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October 18, 2003

ROGER SIMON has a disturbing report: He spoke with Gregg Easterbrook on the phone and Easterbrook has been fired from ESPN. I think that's an overreaction, as does Roger:

I, as one of his harshest critics, believe that ESPN has vastly overreacted. I urge them to reconsider their decision. I don’t think anybody who attacked Easterbrook wanted to see him fired. I certainly didn’t.

I suspect that there's blowback from the Limbaugh matter here. (Read this post for my thoughts on the subject, and why Easterbrook isn't really the issue.)

UPDATE: ESPN seems to have gone Stalinist on us -- now Gregg Easterbrook never wrote for them at all! Reader Gautam Mukunda emails:

ESPN (I have just discovered) has actually done something much creepier than just firing Easterbrook, or even just removing his columns. If you go to their home page and use the "Search ESPN" function for the words Easterbrook or TMQ, it just returns you to the home page without result - it's as if the search just vanishes. If you use a word that only Easterbrook has ever used on ESPN.com (I used haiku) then you will get results from his columns - although they have been removed. But if someone tries to find his column through the obvious ways, they seem to have rigged the search engine to act as if the search never happened.

This is a real pity, and not just for Easterbrook. Almost every football fan I know - myself included - thought of TMQ as the best football column anywhere. I hope that Slate picks it up again.

Creepy is right. And especially bizarre given that the whole flap was about something that wasn't even published at ESPN.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Rishawn Biddle and Jonah Goldberg think that it was as much because Easterbrook dissed a Disney film as because of antisemitism charges per se.

MORE: Josh Chafetz says that it's "outrageous," and offers a link for people to email ESPN.

STILL MORE: Jeff Jarvis weighs in, and observes:

We have to stop being afraid of strong -- and wrong -- opinions. We have to stop being afraid of mere speech. We have to learn again to fight fire with fire -- words, that is -- rather than with nuclear weapons such as this.
When someone says something stupid, call it stupid. When they say something wrong, call it wrong. When they shout, shout back. That is the free marketplace of ideas and speech. That is democracy. Nothing to be afraid of there.
But if we try to cut off that free discussion, even when it is offensive, we cut off the marketplace of ideas, we cut off our own freedom.
What ESPN did is essentially insulting to its audience. They think we can't take care of ourselves, that we can't make our own judgments about Easterbrook and what he said and how he apologized; they are condescending to us when they think they are protecting us from offense.

Read the whole thing.

MORE STILL: Meryl Yourish, perhaps Easterbrook's fiercest critic, thinks that ESPN is totally wrong, and encourages people to email in Easterbrook's support. So does Andrew Sullivan.

Reader Paul Stinchfield emails:

Harlan Ellison wrote in "The Glass Teat" (his collected essays on TV and movies) that Hollywood has a longstanding history of dehumanizing behaviors. You leave work Friday after a friendly conversation with your boss who praises your work and thanks you for your dedication, and come to work Monday morning to discover that you have been fired. Not only that, but your cubicle has disappeared. And people are afraid to talk to you. And the whispering campaign to destroy your professional reputation has begun. A project you worked on might be killed, even if it means much money lost, just to bolster the claim that you and your work were no good. In comparison to all that, erasing somebody from a website is so much easier.

Mickey Mouse has long been a rat.

Are rats prone to silly overreactions? Another reader with Disney experience smells a Disney hand in this and comments:

You can get fired for anything over there. And they treat you like shit while you work for them. They specialize in creative sadism towards the poor schmuck on the rung below. I kid you not. They're really terrible people. Like most picture people.

(Several readers also emailed that working conditions at Disney are so bad that it's nicknamed "Mouseschwitz," ironically enough, and a Google search indicates that this is an actual nickname for the place. Ugh.) Glad I'm not in that business. Is Eisner really after Easterbrook? That would be petty, and silly, and entirely beneath him. I guess it's possible. . . .

AND YET MORE: Kevin Drum:

Was this instead a reaction to the fact that Easterbrook took a shot at Disney and Michael Eisner, which owns ESPN? I sure hope not. Sure, normally you expect employees not to criticize the boss, but journalism is different. If Easterbrook got fired for that, it's not much different than firing Peter Jennings for airing a news story critical of Disney.

He thinks ESPN owes an explanation, and wonders why it hasn't produced one. Maybe ESPN can't explain the decision, because the decision wasn't made at ESPN?

It seems to me that this calls for a much closer look at the dangers of media consolidation. When a guy who works for ESPN can't criticize Disney in The New Republic without being fired for dissing his "boss," which is quite possibly what's happened here, then something is seriously rotten.

Congressional hearings anyone? Maybe we should ask Eisner to testify. . . . Under oath.

STILL MORE: Dan Gillmor wonders about the Disney connection, too, and says it isn't much of a surprise. Meanwhile Meryl Yourish points out some real antisemitism, by way of comparison. What's Eisner doing about this? Trying to pretend it isn't there, one suspects.

And read these cogent thoughts from Sean Hackbarth. Colby Cosh has comments, too.

Virginia Postrel: "Obviously I'm not a fan of his recent remarks. . . . But this is a bizarre overreaction to what should have been a one-day story."

Eugene Volokh: "I thought Easterbrook's comments were unsound and quite unpersuasive, but I don't think they were anti-Semitic." He calls the firing a "massive overreaction."

Daniel Drezner: "This situation is not analagous to Rush Limbaugh's. Easterbrook's gaffe does not appear to have been on ESPN, and he's apologized."

Several readers note that they're eagerly awaiting the firestorm of Big Media complaint about the "crushing of dissent" that appeared after radio stations stopped playing the Dixie Chicks for a while.

Dean Esmay is upset. To be fair, I think that Easterbrook is in no small way the author of his own misfortunes, but I think that the ESPN firing is an overreaction, and that Michael Eisner should take it like a man.

D.F. Moore, on the other hand, says that Eugene and I are wrong.

Laurence Simon:

The number one rule of Disney is NEVER INSULT KING MICHAEL. If it could be coded into the DNA of cast members, you'd see band-aids on th backs of their necks from the needle-pricks the next day.

Easterbrook broke that rule in calling him a mere supervisor.

Justice is swift, but injustice is doubly-so. The axe fell.

Laurence, as far as I know, is no relation to Roger.

Mathew Yglesias: "This raises the very real possibility that alleged anti-semitism is being used as a pretext for firing him for criticizing his bosses, which stinks."

Atrios: "This likely had more to do with the fact that he criticized Eisner specifically than anything else, so if any good can come of this it'll be Easterbrook writing a column on the dangers of big media consolidation."

Me and Atrios -- on the same page as usual. You notice you never see us photographed together.

Mark Byron: "I don't think he should have been canned at ESPN, but when you call your erstwhile boss a greedy Jew, you can't guarantee too many more paychecks."

LETTERS FROM IRAQ: More firsthand accounts from the field.

Also, the former LT Smash has a military blog roundup, and notes that Chief Wiggles' Iraqi toy drive is back in business.

A CANDIDATE with military experience and a popular blog. It's like the best of Howard Dean and Wesley Clark rolled into one!

EXTRA-CRISPY GLOBALIZATION: One word: Heh.

MILITARY WIFE SARAH WALTER has a long post on the Washington Post's troop morale story, which she says misrepresents what Stars and Stripes actually found. Her conclusion: "The negative slant of the Washington Post article is staggering."

She's got a lot of comparisons between what the Stars and Stripes story said and what the Post reported, with links to both.

