Friday, September 30, 2005

Larry Franklin to Testify

Remember the AIPAC case? It's still going on, and the star witness is set to testify about providing documents to Israel's Washington lobbyists.
Rosen, a top lobbyist for Washington-based AIPAC for over 20 years, and Weissman, the organization's top Iran expert, allegedly disclosed sensitive information as far back as 1999 on a variety of topics, including al-Qaida, terrorist activities in Central Asia, the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and U.S. policy in Iran, according to the indictment against them.

Now that the purported danger from Israel has been dealt with, I wonder if the FBI will arrest some Islamist spies... I can't recall one prosecution for Islamist espionage in Washington since 9/11.

Ann Coulter Doesn't Like Karl Rove

Karl Rove is Bob Shrum with a good cause. (Shrum has run eight presidential campaigns; number won: 0, number lost: 8.) Bush calls Rove the "architect" of his 2004 victory. In 2004, America was at war and the Democrats ran a gigolo to be commander in chief. The nation hasn't changed so much since Reagan was president that the last election should have even been close.

Whenever the nation is threatened by external enemies, the only way Democrats can win a presidential election is with another Watergate. And yet Bush nearly lost the last election. He would have lost, but for the Swiftboat Veterans — also dissed by Bush.

A Hillary Clinton-Geena Davis Connection

Exposed by John Fund in today's Wall Street Journal:
After the Washington premiere, Steve Cohen, a writer for the series who was Mrs. Clinton's deputy White House communications director, was mobbed by the senator's fans.

Wonder if this will lead to a campaign-finance investigation? After all, if this show is so much fun--it's probably illegal...

Roberts Confirmed as Chief Justice


Sprung Miller Sings

Why is Judy Miller's testimony before the grand jury today important?

This paragraph from today's AP story tells:
Until a few months ago, the White House maintained for nearly two years that Libby and presidential aide Karl Rove were not involved in leaking the identity of Valerie Plame, whose husband had publicly suggested that the Bush administration twisted intelligence in the runup to the war in Iraq.

It is doubtful that Libby did anything without Dick Cheney's knowledge or permission...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Judge Orders Release of US Torture Photos

It's about time that we saw what the heck has been going on at Abu Gharib.

How can the US criticize any other country for human rights abuses, when we still haven't dealt with our own torture problem?

FBI Kills 72 Year Old Puerto Rican Suspect

This story is probably not going to help Karen Hughes' efforts to improve America's international image:
The gunfight, which left longtime fugitive Filiberto Ojeda Rios dead and an FBI agent severely wounded, has sparked allegations that the FBI shot Ojeda Rios, a Puerto Rican separatist leader, and refused to enter his farmhouse as he bled to death.

And America condemns other countries for human rights violations?

Is Bush a "Neo-Bolshevik?"

According to Igor Torbakov's article for Eurasianet, Russian pundits say Bush's current democracy-spreading tactics owe something to the Comintern:
Immediately after Bush announced the formation of the ARC, Russian political analysts expressed the belief that ARC’s operations would be aimed at post-Soviet states, and began comparing it to the Moscow-controlled Communist International, or Komintern, which promoted the spread of communism prior to the Second World War. Vyacheslav Nikonov, the Kremlin-connected head of the Politika Foundation think tank, asserted in a commentary published by the Trud daily that Bush’s vision for the ACR "doesn’t differ much from the Komintern’s policies." The methods, instruments and even slogans used by the Bolsheviks and those employed now by the Bush administration are basically the same, Nikonov wrote.

During the early Bolshevik era, the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs sought to develop mutually beneficial relations with the world’s leading capitalist countries. At the same time, the Komintern carried out subversive activities in those same countries. For some Russian pundits, there’s a clear analogy between the Komintern’s tactics and present-day US foreign policy in the post-Soviet lands. On the one hand, they say, Washington seeks Russia’s help in the global war on terror, while on the other; US officials are keen to undermine Moscow’s strategic stature in its traditional sphere of influence.

Russian government officials have not publicly embraced or endorsed such "politically incorrect" comparisons. But they most likely share at least some of the Russian conservative pundits’ perspectives on US foreign policy. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, for example, recently reiterated that US attempts to "export democracy" to CIS countries and encourage "non-parliamentary methods of fighting" can lead to destabilization and new conflicts.

The Return

Thanks to our Netflix subscription, last night we watched Vozvrashcheniye (The Return) on DVD. Andrei Zvyagintsev's 2003 drama was memorable, and very Russian in feeling and mentality. Lots of suffering. Clearly allegorical. Good photography. Sad ending, made even sadder by the knowledge that actor Vladimir Garin drowned shortly after filming was completed.

American and British reviews via the IMDB link seemed to take the film as a story of a troubled father-son relationship, and a coming-of-age saga. Having lived in Russia, it seemed to me that the spare allegorical style probably was something more, something that Russians might understand at once, that I didn't quite get.

The plot is terribly simple. After a 12-year absence, a father returns to his family. He takes them on a fishing trip to a deserted island many miles from home. The natural landscape is beautiful, but the human one is not. The father digs up a buried treasure in an abandonded building. Trouble and tragedy follow. The end.

What did it mean?

None of the reviews mentioned it, but I wondered: Could the desert island have been one of the Solovetsky islands, location of the notorious Solovki prison camp the mother of the GULAG, according to Solzhenitsyn? Known as SLON, the Solovki prison camp was in use from 1923 to 1939. No one can say for sure exactly how many died.

Nowadays the location is a tourist site. Might the father in have been a returning prisoner who wanted to show his children where he had been, and what he had endured? Rebecca Santana's 2002 visit to the camp for the Voice of America seems to match the plot of the film. Beatings, arbitrary authority, left standing in the soaking rain, all take place in the father-son story--just as they did in the prison.

The boy is left soaking in the rain on a bridge over a canal. Could this be the infamous White Sea Canal, a slave labor project originally named after Stalin? Even the towers in the film remind one of prison watchtowers. And the events that take place are similar to those described in this account by Gregg Zoroya
Tour guide Olga Vostriakova says about Solovetsky: "Probably, this is a place where evil things and good things are connected together."

Nowhere is that more true than on Sekirnaya Hill, several miles north of the monastery. When the religious center was wealthy and flourishing in the 1800s, the Russian Orthodox monks built a two-story wooden chapel with a lighthouse in the tower on this highest point of land.

Today, the chapel survives, weathered and peaceful on a grassy summit where goats graze. But it is no longer a symbol of good tidings.

The Bolsheviks made it a punishment center for the gulag. Thugs who doubled as prison guards -- many of them criminals given greater authority than political prisoners -- practiced sadistic forms of torture. They would strip prisoners naked and stake them out where mosquitoes could feast. Or they would force prisoners to balance all day on horizontal poles running across the chapel at a level too high for feet to touch the ground. Those who fell were beaten or, worse, strapped lengthwise to a heavy beam and rolled down a steep portion of the hill, more than 200 feet to the bottom. It was a death sentence.

"The laws of the underworld became the camp standard," says the narrator of a 1988 Russian documentary, Solovki Power.

Would a former prisoner really return to visit the place of his incarceration? Santana's story suggests the answer is yes:
She recalls that one day a man came into her office and started looking around. When Ms. Shopkina asked if he needed help, he replied that he simply wanted to see the room where he lived as a prisoner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tony Blair's Labour Party Conference Speech

This is what he said about Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terror. Not quite Shakespeare, but not too shabby:
Today, of course, we face a new challenge: global terrorism.
Let us state one thing.
These terrorists do not, never have and never will represent the decent, humane and principled faith of Islam.
Muslims, like all of us, abhor terrorism. Like all of us, are its victims.
It is, as ever, only fringe fanatics we face.
But we need to make it clear.
When people come to our country, they have and should have the full rights we believe in. There should be no second-class citizens in Britain. But citizenship comes with a duty: to give loyalty to our nation, its values and our way of life.
If people have a grievance, politics is the answer. Not terror.

Terrorism brings home to us this now obvious truth of the modern world. Nations, even the largest, need to work together for their common good.
Isolationism is as backward as protectionism. For a country the size of Britain, there is no securing our future without strong alliances.
When I became Prime Minister I took a decision: always be at the forefront where decisions are made not at the back where they’re handed down.

That is why at every point, no matter how difficult we remain strong partners in Europe. By all means let us fight for reform in Europe; but to isolate ourselves from the world’s largest commercial market in which over 50% of our trade is done, is just a crazy policy for Britain in the 21st century.

Britain should also remain the strongest ally of the United States. I know there’s a bit of us that would like me to do a Hugh Grant in Love Actually and tell America where to get off. But the difference between a good film and real life is that in real life there’s the next day, the next year, the next lifetime to contemplate the ruinous consequences of easy applause.
I never doubted after September 11th that our place was alongside America and I don’t doubt it now.
And for a very simple reason. Terrorism struck most dramatically in New York but it was aimed then, and is aimed now, at us all, at our way of life.
This is a global struggle.

Today it is at its fiercest in Iraq.

It has allied itself there with every reactionary element in the Middle East.
Their aim: to wreck this December’s first ever direct election for the Government of Iraq.
I know there are people, good people, who disagreed with the decision to remove Saddam by force.
But for two years, British troops whose bravery and dedication we salute, along with those of 27 other nations, have been in Iraq with full United Nations authority and in support of the Iraqi Government.

