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June 22, 2002

STANLEY HAUERWAS is a good friend of my father's, and my father thinks he's pretty smart. I've been "aware" of his work for a long time, but I'm not really that deeply familiar with it: I leave the theology to my pa. The statements made by Hauerwas in this article are so profoundly idiotic -- and worse yet for a philospher, incoherent and contradictory -- that I find it hard to believe that he said them as reported. On the other hand, I seem to recall my father saying that no one could be a good enough Christian to satisfy Stanley, and suggesting that such demandingness misconstrued the point of Christianity. That view certainly shines through in this article.

UPDATE: Reader Telford Work writes:

I agree that in that National Catholic Reporter article, Stanley Hauerwas sounds like an idiot.

But Hauerwas is not an idiot. I studied with him (though not as my dissertation advisor) at Duke. The coherence of his position follows from the ramifications (as he sees them, anyway) of taking the lordship of Jesus Christ more seriously than anything else. The NCR article bypassed this and neglected needed theological background, in favor of stringing together a list of quotations made all the more provocative for being, er, "lightly contextualized."

I don't agree with Hauerwas on everything, but I do agree that proper Christians will be faithful to the teaching and reign of Jesus above all else -- even country, family, and cultural plausibility structures if necessary -- and this will lead Christians to engage in practices that don't make sense to people who put their ultimate priorities elsewhere, or who pay lip service to Christian faith but haven't let the logic of the cross challenge their deepest beliefs.

The article mentions a Time article on Hauerwas by Jean Bethke Elshtain. This is a much better introduction.

Yeah, he's not an idiot. Though I think he's a bit too williing to play the provocateur in ways that tend to make him sound like an idiot, such that the distinction may become a rather fine one at times.

DOC SEARLS HAS A GREAT POST on the star-making machinery as the core of what the RIAA/MPAA/CARP fights are really all about. And scroll up and down for other excellent observations on related topics.

HERE'S A COOL APPLICATION OF NANOTUBES as filters for purifying drugs, hormones, etc.

HAVING FALLEN BEHIND ON MY BLOGGING, I just ran across this column by Jonah Goldberg. It's excellent:

No, what makes you Nazi-like is the worship of power, particularly the power to murder, especially when you don't have it. You don't have to commit genocide to be a Nazi; you just have to want to commit genocide. Does anyone doubt that if given the chance, there would be countless Arab groups or governments who would leap at the opportunity to wipe out all of the Jews? One need only take their word for it.

Ultimately, though, by claiming that Israel is the villain in this passion play, it becomes possible to hide the truth in plain sight.

When I downplayed the threat of a possible Nazi regime in America, I heard countless people saying I was akin to the Germans who "closed their drapes" as the Jews were rounded up. Obviously, this is as stupid as it is offensive.

But there are people closing their drapes today. They're the ones who see and hear about the things going on in the Middle East every day, but continue to hide behind silly libels against America and phrases like "Israeli oppression."

Indeed.

EGYPT IS TRYING TO GET NUCLEAR WEAPONS, according to reports noted by Charles Johnson. And maybe Saudi Arabia, too.

You know, the arguments for a return to colonialism that I so snidely dismissed last fall are looking better all the time. I shudder to think that things may come to such a pass that Ann Coulter will be looked upon as prophetic, rather than deranged.

UPDATE: Charles Austin emails: "She might be both. Most prophets are."

Meanwhile reader "Reinhard Heydrich, Jr." writes:

The fact that israel has nuclear weapons doesn't trouble you at all.

Why should Egypt or Saudi Arabia having the same weapons make you uneasy ?

Some questions answer themselves. As do some questioners. But to state the obvious, I guess it's because I'm not worried that the Israelis will smuggle nukes into New York.

SAUDI WARNINGS ABOUT OKLAHOMA CITY? Padilla / Al Muhajir got himself arrested on purpose? Bryan Preston is following some interesting stuff. I don't know how much credence to put in some of these stories, but he's definitely found some troubling reports.

UPDATE: Rand Simberg has some things to say about why we should have kept Timothy McVeigh alive.

HERE'S ANOTHER INTERESTING ITEM on the Oklahoma City / Iraq connection.

SLASHDOT REPORTS that NPR is reconsidering its deep-linking policy, apparently in response to all the critical emails.

UPDATE: Eric Olsen has much, much more on this.

BRAD DE LONG takes on anticipatory schadenfreude about the economy. (Paul Musgrave says De Long should be the top econoblogger in the Blogosphere, and he is pretty good.)

The piece that he takes down is by William Greider in The Nation, and what Greider seems to hope to get out of 15% unemployment is an end to U.S. "boastfulness." Is it just me, or is keeping the United States from feeling good about, well, anything, but especially itself the main consistent theme of the Nation crowd? And why is that, exactly?

SFSU UPDATE: Wow, there's been a real development! Armed Liberal reports that the Palestinian group was defunded and suspended for a year because of its role in last month's riot. The Jewish group whose protest was the target of the assault, however, was given a "warning," which I think can be put down to an effort to seem evenhanded.

I'm delighted to see some action, that bogus touch aside. But I'd still like to see the videotapes made public.

JIM BENNETT says it's time to bring Echelon in from the cold.

UPDATE: Bennett's column has been picked up on Slashdot.

SFSU UPDATE: Meryl Yourish, who's SFSU central, reports that SFSU has taken down the Palestinian students' University website, apparently because of racism and hate speech.

I'd rather have seen them focus on the violent conduct of those folks.

UCSD UPDATE: Craig Schamp has more background, and points out that the problems with California universities have been building for a while.

EUGENE VOLOKH notes yet another poll showing widespread (73%) support for the Justice Department's pro-individual-right position on the Second Amendment. Volokh thought the question on an earlier Zogby poll that showed 75% approval was doubtfully phrased and might have inflated the total, but he has no such criticism of this ABC News poll, which produced essentially the same result.

I recall a summer, 1995 U.S. News poll (taken during the post-Oklahoma-City antigun hypewave) that said 75% of the American public thinks the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to own a gun, so I suspect that this is probably about right.

Funny how little attention these poll numbers have gotten. If 75% of Americans had thought Ashcroft was wrong on this, do you think it would have gotten more coverage?

RETHINKING BRITISH GUN CONTROL? Not yet, really, but here is a sign that questions are at least being raised:

Self-defence, William Blackstone, the 18th century English jurist, wrote, is a natural right that no government can deprive people of, since no government can protect the individual in his moment of need. The English Bill of Rights of 1689 affirmed the right of individuals "to have arms for their defence". It is a dangerous right. But leaving personal protection to the police is also dangerous, and ineffective. Government is perilously close to denying people the ability to protect themselves at all, and the result is a more, not less, dangerous society.

"It is implicit in a genuine right," said Judge Brown-Wilkinson (Wheeler v Leicester City Council 1985 ) "that its exercise may work against [some facet of] the public interest: a right to speak only where its exercise advanced the public welfare or public policy would be a hollow guarantee against repression."

History shows that public safety is not enhanced by depriving individuals of their right to personal safety.

Indeed.

RACHEL ALEXANDER wonders why the horrors of the Sudan aren't getting much attention. She says it's due to a combination of religious prejudice and racism. (Via Barabbas).

RON BAILEY lays out the arguments against a cloning ban. He's right, of course.

FRANCE'S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES says that claims of French antisemitism are "slander." Martin Devon says it's not slander if it's true.

I'm just glad that we've finally gotten their attention.

H.D. MILLER fact-checks claims of American massacres in Afghanistan, noting that even the makers admit they don't actually have any, you know, evidence. Er, except that IndyMedia ignores that, as usual. And ignores evidence of real massacres before American troops arrived, too, because they're not by, you know, Americans and so don't count.

THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION is finally starting to notice that Cynthia McKinney's donor base seems to be largely Arab and Arab-American -- including national groups with links to terrorism.

BELLICOSE WOMEN UPDATE: Mary Zeiss Stange, who wrote the excellent Gun Women, talks about the cultural intolerance of academic feminism, She has some suggestions.

MICKEY KAUS joins with Peggy Noonan to make it a powerful two-pronged offensive against the term "homeland," which I agree sounds creepy and dumb.

He also disses women's soccer, and calls Charles Peters the first blogger. Something for everyone!

Note to Mickey: By that definition, the first blogger was Malcolm S. Forbes, with his "Fact and Comment" column, which predates "Tilting at Windmills" by decades.

EMAIL: At the moment, I have 701 unread email messages -- the fruit of being away for a bit over 48 hours. I checked webmail for the most important stuff, but it's just too slow to handle the volume.

If you sent me an email that required a reply, and haven't gotten one, well, I'll try to get back to you this weekend. If you don't hear from me by Monday, it means that I didn't realize that your email required a reply, because my eyes were glazed from reading hundreds before yours.

When I go on vacation, I think I'm just going to block the account to new mail. I can't imagine what a week's worth would be like!

BOY, this Los Angeles Times writer, Tim Rutten, doesn't like blogs very much. He thinks we should be reading "serious newspapers" instead. That wouldn't include the Los Angeles Times, whose sloppy and biased Israel coverage has produced a boycott -- and which, judging by its lame-ass registration requirement, doesn't want anyone reading it (on the Web, at least) anyway.

