have the best potential for growing readership and revenue."

It's sad that anyone involved with a newspaper is capable of using phrases like "part of our ongoing process of aligning our people resources with the areas we feel have the best potential for growing readership and revenue." 
  Speed-dial for Andrew Sullivan
(with apologies to Busy, Busy, Busy)

George Stigler, a very witty economist-- you don't write that every day-- once introduced a paper he wrote by telling an old joke. You've almost certainly heard it before, probably in a better version, but, for the benefit of anyone who hasn't, I'll tell it in its entirety:

A young travelling salesman, new to his trade, is in a train car with some veteran drummers. One of the older salesman says "17." The others break-up laughing.
The young salesman asks what was so funny. One of the veterans explains that they've been travelling their sales routes together for so long that they've taken to numbering their jokes.

After a while, the new guy decides to try. "48," he says. Stone-silence. One of the older salesman takes him aside and explains that he told it badly. In another version, Stigler noted, the novice is told that, they'd already heard that one.

Stigler used this old joke to propose a system of numbering comments made at economic conferences, to save time. He suggested, for instance, (I'm relying on memory):
19: "Theorizing is pointless at this stage. We need research and field-work."
20: "More field-work is pointless until we have a theory to try to make sense of what we know."
27: "I proved the main point of this paper in a paper I published years ago."
44: "Adam Smith said that."
49: "That's alright in theory, but it doesn't work in practice." (use sparingly)

And so on.

This was brought to mind by Andrew Sullivan's latest boast that, "I have written a quarter of a million words on this blog this year alone."

Hmmm...

I offer, in the hope of easing his burden, some preliminary notes toward a comprehensive list.

1: "The United States is morally superior to murderous terrorists."
2: "The left does not grasp this."
3: "Europe does not grasp this."
3-a "The French."
4: "They want us to lose."
5: "Bush is a great leader."
6: "More excellent news."
6-a "Another reason to be optimistic, if only somewhat."
7: "This is not a failure. It is, instead an opportunity.
8: "I don't know what to think, but not all hope is lost."
9: "Bush's adviser/cabinet member _________ deserves the blame for this failure."
9-a: Karl Rove
9-b: John Ashcroft
9-c: George Tenet (obsolete)
10: "I'm starting to lose confidence in President Bush."
11: "Thank God, Bush has finally started taking control of the situation by clearly stating a coherent policy."
12: "Off to Provincetown..."
13: "Lecture/Book Tour"
14: "Pledge Week!"
15: "Site Traffic reports"
16: "Why oh why do the Republicans hate gays so much?" (see 9-a)
17: "When will the Democrats show some leadership?"
18: Flypaper (# retired)
19: "The mainstream media cannot be trusted."
19-a: NY Times
19-b: BBC
20: "_______ on the (left/right) said something outrageous."
20-a "Why doesn't everyone on the (left/right) condemn ________? Are they not outraged? Do they agree?"
21: "I've been wrong. Events have proven this beyond any doubt, forcing me to rethink much of what I believed, and to examine what I wrote in the past. I owe some apologies." (Just kidding)

Suggestions welcome. 
  Lidice
Leave this blog, now, and go over to Theo's post at Steal This Idea.

I have a few things to add, but they're only afterthoughts to his post and the collection of links he has there.

With that caveat...

Heydrich
His assasination led to the reprisals, including Lidice. In his intriguing, if at times frustrating, Explaining Hitler, Ron Rosenbaum has a disussion with Emil Fackenheim:
"What is your view of the statement, 'No Hitler, No Holocaust?'" I asked him in regards to [Milton] Himmelfarb's insistence that Hilter's personal will alone, rather than abstract historical forces, was the necessary if not sufficient factor in making the Holocaust happen.
"...Yeah, I think he's probably quite right. Although I recently wrote that there might have been one exception-- Heydrich could have done it."

Earlier, Rosenbaum records this from one of Hitler's most respected biographers, Alan Bullock, discussing Hitler and the nature of evil:
"If [Hitler] isn't evil, who is? That's all. I mean, if not he, then who? The only defense you cold make," he said, thinking out loud, "is that he believed it." He considered the question in relation to Heydrich: "He didn't believe..."
[...]
"He didn't believe anything. Curiously, Hitler chose him as the man who might succeed him, while Himmler was almost ridiculous in his belief. He yearned to believe. Heydrich did, I think, quite enjoy cruelty."

Lidice, the Odsun, and the Sudetens
I'm rather critical of the expulsion of Czechoslovakia's ethnic Germans after the war. It was, whatever else it may have been, an ethnic cleansing. That said, Lidice was exemplary of the crimes that keep me from being too harsh in my judgement on the odsun. The Czechs had their reasons.

But in addition to being a great crime against the Czechs, it was used, quite explicitly, as propoganda to justify the post-war reprisals.

Just after the massacre, the Czechoslovak National Council of America issued a pamphlet called The Story of Two Peoples, or Czechoslovak or German Morality. The implication being that the latter did not exist.

Zdenka Trnka published A Little Village Called Lidice, which purported to describe the thoughts of a woman returning to the razed village. Chief among those thoughts was revenge:
"The dead will cry out until no German breathes the air of Czechia."

