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August 03, 2002

I'VE GOTTEN SEVERAL EMAILS suggesting that the West Nile Virus outbreaks may be a biological attack. I doubt it, but if so it's the lamest biological attack imaginable:

While there are 58 known cases of mosquito-borne West Nile virus in Louisiana, one state health official estimated 10,000 to 12,000 other people have been infected, felt no symptoms and are now immune to the disease.

But just in case it was an attack: Neener, neener, nyah, nyah!

SOME PEOPLE WORRY THAT THE FBI INVESTIGATION of potential Congressional leaks is dubious, given that Congress is simultaneously investigating the FBI for ineptitude, etc., regarding the 9/11 attacks.

This is a reasonable thing to worry about. I've gotten a couple of emails saying that Congressional immunity should apply -- but members of Congress only have official immunity for things said during the conduct of their official business and (as Bill Proxmire found out when he libeled a scientist as part of his "Golden Fleece Award" PR program) the courts don't consider talking to the presss official business.

The fact that the Executive and Legislative branches can investigate one another is part of the checks-and-balances system; in terms of accountability, after all, it's preferable to a system in which neither can investigate the other. The main check on abuse of this kind of power is political -- and as the FBI comes under criticism, and as members of Congress refuse to take lie-detector tests (they should: a lie detector test is about as scientific as the witch-weighing employed in Monty Python's Holy Grail) and threaten retaliation, it will likely die down.

The bright side: nothing makes a politician appreciate the importance of constitutional rights like being placed under investigation.

"THE TIMES IS JUST MAKING SHIT UP," exclaims Martin Devon in dismay and disgust. "This is just pathetic." He's referring to the latest "doubts about the war" piece in the New York Times' National section.

Come on , Martin. Don't mince words here. Say what you think.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn is a bit more polite: he just calls the Times' war coverage "risible."

ACADEMIC FRAUD UPDATE: Maybe Emory should hire these investigators for the Bellesiles case.

I think it's fair to say that the sciences do a better job of policing themselves than the humanities.

A LOT OF PEOPLE have asked me what the Tennessee primary elections show. Well, they show that Lamar Alexander still has that old, er, magic. If you want more, here's the analysis story from my local paper, which says that Democrats are running to the right. This seems on-target to me. The Democratic primaries were mostly about who would protect gun rights the most, and who wouldn't raise taxes. I don't know if this is a national trend, but if so it suggests that even if the Democrats recapture the House there won't be as much change in hot-button issues as you might expect, because the new members they'll get will be voting like Republicans on those issues.

THE AXIS OF WEEVIL is featured in this article on weblogs from the Tuscaloosa News.

THE BLOGOSPHERE GETS RESULTS: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a story on the Cynthia McKinney 9/11 campaign donation issue originally identified by the IndePundit, with additional analysis from an initially skeptical Jim Henley. McKinney's response is to compare herself with Martin Luther King.

The details the story provides on the donors, however, don't make that a very flattering comparison.

UPDATE: Katha Pollitt is cheerleading for McKinney's campaign. Guess she's finally found a flag she's comfortable flying, quips a reader.

TED TURNER LAND-GRAB UPDATE: The Associated Press has picked up on the Ted Turner / Gullah legal conflict.

Michael Moore and Doonesbury remain silent, however.

AN AMUSING (IN A DEPRESSING KIND OF WAY) FAMILY STORY, from Orchid. Gratitude is the least trustworthy of emotions.

But of course, Americans know that. We just have to look at the French.

WIN FITZPATRICK feels that President Bush isn't taking the war seriously enough.

This is perhaps unfair: I can do a lot of my work from almost anywhere now (and though I've never done it, I know people who have taught their classes via an internet video hookup), and I don't have access to the communications network that serves a President. Demanding that Bush be at his desk in the Oval Office seems to me to be either out of date, or (in the case of some critics) disingenuous point-scoring. I seem to recall that Roosevelt managed to visit Warm Springs during World War Two, after all.

Of course, the presence of visible progress elsewhere might cause Fitzpatrick to feel more favorably toward Bush's vacation. It's possible that we're making lots of progress that's not visible at the moment -- in fact, I can think of a couple of examples best left unmentioned here -- but that's not much help for Bush's political position, which I see as somewhat fragile once you get beneath the surface. His approval is still high, and the financial scandals haven't really had much effect. But the rapid victory in Afghanistan, though impressive, was only the opening round and there hasn't been a lot of visible follow through. If there's not much progress soon, Bush may lose the benefit of the doubt. I think the obvious and widely-appreciated absurdities of Homeland Security are already starting to bite; he'll be in real trouble if the whole war effort starts to be viewed through that lens.

ARE MEDICAL VISAS being abused as a way to end-run the new anti-terror restrictions on immigration? Sydney Smith points to a piece from The New York Sun that suggests the answer is yes:

As Mr. Fishman of Sloan-Kettering said of the INS and the State Department, “There’s no cross-collaboration between the two of them now. Should someone be approved for a visa and not keep an appointment, we don’t know what happens to them afterward.”

In the 1990s, facing a managed care revolution that restricted the flow of patients, hospitals in New York City and around the country began aggressive marketing overseas, creating alliances with far-flung medical centers from Bahrain to Bangkok, in an effort to lure patients.

The efforts paid off and soon foreign patients nation-wide became a $2 billion to $3 billion a year industry, said Mr. O’Kelly. New York Hospital was particularly aggressive in pursuing foreign patients and created a division that attracted patients such as Arab businessmen, who were able to pay cash for high-tech medical intervention.

But as the nation’s immigration net tightens, Mr. O’Kelly fears that his program is being exploited and said he had seen a worrying increase in treatment seekers from countries such as Pakistan. He added that if terrorists should strike again, “The last thing I want to do is wind up on Nightline explaining how it happened.”

We don't want that either.

SILFLAY HRAKA got a lot of criticism for the middle-east solution mentioned below. He has replied to the critics.

August 02, 2002

I DON'T KNOW ENOUGH to have an opinion on this L.A. Weekly story about the FBI and efforts to shut down reports of middle eastern involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing (among other things). But there has certainly seemed to be a powerful desire not to talk about that stuff.

I DIDN'T REALIZE THAT MICHEL FOUCAULT had written about the Iranian Revolution. Boy did he get it wrong.

MORE REASON TO DOUBT HOMELAND SECURITY: Trivial Bob has found that they're trying a bit too hard to get all their hires done.

DEATH CULT UPDATE: See, he's not hypocritical. Just a good, loyal psychotic death cult member.

THE NATIONAL JOURNAL has a pretty good article on weblogs. Do you guys get tired of hearing about these? There have been a lot now, but by posting them, I at least keep a record in my archives. It's like an extended memory bank.

JOSH CHAFETZ HAS AN ANTITERRORISM PLAN that seems like a great idea to me.

THERE'S YET ANOTHER new, Sekimori-designed weblog out there, this one with a strong feminist design theme. Nice. I like the "Happenings In The Blogosphere" idea. We need a community newspaper. Er, newsblog.

ANOTHER TERRORIST ARRESTED, APPARENTLY:

ST. CATHARINES, Ontario, Aug. 1 -- A Canadian man accused of organizing a plot to blow up U.S. and Israeli embassies in Singapore is being held in a secret location in the United States, where he is cooperating and revealing information about terrorists' plans, U.S. officials said.

The man, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, 20, a native of Kuwait, was arrested in the Persian Gulf state of Oman and is being held at a military base in the northeastern United States as a material witness, U.S. officials said. Prosecutors are considering filing charges against him in connection with the Singapore operation.

My first thought was that this was Kuwaiti ingratitude, but it's mostly bad writing. Jabarah grew up in Canada; his family (and apparently him, too) moved to Kuwait last December.

SEXISM AND THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT: A damning indictment.

THE POWER OF THE BLOGOSPHERE: Bill Quick has an example.

STEPHEN LABATON isn't recycling Democratic press releases in his New York Times "news analysis" pieces, says Mickey Kaus. Because, according to Kaus, the DNC press releases aren't that crudely partisan!

ARNOLD KLING JOINS IN THE HOMELAND SECURITY PILE-ON:

One difference between The Homeland Security Department and the AOL-TimeWarner merger is that today we have weblogs that allow skeptics to raise our voices. . . .

Anyone who has ever worked in a large organization has to confront the issue that the organization as a whole seems dumber than its individual members. That is why so many of us are trying to use the Internet as our vessel to immigrate to Free Agent Nation.

So now we have an organization that can protect us from terrorism by engaging in massive exercises in team-building, obtaining buy-in, diagramming its processes, and so forth. We're going to fight Al Qaeda with Dilbert.

I think he's right with this point, too:

My guess is that somewhere, in some random agency far removed from the Department of Homeland Security, there is a skunkworks of fewer than 300 people that is going to defeat violent Islamic extremists operating in the United States. If not, then we are in big trouble.

I hope that Congress is keeping this in mind.

A SOLUTION TO SUICIDE BOMBINGS, from Silflay Hraka. Armed Liberal likes the idea, but I'm not so sure myself.

BAD NEWS FOR SERIAL KILLERS: The Governor of Louisiana, in response to a serial killer, is advising women to carry guns.

As I recall, a similar program in Gainesville some years ago had a dramatic effect.

TOREN SMITH says that the stock market is a bad issue for the Democrats.

MICHELLE COTTLE DEBUNKS the hysteria over child kidnappings. Just another wave of media hype. Imagine that! Next she'll be telling us that last summer's hysteria over shark attacks was bogus. (Via Howard Kurtz.)

I can't help but note that many of the legacy-media critics of weblogging say that the blogosphere will be prone to waves of hysteria because it lacks the steadying hand of editors and producers. To which I reply: Nyah, nyah!

READER THOMAS ASCH WRITES:

I saw this item at instapundit:

"LAS VEGAS (AP) - A presidential advisor encouraged the nation's top computer security professionals and hackers Wednesday to try to break computer programs, but said they might need protection from the legal wrath of software makers."

and wondered if the a little-used congressional power in Article I, Section 8 might be applicable, specifically the power to "grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal." It seems to me that this suggestion seeks to create "privateers" on the high seas of the Internet. Since the possession of such letters changes acts that would otherwise be piracy into legal acts, it would seem that on the Internet it would change acts that would violate Internet and communications laws into legal acts. While there is no great body of constitutional law on this clause (if any), arguably the Congress has the power to grant private individuals war-making powers in cyberspace. Is this reasoning a violation of original intent because the Internet did not exist in the time of the framers or are the words "Letters of Marque and Reprisal" broad enough to encompass this power?A related question is whether there are any international treaties or agreements that outlaw privateering, and if so, is the specific language such that it would prohibit use of Letters of Marque on the Internet?

Well, I don't think he had privateering in mind -- more like checking doors to make sure they're locked. But we've already seen some private activity against al-Qaeda websites, and I think we could have a lot more with a bit of encouragement. That would be compu-privateering for real -- especially if it went further and involved assaults on financial infrastructure, etc. I seem to recall that the US isn't a party to the anti-privateering treaty anyway. Otherwise I'd have to give this some thought. The biggest issue is immunizing U.S. white-hat hackers from criminal liability in other nations, or under state law. The latter is pretty easy; the former probably would be too. Interesting idea.

