GOODBYE, BCS: Unless Tennessee scores two touchdowns in about as many minutes, we've lost.
THE SEPT. 11 ATTACKS -- just like the end of Allende's government in Chile. And Bush: just like corrupt Latin dictators. That's the not-so-buried subtext of this item from the Sunday New York Times. Jeez. With such defenders as these, it's no surprise that civil liberties aren't polling well.
This stuff isn't just pathetic and irresponsible. It's destructive.
PETER BEINART picks up on an InstaPundit theme: the role of the right in protecting civil liberties.
So far, most of the conservative grumbling has come from journalists and lobbyists--GOP politicians are still too awed by Bush's stratospheric approval ratings to object. But this battle will continue long after W.'s numbers come back down to earth. The respect for due process that has been born in conservative Washington since the cold war's end may yet overcome this administration's self-righteous disregard of it. And if it does, people like me--who loathe libertarianism's influence in so many areas of public policy--will have to admit that when it comes to reigning in a reckless Republican attorney general and an ignorant Republican president, a little libertarianism is just what this country needs.
The "ignorant" line doesn't have a clear antecedent, but he's right that libertarianism does more good than lefties were willing to admit when their
thug controlled the DoJ. (Though as a pedant, I should note that it's "reining in" not "reigning in." Like Charles Johnson
, I have my peeves).
CONGRESS: Too busy for a lot of things, but never too busy to slip a Congressional pay-raise bill through. You know, these guys aren't acting like wartime leaders. They're acting like run-of-the-mill petty politicians. That's one reason that they haven't been able to wield much influence in countering the Bush Administration. Personally, I'd love to run a campaign against a member of Congress who took a pay raise during wartime. I think a lot of people are going to have the chance.
THE PARENTS' ANGUISH: When the subject of "American Taliban" Johnnie Walker comes up, commentators often say that they wish to spare his parents anguish. But, traditionally, isn't the anguish and humiliation it will cause one's family considered to be an important deterrent to treason? After all, to paraphrase James Lileks, if Walker had wound up with a shaved head in a camp in Idaho, having engaged in fatal gay-bashing, no one would worry quite so much about the nature of his "spiritual journey" or the humiliation that his actions caused his family.
THE OCCASIONAL has a delightful holiday gift suggestion. I won't spoil it.
MORE ON ENVIRONMENTAL TERRORISM SINCE 9/11 in this article. Jeez, what bozos.
RAVE CULTURE SPREADS: I went to a 1st grade birthday party at a skating rink -- a place I never go. (Skating rinks that is. I practically live at 1st grade birthday parties). Let's see: darkened room, smiley-face outfits, flashing lights, DJ playing electronic music with heavy four-on-the-floor beat, fog machine, glowsticks. . . If this were New Orleans the DEA would have been there, since they now consider all these things "drug paraphernalia." It's possible that they'll get less stupid under Asa Hutchinson, but there's no evidence of such a trend now. But the things that those idiots, er, folks, at DEA identify as hardcore "club drug culture" items have long since spread out into the mainstream culture.
I also learned something that I wish I'd known back in the day: if you want attention from females, regardless of age, there are few things better than a near-life-size inflatable Scooby Doo. Of course, when I was of the preteen/early teen peak skating rink age, I was trying too hard to look manly to try anything like a Scooby Doo inflatable. And I never went to skating rinks anyway. Ah, youth is wasted.
Tennessee just fell behind 0-7. I've gotten quite a few emails along the lines of "don't mean to be rude, but it's worth it to have Tennessee lose if it kills the BCS." I suspect that even a few Tennessee fans feel that way, in the abstract. But not right now.
UPDATE: Rand Simberg emails: "As a loyal Wolverine, for me it's a win-win. Vols lose, *and* we wreck the BCS..." Well, it just became 17-7 Tennessee, so nyah, nyah.
HUGO CHAVEZ BEWARE: Allison Alvarez has your embassy targeted for venomous glares.
"WHO CARES ABOUT THE AMERICANS," says Yasser Arafat. Er, you do, Yasser. Trust me on this. You care, a lot. But maybe not as much as you should.