It goes on to describe, at some melodramatic length, the long history of betrayals of Czechoslovakia by the German minority, beginning with their arrival in the 13th Century.

Zdena Irma Trinka, her full name, published her volume in North Dakota in 1947. While it is not clear if anyone read it, it is almost certain that she wrote it as a justification for the expulsions, then in full swing.

As I have said, I have some sympathy for the Sudeten Germans expelled after the war. I have none, however, for the advocates of the Sudeten German cause. They have had their own take on Lidice, and on its aftermath.

Wenzel Jaksch was probably the most respectable leader the expellees ever had, in that he was not a former Nazi. Before the war, he had been a prominent socialist politician and an opponent of Henlein. He fled Czechoslovakia when the Germans invaded.

Despite his impressive anti-fascist credentials, he was largely excluded from the Czech exile government. After the war, he went to Germany, not Czechoslovakia. While enjoying great respect in parliament, he became a vociferous opponent of Czechoslovakia and a frequent speaker at expellee gatherings. One of those speeches, "1,000 Lidices," claimed that the crimes committed against the Czechs during the war were insignificant when compared to what had been done to her Germans. This grotesque comparison is a recurring theme in Sudeten propoganda.

Jaksch had a great influence on an American named Kurt Glaser. A minor official in the American occupation of Germany, he went native, and became convinced that the great villain of European history was...Czechoslovakia.

In his hysterical, long out-of-print, Czecho-Slovakia: A Critical History, Glaser bought into the Sudeten position on Lidice-- the fault of the Czechs.

Before the Heydrich assasination, his reasoning goes, the Czechs were not particularly oppressed by their German masters. In fact, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia had a higher standard of living, and greater industrial production, than did Germany. There was little resistance.
It was because of this that Benes sought to cause the reprisals against his own people by killing Heydrich. In so doing, he obtained the cover he needed to expel the Germans after the war, which had been his real goal all along.

Hitler, in this view, simply fell into a clever Czech trap. This view, the Nazis as bumbling victims of Czech cleverness, is common in Sudeten literature.

[I must add two footnotes to Glaser, who keeps coming up in some research I've been doing. The copy in the Library of Congress has written on its cover-page in neat pencil, "TO NENI PRAVDA-- all lies!"
I swear it wasn't me.

On the next page is Glaser's dedication. It's to Austin J. App.]

Since this was supposed to be a footnote to Theo's post, I've gone on far to long. Act surprised. But I'll offer one more thing: read your copy of I Served the King of England. If you know the book, you know which passage I mean. If you don't, then read the whole thing. 
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
  "Dolly Buster promises Czechs diet of porn and British soccer"
Will it replace pork and beer? Is even Nora Baumberger so powerful? 
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
  Elections in Afghanistan
From a Boston Globe editorial:
They feel they cannot talk about it in public, but Afghans eager to set their country on an irreversible course to stability and democracy lament that neoconservative members of the Bush administration are insisting on the September date because they want President Bush to be able to cite a success in Afghanistan before Election Day in the United States. 
  Death from a thousand cuts, part 412:
At the Baltimore Sun, which the Tribune acquired in the Times Mirror deal, the company is offering buyouts to 63 employees, according to Michael Hill, a reporter and unit chairman of the Newspaper Guild. The paper's management pledged to accept at least 18 employees into the buyout.

"The sword that they held over this was that if you don't agree to this, we're going to lay people off," Hill said.

At a meeting Monday with Guild representatives, Tribune Vice President Howard Weinstein outlined a buyout package that provided a week's salary for every six months' service at the paper, with a maximum of 52 weeks of payments. Those offered the buyout include nine features reporters, two Metro reporters and both of the Sun's editorial cartoonists.

(via Romenesko
  What award will Sullivan give himself for this?
If anything, our self-doubt came from the patent abdication by our parents of any responsibility for arresting Western decline and decay. Thatcher and Reagan--on their own--ended that abdication. We had parents after all.

"On their own"? Jezis. 
  Iraq's Foreign Debt
The G8 meeting in Georgia could be crucial as the US presses for debt forgiveness:
Iraq's debts are estimated at about $120 billion, and Washington was expected to press Iraq's foreign creditors to forgive at least 80 percent of it as an Iraqi caretaker government prepares to take up the reins at the end of June.

That's over $4800 per Iraqi. Remember back in the day when oil revenue was supposed to rebuild Iraq? Think again:
Iraq can potentially generate about $20 billion of oil revenues annually, but it has little other economic capacity currently, [a US] official noted.  
  The "evil empire" speech. All of it.
I remember when Reagan described the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" even though I hadn't yet turned eleven years-old in March of 1983. It was an accurate description then, though many questioned it; twenty years later, its validity is beyond dispute.

To be fair to Reagan's critics at the time, many were not questioning the statement's truth so much as they were taking issue with the effect that such a characterization might have on our efforts at diplomacy with the Russians. I think it's fair to say that Reagan has been vindicated by history on this point, and by his own later negotiations with Gorbachev. Indeed, the statement might be best taken to mean that while it may be necessary to negotiate with evil regimes, it is vital that we do not cloud our understanding of their fundamental malevolence.