Yes, several hundred people stoned British troops in Basra.
Yes, several thousand run the terrorist insurgency around Baghdad.
And yes, as a result of the fighting, innocent people tragically die.
But 8 ½ million Iraqis showed which future they wanted when they came out and voted in January’s elections.
And the way to stop the innocent dying is not to retreat, to withdraw, to hand these people over to the mercy of religious fanatics or relics of Saddam, but to stand up for their right to decide their Government in the same democratic way the British people do.

Ten days ago, after years of struggle, finally in Afghanistan, 6 million people voted freely to decide their own future.
How dare the terrorists justify their campaign of hate by claiming they are angry about Afghanistan? Was it better under their Taleban?
They use Iraq and Afghanistan, just as they use the cause of Palestine, whilst trying to destroy by terror the only solution that will ever work: a secure Israel living side-by-side with a viable independent and democratic Palestine.
Just as they chose the day of the G8 when the world was trying to address the heartbreaking poverty of Africa, to kill innocent people in London.

Strip away their fake claims of grievance and see them for what they are: terrorists who use 21st century technology to fight a pre-medieval religious war that is utterly alien to the future of humankind.
I know we could have hidden away at the back after September 11th and let others take the strain.
But that is not Britain at its best.
Nor is it this Party.

When we campaign for justice in Africa, that is a progressive cause.
When we push for peace in Palestine, it is a progressive cause.
When we act against global warming, it is a progressive cause.
And when we fight behind the standard of democracy in Afghanistan or Iraq or Kosovo or Sierra Leone, for me that too is a progressive cause.
In each case, Britain in these last 8 years has been at the front. Not always succeeding, but never a spectator. In the modern world, for all the pain it can bring, it is the only place to be.

It’s a daunting agenda isn’t it; and in every area of policy we are called upon to adjust our sights, re-think, renew.
But have confidence.
We are well up to it.
No-one else is.

Fouad Ajami on Iraq

From Opinion Journal, comes this analysis of where we are, and where we have to go:
Over the horizon looms a referendum to ratify the country's constitution. Sunni Arabs are registering in droves, keen not to repeat the error they committed when they boycotted the national elections earlier this year. In their pride, and out of fear of the insurgents and their terror, the Sunni Arabs say that they are registering to vote in order to thwart this "illegitimate constitution." This kind of saving ambiguity ought to be welcomed, for there are indications that the Sunni Arabs may have begun to understand terror's blindness and terror's ruin. Zarqawi holds out but one fate for them; other doors beckon, and there have stepped forth from their ranks leaders eager to partake of the new order. It is up to them, and to the Arab street and the Arab chancelleries that wink at them, to bring an end to the terror. It has not been easy, this expedition to Iraq, and for America in Iraq there has been heartbreak aplenty. But we ought to remember the furies that took us there, and we ought to be consoled by the thought that the fight for Iraq is a fight to ward off Arab dangers and troubles that came our way on a clear September morning, four years ago.
(ht LGF)

Commander in Chief

Speaking of presidential television, my wife really enjoyed Geena Davis as the Hillary Clinton-like first woman president of the USA. I liked the last five minutes, which was all I could see, because Tuesday night is a teaching night. So, I'd say that if the show lasts three years, Hillary is a shoo-in in 2008. It would certainly be more entertaining that what is going on right now. And Americans do vote for President with this question in mind: Who do I want to see on TV every night for the next four years?

Some other thoughts.

*Donald Sutherland seems to be in the Sir Francis Urqhart role from the British political melodrama House of Cards. Look to his character to steal the show over time.

*It's nice to see big stars in these political dramas. I mean Martin Sheen is no Donald Sutherland, and I didn't know who anyone else was on the West Wing. Geena Davis is a big star.

*There are no political melodramas on Russian tv. My students were amazed that Americans had so many movies and tv shows about politics. Politics in Russia is a dirty, nasty business, not entertainment. That was one selling point for democracy that the Bush Administration misses with all its moralistic hectoring, lecturing, and threatening--democracy is more fun (probably because of the "pursuit of happiness" clause).

*Geena Davis is an Independent, not a Democrat (or Republican). This is the key constituency for the 2008 campaign. (Full disclosure: I am a registered independent).

Meet the Pres

That's not what they called Russian president Vladimir Putin's 3-hour TV call-in show, (they could also have called it "live from the Kremlin"), but it's as good a title as any. We don't have anything like it here--and I don't think Bush could answer questions for three hours on C-SPAN (Clinton or Reagan probably could). The news was that Putin is giving a raise to government employees, as well as increasing pensions and benefits. This is the fallout from the "Babushka Revolution" of last winter that shut down Moscow and St. Petersburg in protest over pension monetization schemes that would have cost the elderly their remaining perks and privileges. Now, Putin is shelling out an addtional $4 billion. Not much by Katrina standards, but for Russia, that's a lot of rubles (120 billion rubles sounds like more). The US press and liberal critics are complaining that the questions were screened, but from what I can tell, it sounds like Putin took some difficult ones, not only about hot-button pension and salary issues, but also about Chechnya. He also announced he won't seek a third term as president, but would stay active. Who knows what that means, whether a power behind the throne or a Clinton-style international hob-nobber. My guess is that he hasn't decided exactly what comes next, it depends on the next three years and how they go. What Russia does with its oil money is key. If he can begin to build up the high-tech sectors, and perhaps set up some more manufacturing industries, Russia might be able to follow China's economic path. There are a lot of "ifs" though. So the only thing one can say for sure is that the Putin TV talk show suggests that if all else fails, Putin can do a Vladimir Pozner, and host his own television talk show. I wonder if he's thought of that already?

UPDATE: The Kremlin has posted an English transcript here.

Boston Legal

William Shatner and Candace Bergen (ABC photo) Last night, after catching the end of Geena Davis in Commander in Chief, I had a chance to watch Boston Legal. We were in Russia last year, so missed the premiere of the show, but this was really a lot of fun. All the old TV stars were like being with old friends--Captain Kirk, Murphy Brown, and Betty White! The plot was campy, the actors chewed the scenery (William Shatner has gotten so fat...). And it was fun to see Boston lawyers portrayed as sleazy hustlers while the judge from LA was depicted as a priggish stickler for legality (a stereotype turned upside down). Fun, fun, fun.

Monday, September 26, 2005

End of an Era: Dan Rather at the National Press Club

Just got back from Dan Rather live and in person at the National Press Club. He was interviewed by Marvin Kalb, the network newsman who was Henry Kissinger's spokesman in the Nixon administration. His show is called The Kalb Report. Rather looked pretty good in person for 73, though the photos show that he apparently was under considerable strain. In fact, the close-up I took shows Dan looking like a character out of Dostoevsky.

The evening was strangely painful for me, because I grew up in a CBS household, believing in Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and the rest of them. When I made my film, I had help from CBS Reports producer Arthur Morse's widow, who arranged for me to view never-broadcast footage in an editing room in the CBS News building on West 57th Street. When I wrote my book about PBS, Morley Safer granted me a telephone interview. I had met 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt's daughter socially in Washington and thought she was really very nice. Don Hewitt himself once gave me a phone interview. And a cousin of my father's had a CBS station in the Pacific Northwest. Even after Walter Cronkite attacked me in the Wall Street Journal, I still believed that CBS News had some higher standard than other networks. Call it early childhood imprinting.

In any case, the evening reminded me that my childhood beliefs were as unfounded as faith in the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. Marvin Kalb began the whole thing by bringing up Spiro Agnew, a discredited former Nixon administration official, who like Rather, pleaded no lo contendere. I don't think he knew he was being ironic.

Kalb's warmup queries, before he got to the forged document scandal relating to the 60 Minutes II broadcast that didn't end up making any difference in the 2004 election because it was a hoax, were simply weird. Something about defining the difference between a journalist and a member of the media, and asking whether bloggers were members of the media or journalists. What Dan would know about this--or have credibility to discuss--was a mystery before, during, and after the questioning. Dan did say something about not all bloggers being bad, if they put their names and addresses on their blogs, but it was all very odd given that Dan had been caught pulling a fast one and still didn't admit it. If anyone isn't a journalist anymore, it is Dan--though he is obviously a member of the media. OK, maybe he's now a dishonest, unethical, and lousy journalist. Still...

Strangely, some people aren't fleeing from association with Dan Rather, unapologetic about forgeries or not. The event was sponsored by a who's who of establishment worthies in addition to the press club: The George Washington University, the Joan Shorenstein Barone Center for the Press, Politics, and Public Policy of Harvard University, XM Satellite Radio, AM 630 WMAL. It was taped for broadcast by WHUT, Howard University Television, as well as aired live by C-SPAN. The Kalb Report is funded by a grant from the "Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation." I'm not even googling them, because I don't want to barf.

What can one say? Dan Rather obviously doesn't know much about ethics or excellence anymore--if he ever did. His answers to Kalb made clear that Dan believes the forged documents he peddled on 60 Minutes II in 2004 have not been discredited, despite the evidence that has been posted for the world to see on a number of websites--including this one (check our archives).

