WHY WORRY ABOUT TERRORISM? You're never really safe anyway, even home in bed, as this item demonstrates.
HERE'S A FIRSTHAND OBSERVATION ON THE USELESSNESS OF UBIQUITOUS TV CAMERAS from an American living in the UK who says that many people he knows have been beaten up in front of security cameras, with no police arriving and the cameras no help in finding the criminals.
SOUTH AFRICAN INTERNET "TYCOON" Mark Shuttlesworth has been nixed by the Russians as the next space tourist. Apparently, the Russians got tired of trying to meet Shuttlesworth's ever-increasing demands. Hmm. I don't know the facts here, so I'm just guessing, but several "Internet Tycoons" have lately pulled the same kind of stunt with regard to big financial commitments. I wonder how much of this really has to do with declining portfolios, and the desire for a way out that seems less humiliating than "I can't afford it now that my paper profits have gone the way of all paper."
MANY EXCELLENT OBSERVATIONS by Jim Dunnigan can be found here. He updates the page daily, so bookmark it.
WHICH SIDE IS THE LEFT ON? asks Michael Kazin. The answer: it depends on which part of the Left you're talking about. It's very much like the split created by the New Left in 1972.
A BRUTALLY STRAIGHTFORWARD DISCUSSION OF "The Academy's Sympathy for the Taliban", which I found via Fredrik Norman's site.
REWARDS OF FAILURE: So after blowing it on the September 11 attacks, the CIA and FBI are punished with big budget increases. Yeah, that makes sense. This should intensify the pressure to fire the people who missed the call. Otherwise we're rewarding failure all down the line. And we know where that leads...
IS NEW YORK LIKE LONDON DURING THE BLITZ? Well New York lost a lot of people, but the damage was localized. But these vignettes from Blitz-era London do ring true.
THE "VOYEUR DORM" IS SAFE FROM ZONING LAWS because it isn't anywhere but Cyberspace. That's the gist of an 11th Circuit decision reported by the always interesting Carl S. Kaplan. The "Voyeur Dorm" is a house with webcams all over. Subscribers get to watch college age women showering, sunbathing, etc., etc. The local community tried to regulated it via zoning laws, relying on previous court decisions that say you can regulate "adult-oriented" business via zoning. But those cases all turn on so-called "secondary effects" like traffic, weird guys in trenchcoats, etc. None of those are present when the customers never leave their computers at locations all over the world. There ought to be a tie-in to the security camera item below at this point, but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
UBIQUITOUS SECURITY CAMERAS HAVEN'T STOPPED TERRORISM in Great Britain, writes Jeffrey Rosen in tomorrow's New York Times Magazine, but they have served to enforce conformity among the law-abiding:
Although the cameras in Britain were initially justified as a way of combating terrorism, they soon came to serve a very different function. The cameras are designed not to produce arrests but to make people feel that they are being watched at all times. Instead of keeping terrorists off planes, biometric surveillance is being used to keep punks out of shopping malls. The people behind the live video screens are zooming in on unconventional behavior in public that in fact has nothing to do with terrorism. And rather than thwarting serious crime, the cameras are being used to enforce social conformity in ways that Americans may prefer to avoid.
The most amazing point is that absolutely no terrorists -- none, zilch, nada -- have been caught using these cameras.
In fact, the systems don't work very well -- they're mostly designed to scare people into behaving. Police also spend a lot of time leering at attractive young women.
Yeah, I feel safer already. Instead of standing on a streetcorner, where he might see -- and do -- something useful, the cop will be munching donuts in a control room, thinking 'Yeah, baby, bend over and pick up your purse now -- a little to the left -- oh YEAH, no bra on this one!"
In Britain, the main impact has been on law-abiding people. I don't want a crackdown on law-abiding people who park illegally or spit on the sidewalk. I want terrorists crushed. And if the government can't tell the difference, or worse yet doesn't care about the difference, then I'm not sure I trust it to do the job.
SEVERAL READERS write to say that the Rage Against The Machine statement is actually mild when you take account of their other politics. It's true, of course: there's not any mention of, for example, the Sendero Luminoso terrorists, with whom they've been infatuated in the past.
I don't know, I'm more of an Embrace The Machine kind of guy than a Rage Against The Machine kind of guy anyway, so it's no surprise that my judgment is harsh. UPDATE: Mickey Kaus headlines his page today "Welcome, Robots!" Now, that's a sentiment after my own heart.
CORPORATE FEELGOODISM UH-OH: According to this story a dozen Burger King employees suffered severe burns walking on 1,200-degree white-hot coals as part of a corporate event "intended to promote bonding." Some went home -- or, the poor SOBs, to another corporate meeting -- in wheelchairs.
Is it just me, or does this kind of thing seem even stupider now than it used to?
RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE SITREP: There were plenty of shoppers at my local mall this morning (despite the big-deal Tennessee/Georgia football game soaking up over 100,000 potential shoppers), and they seemed to be buying things. Flags abound: apparently, someone at the Po Sing Flag Works in Taiwan has been working overtime, because the supply shortage seems to be over, and there's more red, white and blue (coexising uneasily with the the UT colors of orange and white) everywhere.
But the most interesting thing was Kaybee Toys, which has undergone a dramatic militarization. The front area has undergone a buildup comparable to what's happening in Uzbekistan, and now boasts all sorts of military toys, from the "Combat Soldiers Special Mission" line to a huge model of the aircraft carrier Enterprise that looks big enough to intimidate many third world countries all by itself.
Meanwhile, on the clearance table, are examples of an America whose time is gone: "The Dr. Laura Game" ("no excuses, just solutions") is marked down from $38.99 to $4.99. The "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus Game" is similarly discounted at $7.99. And the "Survivor" game languishes at its own slashed-to-the-bone price of $7.99. ("Paralympic Champion Barbie" is still holding her own at an undiscounted $29.99, though; can't keep that girl down, even with a spinal injury, apparently).
The militarization of the front-of-store area was sufficiently noticeable that I asked the manager if it was a coincidence. Oh no, she said: orders came down from the home office to put the military toys (previously relegated to an inconspicuous corner) right up front.
I said there was a sea change in attitudes underway. Apparently, the toy marketers have noticed it too.
PAUL JOHNSON'S RECOLONIZATION PIECE inspires this thoughtful email from a reader:
Some interesting stuff there, but pretty much all of it suffering from the rather shallow and selective historical depth that annoys the likes of me. All this talk of "Is Islam intrinsically 'Fundamentalist'" is lost in the fallacy of saying it has to be one or the other. Like all religions, Islam has long varied along a continuom. And, for the great majority of the religion's history, it has been far from "fundamentalist." The Umayyad caliphs liked to skinny dip in pools of wine. The Abbassids (often now mythologized as the "golden age of Islam" -- just listen to songs by the Soldiers of Allah)long supported the work of scholars called Mutazilites who sought to harmonize Islam and Greek humanism. Most Muslims today are Sufis who stress personal relationships with God and the expressions of God's love as the key elements of religious experience. Islamic Modernists found Qur'anic sanction for democracy and civil rights (including Women's rights). Current Wahhabis/fundamentalists call all of these expressions of Islam as illegitimate, to put it mildly. Fundamentalists may be the majority in a few places, and get the most press, but historically they share more with such Islamic fringe movements as the Kharijites and the Ismailis. As such, while contemporary fundamentalists are not unfamiliar to those who know something about Islamic ideology and history, they are also not representative of the great bulk of Islamic thought.
The real question is: Why do they garner their contemporary support, and how do you get rid of it? Some of the reasons for support are highlighted by the "Right" -- that is that these are petty demagogues who appeal to the sort of base human desires (such as intimations of racial and ideological/relgious superiority) that allow totalitarian and fascist states to come to power. There is truth here, and there are ways to deal with it. One is to show that these guys are not so terribly superior. Killing them is one way to do it, and it tends to cool a certain amount of the appeal for those who seek to join just to get power -- those folks will change sides if they see the tide turning. Another way is to offer alternative interpretations of Islam, and this is why it is essential not to demonize Islam and to garner Islamic support (see all the lovely options above -- lots of mellow Sufis and Modernists to choose from). As for the reasons highlighted by the "Left", the basic thrust is that these folks have been angered by US policies that have made their lives worse, not better (both in material or psychological terms). Here, too, is truth. The reality of European colonialism (the US deserves little blame for this, but having European allies in the current struggle muddies the waters), US support for the Shah, and pointless US sanctions against Iraq are all relevant. The goal now must be to reassure as many Muslims as possible that the US is not out for mass conversions or recolonization (thank you very much Coulter and Johnson). Real victory in the long run will require the same support for development that was found in the Marshall Plan.
Both sides have relevant points. We should not fail to see that the leaders and actors of terrorist movements are undesirable people doing undesirable things -- but we must also not paint with too broad a brush. Similarly, we should not legitimize terrorism by saying it is somehow justified by previous US actions -- but we must also not self-servingly say that recent terrorism somehow renders null-and-void lots of self-serving policy actions on the part of the US over the past few decades. The road to understanding, peace and accomodation is a two-way street. Both sides need to be less Rah-Rah about either their innocence or innate superiority. For me, the very fact that we have come to this situation is a sign that we have all screwed up. Repeatedly. In history, that is nothing new... but the goal for years to come is to try and not make it worse or do it again.
Very well said -- though the "we" who have screwed up is a bit broad. Those who like
polarization (which would include bin Laden and a lot of Saudis, along with most of the other "fundamentalists") don't feel they have screwed up at the moment. They feel pleased and proud -- or if they don't, it's because the United States isn't following their script as expected. (Notice the Taliban trying the "hostage" ploy with the missionaries and seeming surprised that no one is biting.)
Pushing alternative visions of Islam is a very important angle, and it's a place where the U.S. Muslim community could and should play a major role. (Me, I like the skinny-dipping in pools of wine thing, though it must be hell getting those stains out of the towels).
A FURTHER THOUGHT: We hear a lot about U.S. foreign policy actions that supposedly led to the current crisis, but there's one prominent dog that hasn't barked: United States intervention against Britain, France, and Israel in the Suez Crisis. None of the critics of the United States seem to mention this. (Note its amazing absence from this timeline of U.S. interventions in the Middle East). The U.S. backed Nasser and Arab nationalism against Israel and the traditional European powers in the region. (Fat lot of gratitude we got for it, too). Had Nasser been slapped down, and had the British and French reasserted supremacy in that region, things would be very different. Instead, the Arab world got a boost in assertiveness, and we somehow, because we had intervened once, were afterward regarded as responsible for everything that happened in the region. If we'd stayed out, the transition to decolonization would have been slower and, perhaps, more constructive. Or, at least, the Arab world would hate Britain and France more, and us less....
PAUL JOHNSON argues that the answer to terrorism is a return to colonialism. He says that colonialism actually got its start in a campaign against piracy, and the realization that the only way to prevent piracy was to seize and control the states that were supporting it. (This seems a bit, er, simplistic to me).
I don't see this argument selling. It's true, of course, that decolonization probably happened too fast, and that third-world governments weren't ready. (It's considered a triumph in many parts of the world if per-capita GNP and miles of road reach the levels they occupied at decolonization, decades ago).
But I don't see the West wanting to have colonies. Their main virtue was to give the younger sons of aristocratic families something interesting to do. On the other hand, enough acts of terrorism might serve as both inspiration and justification for a change in priorities.
COLBY KING writes in response to a Green Party media advisory calling for Osama bin Laden to be tried before an international criminal court: "Psst. There ain't no international criminal court." That's just one highlight of an excellent column on why half- , er, hearted solutions to this won't work. We need, he says, not just justice for individuals, but self-defense and deterrence.
GERM WARFARE -- PROPHETIC WORDS: Way back when InstaPundit was new and the world was young (that is, about seven weeks ago), I noted this column on germ warfare in the New York Times by Stanford's Christopher Chyba. It's worth rereading now. Here's a key paragraph:
Rather than nonproliferation and deterrence, biological security must emphasize civil defense. Civil defense in the biological realm means improving the public health system. Most important, it requires improving disease surveillance. Unusual disease outbreaks must be recognized quickly, so that a rapid response is possible. Health care workers in clinics, hospitals and private practice must know how to identify such outbreaks and be ready and able to pass their information rapidly to city, state and national authorities.
Hits the nail on the head, doesn't it? All the argument about the Germ Warfare Protocol now seems rather beside the point. Speaking of which, here's an excerpt from a piece that Dave Kopel and I had
on September 6:
A better strategy would involve establishing powerful civilian biotechnology capabilities, such that any germ warfare efforts could be swiftly countered. This isn't so unusual; after all, it is civilian software companies that provide the primary defense against computer viruses. (Imagine if we had tried to control computer viruses by providing for licensing and random inspection of civilian-owned computers.) Couple that with a strategy of retaliation and interdiction (Israel's raid on the Osirak reactor is the only really successful nuclear nonproliferation effort to date) and you have a formula for success.
With terrorists now looking like the primary threats in the germ-warfare arena, arms-control treaties among states seem even more beside the point than they did. The strategies outlined above would be far more effective -- and would have the added benefit of also guarding against natural outbreaks of serious disease, which are just as likely to occur as they ever were, and far more likely to spread quickly.
HEY, YOU! YEAH, OVER THERE, IN SEATTLE! Why are you Googling me? Just look here! (P.S. -- is Telia dialup the best you can do?)
LAW PROFESSOR BRANNON DENNING WRITES:
In Senate testimony yesterday, John Warner and Paul Wolfowitz had a colloquy raising the issue of "reforming" the Posse Comitatus Act in order to allow military forces to liase with law enforcement for Domestic operations in our new war on terrorism.
Now, you know my theory that an argument can be made that the PCA is superfluous because there is a plausible textual argument that the Constitution permits only the militia to be used domestically. But I think the PCA is an important keystone in maintaining the proper balance between civil-military relations. The drug war "exception" has sapped much of the PCA's strength; it seems that some in the Pentagon would like to get rid of the fig leaf altogether. It would, I think, be a terrible mistake. Given the level of militarization of federal law enforcement that has taken place already, surely we have enough "war-making" capability without having the Marines' new AT unit tear-assing all over the country.