UNLV LAW SCHOOL UPDATE: Apparently, despite my earlier doubts, the story is more or less true. At least true enough for the Dean to apologize to the Trustees and promise it won't happen again. Looking at the list of their faculty, I don't know everyone there, but there's no one I do know that I could imagine acting that way.
TENNESSEE WILL WIN TODAY: No matter what. If they win the game, they'll go on to a national championship match. But if they lose, it will probably be a deathblow to the BCS. That's a kind of victory, too.
KEN LAYNE, who unlike me is an actual reporter, has some issues with the NYT story on Iran I mention below.
OH, YOU WANT ARGUMENT -- THIS IS ABUSE: I've gotten a lot of email over the cryptography comment. Well, yeah, the Japanese example is old. But there are lots of more recent examples (can you say cell-phone?). And at the sharp end is always some guy with the password on the floppy, or on a post-it stuck to his computer monitor.
I also got one complaint from a reader who says I'm "fixated" on Ashcroft and military tribunals. Well, I've hardly written anything about the latter. I've written a lot about Ashcroft the past couple of days, but gimme a break -- it's not like he hasn't been in the news.
Another reader defends Ashcroft and his attacks on Leahy et al., noting that talk about "kangaroo courts" poisons the well abroad, which is well-taken. He also says that the anthrax mail attacks so far are thought by DoJ folks to be a trial run for something much bigger, and that this is why DoJ is so exercised. I don't know anything about this, and can't vouch for his information. But it raises some interesting questions. One of which, of course, is why the DoJ legislative folks haven't communicated this stuff to the Senators in question, if they think that. Because they don't trust 'em to keep their mouths shut? On the other hand, maybe they have communicated it, which accounts for Ashcroft's harshness.
I don't know. Several things here don't make a lot of sense, but perhaps the explanations will come out.
A GOOD DISTINCTION from Josh Marshall: "Anti-war critics are always permissible, but I'm not sure they're always necessary. Civil liberties critics are always necessary. Even when they're wrong."
I'm genuinely unsure about the legality of the military tribunals issue, and extensive debate on the various law-professor email lists I'm on has not helped that at all -- even after you eliminate the usual suspects who argue that everything the United States does violates international law, but who never provide much specificity on exactly why. But, as I wrote somewhere earlier, it's better to live in a country that has a reflexive suspicion of military tribunals than one that does not, even (especially?) if those tribunals turn out to be legal upon further analysis. If Ashcroft had opened his remarks with that observation, instead of attacking people who criticize him as un-American, I think he would have gone over a lot better.
On the other hand, he was successful in intimidating the Democrats. Which may have been his agenda after all. If he's thinking that way, he may have a successful career as Attorney General during the war, but his career will end as soon as his designated-heavy role is no longer needed.
MICHAEL BELLESILES UPDATE: The New York Times has now finally (probably not in response to InstaPundit's prodding) gotten around to reporting the story of Emory historian Michael Bellesiles' book Arming America. The Times' story is pretty good, though interestingly it mentions the earlier reporting of the Times-affiliated Boston Globe, but not the pioneering reports by Melissa Seckora of the National Review and Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal. Mickey Kaus, call your office! Excerpt:
Mr. Bellesiles's failure to explain himself has led to the most serious accusations against him, which were outlined in The Boston Globe this fall. Earlier this year, when the criticism of his book became more intense, he asked Mr. Roth to help him defend himself. Mr. Roth wrote back, saying that if Mr. Bellesiles would tell him what records he looked at in Vermont, he would go to the archive on his own time, and that if the records matched, he would defend him. Mr. Bellesiles never responded to that offer, Mr. Roth said.
Those who have pressed him hardest for details say they have been led on a bizarre scholarly car chase, with Mr. Bellesiles offering new memories about where he got his records as soon as the old ones were discredited.
He has said from the start that he took notes on the thousands of colonial-era probate records with tick marks in pencil on yellow legal pads. That fact alone was surprising to many of his fellow historians, who tend to use a database when working with such large amounts of information.
Almost all of those notebooks were destroyed when his office at Emory was flooded in May 2000, Mr. Bellesiles said.