Dan loyally sticks by his story. He clearly sees himself as a victim of a powerful conspiracy of bloggers and political operatives. Marvin Kalb never pressed him, doing a Larry King type of show. When Dan wouldn't answer a question, he let it go. He praised Dan as a great reporter. He never said he was discredited. From time to time, when Dan gave some sort of Texas b.s. about integrity and speaking truth to power, Kalb would add something like: "I want to associate myself with that statement." So, in a way, Kalb is associating himself with forgery and stonewalling. It reminded me of the Nixon administration: "I am not a crook." Well, I'm sure Nixon believed it as much as Dan and Marvin Kalb. Dan talked a lot about loyalty to his team--four of whom at least lost their jobs because he didn't do his, by checking out his story before broadcast. Dan's still got a job. Producer Mary Mapes, however, doesn't.

Curiously, there weren't too many actual working newsmen and women in the audience. And despite the students papering the room, there were still some empty seats. Perhaps a sign that they had better things to do, or that Dan's seemingly endless victory lap--after the Emmy awards--is wearing a bit thin. One who was there was Bernard Kalb, Marvin's brother. I talked with him afterwards, and asked him what his opinion was about the documents in question. He answered that he believed the Thornburgh report. I told him that I didn't, that anyone could see that the documents in question were obvious fakes by looking at them on the internet. I said I remembered what an IBM Selectric looked like, and asked him if he remembered. He admitted he remembered IBM Selectrics, but maintained that he still believed the Thornburgh report. When I questioned whether he could think for himself, if he had his own conscience, Bernard Kalb clung to his story. He and Dick Thornburgh were in perfect agreement. He would not question a former Republican Attorney General hired by Viacom. (So much for speaking truth to power...)

The audience was mostly George Washington University students, who seemed far too young to remember IBM Selectric typewriters. One of their professors, who apparently was a former CBS News employee from Marvin Kalb's introduction, clearly didn't teach them to ask hard questions of a CBS anchor or 60 Minutes host. To say it was a lovefeast would be an understatement.

The one hard question was seemingly unintentional. Marvin Kalb asked Dan something about his retirement, along with the death of Peter Jennings and retirement of Tom Browkaw, marking "the end of an era." Dan said it wasn't about anchors, it was about the news. He didn't seem to understand that while it is indeed a virtue to speak truth to power, it is not a virtue to speak lies to power.

Dan Rather has damaged his credibility to the point where his unravelling seams begin to show. Frankly, the evening was more than a little embarrassing to watch. It was very, very sad. It really is the end of an era.

UPDATE: More here from RadioBlogger. He calls Marvin Kalb and Dan Rather's conversation "elder abuse." (ht lgf) And even more from The New York Post. (ht Best of the Web)

More on Able Danger

From Andrew McCarthyin National Review.

Nazim Tulyahodjaev Returns to Uzbekistan

( photo) We called him "Uncle Nazim" (he was our translator's uncle) when we lived in Tashkent. He struck us as one of the most multi-talented people we had ever met: actor, painter, director, animator, you name it. He produced and directed a 1984 adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 called There Will Come Soft Rains. A genuine "Renaissance Man." He gave us a tour of UzbekFilm studios, before leaving the country. Now, Nazim Tulyahodjaev has returned to Uzbekistan to make another film. We look forward to seeing it--and hope Hollywood discovers him.

Don't Turn Over Emergency Response to the Military

Full Story(White House photo by Eric Draper)
According to news reports, President Bush is considering turning over emergency response to the Pentagon.

It's a bad idea, and it will just make matters worse.

Leave aside the constitutional problems. The major flaw is that such a responsibility overburdens a military already stretched to the limit in Iraq and Afghanistan. Simply put, there aren't enough troops to do the job--and if there were, it would hurt America's ability to respond to terrorist or other military attacks.

So, even if passed, it would not work.

But more than that, it shows that Bush is in desperation mode--unable to govern democratically, he seeks to resort to military solutions to domestic problems. That he's even thinking this way, it seems to me, is evidence that he has "lost it."

The US had dealt with flood, fire, hurricane, earthquake, and myriad natural calamities for hundreds of years without turning into a military dictatorship. If Bush can't find civilian solutions to civil problems--he ought to resign.

The Opening of the American Mind

I had seen the ads for taped lectures from The Teaching Company, and a few years before had met Alan Kors, who recorded a series of lectures on Voltaire, but until dinner last Friday with a professor who had come to tape a series of talks on Russian Literature, I didn't know much about the operation. Turns out they have their own recording studio, and the people involved appear to be knowledgeable and dedicated. My dinner companion said he had enjoyed the experience.

Suddenly, it seemed less like a kitschy mail-order self-improvement great books thing, and more like a serious effort to spread learning, while making some money at the same time. The company was founded by Thomas Rollins, former chief counsel for the Senate Labor and Human Resources committee. He felt teaching was undervalued, and wanted to do something to promote great university teaching. Well, as a teacher, I certainly agree with that mission.

To judge from the website, he's done what he set out to do. Here's an excerpt from Philip Daileader's lecture on the state of universities in the High Middle Ages, relevant to a lot of us adjuncts and part-timers today:

Although all universities were founded for more or less the same reasons, nonetheless, two different types of universities emerged in the High Middle Ages. Paris and Bologna were rather different institutions, in many respects. They were different in terms of their academic specialties, and they were different in terms of their structures.

Paris was best known for theology. Bologna was best known for its law faculty, especially its civil law and secular law courses. The differences in structure often reflected these differences in academic specialization. The University of Paris was run by the teachers, magister, or "master," in the singular, magistri in the plural, whereas the University of Bologna was run by the students, not by the faculty. All medieval universities followed one of these two models, either the master-dominated University of Paris, or the student-dominated University of Bologna.

The reason for these different structures was the manner in which teachers were paid. Theoretically, no teacher was ever supposed to charge money, or demand money for teaching. All teaching should have been done for free, because knowledge was God's gift to humanity, and for a human being to charge money for that which was actually God's, was presumptuous. The teacher was to rely solely on gifts, freely given by students out of gratitude for the fact that teachers had shared God's knowledge with them. In practice, this was a highly unsatisfactory system of remunerating teachers; one who had to show up in class, and pray that someone gave him an apple, so that he could eat that day, and different sorts of arrangements had to be reached, whereby teachers could feed themselves.

In Paris, because it was so strong in theology, and the theology faculty really dominated the university, most teachers were supported by the Church. They were given salaries, called benefices, that they were able to live off of. Because the teachers in Paris, for the most part, did not have to rely on student gifts, but rather, were paid by the Church, they were free of student control, and were able to run the university as they saw fit.

At Bologna, with its strength in the law faculty, especially in secular law and in civil law, teachers had to rely on student fees directly for their livelihood, and since students were paying their salaries, students got to run the university. Indeed, modern teachers can only shudder with horror when they see the consequences for the poor faculty members at the University of Bologna. If you had been a master teaching at the University of Bologna, and you wanted to leave town for any reason, a getaway weekend, etc., you had to post bond with the students, guaranteeing that you were going to return to the University of Bologna, and actually teach your classes.

Teachers were fined for all sorts of infractions by the student body; I hope they don't see this tape. If you failed to attract five students to your class on any given day, you, the teacher, were marked as absent, because you had failed to gather a quorum, and you were fined for having been absent, even though you had been physically present. If you failed to keep pace with the syllabus, and you fell behind on your lecturing schedule, that, too, was a fine that you had to pay. If you were late for class, well, that was also a fine. It could be rather lucrative to be a student at the University of Bologna.

The manner in which the master's salary was negotiated at Bologna also seems rather odd today. At the beginning of an academic semester, during the first meeting of class, you as the master would choose one student from the class, a student whom you trusted. That student was given the responsibility of negotiating your fee for that semester with the student body. You, then, had to exit the room and sit outside anxiously, while the student, on your behalf, talked with the other students about how much you were actually worth. Given the fact that the student negotiating your fee had to pay whatever fee was negotiated, the results were not always that lucrative from the master's point of view. If you as a master had a choice between an appointment at the University of Paris, or the University of Bologna, well, that was a no-brainer. You wanted to go teach at Paris.

Perhaps when the history of teaching is taught a few centuries from now, a professor will cite the Teaching Company as an alternative to Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind...

UPDATE: Here's an article on the subject from The Chronicle of Higher Education

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Russian Blog From New Orleans

It's called SpeakRussian, hosted by Natalia Worthington, whom I discovered by looking for Russian podcasts. On her site, or via podcast, you can hear her impressions of Hurricane Katrina and the flood, as well as pick up a few Russian words...

Human Rights Watch Report: 82nd Airborne Tortured Prisoners

After looking at this report, I thought, the US has no right whatsoever to complain about any other country's treatment of prisoners--until we have cleaned up our own act...

London Mayor Advocates Terrorism

Making comparisons to partisans who fought the Nazis, London Mayor Ken Livingtone has called for the death of Uzbekistan's president, according to The Washington Times:

"But what do you say today to someone in Uzbekistan, where you have a monstrous and oppressive regime, which casually dismisses the lives of its people, a corrupt regime hanging onto power?"
Referring to demonstrations in Uzbekistan this year during which security forces opened fire on civilian protesters, he asked: "What option is there for someone who wants to see freedom, justice and democracy in Uzbekistan, other than to remove from power the people that keep that country in the grip of dictatorship?
"I see no way other than through the assassin's bullet or the assassin's bomb."

