Karami Unable To Form Unity Gov’t In Lebanon

Omar Karami, who had earlier resigned in the face of massive anti-Syrian protests following the assassination of Rafik Hariri, now admits that he cannot form a unity government and may have to resign again. Emile Lahoud may need to find a prime minister with more credibility among the Lebanese nationalists and democracy activists in order to stave off the inevitable for a short period:

Lebanon’s pro-Syrian Prime Minister-designate Omar Karami confirmed Wednesday he would abandon his bid to forge a national unity government, but stopped short of formally tendering his resignation. …
The anti-Syrian opposition had always rejected the idea of a unity government. Karami’s doomed effort to form one, and his slow-motion resignation, have fueled opposition suspicions that the authorities are maneuvering to postpone the polls.
“Since the beginning, the government was trying to delay the elections,” Christian former President Amin Gemayel told Reuters. “We are pushing to have the elections on schedule.”

The elections will clearly result in Lahoud’s ouster and the replacement of the puppet government with an independent, nationalistic Lebanese parliament. When that happens, the risks for Lahoud and the rest of his collaborationist allies — such as Hezbollah — will face the wrath of those who have fought to free themselves from Syrian hegemony while Lahoud dithers and delays. The new political movement may treat their former masters and their lackeys with openness and forgiveness, as in South Africa, but usually those who cooperate with foreign dictators in oppressing their own people get the Vidkun Quisling treatment instead.
In other words, delaying the election comes down to a life-and-death decision for Lahoud and his friends. He wasn’t smart enough to put himself at the front of this popular movement in its early stages. A window for his leadership may still exist, if he is smart enough to recognize it and courageous enough to grab the chance. So far, though, Lahoud has only proved to be little more than Bashar Assad’s messenger boy, especially in his efforts to prop up Karami when the latter clearly has no credible following any longer.
The Lebanese people have proven their mettle by refusing to retreat or los interest in their freedom. Karami and Lahoud may have one or two cards left to play, but so far bombs and political machinations have failed to shake them off. They either need to quickly join the forces of freedom or hitch themselves to the last Syrian personnel carrier heading for Damascus.

EU Endorses Wolfowitz For World Bank

The European Union finally gave their blessing to the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank after weeks of speculation that they would attempt to sink it:

European Union governments gave their endorsement to World Bank president nominee Paul Wolfowitz on Wednesday after he affirmed his commitment to multilateralism and said he would make the fight against poverty his top goal as head of the Washington-based global lending institution.
Belgian Development Aid minister Armand De Decker told reporters “there are no objections of EU countries” to Wolfowitz, who met for two hours with development and finance ministers at EU headquarters.

The specter of having a Bush administration official so closely aligned with the US policy in Iraq and on the war on terror leading the World Bank made a number of European nations uneasy. Undoubtedly, their concerns spring from their own domestic politics rather than any particular issue Wolfowitz would cause in his new position. Voting for Wolfowitz will clearly be played as an endorsement of the so-called “neocon” agenda by radical leftists looking for a lever to greater power in Europe.
In return for this capitulation, the EU wants Wolfowitz to add more Europeans to his staff as a balance between Washington and the EU. France in particular wants the chairman of the Paris Club, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, to serve as Wolfowitz’ deputy, presumably to ensure that the World Bank does not invade Iran. Hopefully, Wolfowitz will choose his deputies more carefully, from countries that have proven themselves to support the spread of democracy — the only way to introduce the stability and responsiveness needed to end the corruption and tyranny that causes endemic poverty. He can start looking in Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

11th Circuit To Hear Schindlers’ Appeal On 13th Day

After watching Terri Schiavo struggle to stay alive for thirteen days without food and water, the Eleventh Circuit appellate court has finally decided that she may have some rights to due process after all. The court agreed to hear the Schindlers’ appeal to reinstate her feeding tube in a dramatic thirteenth-hour development:

A federal appeals court early Wednesday agreed to consider a petition by Terri Schiavo’s parents for a new hearing on whether to reconnect their severely brain-damaged daughter’s feeding tube.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled without comment on Schiavo’s 12th day without nourishment. Last week, the same court twice ruled against Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who are trying to keep her alive. …
[T]he court will consider the request for a new hearing, rather than whether previous Florida court rulings have met legal standards under state law, which is what federal courts have done in the case until now.