June 21, 2002

THE SPOONS EXPERIENCE is sporting a new, Stacy Tabb design. Boy the Blogosphere is sure getting prettier thanks to Stacy.

More posting later -- my daughter just got back in from the pool, and it's Harry Potter time. In the meantime, keep yourselves informed with this story about 3000 Iranians in Denmark protesting the EU's support for Iran's terrorist regime: "'By investing in religious fascism ruling Iran, EU is not just letting down its own moral and political values, but is putting its money on a losing horse,' Mohadessin said."

UCSD UPDATE: Looks like the whole UCSD action against the satire magazine was a setup by University officials who wanted to punish it, using the racist, antisemitic hate group Mecha as a tool. Unfortunately, one of the participants failed to grasp the significance of the "reply all" button, and the word got out.

When is somebody going to clean house in California's higher education system? Looks like there's a lot of housecleaning to do.

I'M BACK. Too much construction on the 400+ mile drive from Memphis to Knoxville. But the only thing worse than a state that's always working on the roads is a state that's NOT always working on the roads.

NOW THIS IS INTERESTING:

WASHINGTON –– Just weeks before Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement received several warnings that Islamic terrorists were seeking to strike on American soil and that a likely target was government buildings, documents show.

The information, though it was never linked to McVeigh, was stark enough that the Clinton administration urged stepped up security patrols and screening at federal buildings nationwide, including those in Oklahoma.

The government, however, didn't fortify buildings with cement barriers like those hurriedly installed after McVeigh detonated his explosive-laden truck at the curb of the Murrah building on April 19, 1995, officials said.

Islamic extremists are determined to "strike inside the U.S. against objects symbolizing the American government in the near future," said one warning obtained by The Associated Press.

I don't think this is getting as much attention as it deserves. I hope that someone is looking into it.

PALESTINIAN CULTURE is becoming a psychotic death cult. This is beginning to worry even some Palestinians.

It should. Whole cultures do go crazy from time to time. The results are usually bad for their neighbors and worse for them.

PAUL TRUMMEL UPDATE: Bill Hobbs has the latest. Sadly, Trummel, an old man who has already spent several months in jail, has given in -- though there's a mirror site with all the information that Judge James Doerty ordered him to take down. (Doerty finally took down the "guestbook" feature of his reelection website, too.)

While the usual "see the violence inherent in the system" antiwar crowd has been screaming loudly about being repressed, just about everyone outside the warblogger crowd has been ignoring this genuine case of free speech being suppressed, in clear violation of the First Amendment.

Anybody know who's running against Judge James Doerty and how I can send him/her some money?

SFSU UPDATE: Reader Patricia Jennings writes:

As you may recall, I am the mother of a SFSU student. I attended the rally on May 7 and was surrounded by the hate mob.

We are getting no where with the university. I am extremely frustrated. Ihave made every attempt possible to get the university to act to protect my son's safety and the safety of the other Jewish students on campus but to no avail. President Corrigan insisted that the General Union of Palestinian Students participate in mediation sessions or they would lose their opportunity to operate on campus. He gave them until June 15 to comply. They have not done so.

This week, not only did he NOT follow though with his ultimatum, but the GUPS website was discovered linked to a barrage of hate and terrorist sites including Hamas. GUPS still has not been sanctioned.

Professor Laurie Zoloth, director of Jewish studies and I are the only people willing to stick our necks out, support the students, and insist that the university take action. As a result, the administration is listening to neither of us. The president has blamed Laurie for ruining his reputation!

I truly believe that the Jewish students at SFSU may be in danger.

Yes, it's like a University president to blame a faculty member for "ruining his reputation" by telling the truth about his bias and incompetence. But ruined it is.

If I were Bill Simon, I'd be making an issue of the way California's state universities are -- despite a lot of PC talk -- actively supporting hate groups.

And it's not just SFSU. SDSU has similar problems, and so does U.C. Berkeley. Joe Katzman has more on this problem.

UPDATE: Reader (and law professor) David Bernstein writes: "Someone should tell Ms. Jennings that she has a very credible Title II lawsuit."

June 20, 2002

OKAY, THAT'S NOT A LOT OF POSTS, but I'm beat. And it's more than Virginia Postrel has done in a couple of weeks even though she kinda promised to start up again by today. Hint, hint. We miss you, Virginia!

CHARLES JOHNSON has something you should see. Read the comments, too.

EUGENE VOLOKH has a good response to the "not in our name" petitioners, as well as a critique of some arguments used to support the Administration's position on detention of Americans as enemy combatants. Here's an excellent point about the Administration's position as a sort of Executive judicial activism:

But let there be no mistake about this: Here it's the government, not the criminal defendant, that is seeking a nontextual, and fairly nontraditional, reading of the Constitution. Maybe the government is right, but the arguments of its critics cannot be rebutted simply by denouncing some "Warren Court set of rights" -- it's the Framers' set of rights that's clearly at issue here.

Yes, the Administration is trying to make new -- and in my opinion, very bad -- constitutional law here.

SO I DROVE to Memphis, where I'm now ensconced in a luxury suite at the Peabody. I stopped for gas in Bucksnort, Tennessee (yes, that's a real town, just west of Dickson and just east of Loretta Lynn's Dude Ranch) where the gas station was advertising calling cards that offered 6.5 cent per minute calls to Mexico. Immigration: it's everywhere, even in Bucksnort.

TRIFECTA UPDATE: While I've been busy, the Trifecta debate has continued. The latest, with links to everything, seems to be here on Bill Quick's page.

SEPTEMBER 11 has pretty much ended the militia movement, according to this report from USA Today. Of course, the true militia-movement folks were always pretty harmless (McVeigh, you will remember, was kicked out of a militia group for being too radical and advocating violence). The real dangerous folks were farther out on the fringe: the Posse Commitatus, the Aryan Nations, the Phineas Priests, the Army of God, etc. And, worrisomely, a lot of them like Al Qaeda just fine.

A BIG ASTEROID NEARLY HIT THE EARTH the other day, and nobody but Ken Layne noticed. Well, him and some astronomers.

Just a little over a week ago I noted that an unexpected asteroid strike might set off an accidental nuclear exchange. Little did I know that this thing was bearing down on us as I wrote. And it came close:

What is most shocking is just how close it came to Earth. This is only the sixth known asteroid to penetrate the Moon's orbit, and by far the biggest. According to Brian G. Marsden (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), the object came within 120,000 kilometers (0.0008 astronomical unit) of impacting Earth.

Though the exact details of an impact scenario depend on the rock's composition, had it hit Earth the event would have been been "Tunguska-like," with a force rivaling the largest H-bombs.

Yeah, if it's Tunguska-like it would be bigger than any H-bomb ever exploded. Not a civilization-ender, but bad, bad, bad. (And it was close -- follow the first link on this post and look at the to-scale diagram of just how close.) Upshot:

A disturbing detail is that 2002 MN was discovered three days after its closest approach. Though we are almost certainly out of harm's way from this near Earth object (no potential impacts are forecast until at least 2050), its late detection may be telling. Currently there is no dedicated Southern Hemisphere NEO search program, and NASA is currently focused on finding bodies greater than 1 kilometer across.

We need to extend our "preemption" strategy to these threats.

UPDATE: Just noticed this thread about the subject on Slashdot.

BTW, why can't we have a nice fat comet hit Mars and leave behind a lot of convenient water and organics. I think a comet around 100km in diameter (okay, that's a really, really big comet) would be enough to halfway terraform Mars all by itself.

HOW IS THE ANTI-WAR LEFT BEING SUPPRESSED? Debra Saunders interviews a "not in our name" signer and reports on talk of antiwar folks being "necklaced." Well, it's necklacing except for, you know, the part about being burned to death by flaming tires. Her conclusion:

The Not in Our Name Web site carries another statement that protests America's "destruction of civil, legal and political rights, including the very right to dissent."

Destruction of dissent? In Afghanistan, that meant the Taliban shot critics in the back of the head. In America, that means appearing on cable TV news in a panel stacked against you, 3 to 1. . . .

By the Not-names' definition, it's suppression if someone (a liberal) feels uncomfortable or fears criticism about expressing an opinion.

This seems on-target to me.

MORE BAD NEWS FROM ALGERIA: A bus attack by Islamoterrorists killed 11. It's funny that this sort of thing gets so much less attention.

HAVE A NICE DAY. No new posts until tonight, probably.

June 19, 2002

ZACHARY BARBERA notes a surprisingly positive development on the suicide-bombing front.

Wouldn't you hate to be the last suicide bomber before it went out of style? Kind of like being the last guy to wear a John-Travolta white suit, only permanent.

SLASHDOT HAS DISCOVERED NPR's anti-deep-linking position. But Rebecca Blood emailed me earlier today to say that this has actually been NPR's position since 1999, and that she doubts they even remember it. It is, as she observes, very 1999. Message to NPR: get over this stuff and enter the 21st century. Links are good. Anybody who doesn't understand that should be sent off to audition for the role of the pointy-haired boss in Drew Carey's forthcoming Dilbert movie.

IF I DIDN'T KNOW that Neal Boortz flies a Mooney, I'd wonder about this.