MICKEY KAUS says the New York Times is engaged in selective non-reporting in order to downplay the dangers of Iraqi nuclear weapons, all in support of its anti-war agenda.

UPDATE: Here's another, and pretty damning, example.

Why, exactly, does the New York Times feel obliged to distort its reporting to keep barbarians from looking as barbaric as they are?

I'VE DONE A TERRIBLE JOB of covering the whole Internet Radio fiasco. But Doc Searls has done a great job. Go read this piece and then write your congresscritters.

SCHOOLGIRLS IN TEHRAN will be shedding their veils and wearing more colorful clothing. Hardliners don't like it. They say it will lead to a "culture of nudity."

And they say it like that's a bad thing.

FACT-CHECKING THEIR ASSES, IN PERSON: Tony Woodlief reports on his experience leading an airport revolt against dumb security.

We're likely to see more of this. I hope.

MORE ON IRANIAN BLOGGERS: Here's a story from Shift magazine.

CYNTHIA MCKINNEY UPDATE: Following up on the Indepundit's 9/11-related discovery mentioned below, Jim Henley has more about the odd patterns in her campaign donations.

August 01, 2002

LET US NOW PRAISE HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIALS WHO HAVE A CLUE:

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A presidential advisor encouraged the nation's top computer security professionals and hackers Wednesday to try to break computer programs, but said they might need protection from the legal wrath of software makers.

Richard Clarke, President Bush ( news - web sites)'s computer security advisor, told hackers at the Black Hat conference that most security holes in software are not found by the software maker.

"Some of us, here in this room, have an obligation to find the vulnerabilities," Clarke said.

Clarke said the hackers should be responsible about reporting the programming mistakes. A hacker should contact the software maker first, he said, then go to the government if the software maker doesn't respond soon. . . .

Companies differ in their response to independent researchers. While some encourage or even reward bug-hunters, others are more concerned about the possibility of extortion or embarassment to the company. In some instances, they seek civil or criminal charges against the hacker.

Clarke said that situation is "very disappointing," as long as the hacker acts in good faith.

"If there are legal protections they don't have that they need, we need to look at that," he said.

This is, with blinding obviousness, right. Just so long as it isn't turned into a backdoor for Rep. Howard Berman's (D-Disney) bill to authorize corporations to hack your computer. That's not the same thing at all.

WILL SALETAN EXPLAINS how to suck the President's blood.

THERE'S A NEW AND DIFFERENT Blogosphere Ecosystem listing based on 2263 weblogs. The universe and ranking aren't the same as NZ Bear's. I'm still not sure exactly how meaningful the exercise is, but everybody seems to like talking about it.

CHARLES JOHNSON is rather proud to be the first weblogger attacked by the Arab News.

WOW. THE INDEPUNDIT HAS NOTICED SOMETHING RATHER ODD that happened on September 11, and as far as I know no one else has reported this.

A funny thing to have happened that day, of all days.

FOLLOWUPS: There's a good deal of update material regarding my back and forth with reader Faisal Jawdat in this post now. Also there are a lot of comments regarding this post about "conditional patriotism."

SUPERMARKET CARDS AND PRIVACY: Kim DuToit, who used to work on supermarket "loyalty card" programs, has some things to say about them.

JEFF COOPER has some thoughts on politics, including the implications of the Democrats' falling into the pocket of Big Entertainment.

RAMESH PONNURU is calling on Chief Justice Rehnquist to resign.

A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO ANTITERRORISM: Not "What would Bugs Bunny do?" but "What would Sam Kinison do?"

UPDATE: Had the wrong number of n's in Kinison. It's fixed now. And here's a link to his official website.

WELL, AT LEAST THIS antiterrorism initiative worked.

OF COURSE YOU REALIZE THAT THIS MEANS WAR.

LOOKS LIKE THE EUROPEAN UNION HIRED ITS ACCOUNTANTS based on recommendations from the record industry. (Via Ranting Screeds).

WHY GRAY DAVIS IS LIKE MONTY BURNS: This item from the Simon campaign suggests that it's too early to count them out. (Via Patrick Ruffini, who has some other cool stuff on his page today, too.)

HERE'S A CORRUPT INDUSTRY screwing retirees out of their pensions:

What if you worked for a company for 30 years - say, starting in 1967 and ending in 1997 - and then realized the company had never paid into your pension fund? You'd be pretty steamed.

That's what happened to Sam Moore from the famous R&B group Sam & Dave. He had hits with Atlantic Records, which is part of Time Warner, like "Soul Man," "Hold On I'm Coming" and dozens of others.

Even though new hits stopped coming, the old ones kept selling. He figured that when he reached retirement, Atlantic would have been paying his pension into his union, which is called AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists).

When Moore applied for his pension, he was told that he had benefits coming to him. What a relief, he thought. Then he got the bad news. AFTRA was all set to pay him a whopping $67 a month. This is the same AFTRA that now boasts a $1.2 billion surplus.

That $67 figure came not from the money Sam thought he was getting from Atlantic, but from radio and television appearances he'd made over the years. It turned out that Atlantic had never paid one dime into his pension fund. Nothing. Nada.

Think of all the times you've heard "Soul Man" played on the radio, or in clubs and restaurants. Sam Moore was not getting paid for any of it.

Push has come to shove, though. Moore, along with two dozen or so other artists - including some who've passed away - sued AFTRA and the record companies for their proper compensation.

It turns out, by the way, that you don't have to be a member of AFTRA to qualify. If you recorded songs for a record company that was a signatory of AFTRA - which means all of them - you qualify for a pension. And not just black artists or those from the '60s. The Eagles, for example, are as mad as Sam Moore about what's happened.

Last month, AFTRA tried to push a settlement through in the ongoing case. They offered to pay each of the plaintiffs $100,000 apiece, and let the rest of the recording artists twist in the wind.

But many of the plaintiffs, including Moore, objected, and the judge took them seriously. Moore figured that he was probably owed about a million bucks. So the judge told all sides to go back to the drawing board and start over.

Tomorrow, all the attorneys involved in the case - representing AFTRA, its pension fund, the recording industry organization RIAA, the record labels, the plaintiffs, etc. - will meet in Scottsdale, Ariz., to start negotiations. It should be interesting since one law firm, Proskauer Rose, represents both the AFTRA fund and the Recording Industry Association of America.

The record labels are united on one front: They don't want to have pay about 20,000 different artists 30 years of back pension and health benefits.

So why aren't Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt calling for hearings and legislation to rake these crooks over the coals? Aren't they friends of the working people? Or are they just the tools of a different bunch of fatcats? And why isn't the union doing more (er, doing anything)?

Some questions answer themselves, don't they?

THE SAUDIS are apparently trying to buy Pakistani nukes. They are not our friends. They know it. So should we.

A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE are grudgingly admitting that Eric Alterman is actually a pretty good blogger. Today's deconstruction of a particularly stupid passage from Newsweek explains why.

This kind of stuff ought to help improve big-media journalism, which obviously needs it. And heck, if it doesn't, at least we get to have a good laugh at its expense.

CHUCK HERRICK'S POST made me wonder: Have I been too hard on Homeland Security? And then the answer came to me: No, I haven't been.

Some political advice for the Administration: Homeland Security is a joke. It's the butt of jokes (and worse) on talk radio, which is inhabited mostly by people inclined to support you. It's treated (unfairly, as I noted in the post that somehow precipitated all this) as fascism descending by the Left. And, it's not going to work.

September 11th, 2002 is coming up fast. After the networks are done with their commemoratives, people are going to notice that a year has passed. On the home front, at least, what they're going to see is a record of screwups and pointless intrusiveness, summed up in many people's minds by the airline tweezer-ban, and the mentality it represents. If there's a major terrorist event in America between now and then, all this stuff will look stupid and ineffective (which it is). If there's not, well, it will still look stupid and ineffective. And there's no sign that the people who dropped the ball are ever going to be held accountable, even as ordinary Americans are called to account for all sorts of things.

Not long after that, there's going to be an election.

UPDATE: Here's an email I got in response, from Clayton Cramer, who I didn't realize read InstaPundit. But I get these kinds of things all the time:

I really want to support Homeland Security. But they are clearly applying rules in a way that suggests that they have hired a bunch of robots. My son is 14. (And no, his name is not Mohammed, nor would anyone mistake him for one of the suspect nationalities.) He flew to California recently. On his return flight, he left his skateboard adjusting tool in his backpack. Picture something rather like a multipart socket wrench. They confiscated it as a weapon. They didn't even give him a chance to check it. It was only $10 down the tube, but it shows what morons the TSA has doing this work.

This is the face of Homeland Security, folks.

I'M NOT APPENDING THIS to the Chuck Herrick "conditional patriotism" post below, because that one's already damned long. But reader Bob Kingsbery has some good insight on the topic:

Tell Chuck Herrick that giving up your civil liberties in the war on terrorism would make you a loyalist, not a patriot.

A patriot puts the freedoms and rights America was founded on above everything else.

A loyalist puts America's leaders and laws above everything else.

Perhaps that's the real idealogical divide in America right now. Right wingers and left wingers both believe in bigger government and fewer individual freedoms.

Middle of the road liberals, libertarians and moderate conservatives share a belief in limited government and greater personal freedom.

Your thoughts?

I'm not sure I think that's the biggest ideological divide, but it's certainly what divides me from Herrick. My loyalty is to the Constitution, not blood and soil. That's for other kinds of countries.

There are lots of good responses in the comments to the earlier post, but I couldn't resist adding this one from Andy Freeman:

After all, anyone can say that anything is "in the name of the war", just as they can claim that anything is "for the children". However, making such a claim doesn't make it true.

Similarly, one can suggest sacrifices that will do NOTHING to win the war.

If Herrick disagrees, he'll have no problems with sending me $100 "for the war". It's a small sacrifice that he can easily afford and he doesn't want to be one of those nasty libertarians.

What? The check is not in the mail? Is it that he doesn't actually believe his little rant or that it doesn't apply to him?

A bit mean, perhaps, but nicely illustrative. Or as Suman Palit puts it in another of the comments, "The idea that patriotism involves happily agreeing with every administrative bungle or ineffective beauracratic policy is ludicrous."

GREENS OFTEN LIKEN HUMANS TO A VIRUS destroying the Earth's ecosystems. Ron Bailey says humans are Gaia's immune system. I think we're more like the biosphere's reproductive system -- if Earth life is going to establish itself on Mars, it won't be Penguins who get it there.

I WAS WRONG (well, the early reports I relied on were wrong) when I posted last night that all of those killed in the Hebrew University bombing were non-Israelis. It turns out two were Israeli citizens. The other five were Americans. I was still right about the Palestinians dancing in the streets, though.

What would things be like for Palestinians now, if Israelis or Americans thought like Arabs?