IMHO this comment is an on-the-record statement of what many in the NGO and Western crowd believe but will not say on-the-record. They are on the side of the terrorists--despite the obvious fact that the terrorists are sworn enemies of the West and the USA; who perpetrate the most horrific atrocities, who have an ideological and religious commitment to a goal that equally horrific; despite the evidence that they will ruthlessly carry out their plans if they ever achieve power, not shrinking from the extermination of their allies of the moment--as happened in Iran.

Livingstone says he knows of anti-Nazis who killed Nazis, and that was OK, not terrorism. Well, Livingstone should realize that Uzbekistan -- as part of the USSR -- was as anti-Nazi as anyone during WWII. And, the same sort of Islamist groups that now issue fatwas against Karimov--and the USA, Russia, Israel, India, Britain and even Denmark-- fought with the SS for Hitler. Ideologically, historically, and tactically, the Andijan "insurgents" are Nazis.

Incredibly, the Mayor of London made issued his fatwa against Karimov even after bombers linked to the same Islamist extremist groups responsible for the Andijan uprising created havoc in London on July 7th, 2005. In the end, Livingstone's statement goes beyond appeasement, "objectively" (to use a Marxist term that 'Red Ken" surely understands) siding with fascism and Nazism, as well as terrorism.

If Karimov is a legitimate target, why not Bush, Blair, or someday perhaps, Livingstone himself?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

What if they gave an antiwar rally and nobody came?

Asks Little Green Footballs today. We were down near the mall--and there was practically no one on the side streets--no traffic, no crowds. Whatever the body count, it was a non-event. Except for the mainstream media, probably. The real news is that people aren't mad enough to take to the streets (yet).

If you don't believe me, here's a photo from EU Rota on LGF.

The low turnout doesn't mean the American public likes the present situation in Iraq, just that they like what the antiwar crowd is offering a whole lot less. A more hawkish Democratic party would probably sweep the next elections, IMHO...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Michael Ledeen: Bush Fails Iran Test

From National Review:
Our policymakers have thus far utterly failed to design anything worthy of the name of an Iran policy, even though it is arguably the single most important challenge we face. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley recently answered a question about Iran policy by saying that we did indeed have a policy, but we hadn’t yet written it down. This is reminiscent of the old riddle of whether a falling tree makes a sound if no one is there to hear it: can there be a policy if nobody can define it?

Lacking any defined policy, we can only judge the president and his aides by their actions, and there aren’t any, aside from the occasional speech or offhand remark at a press conference. The mullahs see that, and treat it with the contempt it deserves. We are currently indistinguishable from the Europeans, who run whenever the Iranians snarl at them.

This is not a war on terror, it is paralysis at best, and appeasement at worst. The hell of it is that it is costing thousands of lives, and will cost many more until the terror masters are destroyed, or we surrender. Those words were inconceivable for many years, but it is a sign of our present fecklessness that they are now entirely appropriate. We can still lose this war. And we cannot win it so long as we are blinded by our potentially fatal failure of strategic vision: we are in a regional war, but we have limited our actions to a single theater. Our most potent weapons are political and ideological, but our actions have been almost exclusively military.

Our main enemy, the single greatest engine in support of the terror war against us, whether Sunni or Shiite, jihadi, or secular, Arab or British or Italian or Spaniard, is Iran. There is no escape from this fact. The only questions are how long it will take us to face it, how effective we will be when we finally decide to act, and how terrible the price will be for our long delay.

Ann Coulter Doesn't Want Roberts

Ann Coulter thinks Roberts is the wrong choice for Chief Justice.
For Christians, it's "What Would Jesus Do?" For Republicans, it's "What Would Reagan Do?" Bush doesn't have to be Reagan; he just has to consult his WWRD bracelet. If Bush had followed the WWRD guidelines, he would have nominated Antonin Scalia for the chief justiceship.

As proof, I refer you to the evidence. When Reagan had an opening for chief justice, he nominated Associate Justice William Rehnquist. While liberals were preoccupied staging die-ins against Rehnquist and accusing him of chasing black people away from the polls with a stick — something they did not accuse Roberts of — Reagan slipped Scalia onto the court.

That's what Reaganesque presidents with a five-vote margin in the Senate typically do. Apart from toppling the Soviet Empire, Scalia remains Reagan's greatest triumph.

Scalia deserved the chief justiceship. He's the best man for the job. He has suffered lo these many years with Justices Souter, Kennedy and O'Connor. He believes in a sedentary judiciary. He's for judicial passivism. Scalia also would have been the first cigar-smoking, hot-blooded Italian chief justice, which I note the diversity crowd never mentions.

Bull Moose: "God Bless Texas"

The Bull Moose talks Texan about Hurricane Rita--and Texas politics. Right now, musician Kinky Friedman is leading all other candidates in the race for Governor...

Something to think about...

Giuliani Backs Sharon

Hizzoner is in Israel on a visit. He had this to say, according to Haaretz:
Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who is in Israel as the keynote speaker for today's Ness Technologies seminar, said yesterday that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's efforts to implement the disengagement were a sign of his patriotism. Giuliani said Sharon reminds him of baseball superstar Babe Ruth.

Just like Ruth - but unlike younger leaders like Sharon's party rival Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Giuliani also praised - Sharon has been proving his ability for many years, during which he always placed the state before himself, the former mayor said.

Senator Clinton Will Vote Against Roberts

Although Clinton says she expects Roberts to be confirmed, her protest statement is strong, and might help to deny him the 2/3 of the Senate necessary:
"After serious and careful consideration of the Committee proceedings and Judge Roberts’s writings, I believe I must vote against his confirmation. I do not believe that the Judge has presented his views with enough clarity and specificity for me to in good conscience cast a vote on his behalf...I have an obligation to my constituents to make sure that I cast my vote for Chief Justice of the United States for someone I am convinced will be steadfast in protecting fundamental women’s rights, civil rights, privacy rights, and who will respect the appropriate separation of powers among the three branches. After the Judiciary Hearings, I believe the record on these matters has been left unclear. That uncertainly means as a matter of conscience, I cannot vote to confirm,,, I cannot give my consent to his confirmation and will, therefore, vote against his confirmation. My desire to maintain the already fragile Supreme Court majority for civil rights, voting rights and women’s rights outweigh the respect I have for Judge Roberts’s intellect, character, and legal skills."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Enough about Russia...

Here's The Scotsman on Hurricane Rita...

Russia Starts International TV Channel

In English, it's called "Russia Today." But unlike the BBC World Service, it's not about the World, it's about Russia. Maybe they should think again, and call it "The World Today" on the Russian Broadcasting Corporation World Service... They already are using British anchors! (Think again, Vladimir Vladimirovich, about using some on-air talent from Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois).

Putin to Host Call-In TV Show

I watched Putin's call-in TV show when I lived in Tashkent in 2002. It was sort of a Christmas special, for what the Russians call "Novi God." Like Santa, Putin was making a list of who had been naughty and who had been nice.

It was just fascinating. We have nothing like it in the US. And I doubt George W. Bush's could pull off something like this. I wish we had something like it in the US. Putin sits at a table, with a file folder full of papers, and answers questions like a good government official should.
As in past years, the call-in show will be broadcast on state-run Channel One and Rossia television as well as on state-owned Mayak radio. Television cameras will be set up in cities across the country so that people "will get the chance to ask their president a question live" on the air, the Kremlin spokeswoman said.

In addition, the presidential administration is again opening a call center to collect additional questions and it will also be accepting questions by e-mail, she said.

A total of 1.53 million questions were submitted to the broadcast in 2003. Putin answered 68 over 2 1/2 hours.

Then, Putin cancelled the show last year while I was living in Moscow (his popularity was dropping). Now that he's at 70 percent public approval in the polls, maybe he feels more confident.

Not all the questions were friendly in 2002. People were concerned about their pensions and unpaid salaries, and not shy about it. There was even a question about bringing back the Tsar (Answer: Nyet!).

It is a cross between C-SPAN and a local "Ask the Mayor." There is also the idea that the unanswered questions might be forwarded to the right government bureaucrat for action. Two journalists, video hookups (one from a Russian military base Tajikistan), phone calls. For hours. Afterwards, almost all my Uzbek students who saw it were impressed by Putin (it was shown on Russian cable TV). So was I.

A Russian-American Alliance? (cont'd)

RIA-Novosti reports that the American and Russian armies are planning joint military exercises for next year. Maybe Bush and Putin did agree on something?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Senate Hears Able Danger Testimony

I was listening to C-SPAN radio in the car this morning, and heard some just fascinating testimony from Congressman Curt Weldon about "Able Danger" at this Senate hearing, chaired by Senator Arlen Specter. Senator Grassley came on and made a strong statement, basically "give 'em hell," which which Specter chose to associate himself. Here's a sample of what Weldon had to say:
It was during the briefings on Able Providence that I was provided additional information about Able Danger. I was told that Able Danger had amassed significant data about Al Qaeda and five worldwide cells – one of which had linkages to Brooklyn and has been referred to as the Brooklyn cell. I was told that Able Danger identified the Brooklyn cell – to include Mohammed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers – more than one year before September 11, 2001. Additionally, I was informed of an effort to share specific information with the FBI about Al Qaeda in September 2000 – one year before 9/11 – and that three meetings for that purpose were abruptly cancelled hours before they were scheduled to take place.