A READER WHO PREFERS TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS forwards this chunk from a memo to the FBI regarding last fall's anthrax mailings:

Analysis of Anthrax Letters and Envelopes

Executive Summary


The letters were written and sealed prior to September 11 by Mohammed Atta. The letters to the Post and Brokaw were given to one individual or organization to mail. The letters to Senators Leahy and Daschle were given to another individual or organization to mail. These individuals did not know the contents of the letters nor whom the letters originally came from. The anthrax was smuggled into the U.S. by one of the September 11th hijackers and represents all the anthrax smuggled in at that time.

Support for Analysis

Sometimes things are just what they seem to be. The letters are all dated 09-11-01. It is not unlikely that they could have been written on September 10th by someone who knew the plans for September 11th and dated the letters accordingly. It is likely that the letter on display on the FBI website that begins "You can not stop us." was the first one to be written. The size of the printing is smaller and thus indicates a more tentative approach to the message writing and the message.

What is particularly noticeable by its absence is any significant celebratory nature in these letters. Had they been written after the events of September 11, it seems highly likely that they would have made much more of the outcome of the events. "Allah is great" is just a standard expression to close with. "You die now" can be read several ways, but it is hardly the equivalent of, e.g., "Now thousands more die." "This is next" is really a very weak threat when juxtaposed to the events of September 11, especially considering the quantity of anthrax sent out.

If there had been more anthrax available, its most effective use would have been a massive simultaneous mailing. A staggered mailing puts people on alert and diminishes the effect of the effort. If they had more, it should have been sent out all at once. If they had surviving operatives that they could trust, all four letters would have been sent out together. A check of the weather in the Trenton/Philadelphia area on September 10 shows a trace of rain, just the amount reflected by the running of the ink on the Daschle envelope and the likely clumping of the powder inside. The letters, sealed in their envelopes, were likely transported that day as part of a bundle of other mail to be sent out and given to someone or some company to mail, with the bottom of the Daschle envelope sticking out slightly. Since no one has come forward about this, it is likely that they were delivered to this person or place in a manner that would not have caused anyone to remember the source of these bundles. It is likely that the letters were divided between two bundles that were sent to two different places just to help guarantee that a least one set was sent out. It is also probable that someone at a distance (overseas) knew of these mailings and two kinds of anthrax were being evaluated for effectiveness. The reason more anthrax was not available was that this attack was secondary to the airplane hijackings, that their most trusted people were involved in this primary effort, and that they felt secure in bringing in such a small amount of anthrax without risking these operatives, but more might have jeopardized the primary operation. It thus follows that the likely smuggler of the anthrax was on one of the planes on September 11.

Why was Atta the likely writer?

Obviously, from the media reports he was the leader of the 19 hijackers and thus in the best position to know what was going on and the one most likely to be entrusted with the anthrax. But further, especially if one gives merit to the suggested sequence of the writing of the letters, the Brokaw and Post letter singular because they are the same letter) were written last. The writer at that point would be more certain of his message and what he was doing. The writing is more open and widely spaced, indicating that he is more at ease with what he is doing.

At that point it is not unlikely that knowing the next day was his last and that this was his last "public" statement that he might contemplate his place in history and have a desire to claim credit for his role. Thus a search of this letter for signs of that are not as much of a stretch as one might think. So what do we see in it? The initial block letter in the message is a "T" that has extra strokes in it. The same with the start of the second line. The same with the start of the last line. In fact, based on the limited quality of the copy available on the FBI website, there are several other letters that have extra strokes (an extra boldness). All of them appear to be A's and T's. They of course are all the letters needed to spell ATTA. It could have been subconscious. The capital D's that start the other lines of the letter show no extra strokes. Also this letter seems not to be written with a felt-tip pen, and thus might yield more information based on the pressure of the various strokes of the pen -- but this cannot be determined from the website example. . . .

It would be hard at this point, but if people in the greater New York/Philadelphia area are asked to remember any bundles of mail to be mailed that they received by an out-of-the-ordinary source on or around September 10, it might be useful. . . .

There are other areas of interest in these letters that might give up a clue or two -- such as the downhill slant of the writing, how the "1" was made, how the "4" was made, the spelling of "penacilin" and the warning including it, the absence of periods on one of the letters, the presence or absence of fingerprints on the letters and particularly on the envelopes, how the letters were folded, etc., etc., etc. -- but most of these would be aided by a direct conversation and better copies of the letters and envelopes than are available on the website. Also, there is the matter of the letter not posted on the website. Perhaps it is simply a photocopy of the other letter, but if it is different, there could be something to be learned by it.

I'm not sure about this -- but I remember a flurry of information about the likelihood that Atta and some of the other 9/11 hijackers actually had anthrax symptoms at the time of the hijacking. We certainly haven't heard much on this subject lately.

MORE EVIDENCE of an India / Israel rapport.

OKAY, THAT'S IT FOR ME for the time being. But go visit The Volokh Conspiracy for a lot of cool stuff in my absence. And check out this post by Ben Domenech, who says he's found the smoking "trifecta" gun that SpinSanity missed -- well, the "war" part, at least, and maybe the "national emergency" part too.

And thanks to everyone who didn't email me!

THE FINANCIAL TIMES ARTICLE ON WEBLOGS is now up on their website. Thanks to reader Michael Cook for pointing it out.

READER BARRY MOLEFSKY sends this link to a page with information on the Moussaoui case. Click on "docket" to see a list of pleadings; you can follow the links to filings, including Moussaoui's own motions.

WEBGODDESS STACY TABB has finally moved her blog to its own domain: www.blogatelle.com. Adjust your bookmarks accordingly.

WELL, I MADE IT IN ONE PIECE and I'm waiting for the law school friend I'm meeting for dinner to finish a conference call. So here's a completely true statement by Edward Said, which I found via Eric Alterman (no, really):

Arafat is simply interested in saving himself. He has had almost ten years of freedom to run a petty kingdom and has succeeded essentially in bringing opprobrium and scorn on himself and most of his team; the Authority became a byword for brutality, autocracy and unimaginable corruption. Why anyone for a moment believes that at this stage he is capable of anything different, or that his new streamlined cabinet (dominated by the same old faces of defeat and incompetence) is going to produce actual reform, defies reason.

Said has always been more anti-Israel (and anti-West) than he has been pro-Palestinian or pro-Arafat, but the idiocy of Arafat's strategy since Oslo has led things to such a pass that even Said is pointing out the problems. He's also quite hard on suicide-bombing as a strategy, though an uncharitable reader might conclude that's mostly because he sees that it's failing miserably.

The other interesting thing about this passage is that it's in Al Ahram, which means that the Egyptian government can't hate it too much. And when you strip away the still-present obligatory Israel and America-bashing, it looks to me like another sign that everyone thinks Arafat now represents a problem, not an asset.

UPDATE: A troubling thought. We're getting a lot of cooperation all of a sudden from Arab countries, including places like Syria that haven't been all that cooperative before. It's likely that this is the result of increasing pressure. But given the cooperation between Syria and Iraq on nuclear matters, is it possible they're just trying to keep us out of the picture until the Islamic Bomb is ready in sufficient quantities? I don't think that's what's going on, but such behavior would be very much in character.

AFTER AN INTERESTING FACULTY PRESENTATION on how Article III case-or-controversy doctrines limit the role of the federal judiciary in foreign affairs, complete with illustrations from the Neutrality Crisis of 1793, I'm now getting ready to head out. Before I go, a few items. First, there's a good story on weblogs in the Financial Times today, but it's not on their website that I could find.

Second, the print Wall Street Journal picked up InstaPundit reader Jorge Schmidt's emailed comments on Latin reaction to the U.S. soccer team -- it's on their editorial page under "notable and quotable." Way to go, Jorge!

Third, unless it's urgent, it's probably best not to email me. I'll be trying to get online some, but it'll be a dialup connection and a webmail interface, meaning it'll be slow, slow, slow. So save it if you can.

Last, in my absence check out Best of the Web, which is up early today: especially the disgraceful story about the University of California San Diego's siding with an antisemitic hate group and against free speech. I hope that Bill Simon makes this stuff a campaign issue. Take it away, Meryl Yourish and Joe Katzman!

INFORMATION WARFARE: This isn't exactly a new idea, but the site is kind of interesting.

SEX AND VIOLENCE: Okay, here's a bottom-line reason why you may soon see less of both on TV. (Thanks to reader Gary Pulsinelli for noticing this).

OKAY ONE MORE: SPINSANITY has another debunking piece on the Bush "trifecta" claim: the claim that during the campaign he cited war, recession, or national emergency as grounds for departing from a balanced budget. Spinsanity says it's false, and they've got persuasive evidence. But -- as I emailed them -- I sure seem to remember Bush saying that, and they admit that lots of other people think they remember it, too: there's just no evidence that it actually happened. Presumably this is a case in which memories of more recent statements are attributed back to the campaign? Beats me. I wonder, though, if the same phenomenon isn't working with Bush himself.

SCHEDULING ALERT: I'm heading to the law school for a faculty meeting. Then I'm leaving town for a couple of days as I travel to Memphis and Nashville to talk about the Tennessee Constitution, a document that I find fascinating. (Try following the link and reading Article I secs 1&2 and see if you don't agree. The Tennessee Supreme Court has repeatedly, and recently, interpreted them as supporting a right of revolution against a tyrannical government, and also held that they support a narrow reading of governmental power -- if the Constitution gives you a right to revolt against arbitrary, excessive government power, after all, it can hardly be read as granting the government the legitimate power to act in arbitrary and excessive ways. But I digress). I'm taking the laptop with me, so there will probably, God and MSN willing, be some intermittent blogging. But it won't be at the usual rate. I'll try to check in again before I hit the road, but here's a heads-up. Follow the many excellent links to your left.