They wouldn't be like anything at all, of course. There wouldn't be any Palestinians.

UPDATE: Reader Faisal N. Jawdat thinks this is a foolish generalization, bordering on racism. Well, it's a generalizaton: sort of like talking about "Germans" during World War Two. One might have pointed out that there were a few anti-Nazi Germans in Germany, and plenty of loyal, decent Americans of German extraction. But this wasn't necessary, since it was understood that the reference was to the vast majority of Germans, who were participants in a psychotic death cult that led them to march in the streets en masse and cheer the death of innocents. So we're really only at odds with the ones who think that way -- of which there were estimated to be 10,000 in the streets celebrating last night, and quite a few doing the same thing on September 11.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've emailed back and forth with Faisal, who has this to add after the update:

Noted. If you'd even said "the vast majority", I wouldn't have had a complaint. The problem is that *you* understand it to mean "the vast majority" but it's not clear that you mean it that way, and I doubt most people take it that way (that, at least, has been my experience - Arab Americans who want peace are often shut out and shouted down because people assume their name implies their thinking).

Fair enough. A later email adds:

On the issue of how people think, I doubt the vast majority of Arabs (or Germans or Americans) think about these sorts of things at all. It seems like the thinkers disagree and everyone else goes along with whoever has the loudest voice.

Right now the loudest voices in the Arab world are coming from religious extremists and tin pot dictators (looking to distract their populace by sicking them on someone else (us)), so our obvious task is to get the vast majority listening to someone else. As to Americans, you have a lot of voice right now - use your powers for good :)

And speaking of religious extremists and tin pot dictators, I just read the bit about the Saudi government looking to buy Pakistani nukes. I'll be hiding under my desk now. Good thing I work across the street from a military base, I'll be safe here! "Oh, wait."

Oh, wait, indeed. Here, if you're interested is a link to Faisal.com.

A SAUDI MELTDOWN? Reader Trent Telenko writes:

I think that the Saudis have been in a 'Pre-revolutionary state' longer than the Iranians. Maybe as far back as the late 1980s.

A friend of mine thinks that I am right about the Saudi condition, but dates the 'pre-revolutionary' condition since the Khobar Towers bombing.

In short, he doesn't think either the Iranians or Al-Qaeda had anything to do with the Khobar bombing.

That is because the Saudis have created their own version of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the 'Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice,' which did the deed. The Iranians and Al-Qaeda are misdirections by the Saudi intelligence circles to cover up for their roque government faction.

The way things are going according to David Warren, my friend seems to have a point.

The David Warren column he cites does support this theory. Excerpt:

It is not, however, the uniformed police, but the Mutawaun who are the real face of the Saudi regime at street level -- the agents of the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. They don't wear uniforms, but like the Taliban in Afghanistan (which modelled itself on the Saudi regime) may be spotted by their austere robes and headgear, and personal theatricality. Their job is to threaten women who are not covered head to toe in the plain black "abaya", prevent men and women from talking to each other, see that shops are closed at prayer times, herd the men into the mosques, and beat up kids who look excessively happy. They patrol the streets in airconditioned SUVs, or walk through the American-style shopping malls with their bullhorns and sticks.

They finally triggered nation-wide demonstrations, starting March 11, when they prevented at least 14 girls from escaping a fire in their school at Mecca, lest they appear in the street without their abayas. While the story was suppressed in the state-controlled media, it quickly travelled throughout the kingdom. (Only people who have lived in totalitarian states can understand the efficiency with which news can be distributed by word of mouth.)

The same Arabian grapevine is now carrying numerous accounts of large public demonstrations. The Western media assume that these demonstrators are screaming for Al Qaeda and Palestine, and indeed there is plenty of evidence that (the late?) Osama bin Laden enjoys a cult following. But my own sources insist that many of the demonstrators are women, and that the protests are aimed almost entirely at the House of Saud and its Mutawaun.

This hardly means the "good guys" will win. There are no good guys. For in a country as backward as Saudi Arabia, where no form of civil opposition has ever been tolerated or been able to survive, all this present, disorganized protest plays into the hands of the worst elements within the regime, and the worst elements outside it.

I do believe that the Saudi government (or, if you prefer "elements within the Saudi government") is behind Al Qaeda and similar organizations. Indeed, as I speculated way back at the beginning of October, "Bin Laden's involvement is most likely as a facilitator and as a front and distraction for others."

This is probably the big question that has vexed the White House. We have two enemies, really: Saudi Arabia and Saddam Hussein (Iran, too, but it's more likely to fall if we do nothing and so can be left out of the calculations for now). But which do we go after first? Beating Iraq weakens the Saudis strategically by further reducing their oil revenues and their market power (which is why they hate it) -- but that will inflame their legions of idle-yet-entitled citizens, making them more dangerous (though mostly to themselves) in the short run. Which is also why the not-very-secure Saudi ruling class is against an invasion of Iraq.

Invading Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, though easier and in the long run essential, still leaves an armed and dangerous Iraq on the border, and might encourage Saddam to try to play Savior of Islam by using weapons of mass destruction to "defend the holy places" or somesuch.

But the Sauds have to go, sooner or later. I think even the White House has figured that out.

MERYL YOURISH has an update post on her amorous preferences where superheroes are concerned. It makes me feel kind of sorry for the poor Silver Surfer, but The Shocker has won Meryl's, er, heart.

JEFF JARVIS says that Soledad O'Brien rules the newsbabe roost. I won't argue, since Jeff has famously given this subject a lot of thought.

I went to law school with one of her sisters; she used to come visit sometimes. She was 16 and cute. But all the O'Brien women are stunners, as well as being really smart and nice. Their brothers (it's a big family) are smart and good-looking too, though I confess I never paid as much attention to them. Hybrid vigor, Maria (the sister) used to say.

SONIA ARRISON is taking on Rep. Howard Berman's (D-Calif.) hack-your-computer bill today. I love the by-now-standard link to OpenSecrets.org, disclosing how much money Berman is being paid to shill for Big Entertainment. Her piece contains a lot of other useful links as well.

It occurs to me that the Web makes it much, much easier to tell stories of intertwined political/financial sleaze by providing important background information via links. Traditional journalism finds it much harder to do this. Perhaps this is yet another reason why Big Media, and the politicians it employs, hate the Web and want to bring it under control.

DAHLIA LITHWICK argues in favor of the TIPS program. But the example she uses of a successful "snitch" strategy is the mandatory-reporting requirement for suspected child abuse. Lithwick says this has been a success, and that it has produced few false accusations. This surprises me: my wife, a forensic psychologist who deals with violent juveniles, holds a very different opinion.

Reader James Daniels shares these doubts, and writes:

It strikes me that comparing the repeated observation of children’s behavior and injuries by trained teachers and doctors isn’t similar at all to the untrained opinion developed by the plumber fixing your sink. Even worse, the mandatory reporting acts generate 3 million tips per year, of which about 2 million turn out to be false (according to [this report]). This is a 66% false positive rate by trained professionals. Given that terrorism has a much lower rate of occurance in the population than child abuse, can you imagine how quickly the FBI would begin to ignore the millions of tips generated by TIPS? Even with 3000 terrorists at large, 3 million annual calls would give a false positive rate of 99.9%. Further, if the FBI were to actually follow up on these helpful clues (on the order of thousands per day), the several million disgruntled voters smeared by the program would shut it down before the next election.

Given the low base rate of terrorism, any unselective test is going to generate disproportionate quantities of false positives. Worse, the real terrorists might start using TIPS against us, by filling it with chaff. Alternatively, they might hide their wares behind a false wall when the cable guy comes over. Basically, even if the problem were a lack of information at the top (rather than gross analytical incompetence), TIPS would prove to be a wasted effort.

I think this is right. As cases like the Al Qaeda webhacking incident illustrate, the system can't deal with the information it gets now. Who's going to analyze those tips, nearly all of which will be useless, to extract the good ones?

A MOTTO FOR THE BLOGOSPHERE: "What doesn't crash my server, makes me stronger."

SUSANNA CORNETT has a long, cautionary post about privacy and supermarket customer cards.

Using supermarket customer cards to look for terrorists strikes me as futile, but not terribly intrusive -- but, of course, no matter what people say they'll soon be using that information for lots of other purposes, most of them less benign.

Of course, anyone with any sense fills out those cards with names like Henry Wadsworth Blogfellow and reports that he's a 64-year-old Inuit woman who makes over $250,000 per year, thus protecting his/her privacy while corrupting the database in a fashion that -- if enough people do it -- will render the whole customer-card enterprise useless. (A few people will object that this is somehow immoral, to which I reply: No, it's not.)

On a slightly different note, I'd like to see an FTC investigation of these customer-card programs for fraud. I do the grocery shopping for the InstaPundit household, and I've noticed that every time a store introduces these, they just mark things up, then "discount" some of them back down to the price they were before the discount card. Kroger, for example, had vermicelli for 69 cents a box forever. Then, the week they introduced the card, it was marked up to $1.39 a box, but "discounted" to $0.69 as a "Kroger Plus Card Savings!" special. I reamed the manager about it, but it was just to make me feel better; I know it didn't do any good. Perhaps some enterprising plaintiffs' lawyer will file a RICO action or something.

SLEAZE: A former aide to the President of the U.N. General Assembly has been arrested for trying to murder a journalist.

July 31, 2002

I'M 31.25% owned by my weblog, according to the latest quiz craze. That seems about right to me.

EVERYONE KILLED in the University bomb attack was a non-Israeli, but thousands of Palestinians still celebrated. This combination of bloodthirstiness and ineptitude is characteristic.

OVER A HALF MILLION UNIQUE VISITORS to the main page in July, according to Extreme Tracker. I'm glad everyone's here. But where are you coming from?

BIG-MEDIA REPORTING ON THE ECONOMY: Christopher Pellerito analyzes recent coverage and says the low quality of economic and business reporting is partly to blame for the run-up (and run-down) in stock prices.

THIS SCOTTISH ALQAEDA SUPPORTER (who "describes himself as a 'political green' with Hindu religious beliefs") says he expects "an aggressive response" when he hands out pro-bin-Laden leaflets to American tourists. Was it David Carr who wrote that all the idiocies of the world are converging into a single undifferentiated mass?

IT'S GOOD TO SEE AN AMERICAN ICON get the recognition he deserves.

READER CHUCK HERRICK accuses me of "conditional patriotism" in light of my various posts criticizing homeland security. He says if I were a real patriot, I'd be happy to surrender my civil liberties in the name of war, and that I shouldn't set preconditions of governmental competence before I am willing to do so:

I was there during Vietnam. I watched when the war came to a close in the '70's and all the long-hairs promptly cut their hair, quit demonstrating, and went out and got corporate jobs and started collecting material possessions. When the draft ended, it was like a light switch was thrown. What I'm stating is that today's version of that convenient lack of patriotism is alive and well in today's Libertarianism. And, you're not even being asked to carry a weapon and go into battle. All you're being asked to do is to give up a few, "cherished" liberties in order to beat our enemies. Frankly, it's rather pathetic.