I agree. The Posse Comitatus Act was enacted for good reason. I suspect we're going to need the Marines more as Marines than as police anyway over the next year or several. But we should avoid blurring the line between soldiers and police. Soldiers make lousy police -- and trying to turn them into police typically makes them lousy soldiers, to boot.
BERKELEY HATEWATCH UPDATE: The dumb controversy over a cartoon in the Berkeley Daily Californian that was basically the same as the universally-admired "Hijackers in Hell" story in The Onion continues. There's now a new student senate "bill," authored and sponsored by student Senators Sajid Khan, Evan Holland and Tony Falcone, that calls for punishment of the Daily Californian.
It's full of the usual lame and self-congratulatory stuff, like this:
Berkeley remains one of the few places in the world where a thoughtful, critical exchange can occur from people across a spectrum of backgrounds and races, without fear of reprisal or hatred.
Uh, guys -- no, Berkeley isn't that kind of a place. It's not even close. It is, in fact, one of the most closeminded, racist, unthoughtful, and over-politicized places in America, a place that's afraid to have American flags on its fire engines for fear that they'll be attacked by hate criminals. And you're not part of the solution. You're part of the problem. You can't deal with a cartoon that, frankly, you don't seem to even understand. (How hard is it to get into Berkeley these days? Not hard enough. They must not test humor on the SATs). And now you're in the business of reprisal and hatred yourselves. If you want to make Berkeley a "place of light where the rights of individuals with difference are appreciated and honest, probing inquiry is encouraged," withdraw your bill, apologize for your foolish and embarrassing grandstanding, and write me a 10,000-word essay on "Why the cliche that Washington is inhabited by student-government types is not considered to be a compliment."
READER BILL RUDERSDORF WRITES:
I agree thoroughly with Brad Todd's assessment of the heroism aboard United 93. This isn't the first time something like this happened. You might remember about six months ago in a (little publicized!) incident aboard a Southwest flight, a passenger became physically violent and attempted to break into the cockpit (he was later found to have a clinical history of mental instability).
Flight attendants could not subdue him, but four passengers successfully restrained him. The person died in the process (suffocation, I believe). In this case there was probably even less reaction time than on United 93, but the result was the same. Conclusion: heroes-in-waiting are everywhere.
In each case a large number (perhaps 1 out of 20 or 30) of passengers were willing to risk a lot on very little notice... and they did. I think one of the safest places to be these days is aboard a commercial flight. If anyone were to try something, they would be pulverized forthwith.
One out out of 20 or 30. Doesn't sound like a lot. But I read a (true) story by Jeff Cooper recently, about a German POW after World War Two who tried to organize a prisoners' revolt. The prison camp was by the White Sea, and there were only a few dozen guards for 30,000 prisoners: the Soviets figured it was so far from anywhere anyone could escape to that they didn't need many guards. The prisoner figured that if he could get 200 prisoners to revolt, they could take over. He asked Cooper if he thought one man out of a hundred was brave. Cooper said yes. The German said that out of 30,000 prisoners he was able to find ten.
One out of 20 or 30 -- and not trained soldiers but unprepared civilians -- is pretty damned good.
INDONESIA'S PRESIDENT Megawati Sukarnoputri (whom even the Straits Times simply calls "Mega") denounced fanatics in another strong speech. It appears that she's trying to bring order to the world's largest Muslim country. Indonesia is likely to prove an important ally in the anti-terrorism war, and is also a country that is (at least trying to be) on the mend. Megawati deserves U.S. support -- and I expect she's getting it.
OUR FRIENDS, THE SAUDIS:
"Osama bin Laden has been called the conscience of Islam," said one influential lawyer who works with international companies, as he sat in front of his framed diplomas accumulated during 10 years in the United States.
"What he says and what he does represents what most Muslims or Arabs want to say and can't. What he says we like, we agree with it."
"He has become a symbol of defiance in the face of American arrogance," said a Saudi journalist, who was too afraid of the consequences to reveal his identity.
"The royal family are the only people in this country who don't like Osama bin Laden because he is questioning their presence, their future," said another American-educated professional.
"There are those who think he is a hero, the ideal Muslim, the epitome of what an Arab should be," said a university professor, summing up the feeling of many students.
These are all quotes from this New York Times
article on Saudi attitudes toward Osama bin Laden. No poverty here -- these are all rich Saudis. No oppression by the United States -- these are the folks we've been defending. And no mention of Israel. Just a belief that Islam requires defeating the West. There's more in this article. It's all pretty damning.
Wahabbism is, in many ways, at the root of the whole problem. And the Saudis are at the root of Wahabbism.
MANY ORGANIZATIONS are pulling information that might assist terrorists from their websites, the BBC reports. Not the Earth Liberation Front, though, which still has its arson manual online. I didn't post the link when I noticed this earlier, but hell, it's the very first thing that turns up on a Google search, so what was I hiding?
GREAT OBSERVATION BY BRAD TODD ON FRANK CAGLE.COM:
Just 109 minutes after a new form of terrorism -- the most deadly yet invented -- came into use, it was rendered, if not obsolete, at least decidedly less effective.
Deconstructed, unengineered, thwarted, and put into the dust bin of history. By Americans. In 109 minutes.
And in retrospect, they did it in the most American of ways. They used a credit card to rent a fancy cell phone to get information just minutes old, courtesy of the ubiquitous 24-hour news phenomenon. Then they took a vote. When the vote called for sacrifice to protect country and others, there apparently wasn't a shortage of volunteers. Their action was swift. It was decisive. And it was effective.
United Flight 93 did not hit a building. It did not kill anyone on the ground. It did not terrorize a city, despite the best drawn plans of the world's most innovative madmen. Why? Because it had informed Americans on board who'd had 109 minutes to come up with a counteraction.
And the next time a hijacker full of hate pulls the same stunt with a single knife, he'll get the same treatment and meet the same result as those on United Flight 93. Dead, yes. Murderous, yes. But successful? No.
This is a terrific point. The terrorists got "inside the decision curve" of the authorities -- they adapted faster than the security apparatus could, or at least faster than it did. But the passengers -- ordinary citizens with ordinary citizens' technology -- got inside the decision curve of the hijackers. They thwarted the last -- and, quite possibly, most damaging -- blow of the hijackers less than two hours after the first blow fell.
There's a lesson in that. And it's not a promising one for the terrorists.
MORE ON MORAL EQUIVALENCE: Rage Against the Machine's lead guitarist, Tom Morello, has these thoughts:
On Tuesday, the victims were American. But the horrible scenes that we've witnessed on TV this week are regular occurrences in other places around the globe. And too often, violence like this has been meted out by our own country and its client states. We should stand together against this type of violence in all its forms, whenever it happens, whether its done in the name of religious fanaticism, or in the names of our own domestic elite.
Uh, Tom, you are
part of our domestic elite. That's part of the problem, since you seem to think that "violence like this" has "too often" been meted out by our own country and its client states. Yeah, we're always hijacking those airliners and smashing them into huge office buildings.
GETTING TO YES WITH THE TALIBAN: No, this isn't a parody, but an oped by Harvard Law Professor and negotiation expert Roger Fisher, pointed out to me by reader Doug Levene. Levene asks, "I wonder what's next -- "Humans are from Venus, the Taliban is from Mars?"
Levene goes on to note:
I've been a deal lawyer for 20 years and have long thought that Prof. Fisher was a little, shall we say, ivory-towerish. My biggest problem has been in getting my clients to say no, to understand what their vital interests are and to stand fast in protecting them rather than seeking some compromise or worse, yielding the point, just to get the deal done. And that is in a business context where the other side is not trying to kill my client or me, at least not literally.
Fisher's last major contribution to warfare was the "McNamara Line" of sensors across the DMZ in Vietnam, which he proposed in 1966. It was tried, at considerable expense. It was a failure, and was quietly abandoned in 1968.
UPDATE: As of 2/3/02, the above link is dead, but this one still works.
READER JANIS GORE COMMENTS on Sunera Thobani: "Someone needs to take this woman's washing machine away."
EDWARD SAID THROWS ROCKS, HITS SELF: Stanley Kurtz notes that Edward Said has lapsed into the very "Orientalist" cliches he has always derided as he responds to the 911 attacks: "primitive" cultures, "magical thinking," etc.
FREEDOM, SAUDI STYLE:
"It is absurd to impose on an individual or a society rights that are alien to its beliefs or principles." - Deputy Premier of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.
Sounds like Sunera Thobani
and this guy would have a lot in common. Though I presume he'd throw her in jail or stone her for driving, speaking out on politics, etc. (Thanks to Bjorn Staerk
for this quote.)
READER MARK DRAUGHN sends this link to a site on civil engineering and skyscraper design. He also asks if the NYFD was as on top of things as it should have been:
The thing that struck me is that in the event of an aircraft collision, or any big fire, tall buildings like the twin towers are designed to stay standing long enough for everyone to walk out of the building.
The state of civil engineering does not, however, allow the buildings to stand forever. Think of the scene in "Titanic" where the engineer tells everyone that although the ship seems fine, it will sink with mathematical certainty. From the moment the fires started, the collapse of the towers was inevitable.
So why were so many rescue workers sent into the buildings? Isn't someone in NYFD command supposed to have a plan for fighting fires in skyscrapers?
Maybe I'm misunderstanding the engineering, or maybe this is just a very-large-scale example of the risks that firemen face every day, but I'd sure like to know what happened. I've worked in engineering-related jobs for many years, and this sort of communications failure infuriates me.
I don't know the answer to this. I think it's unfair to be too
hard on the NYFD because (literally) no one in the world has ever dealt with this kind of a fire before. In addition, the buildings didn't look all that bad until they collapsed: damaged, yes, but not obviously in danger of falling. I'm sure that someone will be looking into this in the near future.
FEMINISTS FOR THE TALIBAN: Here's a link to the text of Canadian feminist Sunera Thobani's hate speech against the West, and America. (I thought Canada had outlawed hate speech.) Here's a particularly idiotic excerpt:
There will be no emancipation for women anywhere on this planet until the Western domination of this planet is ended. And more than ever, more than ever, we need to heed those words.
Funny -- it's emancipation of women that bin Laden and the Taliban (and much of the rest of the Muslim world) consider the very worst cultural export of the West.
THE TELEGRAPH is reporting that bullet holes have been found what's left of the cockpit of the downed Russian airliner.
JOHN OMCINSKI defends Silvio Berlusconi in USA Today. Does a pretty good job of it, too:
Amr Moussa, Arab League secretary-general, threw the "racist" card at Berlusconi, but did not pick up his end of the debate and enumerate the glories of Arab culture and progress.
That's how post-modern arguments are conducted. You denounce someone as "racist" or "right-wing" and then you ignore the points that he or she has made. This attack-labeling is the prime reason why political discussion has descended into a politically correct box canyon, with no apparent way out. There is little doubt that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks climaxed frustration in at least part of the Arab-Islamic world that cultural and economic globalization was leaving it further and further behind. Fouad Ajami, director of Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, has written widely on the subject of the Arab world's failure for many years. He was ignored, perhaps because the politically correct believed that this was not a subject to be discussed in polite company.
"Failure," after all, is a word post-modernists abhor. It conjures up the notion of standards and competition, of winners and losers, things that post-modernists regard as too judgmental.
Yes. South Korea used to be on a part with the Arab countries for income and political freedom. It has blown past them in both categories, despite not having oil. The difference, I think, can only be explained by culture. To some, of course, it's impermissible to declare any culture inferior -- unless that culture is Western, or better yet American. But the hypocrisy of this viewpoint, already apparent in previous years, is now so obvious as to make it self-refuting.
A VERY MOVING PIECE ABOUT THE NEW YORK FIREMEN by Peggy Noonan today. I won't try to summarize or excerpt it. Just read it.
IS BUSH GOING WOBBLY? That's what The New Republic asks ("With each additional invocation from a Bush surrogate, the "war on terrorism" seems to shrink in scope and moral purpose."). Andrew Sullivan is asking the same thing, though more cautiously.
I don't think he is -- but I'm not encouraged by seeing so much of Colin Powell, who has always been wobbly, at least since he left the Americal division. Everything that we're doing so far is entirely consistent with a clever and effective plan, but that plan does depend on its being followed up with tough measures at the appropriate time. I think they have the intention, and the fortitude, to do what needs to be done. If I'm wrong, well, it'll be bad times for the United States, and the end of Bush's career.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER writes that this cannot simply be a matter of bringing Osama bin Laden to trial, or even killing him. Nor can it be simply a struggle to bring the Taliban down. It must be a war to neutralize any and all states that support this sort of terrorism. I think he's right. That doesn't mean bombing indiscriminately (what a straw-man bogeyman -- nobody is advocating that anyway, except some peace protesters who seem disappointed that it isn't happening) but it does mean sticking to our guns and not allowing ourselves to fall into half-measures. The war is over when the enemy can't hurt you anymore. Ending it before that is a recipe for disaster -- as the half-hearted treatment of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War proves.
MORE SIGNS OF AFGHAN COLLAPSE? The Washington Post is reporting that faction leaders in Afghanistan are convinced that it's over for the Taliban, and are already trying to position themselves for the new government:
A wide variety of Afghan and foreign factions, convinced that Afghanistan's ruling Taliban movement will be dismantled by a U.S. military strike or mounting internal dissent, are embroiled in a struggle for places in a future government, according to officials involved in the process.
Consensus is growing that Afghanistan's 86-year-old former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, is likely to be the arbiter in assembling an interim government. Today, the latest in the daily pilgrimages to the exiled monarch's Rome villa brought a senior U.S. State Department official, Richard Haass, the highest-level contact by the Bush administration with the nascent regime-building process.
Even Pakistan, which helped create and finance the Taliban and is the only nation that recognizes it as Afghanistan's government, announced its support for giving the king a role in organizing a future Afghan government, along with the United Nations. Both the United States and Pakistan are eager to see an Afghan political structure ready to succeed the Taliban and save the country from a fresh descent into chaos.
I sure hope this is right. I also hope that people don't fall into infighting, anticipating the Taliban's demise, to the extent that it keeps the Taliban from collapsing. Wouldn't be the first time something like that has happened in that part of the world.
AVIATION MAVERICK DICK RUTAN has made a successful test flight of his experimental privately financed rocketplane. Rutan, who often works with Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, is one of the few true "outside-the-box" thinkers in aerospace these days.