Oh, and you can always read my new TechCentralStation column, which in a shattering new development is not about Mars.

It coins a new term (at least, Google says it's new): "Version fatigue," to describe how tired I am of learning how to do the same damn thing in a different way after a software upgrade, new VCR purchase, etc.

UPDATE: Eric S. Raymond has a response to my column -- and I'll bet that those of you who know him can guess what it is.

SOME QUESTIONS ANSWER THEMSELVES. Martin Devon just asked one of those. And how.

WELL, I was feeling pretty good about my traffic levels. And I still do. But this shows who's still number one.

THIS ARTICLE ON ELECTRONIC MUSIC is pretty good, though I don't buy the analogy with soccer.

A NEW CURE FOR DEPRESSION: Well, duh.

YALE LAW PROFESSOR AKHIL AMAR has an interesting Q&A piece in The New Republic concerning the detention of "dirtybomber" Padilla / Al Muhajir. I'm not sure that I buy Akhil's analogy between the draft and jury service as forms of "detention without trial" and the kind of detention that Al Muhajir faces. Both the draft and jury service have built-in safeguards against the government singling out people it dislikes in a way that the Al Muhajir confinement doesn't.

And that's the big risk. Fairness to individuals is important -- but it's no more important here than it is elsewhere in the criminal justice system. On the other hand, the danger that special government powers will be abused is far greater here, and thus we need some additional reassurances in this context. I'm not concerned with Al Muhajir, but I worry that such powers tend to expand over time, and I don't like where I see things heading if that happens.

A PRETTY GOOD OP-ED on human exploration of Mars in the Los Angeles Times. It's interesting to me to see that mainstream media -- who were looking down their noses at space exploration a few years ago -- seem to be coming back around to viewing it in a positive light. That's not only a good thing in itself; it's also, I think, a healthy sign for the culture.

DEN BESTE has a thoughtful analysis of Israel's likely strategy in response to Palestinian terror-bombers. I think that the strategy he outlines will work, if the Israelis are willing to stick it out in the face of international criticism. And why shouldn't they be? They get criticized no matter what they do anyway.

STEPHEN GREEN is following the trend toward transparency with an open third-party counter on his site. Now if some of the Big Media folks would just do the same, we'd have a triumph of openness, and the flamewars about traffic could come to an end.

MICKEY KAUS says that Woodward and Bernstein were proto-bloggers when they were covering Watergate.

THE WASHINGTON POST is happily editorializing on free speech in the wake of the Supreme Court's new Jehovah's Witnesses decision. And it's a good decision.

But while it's nice that Jehovah's Witnesses can knock on doors and peddle The Watchtower, free speech isn't doing as well elsewhere. Paul Trummel spent several months in jail, after all, because Washington State judge James Doerty thinks the First Amendment only applies to "paid journalists." And the sleazy Big Entertainment forces are doing their best to shut down free speech on the Internet in the name of protecting intellectual property. So let's not get too excited about a decision that protects free speech in a context that, frankly, doesn't really matter (except to Jehovah's Witnesses); instead, let's keep the pressure on regarding free speech that does matter.

HERE'S A FIRSTHAND REPORT from the Colorado fire scene, by reader Pete Farrell, forwarded via the Blackberry of reader Carl Frank:

Hello to all our friends and family on this mail-out,

The largest wildfire in Colorado history (possibly in US history as well) is approaching the western edge of our community. 2 miles to the west, the town of Monument is on voluntary evacuation status and the middle school at the bottom of our road is now a designated evacuation shelter. People in the town proper (particularly those with children or physical limitations) are being "encouraged" on local TV stations to voluntarily evacuate the area.

We are outside the stand-by evac box by about a mile and three quarters but have our cars packed to leave if sirens sound.

Outside our window, the plume dominates the sky. Local authorities say the fire "died down" since this afternoon and they "don't expect" to have to put us on mandatory evac. Expectations, however, can change.

The "tri-lakes" area west of here is all under the "red flag" (meaning get out now if you prefer). The red flag zone runs from the county line three quarters of a mile from our house down to the fringe of the US Air Force Academy about ten miles from here. Yes, the mighty USAFA could conceivably get scorched.

The smoke layer engulfing Denver this morning was one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen. The smell permeated the entire metro area and the mountains were completely invisible -- on a sunny morning. The layer settled in below 6,000 feet where it reduced visibility to about a half mile. For almost two weeks now we have witnessed gargantuan smoke plumes like something out of Independence Day.

Last week, it looked like the worst was over. Then it broke a fire line west of Colorado Springs Monday. Today, the fire added another 10,000 acres to its running total, which now stands at 113,000 acres. Not everyone around here believes it can jump the interstate. I think it can. Speculation varies as to what it might do in open country; some think it will lose intensity for lack of timber, but it will be countered by increased speed as it consumes wild grass and pasturelands.

The woman who started the fire has confessed after first lying about it. In something worthy of an Italian opera, it turns out she was enraged by a letter from her estranged husband and torched it in her back yard. To add sheer black humor to injury, it turns out she's a Forest Service employee. Her job that day was enforcing fire restrictions. She was in federal court today facing charges. She probably won't be released from jail for her own safety and for being a flight risk. (She'd probably be gunned down in the streets before she could get very far.)

Appeals on local radio are going out for all kinds of material assistance -- ziplock bags, ladders, gloves, soda pop, food, clothing, cash and even washers and dryers. This comes from AM 740, a Pueblo radio station, yesterday afternoon. The assistance is not only for families, it is also for fire fighters, some 1500 of whom are on duty around the clock.

While reactions in our neighborhood vary, not everyone is just sitting around waiting. Many are getting ready, though it's not like Independence Day yet. If the worst happens, this may be the last email from us for a while. But so far, we're hopeful.

We'll keep you apprised as events warrant. Oh, and your prayers would be appreciated, too.

Pete & family (upstairs packing)

Good luck, folks. Hope you get some rain. Diana Hsieh is providing steady updates on this, too.

June 18, 2002

ENERGY-POLICY GODDESS LYNNE KIESLING has a long and informative post on the GAO report on FERC oversight. Yeah, I know, that sentence reads like a policy-wonk parody (well, except perhaps for the "goddess" part), but this stuff is pretty important (it's gotten a lot of coverage, which she links to), and she's smart. Excerpt:

This report is not an argument against competition and market processes in electricity, as many market foes and some of the commentaries I have read today would have you believe. Instead it is an argument for FERC to do the strategic planning and implement performance measures to create a set of regulatory institutions that rely on rules that encourage transparency, and focus on deterring the great majority of bad behavior.

The GAO report lacks something that I think is extremely important. It fails to point out that FERC was not to blame for the over-engineered, overtly politicized, dysfunctional rules that the state of California forced into laws governing its "market." FERC has admitted that in hindsight it would have changed some decisions, but California’s politicians have not been so introspective in public.

Lately, many of California's politicians have been busy trying to avoid being sent to jail -- a particularly pressing concern since California Attorney General Bill Lockyer regards prison rape as a useful punitive measure -- but perhaps they, or their unindicted successors, will find time for such introspection in the future.

THIS PIECE ON BLOGS has (appropriately enough) lots of links to other articles on blogs.

NPR HAS JOINED THE anti-deep-linking Mafia. Jeez, how pathetic. Follow the link for Patrick Nielsen Hayden's comments, and an email address where you can express your concerns.

MORE ON THE CARIBOU COFFEE STORY, which James Lileks wrote about last week.

I DON'T USUALLY RELY ON DEBKA, but an item today is kind of interesting, and has some plausibility. It says that U.S. security forces are playing cat-and-mouse with Al Qaeda around shipping containers and facilities in many ports within and without the United States -- and suggests that chemical or biological weapons smuggling may be involved.

Container, oil and bulk ports are especially vulnerable. Some of the stowaways arrive complete with arms or explosives, the nature of which - conventional, radioactive, chemical or biological - the US authorities are at great pains to keep dark. However, shipping sources told us witnesses had seen suspect containers appearing to be quarantined after their al Qaeda infiltrators were killed, suggesting the suspected presence of toxic substances.

The threat applies equally to the international container traffic that carries much of the world’s lifeblood. Experts have opined that a “dirty bomb” exploding in a container at sea would stop the world’s container traffic cold until a credible security system for sea-going containers was in place.

How much of this story is true I can't say, and some parts of it seem questionable -- Debka is an anonymous news source, and I don't like those, and they specialize in reporting on things that they say are being kept quiet, making them difficult to check. But it's certainly true that the current flag-of-convenience system is likely to collapse under the threat of terrorism.

CHARLES JOHNSON is creeped out by Yasser Arafat's apparent need to have baby wipes nearby at all times. Yeah, I've noticed that in other photos -- there were even some on the nightstand in the bombed-bedroom photo a few weeks back.

My guess: He's afraid somebody's going to contaminate him with something.