There should be some red faces at the New York Times Book Review
, which not only published a fawningly uncritical review by Garry Wills when the book first appeared, but which recycled that review when Arming America
came out in paperback -- well after
the stories in the Globe, Wall Street Journal,
and National Review
were published. Meanwhile, the amateur reviewers at Amazon.com had caught on to Bellesiles
a year ago.
SOME TRENCHANT THOUGHTS about feminist prudes and pornography, from Natalija Radic.
GO HERE AND READ THIS 9/11 THEMED MICROSOFT AD: As Dale Amon puts it, your choice: sick, or stupid? Can this be real?
THIS JOHNS HOPKINS STUDY of the public response to anthrax says that the public is more constructive -- and far less panic-prone -- than government officials and pundits think. Say, where have I heard that before? Here's an excerpt, but the whole thing is worth reading:
“It is a myth that a community’s first response to a crisis is panic. Yet, bioterrorism contingency planners have too frequently incorporated the images of a hysterical or lawless mob in their discussions and response exercises. They have made no efforts to capitalize upon the constructive reactions that tend to dominate community responses to crisis, as borne out by history,” says Monica Schoch-Spana, PhD, the study’s co-author and a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies.
“Although we do not know how people would respond in an unprecedented biological attack, we have found that people usually adapt to a situation based on the best information available and they often try to assist one another through a crisis,” explains Dr. Schoch-Spana.
Americans: not as stupid as our leaders think we are. Boy, the last few months sure prove that -- and perhaps even without the "think we are" part. . .
ISRAEL SHOULD KEEP BOMBING THE PALESTINIANS. I say this based solely on the fact that Mary Robinson says they should stop. Given her recent track record, that's probably enough.
CRYPTOGRAPHY ALWAYS LOSES: This story from the Los Angeles Times reveals that the Japanese had broken the American diplomatic codes prior to Pearl Harbor. Cypherheads are always going on about how great cryptography is, but in light of experience, I think it's a mistake to place too much faith in encryption.
I DIDN'T HEAR BUSH'S SPEECH, but the transcript looks good. Bush is reminding me of Ulysses S. Grant (as General, not President) -- he may not be the best guy you can imagine overall, but he's absolutely the right guy for the position he's in right now. Grant wasn't the blunder-ahead lummox people often say, but he understood that winning the war wasn't that hard if he did the right things, and that he didn't have to outsmart Lee, just outfight him. (Lee, on the other hand, had to be smarter, because he was so much weaker). Bush's situation is different (Osama, for example, turns out not to be especially smart), but the dynamic is similar. And he just keeps hitting the right note. There was a time (1988) that I was a big Al Gore fan, but like a lot of more-recent Gore fans, I can't help but think that Bush is a much better man to have in the White House now.
JOSH MARSHALL posts the latest round in the Ashcroft/Gun Check debate. He says this debate seems like weblogging (or mezining) at its best, and I'm certainly happy to continue in this mutual-admiration vein. God knows it's better than what you get on, say, Crossfire, or even Hardball.
Marshall offers a counter-reading of the statutes. I think that the one I offer is better than Marshall's but the gist of Marshall's complaint is that Ashcroft has leaned one way within the zone of reasonable interpretations on other civil-liberties issues (like, say, the eavesdropping-on-lawyers issue, which I disapprove of, though it's probably legal) while he's leaning the other way on this one. That may be true, though I think it gives too little attention to the years of legislative back-and-forth on gun registration that Ashcroft is no doubt extremely familiar with, and influenced by (and which aren't present with reference to some of these other practices). But the very argument is an admission that Ashcroft's position is within the zone of reasonablenesss, which is quite a departure from the way it was portrayed in the New York Times yesterday, or on NPR, or in a lot of other traditional media outlets.
Where you go within the zone of reasonableness, of course, is one of the things that elections are about. It's also true that because of sloppy statutory drafting, and sometimes deliberately sloppy statutory drafting, the zone of reasonableness is often a lot larger than it ought to be. That's because Congress prefers not to do the dirty work of passing clean, clear statutes. Though here, I think, Congress was more clear than a lot of other places.