THE NON-AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE from Moira Redmond at Slate has drawn a rather unfriendly response. My only comment is that if a conservative American writer said this kind of thing about Europeans, or black people, or maybe any other group, he/she would be savaged for "insensitivity."
A WARNING: A lot of aid money has flowed into various NYC charitable relief funds. This is the result of an outpouring of civic fellow-feeling. But -- if that money turns out to have been abused, to have funded lots of limo-rides, fancy offices, and junkets, or to just plain have been stolen -- the backlash will be just horrible. The Red Cross and other charities administering this money need to be on top of this, and need to restrain eveyone involved from such conduct, and to sack anyone who steps even a little bit over the line. There's a lot of, er, "grazing" that goes on within charitable organizations in normal times. But this money was raised on the basis of times not being normal. The backlash if it's misused will destroy any organization that is involved. And it should.
JAMES BOWMAN has an interesting piece on stupid professorial statements in today's OpinionJournal. He goes well beyond the usual suspects here, and has turned up all sorts of statements I hadn't heard before. They're all amazing for their moral obtuseness and sheer stupidity. Not to mention an insensitivity that would be regarded as punishable on many campuses if it were aimed at anyone except, well, America and Americans.
As I've said before, these people are in fact a minority on campus, but one that has wielded disproportionate power by virtue of loudness, mutual support, and the cowardice of administrators. They deserve to be exposed and criticized, but it is really those of us on campus who do not share their views who must take them on. (As you might expect, I've never been shy about that.) Here's a good start for those at the five Ivy League campuses that don't have ROTC: bring it back.
TOM FRIEDMAN has some terrific points aimed at the blame-the-US-and-Israel-not-the-terrorist crowd:
Is it America's fault that the richest ruling family in the world, the Saudis, have citizens who are poor and frustrated? Is it America's fault that Korea had the same per capita income in the 1950's as many Arab states, but Korea has managed its development so much better since that it now dwarfs all Arab economies? Afghanistan is run by a medieval Taliban theocracy that bans women from working or going to school. How could such a place not be poor? And who was the biggest protector of that backward Taliban society? Osama bin Laden and his men.
There is something wrong with Saudi Arabia citing U.S. support for Israel as the root cause for this Islamist terror — when many Saudi men were among the hijackers, when the Saudi regime has tolerated the harsh Islamist movements that provided ideological guidance for these young men, when Saudi Arabia was the biggest funder of the Taliban, when the Saudi ruling family has alienated some of its most devout subjects to a degree that produced Islamist militancy, and when the Saudi regime — as The Economist just noted, in an article titled "Saudi Arabia: The Double-Act Wears Thin" — winked at indirect fund-raising for Mr. bin Laden in the Kingdom as a way of currying favor with its hard-line Islamist critics.
FIFTH COLUMN? Andrew Sullivan calls our attention to United Peoples an anti-globalization outfit that certainly seems to be rooting against the United States. Its members include people from radical environmental groups like Earth First! and various antiglobalization types. However, I couldn't find the claim that Andrew cites -- that 4000 jews and many CEOs were tipped off and didn't show up for work that day. (I spent quite a while looking, but I can't swear it isn't there somewhere -- these people may be a fifth column, but they're no threat as web designers).
It is, however, the same lame lefty crap that I've seen ever since my childhood: a random mixture of demands to "free all minorities," to establish a "United Peoples TV Channel," and assorted similar disjointed stuff. Here's the good news: if this is the fifth column, we can focus most of our attention on the first four. They're no threat, except to their own credibility.
I LOVE THE INTERNET! If you click here you can hear a one-minute MP3 of a calypso tune called "Air Force Come and They Flatten Your Home," off of a pro-American, war-related weblog run by a Norwegian named Bjoern Staerk. I just love it when I find stuff like this. What did I do before the Web? No, really, what? Oh, yeah: Drink beer and chase women. Well, the Web's still pretty cool.
FEMINIST SUNERA THOBANI delivered a nasty anti-American speech: ""Today in the world the United States is the most dangerous and the most powerful global force unleashing horrific levels of violence," said Thobani, a women's studies professor at the University of British Columbia and former head of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women." She was speaking at the Women's Resistance Conference. Apparently, they're more into resisting clear thought than, say, evil. Further evidence for this interpretation is provided by the following:
In her speech, Thobani also ridiculed any suggestion that the U.S. would be advancing women's rights by ousting Afghanistan's Taliban regime, which has forbidden women from working, attending school, or showing their faces in public.
"It's really interesting to hear this talk about saving Afghani women," she said. "Those of us who have been colonized know what this saving means."
I believe what she means to say is "Freedom is Slavery." Or something like that.
FIREMEN -- LOST, AND FOUND AGAIN: Paul Kunino Lynch has this interesting observation:
Interest in gender-selective words was sparked widely last month by the brief reappearance on the streets of New York last month of firemen. These have not been sighted for some years by news reporters, but for perhaps a week it was okay to name them as such, and to speak and write of their bravery and reverence and hope for their "brothers"; and then, once more, there were no more firemen in New York City, and it was protected once more only by gallant firefighters. Interesting to ponder whether any writers or editorial executives were censured for suggesting New York City has the firemen seen and admired worldwide on television.
STEVEN SEAGAL update: Reader Alex Knapp observes:
Now, if Steven Seagal won't allow someone to kill a spider or harm a fly, well, any run of the mill animal activist can do that. The real test of how devoted to his principles he is is this: Will he prevent a spider from harming a fly? After all, all life IS precious, and that spider should know better.
Yeah, if we're all equal, the spider should have equal responsibilities. What? It's natural for spiders to eat flies? Yep. And it's natural for me to eat cows. Mmmm. Cow.
THE ANTITERRORISM BILL ISN'T ANTI-TERRORISM writes Jeff Rosen in The New Republic:
Now imagine this: You illegally download a copyrighted MP3 file, violating your terms of service contract with America Online. Without your knowledge, AOL proceeds to authorize the federal government to monitor every e-mail you send and every website you visit in order to collect evidence to prosecute you as a "computer trespasser."
Welcome to the unintended consequences of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, which is being debated in Congress this week. The central insight of the bill is sound: that law enforcement officials should have greater powers to investigate potential acts of terrorism than when they investigate less serious crimes. But in some respects, the bill doesn't empower the federal government to investigate genuine emergencies nearly enough. And in others it carelessly expands the definition of terrorism to cover low-level computer crimes. In other words, it threatens privacy without increasing security.
Less free but no safer. That's what happens when you rush a bill (and do you think that the RIAA has maybe had its evil little fingers in the pie? that would be almost treasonous at this point -- which doesn't make it less likely in my opinion, considering). Congress should take its time and get this right. We need a bill that works more than we need a bill that's done yesterday.
THERE WILL BE AN "ABOUT ME" PAGE IN THE NOT-TOO-DISTANT FUTURE but if you want to see a mockup of it, one is here.
READER DALE AMON sends this story on psychological warfare. Transistor radios will be dropped to allow Afghans to hear our broadcasts.
Nice touch (I hope they have American flags on them) although transistor radios are not all that rare among Afghans, as they're pretty much the only means of getting any news. (They use 'em to listen to music, too, though the Taliban don't like it).
SOME THOUGHTS FROM WALTER LAQUEUR on the problem with "proportionate response," which many of our allies are demanding.
Of course, "proportionate" can have many meanings. The September 11 attacks caused twice as many casualties as Pearl Harbor. So should our response be twice as strong?
TIME FOR A HOLLYWOOD APOLOGY? Patrick Ruffini has a terrific point: Despite movies like The Siege or the ethnic profiling scene on The West Wing, Ruffini notes that the real profiling is Hollywood's treatment of Americans as presumptively bigoted:
We have had a controlled experiment to see whose vision of America is correct: the Hollywood version where intolerance is inherently a dark undercurrent that always lurks slightly below the surface of American life, or the worldly, optimistic, patriotic, and yes — tolerant — America of these last three weeks. Hollywood was wrong. Instead of airing specials that perpetuate ideas that are more mistaken than ever, shouldn't Hollywood apologize for so seriously misjudging the American spirit these last few years?
WHACK-A-MOLE: The RIAA has filed new lawsuits against music-sharing services. The technology is such that the lawsuit may not be able to shut them down anyway, but others will spring up. And there are quite a few out there that haven't even been sued yet.
UPDATE: this item from dotcomscoop features a summary of two RIAA internal memos on the litigation and the strategy behind it, and links to the full text of the memos. Note that RIAA president Hillary Rosen discusses "spoofing and interdiction" on peer-to-peer networks. I believe that this may constitute computer crime -- if not now, then under the new "antiterrorism" bill" -- and I hope that the authorities will keep this in evidence for any future conspiracy trial.
I DISAGREE WITH THE BULLMOOSE A LOT but he's dead-on with this one -- make Rudy Giuliani the new head of the CIA, replacing George Tenet (as must be done):
At this time of crisis, we need a Director of Central Intelligence who is tough, tenacious, relentless, resourceful and remorseless. In short, we need Rudy. He knows the difference between good guys and bad guys. Rudy not only wouldn't appease Arafat, he once refused to shake his hand. Rudy would serve as an international Elliot Ness hunting down and eliminating the terror network.
We need the kind of can-do attitude that cleared the streets of New York of squeegee men applied to the fight against international terror. Moreover, no one on the planet will be more personally motivated to
secure victory than Rudy!
President Bush, hire Rudy and fire Tenet! Rudy, say good-bye to Gracie Mansion, and welcome to Langley!
THIS STORY in FoxNews.Com supports my theory that special forces may be engaged in psychological warfare aimed at sowing panic in Afghanistan:
Refugees also said the breakdown of authority within Afghanistan has sparked wild rumors, many of them unsubstantiated, of U.S., British and even Russian troops air-dropping all over the country and engaging the Taliban in open battles. None of the refugees could say they had seen any foreign forces, however.
Whether or not that's what's causing it, this should undermine the notion of the fearless Afghans, contemptuous of all foes.
Interestingly, there's also a report of an Ebola-like virus spreading in Afghanistan and among refugees. The disease, Crimea-Congo hemorrhagic fever, has been in the area for years and so is probably not an escaped bioweapon. It can't be doing much for morale, either. Perhaps someone should be spreading rumors that it is an escaped bioweapon, forged by the Taliban and now menacing Afghanistan and Pakistan. Oh, psyops boy....
READER NICK MCCALL FORWARDS THIS SOLUTION for Osama bin Laden:
By far, the most sensible alternative I have heard to date . . .
How should Osama Ben Laden be dealt with?
Killing him will only create a martyr. Holding him prisoner will inspire his comrades to take hostages to demand his release. Therefore I suggest we do neither.
Let the SAS, Seals or whatever covertly capture him, fly him to an undisclosed hospital and have surgeons quickly perform a complete sex change operation. Then we return 'her' to Afghanistan to live under the Taliban.
Ahh. That is
sweet. And I'll bet the deterrent effect would be, er, potent.
TONY BLAIR'S STATEMENT of the case against bin Laden sets out a pretty good case. I'm not sure it's beyond a reasonable doubt, but then in wartime it needn't be.
AN "ISOLATED CASE" of pulmonary anthrax has been reported in Florida. According to authorities, it has nothing to do with terrorism. I sure hope so. Pulmonary anthrax happens, but it's very rare. And rare things do happen without foul play, though the coincidence seems quite an unusual one.
UPDATE: This story in the New York Times isn't quite so sanguine. It says that the possibility of bioterrorism is under "very intense investigation." Well, if that's what it is, there should be a lot more cases soon.
JOHN O'SULLIVAN has a wonderful piece on anti-Americanism among certain self-described intellectuals and intellectual-wannabes. I particularly like his description of the:
extraordinary convolutions whereby feminists and multiculturalists find themselves taking the side of medieval Islamists against the common American enemy. They feel more comfortable in such superior company than alongside a hard-hat construction worker or a suburban golfer in plaid pants. But such preferences take some explaining. Hence not merely the taste for — but the absolute necessity of — complex explanations. And all of this is in service of the notion of separating oneself from one's fellow citizens who are not sophisticated enough to rise above simple loyalties.
This last sentence is the point. If everyone knows that patriotism and defense of one's country when it is under attack is good, why, then, those who want to show that they're superior to, and deeper thinkers than, "everyone," must take the contrary position.
By doing so, of course, they demonstrate that they are, in fact, not thinkers at all -- or at least that whatever thinking they do goes solely into generating sophistical justifications for taking a position that is, in fact, wholly determined by the simple principle of doing the opposite of what "normal" people do.
The whole piece is wonderful. Read it all. I especially like his explanation of how this principle has been inculcated into a "large lumpenintelligentsia of teachers, librarians, researchers, small-town-newspaper "liberals," clergymen, and assorted ancillary brainworkers."
WHAT DO WE WANT? NOT A UNION! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW! Mickey Kaus points out that the UAW has lost an organizing vote at the Tennessee Nissan plant by a whopping 2 -to-1 margin. Kaus says the New York Times, which reported on this election in August, missed the story. Well, elections are hard to call in advance. But here's what InstaPundit said about unions in general back on August 23:
[O]rganized labor is increasingly marginalized and unimportant -- not just to the nation, and the political scene, but to workers. Organized labor is still set up to represent people who plan to be meatcutters their whole lives. But the modern workplace doesn't work that way. People change jobs a lot. Most floor workers in industry expect to move up -- and a lot do. Employers -- and employees -- have little patience with rigid work rules and tight seniority systems, which seem stupid and counterproductive. Work, as Andrew Sullivan pointed out in an item I noted a few days ago, is an American civic religion. Things that get in the way of getting the work done are disfavored, not just by bosses, but by workers. The unions haven't caught on to that yet. Until they do, they'll continue to shrink in relation to the work force, and to flourish mostly in places where people care less about the work. Which, perhaps, is why public-employee unions are the AFL-CIO's main source of growth.
Still true. Unions would be okay if they focused just on pay and benefits. But they inevitably wind up championing dumb work rules (when I was in law school, Yale had a rule that light bulbs could only be changed by electricians, not janitors, meaning that they got changed just once a month). This hurts their credibility with workers, who tend to hate dumb barriers to getting the job done right.