As he put it:
This doesn't mean we should isolate ourselves and refuse to seek an understanding with them. I intend to do everything I can to persuade them of our peaceful intent, to remind them that it was the West that refused to use its nuclear monopoly in the forties and fifties for territorial gain and which now proposes 50-percent cut in strategic ballistic missiles and the elimination of an entire class of land-based, intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
At the same time, however, they must be made to understand we will never compromise our principles and standards. We will never give away our freedom. We will never abandon our belief in God. And we will never stop searching for a genuine peace.


A pity that Reagan was so willing to abandon our "principles and standards" in dealing with, to name only a few, Saddam Hussein, Augusto Pinochet, and Roberto Daubisson. Lest I be accused of attacking Reagan unfairly, it is at least as great a pity that Franklin Roosevelt was so blind to the true nature of "Uncle Joe" Stalin.

I'd like to focus here not on Reagan's legacy as a whole, but on the speech where Reagan delivered his greatest line. I'd never actually heard or read the whole thing until today. I rather doubt that many of the people who have quoted it this week have read it either.

The speech was actually given to the annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals. The remarks are, not surprisingly, quite religious. They would be striking in their religosity even from the current president, but in 1983, when Evangelicals were not as numerous or as politically active as they are now, they're really rather incredible. Despite what Andrew Sullivan says today.

...I tell you there are a great many God-fearing, dedicated, noble men and women in public life, present company included. And yes, we need your help to keep us ever mindful of the ideas and the principles that brought us into the public arena in the first place. The basis of those ideals and principles is a commitment to freedom and personal liberty that, itself, is grounded in the much deeper realization that freedom prospers only where the blessings of God are avidly sought and humbly accepted.

He went on to contrast this patriotic Christianity with
...a prevailing attitude of many who have turned to a modern-day secularism, discarding the tried and time-tested values upon which our very civilization is based. No matter how well intentioned, their value system is radically different from that of most Americans. And while they proclaim that they're freeing us from superstitions of the past, they've taken upon themselves the job of superintending us by government rule and regulation.

Atheism, even mere secularism, lead to bureaucracy?

Reagan, before dealing with the evil of the Soviets, started with Planned Parenthod:
An organization of citizens, sincerely motivated and deeply concerned about the increase in illegitimate births and abortions involving girls well below the age of consent, sometime ago established a nationwide network of clinics to offer help to these girls and, hopefully, alleviate this situation. Now, again, let me say, I do not fault their intent. However, in their well-intentioned effort, these clinics have decided to provide advice and birth control drugs and devices to underage girls without the knowledge of their parents.

For some years now, the federal government has helped with funds to subsidize these clinics. In providing for this, the Congress decreed that every effort would be made to maximize parental participation. Nevertheless, the drugs and devices are prescribed without getting parental consent or giving notification after they've done so. Girls termed “sexually active” -- and that has replaced the word “promiscuous” -- are given this help in order to prevent illegitimate birth or abortion.


Well, we have ordered clinics receiving federal funds to notify the parents such help has been given.

Never mind that this would deter girls from seeking counselling. Or the rise in teenage pregnancy in the Reagan era. The issue was faith and morals, not practical results.

But this is just one example:
But the fight against parental notification is really only one example of many attempts to water down traditional values and even abrogate the original terms of American democracy. Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged. When our Founding Fathers passed the First Amendment, they sought to protect churches from government interference. They never intended to construct a wall of hostility between government and the concept of religious belief itself.

[...]

Last year, I sent the Congress a constitutional amendment to restore prayer to public schools. Already this session, there's growing bipartisan support for the amendment, and I am calling on the Congress to act speedily to pass it and to let our children pray.

It was only after these attacks on secular Americans that Reagan addressed the Soviets. It seems that the problem of communism was not so much the gulags or the mass graves, but that it was, after all, Godless. Reagan recounted this anecdote:
A number of years ago, I heard a young father, a very prominent young man in the entertainment world, addressing a tremendous gathering in California. It was during the time of the Cold War, and communism and our own way of life were very much on people's minds. And he was speaking to that subject. And suddenly, though, I heard him saying, “I love my little girls more than anything -- -- “

And I said to myself, “Oh, no, don't. You can't -- don't say that.”

But I had underestimated him. He went on: “I would rather see my little girls die now, still believing in God, than have them grow up under communism and one day die no longer believing in God.”

There were thousands of young people in that audience. They came to their feet with shouts of joy. They had instantly recognized the profound truth in what he had said, with regard to the physical and the soul and what was truly important.


Not "better dead than red"; rather, "better dead than agnostic."

I don't post this to attack Reagan, or to aid those who attacked him for the phrase "evil empire." The claim of his "moral clarity" in the Cold War is in some ways true, but it is by no means exhaustive.

It is worth remembering how contradictory aspects of Reagan's legacy are, even to those of us who hated communism and other forms of tyranny, as sincerely, and with perhaps more clarity, than he did. 
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