You signed on for the former? No, you did not. I've made my case that in WWII, the ineptness in the government and in the military was just as egregious. You've a capacity for research. Use it to do some historical research on just how inept the government could be during WWII. My bet is that what you'll find will stagger you.

I'm not that easily staggered. But Herrick misunderstands. I'm not talking about competence (everyone makes mistakes), but good faith. By refusing to deal seriously with the problems of homeland security, and by substituting bureaucratic wish lists and appearance-oriented political solutions for real action, the powers-that-be have made clear that they're not serious about the war, at least on the home front. Ashcroft won't fire the people who screwed up before 9/11 -- when even FBI agents were speculating that Osama bin Laden had a mole in FBI headquarters because the incompetence seemed so spectacular -- and yet I'm supposed to pretend that searching old ladies at airports and confiscating tweezers proves they're serious? You want me to sacrifice civil liberties for a war, you've got to show me a war. Then we'll talk.

The Vietnam analogy, it seems to me, cuts the other way. That was another war that was waged with more of an eye toward the wellbeing of the bureaucrats waging it than toward actually winning. (Herrick, whose email indicates that he works for the federal government, may take that the wrong way, but there you are). The Drug War is another example. Both of those failed, miserably. Homeland Security is looking more like those conflicts than like, say, World War Two. That's my beef.

Herrick apparently confuses me with those protesters who felt that it was immoral to wage war in Vietnam. My own view is that it was immoral to wage war halfheartedly.

Reader Kenneth Summers says this:

What bothers me far more is restrictions on liberties in the absence of war, precisely because there is no distinct "end to hostilities". This is why, in the "WOT", I think we need to be extremely careful about what we allow. Ditto for the War on Crime. Big fat Double Ditto for the War on Drugs. Our liberties will be safer if we actively take out Iraq and Soddy Arabia [spelling intentional - more so after I looked up the derivation] in a hot war than if we pussyfoot around and keep accepting incremental restrictions.

An example is the FDR presidency - the programs, rights infringements, and restrictions which remained after his presidency (works programs, gun restrictions, ridiculous tax policies) were primarily those implemented for fighting the depression and Prohibition crime. Those that were lifted (censorship, military tribunals, travel restrictions, rationing - I even include the draft here because it would have ended, as it did after WWI, were it not for the cold war) were those for fighting the war. Unlike a war, there is no "return to normalcy" for crime and economic downturns.

I think that -- as the post that somehow set off Mr. Herrick noted -- restrictions on civil liberties so far haven't been very onerous. But I also think that Homeland Security has been a joke, from the airline tweezer-ban right on down the line. I think that it's allowed to be a joke because people in the government don't think it's very important. And if they don't think it's very important, why should I?

UPDATE: Reader Chris Mosely emails:

Unfortunately, it's worse than you thought. The *very day* the feds announced the arrest of the skating kingpin, a man living in NJ, who was known to have sold fake ID to at least one Sept 11 hijacker, eluded police and FBI by fleeing to Egypt:

link

In other words, the long arm of the law can reach into Italy to find a guy who bribed skating judges, but can't arrest someone in New Jersey who aided the Sept 11 attackers.

BTW, if you read the AP article it also says that this guy wired money to Saudi Arabia. Surprise!

I've been giving the feds the benefit of the doubt on "homeland security" but this tears it for me.

Well, nobody's perfect, and I'm prepared to forgive (almost) any number of honest mistakes. I'm less forgiving when it appears that people aren't taking the issue seriously.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader points out that it was the British, not any part of the Homeland Security apparatus, that found this al Qaeda training camp in Alabama. Another reader sends this quotation from Petronius Arbiter: "We tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing and a wonderful method it can be for creating an illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization." I've seen this quote before, and I don't think it's really Petronius. But it's apt, nonetheless.

ERROR-CORRECTION UPDATE: Lynxx Pherrett says I'm wrong about the Alabama Al Qaeda training camp. Uh, okay. But I wasn't "disingenuous" -- I was writing what I thought to be true.

FROM THE FRONT LINES: Here's an email I got from law-school classmate Yehudah Mirsky:

Please forgive these random thoughts. Today's bombing at Hebrew U., just over an hour ago, really hits home. The building it happened in is named "Frank Sinatra" which just makes it more surreal. Hamas, doing it their way. When I heard yesterday's bomb I was standing in a used bookstore about half a mile away.

That explosion was up the block from the Rav Kook archive where I have done a good bit of my work, but, hey, it seemed like not much of anything with only a few injured, and this morning's papers called it a "miracle," which of course is a pretty odd reading of divine providence, but there are no atheists in foxholes, and fewer postmodernists.

When I walk around Hebrew U I have always been glad to see Palestinian students there because deep down I do believe that a university is a different kind of place, or can be when it wants to. I'd assume Hamas doesn't care that they think that any Palestinians they kill should be happy to be collateral martyrs. In a way, all the victims are collateral martyrs offered up on the altar of the mad cult of violence gripping the Muslim Arab world.

As it turns out I was reading Nietzsche today, and I wonder how much of this he is responsible for too, these crazy notions of self-actualization through violence that he spat into the culture and take on a life of their own, all over. I'm lucky, I have an American passport and in theory could head for the airport anytime I want. Where is everybody else supposed to go? And one more thing that makes me tired and angry, that like a nice Jewish boy I go on praying for peace not only for the Jews but for the Arabs too, while they keep praying to my God to kill me. Yours, without answers, but still praying for peace like a river Yehudah

UPDATE: Yes, that's the Yehudah Mirsky who used to work for the State Department and who sometimes writes for The New Republic. Reader Yonaton Aronoff weighs in to defend Nietzsche:

Although I totally sympathize with Yehuda, as a fan of Nietzsche, I must interject. Nietzsche would be horrified at radical Islam's construction of a cultural identity out of what is essentially a "sour grapes" reaction to the West: realizing itself incapable of attaining Western wealth and power (but wanting it fiercely), radical Islam professes hatred of everything that is Western - such as wealth and power - in order to avoid hating ITSELF for not having what it wants. At the same time, its secret desire to attain wealth and power is manifested as the vigor with which it seeks to destroy that which it cannot have. While Nietzsche DID at times profess "self-actualization through violence," he was also a bitter opponent of the use of religious power as a repressive force. His assault on the internally-inconsistent "values" of bourgeois Christianity ("Geneology of
Morals," "Beyond Good and Evil") is actually quite applicable to the way in which radical Muslims have hijacked Muslim cultural identity.

Perhaps we need more Arabic translations of Nietzsche.

LAW ENFORCEMENT PRIORITIES: Let's try to put a positive spin on this one: It shows that the War on Terrorism hasn't prevented the feds from pursuing other malefactors.

NOW THAT THE CORNER has gone crazy over gay sex, I suppose the next step will be ads like these. Well, it's better than those damn subscribe-or-we-kill-Jonah's-dog popups, anyway.

N.Z. BEAR has some interesting information on Saudi web filtering. The Sauds, who currently control much of the Arabian peninsula, appear to be trying to keep the inhabitants from finding out uncongenial facts about the rest of the world, or the Saud family.

UPDATE: Link was to the wrong item before; it's fixed now.

TOO FUNNY -- from Best of the Web today:


"I'm not in the habit of hanging out with white trash."--John
R. Bradley
, news editor, Arab News, LittleGreenFootballs.com, July 29


"Monster Truck Show Proves a Big Draw"--headline, Arab
News
, July 30


TERRY EASTLAND quotes an article by Cass Sunstein and Jack Goldsmith of the University of Chicago Law School in support of the argument that we're worrying too much, not too little, about civil liberties in this war. Eastland give the URL, but not a link. Here is the link, if you want to go straight there.

It's certainly true, as Eastland, Sunstein, and Goldsmith all argue, that the Bush Administration has been far more sensitive to civil liberties concerns than other wartime presidencies. It's also true, though, that Americans have little confidence in Homeland Security. People might be willing to endure restrictions on liberty more if they weren't faced, on a daily basis, with evidence that the Homeland Security team is playing, at best, double-A ball.

WOW. Between them, the two law review articles on originalism and conservatism that I put up on the server have been downloaded nearly 600 times. That's not a lot for a weblog entry, but it's an awful lot for decade-old articles on constitutional law. I'm moving to put a lot more stuff up -- on a UT server, not mine, to save bandwidth -- and I'll provide links when it's available.

SKBUBBA weighs in with another tale of Homeland Security ineptitude.

IT SEEMS AWFULLY HYPOCRITICAL for all those Senators to be talking about "getting tough" on corruption in the financial markets, when Sen. Robert Torricelli is getting off with an admonishment at their hands.

I think some mischievous soul should add a rider to financial reform legislation requiring candidates for office to sign a statement swearing that no illegal contributions were accepted, on pain of criminal sanction if that turns out to be wrong.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: They may have missed terrorists, and their list of suspected terrorists may have leaked out and been posted on the Internet, but the FBI in my area is hell on asian-prostitution rings. Of course, everyone around here has known what these were all about for years, as they advertise quite blatantly on billboards, in newspapers, etc.; in fact, I know a lot of legitimate massage therapists who were happy that the "Asian Massage" fronts were so common and well-known, because it helped keep the distinction between that kind of stuff and what they do clear in everyone's mind.

But is this the best use of resources when we're supposed to be at war?

UPDATE: Reader Robert Crawford writes:

Asian massage parlors are unlikely to harbor anthrax. You probably won't find them trying to poison the water supply, or build dirty bombs, or fly airplanes into buildings.

And, since they advertise on billboards, they're easy and quick (and safe!) sources of press releases.

I've just about given up. I can't imagine what the government thinks it's doing -- it's like we're watching people from the Bizarro Universe. Everything they do seems to be the opposite of what's needed, especially the focus on "Homeland Security" instead of taking on the terrorists and their supporters.

Yep. I think this sentiment is hitting critical mass, too.

UPDATE: A couple of readers have emailed to note that asian-prostitution setups are often little more than slavery, with illegally imported women being kept in isolation. That would certainly put a different complexion on it, but you'd think if that were the case here the press release would mention it.

WINDOW OF VULNERABILITY: My TechCentralStation column is up.

I FINISHED READING Joyce Malcolm's book, Guns and Violence: The English Experience last night. (That's the Amazon link; here is the Harvard University Press page, though it has less information). Very interesting book; I may make it the subject of next week's Fox column. Very short summary:

Crime in England declined for 500 years, from the 15th century to the early 20th, even as gun ownership became more common. Beginning in the 20th Century, England began a program of strict gun controls (primarily intended to disarm labor activists and suspected bolsheviks). By mid-century, this was in place, and coupled with very strict rules limiting self-defense that, in practice and public perception, meant that criminals got an easier shake than honest people who defended themselves. Crime rates -- including gun crime rates -- then started to rise, and have been rising ever since despite ever-stricter gun controls.