TIM RUTTEN has a story on the Easterbrook flap. My comments, and the link, are here, so as to keep the thread together.

A SAUDI CONNECTION TO TERROR IN AMERICA? Go figure:

A secretive group of tightly connected Muslim charities, think tanks and businesses based in Northern Virginia were used to funnel millions of dollars to terrorists and launder millions more, according to court records unsealed yesterday. . . .

The probe of the Herndon groups is the largest federal investigation of terrorism financing in the world, authorities have said. And the unsealing of Kane's report marks the first time the government has alleged the main purpose of the Virginia organizations, set up primarily with donations from a wealthy Saudi family, was to fund terrorism and hide millions of dollars.

(Emphasis added.) The big news isn't that Saudis are funding terror, which has been obvious for a long time. It's that here -- and with the FBI story from yesterday -- the U.S. government is admitting it. This suggests to me that the next phase in the war is starting.

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE: Foreign Affairs has reprinted Allen Dulles' memo from occupied Germany, and it sounds rather familiar. Read the whole thing.

THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS RETHINKING GUN CONTROL:

The perception that Democrats are hostile to the rights of gun owners has damaged the party in the last two elections and will do so again in 2004 unless they change their ways, the Democratic Leadership Council said yesterday.

Al From, founder of the centrist DLC, and Democratic Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas said the antigun image perpetuates the idea that Democrats are "cultural elites," alienating them from mainstream voters. . . .

Mr. Bayh, chairman of the DLC, said Democrats "have a credibility problem" on guns and national security issues.

"We cannot be perceived as cultural elitists and weak on national security issues," Mr. Bayh said. "That's not a prescription for victory for the Democratic Party."

Makes sense to me. Hey, maybe if they work hard, they'll have a shot at winning votes from guys like this:

GREENSBORO -- Ron Simpson knows guns -- and instantly knew the one in front of him Wednesday night was a phony.

Sure, the gun in the hands of the would-be robber at Action Video at 1058 Alamance Church Road had the look of a 9 mm, but Simpson, the manager, said he was "95 percent sure" the muzzle was too small to project a bullet.

"That is not a real gun," Simpson told the robber. "This is a real gun," he said, pulling a .25-caliber derringer from his front-right jeans pocket.

Sadly, right now the Democrats would be more likely to support prosecuting him for daring to defend himself with a gun -- and a "Saturday night special" at that! (And yet Arlie Hochschild wonders why the Democrats can't win over "NASCAR dads.") But maybe they'll improve. That would be a good thing, for the Democrats, and the country.

UPDATE: The Democrats are going to have to do better here -- this approach doesn't even win over a gay gun enthusiast from Vermont.

October 17, 2003

CONRAD OFFERS thoughts on photo captions.

IF THIS STORY turns out to be true, it's pretty disgraceful:

FORT STEWART, Ga., Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Hundreds of sick and wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are languishing in hot cement barracks here while they wait -- sometimes for months -- to see doctors.

The National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers' living conditions are so substandard, and the medical care so poor, that many of them believe the Army is trying push them out with reduced benefits for their ailments. One document shown to UPI states that no more doctor appointments are available from Oct. 14 through Nov. 11 -- Veterans Day. . . .

Most soldiers in medical hold at Fort Stewart stay in rows of rectangular, gray, single-story cinder block barracks without bathrooms or air conditioning. They are dark and sweltering in the southern Georgia heat and humidity. Around 60 soldiers cram in the bunk beds in each barrack.

I'm not sure, but I think the guy to talk to is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Dr. William Winkenwerder. If this story is in error, perhaps he can let me know. If it's not, perhaps he can do something about it.

The DoD pages for his section don't seem to provide any useful contact information, but perhaps someone out there will be able to find some.

UPDATE: That didn't take long. Somebody sent me his email address, and I emailed him with a few questions.

MICHAEL RAPPAPORT has some thoughts on social conservatives and gay marriage.

HERE'S A ROUNDUP OF BLOGGERS LEFT AND RIGHT who think that the Senate's decision to turn Iraqi aid into loans is an asinine -- and near-treasonously stupid and destructive -- idea.

That means that a coalition of greens, socialists, liberals, center left Democrats, center right Republicans, little-l libertarians, and conservatives in the blogosphere all think this is a shitty idea. Can we all be wrong?

Nope. The Senators who voted for this ought to be ashamed, and they make me wish that there were a recall provision for Senators.

UPDATE: Spoons says we're all wrong.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And Nitin Gopal Julka explains why Howard Dean isn't as smart as Spoons.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Anna writes:

In Iraq, I think we've got as good a shot as you might expect in the Third World. It's got natural resources, an extant infrastructure (a bit shabby, but a good start) and most importantly it's got the right people. They've already got a respectable educated class, and lots of eager expatriates. From the polls, we see most Iraqis want to join the free world. Spending to help them is part of the American character.

Let's not forget, Free Iraq is a big strategic goal in the war. In the future, it could be a model for the rest of the region. But right now, it's our unsinkable aircraft carrier right where we'd want one. It's the well from which we'll draw the extra, Arabic-speaking divisions we'll need the next time we cry havoc.

Rebuilding a Free Iraq ought to have an Apollo-level priority. It's that important. Asking for our money back? That's like recovering a load of moon rocks, and auctioning them on eBay: tacky.

There are people in Congress who'd do that, too.

VIRGINIA POSTREL and Roger Simon find themselves largely unmoved by Gregg Easterbrook's apology.

I repeat what I said earlier -- a simple blog update could have (mostly) taken care of this flap.

UPDATE: The ADL is unsatisfied, too. But since it's their job to be offended by stuff like this, I'm not quite as interested as I am in Virginia and Roger's reactions.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Josh Chafetz says that Easterbrook isn't an anti-Semite, and that people should let it go.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Tim Rutten has a piece in Saturday's L.A. Times that seems to blame blogging for Easterbrook's remarks. I don't know about that. Anyone can mangle a phrase, and with enough blogging, I suppose that it's a statistical certainty that everyone will eventually say something unintentionally offensive. But (1) Easterbrook hasn't been blogging very long; and (2) I don't really think this falls into that category. (And blogging also lets you fix things quickly, which Easterbrook should have done.)

What troubles me about Easterbrook's remarks isn't that I think that Easterbrook is anti-Semitic in any deliberate or conscious fashion. It's that I think they indicate the way in which anti-Semitic ideas have infiltrated popular discourse in recent years to the point that one needn't be an anti-Semite to start parroting them without realizing it. I think that's the import of Leon Wieseltier's comments, quoted in the article, about Easterbrook not being an anti-Semite but his remarks being "objectively anti-Semitic." (This further comment from Virginia Postrel underscores that point.) I'm afraid that some people want to make Easterbrook the issue here because it's easier and more comfortable than thinking through the implications of that phenomenon.

I think Rutten also misemploys the "some of my best friends" line. Originally, as I've noted before, it meant something different:

The classic example was the white bigot who said he couldn't be a racist because some of his best friends were black -- only to have it turn out that those "friends" were his caddy and his shoeshine guy.

When some of your best friends really are black or Jewish, the import is different. People tend to lose this distinction, but I think that's a combination of laziness and attempt to take unfair rhetorical advantage. As I said earlier, "it's been morphed into an all-purpose way to ensure that white guys can't bring up counterexamples when charged with racism." That's not fair.

JEFF JARVIS points to a new Iraqi blog called Healing Iraq that looks promising.

