Archive for June, 2007
27 Jun 2007

Editorial Integrity?


The Wall Street Journal is reporting that

News Corp.’s (i.e. Rupert Murdoch’s) campaign to acquire Dow Jones & Co. inched toward a conclusion, as the two sides reached a preliminary understanding on a framework to protect the editorial integrity of The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones’s other publications.

What I don’t understand is:

The current editorial perspective of the Wall Street Journal is conservative, Republican, and pro-business. Why would the Journal’s editorial policies need protecting from Rupert Murdoch?

On the other hand, the WSJ’s news reporting is conventionally liberal. So, presumably, the Bancroft heirs, like all good Trustafarians, are liberals, and they are proposing to protect the Journal’s “editorial policy” in the sense of protecting the right of the news board of the Wall Street Journal to report the news from a liberal and democrat perspective, i.e., the polar and complete opposite of the perspective of the WSJ’s editorial board.

Where exactly do those Bancrofts get off believing that they should be able to sell a newspaper (and other publications), and still continue to have some form of control over editorial policy?

And, why is it that newspapers’ “editorial integrity” needs protecting from the conservative Rupert Murdoch, but the so-called editorial integrity of papers like the New York Times presently under ultra-liberal ownership or management (which have been in enormous need of repair for decades) is never treated as an issue?

26 Jun 2007

Horatius’ Commendation: Military Humor

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Nicolò dell’Abbate, Horatius Cocles défendant un pont
16th century, lithograph, 39.8 x 55.5 cm. (15.7 x 21.9″), Louvre

Horatius Cocles’s gallant defense of the Sublican Bridge was mentioned in despatches by Livy, and sung of in the poem by Thomas Babbington Macauley


Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the gate:
‘To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods,

‘And for the tender mother
Who dandled him to rest,
And for the wife who nurses
His baby at her breast,
And for the holy maidens
Who feed the eternal flame,
To save them from false Sextus
That wrought the deed of shame?

‘Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul,
With all the speed ye may;
I, with two more to help me,
Will hold the foe in play.
In yon strait path a thousand
May well be stopped by three.
Now who will stand on either hand,
And keep the bridge with me?’

Then out spake Spurius Lartius;
A Ramnian proud was he:
‘Lo, I will stand at thy right hand,
And keep the bridge with thee.’
And out spake strong Herminius;
Of Titan blood was he:
‘I will abide on thy left side,
And keep the bridge with thee.’

‘Horatius,’ quoth the Consul,
‘As thou sayest, so let it be.’
And straight against that great array
Forth went the dauntless Three.
For Romans in Rome’s quarrel
Spared neither land nor gold,
Nor son nor wife, nor limb nor life,
In the brave days of old.

Then none was for a party;
Then all were for the state;
Then the great man helped the poor,
And the poor man loved the great:
Then lands were fairly portioned;
Then spoils were fairly sold:
The Romans were like brothers
In the brave days of old.

More recently, Colonel W. C. Hall had some fun imagining what Horatius’ citation would read like in our modern era (printed in the British Army Journal, January 1953).

26 Jun 2007

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Crossing into Iraq by Helicopter to Attack British Forces

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The Sun is reporting:

Iranian forces are being choppered over the Iraqi border to bomb Our Boys, intelligence chiefs say.

Military experts claim this worrying move means we are at WAR with Iran in all but name.

Last night an intelligence source told The Sun: “It is an extremely alarming development and raises the stakes considerably. In effect, it means we are in a full on war with Iran — but nobody has officially declared it.

“We have hard proof that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have crossed the border to attack us.

“It is very hard for us to strike back. All we can do is try to defend ourselves. We are badly on the back foot.”

Our Boys picked up the Iranian helicopters on radar crossing into empty desert.

The sightings have been confirmed to The Sun by very senior military sources.

Depkafile reports (in non-linkable marquee’ing banner text):

British military source in Basra: We see the Iranians and their helicopters but are under strength to stop them.

But it looks like the Brits won’t be understrength to stop them much longer.

Depkafile also is reporting that third US carrier group, the Enterprise, is approaching the Arabian Gulf:

According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, the US naval build-up off the shores of Iran marks rising military tensions in the region. …

The USS Enterprise CVN 65-Big E Strike Group will join the USS Stennis and the USS Nimitz carriers, building up the largest sea, air, marine concentration the United States has ever deployed opposite Iran. This goes towards making good on the assurances of four carriers US Vice President Dick Cheney offered the Gulf and Middle East nations during his May tour of the region.