No surprise there, to those familiar with the work of criminologists like John Lott and Gary Kleck. But it's interesting to see that Britain is, ever so slowly, beginning to recognize the issue, and the English experience belies the standard low-crime/low gun availability stereotype. In fact, when crime in England was at its lowest, guns were as readily available as in the United States . And it's certainly a blow to stereotypes of lefty bias that Harvard University Press has published this book, as well as its predecessor, To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right (1994). Or at least proof that such bias doesn't always stand in the way of good work.

UPDATE: Here's a link to a review of Malcolm's book by Clayton Cramer that appeared in Books and Culture. The review is more critical than one might expect, given Cramer's strong pro-gun-rights position, but serves as proof that Cramer doesn't let politics drive his scholarly positions. (Cramer was the first, and for a long time the loudest, to point out Michael Bellesiles' misconduct). While I agree with Cramer that this book isn't the tour de force that Malcolm's previous work was, I think that most of his criticisms (for example, that she relies on secondary sources rather than recently declassified documents that say the same thing) are of little interest to the general reader.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dipnut from IsntaPundit emails this link and suggests that I mention it as evidence of why Americans should care about this stuff. He's right.

STILL MORE EVIDENCE that the bureaucracy isn't up to its purported Homeland Security role. There's not much to argue with here:

We talk about government "intelligence failure" as if it's something to do with misreading satellite intercepts between Peshawar and Aden. But the "intelligence failure" of September 11th is more basic than that, a failure of intelligence in the moderately-competent grade-school sense. And nothing we've learned in the last 10 months -- from Mohammed Atta's posthumous flight-school visa to last week's belated termination of the Saudi fast-track -- suggests that Federal officialdom has changed or is even willing to change.

There is, sadly, no reason to think that the "Homeland Security" bill will do anything to make this better, and considerable reason to think it will make it worse.

UPDATE: Will Allen writes:

The fact that not a single bureaucrat has lost their job in the past 11 months is proof of the ineffectiveness of the govenment response, and the fact that the Democrats are having to be dragged kicking screaming to a bill that might result in a few people getting fired is yet more evidence that a large percentage of people just don't get it. I guess the body count isn't high enough yet. Compare the current actions by our political leadership to what George Marshall did in the early stages of WWII, in which he sacked scores of incompetents. This is another example of how Bush went wrong by not seeking a formal declaration of war. Such a declaration puts everyone on notice that business will not be done as usual, the normal rules of government employment are suspended, and that incompetence will no longer be tolerated. If this is a war, then the political leadership of the nation should damn well behave like it is one.

Yes, and as the interview with Jon David below demonstrates, the FBI still hasn't gotten the point, either.

JOHN HAWKINS scored a coup, managing an interview with Al Qaeda-website hacker Jon David. Guess which country produced 90% of the traffic?

SUPERHERO SEX LIFE UPDATE: Jim Treacher informs me that the Elongated Man is happily married, suggesting that Meryl Yourish should keep her filthy thoughts to herself.

Meryl, meanwhile, apparently not having gotten the word, says she can't believe I left Triplicate Girl out of my list of hot superheroines. She notes the possibilities, which. . . No, I'm stopping right there. This is a family blog.

HOWARD KURTZ'S COLUMN TODAY is about how bloggers are keeping Big Media honest. Excerpt:

Bloggers are busting chops, big time.

The latest evidence: Some big media organizations are now quoting their criticism of other big media organizations.

It's called influencing the debate, in real time. . . .

Some media critics dismiss bloggers as self-indulgent cranks. That's a mistake. They now provide a kind of instant feedback loop for media corporations that came of age in an era of one-way communications.

Yep. If I were, say, Howell Raines, I'd be reading blogs a lot to see how I was doing.

THE PARANOID LIBERTARIAN'S TO-DO LIST: Some concrete recommendations for avoiding totalitarian dystopias.

If the Homeland Security stuff continues to get dumber and more intrusive, you'll start hearing more stuff like this.

FOLLOWING THE LEAD OF HESIOD THEOGENY, Claudia Winkler of the Weekly Standard is coming down hard on Egypt's conviction of dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim and others on what she calls "trumped up charges." Excerpt:

Egypt's government, like all despotisms, was pleased to able to point to a respected liberal, and to his Ibn Khaldun Center for Development at the American University of Cairo, as proof of its tolerance. Ibrahim advised Mubarak's top aides and hosted a weekly TV show on issues relating to development. It suited the regime to have him travel to international conferences on civil society to show how enlightened Egypt was.

Some observers say that what finally provoked the authorities--more than Ibrahim's exposure of fraud in the 1995 legislative elections, or his monitoring of government treatment of the Coptic minority, or his denunciation of official corruption, or the short film he made encouraging Egypt's young to seek freedom through elections--was his observation that Mubarak's son Jamal was being groomed to succeed the president, just as if Egypt were some backward dictatorship like Libya or Syria or Iraq. This apparently was too close to the bone.

Now, Ibrahim, 63 and in poor health, faces the prospect of rapid decline in an Egyptian jail, unless one remaining appeal should succeed or President Mubarak exercise clemency. The United States should use its abundant leverage with Egypt to secure that end.

The only problem, says Winkler, is that "Apparently Mubarak and company don't fear Washington."

We need to change that.

BATTLE OF THE ALS: Mickey Kaus says Al Gore was intentionally slighting Al From by pleading a "scheduling conflict" that turned out to be, well, pretty obviously nonexistent.

July 30, 2002

TRAFFIC: Extreme Tracker is reporting 477,885 unique visitors to the main page for July. If tomorrow's a good day, we might break a half million for the month. Not bad considering I was on vacation for two weeks. Maybe I should take more time off!

MY DREAM JOB, if only I could draw.

SORRY GOOGLERS: This isn't me. I've had their Shiraz and Merlot, though, and both were excellent. You'd think I'd get a family discount, or something. . . .

MERYL YOURISH SAYS IT'S ALL MY FAULT, as she rates the superheroes for, ahem, action-adventure appeal. True to my prediction, the Elongated Man does very, very well.

Maybe I should rate the female superheroes (superheroines?), but, really, it's such a short list, with only one answer: Supergirl, as played by Helen Slater. 'Nuff said. (Though it may raise issues akin to these. Ouch.)

Wonder Woman? She doesn't like men, does she? She might be a good pick for, say, Norah Vincent, (though somehow I don't see them as a couple), but I figure anyone who yells "Sufferin' Sappho" doesn't belong on my list. Besides, I used to see Lynda Carter all the time at the late, lamented "21 Federal" in Washington, back when I was a rich lawyer who went to places like that. She was more of a babe without the costume, which surely cuts against it.

Now Saturn Girl was kinda hot. Hot enough that I don't really remember her super power. Telepathy? Precognition? Something like that. (UPDATE: It's telepathy and mind control. I love Google! Oh, and Umbra, who I don't remember at all even under the old name of "Shadow Lass," isn't bad, either).

SO I WANTED TO WATCH STOSSEL, but the local ABC affiliate is off the air because of tonight's thunderstorm. Damned lightning.

CHARLES DODGSON agrees that the War On Drugs raises serious doubts about homeland security.

IF I HADN'T ALREADY DECIDED to post more law review articles on the Web, this would have convinced me: How often do law professors get to see people debating their 10-year-old writings? (Much less people with names like "Oberon Lord of Avalon").

The thread's too long for me to respond to in any detail at the moment, but it was quite interesting to read.

ERIC OLSEN has a whole lot on the Fort Bragg spouse-killing incidents. Apparently a big story will break shortly.

I'm guessing we'll find overlapping instances of infidelity here, but that's just that: a guess. I haven't followed this very closely.

UPDATE: Reader Anne Salisbury seems to think that the above pot implies that I think infidelity is a justification for murder. Nope -- just a motive, and one of the oldest. But I guess we'll know soon.

I WASN'T GOING TO WRITE ABOUT this New Yorker piece by Rik Hertzberg on Robert Dahl's new book. That's because I don't think the Hertzberg piece is that good, and I rather doubt that the Dahl book is, either. (I haven't read it, but it doesn't sound as if he's changed his views from previous works.)

But then I noticed that Patrick Nielsen Hayden was citing it approvingly, so I thought I'd add this word of warning: What Dahl is talking about turns out in practice to be what Robert Bork wants. Bork's idea of the Framers' intent, and the problems with judicial review, comes from confusing the thinking of the Framers with the political science that Bork studied in college, which was very Dahlian. (William Jennings Bryan had similar thoughts, too.)

It's tempting for liberals to look at the Rehnquist Court and find that sort of thing attractive, just as it was tempting for conservatives of Bork's generation to look at the Warren Court (and even the Burger Court) and find that sort of thing attractive. But the Framers weren't about democracy; they were interested in a democratic republic. And subsequent history, pace Dahl, suggests that they were pretty damned smart to think that way.

Since World War II the United States has made a big deal about democracy, as opposed to democratic republicanism, because it was simpler to explain, and hence an easier idea to sell than separation of powers, checks and balances, etc., etc. Interestingly, Americans have been more swayed by that propaganda than anyone else, and the importance of the Constitution's built-in countermajoritarianism has been largely ignored -- except where issues like school prayer or flag-burning come up.

But there's a lot more to the Constitution's countermajoritarianism than the Bill of Rights, and there's good reason to believe that the structural protections against tyranny have done more to protect freedom than the Bill of Rights -- which the Supreme Court didn't really do much with until the mid-20th Century anyway.

IT DIDN'T HAPPEN THIS WAY.

But there are people who wish it had.

DELLWATCH UPDATE: Well, hotdamn, it works. The Dell tech showed up on time and quickly got the desktop up and running again. Despite the yeoman service my laptop provided, I'm happy to have it back. Now I just have to get the wireless network going again. Ugh.

I SURE HOPE THAT this turns out to be true. If I'm ever going to get the aircar I expected when I was 8, something like this has to work out.

I LIKE P.J. O'ROURKE, but Spoons has him dead to rights here. Bill Lockyer would probably disagree.

DON'T FORGET TO WATCH John Stossel's program tonight on why the Drug War is a miserable failure that threatens us all.

WELL, WHY THE HELL NOT? It's a Dan Savage / National Review Online lovefest!

HOMELAND SECURITY UPDATE: Juan Gato suggests Bud Selig as Secretary for Homeland Defense.

Why not? It's the only thing they could do that would make me even less confident in the whole program. So it just makes sense!

IS THERE AN AQUAMAN COMEBACK IN THE WORKS? Here's a report that he's getting his own series. Of course, there's the inevitable line about "bringing new depth to the character."

Me, I say that the days of disrespect for Aquaman are over. Yep. . . . The tide is turning!

THE TED WILLIAMS STORY has died down for the moment, but Rand Simberg has a long and thoughtful defense of cryonics at TechCentralStation.

ARTIFICIAL ANTIBODIES? CELL-PENETRATING NANOMATERIALS? All this and more news about nanotechnology can be found on NanoDot, a Slashdot-style collaborative website.