WEEKEND, ER, WARRIORS? Last week I wrote about the gun-toting Mommy Liberty image drawn by 17-year-old Eliza Gauger. Ms. Gauger's image has become one of the most popular on the Internet. But not everyone is happy with the gun. Here's a bizarre example, reported by Scott Norvell:
"Someone from the National Guard e-mailed me and said he wanted to use the image in a newsletter but couldn't print it if it had a gun in it, and asked if I could change it to a sword," she said. But Gauger would not exchange one weapon for another.
So, some dumb rule says that the National Guard can't have guns in their newsletters? I've heard them called Weekend Warriors, but where, exactly, does it say that "warriors" can't see pictures of guns? Gauger, a 17-year-old girl who describes herself as too anemic to give blood, seems to have more fighting spirit than that:
Gauger said the nationwide calls for peace at a candlelight vigil ignited her creativity.
"Everyone was standing up to the mic saying things like 'give peace a chance' and 'no retaliation,' but I don't think these people were thinking clearly about this man or what he's capable of accomplishing if we don't protect ourselves," the high school senior said of Usama bin Laden, the man suspected of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks.
Can't we make her an honorary general or something?
UPDATE: You can buy t-shirts, etc., with the image here. All profits go to the Red Cross.
FEELINGS, WHOA, FEELINGS: No, really: whoa, feelings. A phenomenon of the PC movement has been the effort to bar classroom speech -- especially by faculty -- that might hurt students' feelings or make them feel "uncomfortable." This has always been seen as something that benefited the Left, and in the days when mostly the Left cared about these things that was probably true. Now the shoe is on the other foot. Read this passage from an op-ed by University of New Mexico President William Gordon, about Professor Richard Berthold's classroom remark that anyone who could blow up the Pentagon had his vote:
Is it reasonable for a faculty member to discuss such a tragedy in class or to examine the political questions surrounding those events? The answer is clearly"yes." Is it reasonable, on the other hand, for a faculty member in such a situation to say, "anyone who blows up the Pentagon would get my vote"? Does such a comment reflect respect for students and their feelings? Does it suggest that the faculty member is creating a supportive learning environment and acting as an intellectual guide and counselor? Does it indicate that the faculty member is exercising appropriate restraint in this circumstance? Many people, I feel, think that the answer to these questions is "no."
Personally, I don't think that students have the right to avoid offense, or feeling "uncomfortable" in class. They're there to learn. Learning is often fun, but it is also often uncomfortable.
But it will be difficult for the PC crowd, which has elevated student "feelings" to a level that trumps free speech, to suddenly do an about face and explain that they only meant that when people they disagreed with were speaking.
SLEEPER AGENTS IN THE U.S., along with muslim charities tied to terrorist groups (and simultaneously, sometimes, to the Saudi royal family) are discussed by James Ridgeway in the Village Voice. It's a lot better than most of the other articles in there.
LOCAL COLOR: A sympathetic account of the local muslim community from Knoxville's alternative weekly, Metro Pulse. The article is pretty good, and I imagine the scene is similar throughout a lot of American communities of the same size.
A TONED-DOWN TERRORISM BILL, now lamely named the "Patriot Act," is moving ahead. Bob Barr is happy with it now, but some other people still aren't. Here's the text of the latest draft I can find. This is such a moving target that it's hard to follow from outside the Beltway.
SPEAKING OF PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE: Maybe one reason the Taliban are acting scared is that some of the U.S. and British special-forces types who are reportedly running around inside Afghanistan are making them that way. I'd be interested to find out (and, no doubt, eventually we will) if some of these guys, besides just looking for Osama, are deliberately doing things to make the Taliban nervous, like ambushing motorcades in widely separated areas, destroying isolated outposts, picking up telephones and making scary calls from supposedly-secure areas, and so on. I hope so, as it would be a sign that we're on the ball.
JANET RENO can be sued over excessive force in the Elian Gonzalez raid, a federal court has ruled. ``A reasonable officer in Reno's position would know that the law forbade her from directing the execution of a warrant in a manner that called for unjustified force against bystanders,'' the court held. This probably won't help her election prospects, which seem poor in any event.
STEVEN SEAGAL, on a page run by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, informs us that "It became apparent to me that the lives of all sentient beings, from the smallest insect to the mightiest human, are equally precious. I started to learn a little bit about equanimity. Now anyone around me here knows, we don’t allow someone to kill a spider. We don’t allow someone to kill a fly. All life is equally precious." Presumably, Seagal will be making a large donation in memory of the cockroaches killed when the World Trade Center towers collapsed.
AN 81-YEAR OLD MAN FACES TWO YEARS IN JAIL IN CANADA for asking an airport security officer who was searching his wife's purse "are you looking for a bomb?"
Oh, yeah, that makes me feel so much safer. When stuff like this happens, it's not a sign that authorities are protecting us from terrorists. It's a sign that the terrorists have scored one.
I HAVE NEVER WATCHED "THE WEST WING": It conflicts with "Powerpuff Girls," which has more fans around my house. But I had doubts about its ability to survive the change of Administration. Judging by Josh Marshall's reaction to last night's "very special episode" on terrorism, however, its prospects just took another hit. The West Wing, as best as I can tell without ever having watched it, was a sort of wish-fulfillment show for liberal Democrats disappointed with Clinton: the Clinton Administration as it should have been, rather than in its tawdry reality. But even a Clinton-as-he-should-have-been-but-damn-well-wasn't just isn't the right President for these times. Americans don't want a President who feels their pain. They want a President who'll make people who don't like us feel our pain, and then some. I don't think that the West Wing can make that transition.
PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD ARE WATCHING the progress of the Antiterrorism Bill. As Andrea See puts it: "I say again, the rest of us have no hope if the US curtails its freedoms." People really do look to us on this stuff. That's too bad -- the US does pretty well, but we have trouble enough living up to our principles without the rest of the world depending on us as an example. But it does.
THE MORAL DUTIES OF PUNDITS: Jacob Weisberg has some interesting thoughts in Slate.
DROPPING THE BALL: Richard Cohen talks about how the press missed the terrorism story. He's right in part, but actually I think the problem was both over- and under-covered. Just as a smoke alarm that goes off every time you make toast winds up disconnected and useless, the alarms about terrorism were both too shriill and frequent, and too shallow. People tuned them out. Unfortunately, real reporting -- actually interviewing people, stringing together incidents and what they indicated about changing terrorist goals and methods -- wasn't part of the equation. We got quite a few breathless and spooky stories about anthrax, suitcase bombs, and so on -- all worth talking about to a degree, but not the real story. What we didn't get much of was serious journalism. But then, we didn't get much of that on any topic in the 1990s, did we?
MORE REPORTS OF DISINTEGRATION AMONG THE TALIBAN according to this story just posted in the New York Times:
Taliban's top Islamic clerics have left their headquarters in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar to escape the risk of American bombing, and other senior Taliban officials have fled to Pakistan or sent their families across the border as refugees, according to reliable accounts reaching Pakistan.
Other accounts depict gathering panic among the population and the disappearance from major cities of many Taliban soldiers and policemen, and raise the possibility of a mass defection by Taliban fighters.
These stories are fairly reliable, and I'd certainly like to believe them. The Taliban are certainly acting scared in other ways, attacking the 911 atrocities as "un-Islamic." If we can make them crumble without a fight, that will certainly throw a scare into other nations that may be harboring terrorists.
One thing that people forget about Afghanistan: yeah, they beat the Soviets. But their country was wrecked in the process and it has never recovered. And they're very aware of that. Plus, via mujahedin who fought on the Saudi side in the Gulf War, they have a pretty good idea of American military power. The Taliban couldn't touch Saddam Hussein, even if they had a common border. We crushed him. They understand that, and what it implies.
Of course, that's no reason for us to get cocky. But it suggests that Bush's "rope-a-dope" strategy isn't an accident, and that it's working. Whether it will do the job by itself I don't know, but the Taliban are in much worse shape now than they were three weeks ago, despite (or more likely because of) the fact that no shots have been fired yet. Even if we wind up sending in troops, they'll face a more frightened, less unified, less powerful foe because of the work of fear. This terror stuff goes both ways, you know.
This also suggests that if we do strike, it needs to start out very hard, disrupting the Taliban's already-crappy communications, killing a lot of their fighters, and making a frightening sound-and-light show. If we're too "surgical" and they decide they're not scared of us, all of this will have been for naught. This doesn't mean we have to saturate Kabul with fuel-air-explosives, but it does mean that we have to hit hard and maximize shock value right up front. No "gradual escalation."
TAX RELIEF PLANS RAISE A PROBLEM: Already the percentage of Americans who pay Income Tax is shrinking. If we cut payroll taxes, the percentage of voters who pay no federal tax at all will grow. In a democracy, it's important that rights and duties be more or less in line. Having people who don't pay taxes voting on taxes seems like a bad idea. One of two things is likely to result, long term, from that situation. Either taxpayers will revolt and demand that non-taxpayers have their franchise restricted, or non-taxpayers will irresponsibly raise taxes and kill the economy, as well as engendering substantial social unrest.
Another rebate seems like a better idea. It would put money in people's pockets now, and not pose these long term problems. Alice Rivlin made this argument yesterday, in a letter to the New York Times.
ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH? Here's Michael Barone's take on what went wrong over the last ten years.
HOW TO BE A TERRORIST: I just downloaded the Earth Liberation Front's handbook for arson, Setting Fires with Electrical Timers: An Earth Liberation Front Guide ("The objective of every action should be assured destruction."). No, I'm not posting the link. Now, I believe that even stuff like this is protected by the First Amendment, and I'm sure that Bin Laden's guys can learn how to burn down buildings on their own. But still, you'd think that the ELF would have a little more taste. Oh, forget it -- what am I thinking?
KORAN PSYOPS PROBLEMS: READER TOM MCKENDREE notices something I missed in the USA Today story on psychological warfare that I mentioned below. We plan to drop leaflets containing passages from the Koran. Here's his comment:
I shudder. Hopefully these people will know the rules accordign to Islam. I remember from an explanation years ago that the actual text from the Koran must not be treated with disrespect. (The example I remember was that someone couldn't just throw a newspaper in the trash, because it might include passages from the Koran. I don't remember what the fix was.) Dropping leaflets of passages of the Koran sounds like something that will look like prima facie disrespect to an awful lot of Muslims.
I sure hope our Psyops guys have thought of this.
READER CHUCK BLANCHARD, a former General Counsel to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, writes with two criticisms. The first is of my characterization of the Drug War as an abject failure. He makes some points, but I stand by my statement. Drugs are plentiful and cheap. Anyone who wants them can get them. That may not be a failure in law enforcement (though it seems to me that it is), but it's certainly a failure in a "war."
Blanchard makes another point with which I agree, though. One reason why the Drug War hasn't worked is that drug-smuggling is self-financing (and then some!). Blanchard notes:
Over the years, we have been remarkably successful finding and destroying major drug dealing organizations. Both the Cali and Medillin drug cartels have been destroyed. The problem has been that the economic incentive to enter this market almost guarantees that new organizations will develop. while we have still made progress in the overall supply of cocaine, this is a major problem with fighting drug supply (which is why it makes sense to focus on drug treatment to reduce drug demand that feeds the economics). I simply do not see a similar dynamic with major terrorist organizations. Simply put, there is no evidence that terrorist-wastages will "enter the market" once we take down major terrorist organizations. There is certainly little economic incentive, and the fact that we take down and destroy existing terrorist organizations might actually be a disincentive to forming new organizations.
This is true. Getting rid of a terrorist organization should be, in some ways at least, easier than getting rid of a drug cartel, and -- unlike the whack-a-mole game of stomping drug cartels, where new dealers immediately appear, drawn by the money available -- the supply of terrorists should be finite.
My suggestion: end the Drug War and put the resources that have gone into that into smashing terrorists.
NORAH VINCENT makes an important point: it looks too much like the war against terrorism may morph into something very like the drug war. That's bad, since the Drug War has been an expensive and near-complete failure. Vincent is right to say:
In addition, we should be making diplomatic and missionary efforts to bring this perversion of Islam back to true Islam.
We need to be waging a war of anti-terrorist propaganda here and abroad, in countries where children are being inculcated in the ways of religiously justified hate.
What she says. Check out her website
PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE is outlined in this USA Today article. The good news: the need to engage this enemy in a cultural/intellectual/ideological war is clearly recognized. The bad news: the article is more about the technology of delivering the message than about the message itself.
This may reflect the interests of reporters more than what the government is doing, and I hope it does. But a well-tuned message is key here. We need people who can do what amount to attack ads here: things that split groups within the anti-US population and set them against one another; things that undermine confidence in their ideals and leaders; things that convince them that defeat is certain and that things will be worse the longer they hold out.
The other problem is that -- based on the article -- the campaign is focused on Afghanistan. That's important, but the people we need to overcome are mostly in other places. Our campaign needs to be worldwide.
SPEAKING OF SEEING INTO SOULS: Everyone made fun of George W. Bush when he said that after meeting with Putin he had looked into his soul and felt that he was someone the West could work with. Now, as the Russians surge vigorously to our side, and as Putin seems to be turning Westward in general orientation, it seems that Bush was right.
Oh, Putin has his own reasons for signing up, as I've mentioned below many times. But then, none of our allies except Britain can really be called a foul-weather friend.
RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE UPDATE: An NPR monologue by Jane Armstrong airing at this very moment features an impassioned plea for shoppers to join the narrator in supporting the economy, who has burst forth an purchased furniture, clothing, and "toos for serious readers." Then it tapers off into something a bit incoherent about the need for leaders who can see into people's souls (hey waddya want -- we just had eight years of one who could feel people's pain!). Still the message is spreading.
FAKE HATE CRIMES UPDATE: I reported below that Arizona State University was the scene of the first reported fake anti-moslem/arab hate crime. I was wrong. Reader Bret Schlyer directs my attention to this earlier example from Long Island:
Zafar Iqbal Jat, 48, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, told Suffolk police his business, John's Gas and Grocery at 460 West Montauk Highway in Lindenhurst, was invaded by three masked, gun-toting white men at 1:15 a.m. yesterday.
He said the intruders abused him with anti-Arab slurs, then torched the place. But confronted by detectives with inconsistencies in his story, Jat, 48, confessed that he had set the fire himself.
