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June 08, 2002

HERE'S A PRETTY PERSUASIVE CASE for why this country needs more armed liberals. And more Armed Liberals, too.

THE PRE-9/11 INTELLIGENCE FAILURES look much worse than many people thought they would. One thing that is really, really clear is that the problem is in data analysis, not data collection. All the pieces of the puzzle were there -- but nobody put them together. Indeed, it's not clear that anyone tried very hard.

I WAS GOING TO COMMENT on Mary Eberstadt's piece on the Catholic Church's sex-abuse scandasl in The Weekly Standard but I notice that Amy Welborn has said what I was going to say already:

She reflexively dismisses any critiques of mandatory celibacy as having any import, when it does on a number of levels: mandatory celibacy discouraging heterosexual men from entering the priesthood, thereby narrowing the pool of candidates, shaping the identity of the priesthood in a certain direction, which then works to discourage even more men from entering because they feel uncomfortable. Save your breathe - I know it shouldn't have this effect, but do you know what? In reality It does. Dispense with mandatory celibacy and sure, you'd have a whole set of new problems which others have exhaustively documented, but you would also have a priesthood that looked and felt very different from what it does now.

Read the rest of her post. It's very thoughtful, and better than I would have done anyway.

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK about Bush taking away the right of airlines to let pilots arm themselves in July of 2001. InstaPundit intern (yeah, I've got an intern now) Kevin Deenihan has the scoop here. The cool thing is, he works for free.

RADLEY BALKO identifies the Drug War's true victims -- and perpetrators.

WHAT IS A WARBLOG, THAT THOU ART MINDFUL OF IT? Dave Winer sends this email:

Since we talked, I've been reading your weblog every time it updates, and finding you have a clear voice, you're a peacemaker, not a warblogger. Where did that term come from. What does it mean. It could be easily misunderstood.

I responded that I don't know where it comes from (it wasn't Bill Quick this time, was it?). The term just sort of appeared. But I don't think that "warbloggers" are necessarily in favor of war as a principle (see Steven Chapman's discussion of why being in favor of this war doesn't necessarily require you to be pro-war in general). I'm anti-war, in the sense that I think that war is a bad thing. That's not the same as saying that it's always wrong. Rather, like most things, it varies depending on the circumstances. If the Ladenites merely wanted to sneer at us like the French, I'd be happy just to sneer back. Since it's their professed goal to kill as many of us as they can, well, I want to see them stopped, which basically means war. If I could wave a magic wand, and make them happy members of a rising bourgeoisie, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Sadly, I lack such powers.

UPDATE: Howard Owens has similar views.

And the consensus (including an email from The Man Himself) is that Matt Welch invented the term. Okay.

BIKINI WARS: Eric Olsen disagrees with Den Beste. There's merit to some of what Olsen says, but this part is dubious:

There is a problem if a middle-aged man finds young women in their late-teens and early-20s to be the height of sexual attractiveness. Sexual attraction can never be based purely upon looks alone: there is no real person who consists of only looks, therefore it is counterproducive, at best, to find most-attractive women with whom there is no hope of actual interaction.

Middle-aged men should feel protective, avuncular, even paternal (not paternalistic) toward young women - toward young people - in their late-teens and early-20s: people who are young enough to be their children. They shouldn't see them as sexual objects. There is just no way a real romantic relationship is possible at 20+ years age difference: too many cultural divides, too many differences of perspective, attitudes, interests, place in life. ALL such relationships are imbalanced, are exploitative one way or another. There just isn't all that much to talk about, and if you don't talk, then it's not the real thing. It's fantasy, just marking time, avoiding the real issues, and keeping life at arm's length rather than dealing with it head-on.

The women most attractive to a middle-aged man should be those with whom he could have an actual relationship. Beauty isn't only found in the very young, and the combination of physical beauty with some actual life experience is vastly more sexy than the callow beauty of youth alone - that is if you find actual living, breathing women more sexy than stereotypical abstractions.

Actually, one of the loveliest marriages I've known was between a middle-aged man (one of my law professors) and his (originally 19-year-old) student wife. She went on to become the Dean of Columbia Law School and a successful scholar in her own right. They had several kids and a long happy marriage. Had they listened to this advice, they wouldn't have.

And what's all this should stuff? I can't help noticing that although it's politically incorrect to tell women what they should want in a relationship, everyone feels happy to hector men on the same subject. Which goes to the other part: men are genetically programmed to find young women appealing, just as women are genetically programmed to like men of higher status. It's perfectly natural for men to feel that way. It may or may not lead to successful relationships, but hell, most relationships are unsuccessful. I find women in their teens and early 20s to be (usually) rather immature for my taste; I felt that way when I was in my teens and early 20s myself, and my opinion hasn't changed with age. But so what? What I find appealing shouldn't be the standard for everyone else.

I can only conclude that offering unsolicited opinions about other people's sex lives must be genetically programmed too -- I guess I just missed that gene.

UPDATE: Den Beste replies here. I think he's carried the day, personally.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Uh oh. Now Eric's getting fact-checked by his wife. Run up the white flag now, Eric. While you still can.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Matt Moore chimes in. But he, like a lot of people, takes it for granted that everyone finds the idea of his/her parents having sex gross. I don't. Neither does my wife. We were wondering about that the other day, in fact: do people hate the idea of their parents having sex out of self-hatred ("ugh, that led to me"), or out of narcissism ("now that I'm here, what's the point?") or out of something else? That's just another one of those things that I don't get.

There are a lot of things about other people's attitudes toward sex that I don't get (strippers, for example -- what's the point?). That's why I'm not so quick to tell people what they should want.

THE CHARACTERIZATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY AS A "U.S. GESTAPO" is rather overwrought -- and not even supported by what comes next in this article from The Register. But this part is dead on:

The Feds will know what you're buying and what you're reading and what you're watching on TV, but they certainly won't be in a position to use any of that to stop terrorists. They'll be swimming in data, drowning in it, hopelessly struggling to sort it out. Keep in mind that the current Congressional hearings on the CIA/FBI intel failures indicate not that the agencies lacked the raw data they needed, but rather that they were unable to distinguish the signal from the noise. And now we're to have an enormous new Department which can accomplish nothing more than to get a lot more federal employees listening to a lot more noise.

Right -- we feel safer already.

EUROWEENIE ANTISEMITISM UPDATE: Reader Jason Rush writes:

Do you notice that bad guy introduced in Episode 1? He's a Jewish caricature!!! How perfect for a European comic strip.

He's a "ruthless speculator" with a great hook nose!

That's not anti-Semitism, Jason. It's just opposition to Israel's policies. . . . Though to be honest, I fell asleep before making it that far. If an antisemitic stereotype is deployed, but no one is awake to see it, is it antisemitism?

Also, reader Joe Stocker sent the suggestion that I google the words "captain euro" and "racist" and see what I find. The answer is a lot of complaints about Captain Euro as Nordic propaganda.

RECYCLING ALERT: Charles Rich says a recent CNN story on the environmental impact of cellphones came straight from an enviro-group's press release -- even retaining an obvious arithmetic howler.

As I've written before, this sort of thing is common. And agree with Rich that it's far less likely that CNN would have taken a press release from, say, the NRA or the Heritage Foundation and given it such an uncritical regurgitation.

CHARLES JOHNSON has words of support for Lou Dobbs -- not only from Charles but from scads of commenters. Dobbs apparently was on an L.A. talk radio station this morning saying "to hell with political correctness." One commenter is recommending an email campaign to CNN in support of Dobbs.

Two chapters of Harry Potter were read, Commerce Clause manuscript is now revised and in envelope to go out tomorrow. I'm going to bed.

June 07, 2002

EUROWEENIE ANTISEMITISM ALERT: This time it's -- surprise -- the French, specifically their Ambassador to the United States:

"The ambassador agreed to speak on the issue of anti-Semitism in Europe and suggested four separate dates," said an organizer of the forum. "He was later notified who was coming and got cold feet. He bailed out."

A large number of groups that signed up were Jewish, including the Anti-Defamation League, B'nai B'rith, the Zionist Organization of America, and the American Jewish Committee.

Jeez. It's a shame that these simplistic Europeans have such a poor grasp of diplomacy, and thus have to alienate so many of the Americans whose good wishes they need.

MARY ROBINSON NEEDS TO LOOK TO ZIMBABWE rather than focusing on condemning the United States.

HAS MARY ROBINSON EVER SEEN FRENCH IMMIGRATION CONTROLS? It's time for her to go, to coin a phrase.

NORWEGIAN BLOGGER Vegard Valberg has the first of what's promised to be a series of deeply critical posts on "Captain Euro."

BILL HOBBS HAS MORE ON THE TRUMMEL CASE, including links to the Free Paul Trummel website, etc. It's blogtivism at its finest!

AHA! Someone unpronounceable has identified an intergalactic right-wing conspiracy. Of course, now they must be silenced. . . .

ANOTHER UN-CHEERFUL ASSESSMENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY:

So --- the problem of turf wars between the FBI and CIA is dealt with by giving them both a new agency to fight with, the problem of information hoarding at headquarters is dealt with by establishing a new hoard of information at headquarters, and we also improve matters by imposing a new layer of centralized bureaucracy on agencies which (with the possible exception of INS) didn't have much to do with the problem.

But it does have strong bipartisan support in Congress.

What could possibly go wrong?

(Via Electrolite).

MICHAEL LEDEEN has this comment on the new Department of Homeland Security:

But what worries me — what has worried me from September 12 — is that he has yet to call anyone to account. It would be nice for him to announce a compassionate purge of the failed agencies as he folds them into Homeland Security. Without that, the bureaucrats will not believe that anything serious has happened.

And they'll be right.

Absolutely.

TWO IN ONE DAY! Now Jonah Goldberg is writing Get your ass to Mars!

CAPTAIN EURO IS RACIST! Here's the evidence.