THE FBI SAYS THAT THE SAUDIS are buying off witnesses, according to this ABC report. Go figure.

UPDATE: Read this story, too -- check out the final paragraph.

DANIEL DREZNER HAS A LONG AND THOUGHTFUL POST on the state of Islam in 2003. He's not terribly optimistic.

UPDATE: Kim du Toit is worried about the reactions that Islamist extremism may produce.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon is depressed, and his commenters are worried.

INSTAPUNDIT SHUT DOWN BY AL QAEDA? That's the report -- actually saying that the DoS attack that shut me down, along with some others, last night was aimed at someone else, but came from Al Qaeda-affiliated websites.

I agree with this comment: "If the best that Al Qaeda can do is mount a DoS attack, then things are looking up."

UPDATE: Note this reply from the HostingMatters folks.

FREELANCE HOMELAND SECURITY? Sounds like it:

DALLAS, Oct. 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- While performing maintenance on an aircraft lavatory in New Orleans last evening, several items were discovered in a lavatory compartment. The items, inside a small plastic bag, included a small number of boxcutters and other items intended to simulate a threat.

A similar discovery was made in Houston last night on another aircraft during a scheduled maintenance inspection (C check).

A note in both packages indicated the items were intended to challenge the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint security procedures.

It's not clear who left them.

UPDATE: It's not clear, but that's not stopping the conspiracy theorists! Michele Catalano has links.

ANOTHER UPDATE: There's a suspect now.

MEDIA BIAS IN IRAQ: Josh Marshall isn't happy that people are starting to complain about media reporting over Iraq:

CNN was in full grovel mode.

It's revealing, isn't it, that by the professional standards of American journalism, groveling to Saddam was widespread and seen as barely worth reporting, while even the possibility that someone might write something favorable about the United States is seen as an appalling breach of accepted practices.

But the reporting has been bad, and it has been biased. Independent reports from all sorts of people -- touring musicians, federal judges (two of them!), various military bloggers, returning troops, Democratic members of Congress (here, too), and even journalists, have indicated that we've been getting an unbalanced picture. But it's "groveling" to admit that?

Only to a press that believes that it has a monopoly on truth, and a position in society that places it above criticism.

It's true, of course, that better reporting from Iraq might bring up negative news (in fact, it surely would) -- but it might actually be, you know, news, not the same old stuff that even those Democrats are calling "police blotter" reporting.

The press has been very critical of the Administration's postwar performance -- and hey, maybe if there were some decent reporting, I'd know enough to agree, though it seems to me that things are going pretty well -- but it's obvious that the press didn't plan properly for the postwar era, and hasn't done a good job of dealing with the realities on the ground. And even as they accuse the Administration of ducking criticism, members of the press are doing the same thing.

UPDATE: Read this bit from NPR, too and say: "Oh, that liberal media!"

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more, from a New York police commissioner just back from Iraq:

The media reports, he said, have given some Iraqis, especially those hostile to the United States, a misperception of America's resolve.

"They are watching the criticisms, they are watching the frustrations. They believe that the more they attack and the more they pound, the more they hurt the coalition, there's a better chance they will pull out."

Read the whole thing.

CALL ME CRAZY, but the new $20 bills seem a bit, well, unimpressive. . . .

SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE: And media negativity is one of them, apparently. This post from Jessica's Well on 1946 coverage of Europe is priceless:

AMERICANS ARE LOSING THE VICTORY IN EUROPE
Destitute Nations Feel the U.S. Has Failed Them

Then there's this: "We have swept away Hitlerism, but a great many Europeans feel that the cure has been worse than the disease." Read the whole thing.

ZELL MILLER is unhappy with the Democratic Party's direction, and says he's trying to talk some sense into it. I wish him luck. Meanwhile (scroll up) the Republicans need some help, too.

READER PAUL SHELTON has an observation about the troop morale story that we're hearing so much about:

an interesting little paragraph that I didn't hear about:

Uncertainty about when they are returning home was a major factor in dampening morale, according to the newspaper. The interviews were conducted at a time when some reserve and regular Army units were learning that their tours had been extended. The Pentagon has since sought to provide a clearer rotation plan and has begun granting troops two-week home leaves.

Interesting. And if you took this "unscientific" poll AFTER they were told about their rotation, wouldn't it be completely different?

Maybe. Who knows? That's the problem with "unscientific" polls. It's certainly true that troop rotation policies need to be clear -- as clear as possible in the face of uncertain events, anyway -- and it's also clear, as was discussed on InstaPundit two years ago (here and here) that the Pentagon has paid attention to lessons from the past in this area. I hope that they'll continue to refine their approach, as needed, and I expect that they will.

IT STARTED WITH MERYL YOURISH, but now the Easterbrook story is in the New York Times. And there's an apology up on Easterbrook's blog now.

What I don't understand is why Easterbrook didn't respond on his blog right away. That's what blogs are for. (He could have at least linked to Tom Perry's defense. . . . Or, not.) But really, a quick "that wasn't what I meant at all" update would have solved this problem. Waiting until Friday and then apologizing, on the other hand, is still thinking like print journalism, and just leads to more problems. Like being in the New York Times.

MICKEY KAUS notes that the L.A. Times says it's still looking for dirt on Arnold, and asks:

Do reporters usually say they are investigating damaging charges before they are proven? It seems permissible to me--but if a Times reporter announced that the paper was investigating unspecified 'potentially damaging' but unproven charges against, say, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, I suspect the editors of the Times might come down somewhat hard on him. ...

Well, that's because John Carroll isn't obsessed with getting Pelosi the way he was, according to Jill Stewart, obsessed with Arnold. Apparently, though, it wasn't just pre-election hysteria, as the spirit seems to continue. Such obsessiveness is likely to harm the L.A. Times more than Schwarzenegger, if recent experience is any guide. Carroll should remember where Howell Raines's Ahab-like obsessions landed him.

Note to Carroll: When Susan Estrich is calling you a partisan hack for the Democrats, maybe you should think about whether you really are acting as a partisan hack for the Democrats. . . .

Meanwhile James Lileks is Fisking some L.A. Times sleight-of-hand on another topic. Apparently the LAT doesn't understand that quotation marks are for, you know, things people actually said. Hmm. Is the LAT in the hands of Dr. Evil now?

UPDATE: Read this, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Gerard Van Der Leun has more thoughts.

IF YOU'RE WONDERING WHERE I WAS (along with a lot of other blogs) last night, HostingMatters experienced a massive Denial-of-Service attack (how massive? check out this graphic, which makes it pretty plain what was going on). I did put up a note on the InstaBackup site, but then I just went to bed early.

ARNOLD KLING applies Walter Russell Mead's typology to economics.

October 16, 2003

DAN GILLMOR WRITES about why you should care about the "broadcast flag:"

The purpose, much more than preventing online trading, is to force us all into a pay-per-view world, where the copyright cartel banishes fair use and turns everything digital into something that someone owns outright.

Get ready for the end of time-shifting. Get ready for the era when you are not permitted to fast-forward through commercials, or skip them entirely, without paying extra.

Read the whole thing, and follow the link to let the FCC know what you think.

THE GOOD NEWS AND THE BAD NEWS:

Five undercover agents of the US Department of Homeland Security posing as passengers last week carried weapons through several security checkpoints at Logan International Airport without being detected, officials confirmed yesterday.

The bad news: screening still sucks. The good news: it sounds like they're using realistic tests. The other good news is that someone has perspective:

TSA officials said there are several other layers of airport security to guard against a hijacking.