The “Big E” leads a strike group consisting of the guided-missile destroyers USS Arleigh Burke DDG 51, USS Stout DDG 55, Forrest Sherman DDG 98 and USS James E. Williams DDG 95, as well as the guided missile cruiser USS Gettysburg CG 64, the SS Philadelphia SSN 690 nuclear submarine and the USNS Supply T-AOE 6>

On its decks are the Carrier Air Wing CVW 1, whose pilots fought combat missions in the Gulf and Arabian Sea during 2006. The Air Wing is made up of F/Q-18 Super Hornet strike craft, the Sidewinders Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-86, the 251st Marine Fighter Attack Squadron MFA, and the Electronic Attack Squadron VAQ 137.

The 32nd Sea Control Squadron VS consists of S-3B Vikings. The Airborne Early Warning Squadron VAQ 3 flies E-2C Hawkeye craft. The Fleet Logistics Support Squadron VRC is based on C-2A Greyhounds.

26 Jun 2007

Plaintiff in $54 Million Trouser Lawsuit Loses

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No pair of pants is worth $54 million. A judge rejected a lawsuit Monday that sought that amount by taking a dry cleaner’s promise of “Satisfaction Guaranteed” to its most litigious extreme.

Roy L. Pearson became a worldwide symbol of legal abuse by seeking jackpot justice from a simple complaint _ that a neighborhood dry cleaners lost the pants from a suit and tried to give him a pair that were not his.

His claim, reduced from $67 million, was based on a strict interpretation of the city’s consumer protection law _ which imposes fines of $1,500 per violation _ as well as damages for inconvenience, mental anguish and attorney’s fees for representing himself.

But District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled that the owners of Custom Cleaners did not violate the consumer protection law by failing to live up to Pearson’s expectations of the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign once displayed in the store.

“A reasonable consumer would not interpret ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’ to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer’s unreasonable demands,” the judge wrote.

Bartnoff wrote that Pearson, an administrative law judge, also failed to prove that the pants the dry cleaner tried to return were not the pants he took in.

Bartnoff ordered Pearson to pay clerical court costs of about $1,000 to defendants Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung and Ki Y. Chung. A motion to recover the Chungs’ tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees will be considered later.

Earlier post 1

Earlier post 2

26 Jun 2007

Harry Potter Spoiler

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Last week a hacker calling himself “Gabriel” claimed to have penetrated the computer of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, J.K. Rowling’s British publisher, and obtained a copy of the 7th (and promised to be last) Harry Potter book, scheduled to be published 7/21.


There is no way to tell if this idiot is telling the truth, but the curious who want to read the purported spoiler may go here.

26 Jun 2007

Europeans Are Strange

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Who knew that the German Army had such strong feelings about the followers of L. Ron Hubbard?

Reuters reports:

Germany has barred the makers of a movie about a plot to kill Adolf Hitler from filming at German military sites because its star Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, the Defense Ministry said on Monday.

Cruise, also one of the film’s producers, is a member of the Church of Scientology which the German government does not recognize as a church. Berlin says it masquerades as a religion to make money, a charge Scientology leaders reject.

The U.S. actor has been cast as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, leader of the unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the Nazi dictator in July 1944 with a bomb hidden in a briefcase.

Defense Ministry spokesman Harald Kammerbauer said the film makers “will not be allowed to film at German military sites if Count Stauffenberg is played by Tom Cruise, who has publicly professed to being a member of the Scientology cult”.

“In general, the Bundeswehr (German military) has a special interest in the serious and authentic portrayal of the events of July 20, 1944 and Stauffenberg’s person,” Kammerbauer said.

Here in America, we expect movie stars to be members of strange cults.

25 Jun 2007

Arguing Iraq, Again (From My Class Email List)

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Liberalism is more than a little inadvertently comedic.

First of all, it operates in an ahistoric context. There is no history. WWII never happened. Thus, it is possible to believe that “planetary morality is the only answer. Force alone is a tool to patch things temporarily, but in the 50-100 year perspective, finding some common ground for coexistence is essential.” Because no one can possibly conquer and subdue, then remake his adversary’s culture by force. “We can’t impose it.” The fact that we did impose it, i.e., democracy, on two peoples a lot tougher than the Arabs mysteriously disappears from the world inhabited by the liberal.