YANKEE, INVADE US! PLEASE!! That's the message in this article from The New York Times about angry Iranian youth, who don't like the corrupt mullah-ocracy that rules their country. Best quote:
The fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan also seems to have deepened their frustration — and their sense that freedom is possible, if only someone will bring it.
"We need the U.S. Army," one young man went so far as to say. "The Afghan people are very lucky."
Oh, I hope that this
is getting spread around the region.
MCDONALD'S UPDATE: Why I had a good hamburger. Over at InstaPundit EXTRA!
STILL MORE ON GUNS: David Brooks was kind enough to write in the Weekly Standard that he calls InstaPundit an "outstanding site." But he says he doesn't find my discussion of Ashcroft's gun-check decision entirely clear. Ashcroft's position, remember, is that he can't go to the records of gun-purchase approvals from the "National Instant-Check System" to see if any detainees bought guns and had those purchases approved. I think Ashcroft is right. So -- at the risk of being boring, and even among lawyers discussions with quotations from regulatory statutes are generally considered boring -- here is some more.
First, 18 U.S.C. 922(t) provides, in relevant part:
(2) If receipt of a firearm would not violate subsection (g) or (n) or State law, the [Instant-Check] system shall--
(A) assign a unique identification number to the transfer;
(B) provide the licensee with the number; and
(C) destroy all records of the system with respect to the call (other than the identifying number and the date the number was assigned) and all records of the system relating to the person or the transfer.
(Emphasis added). This means, of course, that if the feds were following the law, there wouldn't be any records to check, since they're supposed to be destroyed once a sale is approved.
The reason why this matters is that a national gun registration system is explicitly illegal. 18 USC 926 provides:
(a) The Secretary may prescribe only such rules and regulations as are necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter. . . .
No such rule or regulation prescribed after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners' Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions be established. Nothing in this section expands or restricts the Secretary's authority to inquire into the disposition of any firearm in the course of a criminal investigation.
(Emphasis added). Taken together, this means that (1) there aren't supposed to be records to check at all if a purchase has been approved; and (2) it's illegal to establish a national gun registration system. This was underscored in the recent case of RSM v. Buckles, 254 F3d 61 (4th Cir., 2001), where the court noted that the power to scrutinize gun records was limited, and that a national gun registration system was illegal.
Likewise, while section 926(a) does not directly prohibit BATF's issuance of the letter in this case, that provision clearly demonstrates Congress' concern about any attempt by BATF to establish a national firearms registry. Section 926(a) would be rendered meaningless if BATF could issue limitless demand letters under section 923(g)(5)(A) in a backdoor effort to avoid section 926(a)'s protections for law-abiding firearms owners. Congress clearly did not intend such a result.
I believe that this ban on registration systems is a carryover from previous language in the 1968 Gun Control Act, but I'm not certain; it's too hard to do that kind of legislative history work from home, and anyway it's not really important.
The next question is, what is a gun registration system? The statute doesn't define that, but in common understanding, it's a system that lets the government find out who owns guns, as opposed to a "tracing" system that lets you find out where a gun (say, found at a crime scene) came from. This makes sense: all of these rules are in response to fears by gun owners that a system that lets the government identify gun owners will be abused to produce weapons confiscation. (Contrary to what Josh Marshall says, that's not "paranoid," since it's happened repeatedly, often in the face of previous government promises that it wouldn't). So when Ashcroft doesn't want to look through Instant-Check records -- which were supposed to have been destroyed -- to find out who owns guns, it's because doing so would turn the Instant-Check system into a gun registration system, which is illegal.
Naturally, if you don't think that gun ownership is good, and if you like the idea of gun confiscation -- which many on the left do (my unrelated namesake, columnist Barbara Reynolds, once said that President Clinton should declare "G-day" and send troops door-to-door confiscating weapons) -- then your answer to this (unless you just, you know, care about seeing the government obey the law) would be "so what?" To which I say, "so what?" After all, if you don't like freedom of the press, you won't care much about prohibitions against licensing rules and prior restraints for journalists, either. But that's an argument against the right, not against the provisions protecting it.