Less than a week after September 11. Jeez.
JONAH GOLDBERG has an excellent answer to the oft-made argument that the September 11 attacks prove that we need big government. Goldberg notes that conservatives -- and most libertarians -- are perfectly happy with having the government take care of national defense, and suggests that if the government focused more energies on those jobs, and less on regulating toilet flush-size, it might do a better job:
There have been numerous reports, with more sure to come, that America's political leadership had ample warning about the dangers of terrorist attacks. It only makes sense that all of the stupid things the United States government — and particularly Congress — puts a high priority on, from the Northeast Dairy Compact to hate-crimes legislation to bilingual education, would distract our leadership from the core mission delineated in the U.S. constitution. . . .
The libertarians are right when they say that war fuels big government. But it doesn't have to be that way.
When soldiers go into battle, they carry only what they need, and jettison everything else. Wouldn't it be nice if the federal government did the same thing?
I think that's right. Mission creep, pork-barreling, and symbolic legislation are the friends of people who don't want government to do its core job, not the friends of people who do.
HATE CRIME HOAXES AND PENALTIES: An interesting argument in the OpinionJournal: that hate-crime hoaxes should be treated like hate crimes because, like real hate crimes, they terrorize a community.
SENDING THE RIGHT MESSAGE: This interview with Dave Kopel, which appeared in the Iranian newspaper Siasat Roos sets exactly the right tone. Maybe Kopel will be on the VOA next...?
JOSEPH ELLIS ALERT: Actually, it's not Joseph Ellis but Emory historian Michael Bellesiles, whose book Arming America received the Bancroft Prize from Columbia University, along with uncritical raves from the likes of Garry Wills and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Bellesiles' provocative thesis is that the Framers must not have meant to protect an individual right to own guns under the Second Amendment because private gun ownership was exceedingly rare at the time of the Framing, and stayed that way until after the Civil War.
This thesis was provocative, and also appears to be wrong. In fact, it appears to be worse than wrong. People who have checked Bellesiles' claims against the probate records that he says he consulted have found that he drastically understates the number of guns they show. (Bellesiles' data sets drawn from these records are unavailable; he says they were destroyed in a flood). At least one set of records that he says he relied on turn out to have been destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Various scholars have been criticizing Bellesiles' research for some time, but on September 11 the Boston Globe published a story revealing that it had investigated the claims against Bellesiles and found them to be true. (Sorry; it's not available on their site anymore, but you can get it on Westlaw or Nexis if you have access; here's an earlier Wall Street Journal piece, though.).
Now, the Globe reports, Emory University is demanding that Bellesiles, who has kept a very low profile, explain himself.
It's not just Bellesiles who needs to explain himself, though. Much of the media and academic establishment rushed to endorse his thesis even though many were pointing out at the time that it was unlikely to be true and flew in the face of much contrary evidence. The reason for this uncritical acceptance, of course, was that Bellesiles' thesis supported an anti-gun conclusion (indeed, he makes a villain out of the NRA). Thus (like Stephen Glass's fabrications for The New Republic or James Forman's "Monkeyfishing" article in Slate), his story fell into a category that journalists call "too good to check."
Meanwhile, extensive critiques of Bellesiles' work were available on the Internet months ago, though Bellesiles and his defenders dismissed these with a sniff. The Internet, however, appears to be harder to fool than the New York Times Book Review -- at least when the writer is Garry ("Bellesiles deflates the myth of the self-reliant and self-armed virtuous yeoman of the Revolutionary militias") Wills.
I'm not a historian, and I haven't reviewed these documents myself, though I've had extensive email correspondence with people who are and who have. It looks like the best outcome for Bellesiles will be a finding of unforgivable sloppiness. The worst will be a finding of deliberate fraud.
It should go without saying that the second of these -- and maybe the first -- is worse than anything the much-maligned Joseph Ellis did. Ellis just told some tall tales in the classroom; no one has questioned the integrity of his work. With Bellesiles, on the other hand, it's difficult to imagine that anything he writes will have a lot of credibility, regardless of whether he turns out to be guilty of fraud or merely ineptitude.
THE FTC IS ABANDONING its call for new online privacy legislation. Instead it will focus on enforcing existing rules. Frankly, this doesn't matter. The FTC is (by design) miserably ineffective at enforcement anyway. On the rare occasions when it does anything (like its efforts to crack down on the used-car and funeral-home industries, both industries in which fraud is a major economic component) Congress steps in and stops it. (There are funeral homes and used-car dealers in every district, and they're all well-connected politically). You want enforcement, create a private right of action, with attorneys' fees. The trial lawyers will take care of the rest. Oh boy, will they.
MORE ON MUSLIM CLERICS: SmarterTimes reports on the difference between the New York Times' "fawning" treatment of American Muslim clerics with some of those clerics' statements within their own communities. Keep that spotlight shining.
AMERICAN MUSLIM CLERICS have been speaking with forked tongues, according to this article in the Washington Post. While saying that the terror attacks are perversions of Islam in public, they have been (mostly prior to September 11) calling down the "wrath of God" on the United States. NOTE TO MUSLIM CLERICS: You need to get with the program, and start actively supporting the United States in the Muslim community. And you need to isolate and neutralize the extremists who are targeting the United States and the West for ever-increasing acts of terror. The alternative is "wrath of God," all right. But maybe not the way you've had in mind.
PAGE LOADING SLOWLY? Some people are reporting that problem and I've noticed it myself. I don't think it's the redesign, since (1) I can't figure out what could cause that; and (2) I've noticed that some other blogs on the same hosting site are having the same problem. It seems to have started with the hardware "upgrade" a few days ago. I'll see what I can find out.
YESTERDAY'S TRAFFIC was a new record, at almost 6000. Cool.
READER ROBERT RACANSKY NOTES: "3 dogs were burned alive in Afghanistan by the Taliban. After two days, there is still no mention of this on PETA's web site." He goes on to point out that "It's not that the burning of dogs does not go unnoticed by PETA. One ofthe earlier action alerts urges readers to "Join the Fight for Dog Burned Alive" in Alabama last year, and asks readers to write to the district attorney in that jurisdiction [http://www.peta.org/alert/automation/AlertItem.asp?id=241]."
ANN COULTER HAS BEEN HIRED BY FRONT PAGE MAGAZINE. I think she'll fit in just fine there.
THE MORE I THINK ABOUT IT, the more I think that Afghanistan is a sideshow and distraction. I think it's a good idea to topple the Taliban (which does not require sending lots of troops and occupying the country), just as a signal to others about what happens when you harbor terrorists. But the Taliban were facilitators, they weren't the instigators unless I miss my guess. (Although interestingly September 11 marks the date of the Soviet coup there way back when).
As I said a couple of weeks ago, we could conquer Afghanistan and hold it, the vaunted Afghan warriors notwithstanding. But it wouldn't be cheap, and I'm not sure what we get out of it. Bin Laden's involvement is most likely as a facilitator and as a front and distraction for others. The next question is whether the U.S. government thinks that.
My own feeling is that they do. We now have four Marine battalions deployed, and while they could be used in Afghanistan, that's not really their role. Also, it has already snowed there, and the weather will soon turn really crappy. So the deployment of a massive military force to Afghanistan looks unlikely before Spring. That makes me wonder why it's there. Two possibilities: we rushed troops there as fast as we could, even though we had no idea what we were going to do with them, or we've sent troops there, and we're talking a lot about Osama and Afghanistan while the real target is elsewhere. Saddam? That's the safest bet, but it could be Iran, or a few other possibilities I'd rather not even mention.
But all this talk about Afghanistan and Osama seems a bit too obvious, like a distraction. Am I right? We'll know pretty soon, I expect.
MISSED WARNINGS: "In 1994, two jetliners were hijacked by people who wanted to crash them into buildings, one of them by an Islamic militant group. And the 2000 edition of the F.A.A.'s annual report on Criminal Acts Against Aviation, published this year, said that although Osama bin Laden "is not known to have attacked civil aviation, he has both the motivation and the wherewithal to do so," adding, "Bin Laden's anti-Western and anti-American attitudes make him and his followers a significant threat to civil aviation, particularly to U.S. civil aviation." This is from a New York Times article on missed warnings.
The problem here is typical bureaucratic complacency. I'd be willing to bet that in several organizations there were people who thought of this, and worried about it, but weren't able to get anyone to listen.
The problem is that in war, the side that learns the fastest and changes its tactics most swiftly usually wins. The aviation security system stopped a lot of terrorists, but it didn't change its tactics in response. The terrorists did.
NEW TRAFFIC RECORD: Just passed the record of September 13 -- and since the counter is on Pacific time, there are over three hours to go. Thanks for spending some time here, reading my thoughts, or at least my views.
A "CULTURAL REVOLUTION" AT THE CIA AND FBI? That's the term a House panel is using for the changes it thinks are needed, and it's backed up by the Seymour Hersh article I note below, along with quite a few others. Firing people may cause problems -- but not firing people will cause more, by signalling to the staff that we're not serious about fixing things.
REMIND ME AGAIN why we belong to NATO:
Lord Robertson, after saying that the US evidence proved Bin Laden was behind the attacks, formally invoked Nato's Article Five, which treats an attack on one member as an attack on all.
But the BBC's defence correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, says that while Nato members are now obliged to give any assistance the US requests, in practice there will be no Nato military response.
PRESSURE FOR ACTION: I expect to see something soon, but I also think it will ultimately go beyond Afghanistan. The perpetrators want all signs to point to Osama, and maybe that's because he did it and wants to brag -- but if not it would be in keeping with Bush's style to play dumb while laying the foundation for something bigger. But the pressure to do something is starting to build. Dick Morris says that Bush should beware of wimping out the way his father did with Saddam Hussein. Other writers are warning that American unity could shatter into recriminations if Bush doesn't do something soon.
The American people seem to me to be pretty patient about all this -- certainly moreso than the always excitable commentariat. But there is no doubt that it will be hard to sustain a sense of urgency through a lengthy "phony war." I expect that we'll see something soon, but I'm willing to wait, so long as I'm waiting for something to be done right, not waiting because someone is wimping out. I think a lot of other people feel the same.
LOCAL COLOR: Since September 11, every local business sign that could has said something like "God Bless America," "Let Freedom Ring," or "We Will Prevail." Today I saw the first sign of a return to normal: "Go Vols, Beat Georgia."
Of course, it won't be entirely normal. A local group is raising money to buy a new fire engine to replace one of the engines lost in New York. They'll be taking donations at the UT/Georgia game on Saturday.
INTERESTING ITEM from Jim Dunnigan's site: "Radical Egyptian newspapers continue to print that the Arab men identified as hijackers were kidnapped and murdered by Israeli Mossad agents, who masqueraded as them and conducted the attack in concert with the CIA." In a perverse sort of way, this is a good sign. These papers are aimed at locals, not the West. Blaming this on the Mossad indicates -- and signals to their Egyptian readers -- that this isn't something to be proud of.
The second part of that is true even if this blame-shifting is really aimed at the United States. The readers still read it, and take the message.
BRITAIN NIXES NATIONAL ID CARDS: According to this story the idea has been done in out of fears of police abuse. Apparently, the IDs were gotten rid of a few years after World War II because they were so unpopular. A reader from Britain adds that this decision was powerfully influenced by British expats living in New York: "The news last week was that ID cards were almost a cert, but a friend of mine who works for the Labour party says that the intervention of the ex-pats in the New York Branch of the Party swayed the decision the other way. He said that such is the moral standing of NYC now that they considered that introducing them in such circumstances would be suicide." This is fascinating. Another example -- along with the bankruptcy of SwissAir, which I never would have believed possible a few years ago -- of the worldwide impact of September 11.
IDIOCY WATCH: That's the name of The New Republic's just-inaugurated feature on idiotic things people have said since September 11. InstaPundit readers will recognize most of them, but it's instructive -- in a pathetic sort of way -- to see them all in one place.
A DEPRESSING QUOTE from a CIA veteran in Seymour Hersh's piece in the New Yorker:
"You wouldn't believe how bad it is. What saved the White House on Flight 93"—the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania—"was a bunch of rugby players. Is that what you're paying thirty billion dollars for?" He was referring to the federal budget for intelligence.
The rest of the article is depressing, too.
A WORRISOME ITEM: I heard on the radio earlier today that a DEA fumigation airplane used to spray defoliant as part of the drug war has gone missing. I can't find anything about this one the web. I hope that means that the plane has turned up.
UPDATE: No sooner did I post this than I thought to look in the obscure AP "Caribbean News Briefs" section, and sure enough, the story was there. Sounds more like an accident -- it was a single-engine plane with only a pilot on board -- assuming that (1) this is true; and (2) we trust the pilot. Most likely nothing to be alarmed about, but still a bit worrisome.
SMALL WORLD: I'm reading Larry Lessig's forthcoming book, The Future of Ideas, which I'll be reviewing later in the month. I'm amazed at how many people I know are mentioned in it -- in the space of five minutes I just came across references to Stuart Buck and Alex Lightman. A small world indeed.
ANTI-MUSLIM HATE CRIME HOAX: Andrew Sullivan points up this report of a faked hate attack on an Arizona State junior named Ahmad Saad Nasim. Not the first hate crime hoax, just the first one of these. This will, of course, just ensure that even truthful reports of this sort are viewed skeptically.
ANN COULTER has inspired a lot of email. (And I mean a lot). Many writers made the point that she's not being censored -- that it's NRO's choice what to put on its site, and that if she wants, she can start her own (like, say, this one). That's absolutely right. But, of course, NRO is just as open to criticism for its editorial judgments as Coulter is for her statements. And that criticism isn't censorship either, anymore than criticizing anti-war protesters is state repression.
My point, of course, was that the Coulter case is amazingly like the Bill Maher case. In both cases, advertisers and viewers/readers complained. In neither case was it censorship. But, somehow, in all the talk about America's "lockstep toward war," people are ignoring the fact that Coulter is being held responsible for her inflammatory comments just as (actually more than) Bill Maher.
In this I actually agree with the much-maligned Ari Fleischer. These are troubled times, and people should watch what they say, and what they do. The kinds of remarks that were just outrageous-cute schtick a few weeks ago come across much differently now. People are still free to make them, of course. They just have to realize that they may not be received the same way, and that there may be consequences to saying things that a lot of people think are crude or inflammatory.