For example, air marshals now travel on certain flights, they said, and pilots carry guns.

Yes, and that helps, too.

CHIRAC TO SERVE AS GERMANY'S SPOKESMAN: Believe it or not, it isn't a parody, according to Geitner Simmons.

BILL QUICK is back, and he's, um, reinvigorated after his lengthy vacation.

DAHLIA LITHWICK wonders if the Ninth Circuit is trying to commit judicial suicide:

There must be some unwritten opinion-writing law for 9th Circuit judges that holds:

Where at all possible, decide close cases for the defendant, particularly if he is indisputably guilty. Take the most extreme possible position you can, then craft a holding that reaches far beyond the facts of this case. Under no circumstances shall you cite controlling authority from the Supreme Court, or contradictory cases from your own or other circuits. Strive to write the opinion as though you are God and you invented The Law yesterday.

I'm in the odd position of having witnessed two oral arguments in two consecutive weeks at which the party who prevailed in the 9th Circuit is unable to defend its reasoning. Increasingly, it feels as if there are always three parties at oral argument—both parties to the dispute and the 9th Circuit, lingering there, incomprehensible to all.

The Ninth Circuit does seem to have broken free of its moorings. I don't always disagree with the result, but they seem to be going out of their way to provoke, which strikes me as a bad idea. How long before the Ninth Circuit is split?

IT'S NOT ONLINE (er, unless you subscribe) but the Tuesday, 10/14 issue of the Wall Street Journal has an interesting article entitled "France Feels a Wind of Change: Francophone Africa Starts to Turn Against Its Former Colonizer." Best quote:

Many Ivorians in the nation's Christian south are angry with France for refusing to fight against mostly Muslim norther rebels when a civil awr erupted here last year, and for imposing at peace talks near Paris a power-sharing deal with the guerrillas. So it's not surprising that Ivorian nationalists like Mr. BleGoude are looking for an alliance with one superpower that has scores to settle with France -- the U.S.

"The Americans are not hypocritical; if they want to harm you, they tell you, like in Iraq," he says. "But the French will tell you we are friends, we are together, and then they attack you when you are asleep."

I wish our diplomacy were in fact that straightforward, but the article is interesting. Reportedly the U.S. is not trying very hard to hurt French interests in West Africa. Too bad.

ARE ASIMOV'S LAWS OF ROBOTICS MORAL? There's a discussion on this topic over at Heretical Ideas.

I'VE GOT AN INTERVIEW WITH BOB WALKENHORST, formerly of The Rainmakers, over at GlennReynolds.com. He's always struck me as a guy whose head is screwed on straight (not to be taken for granted, especially among rock and roll singers. . . .) and that's certainly how he came across.

DROVE IN THIS MORNING via Cherokee Boulevard again -- I usually do when I'm not in a big hurry -- and caught a couple of nice pictures as the Crew team breezed by on the lake.

It's a beautiful day, and it's Fall Break. Why am I in the office?

I'm asking, here. . . .

DUDE, WHERE'S MY INTELLECTUAL HONESTY? SpinSanity is all over Michael Moore's latest book:

Moore's penchant for conspiracy theories often leads him to stretch the facts or make laughable claims.

Dude, where's the news in that? Still, read the whole thing.

UPDATE: QandO is fact-checking Maureen Dowd's column today, which as usual contains anti-Bush "errors."

Is Dowd too dumb to write a column for the New York Times? Or too dishonest?

TIM BLAIR is also on the antiwar historical-revision beat.

ADVICE FOR CUBS FANS, from Adam Smith: It's good advice, naturally.

THIS shouldn't be a big surprise:

Daniel Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin, and Amy Parker, one of his students, found that attractive professors consistently outscore their less comely colleagues by a significant margin on student evaluations of teaching. The findings, they say, raise serious questions about the use of student evaluations as a valid measure of teaching quality.

In their study, Mr. Hamermesh and Ms. Parker asked students to look at photographs of 94 professors and rate their beauty. Then they compared those ratings to the average student evaluation scores for the courses taught by those professors. The two found that the professors who had been rated among the most beautiful scored a point higher than those rated least beautiful (that's a substantial difference, since student evaluations don't generally vary by much).

Everything's show business, these days.

I've heard female colleagues ascribe comments on their dress in student evaluations to sexism -- but I get those comments all the time, and I remember noticing all sorts of trivial things about my professors. They're right in front of you, day after day, after all.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has an interesting strategy: plugging her tipjar when her local NPR affiliate is rattling its cup.

Hey, why not? I like NPR okay, but there are lots of blogs I like better.

LYING MEDIA LIAR WATCH: Andrew Sullivan is all over Maureen Dowd, Jules Witcover, and others who are busy rewriting history.

WHEN PROTESTERS ATTACK: Evan Coyne Maloney reports. And he's got video.

It's more crushing of dissent, in John Ashcroft's America.

October 15, 2003

MEGAN MCARDLE looked stunning in the PBS Media Matters special last year. (It seems to have stuck in Kevin Drum's mind -- note to Kevin: she wasn't blonde, just backlit.) Apparently, that wasn't a fluke.

WEBB WILDER SAID IT BEST: "You're never too small to hit the big time."

But Rob Smith says it pretty well, too.

SQUANDERING THE POWER: I cast my votes in the U.S. News law school ranking survey today. I suppose I should have auctioned them off on eBay instead.

THINGS TO AVOID, if you're looking for a job as a law professor, Part I:

Sending your resume as an attached file, but one that's infected with a virus that infects the Appointments Committee Chair's computer.

THE ARMY IS LEARNING AN IMPORTANT LESSON FROM THE MARINES: Every soldier will be a soldier first, and a truck driver, or tech, or whatever, second.

This seems like a good thing to me, and to Phil Carter, though Carter notes:

The question will be whether Gen. Schoomaker gets the support he needs from the SecDef to make this happen, and whether he can get the authorization/appropriations authority from Congress to do it.

He should, on both counts, if Congress and the SecDef are serious about national defense. And they ought to be.

WHY AM I NOT BLOGGING ABOUT BASEBALL? Because I figure I should leave that to the real experts.

But heck, everyone else is getting into the act. And I mean everyone else.

Well, it is kind of cool seeing the Red Sox do well, even if they are to baseball what Lucy Van Pelt is to football. . . .

JACOB T. LEVY writes on Indian casinos and politics, in The New Republic:

The key point is that Indians are, once again, looking down the barrel of some especially adverse and arbitrary treatment by a political system in which they make up a tiny minority. If I were in their shoes and had some money on hand, I'd probably spend it on political campaigns, too. Wouldn't you?

My own feeling is that Indian reservations ought to be able to sponsor legal gambling, sell drugs, legalize prostitution, and do most anything else that doesn't directly menace their neighbors if they want to -- though I'll admit to having at least a notional conflict of interest there. But I'll also note that if Indian reservations weren't subject to state regulation, they'd have far less incentive to put money into state politics. And that would be good for everyone, wouldn't it?

UPDATE: No, sadly, I don't get money from Indian casinos. I'm just of Native American extraction myself. Never bothered to get a BIA card or anything, but I'd be eligible if I did the paperwork. That's why I link Indian Country Today over under "Big Media."

RECALL JACK VALENTI! That's what Liz Smith says. Where do I sign up?

A SAFE LANDING, for Chinese Taikonaut Yang Liwei.

I TOLD YOU SO: READ THIS, then read this. You've been warned. Now what will you do?