Could Ashcroft weasel his way out of this? Sure. Like pretty much all federal regulatory statutes, the ones governing firearms are sloppy, complex, inconsistent, and often unclear. That leaves lots of room for weaseling. But it seems odd to bash Ashcroft for not being a weasel, now doesn't it? Particularly in light of the strenuous effort at his confirmation hearings, just a few months ago, to extract from him promises that he would enforce the law regardless of his personal feelings. Now he's doing that. And people are complaining.
Well, as Ricky Nelson said, you can't please everybody. I've been critical enough of Ashcroft on other issues, as regular InstaPundit readers know. But on this one, he's getting a bum rap. It's probably just a coincidence that it all started out as a press release from a gun control group.
AMERICA THE POWERFUL is the theme of this editorial from The Telegraph. Euros are beginning to realize that obstructionism has not chained America, only made them irrelevant. They don't like it. That shows in Simon Jenkins faux-sympathetic opinion article in the Times. Americans, he reports, aren't popular in Britain. That, he suggests with feigned sadness, is because of all the bad things America has done.
Actually a lawyer friend of mine recently reported that when he was there Brits, male and female, were anxious to express support for the war, to buy him drinks, and to apologize for the "infantile anti-Americanism" of, well, the people Jenkins apparently associates with. Perhaps Jenkins should get out more, with a different crowd.
HERE'S AN INTERESTING ITEM ON ISLAMIC LAW, featuring an interview with a professor of Islamic Law at UCLA.
"HOLY WAR IS IN MY LIFE LIKE A CANCER:" That's what this captured Arab fighter in Afghanistan says. That's putting it pretty well, I think. Also check out this story about hatred for the Taliban's Saudi-style morals police.
The whole Afghanistan episode was just a case of colonialism, really. Why isn't Chomsky denouncing it? Oh, right, because it's not Western colonialism.
ANOTHER CANADIAN BLOG! I knew there must be some out there. Maybe you guys should set up a Disgruntled Canadian Webring. (Which, at any rate, would be a cool name for a band).
HMM. MAYBE STORIES LIKE THIS account for the phenomenon the Monitor describes.
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR SAYS that gun ownership is growing and support for gun control is falling. That's partly a reaction to September 11, but only partly:
Still, political analysts say Washington's mood on guns has changed, at least for now.
Even before Sept. 11, they say, Democrats had lost traction on gun control, and the recent elections did nothing but move the party further away from tighter rules. In the Virginia gubernatorial race, for example, Democrat Mark Warner's victory was sealed, in part, by blatant appeals to gun owners, using a group called "Sportsmen for Warner."
"Any gun-control legislation of any kind is a non-starter now," says Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist.
Yes. As I've reported before, Democrats in Tennessee say that their polling indicates that it was the gun issue that cost Gore the state. As a result, the leading Democratic candidate for governor, Phil Bredesen, is taking a leaf from Warner's book and praising gun ownership, while making a point of letting people know that he hunts. If you knew the guy, you'd know what a political indicator that is.
ASK AND YE SHALL RECEIVE. . . Here's a new Canadian blog focusing on a Canadian's unhappiness with Canadian politics.
APPARENTLY, IT'S NOW A CRIME TO BE ENGLISH IN ENGLAND. No, really.
MORE CANADIANS on InstaPundit EXTRA! Perhaps some enterprising Canadian will set up a website for this sort of thing. Maybe (surely?) one already has, but I keep getting email from Canadians thanking me for providing this outlet.
IS ANTI-AMERICANISM HATE SPEECH? Well, hell, why not? This is the statement that is being investigated for "racial vilification" in Australia:
In the column, Adams argued that US history was replete with racial violence at home and flawed foreign policy abroad, including the bombing of Cambodia, complicity with the Pinochet regime in Chile and one-time support for Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
"If Australia is to be a true friend of the American people, we must try to rein them in, not urge them on," he wrote. "The US has to learn that its worst enemy is the US."
Here's the line I like best:
He told the Herald yesterday he found it hard to believe the commission could take such a complaint seriously. "I've never heard of an American being racially vilified before. I think this is one of the great tragedies of our time."