This new information was startling, and caused me to review the 9/11 Commission Report to see if any reference to Able Danger was contained therein. Realizing that no such reference existed, I asked my Chief of Staff to personally contact the 9/11 Commission and determine if they had been briefed about Able Danger. On May 18, 2005, the 9/11 Commission Deputy Staff Director Chris Kojm said that the staff had been briefed, but had decided "not go down that route". Still puzzled that no mention of Able Danger had been made, I raised this question with 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer during a meeting in my office on May 23, 2005. He told me that he had never been briefed on Able Danger. 9/11 Commissioner John Lehman said the same thing during a lunch on June 29, 2005. He expressed dismay and suggested that I pursue the issue further.

How could it be possible that two 9/11 Commission staffers received two briefs, by two different members of Able Danger, in two different countries, on the same subject, yet no such information was brought to the level of a Commissioner. One is left to wonder if there was a similar information sharing problem within the commission.

On June 27, 2005, dismayed by the fact that Able Danger was omitted from the 9/11 Commission Report, I took to the floor of the House of Representatives to outline the entire Able Danger story for my colleagues and the American people. In the weeks following that speech, I methodically briefed the Chairs of House Armed Services, Intelligence, Homeland Security and FBI Appropriations Oversight Committee.

The New York Times picked up the story in August and ran three straight days of stories. On each day, the 9/11 Commission changed their story.
• First, they said that they were never briefed.
• Second, they said that they were briefed and that there was never a mention of Mohammed Atta.
• Third, they said they were briefed, Atta was mentioned, but they found Able Danger to be 'historically insignificant".

As someone who had supported the creation of the 9/11 Commission and their recommendations, even though more then half were already recommended by the Gilmore Commission, I was incensed by this cavalier attitude. Along with my Chief of Staff, we pursued the operatives involved in Able Danger throughout the months of July and August. We identified five officials who confirmed the facts of Able Danger, as well as knowledge of massive data and materials tied to the effort. We identified an FBI agent who played a role in arranging meetings to share information on U.S. persons that were abruptly cancelled. We also identified a technician who did Able Danger analysis and an individual who admitted to destroying Able Danger data – up to 2.5 terabytes. This data contained information on U.S. persons with ties to terrorism that could have helped prevent 9-11 and possibly even be used to track terrorist movements today. The person who destroyed this data has also spoken about how Major General Lambert, the J3 at U.S. Special Operations Command, was extremely upset when he learned that his data had been destroyed without his knowledge or consent.

On at least four occasions, I personally tried to brief the 9/11 Commissioners on: NOAH; integrative data collaboration capabilities; my frustration with intelligence stovepipes; and Al Qaeda analysis. However, I was never able to achieve more than a five-minute telephone conversation with Commissioner Tom Kean. On March 24, 2004, I also had my Chief of Staff personally hand deliver a document about LIWA, along questions for George Tenet to the Commission, but neither was ever used. [I would like to submit for the record.] Had the Commission been more thorough, I would have provided all of the leads that I recently pursued on my own. In the end I was ignored by the Commission. In fact, on the day the Commission provided the first brief for House Members in the Cannon Caucus Room, I attended and was the first to be recognized. I asked the Commission why they did not meet with Members who had worked intelligence and security issues prior to 9/11, and Lee Hamilton told me that "the Commission did not have time to meet with every Member who had information to share."

This story might have legs, after all, if the Senate finally lets the chips fall where they may...

Putin Meets Yankee Oilmen

Here's Kommersant's account of their tete-a-tete at Washington, DC's Madison Hotel:
Ten minutes after the press conference ended, Putin was meeting with oilmen in the Madison Hotel. He announced that meeting while still at the press conference. “We will speak about projects for American participation in the Russian economy, mainly in the energy sphere,” he said.

It was already known that there was only one project, the development of Shtokmanovskoe deposit. ExxonMobil chairman of the board Lee Raymond, president of that company Rex Tillerson, ConocoPhillips president James Malva, Chevron chairman of the board David O'Reilly and LUKOIL head Vagit Alekperov were waiting for the Russian president at the Madison. Alekperov was sitting in the center of the group and center of the conversation. They probably weren't asking how to cozy up to Putin. (It is unclear that Alekperov know the answer to that question.) I overheard that they were asking about how Alekperov found the U.S. market. (LUKOIL has 1400 gas stations in the United States.)

Putin was included in the conversation.

“Welcome to the United States!” Malva greeted him.

It would have been more logical to wish him a safe trip home, since he was leaving the country in an hour and a half, after three days there.

Putin began by mentioning that the U.S. receives only an insignificant portion of Russia's energy resources. “According to various estimates, oil is just over 2 percent. That means that petroleum products are 0.3 percent, and there has just been the first delivery of natural gas. Our potential is huge.”

He went talking about that potential as they moved to another room and left the journalists behind. The conversation lasted ten minutes, and was completely unnecessary. More interesting was that Putin then spoke with each oil executive one-on-one.

Malva and Alekperov went in together to see him. There was ten minutes scheduled for each of three meetings. That first meeting went according to schedule.

Malva recounted, “I told the Russian president about our investment projects in Russia. He approved.”

Malva has learned the rules of the Russian market well. We can be sure that, with an approach like that, ConocoPhillips has a bright future in Russia.

I asked Alekperov if they talked about the Shtokmanovskoe deposit.

“We are not involved with that project,” he said with a shrug. That meant no, obviously.

Tillerson from ExxonMobil spoke with Putin for no less than half an hour. He looked gloomy and refused to comment afterwards, but he might always look like that.

Chevron head O'Reilly, on the other hand, was jubilant on his way out of the meeting. He told Putin, and subsequently everyone else, how much his company suffered from the hurricane, which was practically not at all.

The second topic of their discussion was, finally, the Shtokmanovskoe deposit. “Mr. Putin made it clear that he knows that the Chevron Co. has passed the second stage of the competition, and is one of the five companies still in the running for the development of the deposit,” O'Reilly said.

Then they talked about energy security at the Big 8 summit coming up in St. Petersburg.

“We spoke in general terms about the general topic,” O'Reilly said.

He tried to get away after that, but he was asked if he thought Chevron was closer to developing the Shtokmanovskoe deposit after his conversation with Putin.

“Gazprom should answer that question,” he said, caught short. “Their management will make the decision. I only told the president that we are glad to have been chosen at the second stage.”

The only American journalists there asked who asked for the meetings, the executives or Putin.

“I don't know,” he said heavily. “But the fact that Mr. Putin wanted to meet speaks of his interested in the development of Russia as a country that can become a supplier of both natural gas and oil.”

He made a halfhearted attempt to leave again and was asked about Shtokmanovskoe again.

“It seems to me that you… that is, people, don't understand,” he said, beginning to show his annoyance. “That question will be decided by Gazprom.”

If he really thinks so, he, unlike his colleague from ConocoPhillips, has little future on the Russian market. But he probably isn't as uninformed as that.

I heard from sources in the Russian delegation that the discussion of the Shtokmanovskoe deposit with both O'Reilly and Tillerson was limited to only a few phrases. Putin made believe that he was more interested in how American strategic oil reserves were doing after the hurricane. And they gave him detailed descriptions of the technical specifications that allowed them to weather the hurricane.

That is, Putin is satisfied just to meet those people so far. The intrigue is just beginning.

How to Drink Vodka and Stay Sober

Konstantin's Russian Blog tells you how to do it.

Author's Guild Sues Google

The issue is Google Print, according to the Washington Post:
A Google spokesman said the company regretted that The Authors Guild had chosen to sue rather than continue discussions.

"Google Print directly benefits authors and publishers by increasing awareness of and sales of the books in the program," Google said in a statement. "Only small portions of the books are shown unless the content owner gives permission to show more."

A year ago Google began working with five of the world's libraries -- at Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, the University of Michigan and the New York Public Library -- to make large parts of their book collections searchable on the Web.

The action by the 86-year-old Authors Guild is part of a push by the organization to roll back efforts by Web sites to make the contents of books freely available online.

In a related case, the group has been seeking for a decade to force online publishers from New York Times Co. to to pay royalties to writers whose stories appear in online databases without their consent.

In August Google said it planned to temporarily scale back plans to make the full text of copyrighted books available on its Internet site.

I've used Google Print, and liked it, yet the question is whether Google Print is actually harming authors or helping them. In the end, I imagine the Author's Guild and Google will come up with some ASCAP or BMI type of royalty scheme, based on click-through counts. All this can be worked out, I'm sure, using digital technology. It's only money...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Department of Homeland Stupidity

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for this link to Michelle Malkin's column on the latest cronyism caper to come out of the Bush administration.

Leon Aron on the Republican Party of Russia

Putin seemed pretty entrenched when I lived in Moscow last Winter, but what if Leon Aron is right?
ONE OF THE MOST POTENTIALLY significant events in Russian politics this year was the national conference of the Republican party of Russia (RPR). It witnessed what may prove to be the last credible attempt to create a democratic opposition with broad enough appeal to contest the Kremlin's control over the Duma (parliament) in 2007 and the presidency in 2008.