I presume the basis of this appeal pertains to the emergency law passed by Congress demanding a de novo approach to the case in federal court, a law that Judge Whittemore completely disregarded in his action. The appellate court should have taken this up the last time it heard this case, but took the same approach as Whittemore did — to insist on Judge Greer’s finding of fact in defiance of Congress’ clear intent.
Accepting the appeal at this point is certainly a welcome development, but it also comes late in the day for Terri. They may order her rehydration, but without a doubt even if that started this hour, they’ve damaged her by their incomprehensible inaction and defiance of Congress. They allowed a non-terminal woman to suffer severe neglect with the intention of killing her based on the recollection of off-hand comments made years earlier to her estranged husband and two of his relatives.
Let’s hope they get it right this time, and quickly.
UPDATE: John Hawkins has a FAQ on the Schiavo case which people should read.
UPDATE II: The Eleventh Circuit has turned down the Schindlers’ appeal en banc:

A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday rejected a last-minute request from the parents of brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo for a rehearing on a petition to reconnect their dying daughter’s feeding tube.
A three-judge panel at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta had last week rejected an appeal by parents Bob and Mary Schindler against a Florida court ruling denying them an order to have feeding resumed.
The court on Wednesday denied a request by the parents for the full court of 12 judges to review that ruling, the court said.

So apparently the Schindlers requested the en banc hearing, which was approved for submittal, only for the purposes of having the entire 11th Circuit reject the request on its merits. One wonders why the court accepted the submittal at all.

ABC, Washington Post Stand By Schiavo Memo … Mostly

Howard Kurtz addresses the controversy over the memo released by ABC under the headline “GOP Talking Points Memo” by claiming that neither ABC nor the Washington Post meant to imply that the memo originated with Republicans — only that it was circulated to them:

ABC and The Post say their reports on the Schiavo memo were accurate and carefully worded. The document caused a stir because it described the Schiavo controversy as “a great political issue” that would excite “the pro-life base” and be “a tough issue for Democrats,” singling out Florida’s Sen. Bill Nelson. Two days after the memo was reported, the Republican-controlled Congress approved a bill, signed by Bush, to transfer jurisdiction of Schiavo’s case from Florida courts to the federal judiciary in an effort to restore the brain-damaged woman’s feeding tube. …
The controversy erupted March 18 when veteran correspondent Linda Douglass reported on “World News Tonight”: “ABC News has obtained talking points circulated among Republican senators, explaining why they should vote to intervene in the Schiavo case.”
Two days later, a Post article by Mike Allen and Manuel Roig-Franzia said: “An unsigned one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators, said the debate over Schiavo would appeal to the party’s base, or core, supporters.”
Neither report said Republicans had written the memo, although they may have left that impression, and they included no comment on the memo from party leaders. ABC’s Web site went further than Douglass’s on-air report with the headline: “GOP Talking Points on Terri Schiavo.”

They may have left that impression? Yes, they may certainly have — which is why the entire press corps has treated the memo as genuine and the ABC and Post reports as accurate in that regard. When ABC titled the memo, “GOP Talking Points Memo”, that’s more than just an impression. It identifies the memo as sourced by the GOP, an allegation from which Kurtz and the Post have now retreated. Now we hear that no one can determine the actual source of the memo, and that neither of the initial reporters apparently even asked anyone from the GOP about its origin. (Michelle Malkin notes that this article, with a Washington Post byline, states specifically that the memo was given to Republican politicians by “party leaders”.)
Howard Kurtz can talk about how “carefully worded” the reports were, but the fact is that they clearly meant to associate the memo — the unprofessionally typed, factually deficient, and improperly formatted memo — with the GOP. If they didn’t, then Kurtz by implication must condemn the rest of the press corps for a type of functional illiteracy for not getting the nuance of their careful wording correct. And for all the care that Kurtz says the two media outlets put into the wording to avoid that characterization, he never asks about how the ABC headline got onto the story, nor does he mention any steps either organization have taken to correct the impression their articles have obviously left with fellow journalists in the Exempt Media.
Kurtz once again acts as an apologist rather than an objective news critic, yet another disappointment he can add to his non-coverage of the Eason Jordan scandal.