Or maybe he's got a bad case of piles, though that (hopefully) wouldn't explain their presence at the conference table.

WHODUNIT? Blogger Michael Kielsky has a long and technical post on ballistics, relating to a story by a Palestinian teenager who says he was shot by an Israeli woman sniper. Problem is, the bullet (of which he has a photo) is a .22 Long Rifle, a puny round that is not generally used by military snipers. He says this casts doubt on the story.

And it does. However, I recall reading somewhere -- and I've looked, but can't find it now -- that Israel has actually used snipers with .22 rifles in riot situations. The round is incapacitating but, properly placed, almost never deadly, and it's not very noticeable (especially if the gun it's shot from is noise-suppressed). I recall reading that they've used them to incapacitate leaders in riots, etc., when they don't want to kill people but when rubber bullets aren't suitable -- since they're much less accurate.

Anybody know if I'm remembering this correctly?

UPDATE: Boy, that didn't take long. Somebody emailed me this link to a post by Armed Liberal, who remembers hearing the same thing.

I HAVEN'T WRITTEN ANYTHING ABOUT THE LATEST ATROCITY FROM HAMAS, OR HEZBOLLAH, OR WHOEVER IS BEHIND IT THIS TIME. But someone else has.

WHY SYRIA IS SO EAGER TO PLEASE: I wondered about that earlier today. An alert reader suggests that this may be the answer:

TEL AVIV — The United States blocked a major military offensive by Israel against Syria last month, but shares Israeli concerns that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is openly arming Hizbullah and Palestinian militants.

Israeli officials said the attack was to have taken place last month in response to a spate of Hizbullah strikes along the Lebanese border with the Jewish state. The officials said Israel's military had mobilized its reserves for what they termed was to have been a heavy blow on Syrian military positions in Lebanon and Syria, Middle East Newsline reported. . . .

Officials said the turning point for Syria came during a weekend visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to Damascus in April. They said Powell warned Assad that Israel was preparing a massive attack on Syria and that Washington would not restrain the Jewish state.

Good cop / bad cop, apparently.

GARY REBACK (another Knoxvillian with an interest in IP -- I actually knew him very slightly when I was a kid) has a good article in Forbes on why too many patents are as bad as too few.

SOMEBODY EMAILED ME TO NOTE THAT JUDGE JIM DOERTY -- the Washington State judge who locked up Paul Trummel for posting names and addresses of public officials on his website (and who ruled that the First Amendment didn't apply because Trummel isn't a "paid journalist"), now has the same information on his own (Judge Doerty's) website. Just go quietly, Judge, and don't make a fuss.

ANOTHER DEVASTATING PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSAULT on Islamist terror is being prepared. Tremble, followers of bin Laden. Tremble.

GRAY DAVIS UPDATE: "We got taken to the cleaners." That's the conclusion of a legislative investigation into the Oracle contracts, which found a "culture of corruption" in California state government.

THE INDEPUNDIT SAYS the World Cup is a diplomatic disaster for the United States:

This past weekend, Team USA upset “El Tri,” the Mexican National Team 2-0, to enter the quarterfinals. The US is now officially a Superpower in every respect, along with Germany, Italy, South Korea, Turkey, Japan, England, and Brazil. The French are really pissed.

The fact that our team is in the quarterfinals and most Americans are completely oblivious is especially grating to those we have defeated. Yesterday, police had to break up Mexicans who were gathered at the border crossing from El Paso to Juarez, because they were throwing rocks at cars with American license plates – and the Americans had no idea why it was happening! . . .

But the important thing is that we should celebrate big time in the unlikely event that we win, or we’ll be in big trouble with the Germans – not to mention the Mexicans, who are already on the verge of declaring war . If we lose (which we probably will), we need to be visibly upset at everything German, and crying in the streets. We should all resolve to wear black for a week, and boycott German beer. It's our patriotic duty.

This is the natural order of things – we upset it at our own peril.

You have been warned. But does Colin Powell know? And is he even now counseling the U.S. team to throw the game in the interests of not provoking the rest of the world?

JESSE VENTURA won't run for reelection. Actually, what he said was: "I am not seeking reelection again." Reader Dane Carlson wonders how he can not be seeking reelection "again," when he's never sought reelection before. Picky, picky.

READER MARTIN PRATT sends this fairly good news on privacy, from Britain.

Now will our politicians take a lesson from this?

SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED: Ken Layne says we've got it all wrong when it comes to Homeland Security.

And I still think that's a creepy name. "Homeland Security," I mean. Not Ken Layne.

BO COWGILL scooped everyone with his report (with pictures yet) of the protests at Stanford regarding Condi Rice's commencement speech. Now Howard Mortman dissects the rather lame coverage in the Palo Alto Daily News, which makes up for being later than Cowgill's by not being as good. And looking at Bo's photos of the protests, I'd say the newspaper's estimate of a "more than a dozen protesters" is rather generous, but Bo's own report says that there were maybe three dozen, so take your pick. Maybe some of them just didn't want to be photographed.

UPDATE: Reader Dave Ivers writes:

Let's see, a generous estimate of 36 ("three dozen") divided by 4600 graduates means 0.78% of grads demonstrated. Wow!! What a backlash. Looks like the Bush popularity is sliding right down the crapper.

No one is impressed by your bourgeoise math, Mr. Ivers. It has long been used to distract the proletariat from its true interests.

DANIEL PIPES says that FBI Director Robert Mueller shouldn't be breaking bread with the American Muslim Council, since it's likely that the FBI will soon be investigating its ties to terrorist organizations.

I don't know much about this, but I wonder if the Democrats will be able to make some hay out of the connection (which I assume is there) between this sort of thing and Grover Norquist's efforts to bring American muslims into the GOP fold.

UPDATE: Frank Gaffney and Steven Emerson are criticizing Mueller's move too.

JESSE WALKER writes that Doonesbury is turning into Li'l Abner. Yeah, reading Doonesbury (when I bother) makes me respect Berke Breathed, Gary Larson, and Bill Watterson for quitting before they descended into self-caricature, even though I miss them.

Personally, I don't think that Doonesbury was ever as good after Trudeau took his extended hiatus. He lost his groove, and he never got it back. Walker says it's because he's old:

Trudeau’s career arc mirrors the evolution of baby-boom liberalism, from the anti-authoritarian skepticism of the 1970s to the smug paternalism of the Clinton years. In 1972 the strip was engaged with the world; in 2002 it is engaged with itself. . . .

But the biggest change is political. There was a libertarian streak to ’70s liberalism: Disillusioned by Watergate and Vietnam, invigorated by the rebellions of the ’60s, it was socially tolerant, supportive of civil liberties, suspicious of executive power, ready to investigate and dismantle the national security state, and even open to deregulation when it was presented in populist garb. (Few remember that it was Ted Kennedy and Ralph Nader, not Ronald Reagan, who pushed through airline deregulation.) Needless to say, this current quickly disappeared -- banished from the Democratic mainstream by the ’80s, its last gasp in that party was Jerry Brown’s presidential campaign of 1992.

Yeah. As Walker also points out, the strip used to be about college-age people. Now when college-age people appear, it's so Trudeau can riff on how much cooler his generation was when it was that age.

But it's not just the years: it's the mileage. There's only so long anyone can be cutting-edge clever before descending into pomposity and irrelevance. I miss The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County -- but I respect their creators for quitting before that happened.

HEY, THANKS to the folks who hit my tipjar yesterday. That sudden flurry of activity was quite welcome: I'm paying for this server, after all. No more free Blogspot hosting. (But no more extended Blogspot outages).

BTW, if you want me to know who gave, you can click on a little box in the upper right after donating. Otherwise it's anonymous.

CHRIS PATTEN IS COMING UNDER MAJOR CRITICISM for the EU's support for terrorism, according to this story in the E.U. Observer. Hmm. He's in charge of external affairs, but, er, he's a hot-button PR liability for the EU. Even the Washington Post thinks he's an offensive blowhard, which suggests to me that he's not doing a very good job. I think it's about time for a "Dump Patten" movement.

SAUDI ARABIA has reportedly arrested a number of Al Qaeda-linked suspects.

SPINSANITY REPORTS:

Restrictions on protests during President Bush's commencement address at Ohio State University (OSU) Friday sparked widespread outrage on high-profile liberal Internet sites. But criticism of what happened has been plagued by inaccuracy and a reliance on incorrect and sketchy reports. . . . [Claims of arrests, etc. are debunked, and attention is directed to news stories reflecting the facts].

This correction has not been acknowledged by Buzzflash, MWO or even the left-liberal media critics at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, who quoted the original, incorrect report in their critique of the Washington Post's coverage of the speech yesterday.

Well, there you have it. Hey, anybody can be wrong, but -- especially when you're online and it's so easy to do -- it's important to correct things once you find out they're wrong, even if the incorrect version is more politically opportune. I would think that would go double for anonymously authored sites like MWO.

THIS OBSERVATION WOULD STILL BE SAPPY, but it would make more sense if the missile silos in question contained missiles that were, you know, the kind that kill people.