RAND SIMBERG HAS TWO COLUMNS ON SPACE: One at National Review Online, saying that the Chinese space program isn't as ambitious as some of us think, and another, at FoxNews.com, on new commercial space legislation in Congress.

Of the two, I think that the second topic is probably the more important.

DAVID CARR has further thoughts on the risible Rowan Williams, and the future of the Church of England.

TALENT ISN'T REWARDED IN EUROPE, and the brain drain is worsening in the sciences, reports Virginia Postrel.

FAMILY FUN AT THE MACHINE-GUN RANGE:

A little nervous at first, she pulled the trigger with trepidation, squeezing off a round or two. But Emily quickly discovered why the MP5 is loved by the FBI, Delta Force and others. It's a full-blown submachine gun, but with the kick of a cap gun. With renewed confidence, she quickly expended the rest of her clip and walked off the line with a big grin.

Last year I took the Advanced Con Law seminar to the shooting range, and the MP5 was, indeed, quite popular with the women. The Insta-Wife, however -- who learned to field-strip an M60 machine gun back in ROTC -- would probably find it wimpy,.

UPDATE: The InstaWife corrects me: she field-stripped an M16. They just let 'em shoot the M60.

PAUL KRUGMAN IS ACTUALLY WRITING ABOUT ECONOMICS, and Megan McArdle calls his column "outstanding." (Hey, maybe he should try this again!) Krugman's pretty pessimistic.

I don't know enough to say. Readers will note that I don't do much econo-blogging. Krugman makes a persuasive case that there are potential problems, but for my entire adult life economists have been making dire predictions -- many direr than Krugman's -- that didn't come true. Which, of course, doesn't mean that Krugman's wrong to be worried this time.

My own sense is that things aren't that bad, but I don't trust my own sense on these matters, as I've been wrong before. Some years ago, I was in a liquor store when some stockbrokers came in, bought champagne, and went giddily on about how the Dow (then at about 5500) was sure to hit 10,000. "Jeez," I thought, "we've clearly hit the top of the market. Time to get out of stocks and into something stable." Fortunately, my main investment strategy of sloth laced with inattention intervened and kept me from making an expensively bad move.

So I don't know. I'd advise people to do what I do, and pursue a low-debt, comparatively low-spending strategy of personal economic conservatism, but if everyone did that, the economy would collapse for sure. . . .

UPDATE: Not everyone is impressed.

AUSTIN BAY has the latest and final installment of his series on prewar intelligence failures and successes up.

I'VE SAID BEFORE that Arnold Schwarzenegger ought to look at how Tennessee's Democratic Governor, Phil Bredesen, took a polarized state with financial problems and managed to address those problems while earning respect even from the opposition. Go ahead, Arnold -- give him a call!

Now Bill Hobbs reports on the state's growing surplus, so I guess I should say it again. Oh, wait, I just did . . . .

STEPHEN F. HAYES says that Dick Cheney was right about the uncertain nature of links between Saddam and Al Qaeda.

KEVIN MCCULLOUGH HAS RETRACTED his Ed Asner interview report. Scroll to the bottom to see the new report of what Asner said, which is rather different from McCullough's original report -- no longer does the question ask Asner about portraying someone he'd respects, and Asner's answer shows his awareness of Stalin's murders. It's hard for me to understand how McCullough could have made this mistake, but I'm glad he's corrected it.

I've posted a correction over at GlennReynolds.com, too, since I also wrote about the Asner issue there.

UPDATE: Here's McCullough's blog retraction, too. McCullough has taken his medicine admirably.

THEY DON'T CALL IT THE BAATHIST BROADCASTING CORPORATION FOR NOTHING: Coming soon, how hard the second half of 1945 was on Eva Braun's niece.

AL GIORDANO says that I'm wrong about Bolivia, and likens what's going on there to the California recall. He's got a long and link-filled post offering a rather different view than you've seen here. (This is the earlier post of mine.)

I hope that he's right that "authentic democracy" is coming to Bolivia, but I remain skeptical. All my life I've heard that revolutions in Latin America were about authentic democracy, but on closer inspection they've turned out to be fomented by the usual sorts of Maoists and Stalinists, acting as pawns for outside interests. I'd love for things to be different this time.

UPDATE: Here's a roundup of stories about Bolivia from a blogger in Ecuador, with firsthand reports from his brother who's in Bolivia. And here's more blogging from Bolivia, with photos.

GERMANS SAY THEY'RE VICTIMS, and Stephen Green is unimpressed.

To paraphrase Joseph Story, if the Germans have been victims in the past century, it's because they've been "victims of their own imbecility."

UPDATE: German blogger Cum Grano Salis has more on this.

INTERESTING BIT OF NEWS FROM IRAQ:

Nethercutt and Senor highlighted the return of electricity to Iraq, which now has a higher megawatt output than it did before the war. Reconstruction has targeted schools and hospitals, and the Americans are spending 3,500 percent more on health care than Saddam Hussein did, Senor said.

(Emphasis added.) Hmm. Does that mean that all those people who defend Castro's dictatorship based on the "excellent health care system" will now start defending the war in Iraq?

And if not, why not?

THE POSTWAR DEBATE about the pre-war rhetoric: Daniel Drezner is refereeing.

RICH BLOGGY GOODNESS: This week's Carnival of the Vanities is up, with an assortment of posts from bloggers you may not have read before. Check it out -- you may find some you'll want to add to your daily blog-reading rounds.

Yeah, I say this every week. But there's more to the blogosphere than InstaPundit, you know.

TIM BLAIR is offering title help to Ted Rall, and rewrite services to the risible Rowan Williams.

That's our Tim -- he just gives, and gives.

NEXT WE CAN DO THE SAME FOR THE PLAME AFFAIR:

WASHINGTON — A federal judge has ordered five journalists, including a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, to identify government sources for their articles about former nuclear weapons scientist Wen Ho Lee.

Lee is suing the government, alleging that officials illegally divulged private information about him in the course of investigating his role in suspected espionage at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico four years ago.

Make Novak testify. Since the "six reporters" to whom the story was allegedly "shopped" appear not to exist, that may be the end of it, but who knows? As even the biggest Plame-conspiracists are now admitting, things are, um, complicated. So let's cut the Gordian knot!

MEGAN MCARDLE:

In other words, with or without the trust fund, when the expenses of Social Security and Medicare exceed the value of our contributions, our budget is suddenly going to have more holes than a warehouse full of Jarlsberg. And when does this happen? According to the Social Security trustees, Medicare's expenses start to exceed benefits in 2013, less than ten years from now. Social Security follows suit in 2017. 2040 isn't the date when we need to start worrying; it's the date when we finally give up pretending that Social Security is anything other than a gigantic Ponzi scheme, and the suckers revolt. . . .

And what are our elected officials doing about this looming crisis? Why, with the able assistance of groups like the AARP, they're actively looking for ways to make it worse.

I ain't gonna eat no government cheese.

For one thing, there won't be any left by the time I'm of age. . . .

UPDATE: Here's a related post by Steve Verdon.

JAMES KIRCHICK WRITES that Yale Law School is crushing students' free speech rights.

October 14, 2003

Here's a link to the essay in question, and here's another piece somewhat along those lines.

ATRIOS'S FANS have bought him a laptop, and Tony Pierce wants Cubs tickets.

I don't need either, but you might want to help out Chief Wiggles' Iraqi toy drive.

JEFF JARVIS has news from Iran.

I POST PHOTOS FROM TIME TO TIME, but the ones over at Smoky Mountain Journal, a Smoky Mountain photoblog by Jim Fletcher, are better.