Largely forgotten before this year, the RPR is one of Russia's oldest liberal (in the Russian sense--right-of-center, pro-market, and reformist) parties. Founded in 1990, it failed repeatedly to gain a foothold in the Duma, and sank from view. This year, however, the party was back in the headlines, overhauling its rules, adopting a new platform, and installing new leaders.

It was clear on the morning of July 2, in the Rusotel Hotel on the outskirts of Moscow, that this renewal went beyond any mere reorganization. Rejuvenation, even exuberance, was in evidence in the auditorium where several hundred delegates from 58 of Russia's 89 provinces applauded and booed. The gathering overflowed with an energy and optimism I have not seen among Russian democrats since the revolution of the late 1980s.

Most reminiscent of those halcyon days, however, was the abandon with which the delegates criticized the government. Their indictment was remarkable both in its scope and its merciless intensity. It found vigorous expression in the documents released by the conference--an "Appeal to the Citizens of Russia" and a platform--as well as in speeches and debates, which were webcast live on the party's website.

Bush a Decisive Leader--NOT

(ht andrew sullivan)

Karzai to US: "Yankee Go Home!"

Maybe it is due to Bush's Katrina fiasco, but I have long thought that Islam Karimov's eviction of the US military from Uzbekistan, with the support of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Russia, China, et al.), might have a ripple effect in Afghanistan. Of course, I had no idea that this would happen so quickly. Today, Afghan president Hamid Karzai also seems to be saying: "Yankee Go Home!"
The Guardian has this report:
Karzai demanded an immediate end to foreign troops searching people's homes without his government's authorization. He also said foreign governments should "concentrate on where terrorists are trained, on their bases, on the supply to them, on the money coming to them" - a veiled reference to support that militants allegedly get from neighboring Pakistan.

Afghan officials have repeatedly accused Pakistan of aiding Taliban rebels and other militants, a charge Islamabad vehemently denies.

"I don't think there is a big need for military activity in Afghanistan anymore,"Karzai told reporters. "The nature of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan has changed now.

"No coalition forces should go to Afghan homes without the authorization of the Afghan government. ... The use of air power is something that may not be very effective now. ... That's what I mean by a change in strategy."

It was the second time Karzai has publicly challenged the U.S.-led coalition. In May, before a trip to Washington, he demanded more authority over the 20,000-member U.S.-led coalition here, but President Bush said they would remain under American control. In addition to the coalition troops, there are 11,000 NATO peacekeepers in Afghanistan.

There's an interesting Eurasianet profile of Karzai by Ahmed Rashid from 2001 that contains this revealing quote:

"The tragedy was that very soon the Taliban were taken over by Pakistan’s Interservices Intelligence (ISI) and they became a proxy for a foreign power. Then they allowed Arabs and other foreigners to set up terrorist training camps on Afghan soil and I began to organize against them," he said. "By 1997 it was clear to most Afghans that the Taliban were unacceptable because Osama bin Laden was playing a leadership role in the movement. I warned the Americans many times, but who was listening - nobody," he added.
And this:
According to a US diplomat, the issue of whether or not to support Karzai provoked a heated debate between the US departments of state and defense. Secretary of State Colin Powell reportedly was reluctant to support Karzai out of concern that such a move would anger Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. "There was real anger at Powell from the military because he was accepting at face value whatever the Pakistanis were telling him, when in reality they were doing nothing constructive in the Pashtun belt," the US diplomat said.

Washington only decided to support Karzai in the first week of November - four weeks after the bombing campaign started - and only after the Pentagon had taken the decision to support a Northern Alliance attack on Mazar-i-Sharif.

Interesting, the Pentagon supported Karimov against the State Department's support for human rights NGOs. Sounds like a familiar situation. So, stay tuned...

Remembering Simon Wiesenthal

Roger L. Simon mentioned that Simon Wisenthal had passed away. Here's the story in Haaretz.

Putin Grants Pushkin's Descendants Russian Citizenship

According to this RIA Novosti report, they currently live in Belgium.

Will Safavian Sing?

If he does, this could be big news:
The Bush administration's top federal procurement official resigned Friday and was arrested yesterday, accused of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with the federal government. It was the first criminal complaint filed against a government official in the ongoing corruption probe related to Abramoff's activities in Washington.

The complaint, filed by the FBI, alleges that David H. Safavian, 38, a White House procurement official involved until last week in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, made repeated false statements to government officials and investigators about a golf trip with Abramoff to Scotland in 2002.
(HT War and Piece)

Musharraf's Historic Speech

Daniel Pipes praises the Pakistani leader for opening up to Israel and the Jewish diaspora:
Most news coverage of the Musharraf speech focused on the prospect of Pakistan opening diplomatic relations with Israel (Reuters: "Pakistan leader urges US Jews to help make peace"), but what is potentially of lasting importance about the Musharraf address – beyond the mere fact of its being delivered to a Jewish organization – was the president's respectful, accurate, and constructive comments about Jews.

He began with the important observation that Jews and Muslims "have many similarities and few divergences in their faith and culture," then listed three specifics: belief in the oneness of God, shared ways of greeting, and a common phrase in the Talmud and Koran. And Moses, he pointed out, is the prophet most often referred to in the Koran.

Mr. Musharraf noted how "our experiences and histories intertwine" and then elaborated on what he called the two communities' "rich and very long" history of interaction. He mentioned the "shining examples" of Cordova, Baghdad, Istanbul, and Bukhara, the golden period of Muslim Spain, and the joint experience of the Spanish Inquisition. Generalizing from the inquisition, he correctly asserted that Jews and Muslims "have not only lived together and shared prosperity, but also suffered together."

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Russian-American Alliance?

That's the stated aim of this website. I found it on a link at Registan. It looks a lot more Russian than American, Gleb Pavlovsky seems to run the show. Right now, it looks unlikely. But stranger things have happened. I don't know who is lobbying for this type of thing on the American side right now. On the other hand, maybe Putin helped Bush out with the Korea talks. And if Hillary Clinton becomes President...

Ben Paarman's Central Asia Blog

Has some nice photos posted today...

Human Rights Watch Condemns British Antiterrorism Plan

Their headline:U.K.: Detention Plan Amounts to Punishment Without Trial

Moscow Cat Theatre Comes to NYC

We saw the New York Times article announcing the Moscow Cat Theatre has come to New York, and thought about going. Our Moscow friends said it was sort of a cat circus, but if you had a cat, you'd seen the show. So we don't know yet if we'll go. But we do know that we like their website.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

More on Uzbekistan

My account of Shirin Akiner's appeareance at Johns Hopkins University to discuss the Andijan violence in now online at Registan.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Judy Miller's Jailhouse Guest List

Carol D. Leonnig writes in today's Washington Post that some of Washington's most powerful figures have visited Judy Miller in jail.

Locked in the Alexandria Detention Center for the past 11 weeks, New York Times reporter Judith Miller is cut off from the world. She has no Internet access and precious little opportunity to view CNN. Her phone calls are limited, friends say. Her daily newspaper arrives a day late.

But for 30 minutes nearly every day, the world comes to her: A parade of prominent government and media officials, 99 in all, visited Miller between early July, when she was jailed for refusing to be questioned by a federal prosecutor, and Labor Day, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post.
Her visitors have included Bob Dole, John Bolton, and Tom Brokaw...

Cashing in on Katrina

The Project on Government Oversight has posted this list of government contracts for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. (ht War and Piece)

No Deal

According to MosNews, Putin and Bush could not come to an agreement at the Washington summit:
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave no support to his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush in his bid to to bring Iran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions and acknowledged he has not yet forged an international consensus on how to deal with Tehran’s alleged nuclear program.

Peter Baker's Washington Post account of the meeting can be read here.

Yale Russian Chorus Alumni Concert in Washington, DC

A friend from Russian class has invited us to the Yale Russian Chorus alumni concert in Washington, DC. Admission is free, so if any of our readers lives in the national capital area, it might be worth a trip. Here are the details:

When: Sunday, October 2, 4:00pm
Location: George Washington University Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC View Map
Phone: (202) 994-6800

Heres a picture of the chorus meeting President Clinton (a Yale Law alumnus):

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Democracy Blog

Just found Democracy Rising,through a link in Registan's comment section.

Roger L Simon Remembers Robert Wise

A short and sweet tribute to the director of West Side Story and The Sound of Music...

Mr. Putin Goes to Washington

For some inexplicable reason, I haven't yet received my invitation to cover the White House meeting today between Presidents Bush and Putin, so have had to cover it from The Washington Post, which has been pretty good so far. Here's my two cents, informed by living in Moscow and Central Asia as well as Washington, DC...

It is sure to be a significant meeting, for right now, believe it or not, Putin is in a stronger position than Bush, so is negotiating from strength, an old Ronald Reagan tactic.

Russia's GDP is growing faster than the US economy, the new Russia-China military alliance pretty much balances the US technological edge with millions of "boots on the ground," and Putin is at 70 percent approval in Russian public opinion polls, while Bush is at the lowest ebb of his career. To add insult to injury, today's Post reports that the US space program is now dependent on Russian technology, in the wake of the space shuttle tragedy.