It seems to me that this post -- which is from TAPPED, a site I like a lot -- demonstrates the sort of symbolic thinking that has deprived the anti-nuclear and anti-war movements of credibility. Then there's the magical-thinking wish-fulfillment angle: some kid makes a sappy gesture and the threat of nuclear war is ended. Yeah, TAPPED admits it's sappy, but it's got about as much connection to reality as Beavis (or was it Butthead's) remark that "wouldn't it be great if chicks just did whatever you want?" Only here it's, "wouldn't it be great if a wave of emotionalism ended the threat of violence?" Actually, of course, it was the Cold War that ended the Soviet nuclear threat -- because we won. The much smaller Al Qaeda nuclear threat will be ended the same way, and no other. Sorry guys. This isn't one of your best.

GARY FARBER has some interesting stuff on nuclear war and what it means to be conservative.

CAN BLOGS SAVE WALL STREET? Dominic Basulto of Corante says they can, by providing a check on analysts.

BILL HOBBS, who owns this story, has an update on the case of Paul Trummel, who was jailed because a judge didn't like his website and ruled that the First Amendment doesn't apply to people who aren't paid journalists.

I'm astounded -- and disappointed -- that this case hasn't gotten more attention. It's actually a worse First Amendment violation than the Vanessa Leggett case. Is it just that this doesn't offer an opportunity to criticize Ashcroft?

MISDIRECTION? Ranan Lurie writes that we're talking about Iraq but aiming at Iran.

SYRIA IS HOLDING a key 9/11 suspect, reports the Washington Post. He is "Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a German citizen of Syrian origin who has told his interrogators that he recruited key hijacker Mohammed Atta." He's being interrogated by the Syrians, and he's cooperating, according to the report.

If this is all it's cracked up to be, it's an indication that Syria is anxious to stay on the right side of the United States -- which is probably an indication that there's more going on in the war than is obvious to us sitting here at home. I certainly hope that's the case.

The Germans are unhappy that they've been cut out of the loop where one of their own citizens is concerned. But given their ostentatious unwillingness to cooperate with the United States where such cooperation might lead to someone getting the death penalty, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that this is in part a signal to the Germans that there are worse things than a death-penalty trial in an American court.

PAKISTAN WORRIES: I don't know how much credence to give this story, but it's certainly troubling. Pakistan's ISI appears to be choosing poorly.

GRAY DAVIS UPDATE: Matthew Hoy identifies another financial scandal.

BIOTERROR: Joe Katzman has a lot of useful links and information.

THE KANSAS CITY STAR is calling for CIA action to topple Saddam Hussein. Reader Bobby Allison-Gallimore, who sent the link, remarks that this is rather a change from the Star's usual slant on things.

THYMUS-CLONING ERRORS: Yesterday I posted an item about a human thymus being grown by Australian researchers. That's what the news story I linked to said, but it appears to be wrong. Dr. Steve White of the University of Chicago sent this:

The researchers collected thymic stem cells from mice, not humans (the clonal populations were collected from 15.5 day old mouse embryos). The exact populations were R1 (CD45.MHC class II.MTS24-) and R2 (CD45.MHC class II.MTS24+) cells. These cells were separated from other cells by flow cytometry and then engrafted into mouse kidneys. Embryonic cells at 15.5 days old (mid gestation for a mouse) were used as it was felt that this represented a point at which thymus cells (technically, thymic epithelial cells) had differentiated into two component types for the developing thymus gland.

This is a remarkable study and deserved publication in Nature Immunology. But these were mouse cells, not human cells, and came from an embryo, not an adult. Hope this clarifies it for you.

Dr. White was kind enough to send me the PDF of the Nature article, and he's right -- it says rather clearly in the methodology section that mouse cells, not human cells, were involved.

PROLIFIC InstaPundit email correspondent Maarten Schenk has his own blog, Live From Brussels, which makes sense given that he's, well, from Brussels. And he's alive.

THE NEW YORK TIMES reported on Sunday that greenhouse warming was causing Alaska to "crack, burn and sag.'

Now Professor Gerd Wendler of the Alaska Climate Research Center (he's a professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, a lovely campus that I visited once) says that the Times' claim of a seven-degree temperature rise is wildly exaggerated: here are the actual figures, which are much lower.

What could account for this discrepancy?

DO YOU THINK ELSIE LEE, who graces my computer screen pretty regularly these days on a variety of sites, is really just an ordinary "Harris Direct investor," or do you think she's actually, like, a model they chose because she looks cute with a keyboard in her lap and her bare feet propped up on the desk next to the monitor?

UPDATE: Will Middelaer, it turns out, has been researching this for weeks and has exposed a troubling coverup effort at Harris Direct.

LOTS OF NEW UPDATES on the basically sad situations in Venezuela and Argentina, over at El Sur.

PATCH ADAMS SENDS LILEKS a scary, Godfatheresque message. No, really: "it’s like finding a severed clown head in your bed."

June 17, 2002

ANDREA SEE has quit smoking. She's even keeping a separate weblog about it. Give her some encouragement, if you're so inclined. She can only get so many new tattoos to keep herself distracted.

UPDATE: Here are links to more Andrea See tattoo photos, for those who just can't get enough!

MORE EVIDENCE of Ted Turner's idiocy and, by extension, that accusations of bias against CNN have some basis.

UPDATE: Some pointed commentary can be found on the Occam's Toothbrush site. And is that a cool blog name, or what?

GRAY DAVIS UPDATE: Davis just lost what looks to be a major law enforcement endorsement to Bill Simon. (Via Rand Simberg).

BRAD DE LONG says that Noam Chomsky lies a lot. Welcome to the Blogosphere, Brad!

ERIC S. RAYMOND has a long post about gay priests and the Catholic sex scandals, to which Tim Wilson has posted a lengthy response.

UPDATE: Tony Adragna says that lots of priests are taking advantage of adult women, and minor girls, but that people aren't talking about it.

FORGET JOHN DEAN: JOSH MARSHALL knows who Deep Throat is. He makes a pretty compelling case.

UPDATE: And now he's got more.

A LOVELY EVENING: Practiced my scuba in the pool --which I was extra careful about after hearing of Scott Shuger's death -- in preparation for a diving trip in a couple of weeks. (I last dove in August, and I like to keep my skills up). My wife and daughter came and played too. The pool was pretty much empty except for us and my dive partner. Then another chapter of Harry Potter; now blogging on the laptop while my wife and daughter watch "Courage the Cowardly Dog," a truly weird show on the Cartoon Network. It doesn't get much better than that.

THE SELF-CORRECTING NATURE OF THE BLOGOSPHERE: REVEALED.

SPEAKING OF MATTHEW HOY, he writes to say that I'm probably wrong on the cloning issue below:

Glenn, I might be mistaken, but I think you've got this development wrong, at least as it relates to the cloning debate.

To quote from the article you linked to:

The Monash scientists put thymus stem cells into the kidney cavity of a mouse.

"To see the thymus grow, complete and working, was exciting," Professor Boyd said.

Note it says "thymus stem cells" this would indicate to me that these were taken from a developed organ. Otherwise the reference would likely be to "embryonic stem cells" which are undifferentiated.

Also, according to the theory, if embryonic stem cells were injected into the kidney, they should have turned into kidney cells -- not thymus.

I'll admit I don't know all there is to know about the science -- but it appears to me that this report is fodder for the anti-cloning debate -- another scientific success for adult stem cell research -- which doesn't require the destruction of any human embryos.

Well, as far as I'm concerned that's actually better news if it's true. I'm more interested in the treatments than in how they're arrived at, and success with adult stem cells shortcircuits a lot of potential political opposition. And he's right -- I assumed the story was about fetal cells, but it doesn't actually say that.

UPDATE: Charles Murtaugh emails that he thinks it's adult cells, too. Fine with me.

WELL, I HAVE A POST BELOW on soccer-induced amity, and NPR had a story on it too. But this story reports that angry Mexican fans rioted in Juarez and attacked American vehicles.

Shame. Certainly similar acts by Americans, directed at Mexicans, would be denounced as evidence of racism, xenophobia, and similar awfulness. Matthew Hoy also has a post on some other problems on the Mexican border.

TRAFFIC WARS CONT'D: Andrew Sullivan is still after TAPPED. But this remark is a bit harsh: "The Kuttner claim that they had 500,000 subscribers to their magazine has been reduced to 50,000. This discrepancy has been blamed on a reporter for the Boston Business Journal."

Actually, I got an email from the reporter myself, but didn't get around to posting it before TAPPED posted its own item. But she made clear to me that the error was hers (and proved it by including a similar typo in her email!). I think that TAP is blameless in this.

Here's the email I got (with the typo corrected -- she had originally swapped the 80 / 800,000 numbers):

From: Donna Goodison
Date: 2002/06/17 Mon AM 10:24:07 EDT
Subject: kaus-american prospect

there were two typos (mistakes) in my boston business journal media column that are the basis for andrew sullivan's and mickey kaus' most recent attacks on the american prospect.

your web site picked up the andrew sullivan reference, so i thought you should know that the 500,000 number in my article should be 50,000, and the 800,000 number should be 80,000. kuttner gave me the correct lower numbers, and i made the mistake.

the links to our web site now have the corrected numbers, and we're attempting to put a correction notice at the top of the story saying as much.

donna goodison
boston business journal

She has one thing in common with Andrew Sullivan -- that all-lowercase-typing thing.

ARE THE RICH GETTING RICHER? Max Power says the poor are getting richer.