SCOTT ROSENBERG has posted a Salon Blogs progress report -- on his blog, naturally.

LYNNE KIESLING SAYS THE MARKET WORKS -- and right now it's working on Perot.

MORE ON MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL'S ATTACK ON A FAN WEBSITE can be found here. Here's some good practical advice from trademark lawyer Martin Schwimmer:

Finally, as a practice pointer for folk with clients in the sports and entertainment field, you have to be really careful how you deal with fans, because you never want to see your demand letters posted on a website.

Indeed.

AQUAMAN UPDATE: Ted Barlow has more evidence that Aquaman don't get no respect. "Aquaman sucks" t-shirts?

HESIOD THEOGENY is upset that Egypt is basically a dictatorship, and rightly so.

Me, I'd like to see democratic capitalism and a secular consumer society spread across the entire Middle East, rather than barbarously thuggish governnments who "cooperate" with Washington while looking for ways to undermine it, and who kowtow to fundamentalist religious wackos who want to turn the clock back to the 12th century.

I think that makes me an Evil Imperialist. So be it.

YET ANOTHER REASON TO THINK THE FBI ISN'T UP TO THE JOB OF CATCHING TERRORISTS:

When Web operator Jon Messner gained control of one of al-Qaida's prime Internet communication sites, he offered it to the FBI ( news - web sites) to use it for disinformation and collecting data about sympathizers.

What followed, he says, was a week of frustration.

FBI agents struggled to find someone with enough technical know-how to set up the sting. By the time they did, the opportunity was lost as militant Islamic Web users figured out the site was a decoy, said Messner of Ocean City, Md.

"It was like dealing with the motor vehicle administration," said Messner, who runs Web sites, many of which sell pornographic materials. "We could have done something that could have seriously impacted things. It took me so many days just to get somebody who understood the Internet."

That's just plain pathetic. There's no point talking about massive bureaucratic reorganizations, or sweeping new law enforcement powers, so long as this kind of screwup is a regular occurrence.

UPDATE: Here's more bad news. Louis Freeh -- who as many have mentioned has gotten pretty much a free pass -- looks quite bad here.

CATHY YOUNG is savaging Bill O'Reilly over his attacks on attorney John Pozza.

I haven't seen O'Relly in quite a while (I don't watch much TV, especially at that time of night -- well, I do, but it's usually PowerPuff Girls or SpongeBob) but I also heard Neal Boortz saying that O'Reilly was over the line here.

STATELY INSTAPUNDIT MANOR has been taken over by a film crew, which is shooting some sort of safety video for the state. (The guys making the film overlap with the guys who are shooting my wife's documentary, so somehow we're now a film location).

I escaped the noise and confusion by going to Border's for a while, where I ran across the July/August issue of The Atlantic, which you should immediately go buy. Here's one reason.

STUART TAYLOR says you do not have the right to remain silent.

DAVE KOPEL AND ROBERT RACANSKY propose gun control for police. Among other things.

UPDATE: The shooter in this heaven-or-hell case that's getting a lot of attention around the blogosphere turns out to have been "a corrections officer." Good timing, guys!

AQUAMAN says he's a superhero who gets no respect.

Me, I think that post is probably taken by The Elongated Man -- though at least he gets plenty of dates.

NO, NO, WE'RE YOUR REAL ENEMY, DON'T FORGET US! Some weirdness from the Chinese:

I left China impressed that China's defense establishment would sooner instigate a cross-strait dust-up than seriously help the United States in the war against international terrorism. Indeed, the terrorist threat is but an annoying distraction from the game of balance-of-power politics. They urgently want to resume full military-to-military contacts and resent any hint that China is no longer central to American foreign policy. For reasons that may relate to defense spending, they would rather be perceived as a growing threat than be ignored. In short, the PLA is concerned about the relative de-emphasis on the China relationship in the United States and is apparently eager not to be deprived of an enemy.

Hmm. Sounds almost like an episode of rope-a-dope.

JAMES LILEKS reflects on Stalinism and vomit.

ANTITERRORISM STRATEGY: I don't think he meant it this way, but Jeff Cooper has a post that offers some possibilities. It's sort of "what would Bugs Bunny do?"

I think our antiterrorism strategies could use a dose of that kind of thinking. Such approaches work best on people who take themselves too seriously, which is certainly the case with angry Islamofascists.

ANOTHER SUSPICIOUS DEATH in the Saudi royal family.

BASEBALL TO FANS: UP YOURS! As reader Bill McCabe puts it: "On the eve of a strike, Major League Baseball shows its love for the fans by sending a Cease & Desist Order to a fan site dedicated to the New York Mets."

They don't think of 'em as fans, Bill. They think of 'em as sheep to be fleeced, just the way the folks at the RIAA and MPAA think of music and movie overs.

UPDATE: Slate has picked up on the story.

AZIZ POONAWALLA has posted a response to Adil Farooq's post on Jihadism I mentioned earlier. (Poonawalla calls Farooq's analysis "Sunni-centric.")

EMORY / BELLESILES UPDATE: Well, this isn't really an "update," which would involve actual new facts. This is just a followup to my mention below that rumors are swirling about what Emory will do in the Bellesiles affair.

Unfortunately, the rumors are plentiful, mutually contradictory, and allegedly well-sourced (though always at third or fourth hand). One set has it that Emory is planning to hang Bellesiles high, and that the delay has been to get its ducks in a row to withstand a threatened lawsuit.

Another is that Emory will do nothing official but will quietly buy out Bellesiles' contract, putting him on perpetual (paid) leave while he goes to teach at another institution, perhaps abroad. (I find this one hard to believe, as it would create a gigantic scandal since it would, basically, be a coverup).

I don't know what to make of these. It seems pretty safe to say that the investigation isn't going to produce an exoneration of Bellesiles -- first, given the evidence already out, that seems very unlikely, and second, one expects that an exoneration would be trumpeted by Bellesiles' supporters and by Emory, which can't be enjoying all the negative attention.

The big tipoff will be whether there's a public announcement and release of the investigation's report (which Emory has promised) in late August. If so, look for Bellesiles to be fired as the most likely outcome. On the other hand, if nothing is said, and Bellesiles is "on leave" again next year, then the coverup theory will be looking stronger.

"PORNO PATRIOTS:" Bringing Islamic Terrorists to their knees.

NICK DENTON'S Declaration of European Independence isn't getting the response he expected. Reid Stott captures the mood well: It's about time you guys moved out of the house, got your own place, and started taking responsibility for yourselves.

But talk's cheap. Europe may declare independence, but it won't take up the responsiblities that implies because it can't afford to without dismantling large parts of its social welfare apparatus, and bureaucracy in general. Really, the whole "Europe" edifice that has been created over the past several decades is grounded on the assumption that the United States will guarantee stability in the region, while Eurocrats get on with the important work of kvetching and pointing fingers.

I'm not an "American supremacist," except maybe culturally. I certainly see little appeal in notions of imperialism. My ideal would be something like what the United States enjoyed when the British Empire was at its height: a more-or-less isolationist foreign policy while somebody else who posed no threat did the dirty work of keeping the sea lanes open and the lid on international crises. Kind of like what Europe has now.

AN AMERICAN TERRORIST IN IRAN: Ira Silverman has an interview in The New Yorker that's worth reading. It's a bit odd, as in places it seems to imply that Salahuddin is, well, a mole who is most useful to American intelligence where he is.

MICKEY KAUS EXPLORES the Bill Clinton / Elizabeth Hurley / John Edwards connection. Steve Bing's sperm is involved.

SOUTH OF THE BORDER: Michael Barone writes that Mexico is doing better than most people realize, and predicts a dwindling of immigration over the next ten years as Mexican birthrates shrink while the Mexican economy grows.

MICHAEL MOYNIHAN writes that U.N. claims about human rights violations in the Afghanistan airwar are dubious:

A few observations: First, since when has a bombing mistake during a hot war been considered a “human rights violation?” When one refers civilian casualty claims to the “human rights” brigade at the UN, it typically infers intent. There isn’t anyone--save the Z Magazine crowd--that believes the USAF deliberately attacked a civilian target. By this logic, the whole notion of human rights becomes essentially worthless, creating no moral distinction between an errant bomb and an execution pit at Babi Yar.

But, you see, most of those U.N. types aren't that upset by Babi Yar.

July 29, 2002

TIM NOAH is hot on the trail of my old law professor Stephen Carter, regarding his abstention from the Kass Council report.

Carter's not talking, and Noah -- rather unfairly in my opinion -- suggests that Carter dropped out to promote his novel. I suspect this is an effort to provoke Carter into returning Noah's calls, rather than a serious accusation. My guess is that Carter agreed to serve on the panel, then gave up when it was obvious that the Bush Administration had already made up its mind anyway, without waiting to hear what the Council had to say. But that's just a guess, as I haven't spoken to Carter about it.

WHAT A BASEBALL STRIKE MIGHT MEAN for the midterm election. This isn't something I've thought about. But Todd Wiener has been pondering.

BELLESILES UPDATE: One of Michael Bellesiles' contentions was that guns at the time of the American Revolution were too expensive for individuals to own, and hence rare. But here's what Joyce Malcolm says, in her book, Guns and Violence: The English Experience, about the situation in England, a hundred years earlier (p. 49):

Coule Englishmen afford firearms?. . . By 1658, during the Commonwealth, the price had decreased to 11 shillings a musket, and in 1664 the government considered offering 10 shillings per musket to citizens who turned in serviceable weapons. . . . Used guns were, of course, less expensive. In 1628, when a new pair of pistols cost two pounds, a stolen handgun was valued at only 3 shillings. But the clearest evidence of the widespread ownership of weapons comes from court records. Indictments for misuse of firearms reveal an amazing array of persons of humble occupation -- labourers, wheelwrights, bricklayers, carpenters, weavers, blacksmiths, farmers, and servants of both sexes -- who appeared before the courts charged with misusing firearms.

Just a reminder to those who continue to claim that Bellesiles just got a few numbers wrong in a handful of paragraphs. Actually, his book is shot through with errors.

Emory, meanwhile, still isn't talking about what its investigation of Bellesiles has revealed. I imagine that if it had produced an exoneration, we probably would have heard about it by now. But rumors are swirling. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: A reader asks why figures for firearms availability in 17th century Britain mean anything regarding 18th century America. Well, firearms prices tended to decline over time, but more importantly 18th century Americans were considerably richer than 17th century Brits, and had more reason to own firearms. So an argument that firearms were rare and expensive in 18th century America seems even less plausible in the face of evidence that they were cheap and plentiful in 17th century Britain.

PATRICK NIELSEN HAYDEN IS BACK, with new posts on Electrolite. First Adil Farooq, then Matt Welch and Ken Layne. Now this.

The Blogosphere is reconstituting itself. Something big must be in the wind.

UPDATE: It must be: Lileks is back, too!

ISNTAPUNDIT is writing about the romance of stripmining. No, really.