Well, hate speech laws are stupid. But if you can't say bad things about people based on their nationality, why not Americans?
STILL MORE ON FOX BUTTERFIELD: Josh Marshall posted this not-quite retraction of his original post. Marshall is being quite handsome about this, so don't consider what I say a complaint. Marshall gives Ashcroft a pass, and moves a long way toward placing the blame (if that's the right word) with Congress, or with the political muscle of gun nuts. (Actually, he calls them "paranoid gun freaks.")
Well, the thing about the "gun nuts" is that they're usually right. They said that gun control wouldn't reduce crime. It didn't. They said gun confiscation would make crime worse. England and Australia tried it, and their violent crime rates promptly skyrocketed. They said that making it easier for honest citizens to carry guns would reduce crime, not lead to the "Dodge City" shootouts that antigun groups predicted, and they were right again. And when they say that registration leads to confiscation even in spite of explicit promises to the contrary, they have examples from New York, to California, to Britain, to Australia, to Canada to prove them right. I'm viewed as something of a "wet" by gun-rights advocates because I've said that the Second Amendment doesn't preclude licensing or registration. But that doesn't mean that I think the gun folks are wrong when they say that licensing and registration are likely to be abused. And the gun laws reflect the view of the gun folks because a lot of people think that way. It is taken for granted by commentators of a liberal stripe that this is bad, but there's not a whole lot of argumentation to back up that belief. If gun control doesn't reduce violence, you're left with essentially an aesthetic argument against private ownership of guns. And aesthetics are a poor foundation for law.
HMM. COMPARE THIS PRESS RELEASE from the anti-gun Violence Policy Center, with the Fox Butterfield story I discuss below.
JASMIN YANG SAYS to be nice to retail employees. As a former retail drone who slogged through many a Christmas season, I agree. But I don't have her sympathy for the nasty ones. I always tried to treat my customers the way I like to be treated. (Well, always tried; I'm sure I didn't always succeed). Everyone should have to hold some of these jobs; one problem with a lot of upper-middle-class types these days is that they never have. Having a low-rung job dealing with the public teaches a lot of useful lessons about life and humanity.
ANDREW SULLIVAN writes that there's a split on the right because of the war. He's basically correct, but I think he overstates the case. This sentence, for example: "If you'd been told before September 11 that one of the fall's political fights would pit Bob Barr against John Ashcroft, you'd have dismissed it as a liberal fantasy." Er, except that Ashcroft was already getting flak from Republicans, including Bob Barr, before September 11. Here's what I said September 7:
What's most interesting to me is the growing unhappiness of Republicans with the Justice Department regardless of who is in charge. Senate Republicans like Dan Burton and Charles Grassley are complaining about coverups and harassment of the press. NRO is complaining about jackbooted thugs (a phrase that actually originated with Democrat John Dingell, coincidentally from Michigan).
During the Clinton/Reno Administration this was dismissed as partisan posturing, but it's continuing under Bush & Ashcroft. Could it be that there's a real issue here, and that the media and commentariat were wrong to dismiss these complaints before? We are reaching the point at which the most prominent defenders of civil liberties in this country are Republicans. To me, that seems to be news.
And in fact this cooperation between left and right has gone on since the dreadful "Crime" bill of 1994. But the press has never picked up on it in a big way, preferring to particularize right-wing support for civil liberties rather than recognize that there's genuine principle there. But I think there is.
TOO MANY FEDERAL COPS: That's my old boss Joe Califano's point in the Washington Post. He's right. But read this quote:
All 100 members of the Senate voted to create the newest federal police force under the rubric of airport security. In its rush to judgment, the Senate acted as though a federal force was the only alternative to using the airlines or private contractors. Quite the contrary, policing by the individual public airport authorities, guided by federal standards, would be more in line with our tradition of keeping police power local.
When you look up "big-government liberal" in the dictionary, you see Joe's picture. And yet he thinks the federalizing of airport security is a bad idea. Funny, back before the vote, I kept hearing that only mossbacked Republican troglodytes thought this way.