Because The UN Has Done Such A Great Job Everywhere Else

Just when we thought that the United Nations had enough problems trying to keep its peacekeepers and mission management off of prepubescent girls in Africa and its hands off of aid money intended for the starving and oppressed, we find out that Turtle Bay wants to take on a whole new mission. Now the UN, which brought you the Oil-For-Food scandal and the rape of the Congo, wants to take over the Internet:

The International Telecommunication Union is one of the most venerable of bureaucracies. Created in 1865 to facilitate telegraph transmissions, its mandate has expanded to include radio and telephone communications.
But the ITU enjoys virtually no influence over the Internet. That remains the province of specialized organizations such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN; the Internet Engineering Task Force; the World Wide Web Consortium; and regional address registries.
The ITU, a United Nations agency, would like to change that. “The whole world is looking for a better solution for Internet governance, unwilling to maintain the current situation,” Houlin Zhao, director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, said last year. Zhao, a former government official in China’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, has been in his current job since 1999.

The whole world looks for a better solution? Says who? Perhaps the Chinese look for a solution that would result in an easier way to suppress thought and speech that undermines their autocracy. Zhao seems to answer this in his response to the final question:

People say the Internet flourished because of the absence of government control. I do not agree with this view. I argue that in any country, if the government opposed Internet service, how do you get Internet service? If there are any Internet governance structure changes in the future, I think government rules will be more important and more respected.

All one needs to do is to look around the General Assembly to understand which government rules will get “more respected”. The UN mostly consists of dictatorships and autocracies, which have little use for the free speech and open information that the Internet provides people all over the world. A free Internet threatens their power and their oppressive regimes. Nothing would please them more than to get their hands on the engines of the Internet in order to suppress the information that would inspire their subjects to throw off their shackles and claim freedom for themselves.
Let me put it to all in this light. Will we trust the same organization that put Libya and Cuba in charge of human rights and Syria in charge of counterterrorism to manage the Internet and safeguard free speech?

Boy Howdy, Dan’s Happier Than A Dog With Two Bones

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Gail Shister catches up with Dan Rather, who keeps himself busy nowadays trying to rescue 60 Minutes Wednesday and what’s left of his career. Shister finds Rather in an exceptionally good mood — so good, in fact, that The Dan can’t resist trotting out that Texas homeboy facade that he uses to disarm critics:

Rather, 73, who had an unprecedented 24-year run as anchor, was also surprised at how easy it was to relocate from the CBS Broadcast Center across 57th Street to 60 Wednesday and mother ship 60 Minutes.
“I moved from the ‘hard-news’ side of the street to what we called the ‘carpet-making, basket-weaving’ side of the street. It turns out it’s not basket-weaving at all. That was vastly overstated.”
Though he’s juggling several pieces with his usual intensity, Rather sounds almost, well, laid-back on his new voice-mail message. It begins, “Howdy, this is Dan Rather,” and ends, “For now, adios.”
“I always dreamed of having that voice mail. That’s who and what I am, the way I grew up. Now I’m able to let that side out a little more than before.”

That’s laying on the happiness just a bit too thick, methinks. Rather has to make the case for keeping his new home on the air, or else he’ll be sent to his old home on the range, and he knows it. The Shister article overflows with his glee at having this new quest, delighting in the challenge of trying to convince Les Moonves that a dying quail like 60MW and his already-dead credibility has any reason to occupy an hour of prime-time programming. In fact, his first assignment to this new, hard-edged part of his career was an interview with Jack Welch and his new wife Suzy! That promises to be relevant — to rich retirees that have recently remarried.
Rather’s new producer, Jeff Fager, has a more realistic take on why Rather has joined the crew and the motive for his too-earnest enthusiasm:

Four CBS News staffers lost their jobs because of Memogate, in which discredited documents were used in Rather’s report on 60 Wednesday about President Bush’s National Guard service.
Rather was forced to leave the anchor chair a year before he had planned.
“Having Dan here is a way for us to move on,” says Fager, also e.p. of 60 Minutes. “It’s over. It happened. It was a bad mistake, and a lot of people have paid a very high price for it.”

Give Fager some serious credit here. He at least admits that CBS blew it with their fraudulent TexANG memos. Rather hasn’t even admitted the memos were anything less than genuine. As long as he continues to push fables like that onto his shrinking audience, CBS can expect to have zero credibility, even when The Dan spends his time tossing softballs at Jack Welch. We won’t trust either Rather of CBS any more than we’d trust a desert coyote near an open-grilled side of Texas beef …. y’all.