Secondly, with liberalism comes a lack of confidence, a self doubt, which Hamlet could envy. The liberal cannot fight for his own cause and defeat his enemy. He has to have his enemy’s permission. And he can only undertake any effort in the midst of a coalition, a coalition including all of his own rivals and all the states making profits via illegal arms trades with the enemy, too. It would just be too scary to go it alone. The liberal cannot simply make war. Any military operation cannot be for his own country. It must be a philanthropic exercise benefiting the enemy. The Marines will storm their beaches, and then improve their infrastructure. The 82nd Airborne will drop in behind enemy enemies, and build a power plant and a school. If the US invasion fleet steamed up to Normandy in our time, and the Germans in the bunkers on the beaches failed to hold up “Welcome to France – Thanks for Liberating Us!” signs, our liberals would believe we were obliged to turn around, and simply steam away.

What I want to know is: how come this kind of thinking doesn’t apply to domestic conflicts with conservatives and Republicans?

25 Jun 2007

Peru versus Yale

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Recent years have seen a tremendous retreat by Reason from the public dialogue, providing a concomitant opportunity for ideologies embodying the worst of mankind’s vices and follies, socialism and nationalism, to take its place. When foreign governments behave contemptibly, asserting irrational and self-aggrandizing claims of ownership to artistic treasures created by civilizations which existed ages before their own time, the leftwing press typically rushes to add its voice in support for yet another contemporary expression of ressentiment.

Refreshingly, Arthur Lubow, in the Sunday Times Magazine, is less than sympathetic to Peru’s attempts to wrest custodianship of artifacts from Manchu Pichu discovered by Yale’s Hiram Bingham in the early years of the last century from the Peabody Museum.

other countries as well as Peru are demanding the recovery of cultural treasures removed by more powerful nations many years ago. The Greeks want the Parthenon marbles returned to Athens from the British Museum; the Egyptians want the same museum to surrender the Rosetta Stone and, on top of that, seek to spirit away the bust of Nefertiti from the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. Where might it all end? One clue comes in a sweeping request from China. As a way of combating plunder of the present as well as the past, the Chinese government has asked the United States to ban the import of all Chinese art objects made before 1911. The State Department has been reviewing the Chinese request for more than two years.

The movement for the repatriation of “cultural patrimony” by nations whose ancient past is typically more glorious than their recent history provides the framework for the dispute between Peru and Yale. To the scholars and administrators of Yale, the bones, ceramics and metalwork are best conserved at the university, where ongoing research is gleaning new knowledge of the civilization at Machu Picchu under the Inca. Outside Yale, most everyone I talked to wants the collection to go back to Peru, but many of them are far from disinterested arbiters. In the end, if the case winds up in the United States courts, its disposition may be determined by narrowly legalistic interpretations of specific Peruvian laws and proclamations. Yet the passions that ignite it are part of a broad global phenomenon. “My opinion reflects the opinion of most Peruvians,” Hilda Vidal, a curator at the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Peru in Lima, told me. “In general, anything that is patrimony of the cultures of the world, whether in museums in Asia or Europe or the United States, came to be there during the times when our governments were weak and the laws were weak, or during the Roman conquest or our conquest by the Spanish. Now that the world is more civilized, these countries should reflect on this issue. It saddens us Peruvians to go to museums abroad and see a Paracas textile. I am hopeful that in the future all the cultural patrimony of the world will return to its country of origin.” Behind her words, I could imagine a gigantic sucking whoosh, as the display cases in the British Museum, the Smithsonian, the Louvre and the other great universal museums of the world were cleansed of their contents, leaving behind the clattering of a few Wedgwood bowls and Sèvres teacups.

Terry D. Garcia, an ally and enthusiast promoter of Peruvian repatriation claims who works at National Geographic and who has made himself into an active participant in the controversy, was dismissive of Yale’s concerns for the preservation of the artifacts as politically incorrect.

It’s so patronizing of them to suggest that you can’t return these objects to Peru because they can’t take care of them — that a country like Peru doesn’t have competent archaeologists or museums,” he says. “Maybe if you were a colonial power in the 19th century you could rationalize that statement. I don’t see how you could make it today.

But Arthur Lubow describes his own experience with Peruvian standards of stewardship.

Fernando Astete, an archaeologist who has worked at the Machu Picchu park since 1978 and been director of it since 2001, wants the Bingham collection to be exhibited at the site’s museum. When I spoke with him in Cuzco, he said: “I am happy with the museum. It has temperature control and humidity control and guards.” But when I visited the site museum, which is located about a mile and a half from the Aguas Calientes train station, I found evidence of none of those amenities. The doors were open to the air, which was moist from the nearby river, and the sole official was a caretaker who sold tickets and then exited the building.

Read the whole thing.