WOBBLY WATCH: Patrick Ruffini says the Bush Administration is doing just fine, thank you, and people should just settle down and stop whining.

EUGENE VOLOKH has some nice observations on the futility of long-range demographic prediction. And a special bonus item for nitpickers!

MATTHEW YGLESIAS ON HOMELAND SECURITY:

It seems to me that no matter what we do, some people somewhere will still be able to pull off a devastating attack sooner or later. The answer to the terrorist problem isn't trying to devise foolproof counterterrorism measures, it's defeating the Islamist ideology that inspires the attackers. Going on the offense, (a) kills terrorists, thereby making it harder for them to attack us (b) deters states and other powerful figures from sponsoring terrorism, and most importantly (c) shows that hijacking planes and crashing them into buildings doesn't make America give in -- it makes America topple your regime. Going on defense, on the other hand, makes us look weak. It makes it look like if the terrorists can foil our new, better, homeland security that maybe then we'd give in. That means they'll try to foil our new, better, homeland security. And you know what? They'll be able to. There's only so much security an open society can provide. We need to go out into the world, into the regimes that sponsor this sort of garbage -- Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority -- and find newer, better, governments over there. They definitely cannnot defeat the United States' military power, especially when you take into account our ability to vastly expand that power if we see fit. Playing terrorist vs. counterterrorist is their game, though, and they've shown us that they can play pretty damn well.

Well said.

NEW NASA ADMINISTRATOR SEAN O'KEEFE is assessed in this piece by Beth Dickey. (Via Rand Simberg).

THE EUROWEENIE ANTISEMITES AT IT AGAIN: Note the combination of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism:

The wife of the European Central Bank chief has left Amsterdam for her holiday home in France after outraging her Jewish neighbours by draping a Palestinian flag over her balcony and blaming Palestinian's woes on an "elite club of rich American Jews".

She lives near Anne Frank's house.

SFSU UPDATE: California Governor Gray Davis has issued a statement condemning antisemitism on California campuses.

UPDATE: Meryl Yourish notes the refreshing absence of "on both sides" weasel-wording.

LAWMEME says that myriads of small media like weblogs are coming to matter more than Big Media.

PEGGY NOONAN says that "underperformin' Norman" Mineta needs to grow up:

We are in the middle of another systems failure.

We are busy for instance debating absurdities. Such as: In an era in which certain Arab and Muslim males roughly 18 to 40 years old are taking active steps to severely damage the United States and kill Americans, is it wrong to give added scrutiny to Arab and Muslim males 18 to 40 years old as they attempt to enter America, board planes, rent charter planes and ask for maps to the nearest nuclear power plant?

How absurd and clueless do you have to be to be having this debate? You have to have surrendered all common sense. . . .

Norm Mineta, our transportation secretary, has a searing memory, and that memory determines U.S. airport security policy in 2002. When he was a little boy at the start of World War II, Mr. Mineta and his Japanese-American family were sent to an interment camp. It was unjust and wrong. The Japanese of America in 1942 were American citizens, not illegal aliens or visitors newly arrived; moreover, they had never, not one of them, launched an attack on the United States. What FDR did to them was wrong.

But the facts of Japanese-Americans in 1942 do not parallel the facts of our enemies today. Our enemies has already killed civilians and announced they will kill more. We know who the enemy is--we know many names, and we certainly know the general profile--and we have every right, or rather duty, to give those who fit the profile extra scrutiny. Instead we play games and waste time wanding people we know to be innocent, and searching their tired old shoes. We do this to show we're being fair. But we really know otherwise, all of us.

We are being irresponsible and careless in the hope that history will call us tolerant and compassionate. It is vanity that drives us, not the thirst for justice and a safer world. Mr. Mineta has received many awards for his sensitivity to ethnic profiling. Good for him, but I'd personally give him an award if he'd begin to act like a grownup and recognize that his childhood trauma shouldn't determine modern American security policy.

Yeah, the plastic-knife ban was asinine in September and it's even more asinine now. And the unrealistic response from the powers-that-be makes me doubt that a new Cabinet department will do any good -- unless it's a lot less asinine. I don't see that in any part of the President's proposal.

JOHN HILER SAYS THAT LAST YEAR WAS THE YEAR OF THE BLOG, and this year is the year of the Blogosphere. I think that's about right.

HERE'S A BLOG DEVOTED TO (well, mostly) church website design. It even includes cruel reviews,, though they're more, um, clean than the "this sucks like a bilge-pump" reviews in Websites That Suck, which I believe the same guy had a hand in.

PULCHRITUDE, REAL AND IMAGINARY: Steven Den Beste has had an interesting series of reflections. Here's the latest.

KENNEDY COUSIN MICHALE SKAKEL has been found guilty, if anyone cares.

WHY THE EUROPEAN UNION IS IRRETRIEVABLY LAME: Another potentially endless series. This appears to be genuine.

WHY JAMES LILEKS RULES: A potentially endless series:

I’m 43 now, and I find bleakness and tragedy less interesting than I did at 23, mainly because I’ve seen some of the real thing. When you’re young and melodramatic, you identify with the tragic because it seems more authentic than your parents’ sunny bouncy happy-crappy attitude. Later you learn that they’re probably far more aware of the Dark than you were, and kept it from you, and from themselves most of the time. It’s how you get through the day without going mad. It’s hard to concentrate at work when you stop and think of the yawning grave that awaits us all. A fascination with things Dark ends up being a self-regarding melancholic pose, a way of signaling to your fellow adolescents that you possess a deep, deep nature. You’re wrong, of course. It’s no insight to think that Life Sucks. The insight comes when you understand that it doesn’t have to, and that its nature is up to you.

Did I mention that Lileks rules?

NICK SCHULZ says that Christie Todd Whitman is a mutineer.

Hmm. What do you do with mutineers? I'll have to ask this guy, or maybe this guy. Aarrh!

HOMELAND SECURITY: Reader Trent Telenko sends this link demonstrating that the turf wars have already begun.

KEN LAYNE identifies the root causes of terrorism.

ONE OF THE INTERESTING THINGS I NOTICED about the homeland security speech last night was that Tom Ridge was referred to in the past tense. So maybe someone else will replace him. Reader Will Allen has a suggestion:

The point is, Greenspan is famous for poring over reams of arcane data from all corners of the American and world economy, which is, needless to say, an extraordinarily complex organism. Greenspan has been fairly effective, although not perfect, in assimilating this exceedingly diverse information in a fashion that has allowed him see patterns and make inferences that engender effective decision-making in what is a very difficult job. I say this as a person who is generally supicious of central bankers; the very idea of central banking runs counter to the evidence of the futility of all economic central planning. However, credit should be given where it is deserved, and Greenspan has been very good in executing a very daunting task. This is exactly the sort of talent that is needed in a Homeland Security Office, in addition to managerial skills. Seemingly unrelated, arcane, data will be flowing in from all corners of the globe and someone near the top will need the ability to notice patterns and make inferences in a fashion that allows us to stay ahead of our enemies. If done well, it will even allow us to be more efficient in conducting offensive operations, which is the best defense. Maybe someone with a background in economics would be very effective is assisting this
effort.

We could do worse. And we very well may.

WOW. The turnout at the D.C. Bloggerfest last night looks pretty impressive. Wish I'd been there. Oh, well. At least I can look at the pictures.

UPDATED FALLOUT MAPS for an India / Pakistan nuclear war are available through Shoutin' Across the Pacific. As long as it's not "irradiating across the Pacific."

Actually, the fallout generated by Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons appears to be relatively minor anyway, and there's no reason, as far as I know, to suspect that anyone has done anything to modify the weapons to create more fallout.

BILL HOBBS has an update on the Trummel case. Paul Trummel is being kept in jail for something he said on his website. The judge, King County Superior Court Judge James A. Doerty -- who appears to be a blithering idiot who should be removed from the bench immediately for incompetence -- says that Trummel doesn't get First Amendment protection because he isn't a paid journalist. Funny, I missed that "paid journalist" clause in the First Amendment.

UPDATE: William Sulik objects to my use of the term "blithering idiot" to describe Judge Doerty. He says it's unfair to blithering idiots worldwide. He suggests instead: "It is clear that Judge Doerty has just 'stopped watching wrestling because it's too complicated' so he needs some other amusement.'"

Well, okay. I want to be fair after all -- but this decision is so far outside the zone of reasonableness that it makes me wonder if Judge Doerty ever actually attended law school.

MARS NEEDS WOMEN, writes Jonah Goldberg. And women need Mars, he adds. Nice column.

HOW UNFORGIVABLY INEPT are the Washington, DC police? Pretty damn unforgivably inept, according to Josh Marshall. This is mind-boggling.

HERE'S AN ANALYSIS PIECE ON THE HOMELAND SECURITY REORGANIZATION, from the Washington Post.

A U.S. HOSTAGE DIED AND ANOTHER WAS RESCUED during a raid on Muslim extremists in the Philippines, according to this report. The report doesn't say who the hostages were. The Burnhams?

UPDATE: It was. Here's a more recent update.

BELLESILES UPDATE: Well, it's really a Garry Wills update. Northwestern University professor Jim Lindgren sends the following on Garry Wills, who has apparently disavowed Arming America in scholarly settings, but not in public:

The continued criticism of Garry Wills for not changing his mind on Arming America may be somewhat off base. Wills was approached about a panel on the Arming America controversy to be held at the Criminology meetings next fall in Chicago. In response to the organizers' request for him to appear or to suggest another defender of the book, Wills replied by email in March with only four words: 'no one defends it.' In April when I spoke briefly with Wills at a campus lecture (we are Northwestern University colleagues, though I have met him only twice), I asked Wills what his current view of Arming America was. His reply was blunt and used harsher language in its negative assessment of the book than anything that Randy Roth, Joyce Malcolm, Gloria Main, Robert Churchill, Eric Monkkonen, Randy Barnett, Eugene Volokh, or I have said in any of our public statements. From his two recent statements, it appears that Wills is like several historians who have changed their positions on Arming America and have said so (apparently on the record) to scholars involved in the controversy, but who are not yet willing to discuss their current views fully with the press. Just because Wills has not been as public in his statements as former Bellesiles' supporters Roger Lane, Don Hickey, and Sandy Levinson does not mean that he still supports Arming America. One should recognize that most historians' views on the book did not gel until after the William and Mary Quarterly forum came out in late February.