HERE'S MORE ON THE FBI'S ATROCIOUS CONDUCT IN BOSTON, where an innocent man spent nearly 30 years in prison (actually 3 others were wrongly convicted, but one of them died in prison, so he spent less time there. . . .) after being fingered by an FBI informant -- who the FBI knew was lying.

These guys aren't up to Homeland Security. We'd better win this war abroad.

(Link via Bill Quick).

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias agrees, more or less, and recommends this article by Josh Marshall on the not-ready-for-primetime character of the FBI and Homeland Security in general. (And I don't find his new blog design as hard to read as some, but then I'm looking at it on a super-crisp flatscreen display.)

ARAB-AMERICANS ARE writing off the West Bank, according to this report in the New York Times. My brother, who sent this link to me, asks, "When was the last time you saw an image of the West Bank that looked like the one in this story?"

That would be never.

SUSANNA CORNETT points out this piece by Don Kates over at History News Network concerning guns and violence. It's worth a read. I'm currently reading Joyce Malcolm's new book, Guns and Violence: The English Experience, (prior link is to the Harvard University Press description; Amazon page with reviews is here), which I'm finding quite interesting, though I've only made it to the fifteenth century so far.

An interesting gun-related observation: The special Bill-of-Rights symposium issue of Duke's Law and Contemporary Problems journal is out. The issue was solicited and edited by the American Bar Association's Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities. The ABA is pretty darn anti-gun, but the two pieces on the Second Amendment (one by Yale's Akhil Amar, one by yours truly and Brannon Denning) support an individual-right approach. That's where the scholarship has gone, despite continuing massive denial by groups like the Violence Policy Center and the Brady Campaign.

The articles will be up on the web sometime next week, I'm promised. I'll provide links then.

GAY POLITICAL RASHOMON: An interesting difference in perspectives regarding the same event, pointed out by Steve Miller.

SUMAN PALIT has identified a dangerous new religion whose fanatical devotees target the impoverished third world.

TIM BLAIR MAY HAVE IDENTIFIED THE THREAT, but these noble citizen volunteers have self-organized to meet it.

Who needs a Department of Homeland Security?

GEORGE W. BUSH is 5.41 percent smarter than he was this morning.

Isn't he? Because when the market went down, he suddenly became dumber. Or so I recall.

ART LEFF LIVES, in the quotation at the top of Robert Prather's weblog.

MATT WELCH SAYS: "Glenn’s ideological promiscuity is actually a key to his popularity." Promiscuity and popularity do go together, don't they?

BIDEN ALERT: I'm really starting to dislike Joe Biden, even if I did defend him in the whole plagiarism thing. First it was the stupid RAVE Act. Now he's sponsoring yet another corporate-whoring entertainment industry bill that would make legal conduct illegal for the better enrichment of Big Media:

Biden's new bill would make it a federal felony to try and trick certain types of devices into playing your music or running your computer program. Breaking this law--even if it's to share music by your own garage band--could land you in prison for up to five years. And that's not counting the civil penalties of up to $25,000 per offense.

"Say I've got an MP3 collection and I buy a new nifty player from Microsoft that only plays watermarked content, and I forge the watermark to allow my legal MP3 collection to play," says Jessica Litman, who teaches intellectual property law at Wayne State University. "It is certainly the case that if I pass that around, I could be trafficking (in violation of the law)."

This proves something I've been saying for a long time. These legislative initiatives aren't just about copyright. They're about building a regime that's hostile to content that comes from anyone other than Big Media suppliers. That's because their real fear isn't copied Britney Spears CDs -- it's that people will abandon the crap they're selling for works by independent artists, and cut out the middlemen. And the Democrats are carrying the industry's water on this.

How can they even pretend to be protecting people from Evil Big Corporations when they're actually serving as those corporations' paid lackeys?

Hypocritically, that's how.

DELLWATCH: Dell seems to be on the ball with my problem now (we'll see what happens tomorrow) but I kind of suspect that it's because I've been hammering them here, and that your results may differ.

The Greenehouse reports that Clark Howard was hammering them on his show Friday, saying that their consumer service has gone through the floor.

MAJOR BONER AT WESTWORD: And I'm not talking about Dan Savage's plug for the "tighty-whities" contest. Westword has a lengthy article on Neo-Nazis and a group ("Anti-Racist Action," or ARA) that tries to disrupt them. While (as regular readers of InstaPundit know) I have an Indiana Jones attitude toward Nazis ("Nazis; I hate those guys") the ARA isn't as admirable as the article makes it sound. It's an anarchist group that until recently sold bumperstickers reading "I [image of gun] COPS."

Furthermore, the article says:

Whenever Nazi skinheads try to gather in this country, Anti-Racist Action protesters try to stop them, often with the assistance of national hate-group monitoring organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, which share intelligence with local ARA chapters in cities where white-power events are scheduled.

I know someone at the ADL who says this is false, and that ADL does not cooperate with the ARA. In fact he expresses considerable distaste for the group.

SONY HAS LOST a copyright action in Australia in which it tried to bar users from modifying Playstations to let them play imported or modified games.

It's pretty obvious, isn't it, that these "copyright" suits aren't about, you know, protecting original content. They're just about forcing users to act the way companies like Sony want.

Here's an interesting treatment of what's going on.

AMERICAN VS. EUROPEAN TOURISTS: Ted Barlow and Megan McArdle have been having fun with this. I agree with Ted that this quote from Megan is a gem:

And second of all, Europeans get no sympathy from me because I have never, ever seen an American, upon finding out that someone to whom they were speaking hailed from another country, say, "Oh, I hate your country!" and regale the guest to our shores with a half-hour litany of why the foreigner's country, culture, and customs are utterly repulsive. Yet I have not only repeatedly met with this treatment on each of my trips to Europe, but also found, when I repeated them to a native of whatever country I was in, that my putative host defended this behavior with some variation on "Well, you have to admit they're right."

Lovely.

POLITICAL AUDITS: Robert Novak says there's a smoking gun regarding political audits in the Clinton Administration. He also suggests that the Bush Administration won't do anything about it because the target, Judicial Watch, is unpopular with the Bushies, too.

Gee, that builds confidence in this whole Department of Homeland Security enterprise, doesn't it?

WIMPS! Meryl Yourish reports that the Israeli Philharmonic's U.S. tour is being cancelled because U.S. security firms are afraid to provide protection. So all these tough-acting guys who brag about their military and law-enforcement backgrounds lack the guts of an Israeli oboe player. I'll keep that in mind.

TED TURNER LAND GRAB UPDATE: The Black News has picked up the story of Ted Turner's attempt to wrest a parcel of land on South Carolina's St. Helena Island from a group of slave descendants who want to keep it from being developed. (Link via WyethWire).

Call me crazy, but I think that if some right-winger with a decaying business empire (Ken Lay, maybe?) were doing this, it would be getting lots of press. Rich white guy, trying to take land from the descenedants of slaves? Michael Moore, Doonesbury, and Al Sharpton would be all over this story.

But it's getting virtually no attention outside the local papers, unless you count InstaPundits's coverage. Is this professional courtesy among media barons?

UDPATE: Reader George Moore says this is the explanation. Well, that may be part of it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This piece by Jonathan Rauch is great, though it doesn't address Turner. Nor should it, really, except as an example of the entitlement mentality that the kinds of things Rauch does talk about tend to breed in bigwigs.

MORE ON THE MOUSSAOUI / ATTA / MCVEIGH CONNECTION -- via The Corner.

But at least they didn't have a lawnmower.

LAWNMOWER MAN: Tony Woodlief doesn't understand why Homeland Security considerations prohibit lawnmowers in checked baggage. Having read Tim Blair this morning, I know the reason.

Homeland Security: It doesn't just seem like a parallel universe!

INSTAPUNDIT GETS RESULTS! Got a call from Dell, and an email from the New York Sun, both promising speedy resolutions to my problems. Let's hope.

COINCIDENCE? Slate reports that Qwest will restate its earnings, and the story is free of the annoying Qwest slide-over ad that has defaced so many Slate offerings of late. Hmm. Maybe they're worried Qwest won't be able to cover its bills?

WHO'S KILLING NONCOMBATANTS? Howard Fienberg looks at the numbers.

JOHN R. BRADLEY UPDATE: Bradley is the guy who wrote the Arab News piece that Salon's Eric Boehlert touted as "nailing" James Taranto and Best of the Web. Joshua Trevino has been checking up on Bradley's bona fides with the Lonely Planet people, for whom Bradley claimed to have written the Lonely Planet Guide to Saudi Arabia. Not exactly.

UPDATE: Don't miss this lengthy discussion in which Bradley is participating over at the LGF website.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Oops. Bradley has cut and run, leaving behind a racial epithet for us to remember him by.

And we will. I wonder: can this be for real? Or is Bradley really a mole (CIA? Mossad?) tasked with discrediting the Arab News? If so: Great work, dude! You rock. I wonder if Boehlert's in on the act? It sure went off smoothly. . . .

A GUIDE TO WRITING U.N. REPORTS, shocking zoning standards in the "international community," and a firsthand account of the "Arab Street" -- in Geneva. All on Innocents Abroad.

PIRATES OF THE 21ST CENTURY! James Rummel has some interesting information and links.

Er, and I should clarify that these are, you know, real pirates who kill people, rape people, steal ships, and so on -- not just people who copy CDs onto their computers.

TONY ADRAGNA SAYS IT'S ROPE-A-DOPE on the Homeland Security bill, and Bush wins either way.

I hope the bill craters. It won't do anything to stop terrorist attacks, just create another layer of congealing bureaucracy.

IS TAPPED REALLY ON HIATUS? Or is this the start of something more sinister?

MICKEY KAUS is responding to his critics, and matching their charity and restraint with his own.

N.Z. BEAR'S BLOGGING DYSTOPIA SET IN 2014 reminded me of this piece by Charles Dunlap on the American military's "coup of 2012." What makes Dunlap's piece especially interesting is that it was published in Parameters, the journal of the Army War College. Dunlap once told me that publishing it had not been "career enhancing." (He and I have never met, but we were both in the same issue of a law review once, and have maintained tenuous phone and email contact over the years.) But he's the kind of guy you want in the military.

OKAY, TO OPEN AN EDITORIAL LIKE THIS TAKES CHUTZPAH:

Amid all the justifiable rejoicing over the rescue of the nine miners who had been trapped underground in a Pennsylvania coal mine, it’s worth asking what they were doing underground to begin with. And the answer to that question involves two names that wouldn’t ordinarily come to mind when it comes to mining coal: Senator Lieberman of Connecticut and a 30-year-old rock star named Kevin Richardson, a member of a group called the Backstreet Boys.

Don't be silly. Those were the first names that came to my mind. . . .

July 28, 2002

MUGABE IS TRYING TO STARVE THE OPPOSITION by blocking food aid, according to the BBC.

I MENTION THE EVIL OF THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY BELOW, but Dave Winer has a political action plan.

BLOGS4GOD advertises itself as the definitive list of Christian bloggers. In an inevitably-flawed-by-original-sin-but-on-the-other-hand-redeemed kind of way, you know.