Bush has egg on his face not only from shuttle screw-ups, but also from the dismal stalemate in Iraq, the pathetic response to Hurricane Katrina, and his weakness in the face of North Korea and Iran's nuclear threats. The Ukrainian and Kyrgyzstan "color revolutions" have bogged down into partisan infighting. Georgia is a basket case, totally dependent on American aid. The former Yugoslavia remains under NATO military occupation, and the Kosovo situation has not been resolved. Not to mention the Middle East, where American-backed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas--educated in Moscow--has not yet managed to rein in Islamist terrorists.

Bush needs some friends now, and will have to bend a little to get them. It is in his interest to have Russia as a friend, rather than an enemy.

So, what does Putin want? It's pretty clear from his UN speech that he wants to be an equal partner to the West, rather than an adversary. And he wants the fight against terrorism--read Islamist terrorism--to become the new common cause of the UN Security Council. Since the Council was formed in WWII, and represents the Allied Powers of Britain, America, Russia, China, and France, he's basically trying to restore the WWII, pre-Cold War relationship between the Great Powers. Here's the money quote from Putin's UN speech the other day, with my interpretation in brackets:
I am convinced that today, terrorism represents the main danger to the rights and freedom of mankind, and to the steady development of states and peoples. [Forget "democracy-building," free markets, development, and all your other trendy priorities]

In connection with this, the UN and the Security Council should be the headquarters for coordinating international cooperation in the struggle against terror --Nazism's ideological successor.[Revive the WWII Alliance (my emphasis)]

They must also help coordinate the settlement of deep-rooted regional conflicts on which terrorists and extremists of all kinds breed by using the historical baggage of religious, ethnic and social inequalities. [Chechnya, Palestine, Kashmir, Central Asia, et al.]

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is necessary to use not only states' ressources but, most importantly, the large opportunities offered by civil society, mass media, cultural and educational cooperation, and interconfessional dialogue to oppose ideologues that preach a clash of civilisations, and terrorist agression. [Shut down Islamist mosques and madrassahs, bankrupt Islamist charities]

Who if not the UN can take on this coordinating and organising role? Here it can base itself on the support of all member countries, on the cooperation of influential international organisations, and on regional integration associations. [If you try and go around the UN, we will fight you. No more NATO interventions in Yugolsavia]

Russia intends to increase her participation both in the international reaction to crises, and in assistance for development and progress. Next year, within the framework of Russia's membership in the G8, the CIS, and the Council of Europe we will continue to work together on this major issue. [Let us into your clubs as a full member, and we will help you. Keep us out, and we will hurt you]

Putin clearly wants the United States to end its support for Islamist guerilla movements in Chechnya and Central Asia, in exchange for Russian support of American positions perhaps vis-a-vis Iran and Iraq. I don't think it sounds like a bad deal. While perhaps Russia can't "deliver" Iran or Iraq, they still have considerable influence in the Middle East and as recent events have shown, are able to make trouble even if they can't defeat the West.

However a genuine full partnership with Russia would mean less hanky-panky by the CIA and its cut-outs in the former Soviet bloc, perhaps in exhange for Russia pulling back in Latin America--where Venezuela and Cuba now enjoy Russian support in the same way Ukraine and Georgia are American outposts.

While not exactly another Yalta, a partnership with Russia might mean that the UN could become an effective instrument for ending the threat of Islamist terror, just as the Allies crushed the Nazis through the UN. The UN's effectiveness, that has been hampered by US-Russian tensions, could be turned against a common foe.

That is Putin's strategy, I believe. It is why he wanted Bush at the V-E day celebrations in Moscow. And at this point, I think it seems reasonable to consider seriously Putin's approach to the war on terror as a credible alternative to that offered by American neoconservatives, realists, or isolationists. That means America has to drop the Cold War stuff and, as Bill Clinton liked to say, "focus like a laser beam" on defeating terrorism.

With Russia as a full partner, Osama Bin Laden and his Islamist supporters will no longer be able to play "divide and conquer" games. My guess is that a true alliance of the UN Security Council could crush the Islamists very quickly indeed--but Bush and his cronies might not be able to count on post-Administration payouts from their Saudi friends...

On the other hand, with Russia now rolling in petrodollars, perhaps Putin could offer to put Bush Senior (and Clinton for that matter, since they are doing a doubles act these days) on the board of his newly-reorganized Yukos?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Dr. Akiner Comes to Washington

At the invitation of Dr. Fred Starr, who heads the Central Asia and Caucuses Institute at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, Dr. Shirin Akiner, a lecturer in the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, came to Washington tonight. She discussed reactions from international human rights groups, governments, and ordinary citizens to her controversial report on the breakout of violence in the Uzbek city of Andijan on May 13th, 2005. She was strikingly well-spoken, with a charming British accent. Her talk was filled with illusions to British history ranging from Henry II to the shooting of an innocent Brazilian bystander by armed police in the London Tube following the July 7th bombings.

I'm currently writing up my impressions of her talk. In the meantime, the photos below give a sense of the excitement of the occasion, where Dr. Akiner had a chance to confront her critics, including Justin Burke, editor of Eurasianet.

There was one real bombshell that I can share right now.

Dr. Akiner charged that an excutive of International Crisis Group in London tried to get her fired. Akiner claimed she had a copy of a poison pen letter written by the ICG executive (she would not name him). Akiner charged the letter contained an untruth intended to damage her reputation that was either a deliberate lie or evidence that the person was too lazy to check facts. Akiner added she had the letter with her, and would show it if challenged. She noted that she believed an ICG staffer was in her audience. In a long Q & A, no one challenged the truth of her charge. According to the list of registered guests provided by SAIS, Jonathan Greenwald would have been the representative of International Crisis Group in attendance. Here is his ID photo from the ICG website. His name was number 28 on the attendance list. Greenwald's bio on the ICG website says he is vice-president for research and publications, so he should have been able to respond. If Greenwald wasn't there for some reason, no one else spoke up for ICG, either.

All of which may mean International Crisis Group just had the guts ripped out of its reputation by Dr. Akiner.

More to come...

Shirin Akiner listens to a question from an audience member following her talk at SAIS

Fred Starr and Shirin Akiner answer Justin Burke

Eurasianet editor Justin Burke questions Shirin Akiner

Shirin Akiner answers Fred Starr's question

Shirin Akiner presents her paper at SAIS

Fred Starr introduces Shirin Akiner

The Al Dura Affair Exposed

This Commentary article by Nidra Poller documents how French TV perpetrated a hoax in the Al Dura affair, when reporters blamed Israel for killing a Palestinian boy murdered by Palestinians. (ht New Sisyphus)

I suspect things like this may still go on in mainstream "journalism" and "human rights" reporting, whenever hidden political agendas clash with inconvenient facts...

Thoughts from Bob

Thanks to Google's new blog search feature (see below), I found this interesting website, that has some thoughts about monopoly and the problems in New Orleans.

Making one big super-agency (FEMA/DHS) with a monopoly on disaster relief made things worse than having a number of competing agencies, according to this theory.

I believe it.

Another Neat Feature!

Google Blogsearch...

Mark Steyn on Pennsylvania's Flight 93 Memorial

Most of us are all but resigned to losing New York's Ground Zero memorial to a pile of non-judgmental if not explicitly anti-American pap: The minute you involve big-city politicians and foundations and funding bodies and 'artists' you're on an express chute to the default mode of the cultural elite. But surely it's not too much to hope that in Pennsylvania the very precise, specific, individual, human scale of one great act of American heroism need not be buried under another soggy dollop of generic prettified passivity. A culture that goes to such perverse lengths to disdain its heroes cannot survive and doesn't deserve to.
(ht Little Green Footballs)

BTW, I'm not resigned to losing NYC's Ground Zero. New Yorkers could just rebuild the World Trade Center, as Washingtonians did with the Pentagon. No museums, no "artists". To paraphrase Christopher Wren, New Yorkers could say: "If you seek their monument, look around you." It's the same reason Churchill rebuilt the Houses of Parliament exactly as they were after the Blitz--to show that the Nazis couldn't destroy it. New Yorkers still have a chance to do the same...

Bush Joins "Incompetents Anonymous"

The Bull Moose has a cute post today:
The Moose notes that the President has enrolled in a twelve-step program.

"Hi, I'm George W. and I'm an incompetent." That is what the President tentatively declared yesterday when he accepted "responsibility" for the Katrina fiasco. Ok, maybe he just implied it. But it is clear that the President just enrolled in Dr. Karl Rove's (Director of the Federal Emergency Image Management Agency) Twelve Step Poll Recovery Program.

Dr. Karl insisted that his patient enroll in the program when it became apparent that the "shift the blame to the locals" strategy wasn't working. Even Brit Hume was having difficulty with the talking points. Panic has stricken the ranks of the President's supporters as there is a fear that old Rush will reach for the Vioxx again and the GOP Congress will go on an inebriated spending binge.

The rest is funny, too. Read the rest of it here.

Will Leahy Block Roberts?

Darren Allen writes in the Montpelier (VT) Times-Argus that Senator Leahy is growing "frustrated" with Roberts. This is the ranking Democrat's hometown paper, and may give some indication that Leahy will attempt to block the confirmation. The grounds would seem clear: According to Leahy Roberts lacks candor before the committee. In other words, they don't trust him:
MONTPELIER – Without more specific answers from Chief Justice nominee John Roberts, Sen. Patrick Leahy said Tuesday he will have to make up his mind based on what he already knows about the president's pick to be the 17th leader of the Supreme Court.