Um, okay. Perhaps some intrepid reporter should call him up and give him the opportunity to speak on the public record. Or he could simply write a short addendum to his glowing New York Times review of Bellesiles' book.

MOHAMMED ATTA sought a government loan to buy a spray-equipped airplane and get started in the "crop dusting business" according to this report.

She said she rejected Atta for a loan because he was not a U.S. citizen. Before he left, Atta tried to buy a panoramic photograph of Washington, D.C., that hung on her office wall. He pointed specifically to the White House and Pentagon and called the photo "one of the prettiest" he had ever seen of the capital. . . .

"His look on his face became very bitter at that point," Bryant said. "I believe he said, 'How would America like it if another country destroyed that city and some of the monuments in it' like the cities in his country had been destroyed?"

She also remembers Atta mentioning al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden, saying bin Laden "would someday be known as the world's greatest leader."

The good news is, these guys (who were presumably among Al Qaeda's finest) weren't exactly slick about maintaining their cover. The next guys will have to be a lot slicker. I hope.

This also makes me wonder about Al Qaeda's resources. A government loan? Either Al Qaeda didn't have the money, or they weren't allocating a whole lot to this mission. Both seem like interesting bits of information.

Or perhaps they simply thought it poetic to let American taxpayers subsidize an attack.

UPDATE: Reader Phil Fraering has this interesting observation:

Just wondering, but you reported he said something along
the lines of "how would Americans feel if their cities
and monuments had been destroyed, like the ones in my
country were?"

I thought he was from _Egypt_?

Hmm. Interesting point.

June 06, 2002

ANDREW SULLIVAN is invoking the Alexa rankings to show that The New Republic gets more traffic (with a ranking of 22,840) than The American Prospect does, with a ranking of 23,581 . But I've always been suspicious of Alexa -- and rightly so, it seems, since it gives InstaPundit a ranking of 1,825.

This seems deeply suspicious to me. And rightly so, as Slate shows up at a miserable 161,025. That actually made me wonder if the rankings were somehow backwards, but Drudge is 396, which destroys that theory. And, I think, the credibility of Alexa.

UPDATE: Boy, lots of people sent email on this one. Turns out ALL Blogspot sites (Alexa still thinks InstaPundit's on Blogspot) return a rank of 1,825. That's apparently the rank for Blogspot as a whole. And Slate returns at 2 if you enter its address as slate.msn.com instead of www.slate.com, because it aggregates all the MSN addresses. Jeez. Jon Garthwaite has more on this if you're interested.

I DON'T KNOW WHY THESE GUYS ARE COMPLAINING. My class voted for Mr. T, and got Howard Baker and Marion Wright Edelman instead.

LOU DOBBS IS RIGHT.

REPLAY TV USERS are suing the television and movie industry to have their use of Replay TV declared legal.

WHAT WAS MISSING from Bush's speech.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the Department of Homeland Security proposal.

N.Z. BEAR has a roundup of lefty blogs, with helpful commentary.

Wasn't TAPPED working on something like this?

WHAT IF APOCALYPSE NOW STARTED OFF IN KNOXVILLE? It might look something like this. If Coppola were having a really good day.

DEEDEE RAMONE IS DEAD. Damn. "I wanna be sedated" makes my top-ten list.

BLOGGERS AND BLOG READERS ARE MORE ATTRACTIVE than the average, so they may not need advice on how to flirt. But just in case you're an outlier, there it is.

BELLESILES UPDATE: Kimberly Strassel blasts the historians:

But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of L'affaire Bellesiles is that despite the enormity of the scandal, nearly every institution involved--from Emory University, to Columbia University's Bancroft Prize Committee, to the publisher--has refused to take a professional or moral stance. The silence of these bodies--groups charged with maintaining the standards and ideals of the academic profession--has been so deafening, that even the traditionally closed-mouth world of scholars is calling for some public disclosure. . . .

The American Historical Association, which might have been best placed to undertake a scholarly inquiry, instead limited itself to passing a "resolution" on Mr. Bellesiles's behalf. "the Council of the American Historical Association considers personal attacks upon or harassment of an author . . . to be inappropriate and damaging to a tradition of free exchange of ideas and the advancement of our knowledge of the past."

Strassel does note that individual scholars, such as James Lindgren of Northwestern and Jerome Sternstein of Brooklyn College have worked hard to set the record straight. Interestingly, Eric Alterman sort of agrees:

I don’t doubt that Michael Bellesiles’ “Arming America” is fundamentally flawed. But I wonder how so many in the media can continue to write about academia as if it is populated by nothing but sixties-style radicals when in fact, it was these very academics who undertook to judge the book and find it wanting when questions about Bellesiles’ research methods were raised.

Despite the highly charged nature of the argument over whether America really is, historically, a nation of guns, historically, Bellesiles has not enjoyed a closed-ranks defense of his work from the counterparts of the people who feel compelled to defend say, the racist pseudoscience of Charles Murray. I feel certain, moreover, that those institutions that rewarded Bellesiles will, after careful consideration, act on the question of whether to rescind those awards.

Careful consideration, after all, is what academia is good for.

In truth, though, Bellesiles did enjoy that sort of defense until the evidence became overwhelming -- as the AHA resolution Strassel cites demonstrates. But ultimately, the evidence does seem to have won out -- as the fact that even an antigun lefty like Alterman has written off Bellesiles' work proves beyond any doubt.

Only Garry Wills is still in denial -- or at least in seclusion -- on this one. So far nobody's been able to get a comment out of him, as far as I can tell.

"THE BIGGEST REORGANIZATION SINCE HARRY TRUMAN:" That's what the White House is promising. That could be good or bad. We really need a massive reorganization in the defense/intelligence/antiterror area. But reorganizations are also what managements that aren't sure what else to do tend to focus on. We'll see about this one.

UPDATE: Taegan Goddard is skeptical too, and offers a link to this book excerpt on the usual fate of government reorganizations.

As I said, we need a reorganization here. It's just hard to do these things well, so we need to pay close attention to what Bush is doing. Reorganization is a means to an end, but such efforts all too often become ends in themselves.

UPDATE: Charles Austin is more hopeful. I hope he's right.

DAN HANSON has an amusing Music industry suckage report. He asks if readers can name a single member of the Starland Vocal Band, which had the smash hit "Afternoon Delight." Actually, yes. Her name is Margot, and she was a friend of mine's secretary (at Skadden, Arps) about 10 years ago.

RYAN ZEMPEL AT C-LOG has responded to my comments on geezer-sex issues. It's a nice response.

My own feeling is that people are entitled to hold opinions on how others should act, but only entitled to enact those opinions into law when some discrete harm to others may result.

JEREMY LOTT has some interesting, and worried, thoughts about how the Catholic Church's sex scandals will affect its ability to fend off state intrusion generally.

DAMIEN CAVE compares the annoying and limited music-sharing systems allowed by record companies (which are failing) with the Netflix model, which is succeeding, and notes that consumers like freedom. I agree, natch.

NORAH VINCENT has some thoughts on media sensitivity that are worth reading.

HMM. MAYBE ZOMBIES DON'T RULE BELGIUM: The head of national security in Belgium has resigned over charges that Belgium is serving as a sanctuary and training ground for Al Qaeda and other fundamentalist Islamic terrorists.

Imagine: someone resigning because of failure in their agency's zone of responsibility. Now there's a European custom I wouldn't mind seeing at home.

JIHAD: This transcript from Nightline is worth reading. Here's what Daniel Pipes said about the Jihad-as-meaning-spiritual-struggle argument:

What's wrong, Chris, is that it's a fabrication. Jihad has historically meant, almost always one thing-which is expanding the territories ruled by Muslims through armed warfare. That's what it's meant. Now I'm happy to see a development occur whereby it means something more spiritual. But we have to start by acknowledging that that's the real meaning of the word, the historic meaning of the word, the traditional meaning of the word, and we can't ignore it. And this young man is ignoring it.

What's funny is that all the people who were after Bush for using the word "crusade" seem to think that it's simplistic to criticize the use of the word "jihad." In truth, the peaceful meaning of "crusade" is more well-established.

And I know other people have already noted this, but what if we had a fundamentalist Christian speaking at a Harvard commencement on the importance of the "crusade" concept? You know, like someone from "Campus Crusade for Christ." Well, forget the "what if." It's basically unimaginable. Religious diversity and acceptance can only go so far, after all.

ROBERT MUELLER says the FBI needs more money. This is conceivably true, though if they quit acting as hired goons for the MPAA and RIAA it might free up a few agents.

But Congress should demand serious accountability -- including firings, demotions and reorganization -- before it gives the FBI any more money. Massive failure followed by a big boost in funding has been an FBI pattern of late. It needs to stop.

UPDATE: More evidence that the FBI isn't ready for more money yet. Its demonstrated big problems are in data-analysis and management. What does it want money for? More data-gathering! No, no, no. Show you can manage the data you're already getting and we'll talk, guys.

THE BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTRY has refused to allow ammunition to be shipped to Israel for an Israeli sharpshooters' club.

Humph. When another small country I can think of was fighting off crazed fascistic enemies, the United States certainly didn't take that line. For which the British should be glad.

Meanwhile, of course, the EU is sending money to Palestinians that winds up being spent on bombs and guns. But that's just development assistance.