UPDATE: Some people thought there was a hint of anti-Christian mockery in the item above, and one noted (angrily, and in all capital letters) that the site nowhere says it's "definitive." Nope, but the press release they emailed me did, and I thought my notice matched its tone rather closely:

blogs4God.com announces their "Definitive List of Christian Blogs"

Washington, DC-MD-VA-WV - When Australian author Martin Roth added a small list of weblog-based web sites to his article "Blogging for the Lord" in April of 2002, little did he know that he was planting a mustard seed that would soon branch into a 200+ link forest by June the same year. Nor did he realize the work that it would spawn in the form of dozens of daily emails and site submissions. Enter the geek, Dean Peters.

When Mr. Peters, a computer programmer and technical author visited Martin's site in mid-May, he immediately realized the need to automate the list and offered to help Mr. Roth maintain the list. By June, not only was Mr. Roth ready to accept the help, he graciously handed the list over to Mr. Peters. On July 29, 2002, with the help of notable "bloggers" Bene Diction, Rachel Cunliffe and Joshua Claybourn, blogs4God.com will open its doors as the "Definitive Portal for Christian Blogs." The site will offer a variety of user-friendly features such as moderated categories, reviews and ratings, a site-wide search engine, multi-language support and a daily blog on the front page.

As Mr. Peters likes to put it "there is no need for Christian bloggers to hide their light under a basket as long as blogs4God is around."

Some people have thin skins, I guess. But a mild reply turneth aside wrath. Or so I hope, anyway.

HOMELAND SECURITY is not only a joke, it's a joke that a lot of people who have been supporting the war aren't finding very funny. The combination of ineptitude with bureaucratic power-grabbing is looking like a real vulnerability for the Administration.

HOWARD VEIT HAS A THEORY:

The continuing supposed leaks over the past six months from State, Defense, retired Army, etc., makes me wonder if any attack on either Iraq or Iran is in the cards at all.

Back when the Civil War was about to start, General Winfield Scott who won the Mexican War, proposed a strategy called Anaconda. He proposed a total blockade of the South including all shipping. He said the South would be starved out within three years. Most military scholars today say that the strategy would have worked and the loss of life would have been very small.

Nobody wanted that. Everybody wanted blood, so the Anaconda was dumped. What we are doing now is an "Anaconda" on Iraq and quite a bit on Iran. We are squeezing their governments and their economies. Iran is about to blow sky high and Saddam is a raging paranoid with an economy in free fall. My feeling is that we are seeing a very good show being put on by the administration: battle plans, bombing raids, mystery troop movements, CIA operatives, shipping interdictions, and today's so-called "leaks" to the Washington Post all seem to state that this squeeze is policy right now and that it is working.

Yeah, but when it was over the South knew it had been beaten, and was never any trouble again. Anyway, I don't believe it. To make a plan like that work, you'd need people as smart as Donald Rumsfeld, or Condi Rice, or Colin Powell.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias disputes my "no trouble" assessment, citing Jim Crow, etc. Well, as seemed obvious to me, I was talking about Civil-War type trouble. Nor was Jim Crow "trouble" to the North, which didn't mind it at all. Indeed, Washington, D.C. (which was, you know, the capital of the North during the Civil War) was probably the most segregated city in America during the first half of the 20th century.

FREE CDs FOR BLOGGERS and a distributed-music-journalism model that just might work, all from Eric Olsen.

MATT WELCH has new posts including an AOL I-told-you-so and a reflection on San Francisco's filth.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES? OR ROPE-A-DOPE? Al Qaeda suspects were sent to Guantanamo. There was lots of condemnation, before it turned out the place is Club Med. Now, very quietly, Al Qaeda suspects are being sent to Arab countries where the conditions are decidedly un-Club Med-like. But there's not much complaint since (1) the Guantanamo fracas used the story up; and (2) human rights groups and Euro-government types aren't willing to make as much noise about the practices of Arab countries.

So is this state of affairs an unintended consequence of making too big a deal about Guantanamo? Or was the whole Guantanamo brouhaha a giant sucker play on the part of the Pentagon -- one that worked?

BLOGGING IN 2014: A CAUTIONARY TALE from N.Z. Bear.

Just call me Mr. Slippery.

MARK SHIELDS' STRANGE FONDNESS FOR SHEEP REVEALED: Punditwatch is up!

REID STOTT has some interesting perspective on Afghan civilian casualties. The proper standard for comparison, he suggests, isn't just how many civilians were accidentally killed by Americans, but how many more would have been deliberately killed by the Taliban had there been no intervention:

Whatever the number killed accidentally by the US, each death is a tragedy. That cannot be denied. But it also can't be denied that the Taliban went on a four year killing spree, with estimates of up to 500,000 killed during that time. Even if we were to accept only one fifth of that number as "legitimate," that would mean the Taliban deliberately killed more civilians each and every month than it is estimated the US killed by accident in the entire war.

And that monthly Taliban-generated death toll stopped cold, last November. Eight months where there was no four figure death toll. But you don't hear about those numbers. There will never be a story about the 12,000 Afghans (my guesstimate, 8 months x 1500 per month) still alive today that would be dead at the hands of the Taliban, if not for US military action.

I wonder why we won't be hearing about that?

UPDATE: Well, The Boss has it right: "'I think the invasion in Afghanistan was handled very, very smoothly,' he says."

THE BRITISH SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL NATURE has disavowed a study it published last November that purported to show DNA cross-contamination of native Mexican maize by genetically engineered corn. The study has been cited by many opponents of bioengineered agricultural products as evidence that genetically engineered crops pose a threat of unsupervised gene transfer. The linked story explores the controversy.

UPDATE: Edward Boyd notes that he was on this story in April. Uh, yeah, but by being slower I brought more, er, perspective to the piece. Yeah that's it, perspective. Like they do at The New York Times, you know? Anyway, advantage: Boyd.

ARMSTRONG WINS AGAIN. And Jeff Cooper has unflattering comments for some idiot sports columnist who said Armstrong isn't an athlete.

DAN GILLMOR TELLS IT LIKE IT IS:

If you or I asked Congress for permission to legally hack other people's computers, we'd be laughed off Capitol Hill. Then we'd be investigated by the FBI and every other agency concerned with criminal violations of privacy and security.

Then again, you and I aren't part of the movie and music business. We aren't as powerful as an industry that knows no bounds in its paranoia and greed, a cartel that boasts enough money and public-relations talent to turn Congress into a marionette.

That's why I don't doubt that the just-introduced bill, dubbed the ``Peer to Peer Piracy Prevention Act'' and co-sponsored by the representative from Disney, will get a respectful hearing. Howard Berman, D-Mission Hills, whose campaign coffers are loaded with money from Disney and other entertainment companies, wants to confer on the entertainment cartel the legal right to hack PCs it believes are part of file-sharing networks.

What Berman is doing is a breach of trust every bit as bad as any business executive stands accused of.

THE GUARDIAN REPORTS that Saudi Arabia's ruling family is in an undeclared war, and that British officials are worried that it may fall to factions sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Perhaps we should hope for that, since I believe that those factions wield considerable unacknowledged influencee already. This would get it out in the open, and allow corrective action.

UPDATE: Hmm. We have seen the untimely deaths of a couple of important Saudi princes recently. And the not-always-reliable Debka is reporting an assassination attempt aimed at King Fahd on July 14.

SAN FRANCISCO'S TOURIST INDUSTRY IS HURTING: I wonder if it's because people are turned off by the various displays of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism over the past eleven months or so?

RUSSIA IS DEVELOPING A SUBORBITAL SPACECRAFT for space tourism purposes. Interesting.

BRENDAN NYHAN'S LATEST SpinSanity piece is called "Bear Market for Bullsh--t." Um, but doesn't he mean a bull market here?

SOME INTERESTING THOUGHTS ON regime change in Iraq and Iran, and on the Bush strategy for the region:

The Bush administration--and it is perhaps accurate here to underscore, the president himself more than his foreign-policy team--appears to be trying to grapple seriously with an American response to tyranny in the Muslim world, particularly in Iran. The president's "axis of evil" speech, his July 12 address on Iran, the subsequent delivery of this statement in Persian over Voice of America radio by the National Security Council's Zalmay Khalilzad, and the Captive Nations Week proclamation of July 17 have revealed a man who obviously believes that certain Western ideas have universal range and roots. The president, who is probably the most sincerely religious commander in chief since World War II, has stated repeatedly that faith does not countenance despotism, that Muslims, too, have the right to "liberty and justice . . . the birthright of all people."

Stepping away from the "realist" world of his father--where a vision of regional stability, not a belief in individual liberty and democracy, drove foreign policy--George W. Bush has sliced across national borders and civilizational divides with an unqualified assertion of a moral norm. The president declared, "The people of Iran want the same freedoms, human rights, and opportunities as people around the world." America will stand "alongside people everywhere determined to build a world of freedom, dignity, and tolerance. . . . America affirms . . . its commitment to helping those in captive nations achieve democracy." These are, at least to Iranian ears, truly revolutionary words for an American president. One has to go back to Woodrow Wilson to find an American leader who so clearly directs his message far outside the West. And Wilson's call for self-determination, made in the declining years of European empire, addressed collective, "national" ethnic aspirations more than the liberal rights of individuals.

Very interesting.

UPDATE: Diane E. at Letter from Gotham says she was posting on this months ago.

PRISON RAPES, according to this report, are a major vector for spreading AIDS and (because of decreased resistance from AIDS) tuberculosis, both in prison and in society. Of course, as long as public officials like California Attorney General Bill Lockyer see prison rape as a tool of punishment and humiliation to be employed against criminals and political enemies, I guess not much is going to change there.

UPDATE: TalkLeft has responded with more on this subject.

MORE BAD NEWS FROM UGANDA. Uganda has actually been doing better over recent years; I'd hate to see things go back down the tubes. Things are bad in Burundi, too but that's no surprise.

THE SALON BLOGS don't seem to be working at the moment. Are they hosting on Blogspot?

AT LAST! I've been waiting for someone to make the Joe Jackson connection to this story.

I MEANT TO WRITE SOMETHING about Caleb Carr's dumb oped in the New York Times yesterday, but I used the blogathon as an excuse for a light posting day and never got around to it.

Good thing, too, because Dr. Manhattan has picked up the slack.

MERYL YOURISH JUST SIGNED OFF at the end of her 24-hour blogathon stint. But to see how well she did, check out this post from 3:30 a.m. with some good news about an American Muslim leader opposing terrorism.

TOM RICKS IS BEING USED. That's my take on this story of his in The Washington Post today. The story explains how a "cautious approach -- held by some top generals and admirals in the military establishment, including members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- is shaping the administration's consideration of war plans for Iraq."

The only question is who's using him, and why. The way I see it, he's either being used in a leakwar by top military officials who are more interested in fighting the White House than Saddam, or he's being used as a channel for disinformation designed to put Saddam Hussein off his guard. But I don't see any scenario in which he's not being used by somebody.

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