And, if his growing frustration with a man he has become more critical of since his nomination earlier this summer is any indication, the Judiciary Committee's senior Democrat isn't satisfied with what he's heard in the two days of confirmation hearings.

"He makes a wonderful appearance, he's very bright, but I think he is taking too much to heart what a lot of Republican lawmakers are telling him," Leahy said in a brief telephone interview from Washington, referring to the GOP's advice to not give answers to questions seeking the judge's personal opinions.

"In some areas he has not been as forthcoming in the hearing as he was in private meetings," said Leahy, who is now poised to weigh in on his 11th Supreme Court nominee. The Vermonter has met privately with Roberts twice over the last two months. Some of the most troubling issues, Leahy said, have to do with individual rights, the right to sue, abortion rights and whether or not the president is above the law.

Can Leahy pull this off? I'm sure the Democrats are counting votes right now. If I were a Democrat, I'd throw as much sand in the gears as possible over the next few days, while Bush is at a record low in the public opinion polls...

Bush and the "R" Word

Belgravia Dispatch reflects on the President's upcoming speech:
Meantime, in closing, a word on the "R" word. I seem to recall that Don Rumsfeld, around the time of Abu Ghraib, also said he accepted 'responsibility' for what happened. But it's one thing to utter the R word, another thing to really mean it. This seems to be something of a peculiar Washington phenomenon, doesn't it? Some grandee states, flatly, that they accept responsiblity for this or that outrage. And then, in practice, they really don't. Nothing happens to connect the statement of assuming responsibility to, you know, some action that might evidence a connection between stating they take responsibility and, well, taking it. But, hey, they said they did, and so, you know, all is well and one garners kudos for all the Trumanesque 'buck stops here' bravura. But we always knew Washington was a strange place, right?

Attorney-General Janet Reno accepted "responsiblity" for the Waco tragedy--but didn't resign, either. IMHO, that led to a Republican House and Senate.

Whatever Bush says, it no longer matters.

The Guardian on Rioting in Northern Ireland

Here's The Guardian's account of recent riots in Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I Love This Feature

The sitemeter box on the left has a link to an animated world map that shows the last 100 places that have looked at this blog. It's nice to see hits from around the world...


Samsung has announced 32 gigabyte flash memory cards.

Where Have We Seen This Before?

Hat tip to Roger L. Simon for this photo of a burning synagogue (abandoned, luckily) in Palestinian-controlled Gaza (you can read the accompanying article here)...

What's Cooking?

Enjoyed Gurinder Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges first film on DVD, What's Cooking?(2000). An ensemble melodrama, set at Thanksgiving, the picture criss-crosses four family holiday get-togethers in the same Fairfax neighborhood in Los Angeles--one Mexican, one Vietnamese, one African-American, and one Jewish. Each one has its share of fights and tensions, and it is really a different look at Thanksgiving, which is refreshingly unsentimental. Yet the filmmakers have a heart. A tough balancing act, but they pull it off. It reminds me a little of film school, but there's some nice acting. You can see the seeds of Bend it Like Beckham, and Bride and Prejudice. The themes of multicultural family and multicultural romance are the same. They seem to be getting better and better...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Will Bush Nuke Iran?

The Washington Post headline readsPentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan. And it seems to be a threat to Iran.
The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

The document, written by the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs staff but not yet finally approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing use of nuclear weapons to reflect a preemption strategy first announced by the Bush White House in December 2002. The strategy was outlined in more detail at the time in classified national security directives.

At a White House briefing that year, a spokesman said the United States would 'respond with overwhelming force' to the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, its forces or allies, and said 'all options' would be available to the president.

The draft, dated March 15, would provide authoritative guidance for commanders to request presidential approval for using nuclear weapons, and represents the Pentagon's first attempt to revise procedures to reflect the Bush preemption doctrine. A previous version, completed in 1995 during the Clinton administration, contains no mention of using nuclear weapons preemptively or specifically against threats from weapons of mass destruction.

Unfortunately, Bush has lost credibility due to both Katrina and the WMD issue in Iraq. Were he to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack on Iran, or North Korea for that matter, Bush would risk more than impeachment with his gamble--he would risk war crimes trials for making aggressive war and killing innocent civilians. Especially if the rest of the world is not convinced that he were justified. Ironically, Chinese and Russian judges might condemn George W. Bush to death at the International War Crimes Court.

Maybe he needs to think things through a little, since his strategies have not worked so far, and this proposal sounds both dangerous and irresponsible, at least to a layman who grew up in the era of Mutual Assured Destruction, and remembers that the Russians still have 7,000 nuclear warheads in their arsenal.

Andrew Sullivan: The More You Look, The Worse It Gets

Writing in the London Times, Andrew Sullivan lays into the 3 Cs of the Bush administration: cronyism, corruption, and "conservatism." His verdict on Bush?
He campaigned fundamentally on his ability to run the country in wartime, on emergency management, on protecting Americans from physical harm. That was his promise. It was swept away as the waters flooded New Orleans. And Al-Qaeda was watching every minute of it.

The Constant Gardener

Just saw The Constant Gardener with Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz. As I see everything through the prism of Antigua, now, it was interesting that Fiennes played a British diplomat. His relation, Sir Eustace Fiennes, was Governor-General of Antigua during the colonial period. On his death, Sir Eustace left a bequest that pays for the Fiennes Institute, an almshouse and old-age home that cares for needy Antiguans to this day. An earlier Fiennes, Lord Saye and Sele, was the founder of Old Saybrook, Connecticut. His descendant, a cousin of Ralph Fiennes, still lives in Broughton Castle. We toured this National Trust home, and it is worth a look. It is quite possibly the homiest castle in England.

In any case, although the plot was ridiculously PC (why kill people over a report that sounds like dozens already posted on the internet--or tonight's 60 Minutes story about Amgen?), everything else about the movie was first rate--travelogue, suspense, acting, sets, costumes, music, lighting, and so forth. So, forget the storyline, and just take a bath in Anglophile porn.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Pew Poll: Bush Sinking

Andy Kohut summarized this Pew Poll on the same Lehrer Newshour (a really good show, btw). Bush is ahead of Richard Nixon in the middle of Watergate, but that's about it. His popularity is way down, sinking fast in the Big Muddy...

This may turn out to be Bush's Waco. After the Clinton administration botched the David Koresh operation, the country turned to the Republicans, who swept into Congress. In 2006, if the Democrats play the good government card instead of the race card, they can pull off the same trick.

Then, impeachment looms for Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. One reason for Democrats to try and hold off confirmation of Supreme Court nominees for a year or two...

Calling Clark Kent (Ervin)!

I watched the former DHS-IG on the Lehrer Newshour last night talking about New Orleans, and was impressed with the content of his comments as well as his manner. Ervin deftly inserted the needle in Bush administration positions (his style reminded me a little of Robin McNeil). Here's what Ervin told Margaret Warner last night, about FEMA chief Michael Brown:
I question whether it makes sense to put Brown back in Washington to be in charge of overall FEMA efforts since obviously this kind of thing can and likely will happen again. I think the larger issue is whether there's leadership at the top of FEMA that has the competence that's necessary to do the planning and preparedness that is necessary to make sure this kind of response doesn't happen again.

Ervin was so impressive--Who is this guy? I thought--that I googled him.Here's another quote:
CLARK KENT ERVIN: Well, it seems to me at the Department level as a whole there has been a lack of attention to detail, a lack of focus on management. And I think we're seeing the consequences of that. It seems to me absolutely inexcusable that, frankly, both the secretary as well as the FEMA director said it wasn't until Thursday that they learned there were thousands of people stranded without food and water when all you had to do was turn on the television set to see that. So it seems to me a lack of attention to detail. And it is just inexcusable. It is inexplicable. I don't have an explanation for it. I don't know that there is one.
Turns out that until he was canned, Ervin had been a loyal Bushie, from Texas. He was apparently purged, best as we can figure out, because he was competent and good at his job (which made some Bush cronies look bad). Here's the USATODAY story on his departure from government service. Title: "Ex-official tells of Homeland Security Failures."
While in office, Ervin made some scathing findings. He reported that:

• Undercover investigators were able to sneak explosives and weapons past security screeners at 15 airports during tests in 2003.

• Federal air marshals, hired to provide a last line of defense against terrorists on airlines, slept on the job, tested positive for alcohol or drugs while on duty, lost their weapons and falsified information in 2002.

• Department leaders should have taken a more aggressive role in efforts to combine the government's myriad terrorist watch lists since the department was created in 2003.

• The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) gave executive bonuses of $16,477 to 88 of its 116 senior managers in 2003, an amount one-third higher than the bonuses given to executives at any other federal agency.

• The TSA spent nearly $500,000 on an awards banquet for employees in November 2003. The cost included $1,500 for three cheese displays and $3.75 for each soft drink.

The department complained that many of Ervin's reports were based on outdated information. After the report on air marshals, border and transportation chief Asa Hutchinson said the problems had long since been fixed.

Ervin, a Harvard-trained lawyer who worked for Bush when he was governor of Texas and for Bush's father in the White House before that, couldn't explain why he didn't get the nod to continue his work. It "will be an enduring mystery to me," he said.

Ervin currenlty heads the Homeland Security program at the Aspen Institute.