IN LIGHT OF MY JOURNALISM-AND-COWARDICE POST, below, readers may want to check out these real-life stories by Dave Winer.

Journalists say that blogs can't be trusted because there's no oversight. Read, and see what oversight means.

Bloggers have biases -- but they're usually right out in the open. And bloggers don't pretend to be objective professionals.

POLITICS MAY DRIVE PEOPLE APART, but Bourbon can bring them back together. Though the superiority of Jack Daniel's products remains incontestable.

UPDATE: Any mention of Bourbon seems to generate a lot of email. Yes, I know that Jack Daniel's is "sour mash whiskey." Duh. And yes, I know that they also make superb "sour mash" in Kentucky -- in fact, I have a fine bottle of Old Weller 107 proof in my liquor cabinet.

HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL student Pat Collins writes about the "Jihad on campus" incident, and several other recent war-related embarrassments for Harvard, and says that Harvard has a governance problem. I think that Larry Summers is trying to fix that. But he'll need outside pressure to accomplish anything.

ARE ALL JOURNALISTS WUSSES? I ask this because of the top three stories on Jim Romenesko's page:

"Andy Rooney says Ashcroft 'has put the fear of God into reporters' " -- saying that everyone's afraid to write anything critical for fear that Ashcroft will say they're helping terrorists;

"Why it took so long for the media to expose the clergy sex scandal
National Catholic Reporter Publisher Tom Fox's view: 'The secular press wouldn't touch it because they didn't want to be seen as anti-Catholic, and the Catholic [press] wouldn't touch it because they weren't independent;'" and

"Alt-weekly editors are scared, less idealistic, and more ad-conscious"

Grow some balls, guys and gals. That's what press freedom is all about. So someone might call you names. Big deal.

The Ashcroft thing is the most startling. Why are people so intimidated by his public pronouncements? Of course, it's not just the press. People denounced Ashcroft for lighting into a panel of Senators last fall -- but not one of those tribunes of the people had to guts to say "You dropped the ball, Mr. Ashcroft -- don't blame us for your organization's failures." Now that it's safer they may come back after him, but by not standing up then, they'll look like opportunistic jackals now. Screw the poll numbers -- if you stand up for what's right, you'll probably do okay. And if not, well, isn't that your job anyway, both in the press and in the Senate?

As Robert Heinlein said, it may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it's better still to be a live lion. And usually easier -- unless, that is, you're a jackal to start with.

HARVARD DIVESTMENT PETITION: There's a new call for divestment -- saying that Harvard should divest itself of binLaden family gifts and interests. Yeah, I found this via a Katzman post, too. What can I say? The guy's on a roll.

JOE KATZMAN has a linkfest of resources on the impact of an India/Pakistan nuclear war. He also has an extended analysis of Al Qaeda's likely reasons for actually wanting a nuclear war between the two. Sadly, he's pretty persuasive. Of course, if there are nukes flying around, an extra nuke or two in the right place might go unnoticed. . . . And a high-altitude EMP weapon over the wild regions where Al Qaeda has its holdouts, which would blow out anything electronic, would cripple Al Qaeda's ability to operate anywhere else. These guys are actually far more dependent on sophisticated communications technology than people realize.

June 05, 2002

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH says forget this wobbly stuff: we're getting ready for war with Iraq.

EUGENE VOLOKH explains why making foreigners from some Arab countries register isn't, in fact, racial profiling. I would say "duh," but it appears to have escaped the New York Times, along with many other media organizations. My objection to this plan is that it leaves out the Saudis, who are terror central.

If Bush craters politically over this war, it will be because he's been too deferential to the Saudis. Which he has been.

UPDATE: Neal Boortz isn't impressed with Arab complaints about this policy.

THE WEBLOG AS AN EXTENDED BRAIN: Cory Doctorow has this absolutely right. I feel the same way.

ORRIN JUDD seems to think that my article talking about the greater danger posed by neuroscience relative to cloning means that I have something in common with Francis Fukuyama. Well, at an appropriate level of abstraction, I do. We're both carbon-based bipeds.

Okay, not quite that high a level of abstraction, but still pretty high. But Judd seems to (1) misunderstand my position; and (2) miss my point.

Judd seems to think that it's a big deal for me to admit that there are dangers in bioscience, or science in general. But I've never doubted that -- I've been writing about it for over a decade. (Here is a recent example). I don't think that there are any significant dangers involved in cloning: the objections to cloning make sense mostly in terms of a particular religious frame of reference that I don't share. Neuroscience is somewhat more dangerous.

But in both cases -- let's pick the standard reference here and mention Brave New World -- the danger is stuff being done without people's consent. That's where I differ from Judd. He looks at Brave New World and is unhappy to see cloning and psychoactive drugs. I look at Brave New World and am unhappy to see cloning and psychoactive drugs forced on people by a totalitarian world government. For me, it's the force part that's upsetting. If people want to clone themselves, or become "Happy Harrys" with psychoactive medication, that's okay with me. I just don't want them forced to do so. Fukuyama, by contrast, wants to stop science because he knows what's best for everyone. That's a position that's closer to the totalitarian-world-government model than to my own.

Judd also misses my main point, which was that all the scrutiny that the Medical Ethics Establishment has directed at cloning -- and hasn't directed at neuroscience -- hasn't made much difference. Neuroscience abuses, despite the lack of Ethics Establishment scrutiny, are largely nonexistent unless you reach back to the 1950s or so for lobotomies and CIA drug experiments, neither of which have much to do with modern neuroscience. My mention of neuroscience wasn't so much to trumpet its dangers as to illustrate that the Ethics Establishment, a group of nattering nabobs of which Fukuyama seems determined to become natterer-in-chief, has been precisely useless. What's worse, that may be the most anyone can say in its favor.

SPOONS TELLS ME that if I don't buy an MR2 convertible the terrorists will have won. Actually, he's pretty persuasive.

WHAT THEY KNEW AND WHAT THEY DIDN'T DO: This post from Electrolite has an excellent quote.

ERIC ALTERMAN has a reference to me on his blog today. I think he's referring to this post with its link to some technical/style comments from Dr. Weevil.

I TALKED WITH DAVE WINER ON THE PHONE a little while ago, and I notice he's already blogged the conversation! Things move fast in the blogosphere. I don't have much to add. We've both been interviewed by an Old Media organ that we suspect may, just may, have more of an agenda than just writing a story. I may post a bit more on this later, but I want to at least note that I'm in complete agreement with Dave on both the absence of any "feuding" and the importance of amateurism.

UPDATE: Ken Layne weighs in. It's a blogger lovefest!

DOWD WATCH: Josh Chafetz is on the case.

IAIN MURRAY swings both ways -- writing for conservative publications, but now savaging "intelligent design" theory in The American Prospect. He's right, of course.

I wonder -- did writer's block force the Prospect crowd to reach out?

UPDATE: Here's a post with more thoughts, which I found via Electrolite.

WHEN IN DOUBT, COIN A TERM: TAPPED announces that it has "Blogger's Block."

WHERE ECO-SILLINESS GOES OVER THE EDGE: The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Several people emailed me this link, but I don't think it's actually new. Why all the attention all of a sudden?

And yes, there really are people who think this way.

GERALD FORD has an oped opposing the Brownback anti-cloning bill in today's Washington Post. I agree, of course, that the Brownback bill is terrible -- though unlike Ford I don't regard it as a foregone conclusion that reproductive cloning is awful. In fact, I don't really see any reason to think that it is.

IN LIGHT OF MY TechCentralStation column on neuroscience today, I should probably also steer interested readers to this weblog on neuroscience, focusing primarily on neuroprosthesis.

UPDATE: Just got this interesting email:

My name is Maria Yang and I am a medical student at UC Davis. I just wanted to comment on your TCS article ("Brains: Good, Bad, and Modified"):

I think neuroscience does not receive the attention and emotions that cloning/abortion does simply because neuroscience is considered way too complicated and way too esoteric and way too academic to really affect the lives of the average citizen, or the average ethicist.

It's easy to explain cloning and abortion in lay terms ("like a photocopy"; "removing a piece of tissue"/"killing a child"). But how does one "simply" explain neuroscience? How does one state in five words or less the concepts of neurotransmitters, inhibition, inhibition of inhibition, etc., and how all of those interactions can produce a desired (or undesired) effect?

That, and do people *really* want to know the intricacies of brain function? People never ask how Prozac works--they just know that it makes you happy. People want instant gratification: just deliver the end result and move on to the next distraction.

While I don't want to attribute the disparity of attention given to various ethical issues solely to laziness, it seems like people just find it easier to work with issues that can be summed up in five words and generate a visceral response from the masses. It just takes too much time and effort to actually look closer, dig deeper, and understand what a bigger issue may be.

Yes. Also, Hollywood hasn't done much with neuroscience. If they made a movie out of Greg Bear's Queen of Angels that might change.

ARE AMERICAN JOURNALISTS ARMING TERRORISTS? I expect to see the Violence Policy Center issue a press release any minute now.

SORRY THAT BLOGGING HAS BEEN SO LIMITED TODAY -- I've been revising a manuscript (it's a law review article on the Commerce Clause). I've been so busy with computer hell (the wired part of my network works, but the wireless part still doesn't -- except intermittently) that I got a bit behind.

THE WIDELY-REPORTED (well, in IndyMedia-type circles) Matt Guckenheimer statement about killing women and children in Afghanistan is false -- according to none other than Mr. Guckenheimer himself. Tim Blair has it. Here's an earlier post on the subject, with links.

ERIC S. RAYMOND says that we are all Jews now, and uses a comment on Dawn Olsen's page (for which he doesn't provide a link, tsk tsk, but it's in the comments to this post) to launch into an interesting discussion of what ticks off Islamofascists, why it leads to antisemitism, and what to do about it.

THE BLOG BOOK PROJECT is getting some mainstream press. I think that's very cool.