ANDREW FERGUSON notes the way in which conservatives have become civil liberties fans. It was Bob Barr and the NRA, as much as Pat Leahy and the ACLU, that slowed the rush to enact antiterrorism measures without thought and debate.
Of course, some big-government conservatives are seizing on war fever as an opportunity to promote new programs. As Ferguson notes:
Both philosophically and practically, the big-government Republicans have had the upper hand in recent years, at least since the dismal defeat of the Gingrich revolution in the mid- 1990s. Among their reforms have been marvels of governmental activism that earlier generations of Republicans would have deemed unthinkable, such as the national drunk-driving standard imposed on the 50 states by the last Congress.
The terrorist crisis now offers the enthusiasts for federal power a unique opportunity to advance their cause. Several of Ashcroft's proposals, for example, are older, off-the-shelf ideas that Congress earlier rejected when they were packaged as tactics in the drug war.
Conservatives like Barr, and conservative groups like the NRA and ATR have clout on these issues that liberal groups lack, and can support civil liberties without seeming squishy. (Ironically, decades of liberal demonization of the NRA has only helped in that regard). The cooperation between the right wing groups (the Gun Owners of America are another) and more traditional civil liberties groups like the ACLU isn't as new as Ferguson makes it sound, though -- it goes back to the lousy 1996 "antiterrorism" bill, which was also a bunch of dusted-off wishlist proposals. (Mark Steyn is right to point out
that too much of this stuff will undercut support for the antiterrorism campaign among Bush's core constituency, who are mostly small-government types).
Interestingly, NRA and GOA have moved much further toward becoming general-purpose civil liberties organizations than general-interest civil liberties organizations like the ACLU have moved in the direction of supporting gun rights. I wonder if that will change.
THE LINDA GREENHOUSE "DEATH OF FEDERALISM" STORY that I mentioned on Sunday has come in for quite a bit of discussion on an email list for Constitutional Law professors that I subscribe to. Interestingly, although the majority of people on that list probably (well, almost certainly, really) oppose the Supreme Court's recent federalism decisions, most also disagree with the thrust of the story, which is that the war against terrorism will mark the end of those cases. Several even felt that the people who rushed to take that position were being a bit unseemly.
It's worth mentioning this because -- though God knows there are plenty of PC fools out there who make everyone look bad -- the flag-burning, 1960s-nostalgic profs are in fact in the minority. They're in the minority even among left-leaning academics. I guess that, like moderate Muslims and Arabs, the rest of us need to step forward and make our voices heard, so that people don't think that the yahoos speak for all of us.
RICHARD COHEN SAYS WE SHOULDN'T REFIGHT THE VIETNAM WAR: What he means by this is that conservatives shouldn't be criticizing people like Bill Maher. To me, however, it seems like it's the peace movement that's trying to recycle the Vietnam War script, with derivative slogans like "One-Two-Three-Four, we won't support your racist war." (I don't know where the "racist" part comes from, except perhaps some PC assumption that anything one disapproves of must be racist, somehow).
At any rate, as the Ann Coulter item below demonstrates, it's not just people on the Left who are getting in trouble for their intemperate remarks. But I guarantee that it's the people on the Left we'll be hearing about. That's a legacy of Vietnam, too.
UPDATE: For a nice take on the sixties-rerun angle see the Letter to the Editor by Russell Timmons in today's Washington Post
CENSORSHIP UPDATE: Ann Coulter has been fired from the National Review Online for her offensive remarks (like Maher's her remarks created complaints from sponsors). Will the defenders of free speech who have been sticking up for Bill Maher and various "bombing the Pentagon is OK" faculty members come to her defense?
I've been pretty damn critical of Coulter's comments, too. But if you're in favor of people having the right to say things that some people may find offensive, then you have to be in favor of that all the time. Otherwise you're not for free speech -- you're just for views you agree with.
True, losing your columnist slot at a webzine isn't censorship -- but then neither is losing your slot on "Politically Incorrect." So far though, despite efforts by some "peace movement" types to claim there's a McCarthyite wave (see Guillermo's column, discussed below), Ann Coulter has paid the biggest price for speech -- for being too hawkish, not for being too much of a peacenik. This is going to undermine their self-perception as martyrs. Unless they just ignore it.
NEAL BOORTZ DEFENDS BILL MAHER:
I’ve appeared on Politically Incorrect once. Didn’t get the return invite. Maybe I didn’t pay enough homage to Bill Maher. Anyway --- I saw that bit where he said that lobbing cruise missiles from 2000 Miles was cowardly. Come on, folks – there is some basis for that remark when you consider who ordered the launch – none othe rthan Bill Clinton!
At any rate ---- what happened to freedom of speech? So, Maher said something you don’t like. He said something that offended you. Have you checked the name of the show lately?
No – I don’t like what he said. No, I don’t think he’s a libertarian. He’s a leftist – pure and simple. But it was his opinion and he’s entitled to it. Take him off the air? Only if people stop watching. The ratings should be the deciding factor.
Good for Neal, who says it well. Since when do people have a right not to be offended? (Oh, since about 1985, apparently.) Question: How many liberals would be defending Bill Maher if he were a libertarian?
BEING FOR PEACE ISN'T JUST ABOUT DAMNING "hawkish male Viagra poppers," columnist Emil Guillermo writes in the SF Gate. It's also about affirming a kind of patriotism that doesn't require any actual, unpleasant action:
I am a vegetarian pacifist, a person of color, who's been known to wave a flag and root for more peaceful warriors, such as the US women's soccer team. I am a patriot.
Guillermo says he's not against responding to the attacks, he just wants the response to be "humane." However, he doesn't say what an appropriate "humane" response to the murder of thousands would be, he just drifts off into a discussion of how traumatic it is to be an antiwar protester and have people protesting back.
This column is typical of what I'm reading from the peace movement. It's long on narcissism (who cares whether Guillermo is a vegetarian?) and moralism, and short on any actual proposals. I think that's because the peace movement people know how dumb and (in the words of one peace protester, "wimpy") their proposals would be. Write the Taliban? Rooting twice as hard for the women's soccer team?
POVERTY AND TERRORISM: According to this article by Emily Yoffe, the relation is inverse. Terrorism isn't caused by poverty -- rather, the biographies of the terrorists suggest, it is cause by affluence. This makes sense: the Weather Underground was a bunch of spoiled rich kids rather like what we know about Mohammed Atta. If it had had access to the training and money that the Islamists have, it might have done as much damage.
Perhaps we should understand terrorism as a way for spoiled rich kids to feel important without the necessity of competing seriously with other spoiled rich kids.
A NARROWER VERSION OF THE "ANTITERRORISM" BILL may move forward, The New York Times reports. Some of the changes are positive -- in fact, most are. But DoJ gave up a lot of ground in terms of things it can do about foreigners in the United States, while giving up less in the way of wiretap and Internet surveillance. That seems odd to me.
The definition of computer crime appears to have been narrowed, to keep garden-variety hacking from being considered a "terrorist act." That's good.
Of course, it would be nice to see a fully marked-up version of the bill, and spend a couple of weeks talking about it, before anything is enacted. I doubt we'll get that, though I could be pleasantly surprised.
CHANGING ATTITUDES: I've suggested that attitudes toward gun control seem to have changed since September 11, especially among women, and this article from the Washington Post seems to support that being the case. It reports a boom in gun sales to people who've never owned a gun before.
"Most of the rush has been new buyers who've never owned before and always thought it was safe living in an area like this," said Ernie Lyles, who has owned Gilbert's Small Arms in Fairfax County for 17 years.
One such customer was Tara Stanford, a 29-year-old Web developer and mother of a 4-year-old son, who'd never fired a gun until last week.
"I've always been against unreasonable things like automatic Uzis," Stanford said. But the attacks -- and a recent attempt to break into her first-floor apartment -- accelerated her decision to purchase a handgun.
"You don't know what's next, so you have to plan ahead," said Stanford, who lives in Falls Church. "It's not to be taken lightly, but when you weigh that against keeping your family safe, you have to," she said.
Fredrik Norman reports a similar story
by ABC. This is naturally opposed by gun-control people, but their objections seem rather hollow. At any rate, things that make people feel safer have a value of their own, I suppose, when you're confronting terrorism. More significantly, I think this shows a move away from the "culture of passivity," which is a good thing in itself.
OUR FRIENDS THE SAUDIS: Josh Marshall observes that Saudi half-heartedness and duplicity is catching up with them:
Much has been made of the Saudis' balking over allowing us use of one of their key military bases. But the depth of non-cooperation and estrangement between the US and the Saudis, and their recent history of sufferance of, or passive cooperation with, bin Laden has far-reaching consequences. The Saudis are the ones with the big oil supply (with very elasticproduction). They are the ones who host our primary military presence in the Gulf. They are both bin Laden's enemies and his accomplices. Once the dust settles here there are going to be some serious 'whose side are you on' type questions to be asked.
What the Saudis haven't caught on to is that this war means the United States is necessarily going back into Cold War mode in many ways. That likely includes a willingness to topple regimes viewed as dangerous in favor of more friendly ones. (The United States considered doing this in Saudi Arabia in 1974 and '75). As weak and unpopular as the Saudi royal house is, both within Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East, they are in a very dangerous position unless they demonstrate their loyalty in satisfactory ways.
RACIAL PROFILING: The Governor of a Phillipine province has ordered the arrest of all "Arab-looking" people. Ann Coulter's influence reaches farther than I had realized.
BELLICOSE WOMEN: Reader Eric Bainter writes in with more support for my notion that women, beyond the Beltway at least, are a lot more bellicose than they were three weeks ago:
I am a military guy whose hobby is horse back riding. I take lessons from a very pleasant, exceptionally kind/gentle 62 year old woman who always does her best to encourage people and say nice things no matter how big a jerk somebody is being, etc, etc. The first time I saw her after the 911 attack, the first thing she said to me was, " I wish I could join the military and get a gun and kill somebody".
ADVANTAGE: INSTAPUNDIT -- Compare this passage by Mark Steyn:
The alleged "anti-terrorist legislation" that various opportunists in Congress want to push through will do little about terrorism, but their restrictions and intrusions will sorely test the loyalty of the pro-war faction. The attorney-general, John Ashcroft, justifies it as follows: "There is absolutely no guarantee that these safeguards would have avoided the September 11 occurence," he said. "We do know that, without them, the occurrence took place."
At the New York Times it probably makes perfect sense. But at the lunch counter they thought it was a hoot. "Congress should pass a law making Ashcroft walk around with his wiener hanging out," said one of the guys. "There is absolutely no guarantee that this measure would have avoided the September 11 occurrence. We do know that, without it, the occurrence took place."
With this from InstaPundit:
A LEAP IN LOGIC: This is John Ashcroft on the need for "antiterrorism" legislation:
"There is absolutely no guarantee that these safeguards would have avoided the Sept. 11 occurrence," Mr. Ashcroft replied. "We do know that without them, the occurrence took place."
I propose that the Attorney General of the United States be required to wear a propeller beanie while in the discharge of his official duties. There's no guarantee that this would have prevented the Sept. 11 occurrence, but we do know that, without it, the occurrence took place.
- Glenn Reynolds, 9/24/2001 11:16:02 PM
Great minds, obviously, think alike.
SOME INTERESTING THOUGHTS ON AFGHANISTAN from Jim Dunnigan.
THE BULLMOOSE says that we're having a National Greatness Moment. I think that's something kind of like a "Senior Moment." No, really.
The argument is that there's suddenly a lot of trust in government, which Bush and others can capitalize on now to adopt a more "muscular" approach, which he calls "'big government' conservatism." Well, maybe. But key to this argument is forgetfulness, which is the "Senior Moment" part.
In arguing for "capitalizing" on this moment, the Bullmoose and those on the left and right who want to seize this moment to enact their programs are forgetting something very important, which is how Americans came to distrust government over the past several decades. Today's newfound trust (which I suspect boils down to a belief that government officials are doing their best to catch and stop terrorists, and probably doesn't extend to, say, a belief that suddenly they're not taking money from lobbyists) is a very contingent thing. The old distrust was built on the notion that the folks in Washington would seize on any excuse to enact their own programs, raise taxes, pork-barrel their friends, and run roughshod over our liberties, despite the rhetoric of sacrifice and national greatness. Hmmm.
At best, this sudden "trust" is a chance to push the reset button on American politics and start from square one. But the trust requires equally trustworthy actions to keep it alive. Otherwise we'll wind up with less trust than we had before September 11, as people feel that their patriotism was abused by special interests. So let's have less talk -- and less thought, even, if that's possible -- of how to take advantage of the public's newfound trust. Otherwise that trust will be short-lived. And you can't win a war, or build "national greatness," that way.
LIBERTARIAN LARRY SECHREST argues for a privateering approach to Osama bin Laden. Actually, as he admits, a better analogue would be modern bounty hunters (they prefer to be called "bail recovery agents").
There's some genuine appeal to the idea of responding to the disseminated, unofficial approach of terrorists with something that looks very much like it. I want to be convinced by this notion, but so far I'm not. There are several issues here.
First, the terrorists strike at core areas that make privatizing the response difficult. It's one thing to send bounty hunters after people who jump bail. It's another to send them after people who blow up the Pentagon.
Second, it's not clear who would take the job. If we limit it to American citizens, then there really aren't many who are qualified to go sneaking through the mountains of Afghanistan or the alleyways of Damascus -- and those who are mostly work for the government already. If we hire non-Americans, well, it's not like the government doesn't do that already. (One crucial exception: letting people go after terrorists' money, and keep a large share -- say half -- of what they find. They'd have to prove the money was dirty in a prize court, like privateers did, but that should be workable. We have lots of excellent forensic accountants and computer hackers who might relish this work. This approach, though not mentioned by Sechrest, has some merit, I think.)
Third, if these guys overstep or kill innocents, the U.S. is most likely going to get the blame, regardless of how they operate. (This was true with privateers, too; the flag state was responsible for their conduct).
There may be a case for letters of marque and reprisal in some cases -- and I did some research that appears to show that the U.S. never signed the Declaration of Paris, which outlawed privateering in the 19th Century. But I don't see how it will help us out of our current fix.