24 Jun 2007

The Marine Corps and the Press

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Paul von Zeibauer, writing in the New York Times’ Week in Review, was shocked… shocked to discover that the USMC had issued a memorandum of instructions on how to answer leading questions from the Press without inadvertently assisting them in furthering their own agenda, featuring “a searing view of American journalists conspiring to undermine the war effort.”

One Tim McGirk, a reporter for Time magazine, in January 2006, sent a series of questions to the Second Marine Division in Haditha by email.

Excerpts of the memo:

McGirk: How many marines were killed and wounded in the I.E.D. attack that morning?

Memo: If it bleeds, it leads. This question is McGirk’s attempt to get good bloody gouge on the situation. He will most likely use the information he gains from this answer as an attention gainer.

McGirk: Were there any officers?

Memo: By asking if there was an officer on scene the reporter may be trying to identify a point of blame for lack of judgment. If there was an officer involved, then he may be able to have his My Lai massacre pinned on that officer’s shoulders. …

In the reporter’s eyes, military officers may represent the U.S. government and enlisted marines may represent the American People. Given the current political climate in the U.S. at this time concerning the Iraq war and the current administration’s conduct of the war, the reporter would most likely seek to discredit the U.S. government (one of our officers) and expose victimization of the American people by the hand of the government (the enlisted marines under the haphazard command of our “rogue officer.”) …

One common tactic used by reporters is to spin a story in such a way that it is easily recognized and remembered by the general population through its association with an event that the general population is familiar with or can relate to. For example, McGirk’s story will sell if it can be spun as “Iraq’s My Lai massacre.” …

McGirk: How many marines were involved in the killings?

Memo: First off, we don’t know what you’re talking about when you say “killings.” One of our squads reinforced by a squad of Iraqi Army soldiers were engaged by an enemy initiated ambush on the 19th that killed one American marine and seriously injured two others. We will not justify that question with a response. Theme: Legitimate engagement: we will not acknowledge this reporter’s attempt to stain the engagement with the misnomer “killings.”

McGirk: Were there any weapons found during these house raids — or terrorists — where the killings occurred?

Memo: Again, you are showing yourself to be uneducated in the world of contemporary insurgent combat. The subject about which we are speaking was a legitimate engagement initiated by the enemy. …

McGirk: Is there any investigation ongoing into these civilian deaths, and if so have any marines been formally charged?

Memo: No, the engagement was bona fide combat action. … By asking this question, McGirk is assuming the engagement was a LOAC [Law of Armed Conflict] violation and that by asking about investigations, he may spurn a reaction from the command that will initiate an investigation.

McGirk: Are the marines in this unit still serving in Haditha?

Memo: Yes, we are still fighting terrorists of Al Qaida in Iraq in Haditha. (“Fighting terrorists associated with Al Qaida” is stronger language than “serving.” The American people will side more with someone actively fighting a terrorist organization that is tied to 9/11 than with someone who is idly “serving,” like in a way one “serves” a casserole. It’s semantics, but in reporting and journalism, words spin the story.)

24 Jun 2007

China Building Highway to Mount Everest

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The Chinese government has announced the planned construction of a blacktop highway to Everest base camp to facilitate the carrying of the 2008 Olympic Torch to the summit of the highest mountain in the world.


China plans to build a highway on the side of Mount Everest to ease the Olympic torch’s journey to the peak of the world’s tallest mountain before the 2008 Beijing Games, state media reported Tuesday.
Construction of the road, budgeted at $19.7 million would turn a 67- mile rough path from the foot of the mountain to a base camp at 17,060 feet “into a blacktop highway fenced by undulating guardrails,” the Xinhua News Agency said.

Xinhua said construction, which would start next week, would take about four months. The new highway would become a major route for tourists and mountaineers, it said.

An official from the Secretariat of the Tibetan government, who declined to give his name, confirmed the project was planned, but refused to give any details. Tibet and Nepal are the most commonly used routes up the mountain.

In April, organizers for the Beijing Summer Olympics announced ambitious plans for the longest torch relay in Olympic history—an 85,000-mile, 130-day route that would cross five continents and reach the 29,035-foot summit of Everest.

Taking the Olympic torch to the top of the mountain, seen by some as a way for Beijing to underscore its claims to Tibet, is expected to be one of the relay’s highlights.

24 Jun 2007

If Guns Are Outlawed, Only Anti-Gun Groups Will Have Guns

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Mark Steyn observes:

If you live in one of those jurisdictions like New York City or Washington, DC where your Second Amendment rights are dramatically constrained, here’s a useful tip. If you’re looking for a good place to buy cheap firearms, try the local gun control group:

    The founder of an antiviolence group called No Guns pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal weapons charges.