I LISTENED TO NPR'S "ALL THINGS CONSIDERED" this afternoon in the car and caught part of a story about Senators attacking Ashcroft for not cracking down on sales of "automatic weapons" to terrorists at gun shows. Hmm. I guess I missed the story about al Qaeda types getting machine guns that way.
Probably the NPR folks (they didn't have any sound bites of the Senators saying "automatic") don't know the difference between automatic weapons (machine guns) and semi-automatic weapons (known colloquially as "guns"). If so, that's pretty pathetic. When they were covering the Contras vs. the Sandinistas, every single person at NPR managed to learn how to pronounce all spanish words and names with an absurdly exaggerated Central American accent. If they can do that, they can learn the basic facts about guns. In fact, automatic weapons can only be sold to a person with a special federal license, whether they're sold at gun shows or not. To suggest that the (actually fictitious) "gun show loophole" applies to automatic weapons is either idiotic, or deliberately misleading.
Here's how it works. It has been official policy to treat guns normally, and to avoid anything that might smack of gun registration, since the 1968 Gun Control Act. (And, of course, before). That means that while sales by people who are in the business of selling guns are regulated, so-called "casual sales" among individuals are not. That is so that people can sell to friends, at flea markets, etc. This wasn't a loophole, but a deliberate provision intended to treat a gun like any other consumer product. It was also essential to passing the legislation, since a provision regulating all sales would never have passed. If you're a federal firearms dealer (which you must be if you sell guns regularly) you have to do background checks. If you're not, and selling guns isn't a regular business for you, you don't.
Now: automatic weapons fire multiple bullets when the trigger is pulled. Semiautomatic bullets fire one bullet when the trigger is pulled. Is this too hard for the press to grasp? Apparently, since they get it wrong all the time. Either that, or they don't want to get it right because getting it right would weaken a storyline they want to push. You decide.
I don't really want to spend this much time on gun issues. But guns play the role all the time that war coverage is playing at the moment, of illustrating just how biased, and (deliberately?) inaccurate, the mainstream press can be when it has an axe to grind.
MATT WELCH EMAILED ME a couple of weeks ago and suggested that I had probably been the inspiration for 50 new bloggers. I wasn't sure about that, but I've gotten enough emails from folks now that it must have reached that number. (Here's the latest, by Bryan Preston. Note his takedown of Robert Wright, though I actually think that Wright has been one of the more responsible critics of the war.) Anyway, I guess that's good, but then I remembered another story of inspiration.
Back in 1995 my brother and I had a sideline running sound here in Knoxville (that means we had a sound system and would set it up and run it for bands). One of our gigs was for a benefit concert for the Red Cross and the Oklahoma City bombing featuring about a dozen bands. My other brother, then about 14, tagged along. The next day, he decided to get serious about playing guitar and bass, and start his own band. Why? "Most of those guys sucked," he said. "I thought you had to be good to have a band, and I was afraid to try. Now I'm not." So maybe I'm providing that kind of inspiration to would-be bloggers everywhere. . . . (You can hear their music here, if you're interested.)
READER MATTHEW KASLE sends this link to an MP3 version of Neil Young's "Let's Roll." I don't know if it's an authorized download or not, but since Neil says he doesn't want this to be commercial, I guess he wouldn't mind anyway.
PATRICK RUFFINI WEIGHS IN on the bloggers vs. Salon controversy. He's afraid of arousing Virginia Postrel's wrath, though. But, then, what thinking man isn't?
PITHY CORRECTNESS, FROM SAMIZDATA:
So the father of American Taliban member John Walker says "he is just a 20 year old kid". Well so are the US Marines we have had to send to protect ourselves from "kids" like that. Come on, take some responsibility.
Did you ever think you'd read something like that on a libertarian site?
I'M INNOCENT, and Ken Layne is my witness. (Somehow, I imagine Matt Welch saying "ooh, then you're in trouble.") But personally, I can't imagine a better character witness than a man who can write, "But I didn't post yesterday, because it was Drinking Day."
NEIL YOUNG'S SONG, "LET'S ROLL" gets described in this piece. He's released it to radio stations, but thinks it would be wrong to sell it commercially. Why doesn't he put it on the Web?
UPDATE: The lyrics are here. Sure would be nice to hear it, though.