CHINA'S FIRST MANNED SPACE MISSION has launched.

Good for them. I hope the entire mission is successful.

James Oberg, meanwhile, suspects that China's plans are ambitious.

MERYL YOURISH is unhappy that Gregg Easterbrook is lecturing Jewish movie executives about greed.

UPDATE: Roger Simon calls Easterbrook's post "astonishing and hugely depressing."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jessica Harbour writes that Easterbrook isn't anti-semitic -- he just doesn't have the hang of this blogging thing yet: "So far the only good thing that's come out of Easterbrook's blog is that TMQ is now more focused on football."

Ouch.

PLEASE SEND your thoughts and prayers to Jeff Cooper, who's got his priorities right.

BOLIVIA'S ELECTED GOVERNMENT is threatened by a mob, as protests turn violent, though they don't appear to have achieved critical mass. But here's something interesting about the main opposition leader:

Morales, who just returned from Libya, on Monday called the United States a ''terrorist nation'' for the Iraq war.

When you add this to Hugo Chavez's terrorist connections in Venezuela, it looks as if someone might be trying to open a southern front against the United States. I hope that the right people are looking into this.

UPDATE: Here's more on the Chavez/Terrorist connection.

HERE'S A SPOT OF GOOD NEWS:

American forces in Iraq have captured one of the most senior members of Ansar al-Islam, an extremist group suspected of having ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, U.S. defense officials said Tuesday.

Good.

WESLEY CLARK: Pro-militia:

Today, Clark will announce his plan to establish a "Civilian Reserve," comprising everyday Americans using their "unique skills" to tackle an assortment of community-based problems -- from specific tasks like repairing a crumbling school or a neighbor's tornado-ravaged home to broad, less tangible goals such as "securing the homeland."

The Civilian Reserve would work with -- but not replace -- the nation's armed forces in dealing with any number of local emergencies. The campaign did not release any more details on today's proposal, except to say that it would use technology to help identify and mobilize people so that their skills are applied most effectively.

Well, not exactly, but. . . .

Here's a link to Clark's speech. Actually, I think it's a good idea. (Seriously. Read this, too. And this.)

JUXTAPOSITION of the day. Heh.

DANIEL DREZNER distinguishes "Red Sox conservatives" from "Cubs conservatives."

I was a big Red Sox fan from my childhood days in Boston (the Yaz era) until 1986, at which point I concluded that absent a change in the rules of baseball the Red Sox couldn't possibly come any closer to winning the World Series while still blowing it. That removed the suspense factor, and I just haven't been able to get interested since. . . .

KIM DU TOIT is trying to start a mass migration.

JUDGING BY THIS REPORT, the guy should be treated as a hero, not locked up:

A Chinese martial arts expert was in custody yesterday after turning the tables on four burglars armed with knives, killing two of them and seriously wounding a third.

The 28-year-old man, known as "the doctor" for his practice of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, managed to seize one of the two knives carried by his assailants and saw off the entire group with the ferocity of his reaction.

Magistrates in the central Italian town of Empoli are now seeking to establish whether his self-defence constituted an excessive use of force. . . .

Disappointed by their meagre booty, the attackers allegedly threatened to rape the two women unless they told them where the rest of their money was hidden.

At this point the doctor managed to free himself, seize a knife from one of the aggressors and deliver a series of lethal stab wounds.

There's some question as to whether he pursued them once they decided to flee. I don't know much about Italian law, but under American law that would generally be a no-no, though on these facts it sounds rather admirable.

DONALD SENSING has an interesting look at francopessimisme and latent pro-Americanism. I hope his analysis is correct.

ABC SEEMS TO HAVE THE STORY on the letters from Iraq:

an e-mail to ABCNEWS today, the commander of the battalion, Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo, said the "letter-writing initiative" was all his idea.

Caraccilo said he circulated the form letter to his soldiers to give them "an opportunity to let their respective hometowns know what they are accomplishing here in Kirkuk. As you might expect, they are working at an extremely fast pace and getting the good news back home is not always easy. We thought it would be a good idea to encapsulate what we as a battalion have accomplished since arriving Iraq and share that pride with people back home."

Caraccilo wrote that his staff drafted the letter, he edited it and reviewed it and then offered it to the soldiers. "Every soldier who signed that letter did so after a careful read," he said. "Some, who could find the time, decided to send their own versions, while others chose not to take part in the initiative."

Caraccilo was unapologetic, saying that the letter "perfectly reflects what each of these brave soldiers has and continues to accomplish on the ground."

Interestingly, ABC seems to agree with that part, saying that things really are better in Kirkuk. It would be better, of course, if the words were actually those of the soldiers.

But then, there are rather a lot of people who speak in public words that they didn't write.

UPDATE: The former LT Smash comments.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader James Rudolph emails:

I'm surprised that the press has make any issue at all about the half dozen or so form letters from Iraq. Anyone who has been involved with the environmental impact process can attest to the hundreds or thousands of form letters with only a signature, cut and pasted letters, hand written letters using canned paragraphs, etc. that are received. Environmental groups are particularly active in using this approach to generate lots of mail. I would guess that newspapers, news magazines, and politicians all receive the same sorts of thing. If anyone is going to treat such letters from troops in Iraq as suspect,
then they also need to challenge political and environmental groups when they claim that 20,000 letters were received by Congress demanding an end to logging or some such.

Yeah, I've seen plenty of those.

THE SUPREME COURT will hear the Pledge of Allegiance case.

WINDS OF CHANGE has a roundup of Korea stories that is rather comprehensive. There's also a roundup of war news, and a roundup of Iraq news, there, if you missed 'em.

ARMED LIBERAL NOTICES that the State Department has left Israel off the map.

How can these guys implement a "roadmap" when they can't even draw one?

UPDATE: Jim Hogue thinks this is a test:

Any bets on how long it will take to disappear or get fixed?? This isn’t an
idle question; it will be a good test of how effective bloggers are (or
perceived to be) by members in the federal government.

12 hours…. blogdom ROCKS!!
18 hours…. hey we paid attention but the web guy was off for Columbus Day
One day…. not bad
Two days…still not bad, they were busy defending Saudi Arabia first
One Week…. blogdom? Isn’t that a small middle Oceania island Kingdom ruled
by parrot worshippers???

For "federal government" substitute "State Department." I'm betting on the Oceania thing. . . .

JOHN LOTT has a post in response to the Mother Jones piece I mention below, on his website.

THE DESERET NEWS HAS A STORY ON CHIEF WIGGLES' TOY DRIVE that's worth reading. Sounds like he's figured a way around the Army's shipping problems, using a host of volunteers. And that's pretty impressive, as you'll see if you read the story.

BUSH'S POLL RATINGS ARE UP, reversing the recent slide. Meanwhile a substantial majority of Baghdad residents want U.S. troops to stay. The latter result is more significant than the former, I suspect. But here's the best part of the Baghdad poll story:

When Gallup set out recently to poll Baghdad residents, the biggest surprise may have been the public's reaction to the questioners: Almost everyone responded to the pollsters' questions, with some pleading for a chance to give their opinions.

``The interviews took more than an hour to do, people were extremely cooperative with open-ended questions,'' said Richard Burkholder, director of international polling for Gallup. ``People went on and on.''

This suggests to me that the natural reticence brought about by totalitarian dictatorship has ended, and that people feel more confident about the future.