    Hector “Big Weasel” Marroquin is accused of selling an assault rifle, a machine gun, two pistols and two silencers to undercover federal agents last fall.

I love America! Even the anti-gun groups are full of gun nuts packing totally awesome heat.

LA Times story


Hat tip to Frank Dobbs.

23 Jun 2007

Two Meritless Prosecutions

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Dorothy Rabinowitz, in the Wall Street Journal, compares Duke student prosecutor Nifong with Scooter Libby prosecutor Fitzgerald in A Tale of Two Prosecutors.

It was a noteworthy week on the justice front. Even as Mr. Nifong was facing ethics hearings in North Carolina, Scooter Libby’s attorneys came before trial Judge Reggie Walton, in Washington, to plead for a delay in the beginning of the 30-month sentence the judge had handed down. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s project — the construction of a major case of obstruction of justice out of a perjury rap against Mr. Libby — had come to a satisfactory conclusion.

For Mr. Fitzgerald, whose prosecutorial zeal and moral certitude are in no small way reminiscent of Mr. Nifong’s, the victory was complete with those two final judgments: the severe sentence for Mr. Libby, and the judge’s refusal, last week, to allow its postponement pending appeal. The prosecutor’s argument for a heavy sentence emphasized Mr. Libby’s alleged serious obstruction of justice — a complicated effort, considering that there was no underlying crime, or evidence thereof, and that this case, which had begun in alleged pursuit of the leak of a covert agent’s identity was, as the prosecutor himself would finally contend, not about that leak at all.

Just what serious obstruction of justice Mr. Libby could have been guilty of, then, was, at the least, a heady question, though not one, clearly, that raised any doubts in the judge. Neither did Mr. Fitzgerald’s charge — also in pursuit of a heavy sentence — that the defendant had caused, by his obstruction, no end of trouble and expense in government effort.

The obligation to truth, the prosecutor argued, was of the highest importance, and one in which Mr. Libby had failed by perjuring himself. It would be hard to dispute the first contention. It is no less hard to avoid the memory of Mr. Fitzgerald’s own dubious relation to truth and honesty — as, for example, in his failure to disclose that he had known all along the identity of the person who had leaked the Valerie Plame story. That person, he knew, was Richard Armitage, deputy to Colin Powell. Not only had he concealed this knowledge — in what was, supposedly all that time, a quest to discover the criminals responsible for the leak of a covert agent’s name — he had instructed both Mr. Armitage and his superior, Colin Powell, in whom Mr. Armitage had confided, not to reveal the truth.

Special prosecutor Fitzgerald did, of course, have a duty to keep his investigation secret during grand jury proceedings, according to the rules. He did not have the power to order witnesses at those proceedings not to disclose their testimony or tell what they knew. Instead, Mr. Fitzgerald requested Messrs. Armitage and Powell to keep quiet about the leaker’s identity — a request they understandably treated as an order. Why the prosecutor sought this secrecy can be no mystery — it was the way to keep the grand jury proceedings going, on a fishing expedition, that could yield witnesses who stumbled, or were entrapped, into “obstruction” or “lying” violations. It was its own testament to the nature of this prosecution — and the prosecutor. …

The prospects for Mr. Libby’s success in an appeal hinge on three points, two concerning the court’s refusal to allow the defense to present certain witnesses. The other potentially powerful issue relates to Mr. Fitzgerald. The Special Prosecutor was given, on his appointment (by his long-time friend, acting Attorney General James Comey) a remarkable freedom from accountability to any higher authority or Justice Department standards. This unique freedom was made explicit in his appointment letter. Such unparalleled lack of control, the appeal will argue, is a violation of the principle of checks and balances.

However it comes out, both the case mounted against Mr. Libby, and the sentence delivered, have plenty of parallels. It is familiar stuff — the fruits of official power run amok in the name of principle and virtue — and it’s an ugly harvest. Mr. Libby is another in the long line of Americans fated to face show trials and absurdly long sentences — the sort invariably required for meritless prosecutions.

There was at least one bright spot in the events of the last week, specifically, Mr. Nifong’s removal from office — a case, at long last, of a prosecutor called to account. It will be some while we can guess, before any such wheels of justice grind their way to the special prosecutors.

How can a prosecutor be permitted to convict a defendant of obstruction of justice without first proving any crime had ever been committed? How can a defendant be possibly be convicted of perjury for allegedly misleading the prosecutor about the identity of Robert Novak’s informant which the prosecutor already knew and did not need to inquire about?

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