MORE GUNS: Honestly, I keep trying to get away from this issue, but interesting stuff keeps popping up. There's a new Zogby poll on attitudes about the Second Amendment that suggests it's pretty much impossible to call the Administration's individual-right position "out of the mainstream" or "radical" unless the definition of "mainstream" means "the op-ed page of the New York Times" Which, of course, it does.

Eugene Volokh has more.

FOR THOSE IN MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL, I'll be on KSTP radio just after the hour, talking about teen sex. Sorry, no Internet stream.

MY TECHCENTRALSTATION COLUMN IS UP -- and it's not about Mars!

KRISTOF UPDATE: Nick Kristof's dumb, biased, and inaccurate column on gun shows came in for a pasting in the Blogosphere yesterday. Even leftie blogger Ted Barlow found that Kristof's stereotypes didn't match his own gun-show experience.

Here, by the way, is a clear and detailed explanation by Dave Kopel (who has a book on gun regulation just out from NYU Press) of why the "gun-show loophole" is a myth -- and one propagated with malice aforethought. Kristof should either be embarrassed to have fallen for this disinformation campaign, or ashamed to be complicit in it. Kopel also debunks Kristof's claim, parroted (like the rest of his column) from VPC and Brady press releases, that denials under the Instant-Check system mean that an equivalent number of criminals have been stopped from buying guns:

The 700,000 figure is simply the number of initial denials under the National Instant Check System and its predecessor, the Brady waiting period. The figure includes people who were initially denied a gun because they had the same name as a criminal, but who appealed and were later authorized to purchase. It also includes people denied for improper reasons, such as unpaid traffic tickets.

But in even citing it, the anti-gun folks are being dishonest: "Indeed, the figure of 700,000 gun purchasers who were turned down includes people who were turned down when attempting to buy at gun shows from federally licensed firearms dealers."

Because, you see, there is no "gun show loophole." Federal gun laws require licensed dealers to do background checks wherever they sell guns. They don't require casual sellers to do background checks, wherever they sell guns. Kristof is either too lazy to find out the truth, or too dishonest to tell it. Your call.

NOTE: Kristof says 690,000. The McCain / Lieberman anti-gun commercial that Kopel quotes says 700,000. I assume that some copywriter, ahem, rounded up.

UPDATE: Reader Byron Matthews makes this valuable point:

It isn't simply that non-FFLs don't have to comply with those laws --
non-FFLs do not have access to the NICS background check system. You
have to be a licensed dealer to use the system. As a private seller,
even if you wanted to do a background check to avoid any possible
liability should your buyer misuse the gun you sell him, you can't do
it.

I understand this has to do with privacy concerns, where access to the
system might be misused by neighbors checking up on each other, etc. My
guess is that if the check system were open to private sellers in some
way, many would use it.

I don't mean to pick on Kristof (I like some of his work) but his gun pieces have been sloppy and misleading -- and frequent.

CORNEL WEST UPDATE: Well, really it's a Larry Summers update. Josh Chafetz and Matthew Yglesias have an interesting back-and-forth on who'll be hiring Cornel West's replacement. It turns out that since he's a University Professor, his replacement will be chosen by (drumroll, please) . . . . Larry Summers!

Hmm. So Summers gets rid of a loudmouth provocateur who isn't pulling his academic weight, and gets to choose his replacement. West, on the other hand, gets some mixed (mostly bad) publicity, and has to move to New Jersey. So, who won this round?

Advantage: Summers!

MICKEY KAUS demonstrates, once again, that he's an ass man. But everyone who's been reading him for any length of time knows it already.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

SOUTH KNOX BUBBA'S IQ TEST gets a link from Andrew Sullivan today. Who says a new blogger can't get noticed?

THE GOVERNMENT HAS finally gotten around to firing someone over 9/11.

June 04, 2002

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO Eric Rudolph?

WRITERGIRL has joined the blogging revolution.

RUDYARD KIPLING -- the original blogger? Well, it would explain a lot, actually.

MORE COOL SPACE STUFF: Slashdot links to this Zogby study indicating that the market for space tourism -- even pretty expensive space tourism -- is quite substantial.

FATHER'S DAY is still a few weeks off, but Wendy McElroy reports that some fathers are already making plans.

KRISTOF UPDATE: Leftie blogger Ted Barlow reports on his attendance at a gun show and his experience is at odds with Kristof's, finding friendly normal people instead of crazed assassins -- though Barlow makes a legal error that's understandable, given that nearly all media coverage makes it too:

I’ve now been to one gun show. Big deal. They’re not for me, but there’s nothing wrong with them. But it seems silly at best, dangerous at worst, to have a special kind of room called a “gun show” where certain gun laws don’t count. I'd like to see the gun-show loophole closed on a federal level. That’s all anyone is asking for.

Fine -- but there is no "gun show loophole!" Gun shows are not a "special kind of room" where "certain gun laws don't count."

Every law that applies anywhere applies at a gun show. But federal law allows people who aren't in the business of selling firearms to do so without complying with the background check provisions, etc. If you're a licensed gun dealer, you have to comply with those laws whether or not you're at a gun show. If you're not a licensed gun dealer, you don't have to comply with those laws, whether or not you're at a gun show.

This is why gun people get so angry at talk of the "gun show loophole." There isn't one. Federal firearms law was designed to treat guns as normally as possible where ordinary people are concerned, permitting the sorts of casual trades and sales that have historically gone on. Anti-gun groups, who want to stigmatize guns, hate that. The "gun show loophole" is part of a drive, largely admitted, to require that any transfer of firearms, anywhere, be run through the federal system. This may or may not be a good idea -- I don't think it would do much to prevent crime, for several fairly obvious reasons -- but regardles of whether it's a good idea or not, talk of a nonexistent "gun show loophole" is either ignorant or dishonest. In Barlow's case, the ignorance (and I'm sure that's what it is) is excusable, because he's been bombarded with this propaganda via the Kristofs of the world.

In Kristof's case, it's inexcusable because he writes for the "paper of record" and he's supposed to be neither ignorant nor dishonest. "Supposed to be" being the operative phrase here, of course.

TAPPED HAS SOME SORT OF INDEXING PROBLEM, but you can see the current page here.

THE SMOKING GUN HAS AN INTERESTING DOCUMENT on FBI eavesdropping:

It was there that, in February 2000, FBI agents secretly began videotaping Abdel-Rahman's legal visits (bugging of his telephone calls with lawyers began in June 2000). The eavesdropping was conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which, in the name of national security, authorizes secret electronic surveillance aimed at gathering foreign intelligence. The initial Minnesota warrant came 15 months after the FBI began FISA surveillance on the home telephone of Sattar, whose e-mail and fax traffic was also later intercepted by government agents.

"February 2000?" But wait -- I thought that when Ashcroft proposed eavesdropping on lawyer/client conferences it was a threat to freedom without precedent in American legal history! Now we find out that it was being done under Clinton/Reno, too! And nobody's remarked on it. Go figure.

I guess that the people who were complaining about Ashcroft just don't read The Smoking Gun. Yeah, that must be it.

WE KEEP HEARING that Mohammed Atta's Prague meeting with an Iraqi intelligence agent didn't happen. But that's not what the Czechs are saying.

GUN-O-RAMA TUESDAY: The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled the state's concealed-handgun law unconstitutional -- because it lets cities and counties ban concealed guns.

BERKELEY HATEWATCH UPDATE: According to this report, the District Attorney is planning to drop charges against the pro-Palestinian rioters who occupied Wheeler Hall, though they will have to pay court costs and may still face disciplinary action from the University.

That's not terribly unusual in the aftermath of disturbances where no one is seriously injured, but it's troubling. Would they have done this if the identical behavior had been perpetrated by, say, Klan sympathizers? I doubt it.

I'd still like to see the SFSU videotape made public. (Via an email from Zachary Barbera).

KRISTOF WATCH: Just noticed that Jeff Goldstein had the same reaction I did to Nick Kristof's gun-show column today:

Now, perhaps I'm hypersensitive to these kinds of things, but Jolly Old Slant Nick seems to've larded down his prose with a bunch of caricaturish signifiers meant to demean and villify gun enthusiasts. I mean, Confederate flags, Nick? Fuse wire? Sexist, gun-lovin', hickish bumper stickers? "Concealed" handguns?

The only thing missing from Kristof's heavily-armed strawman city is the tobacco-spittin Mayor, a moron in camouflage who "ain't gonna sell no gun to no Jew," but "sure as shit'll shoot me some. Yeeehawwww!"

Here's a tip, Nick: Until you start taking gun owners seriously, the educated folks who believe in the Second Amendment will dismiss you as irrelevant.

Indeed.

MEDIAWHORESONLINE is getting some press in Salon (but you'll have to pay to read it) and some defenses from Eric Alterman and TAPPED. But bloggers at MediaWhoresOnlineWatch have been on this case for a while, and they dispute claims that MWO is accurate.

Advantage: Blogosphere! But did they call Alterman for his opinion?

RYAN ZEMPEL AT C-LOG is unhappy with this story about senior citizens shacking up. It doesn't seem so bad to me. But then, I had already read this New York Times story about sex at a senior-citizens' home, which I found rather sweet.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding Zempel, but I don't see the problem here. Heck, it's a lot less of an issue than teen sex! You've got no worries about pregnancy. STDs seem low-risk, and at any rate are a minor issue compared with the other health problems these folks have. Shacking up even protects your heirs from having someone else take part of their inheritance. I don't think there's a consequentialist argument here at all: just a basically religious argument against sex outside of marriage.

Fine. Believe that if you want. But don't expect people who don't share that religious belief to pay any attention. And don't pretend that's not what you're doing -- as "social" conservatives so often do, dressing up essentially religious arguments in social-policy garb, something that Zempel, to his credit, isn't doing.

HUH. The Mars piece that Kopel and I have in NRO is now on Slashdot. Overall, the comments are kind of disappointing, especially for such a tech-savvy crowd. Here's a good one, though.