Red Lake Shooter Not Exactly A Loner

After the spate of news stories following the Red Lake Massacre that killed ten people painted gunman Jeff Weise as a loner, Minnesota will be surprised to find out that the FBI has arrested another teenager as a co-conspirator. Louis Jourdain, the son of the tribal chief, was taken into custody last night and charged with conspiracy to commit murder, according to the Star Tribune:

The teenage son of Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. was charged with conspiracy Monday in connection with the March 21 shootings that killed 10 people, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.
The source said that Louis Jourdain, who is believed to be 16 or 17, plotted with the gunman, Jeffrey Weise, to violently attack Red Lake High School.

One witness told reporters that Jourdain hid out with her in the library and knew without looking that Weise was the shooter, a development which apparently has led to evidence that the attack was to have been larger and more coordinated. At the moment, no one says that Jourdain actually took part in the shooting. It looks more like the FBI thinks that Jourdain helped to plan it and was supposed to assist Weise in the massacre, but for some reason didn’t and failed to warn anyone of Weise’s intentions.
The native community at Red Lake sounds very much on edge, and their reaction indicates that more may be at the bottom of this massacre than first met the eye:

Some of the victim’s relatives, such as the mother of Dewayne Lewis, declined to comment on the arrest. A family member of another victim was afraid to talk about it because “someone might come by and shoot at the house.” …
Tonya Lussier, the older sister of victim Chase Lussier, said Monday that she was shocked when she learned about the younger Jourdain’s arrest — and is concerned that there could be more people involved.
“I hope they catch everybody who was involved and knew what was going on,” she said.
Said Victoria Brun: “I won’t feel safe. These kids won’t feel safe. This community won’t feel safe until they’re all brought in custody.”

Was Weise the loner that the FBI initially portrayed — or did he have a group of likeminded teenagers who helped him plan this out? Jourdain’s arrest may portend even further revelations that could tear Red Lake apart. This demonstrates the risk of the easy characterization of murderers as anomalies and “loners” without ensuring more monsters aren’t in our midst.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has more on the possible conspiracy:

One of the sources, who spoke on the condition his name not be used, said Jourdain and Weise exchanged e-mails that discussed Weise’s intent to go on a shooting rampage at the school. Other teenagers who were in e-mail contact with Weise also could face charges in the coming days…
…One source with knowledge of the case said the alleged e-mails between Jourdain and Weise took place days and weeks before the shooting, and involved discussions in which Weise – and perhaps others – expressed an intent to commit an act of violence at the school.

So what exactly were the kids at Red Lake doing in their spare time?

Democracy Spreads To Bhutan

When the wave of democratization reaches all the way into the Himalayan hinterlands, people can bet on its power to transform the world. The latest nation to embrace democracy is the mountain kingdom of Bhutan, an isolated agricultural nation between India and China that has been ruled by an absolute monarch since the days of the British raj. Interestingly, the impetus for this radical shift came not from the Bhutanese but apparently from the king himself:

The king of the Himalayan state of Bhutan announced the end of a century of absolute royal rule yesterday with the publication of a draft constitution to establish a multiparty democracy.
King Jigme Singye Wangchuck said that by the end of the year his 700,000 subjects would be given the right to elect two houses of parliament, whose members would be empowered to impeach the monarch by a two-thirds vote.

While the National Assembly has had the impeachment power since 1998, King Jigme’s sudden and radical shift towards multiparty democracy will probably take his subjects by surprise. Most of them had little or no contact with foreigners at all until five years ago, when Jigme opened the country up to tourists for the first time. They’ve only had widespread telephone service for a few years, and their first Internet access points just came on line four years ago. If a country could be described as isolated in today’s era of globalization, Bhutan would fit the bill.
And yet even its absolute monarch sees the writing on the wall for tyranny, no matter how benevolent. We may have started the most potent political movement in Asia since Mao wrote his Little Red Book — and this movement could bring peace to an entire continent once it runs its course.

Kyrgyzstan Resolves Parliamentary Crisis

In a major development for the one-time Soviet republic, Kyrgyzstan old parliament has agreed to peacefully disband after the new parliament — formed in the questionable election that wound up running Askar Akayev out of office — named interim leader Kurmanbek Bakiev as prime minister:

Lawmakers on Tuesday ended a damaging battle for legitimacy between rival parliaments, boosting prospects for political stability in Kyrgyzstan after last week’s ouster of longtime leader Askar Akayev. …
The old parliament’s upper house ended its defiance and disbanded Tuesday, one day after a similar move by its lower house, deferring to a new legislature packed with lawmakers who had Akayev’s support during the disputed elections that fueled the push for his ouster.
The move apparently signaled a measure of accommodation between the old elite and the former opposition leaders now in charge of the country, who swung their support behind the new parliament and called for the old one to disband.