EUGENE VOLOKH has a good piece on the Fourth Amendment and the war on terrorists, in Slate.

UPDATE: He's got a long post on torture on his blog, too.

SCIENTISTS IN MELBOURNE have reportedly grown a functional human organ from stem cells. It's a thymus. Cool. Of course, it's a further setback to the already-reeling anti-cloning effort.

ECHELON@HOME -- the logical successor to SETI@home! Help fight the war on terrorism by making your spare processor cycles available to the National Security Agency.

(Courtesy of The Indepundit).

SOCCER COVERAGE isn't really my thing, especially when it provides no opportunities to twit the French. But reader Jorge Schmidt sends this interesting observation:

I've been following the latest World Cup games pretty closely on Spanish-language TV and radio in Miami, and I'd like to share the following observation:

TV and radio commentators, and callers to radio shows, call the American team "el equipo de todos nosotros" (the team of all of us). This morning, as I was driving home after the U.S. - Mexico game, there were calls from Colombians, Argentineans, Brazilians, Central-Americans of various stripes, all rooting for the U.S. team, and all expressing the same sentiment, that the American team was the "home" team. This is a marked departure from previous World Cups, where latins tended to stick with other latin countries if their own didn't make the cut. I had never heard this expression, "the team of all of us," before this World Cup.

As one caller explained, they feel this way not just because the U.S. is the country that received them, but also because many have U.S.-born children, and they want to teach their children to root for their country. Who would have thought of soccer as a force of acculturation and assimilation?

Hmm. Sounds good to me. And who know? Perhaps the U.S. will exert a quieting influence on soccer hooliganism.

DAVE WINER'S IN THE HOSPITAL, and will be for about a week. That's all I know. Send him your best.

DON'T YOU HATE IT when married couples go and fight in public?

BRENDAN MINITER says the FBI still isn't serious about rounding up terrorists. Meanwhile The New Republic says that it's not just the FBI: the Bush Administration as a whole isn't serious about terrorism. Excerpt:

All of which is fine, as far as it goes. But sometime over the last month Washington seems to have forgotten that there's another component to homeland security, and it has nothing to do with removing the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service from the Department of Agriculture: It's called the war on terrorism.

Bush's rhetoric, they say, is fine. It's his actions that need to match it. I agree.

TRAFFIC WARS CONTINUE: TAPPED has another post on the ongoing feud with Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus about traffic. The Boston Business Journal numbers of 500,000 and 800,000 as circulation and goal for TAP were, as many suspected, a typo, and have been corrected. (Link in the post). Kudos to the Boston Business Journal and reporter Donna Goodison for fixing this in what -- though slow by blogger standards -- is record time by big-media standards. There's a lot of technical discussion that I won't bother summarizing about how traffic is measured, too.

All this fuss over unique visitors leads me to suggest that there's a business opportunity for third-party counter makers who use generally agreed upon methodologies (or at least clearly understood methodologies) and share their results. I've tried to be a leader in that with my open counter. You'll note, though, that my two counters don't agree! That's because sitemeter tracks the whole site (including individual posts) while Extreme Tracker counts only the main page. Also, sitemeter tracks "pageviews" and "visits." I don't think the "visits" are the same as "unique visitors," but I'm not actually sure what they are. [UPDATE: Stacy Tabb, who is a goddess, says that they're unique visitors. She also says that measuring web traffic accurately is basically impossible, even at the server level -- which is undoubtedly true, both because she says it (as a goddess, her words are performative utterances), and because of things like firewalls and caches.]

As I've said before, I care about this mostly because people keep asking. To me, a reader who's interested enough to visit the page twice a day is as valuable as two readers who are interested enough to visit it once a day. I guess if I were trying to sell ads or something, I'd feel otherwise.

Extreme Tracker, which counts only the main page, reports 226,916 unique visitors so far this month, for whatever that's worth.

UPDATE: Oh, and here's a piece on the subject from The Weekly Standard. Same conclusion: rough-and-ready is about as far as it goes.

HOWARD FEINBERG has a piece on the ethics of smallpox vaccination.

My own feeling is that we should vaccinate. That's because vacccination doesn't just have a preventive value, but a deterrent value: terrorists are less likely to attempt to use smallpox if the target population is vaccinated. And that's important because any effort by terrorists to use smallpox produces a high likelihood that it will spread around the world and once again infect people in places where lousy healthcare and infrastructure will make it hard to get rid of. I think that possibility has to be weighed in the balance: by vaccinating, we're not just protecting Americans, but Indians, Somalians, Cambodians, etc. (Interestingly, the Islamic world, because of bad healthcare systems and the tradition of the Haj, is especially vulnerable to such "collateral damage," though I'm not sure the terrorists are smart enough to realize that -- or perhaps inclined to care even if they do).

Yeah, the vaccine has (minor) risks. But compared to seeing this horrible scourge loosed on humanity once again, they're small.

SOME INTERESTING COMMENTS in response to the fraudulent-paternity post below.

HERE'S A RATHER GOOD POST on what blogging is all about:

So it's not the technology, it's the people, and "what we're doing when we blog" is the same thing we do at cocktail parties, except that with blogs we provide evidence. . . .

Bloggers have made the media more honest, and we've made it more relevant to people's lives. We applied technology to a real human need, and we'd best be paying more attention, as technologists, to how the technology is being used, and as citizens to what we're able to learn through this medium about the world we live in. The medium itself is not the message, never was, and never will be.

I agree -- with the minor quibble that the ability to provide links really does make a difference in the quality and speed of discussion. It's like a cocktail party with Nexis.

CASS SUNSTEIN: WRONG AGAIN. Republic.Com isn't holding up very well.

STEPHANIE DUPONT'S INFLUENCE GROWS: Now it's Howard Kurtz calling me Insta man.

As long as it's not my wife.

THE WASHINGTON POST LAYS DOWN THE SMACK on European antisemitism -- and in particular, on Chris Patten's blustering about American observations thereof. Patten has moved from being a figure of fun (well, amused contempt,anyway) in the Blogosphere to playing that role in the mainstream media. Congratulations, Chris!

IS THE UNITED STATES BECOMING a soccer "hyperpower?"

The good news is that the French will be too embarrassed to complain about it, this year.

ANDREW SULLIVAN challenges TAPPED about traffic. Oh, yeah, he also talks about some other stuff in the news, like terrorism and the Catholic Bishops' conference.

Me, I just wish TAPPED would post more often.

GAY CARDINAL TO BE OUTED? Via Susanna Cornett, I found this post claiming that ACT UP is going to "out" a gay Cardinal.

Big deal, even assuming it's true. To me, this seems like opportunism rather than any real contribution to the debate, and it's likely to play into the hands of those who are trying to blame the sex scandals on homosexual clergy so as to divert attention from the Bishops' shameful efforts to cover up the problem. But then, it is ACT UP.

HERE'S ANOTHER STORY suggesting that a coup in Venezuela is imminent, and likely to be bloodier than last time.

PERHAPS ALL THE LEFTIES WHO HAVE SHOWN AN UNACCOUNTABLE AFFECTION FOR FUNDAMENTALIST ISLAM will think twice now:

UNITED NATIONS -- Conservative U.S. Christian organizations have joined forces with Islamic governments to halt the expansion of sexual and political protections and rights for gays, women and children at United Nations conferences. . . .

But it has been largely galvanized by conservative Christians who have set aside their doctrinal differences, cemented ties with the Vatican and cultivated fresh links with a powerful bloc of more than 50 moderate and hard-line Islamic governments, including Sudan, Libya, Iraq and Iran.

"We look at them as allies, not necessarily as friends," said Austin Ruse, founder and president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a New York-based organization that promotes conservative values at U.N. social conferences. "We have realized that without countries like Sudan, abortion would have been recognized as a universal human right in a U.N. document."

Yeah. "We're not really the same, we're just, um, fellow travelers who happen to be going down the same road together for a while."

Jeez. Perhaps the "Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute" should focus its attentions a bit closer to home.

UPDATE: Reader Will Duquette writes:

Regarding the story about Conservative Christian groups banding together with the likes of Sudan, I'm curious if any groups other than the "Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute" were mentioned. I'd be surprised if any of the groups one ordinarily thinks about when one hears the phrase "Conservative Christian" were involved, as it's widely known in Evangelical circles that Sudanese Christians are being severely and violently persecuted by the Muslim majority. I've spoken with missionaries who've visited Sudan in the last year, so I know that the persecutions aren't being overstated.

Yes, there are other groups, including a couple that I believe are largely evangelical in nature. Apparently it's not just the State Department that gets taken in.

UPDATE: A couple of readers think this is unfair to evangelicals, and claim that the groups involved (see story) aren't really evangelical. Er, okay. But I thought Concerned Women for America was pretty well tied in with evangelicals. If I'm wrong, well, then I'm wrong: it's certainly not impossible that the Post would give the wrong impression, accidentally or deliberately. But nobody's said that yet. At any rate, evangelical or not, it's certainly the "religious right."