A few commenters seem to think that Kopel and I would be upset if colonies on Mars demanded their independence at some future date. Actually, I would be disappointed if they didn't.

BELLICOSE LIBERAL: Eric Alterman asks " who is Bin Laden’s Dick Cheney? That’s the man we need to kill."

SPEAKING OF GUNS: A bunch of people have emailed me about this Richard Cohen column for this rather offensive line: "I am, like all reasonable people, in favor of the tightest restrictions on guns." (Emphasis added). Sadly, Cohen probably sincerely believes this statement to be true.

But that's not the story. The story is that Cohen is endorsing armed pilots, more or less. Which means that by listening to Norman Mineta and Tom Ridge, Bush has managed to get himself to the left of Richard Cohen on guns!

I agree with Jim Glassman. There's something seriously wrong at the White House. It certainly gives this conversation reported by Matt Welch more credibility.

BELLESILES UPDATE: There's an interesting debate among historians that people who have been following L'Affaire Bellesiles may want to check out. It starts with this article by Don Williams on History News Network, suggesting that the reliance of so many pro-gun-control historians on Bellesiles' work may undermine their case across the board. This post on H-Net (a historians' email list) drew this response from historian Jack Rakove, who (though he has never actually admitted that Bellesiles' work is false) says that individual-rights supporters want to focus on Bellesiles because it hurts the credibility of the entire "collective rights" position. Anti-gun historian Peter Hoffer agrees with Rakove saying that the "collective rights" case is still strong even without Bellesiles (though his reference to the "well regulated militia" language in the Second Amendment is astonishingly ahistorical for, well, a historian). Finally, Williams responds at length here pointing out a number of errors within Rakove's analysis.

I find this exchange interesting mostly because it indicates that even those who previously defended Bellesiles are now falling back to an alternative line of argument, and suggesting that it's somehow not sporting for people to criticize anti-gun arguments by pointing out that they're built on his apparently-fraudulent research.

This would be more persuasive if Rakove et al. would come right out and call Bellesiles' work fraudulent and retract the statements they've made in reliance upon it. Since they're not yet willing to do that, they still have a credibility problem. Put simply, why should we listen to people who are either so gullible that they were taken in by research that should have raised red flags with anyone who knew anything about the subject -- and why should we trust people so ideologically committed to a particular outcome that they are still unwilling to admit the truth about it?

BRINK LINDSEY has evidence that central planning works. Er, as long as by "works" you means "succeeds in implementing really stupid ideas."

MORE ON MARS! Dave Kopel and I have a piece in The National Review Online. I won't spoil it with a description.

THIS WHOLE BLOGGER-SEX THING is getting out of hand.

UPDATE: Reader Richard Whitten writes:

Can we change the subject from the sexiest blogger to something else? The
sexiest blogger is obviously UNABLOGGER, because as far as I know UNABLOGGER is the only blogger who posts photos regularly. And nice ones.

Well, there you have it.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH EURO-INTELLECTUALS, a potentially endless series: Meryl Yourish has found an Italian writer who thinks that fascism is about "an extreme cult of personal freedom." Oh, yeah. We beat Hitler and Mussolini to keep them from imposing freedom on the whole world. Jeez. This guy is so dumb he should work for Jack Valenti -- who, come to think of it, embraces a somewhat similar worldview.

CORNEL WEST UPDATE: Cornel West has left Harvard for Princeton. Henry Louis Gates is staying at Harvard, where he now has the chance to replace West with an actual scholar (or, given West's infalted salary and perks, probably two). Hmm. A reader emails that this may have been Gates' clever plan all along.

ABIGAIL TRAFFORD on the Chandra Levy / cloning connection.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone. -- Jack Valenti, 1982.

I found this via Subaverage, where you can read the entire, hilarious, transcript. Why does anybody listen to this guy?

Oh, yeah. He pays 'em to.

NICK KRISTOF IS REWRITING PRESS RELEASES from the Violence Policy Center and the Brady Campaign and passing the result off as an oped. Again.

What's more, I've been to gun shows, and Kristof's pastiche of leftie stereotypes is unconvincing. Did he even actually attend the show he says he visited?

UPDATE: Reader Jeff Paulsen says Kristof is either lying or incredibly gullible:

Quote from the article: 'As I tried the feel of a used $129.95 Polish assault rifle with a handy bayonet, the seller beamed. "That's a powerful gun," he said. "It's the only one I know that can put a round through bulletproof glass."'

Somebody is full of shit, here. Most any hunting rifle will shoot through “bulletproof” things just fine. (“Bulletproof” is really about proof against handgun bullets.) Either we have an unscrupulous seller lying to make his sale, or Kristof making up details and quotes to demonize gun shows.

For that price, it was probably an SKS, firing the 7.62x39 cartridge – ballistically equivalent to Granddad’s 30-30, and good on deer. It is also debatable whether or not the SKS is an “assault rifle” – it fires semi-automatically from a 10-round fixed magazine.

Yes. The quotes ring false to me -- but it's possible that some folks were just having fun with a guy whose chief claim to firearms expertise appears to be that he's had guns pointed at him.

THE CIA SAYS THE FBI IS LYING, and that it did in fact warn the FBI about hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. I'm not enjoying this, but at least somebody's beginning to look at what went wrong.

MY FORMER LAW PROFESSOR STEPHEN CARTER has a new novel out, for which he received a near-record advance for a novice author. It's reviewed rather unkindly in the New York Times today. I can't help suspecting that the huge advance elevated the reviewer's expectations, which I suppose is inevitable.

June 03, 2002

GRAY DAVIS UPDATE: Edward Boyd deploys one of his trademark tables to explain the situation.

CONSPIRACY THEORY? Or just a conspiracy? A reader writes to note some odd events in Memphis. It's pretty well summed up in this story. Harvard virologist Don Wiley disappeared in Memphis and was found dead. A fake-driver's license ring involving Middle Eastern men was broken up, and Katherine Smith, the state driver's license examiner who was involved in it was murdered. (More details on that case here). Now the chief medical examiner, O.C. Smith (I don't know if he's any relation to Katherine -- apparently not, as the story doesn't mention it) who handled both autopsies has been attacked and left bound with barbed wire and with a bomb attached to him (he was found and lived).

Authorities are blaming anti-abortion types for the latest attack, but you have to wonder about all these coincidences. It's, er, like something out of a thriller novel.

UPDATE: There's a story in today's (Tuesday's New York Times with further details on why the authorities are blaming a particular (unknown) letter-writer, though this story suggests the writer is more interested in the death penalty than in abortion.

DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY: Actually, Tom Palmer says Francis Fukuyama gets his history wrong on a couple of crucial subjects.

BELLESILES UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has some comments about Bellesiles' claims that he's being subjected to a form of McCarthyism. Excerpt:

Refresh my recollection, please: Did Joe McCarthy really limit himself to (1) publicizing substantial charges of academic misconduct, charges that are backed by the views of many reputable scholars, and (2) asking that his name be withdrawn from fellowships awarded to people who engaged in such misconduct? Somehow I think that if this were so, the term "McCarthyism" would have a very different connotation than it does today.

Indeed.

AUGH! THEY'RE ALL AROUND ME! It's another redesigned and relocated weblog courtesy of the all-powerful, all-loved Sekimori.

THE PALESTINIAN AIR FORCE downs its first plane.

KEN LAYNE -- whose page today is full of cool thoughts and history about blogging -- also disagrees with the Larry Miller piece from The Weekly Standard that I linked to earlier. Layne notes that the Israeli Ambassador said it was an accident, and adds: "I had a 2 a.m. electrical fire in my office last month, and had I not been sitting right underneath the blue flames shooting from the outlet, my 100-year-old piece-of-crap house would be ashes today. It happens." Yeah, it does.

HERE'S MORE ON CIVILIAN CASUALTIES from the L.A. Times. Basically, the Taliban deliberately inflated casualty claims in order to win Western sympathy, helped along by supporters and useful idiots like Marc Herold:

On Oct. 31 in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, Taliban officials escorted selected journalists to what they said was a clinic destroyed by an American airstrike. The journalists reported that 10 to 15 civilians had died. The story received widespread circulation in the Arab world via the Afghan Islamic Press, a pro-Taliban agency.

The site actually was an Al Qaeda military post and a small clinic for Taliban wounded located next to a private home, according to an Afghan security guard who said he witnessed the bombing. Interviewed at the site, guard Abdul Salam said several Al Qaeda fighters and two or three civilians from the private home were among those killed.

Khalid Pushtoon, an official with the new Kandahar government, said when asked about the incident: "A clinic? That was no clinic. That place was full of Arabs," a reference to foreign Al Qaeda fighters.

Why is it that people who are convinced that the Pentagon lies about everything find it so hard to believe that America's enemies lie about anything?

JEREMY LOTT has a review of Sen. Bill Frist's new book on bioterrorism in Christianity Today.

JOHN SCALZI SAYS that the new MSNBC "blogs" are phony exercises in marketing rather than true blogs.

UPDATE: The always-erudite Dr. Weevil has some constructive criticisms for Eric Alterman.

AMY WELBORN defends C.S. Lewis. My daughter and I read all the way through the Narnia books this year. I loved them when I was a kid, and they're even better as an adult. Anybody who savages Lewis is an idiot, as far as I'm concerned.

MICKEY KAUS TRACKS WELFARE REFORM using hip-hop / R&B lyrics.

WOBBLY WATCH WRIT LARGE: Jim Glassman is savaging George Bush for abandoning his principles, and he has a pretty damning list of principles that have been abandoned.

UPDATE: I just noticed this Charles Murtaugh post on how Democrats can outflank Bush on the right using the war. I think he's right. That would peel off a lot of Bush supporters who are sick of Powellesque temporizing and Minetan bullshit. And that's, well, most of Bush's supporters.