MORE PRESS: InstaPundit is also featured -- well, er, mentioned, anyway -- in Investor's Business Daily today: just a small "Internet & Technology" item on p. A5. Gee, just two or three years ago this publicity would have had me halfway to an IPO. How things change. . . .
WOOHOO! InstaPundit is on Mezine Central at Slate. I feel I have arrived.
JOHN LEO HAS AN INTERESTING column on campus reactions to the war. I should say that my campus hasn't been like this -- but I'm getting plenty of email from folks at other campuses where Leo's portrayal rings true, or even seems mild.
BADGER HERALD UPDATE: Joseph Britt writes:
I think you may be being a little hard on the Badger Herald. The BH is the more conservative of the two major student run newspapers at UW (the other one is the Cardinal). Earlier this year the BH was involved in a major controversy because it refused to withdraw the famous David Horowitz ad about reparations for slavery; it was the target of a sit-in by the usual suspects, and also had some of its press run stolen. So its editors probably feel under some constraint not to refuse publication to people with controversial views. I would have spiked the Goldstein letter myself, but an error in judgment by a student newspaper is no more than that.
He's right, of course. In fact, one of my colleagues, who used to be at Wisconsin, made the same point to me this afternoon. All Badger-Herald
references should be understood as referring to UW Senior Adam Goldstein, who wrote the letter in question. The paper is to be congratulated, or at least not condemned, for running Goldstein's dumb letter.
BANNER UPDATE: Reader Tim Hartin reports:
I attended the season opener for the Madison (WI) Symphony Orchestra a week ago, and would have bet my last dollar that we would start things off with America the Beautiful. Instead, much to my surprise, the orchestra played (and we sang) The Star Spangled Banner. Believe me, the MSO does not usually start its concerts this way, and in Madison, Wisconsin, a town that often seems to pride itself on its anti-American rhetoric. Of course, the MSO crowd had quite a few more conservative types in attendance (I was pleased to debut my new tux), but there was a good-sized delegation from academia as well.
I wonder how it was reviewed in the Wisconsin Badger-Herald
SCOTT NORVELL REPORTS that the Minuteman mural at Jefferson Middle School in Fort Wayne, Indiana has had its musket painted over because the principal, Michael Morris says guns don't belong in school. Even painted ones, apparently. His comment: " this sends a stronger, better message about patriotism. Everyone loves it."
I rather doubt that. The message that this sends is that our schools have been entrusted to people who don't understand, or respect, our history and prefer to live in a dreamworld in which denying violence somehow equates to preventing violence. I hope that Fort Wayne will find employment for Mr. Morris that is more attuned to his level of judgment.
BANNER UPDATE: WRITING IN SLATE, Alfred Gingold has some observations on why the Banner isn't getting much attention.
TUNAGE FOR TERRORISTS: This story from The New York Times talks about how terrorism has affected requests for music:
At the rock station WLZR (103.0 FM) in Milwaukee, young men are asking to hear Pearl Jam's version of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," Metallica's "Don't Tread on Me" and Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff."
"People call and say, `Send that one out to Osama bin Laden,' " said Marilynn Mee, the program director of WLZR. "We tell them, `Bin Laden's not going to hear this,' and they say, `Send it out anyway.' "
Hmm. How about BT's "Smart Bomb
THE COUNTER WORKS AGAIN: And we're now at 101,680. I guess I should've popped the champagne a few hours ago. Oh, well. Thanks number 100,000 -- whoever, and whenever, you were.
FROM EVELYNNE'S LIVE JOURNAL: Reasons why she loves this country. Should be corny, but it's not.
SMALLPOX: Reader Bill Keck wonders where the terrorists would get smallpox virus, given that he saw reports a few years ago about how the only surviving smallpox virus was at the CDC and one Russian lab. The answer is, those reports were wrong. They left out the massive quantities of biowar smallpox in various clandestine Soviet military labs. That smallpox is still around, too, and there are reports that some of it is in the hands of terrorists. (I can't vouch for those reports' validity). A good book on this is Ed Regis's The Biology of Doom.
HOW DID THE GUN FORUM GO? There must be, well, several InstaPundit readers wondering. Actually, it was interesting. As I mentioned, this was a rerun -- they did "First Monday" on guns last year too. Last year the crowd here was more pro-gun than at most law schools (this is Tennessee after all): probably about 1/3 pro-gun and 2/3 antigun. This year the proportions were, at least, reversed. This could be purely random, or it could represent a sea change in attitudes about violence and guns. I'm betting on the latter: avoiding harm by being harmless doesn't look like much of an option anymore.
NOTE TO ENCRYPTION BASHERS: According to USA Today, the hijackers sent their emails in the clear with no encryption. Anyone want to apologize to Phil Zimmerman?
THE MISSING 100,000TH VISITOR: Bravenet, which runs my counter, is down with SQL server problems. I don't know if they're still counting or not, but if they are I can't access the results. Dang, and I was going to give the 100,000th person a special gift of free access to InstaPundit! Uh, wait a minute. . . .
IT'S ALL ISRAEL'S FAULT: Just ask ex-Klansman David Duke. Heck, don't ask him and he'll tell you anyway:
America is seen as a terrorist nation for having supported the Israeli ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians from their land and homes and the stripping them of their most basic human rights, even depriving them of the right to live where they were born!
America is accused of supporting terrorism for backing Israel, even America is aware that Israel tortures 500 to 600 Palestinians in its jails each month. . . .
May God keep and protect you Mr. President. And may he also give America and all the American people his shining protection. . . .
In whatever course of action you take, I urge you to defy the power of the Zionist lobby which serves the interests of a foreign nation, and put first the safety and interests of the American people.
Hey, maybe Duke can get a regular gig writing for the Wisconsin Badger-Herald
BILL CLINTON (new slogan: "Ethical enough to be President, but not ethical enough to represent you in a slip-and-fall at Walmart") has been disbarred from practice before the United States Supreme Court. This is no surprise, and is probably an automatic followup to the five-year suspension of his law license in Arkansas, but it seems to be making some talk-radio folks very happy.
SOMETIME LATER TODAY Instapundit will have its 100,000th visitor (or, more accurately, the visitor who makes the 100,000th visit). I may not be around to note this event as it happens -- I actually have other things to do besides sit and watch the counter, hitting "refresh" every few minutes.
What I'll be doing in about an hour is participating in a law school First Monday panel. "First Monday" is a yearly program sponsored by the Alliance for Justice, a lefty public-interest law outfit. This year -- for an unprecedented second year in a row -- the topic is "gun violence," which in some unstated way is worse than other kinds of violence, apparently. Here, at least, the presentation is balanced (though the video that was sent out by AFJ is blatant propaganda of the most embarrassing sort) and I'll be talking about product-liability suits against gun manufacturers. These suits have been abject failures -- and deservedly so -- even in gun-control-friendly states like California and New York.
Funny, but these guys aren't worried about "airplane violence," and aren't proposing lawsuits against Boeing. Having elected George W. Bush president (see below) I'd think that the gun-control crowd would be keeping a low profile these days. But culture-warriors on the left, like those on the right, don't really care so much about that sort of thing.
AMERICANS: not as ignorant about war as some commentators think. This is a piece that Dave Kopel and I coauthored. At the very least, those "wasted" hours of my youth have produced a column. I think the geek/nongeek split here is quite significant, too, and shows in attitudes: both the most bellicose, and the most timid, tend to come from the nongeek ranks. That may be, in part, from the leavening influence of wargaming and the knowledge it imparts. Excerpt:
So here's the funny thing. While the official American culture around, say, 1977, was revolted by anything military, a bunch of the nation's smartest young males — the "leaders of tomorrow" — were reading Panzer Leader and Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart's Strategy, and of course Sun Tzu's Art of War — which wargamers were reading long before it became a business-school cliché.
This was no accident. Many of those who founded the wargame publishing business feared that, with the anti-militarism caused by the Vietnam, and (later) with the adoption of the all-volunteer army, American society would become estranged from all things military, leaving ordinary citizens too ignorant to make meaningful democratic judgments where war is concerned. They hoped that realistic simulation games would teach important principles.
Our claims here are modest: playing wargames won't, by itself, turn anyone into a Hannibal, or even a Montgomery. But anyone who wargames for long will know more than most journalists who report on military matters, and most politicians who vote on them.
READER SEAN KINSELL writes from Japan to point out what he calls an opportunistic use of the September 11 violence on the same Wisconsin Badger Herald page I mention below. (Writing from Japan to point out an article in the Wisconsin student paper -- I love the Internet!). I guess the writer is stretching a bit for an opportunity to boost the Rape Crisis Center.
But I would recommend the Kingsley Browne approach to this problem, too.
KINGSLEY BROWNE has an oped suggesting that passengers be encouraged officially to resist hijackers. His thought is that many would -- and that the mere knowledge that passengers are being encouraged to resist, rather than acquiesce, would deter terrorists and criminals.
Nice idea. Perhaps we should extend it beyond the air-travel scenario.
START INNOCULATIONS AGAINST SMALLPOX NOW: That's what this oped in the Los Angeles Times argues. I'm not sure when they stopped, but a few years ago I started noticing the absence of the ubiquitous upper-arm vaccination scar on undergraduates. (Nowadays it would be harder to tell, since the location is frequently covered by tattoos). A revived smallpox vaccination program would thus have the advantage of making everyone born before, say, 1978 feel younger.
Seriously, smallpox is far more fearsome than anthrax, which gets most of the attention. And apparently my last vaccination (in 1969, before returning home from Germany) won't cut it anymore. The smallpox vaccine is inexpensive, and its safety has been established by millions (heck, hundreds of millions) of uses. And if it deters terrorists from releasing smallpox, it will do the world a big favor.
Anyone who releases that scourge back onto humanity after its difficult eradication by WHO should be tortured to death over a period of years, while medical students take notes and offer suggestions.
INSTAPUNDIT IS quoted today in the Washington Times, about the effect of guns on Tennessee elections. Hmm. All this fame is nice, but once again I've missed out on the "fortune" part.
ANTI-CYBERTERRORISM TECHNIQUE: "Ban Outlook Now!" Boy, this guy is onto something. I used Outlook a long time ago. It had some nice features, but I stopped. It's basically the equivalent of walking down the street and randomly injecting yourself with strangers' blood. NIMDA is bringing all sorts of Outlook-using outfits to their knees, and they're spreading it to others. I get various Outlook-transmitted viral emails all the time (often from people I've never heard of -- why am I in their address books?). Banning it now would do more to cut down on cyberattacks than anything else. There are lots of alternatives, and this ban wouldn't restrict anyone's freedom the way so many antiterrorism proposals would. Microsoft might complain, but honestly they're lucky not to be sued six ways from Tuesday over Outlook's problems. (I first noticed the link to this item on Andrea See's page).
I RECEIVED A LETTER yesterday from a reader who is a graduate student at a major university. He just wanted to note that the anti-American attitudes in his department are every bit as virulent as the right-wingers say. I'm not going to use his name, since graduate students are among the oppressed of the earth, subject to the whims of almost anyone in their department. (At the supposedly "harsh" law schools, it doesn't work that way -- sucking up gets you next to nothing, and if you pass your exams, which are usually graded anonymously, they have to give you the degree).
Andrew Sullivan also reprints a letter from the University of Wisconsin's student newspaper that shows the kind of thought that, sadly, is alive and well in some places. The writer says that America deserved the attacks, because we're basically indistinguishable from the Nazis. (Faint sign of hope -- he adds Stalin to the list of mass murderers. That wouldn't have happened 30 years ago at Wisconsin.)
Yeah, there aren't really that many people who think that way -- but they've always had disproportionate influence because more sensible people have made the mistake of taking them seriously. Let's not bother, this time.
A WORRISOME THOUGHT from reader Herbert Jacobi:
If the terrorist really knew what the affects of the jet fuel would be on the WTC (assuming the results weren't a happy accident and they really expected them to topple over) then my guess would be the next shoe to drop would be more in line with a fuel-air bomb. It was developed by the US during the Vietnam war to quickly clear LZ's for helicopters. The Russians used during their various campaigns. My guess would be a device similar to that and not bio, chem., or nuclear. It's simpler to make and could be
used at ground level. Maybe a modified gasoline truck. Type "fuel-air bomb" into a search engine and see for yourself.
He's right about this possibility. And it fits in with the general preference of terrorists for things that go bang.
TWO WEIRD ITEMS from the New York Times front page. First "Bush Approves Covert Aid for Taliban Foes" -- it's not very covert if it's on the Times front, is it? And how did it get there? Second, "Ashcroft, Seeking Broad Powers, Says Congress Must Act Quickly". But what Ashcroft doesn't say is why the grab-bag of dusted-off wish-lists (and that's a lot of hyphens) that he's pushing is so urgent, or has anything in particular to do with terrorism. There's a certain amount of anti-GOP spin in this story (along with some anti-bureaucratic spin, anti-ACLU spin, and anti-NRA spin) but no actual discussion of how any of these proposals would have made a difference.
The real failure was one of intelligence analysis. It's now clear that the pieces of the puzzle were, in fact, in government hands well before September 11, but that no one put them together. There's nothing in these proposals that will address that problem.
DO NOT BE ALARMED if you notice changes in the layout of InstaPundit over the next week or so. I'm working on a better layout. There may be multiple changes as I experiment, unless I'm lucky -- er, I mean skillful -- enough to get everything right the first time. Which is nothing to bet on.
DAVID TALBOT WAXES WROTH about censorship, an American herd mentality, and democracy being "put on hold for the duration." Of course, he doesn't have any actual examples of censorship -- just the usual recycled tales of Bill Maher and Susan Sontag being criticized, and a few minor newspaper columnists having their columns pulled. (When done in the name of political correctness, of course, such things aren't censorship, but sensitivity). As for herd mentality and democracy being put on hold, the United States just had big anti-American demonstrations, complete with flag-burning and masked protestors scuffling with police and bystanders, without the least hint of a government crackdown. (Oh, sure, the protestors had to deal with barbed comments from the likes of me and Josh Marshall, but not even Talbot can turn that into a plausible semblance of Gestapo tactics). What other country at war, with thousands of civilian casualties, would have tolerated a demonstration like that? And not just tolerated it, but shrugged it off as unimportant? I suspect that this last is what really galls: to be persecuted is one thing. But to be ignored? That's intolerable.