It also reminds me of the hermit in Life of Brian, who wasn't about to shut up even for a minute once his vow of silence was broken . . . .

CHINA'S NEW FRONTIER: My TechCentralStation column is up. It's on China's space program, and what that implies for China's political stance.

Meanwhile, Chinese travel agents have reportedly spilled the "secret" launch schedule.

October 13, 2003

MAYBE THE ISRAELIS WILL BOMB IT, and save the world a lot of trouble:

TEHRAN/VIENNA, Oct 13 (Reuters) - An Iranian opposition group with a proven track record said on Monday Iran was hiding another atomic facility, just two weeks before a U.N. deadline for Tehran to come clean about its nuclear ambitions.

The October 31 deadline, set by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency in a tough resolution last month, requires Tehran to prove it has no secret weapons programme as Washington alleges, or face possible U.N. Security Council sanctions.

There would be a lot of private sighs of relief, despite public criticism.

PAT ROBERTSON CLARIFIES: Joel Mowbray didn't say "nuke the State Department," -- Pat did. That was actually the way I heard it all along.

There's a reason why Pat Robertson was one of the original models for the term "idiotarian." As you know, I'm no fan of the Saudis, or of the State Department with which -- as Mowbray has pointed out -- the Saudis have far too much influence. Sadly, however, Robertson's dumb remarks, and Mowbray's failure to chastise Robertson (however futile such chastisement would surely be) only serve to strengthen the State Department's position.

KEVIN SITES is blogging from Iraq again. He's no longer under CNN's thumb, and is working for the more blog-friendly MSNBC.

IT'S BLOGALICIOUS: The Carnival of the Capitalists is collection of business and economics-oriented posts from around the blogosphere. It's worth visiting -- especially for InstaPundit readers, as those are issues that I tend not to spend much time on.

THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS AT TAP: David Adesnik says that Matthew Yglesias is quietly moving to the right on Iraq.

I think, by the way, that Yglesias is a good addition to TAPPED, -- which I also think has been improved by the move away from anonymity.

MARK STEYN is dissing CNN's election coverage.

Meanwhile, over at GlennReynolds.com, I note Ed Asner's historical myopia.

JEFF JARVIS has discovered where Andy Rooney gets his ideas.

And scroll down for his comments on presidential-campaign blogs.

NEUROCOMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE? Why not?

MATTHEW HOY has more on the Tony Snow / Jay Rockefeller face-off, and what it reveals about anti-war revisionism.

UPDATE: Doh! His permalinks are bloggered. Just go here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on Rockefeller, who seems to have problems with either memory or reading comprehension.

VACLAV HAVEL reminds us of Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi:

There are many politicians in the free world who favor seemingly pragmatic cooperation with repressive regimes. During the time of communism, some Western politicians preferred to appease the Czechoslovak thugs propped up by Soviet tanks rather than sustain contacts with a bunch of dissidents. These status-quo Western leaders behaved, voluntarily, much like those unfortunate people who were forced to participate in the massive government rallies: They allowed a totalitarian regime to dictate to them whom to meet and what to say.

Read the whole thing, as they say. (Via Boomshock.)

MATT WELCH on heroism in France:

Sabine Herold, to put it mildly, is not your typical Frog. Herold, the 22-year-old leader of Liberté, J’ecris Ton Nom (Freedom, I Write Your Name), has in the last few months emerged as the massively popular and highly photogenic leader of -- zut! -- a burgeoning pro-market, pro-American counterculture in France. Earning comparisons to Joan of Arc, Brigitte Bardot (!), and Margaret Thatcher in the panting British press, she represents something French politics hasn’t seen in years: a public figure eager to take on the country’s endlessly striking unions.

It is startling to hear any Parisienne, let alone a college student, drop references to F. A. Hayek in casual conversation, describe Communists as "disgusting," or lead pro-war demonstrations in front of the American Embassy.

But, perhaps, one day it won't be.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

CHRIS MOONEY has a good piece on the Lott affair in Mother Jones. Allowing for the fact that it has a certain Mother Jones slant, it's not a bad summary, I think.

An example of the slant: Saul Cornell -- identified only as an "Ohio State University historian who has written widely on guns" -- makes too much of Lott's importance, as one might expect now that Lott is facing criticism. Mooney perhaps should have noted that Cornell's work is funded by the anti-gun Joyce Foundation. And perhaps he should also have noted that Cornell was a defender of Michael Bellesiles. (Though I should note that he no longer defends him). Neither, of course, disqualifies Cornell from having an opinion -- but one imagines that a scholar who was funded by the NRA would have that affiliation noted in an article like this, and I don't see why the same shouldn't apply to those who are funded by anti-gun activists. We also hear about how many "gun deaths" there are, without learning how many -- a majority, I believe -- are actually suicide, which would seem relevant to me.

UPDATE: Clayton Cramer, a major figure in unmasking Bellesiles' fraud, offers comments on the Mother Jones article, and on the similarities and differences between the two cases.

Meanwhile, Jacob Sullum writes on gun control's shaky empirical foundation, and press slant on the subject:

In November 1988 The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that noted Seattle's homicide rate was higher than Vancouver's and attributed the difference to stricter gun control in Vancouver. Although the study had serious flaws, including the failure to take into account important demographic differences between the two cities, it received generous coverage in two major newspapers known for their sympathy to gun control.

The Washington Post covered the report in a 600-word, staff-written story on page A4 under the headline "Impact of Gun Control Indicated in Medical Study." The New York Times story ("Gun Curbs Linked to Homicide Rate") was about the same length, although it was by a stringer and appeared deeper in the A section.

The Times made up for those lapses with an editorial about the study later that month. Under the headline "Guns Do Kill People," it said "the study appears to buttress common-sense wisdom about public safety [i.e., our position on gun control]."

This month, when a government-appointed panel of experts announced that their comprehensive review of the relevant scientific literature (including the Seattle/Vancouver study) had failed to find evidence that gun control works, The Washington Post gave the story about 200 words in its "Findings" column. The New York Times (D.C. edition) ran fewer than 150 words of an A.P. story on the bottom of page A23, under a tiny headline that gave no indication of the report's conclusions.

No surprise, there.

UPDATE: Randy Barnett comments:

There are two additional thoughts that occur to me in the wake of this article. First, in their reworking of the data, Ian Ayres and John Donohue show no decrease in violent crime as famously claimed by Lott and say that the crime figures might even show a slight increase in violence. (Lott always claimed that right to carry laws were accompanied by a small increase in property crimes, which he speculated might be the results of deterrence caused by concealed weapons.) If confirmed, this is indeed a significant revision in the empirical evidence.

But even this data show that right to carry laws do not lead to greatly increased rates of violence as has long been claimed by opponents of such laws. Lott's finding that violence declined in the wake of these laws was a welcome bonus for gun rights supporters, but debunking the hypothesis that violence would increase as a result of right to carry laws was highly significant as well. (Though, until an investigation is conducted by some nonpartisan group, I now place more stock in Ayres and Donahue's results than in Lott's.) This important conclusion seems to survive the controversy.

Second, while many academics claim the superiority of peer-reviewed journals over student-edited law reviews, this incident should give us pause. Lott's initial figures were originally published in a peer-reviewed journal. So was Michael Bellesiles' original probate survey that was subsequently debunked only when it was included in his high-profile book.