ERIC ALTERMAN wonders why nobody is paying attention to reports that parts of Afghanistan were designated free-fire zones. He should read blogs more or at least read more blogs: Flit has researched the sources, and so has Nick Marsala. Tim Blair has more information, too. None of this is doing much to enhance the credibility of the charges: some crucial details in the story appear to be false.

UPDATE: Reader William G. Bean writes:

Regarding your recent post about deaths of civilians in Afghanistan, I was reminded of a story I read a few months ago about our military interdiction of gasoline supply trucks that were smuggling gasoline into the interior of Afghanistan. Our soldiers would stop the truck, remove the drivers, then have a helicopter blow up the truck. We would release the drivers unharmed. I think that is the way you judge our operations in this war. We put our soldiers at increased risk in this kind of operation and I don't think any armed force has ever gone to such extremes to protect the civilian population.

Yes, I remember that story. It was reported in terms of the drivers' complaints about how unfairly they were treated. Sadly, the more careful you are in war, the higher standard people hold you to.

CHRIS PATTEN MAY BE out of a job.

THE CDC is soliciting public comments on what it should do about smallpox vaccination. This link will take you to a page that has a link for comments, and some background information.

BELLESILES UPDATE: Just ran across this story in The Guardian on Bellesiles. And even The Guardian isn't all that sympathetic to his story any more. And check out this quote:

"The evidence is utterly devastating," said Albert Alschuler, a professor at the University of Chicago law school and author of a study favourable to advocates of firearms control. "We're hesitant to use the word fraud in our business, but it seems to me that there are smoking guns all over the place."

The article does, however, repeat the story that Bellesiles received many death threats. I wonder, though: So far I've seen no evidence of this other than Bellesiles' by-now-unreliable statements. Did he go to the police about those at the time?

GO AIR FORCE!

TRAFFIC WARS: TAPPED has a new post on the subject.

BRENDAN O'NEILL responds to my Rall post below, and my mention of new, lower figures for civilian casualties, and issues a challenge: "Now, how about some of those who hide behind the numbers coming out as either being for the war, or against it?"

Okay. Here's my response. I'm for the war. I'm glad that we killed a lot of Al Qaeda and Taliban. I'm sorry we didn't kill them all. I'm sorry that we killed any non-Al Qaeda and non-Taliban Afghans, but it was a war, and that kind of thing happens. I don't believe -- with Mary Robinson -- that you have a moral duty not to engage in war if anyone might be hurt as a result. In fact, I think that when you engage in war you have a moral duty to use sufficient force to end it swiftly, because that actually saves lives overall.

But Ted Rall claims that we were "carpet-bombing" Afghan cities, something pretty easily refuted by the (low) casualty figures I cited. Most everything Rall says is easily refuted. Which is what makes the glowing Time review of his book so pathetic.

In a weird sort of way, though, I see reason in O'Neill's final point. I don't believe that the war is an imperialistic venture by America to solve its internal problems -- unless, you know, having crazed Arabs crashing loaded planes into skyscrapers counts as an "internal problem." But if there's something wrong with our war effort, it's that it's "ineffective." In other words, we're not bombing enough people to ensure that attacks like 9/11 won't happen again.

I'd be happy to sit in isolationist splendor if I thought we could do it. (Of course, then people would complain about the U.S. not being "engaged," and about its "ignoring world problems," instead of complaining about "imperialism.") But if we have to bomb a lot of people to make America safe from dangerous wackos, then so be it. "Kill Americans and you're dead meat" still seems like a good operative principle to me. I'd rather see all the Islamofascists turn peaceful and become McDonald's franchisees or whatever. But that's not an option at the moment.

DID THE FBI LIE TO CONGRESS? Byron York says it looks like it may have.

ADVANTAGE -- BLOGOSPHERE! Last week, The American Prowler had a piece entitled J. Edgar Mueller. Today, William Safire has a column entitled J. Edgar Mueller. Okay, they're not really that similar, but it's fun.

UPDATE: And Katie Granju has another example. But, you know, I'm not convinced that this kind of thing deserves any more than a cutesy "I said it first" with a wink. When you're talking about an FBI director, the "J. Edgar ___" construction isn't exactly on a par with the discovery of oxygen, after all. And once you note that somebody thinks that calling George Bush a "cowboy" is an insult, well, the piece kind of writes itself.

I'm constantly getting picked on for saying that people are too quick to claim theft of ideas. But, really, there aren't that many new ideas out there. And I'm not that big about owning any ideas I may have anyway. My own feeling, frankly, is that if people write a column around an idea that they saw on InstaPundit, that's not theft -- that's influence. Which is a good thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The more I think about it, the more I wonder. There are tens of thousands of blogs. If you're a columnist, probably anything you write has already been said by some blogger somewhere. So what do you do? Never, ever read blogs, so you can assert that as a defense? That's a bad thing -- for columnists and for weblogs. I think we need a pretty high standard here. If it's not outright word-for-word plagiarism, I don't think it's worthy of complaint.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And the column in question turns out to have been filed on Thursday -- before the post that allegedly inspired it. People often think of the same things in response to the same stimuli, folks. As Alexander Lindey wrote: "Most parallels rest on the assumption that if two successive things are similar, the second one was copied from the first. This assumption disregards all the other possible causes of similarity."

JIM PINKERTON takes on space enviro-wackos over at TechCentralStation.

YASMEEN GHAURI UPDATE: Reader Tucker Goodrich informs me that Yasmeen Ghauri and her (former) Imam father have been "ostracized" by the Canadian Muslim community because of her success.

Okay, it's India all the way, then, based on the Ken Layne test. I stand corrected. Tim Blair, not too surprisingly, has identified a similar antiterrorism heuristic.

A KINDER, GENTLER HOWELL RAINES: Hmm. I wonder how much Andrew Sullivan's campaign has to do with this?

BELLESILES UPDATE: In case you missed my post on it over the weekend (my logs suggest that most of you surf from work, you slackers -- er, I mean, "you valuable employees dedicated to staying up on important news," of course), check out this piece by David Skinner on the committee that awarded Michael Bellesiles the (formerly) prestigious Bancroft Prize.

LARRY MILLER writes about the Paris Israeli embassy fire. He's skeptical about claims that it was an "accident." He also wonders why it got so little attention:

But no one had it. Not CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, no one. Not the local eleven o'clock news. Nothing. No network, no cable. I even checked the NewsRadio station, but if TV didn't have it, why would they? They didn't. So I shrugged and went to sleep (not necessarily in that order), and when, the next morning, I was gently nuzzled from my reverie in the usual manner by noticing our dog had climbed up on the bed and placed his rectum less than an inch from my mouth, I shuddered and retched my way into the bathroom, lunged for the Listerine, and stumbled outside to grab the papers out of the sprinkler and check them. Nothing. No headlines, no columns. Nothing on page two or three or five or fifteen. Nothing on the op-ed. Not a whisper.

Of course, if Miller had read InstaPundit he would have found this early notice. But that's all I had, because there just wasn't much coverage.

DAWSON HAS MOVED! Following a trend, he's got a new, Stacy-Tabb-designed site, and a new URL. Bookmark it.

JONATHAN ADLER correctly indicts the NRA for joining the Fair Weather Federalists. To be fair, the ACLU isn't any better on federalism than the NRA. But that's setting way too low a standard for a civil rights group that's supposed to care about the Constitution.

For more background, see this CATO paper by Gene Healy, which Adler references.

NZ BEAR has updated his links page. Unlike my simple-minded alphabetical registry he has created a list ranked by how often other bloggers link using some sort of fancy script that searched blog pages. This is an interesting approach, though even a brief scan will demonstrate that ranking does not necessarily correlate with quality. Words of wisdom: "if you're gauging your own blog's success by any measure other than how much enjoyment it gives you, well, that way lies madness."

MICKEY KAUS unleashes a torrent of posts on everything from welfare reform, to immigration and terrorism, to gay Afghan warlords. The big bucks from Slate seem to have produced a new level of productivity. Maybe the Boeing has a satellite broadband connection!

CLONING UPDATE: Scientists have successfully implanted cloned, artifically grown kidneys in a cow.

The experiment has a wide range of implications in terms of "grow-your-own" organs for humans as it is the first time that an animal’s immune system has not rejected cloned tissue.

It could mean that cloned embryos may, in future, be created using human DNA to grow organs and tissues to treat illnesses such as heart disease, Parkinson’s, diabetes, strokes and cancer.

Bioengineers from the Children’s Hospital in Boston and Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Massachusetts, claimed the experiment would put an end to criticism that therapeutic cloning will not work.

(Via Rich Hailey). Here's the Boston Globe version, which is a bit longer.

UPDATE: By the way, Charles Murtaugh had this story a while back, based on rumor.

SPEAKING OF KEN LAYNE, I finished reading his book Dot.con yesterday, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminds me of early Neal Stephenson, say around Zodiac. I can't wait to read the next one.

LAYNE TO ALTERMAN: Your prose is goofy, and I'm a liberal!

June 02, 2002

DAWN OLSEN has decided to start offering sex advice. Well, now that Rachael Klein's graduated, the position of sex-advisor to the Blogosphere is open, I suppose.

FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH. Airport security is a dangerous joke. You've said it. I've said it. Now the people who run airports are saying it. But will "underperformin' Norman" Mineta listen?

INTERESTED IN THE COMING SEASON'S TV SHOWS? Me neither. But the Weisblogger has actually managed to sit through the pilots of five new shows and reports back.

Just reminds me why I love the Internet.

TIME'S COMICS REVIEWER, Andrew Arnold, gives a boffo review to Ted Rall's book. He says "Rall reveals that 'contrary to the propaganda back home, the U.S.A.F. bombed anything and everything.'" If you're wondering how that can possibly be true given that the latest civilian casualty estimates are even lower than we'd heard before, well, I guess that means that we were just bombing, you know, the enemy. Apparently the Afghan people knew this, too, as we also learn from Rall that "Reasoning that the odds of being hit are slim, people learn to disassociate the sound of bombs from death. Instead they worry about the gangs of heavily-armed thugs who rob and murder with no recourse."