Tensions had raced so high that at one point the new interior minister, Felix Kulov, threatened to arrest the very people that sprang him from jail a few days before. With this agreement in place, however, the Kyrgyz run the risk of allowing Akayev’s supporters back into power. After all, if they got elected with the same rigged polling that Akayev employed, it only makes sense that at least some of them owe their seats to Akayev and might cause problems for reformists as a result. Bakiev himself noted that 20 seats out of 75 might not be legitimately decided, but he conceded that only those seats should be challenged and not the entire new parliament:

Bakiyev, who maintains that about 20 of the 75 seats in the new parliament are in dispute, reiterated pledges that those races would be reviewed by the courts and Central Election Commission. “We cannot dissolve the whole parliament,” he said.
That statement won support from Kuban Orozov, a smartly dressed 20-year-old student standing in the sun on a Bishkek street corner.

The compromise appears to have cleared most of the political hurdles to the upcoming presidential election on June 26th. Another potential problem has also been resolved, at least temporarily, with the withdrawal of Kulov as a candidate in that election. Kulov, who served as the Kyrgyz military chief of staff and the leader of the successor agency to the KGB for years, had appeared headed for the top job as he has more popularity among reformers than Bakiev. However, the similarities between Vladimir Putin and Felix Kulov portended ominously for the future of democracy in Kyrgyzstan, pointing instead to a Russo-centered autocracy.
The Tulip Revolution appears back on track. Let’s hope they can keep it going.

Jack Shafer Takes David Shaw To The Woodshed

The Los Angeles Times ran an opinion piece by David Shaw on blogging that argued against extending First Amendment protections to the “solipsistic, self-aggrandizing journalist-wannabe genre.” He wrote that bloggers didn’t deserve such consideration because we do not have editors and fact-checkers to ensure that we don’t make errors or slander people.
Then Shaw used Matt Drudge, who even Shaw acknowledges as a questionable blogger, to make his point. Somehow his editor missed that. (He’s not a blogger; he’s a news aggregator. Different animal.)
Jack Shafer at Slate didn’t miss it, or the irony of Shaw’s screed, and he takes Shaw to the woodshed in his response at Slate this morning. Not only does Shafer point out the goofiness of Shaw basing his entire argument on quality while failing to use a correct example, but Shafer also teaches Shaw a little First Amendment history along the way:

Giving every indication that he’s read a lot of stories about bloggers but not that many actual blogs, Shaw disparages the form as the error-filled rants of amateurs in his piece, “Do Bloggers Deserve Basic Journalistic Protections?” …
These nameless bloggers don’t deserve the “same constitutional protections as traditional print and broadcast journalists,” Shaw writes. Specifically, he opposes their right to use state shield laws to protect their confidential sources when subpoenaed, as are three bloggers who are facing down Apple Computer in a trade secret case.
What gave Shaw the impression that the law accords print and broadcast journalists the same rights? The “Equal Time Rule” for political candidates requires broadcasters to treat legally qualified candidates the same whenever it sells air time or gives it away (unless a waiver is granted, as in the presidential debates). It must also sell advertising at discount rates to political candidates. No such rules apply to print, which can’t be forced to sell ads at all.
Also, until it was repealed 1987, the “Fairness Doctrine” forced all TV and radio broadcasters to present balanced and fair coverage of controversial issues. Again, no such requirement has ever been imposed on print journalists. Whatever First Amendment parity Shaw thinks broadcast journalists enjoy with print journalists, they’ve had to fight for every step of the way, and many of those “rights” could be legislated away tomorrow.
What compels Shaw to write such slapdash copy? Is he trying to get his opinions out there as fast they pop into his brain?

Shafer also notes that the so-called legitimate press makes plenty of mistakes that never get prominent corrections. In fact, Shafer takes his examples from such prominent stories as 9/11, Monicagate, and the granddaddy of all press achievements, Watergate — and shows how the revered Walter Cronkite and CBS ran a seriously misleading story without checking the facts. Does anyone remember the white van with the bomb on 9/11 that the FBI supposedly found on an NYC bridge? Jack Shafer does, even if the newspapers and broadcasters who pushed that story have forgotten it.
Read all of Shafer’s delicious scolding. Shaw predicted he would get ravaged by the blogosphere, but an article that obtuse makes an easy target for anyone who defends freedom of speech for writers. Shafer proves himself once again to fit that bill.