I think that's right. One of the things that I found annoying when the Bellesiles scandal appeared was many historians' dismissal of criticisms by law professors because "law reviews aren't peer reviewed." Peer review is good at some things, but one of them probably isn't catching fraud, or even non-obvious factual mistakes.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tim Lambert, meanwhile, displays a rather cavalier disregard for the facts, in a comment on this post. Here's what Lambert says:

Glenn Reynolds thinks that Chris Mooney’s piece is “not a bad summary” but opines that it is somewhat slanted. Reynolds thinks that the article should have noted that Saul Cornell’s work is funded by the Joyce Foundation. This is a curious complaint, since Reynolds earlier objected to opponents of Lott making arguments based on the fact that Lott was funded by the Olin corporation.

Here's what I actually said:

Lott has been the target of many vicious smears and lies, which tends to make me reflexively doubt the latest charges by his many antigun critics. (For example, because he had an Olin Fellowship at the University of Chicago, antigun people said his research was funded by Winchester, a company the Olin family, which endowed the fellowships, once owned -- which is sort of like saying that the Henry Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale is "bought and paid for by Time Magazine." I don't think they ever apologized, either.)

I believe that this was hashed out rather thoroughly on an email list to which Lambert belongs, which means that he knows the truth here. This is sloppy of Lambert, at best.

Mooney, meanwhile has more on this on his blog, and has linked transcripts of his interviews with Lott.

MORE: Brian Linse comments: "Having been the first blogger to question Lott's work, I am extremely gratified to look back on the role the blogs have played in bringing this issue to wider public attention." Read the whole thing.

STILL MORE: John Lott has responded to the Mother Jones story on his website.

AND MORE STILL: Lambert has updated his post, fixing the Olin reference, and adding:

I meant to say foundation there. My point is that it is wrong to imply that someone’s opinion has been bought, whether that person is Saul Cornell or John Lott.

But the essence of the (false) charge against Lott wasn't just that his research had been "bought" -- itself absurd on the actual facts -- but that it had been bought by a firearms manufacturer. When you say, falsely, that someone's pro-gun work is funded by Winchester, that's rather a smear, isn't it?

I agree that people's scholarship should be addressed on the merits, but that isn't done here. In fact, when I'm interviewed by reporters I often get the third degree as to whether my research has been funded by the NRA. (No.) Hence my goose-and-gander point.

MORE: Saul Cornell emails:

As long as we are genuflecting toward accuracy, I note that you did not mention that I supported Jim Lindgren's efforts and even went so far as to introduce him to my colleague Randy Roth. Despite the boasting of Clayton Cramer I think it is fair to say that it was their collaboration that played the key role in exposing the problems with Arming America. I also note that you did not mention that I responded quite promptly to the publication of the WMQ forum by withdrawing public support for Michael's thesis and that I supported the Emory Report when the Wall Street Journal called for a comment. If you compare my responses to Arming America's problems with the response of gun rights advocates to Lott, I think any fair reading would have to credit my response as faster. I would appreciate you correcting the record.

I wasn't aware of the Lindgren support. Otherwise, I disagree on timing. By the time that the WMQ report came out, Bellesiles' fraud had been made quite apparent in popular publications (one of which, by Melissa Seckora, came out even as Bellesiles received a prestigious Bancroft Award in early American history). The WMQ article came rather late in the game.

And there has been none of the snideness with which historians -- including, if I recall correctly, Cornell -- met critics of Bellesiles. Like Randy Barnett, I've called for investigation (and did so on the Firearmsconlaw list when Tim Lambert first raised the 1997 survey issue, long before it became public) but I've also admitted that I don't understand the statistics involved. With Bellesiles, on the other hand, it was easy to understand the absence of visits to nonexistent archives. Nor have associations of right-wing scholars issued resolutions uncritically supporting Lott without even bothering to review the charges against him, as the (left-wing) American Historical Association did with Bellesiles.

I had hoped that this humiliation would lead historians to do more than "genuflect" toward accuracy, but perhaps not.

DANG. I wish I had been at this party.

UPDATE: More here and here.

CENSORSHIP AT RUTGERS: PALESTINIAN SYMPATHIZERS tried to stop Evan Coyne Maloney from covering their rally.

WHY IS THE STATE DEPARTMENT SO CLOSE TO THE SAUDIS? Joel Mowbray writes:

The gravy train dates back more than 25 years. In that time, it has created a circle of sympathizers and both direct and indirect lobbyists. But the most important--and most indirect--byproduct of lining the pockets of former State officials is that the Saudi royal family finds itself with passionate supporters inside Foggy Bottom. Which is precisely the intended effect. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, was quoted in the Washington Post: "If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you'd be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office."

Shameful, but not surprising. Read the whole thing.

JOANNE JACOBS IS CALLING FOR MORE HOMEWORK, which demonstrates that she must not be planning to run for office anytime soon.

UPDATE: Mitch Berg disagrees.

JAMES LILEKS is Fisking Colleen Rowley.

DEPARTMENT OF SELF-PARODY: Ed Asner, defending Stalin as "hugely misunderstood."

Actually, Stalin is hugely misunderstood -- by those who think of him as being in some way progressive, or admirable.

MORE EVIDENCE THAT THE FRENCH ARE STARTING TO CATCH ON:

Having recently emerged battered from national education strikes and months of street demonstrations over reduced retirement benefits, Jacques Chirac's administration is looking on with dismay at media encouragement for right-wing intellectual claims that France is now the weak man of Europe, mired in hypocrisy nationally and internationally, indifferent to popular needs such as care of the aged, and shaken by the aftershocks of vain defiance of the US-led war in Iraq. In short, that France is going down the pan.

Recognizing the problem is the first step.

TERRY TEACHOUT misses middlebrow culture.

What do we have now? Unibrow culture? I think it's more multibrow culture. . . .

October 12, 2003

I HAVEN'T BLOGGED MUCH, and a lot of other people have been taking it easy this weekend. But not these professors of communications studies from UNC and Northwestern, who have found much to critique, at the New York Times, CNN, and elsewhere. And here's an interesting item regarding Tony Snow and Jay Rockefeller.

WHY I DON'T HAVE OPEN COMMENTS: Another reason.

UPDATE: D'oh! I had an open comment thread from over a year ago that I had neglected to close, and it started filling up with Russian porn spam. How did they find it?

MATT WELCH has a roundup of California recall postmortems, along with a whole column on the subject in the National Post.

SASHA VOLOKH has some questions about what's mainstream, and what's not?

THE PLAME AFFAIR just gets more complicated, (imagine!) with steadily more evidence suggesting that the leak came from within the CIA.

Meanwhile Lincoln Plawg says it's still not complicated enough. It's complicated enough for me.


SORRY FOR THE SLOW START TODAY: I hung out with the InstaDaughter this morning and watched The Princess Bride on DVD, which I can report is an excellent movie to watch with your 8-year-old daughter.

Heck, it's a great film to watch period. I loved it when it first came out, and it was, if anything, better than I remembered. It's one of those rare items that succeeds at two levels -- one for adults, another for kids. I also appreciated Peter Falk's performance a lot more now than I did when I first saw the movie, many years ago and before I had read so many stories out loud myself.

Then I went running around Lakeshore Park, and then drove into the office, via Cherokee Boulevard. Lakeshore was nice, though the sun was just coming out. Cherokee, as if to mock me, was beautiful, as the sun has come out and made it a perfect early-fall day.

Now, despite superb weather outside, I'm hard at work, having read a bunch of resumes for the Appointments Committee, caught up on office-related email and snailmail, and am actually working on a writing project.

I'd rather be outdoors. Heck, I'd rather be indoors and blogging. But that's life. Back later.

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