THIS PAUL KRUGMAN THUMB-SUCKER about the economy lives up to the worst tendencies of the New York Times. The economy was already on the way down. As Andrea See put it on 9/3, "Anyone with half a brain (and did a basic class in economics) would know economies move in cycles. We've had the high point, now it's time for the low. Sucks as it does, it really needs to happen." That's more insight than Krugman delivers, with a good deal less portentousness, and pretentiousness. Fear from the 9/11 attacks may have accelerated the decline (though that's not certain; this might have happened anyway), but it's not at all clear that it's sent us lower than we would have gone anyway. Judging by P/E ratios, the market was due (or is due) to go lower than it is right now, as many were saying before 9/11.
UPDATE: Okay, reading this again later it seems a bit mean. Krugman has disappointed me so often that I don't give him the benefit of the doubt any more. (I used to love his work, but that was 10 or 15 years ago, when he was doing real economics). There are some useful lessons from Japan, but really, this article is about twice as long as it should be. And I think it spends way too much time hyping the effects of the attacks in the opening, when he mostly takes it all back later on -- a sure sign of trying to turn a modest piece into something more NYT Magazine-worthy. Except for a few sectors, like aviation, where there will be real economic change (see below), the 911 attacks haven't changed anything, and so far we've had only the drops we expected to have anyway. Personally, I don't think we'll hit bottom until P/E ratios are where they historically are at the bottom of a market, and that's a good deal lower than where we are now. That's not because of Osama, it's because we had a bubble, and it's burst.
U.S. REPRESENTATIVES HAVE BEEN MEETING WITH PAKISTANI OFFICIALS about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Good.
ANN COULTER'S LATEST is a call for mass deportation of noncitizen Muslims. Here's the strongest part of her not very strong argument:
Pious invocations of the Japanese internment are absurd. For one thing, those were U.S. citizens.
Citizens can't be deported. So far -- thank God -- almost all the mass murderers of Americans have
But even more blindingly obvious: There was no evidence that the attack on Pearl Harbor was staged by Japanese saboteurs living in California. The Japanese internment was a pure land grab implemented by liberal politicians -- President Franklin D. Roosevelt and California Gov. Earl Warren (later the namesake of the infamous Warren Court). The internment was vigorously opposed by J. Edgar Hoover.
This time, the very nature of the enemy is that they have infiltrated this country and pass themselves off as law-abiding, quiet immigrants. The entire modus operandi of this enemy is to smuggle mass murderers to our shores.
This distinction is genuine, but that hardly makes Coulter's proposal a good idea. I'll give her this much, though: she hasn't backed down in the face of criticism.
SOME INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS on racial profiling by reader Tony Adragna:
I think Kinsley's attempting to rationalize a defense for the understable emotional response, but "Racial Profiling" still doesn't make sense. I offer two examples to show just how irrational this approach is.
The "Duron Method" of "profiling"
If we're going to engage in racial profiling, then I have a suggestion - let's issue all of the screeners little color sample charts. Anybody whose skin tone falls into the range of hues on the chart gets extra attention.
"Racial" profiling U.S. political figures
Set aside the "Duron Method", what if we're certain of the persons "race", is it then OK to give them increased scrutiny? Here's an even better question - what about Arab-American politicians? Would Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham fit the "racial profile"? How about Congressman Ray Lahood? And, let's not forget Arab American pollster John Zogby. All three of these people are "racially" Arab, but I bet that they wouldn't get "increased scrutiny".
We're either going to be safe, which means that all of us are going to be subject to some inconvenience (within the limits of our traditional liberties), or we're going to pursue feel safe policies, like subjecting some of our citizens to uneaqual treatment, which won't make any of us any more safe, and makes all of our freedoms a less secure.
"Profiling" as an investigative tool? OK, I buy that, but only because profiling properly used in investigations considers characteristics other than those presented on the "face".
STUART BUCK picks up on the Linda Greenhouse article I referenced in today's first item. In that article, several people (mostly critics of the Supreme Court's federalism jurisprudence) opine that the world has changed since September 11 and thus the federalism jurisprudence must go. Stuart notes that:
[M]any of the Court's federalism precedents cannot possibly be affected by the terrorist attacks. The
Greenhouse article doesn't even acknowledge that the Court's federalism jurisprudence has several fronts -- the Commerce Clause, the 11th Amendment, Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. It might just barely be plausible that Congress could prevent terrorism more effectively if it could use its Commerce authority to commandeer the operations of state governments (which was at issue in Printz, the Brady bill case) or intrude on local police matters (like the schoolhouse gun law at issue in Lopez). But it is not even remotely plausible to think that Congress could combat terrorism by creating private rights of action to sue state governments for disability discrimination (at issue in Garrett) or patent infringement (College Savings Board) or some such thing. And it is even less plausible to think that Congress's Section 5 authority to remedy state constitutional violations (this was limited by Boerne v. Flores) could play any role in preventing terrorist attacks. . . . the whole Greenhouse piece seems like opportunism by people who oppose federalism on all fronts, for reasons that have nothing to do with terrorism.
AMERICAN MUSLIM SCHOLARS are speaking out against Ladenism according to the New York Times. Quote:
"The verse says you have a right to fight those people who try to force you to adopt another religion or to leave your home," said Dr. Taha, a Muslim judge who founded a graduate school in Leesburg to teach Islam to Westerners and Western values to Muslims. "But America didn't ask you to abandon your religion. America didn't deport you, or tell you to leave your homes."
This is a good thing, and it's about time. But what's most important isn't that these scholars say it to the New York Times
. It's that they say it in Al Ahram
and other outlets that reach the Muslim world beyond the United States.
UPDATE: Some readers point out that some of the Islamic scholars say that the Ladenite doctrine rings so false as to suggest that the letters were forged by non-Islamic sources. Well, yes -- though later there's discussion of how Hamas says the same kind of thing, and no one suggests that they're fake. And the article ends with this wonderful passage: 'Fatwas were once issued primarily by recognized religious authorities of a country or Islamic university, said Shaykh Hamza in California, but "now, every Tom, Dick and Abdullah gives fatwa."'
THE BANNER: I am reliably informed that The Star Spangled Banner was in fact sung at the Tennessee game last night, and that for once everyone joined in ("usually only 10 or 12 people sing," my source reports, "while the rest take the opportunity to spike their drinks"). I wasn't there, and all I saw on TV was "God Bless America." But I'm happy to be wrong. Several other readers have sent in reports of the Banner being played or rehearsed, though quite a few others say that it seems to be MIA in their experience.
InstaPundit: Sometimes wrong, but quick with corrections.
JOHN KEEGAN ON THE "ROPE-A-DOPE" STRATEGY:
America's refusal to make clear its operational intentions, though it contributes to the public's sense of involvement in a phoney war, has an unrecognised advantage.
It creates a sense of insecurity in states which are involved in the terrorist web. It is said that there are 60 states in which bin Laden's organisation has cells.
While America gathers its forces and plans its attack, none can be sure that it is not in focus.
It may indeed be the intention of the United States government in this early stage of its war against terrorism to create a climate of insecurity equivalent to that associated with terrorism, but strengthened by having international law on its side.
The purpose would be to separate the sheep from the goats. The number of black sheep is, in reality, quite small. The rogue Islamic states - Iraq, Libya - are well known. Those with serious Islamic conspiracies - Yemen, Egypt, Sudan - are not more numerous. Those with dissident Islamic minorities are known also.
America's current intention, while it stays its hand, may be to put the rogue states on warning, while strengthening the hand of moderate Muslim governments against their internal dissidents and intransigent minorities.
Washington is displaying a remarkable coolness. Its current passivity should not be mistaken for weakness but as the masterly inactivity of a great power, provoked but not shaken, while it prepares a terrible reckoning.
An "unrecognized advantage" -- except here at InstaPundit, of course.
IT'S THE WOMEN, say Richard and David Landes. They believe that radical Islamist hatred of the United States stems from our emancipated women, and the threat that such emancipation poses to their way of life. I think that there's a lot to this.
That hostility predates the formation of the Jewish State, and has its roots in the West's growing cultural, political, economic, and military dominance over the lands of Islam, a dominance that has been building for centuries but was by no means inevitable, and which many Muslims find baffling and infuriating. Hundreds of years ago, Islamic civilization stood at the pinnacle of global achievement, politically and intellectually. Muslim empires ruled over the Middle East, stretched west to Spain and Portugal and east to India and the borderlands of China. Islam was deservedly reputed for its ecumenism, its ability to learn from and assimilate other societies. And then something went wrong.
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Islamic theologians shut down liberal philosophical schools. As a result of this banishing of "heresy" from an increasingly dogmatic Islam, the high culture lost its capaciousness and, hence, its adaptability. In the succeeding centuries, reactionary features of Islamic society hardened: slavery; the exclusion of women from public life; the vast gap of wealth and power separating elites from an impoverished population. At the same time new competitors sprang up in the West, committed by Christianity to an anti-Islamic position and by national ambitions to anti-Muslim warfare. As Muslims lost territory and technological superiority, they sought solace in the truths of yesteryear, in a refusal to sell out to the lies of the infidel. . . .
This fundamental inequality makes Muslim societies substantially less productive--not only by denying opportunity to women, but by inhibiting a meritocratic spirit among men.
And the oppression of women may not only help explain why Islamic societies have fallen behind the West. It may also help explain why they find the West so culturally threatening. Israel--where women don bikinis on the beach, attend university in large numbers, and are required to serve in the military--represents a deeply subversive example for many of its Middle Eastern neighbors. Osama bin Laden, in particular, has voiced outrage at the presence of American women soldiers on Saudi soil. Might he be worried that the women of the Gulf are watching them and taking note?
I think we should be waging a massive PR counteroffensive, designed by experts in Islamic culture and aimed at women in those countries, that is designed to drive this point home. It will, in the short run, probably inspire more terrorism of this sort. But in the long run, it will put an end to Ladenism.
The Administration would also be well advised to make this point at home, and in Europe, for reasons that should be obvious.
GUN-TOTIN' DEMOCRAT: Frank Cagle reports that the leading Democratic candidate for Governor here in Tennessee is making sure that everyone knows he's going hunting. Apparently, his pollsters have concluded that the gun issue is what killed Al Gore in Tennessee. (Well, yeah. I could've told him that, and for a lot less money than those guys charged.) The anti-gun positioning of Gore's campaign, which went well to the left of Clinton on this issue, cost him at least five states. This isn't likely to change. If anything, pro-gun sentiment seems to have grown in the wake of the September 11 attacks, whether logically or not. Guns (in American closets, anyway) are of limited value in dealing with terrorism, but the notion that we can prevent harm by rendering ourselves harmless -- which was the central tenet of the gun-control movement -- is unlikely to sell anytime soon.
AN AMERICAN MUSLIM BLAMES THE TERRORISTS for suspicious looks. Quote:
Think of it like this: If you found out that a criminal was pretending to be you while committing murder in your community, who would you be most angry with? The victimized people in your community? Or the man using your identity to commit the murders?
These Muslim terrorists entered the country posing as average, decent, hard-working Muslim immigrants. They took advantage of the goodwill that was created in America by people like my parents, and all other Muslims who came to this country to start a new life.
We know for a fact that Osama bin Laden publishes a handbook on how his terrorists can "blend in" by pretending to be average Muslim immigrants. They're instructed on how to make friends, talk sports, get work, all in the name of fooling the community into thinking they're someone they're not. The terrorists who got into this country, boarded those planes and killed thousands basically did so by pretending to be my father, and that makes me mad, very mad.
Sensible. One hopes that more Muslim Americans will recognize the insult, and danger, inherent in terrorists "blending in." In previous conflicts, immigrant communities were the main line of defense against infiltrators from their home countries. It should be that way now, too.
MICHAEL KINSLEY DEFENDS RACIAL PROFILING: Now that's bigger news than Dianne Feinstein and Donna Shalala being squishy on war.
SALLY QUINN WRITES ABOUT GENDER determining positions among the powerful. The men of Washington, she says, are far more anxious to lash out than the women. I'm not so sure -- just contrast Colin "Big Hug" Powell with Ann "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" Coulter. Quinn's examples, however, involve not Ann Coulter but Dianne Feinstein and Donna Shalala. Call me crazy, but I don't consider that a scientific sample. My impression is that since September 11 American women have become far more bellicose than they've ever been and that that's the real news here. Shalala and Feinstein's attitudes, on the other hand, are no surprise. But the chief flaw of the Clinton Administration in this area was its reliance on remote-control warfare against aspirin factories and empty tents, done largely in deference to the attitudes of people like Shalala and Feinstein. Why should we be listening to them now?
Quinn sets them up against a straw man (or straw men) who favor indiscriminate lashing out. But, aside from Howard Stern, about the only time I've heard about indiscriminate lashing out is when it's raised as a straw man. It's certainly not the policy of that wild-ass cowboy Texan (oops, that was the pre-911 stereotype) in the White House.
For true dick-waving macho posturing, one must look to the masked flag-burners of the "peace" movement.
"WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? WHO CARES?" That's what David von Drehle says in the Washington Post. A President in wartime should worry about winning, not about his immortal soul, and Jesus is a bad role model for wartime leaders.
WAR OPPORTUNISM ALERT: Linda Greenhouse has a piece in Sunday's New York Times sounding the death knell for federalism, or at least for the Supreme Court's new federalism jurisprudence of the past decade. Of course, most of the people she quotes as saying that the September 11 attacks have put an end to that jurisprudence are people who hated it all along.
QUESTION: If -- as a lot of people, including me, have said -- those attacks aren't a reason to abandon the Court's civil-liberties jurisprudence, why are they a reason to abandon the federalism jurisprudence? This effort to spin the terrorist attacks into a judicial counterrevolution strikes me as opportunism of Falwellian scope.
Note that alongside Greenhouse's piece is one warning about wartime hysteria. It mentions the usual subjects: the Palmer raids, etc. Abandoning constitutional principles in wartime happens in lots of ways, not limited to the ones leftish law professors favor. But cheering one instance of such abandonment makes the others more likely.
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