In other words, Afghans are more worried about the local thugs than about the U.S. bombs that Rall is decrying, since they recognize that they're not much of a threat to civilians. Afghan civilians have learned to "disassociate the sound of bombs from death." Rall apparently hasn't, given his complaints about the bombing (and Arnold's statement that we bombed "Afghanistan" rather than "Al Qaeda" or "The Taliban" suggest that he's too dumb, or too dishonest, to figure out what the Afghans knew). Yet neither Rall, nor Arnold, notices the contradiction. No surprise there. Interestingly, I didn't even know about this until I noticed a reference in Flit. I guess the "ignore Ted Rall" campaign has been working. Too bad Time didn't get the word.

By the way, there's a click-through to email Arnold.

UPDATE: Bill Herbert fact-checks Ted Rall's ass and includes a link to an email exchange he's had with Rall over Afghan casualties and Rall's inability to find a source to support his rather inflated claims. He also discusses Rall's latest column.

THE JOY OF SETS: Jay Manifold has some shrewd thoughts on why politics is getting harder to figure out.

JIM BENNETT WRITES THAT Will Hutton is the new voice of Euro-LePenism. Hutton, readers may recall, is the author of a book called The World We're In, which shows sufficient hostility to America that The Economist likened it to a 1950s Soviet tract.

Bennett is less kind.

READER RICHARD AUBREY writes to explain why nobody took the lessons about FBI ineptitude that the Ruby Ridge and Waco debacles made plain:

The reason the FBI got away with that is that nobody cared. Not just the FBI. Nobody in the media, the chattering classes, the universities, gave a rodent's patootie about this. You will recall the WaPo's view of Pentacostals and Fundamentalists? Poor, dumb, and easily led. When the doo-doo hit the fan, their excuse (the first attempt) was that they were only saying what everybody knew. What happened on Ruby Ridge and at Waco was no more than those people deserved, was the general view. You could get called a redneck really, really, quickly if you mentioned something about Vicki Weaver.

So the FBI had nothing to worry about. My guess is they probably knew it. Now, even looking at a mosque while driving by.... That's a different story.

This is probably right. Sadly, if you look at it rationally, the smart thing to do was nothing. Go arrest a bunch of Arabs and turn out to be wrong -- or just unable to prove beyond any doubt that you were right -- in predicting that they were going to commit a gigantic terrorist attack, and you'd lose your job for sure. Fail to arrest them, and . . . um, well, nobody's lost a job over this yet, right?

THIS NEWSWEEK STORY supports the theory that 9/11 wasn't so much a failure to gather intelligence as a failure to properly make use of intelligence we already had.

Meanwhile the USA Patriot Act, and almost all the intelligence-related "wish list" items we've seen from the FBI and CIA, are about gathering intelligence, not analyzing or acting on it.

Heads must roll.

A WINNING STRATEGY FOR THE PALESTINIANS. But do they care more about winning? Or killing Jews? And maybe Americans?

STEVEN DEN BESTE says that global warming is the biggest snail darter in history. He zeroes in (scroll down) on another scam in a way that suggests he's good at spotting bait-and-switch operations.

UPDATE: Allison disagrees, but I'm not persuaded. I do think that there are people who are far more anti-development than they are pro-environment. They're like the communists who were angry not because so many were poor, but because some were ricH.

ANOTHER UPDATE: But Drudge is reporting that the Administration is about to do a one-eighty on global warming.

I can't figure this administration out. It's getting to be like Clinton without the bimboes.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Ed Driscoll says that this is a preemptive strike aimed at taking an issue away from the Democrats for the '04 elections, and that it's a mistake.

MATT WELCH has sobering reflections on the latest Afghan casualty estimates.

KATIE GRANJU HAS A NEW ESSAY, inspired by her recent time in Childrens' Hospital with a very sick child. But there's more to it than just a tale of woe.

SFSU UPDATE: I just ran across this comment by Armed Liberal, who feels that the SFSU administration is still more anxious to look evenhanded than to actually be fair -- since fairness would involve punishing the pro-Palestinian rioters. A pretty good analysis here, especially this comment:

But there is an measurable difference between heated political expression and the politics of violence and intimidation. And it is in the nature of politics in our relatively free nation that it must be free from intimidation and violence; the other side…and there is an other side…sees intimidation and violence as everyday political tools. And, frighteningly, they are extending the kind of politics that we see on the ground in Arafat-controlled Palestine and bringing a lind of “lite” version of it here.

I would add a challenge to SFSU President Corrigan: put the unedited videotapes of the event out, and make them available on the Web. Then people can judge your actions for themselves. (Link via Gail Davis.)

BRENDAN O'NEILL says that he's always been anti-Israel, but he's deeply suspicious of the anti-Israel bandwagon that's developed recently.

I was never anti-Israel, but I used to have some sympathy for the Palestinians. I don't any more. I saw them dancing in the streets on 9/11, and I've been paying close attention to their words and their actions since.

ORRIN JUDD fact-checks Maureen Dowd and Mary McGrory by comparing their complaints about FBI timidity now with their complaints about FBI storm-troopering last fall. He's especially good in taking down Dowd's usual smarmy war-of-the-sexes slant on the Rowley memo. Does Dowd's contract say that she has to find (or create) that angle on every story?

THIS WASHINGTON POST COLUMN ON THE NSA is right to point up the shortage of linguists: "Last September, the number of linguists fluent in the primary languages of Afghanistan -- Pashto and Dari -- could be counted on one hand with fingers left over, a senior intelligence official told me. The problem is not new: When U.S. troops went into Haiti in 1994, for example, the NSA had only one Haitian Creole linguist."

On the other hand, this suggestion is a bit late: "One way to lessen the chance of future attack by al Qaeda or similar groups would be to create a sort of national linguistic reserve force along the lines of the military reserve." Actually, the U.S. government has been paying people to learn obscure foreign languages for years, via a scholarship program aimed at addressing precisely this problem. People aren't subject to call-up, as in the military, but I'm sure that the agencies could have (and probably did) call on some of these people in the aftermath of 9/11.

The real problem with communications intelligence is that you have to know what and who you're listening for. If your other intelligence isn't up to that, you have to throw out a dragnet that's likely to draw in irrelevancies while missing the important stuff.

TIM BLAIR points to this kiddie game called "Islamic Fun." If it were made up as a parody by Americans it would be called a viciously bigoted slur on a religion of peace.

Since it's by and for Muslims, it's not even noticed. Apparently, some things are beyond parody.

THE WEEKLY JAMES has uncovered another example of Orwellian P.C., this time in the New York schools. And he's saying that it makes homeschooling look more attractive. I'm hearing more and more stuff like this.

In fact, I'm hearing more and more criticism of the public schools and their bureaucracy from non-usual suspects. For example, Jesse Fox Mayshark (who could, and probably should, write for The American Prospect, or at least its cooler online version) is endorsing charter schools with this observation:

I don't agree with Van Hilleary about many things. Or Lamar Alexander, for that matter. I'm not impressed with the campaigns the two Republican blowhards are running for their respective offices—governor and U.S. Senate—and I think it will be too bad for the state of Tennessee and its citizens if either man gets elected.

But having said that, I can't help agreeing with both of them on one thing: charter schools. For a variety of political reasons, most of them connected to the influence of teachers' lobbies on the Democratic party, an issue that should be a natural rallying point for progressives and liberals has been ceded in Tennessee almost entirely to Republicans. . . .

I hate to be cynical, especially since I have a lot of friends and family members who teach in both public and private schools, but the biggest reason for institutional resistance to charter schools appears to be simple turf protection. Charter schools by their nature are supposed to exist somewhat outside the current public education hierarchy. They are public schools, but they are not entirely part of any public school system. People who run public school systems don't tend to like that idea.

The educational bureaucracy has managed to disconnect itself so thoroughly from reality that it's getting attacked even from the Left now, making real reform much more likely. Hey -- maybe there's hope for reforming the FBI, too!

UPDATE: See this post by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, too.

DESPITE MY CRITICISM OF THE FBI, I have to note that some of my former students are flourishing there. And they're damned good -- and in some cases rather unconventional -- students. But the FBI has always tended to have really good people at street level and really lousy people in mid- and upper management. That seems to be the lesson of this inquiry into the Bureau's failures before 9/11.

One problem is that although agents face punishment for failure, higher-ups seldom do -- and the Bureau never does. I remember Louis Freeh noting that his budget went way up (at a time when other budgets weren't doing that) after he was raked over the coals during investigations of the Ruby Ridge and Waco debacles. If this was the penalty for failure, he remarked, it wasn't so bad.

Ruby Ridge and Waco were, in fact, clear evidence that the FBI was badly managed -- and particularly that it was inept at dealing with people of, ahem, strong religious beliefs. The problems revealed in the investigations of those failures were not addressed, except in an ass-covering sense, and the lesson to the Bureau was that even major national scandals wouldn't produce any real accountability.

You prove you're serious in these things by firing people and cutting their budgets. Nothing else matters -- it's correctly interpreted as mere noise.

LINK REORGANIZATION: A reader writes to ask why Virginia Postrel isn't in the Big Journalism group, since she writes for the New York Times and all.

My thinking was that only corporate blogs go there. (Okay, I stretched a point with the L.A. Examiner, but it's going to be a newspaper, so. . . ) Virginia's a big journalist, but (like Josh Marshall) she has a blog that's freestanding. If, like Kaus, she "takes the Boeing" and goes the in-house, corporate-sellout, big-bucks blogging route, I'll move her into Big Journalism.

And why's The American Times in the Big Journalism group? Just to keep the rest of 'em from getting swelled heads.

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