On the other hand, some people dispute my assertion that there are lefties who like fundamentalist Islam. Well, there certainly seem to be a lot of people -- Chomsky, Kingsolver, Edward Said, etc., who miss no opportunity to criticize the United States' war against terror, while saying very little about the practices of our enemies. The Taliban website (yeah, they've still got one, and it's actually not bad) seems pretty pleased with the "not in our name" crowd of lefties. And there's the example of Gloria Steinem, who opposed the Taliban until the United States went to war with them, and then changed her mind. Pro-Islamic Fundamentalist, or just anti-American? It gets kind of confusing after a while.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Oh, and this is amusing: the author of this story in The Guardian thinks it's a pro-Taliban website that's using the headline "Gangsters, murderers and stooges used to endorse Bush's vision of 'democracy'" -- but when you follow the link you find it's actually Robert Fisk's headline. Robert Fisk: Indistinguishable from Islamist propaganda -- even by The Guardian!

GOOD NEWS: The FBI appears to be focusing on important things, like catching spies and terrorists, now.

PRO-TERRORIST ANTI-MCDONALDS ACTIVIST JOSE BOVE is going to prison. Let's see how he likes the food there.

IRAQ HAS BEEN SMUGGLING NUCLEAR BOMB-MAKING PARTS on "humanitarian aid" flights, according to this report in The Times.

SCOTT SHUGER OF SLATE has died in a scuba-diving accident. Mike Kinsley has an obit here.

Shuger was the founder of the Today's Papers feature, which makes him a major founding influence on blogdom, an excellent writer, and by all accounts a very nice guy. My condolences to his family and colleagues.

REGURGABLOG HAS MOVED, to another one of those slickly designed Movable-Type-powered websites that the folks at Sekimori do so well. It's got a new name, and its keeper a new pseudonym, too.

And welcome to the newest Knoxville blogger, too!

BELLICOSE WOMEN UPDATE: Two heroic New York women jumped a racist gunman, and quite probably prevented a massacre. (Via email from Patrick Nielsen Hayden)

UPDATE: Reader Allen Russell says:

I think you missed the most important element of this story. Apparently 40 people allowed this man to hold them hostage even after making it obvious he was going to burn them alive (dousing them with kerosene, having someone handcuff them). People need to realize that if someone holds a gun (or boxcutter) on them that they may as well fight (and maybe die) rather then sheepishly put themselves into an even worse situation. I understand there may be times when it's better to do as your told (a convenience store employee being held up), but there are limits to what you should allow even in the face of probable death. I would rather have someone shoot me in a struggle (where I may get wounded, but probably won't die) then allow them to handcuff me and shoot me in the head at their leisure.

Yeah, or worse -- as you note, that guy was carrying kerosene and matches, too. John Lott has some words of advice today. On the other hand, reader David Cohen notes that:

In the story on the gunman in New York, the Police Commissioner praised the women who jumped him as "having done the right thing." This strikes me as a change caused by 9/11 -- before that, it seems to me, the police took the position that citizens weren't supposed to get involved. Next thing you know, the NYPD will be calling for a "shall issue" law.

Well, maybe not. But attitudes certainly are changing this. The notion that you can avoid harm by being harmless is on the way out.

June 16, 2002

WILLIAM GALSTON wrote in the Post about downsides of going to war against Iraq. But Glen Johnstone responds that some of Galston's "bugs" are really "features."

I MEANT TO LINK TO this collection of stuff on Hoover-era FBI abuses a while back, but I lost the link and didn't get to it. I have some personal knowledge of this sort of thing: my father's antiwar protest career involved some rather dirty governmental tricks, and when I was in law school I did a radio program (with NPR bigshots-to-be Andy Bowers and David Baron) on the New Haven May Day riots, the research for which made it seem pretty likely that FBI-sponsored provocateurs were behind a lot of what went on, including the hockey-rink bombing.

On the other hand, the real question is what lesson this past misconduct teaches us today. One is a theme upon which InstaPundit constantly harps: big, unscrutinized organizations inevitably become corrupt, dishonest, and often dangerous. The other is that much of what Hoover did was illegal then; this suggests that oversight is more important than the precise parameters of the applicable law.

But while I believe in prosecuting the current war against Islamist terrorists to the utmost, I feel absolutely sure that if the U.S. government is given power to act in ways for which it is unaccountable, it will act badly. Our entire Constitution is based on the notion that unaccountable power cannot be trusted. That's more than a notion, really: it's a certainty, on a par with the law of gravity.

I MEANT TO LINK TO THIS oped by Larry Tribe on terrorists, trials, and judicial review. It's pretty good.

A TOUCHING FATHER'S DAY STORY, from Cold Fury.

I CAN'T REACH FOXNEWS AGAIN -- it doesn't respond to pings, and a traceroute shows it as unreachable after an awful lot of weird hops. I assume it's under some sort of DNS attack again.

UPDATE: Now it's working. And I notice this defense of George Stephanopoulos' hosting "This Week."

COLORADO'S HAYMAN FIRE LOOKS TO HAVE BEEN STARTED BY A FOREST SERVICE EMPLOYEE. Juan Gato comments: "You know, this kind of stuff wouldn't happen if we federalized the U.S. Forest Service."

BILL QUICK REPORTS on a growing movement to protect "fathers" from paying child support for children who aren't actually theirs. "But the children need somone to support them," is the response, "and if these unlucky guys don't do it, who will?"

This reminds me of Judith Jarvis Thomson's unconscious-violinist example. And we all know where that leads. So why is it different when it's men?

THE WAR BETWEEN CIVILIZATION AND BARBARISM: Some interesting thoughts on the nature of the enemy, or enemies.

PYRA IS A COOL COMPANY OF 2002 according to Fortune. It's well-deserved. Blogger has its issues, but it almost singlehandedly created the contemporary Blogosphere. Not many companies can produce such a major social change with a single product, especially one that's essentially in beta.

BO COWGILL has first-hand reportage and pictures from Condi Rice's commencement address at Stanford (and the accompanying dumb protest). Who says bloggers can't do original reporting?

UPDATE: Hey, and don't miss the page with the pictures! Bo knows digital photos.

CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER DON B. KATES has a good oped on the Second Amendment in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today. Key quotes:

The Founding Fathers' ideas would group them today with the National Rifle Association's most militant members. "One loves to possess arms," Thomas Jefferson wrote George Washington on June 19, 1796. James Madison assured his fellow countrymen they need not fear their government "because [you have] the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation."

All other founders who discussed guns agreed. If any disagreed, writes professor William Van Alstyne, former member of the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union and one of the great figures in modern American constitutional law, "it remains one of the most closely guarded secrets of the eighteenth century, for no known writing from the period" says so.

Before the modern gun-control debate, no one denied that the amendment guarantees an individual right. In a 183-page review of all 19th-century references, criminologist David Kopel found not one denial. A typical explanation was that which a great Supreme Court justice offered in an 1834 book on the Constitution: "One of the ordinary modes by which tyrants accomplish their purpose without resistance is by disarming the people and making it an offense to keep arms."

Our founders were steeped in the belief of classical political philosophy that only an armed people could maintain their liberty.

Indeed. And with the growth of the Homeland Security apparatus, this lesson becomes more important, both as a source of security against tyranny, and as a way for the federal government to reassure people that it has no intention of becoming tyrannical.

GEORGIE ANN GEYER WEASELS: Reader Bill Rudersdorf notes that Georgie Ann Geyer's latest column has a disclaimer at the bottom:

EDITOR'S NOTE: In Georgie Anne Geyer's column dated for release May 9, 2002, she included a quote from Ariel Sharon, "I control America." This quote was widely reported in the Palestinian press but cannot be confirmed in independent sources. Miss Geyer and Universal Press Syndicate regret not having attributed the quote more specifically. -- UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

"I thought she was smarter than that," writes Rudersdorf. Yes, relying on the famously unreliable Palestinian newspapers for a Sharon quote certainly counts as not-smart. In fact, didn't Holger Jensen do something similar? And didn't he make a far more handsome apology than this? And didn't he lose his column anyway?

Just asking.

YOU MAY WANT TO VOTE in this poll on the official Taliban website, which is still in business.

UPDATE: Reader John Beckwith writes:

I followed your link and tried to vote in the Taliban poll. I submitted my vote, but the poll results page informed me that my vote would not be tallied because I had already voted.

I am not sure, but they may have set things up to allow only one person who linked in from Instapundit to vote. If so, the Taliban are smarter than CAIR.

I will be curious to know if other voters have a similar experience.

Hmm. Tricky. You can always type the address into your browser:

http://www.talibanonline.net/index.asp

Of course, this is an admission of their cause's unpopularity. They can't even stuff their own internet poll

UPDATE: Several readers report that votes don't seem to be changing the totals. It's probably a fake poll.

IT'S BEEN A WHILE since the Blogosphere has had a really good Fisking. It's just gotten too easy.

But this is a good one.

BIZARRO WORLD: Rebecca Blood defends Andrew Card and the Bush management style. Meanwhile Rod Dreher is lambasting Bush over at The Corner.

FATHER'S DAY CELEBRATIONS AND OBSERVANCES are ongoing today, so blogging will be rather light. Meanwhile, you may want to read this piece from the Los Angeles Times about "deadbeat dads," (a term that I believe persists largely because of a combination of alliteration and general anti-male bias). Of the obligatory stories of its type running in most papers today, it seems to be the best.

RADIOFREETEXAS is a new blog by a frequent InstaPundit emailer. Check it out.

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