SMARTERTIMES TAKES ON FOX BUTTERFIELD'S GUN-REGISTRATION STORY, TOO -- from a different, though not inconsistent, angle:
The Times headline is "Justice Dept. Bars Use of Gun Checks in Terror Inquiry." But the headline might as well be "Congress Bars Use of Gun Checks in Terror Inquiry"; the Justice Department position, the Times article eventually makes clear, is that the department is merely obeying the strictures of the law.
The Times article quotes a gun-control advocate, a California police chief and Senator Schumer, but it never quotes a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union. In fact, the tone of today's article on the use of the gun-check records is jarringly at odds with the rest of the Times coverage on the detainees, military tribunals and the terrorism investigation. When it comes to questioning or detaining immigrants or monitoring mosques, the Times routinely expresses outrage that the FBI would dare impinge on civil liberties, and outraged civil libertarians are duly quoted. Yet when the Bush Justice Department for once errs on the side of civil liberties, the Times summons up an outraged police chief and can't find anyone to praise the administration for respecting civil liberties.
Yes. Like the "fair weather federalists" I criticize below, the New York Times
is awfully selective about when it chooses to stand on principle, and when it doesn't.
WAY BACK IN THE EARLY, INNOCENT DAYS of InstaPundit (you know, August), I expressed my skepticism about the Princeton Review's ranking of Tennessee as America's Number One Party School! Now, in the finest spirit of investigative journalism, two reporters from Metro Pulse, the town's rather good alternative weekly, have looked into matters. They found quite a bit of partying, but, in keeping with my skepticism, it doesn't really look like national championship partying.
READER TUCKER GOODRICH sends this IMDB review of Lord of the Rings that is also gushing. Warning: spoilers. (But if you've read the book, I guess they shouldn't matter).
SILLY ANTITERRORISM: Conductor Pierre Boulez was dragged out of bed by antiterrorism forces in Switzerland earlier this week. The reason:
In the revolutionary 1960s, it seems that Boulez said that opera houses should be blown up, comments which the Swiss felt made him a potential security threat.
Boulez is now 75. Seems to me that a bit more, er, background research on potential suspects might be in order.
OSAMA'S #1 -- er, on the Lycos list of most-searched men, that is. Eminem is #2, and Tupac Shakur is #3. Hmm.
HERE'S A GUSHING REVIEW of the Lord of the Rings movie. Boy, I hope it's true.
THOUGHTFUL ASHCROFT-BASHING: Jonathan Adler takes on Ashcroft's stance against Oregon's assisted-suicide law in National Review Online today, with devastating effect. Excerpt:
It bears reiterating that ours is a federal government of limited and enumerated powers. The federal government only has those powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution, such as the powers to raise armies, impose tariffs, coin money, and regulate commerce "among the several states." There is no federal police power to criminalize each and every violent or immoral act. (For more on the federal-state balance, click here.) Defenders of federal intervention in Oregon note that doctor-assisted suicide typically requires the administration of federally controlled medicines, which are themselves objects in interstate commerce. But this does not make doctor-assisted suicide a federal concern, any more than the use of a gun turns a local murder into a federal case — or, for that matter, authorizes a national Gun-Free School Zones Act.
He's right about this. I think that efforts to ban cloning have the same problem
, and am very disappointed to see so many "fair weather federalists" from the Republican party show such eagerness to ignore federalism concerns when pushing their own pet projects.
DAN KENNEDY HAS this story on the planned New York Sun. (One small error: he calls Ira Stoll "the impresario of SmarterTimes.com, a hugely entertaining Web site devoted to bashing the Times." SmarterTimes points out errors, but I haven't noticed it doing any "bashing," which has a pejorative connotation to me. I'd call it a "watchdog site" that watches the Times).
Best quote, from Rik Hertzberg:
"He can compete with the Post," Hertzberg said of Lipsky. "He can make it lively, he can make it intelligent, and he can go way, way up-market with it, with a raffish edge. He’s going to have more fun than anybody in the world. I envy him, and I wish he were a liberal."
But if he were a liberal, he wouldn't have a huge, unexploited market niche to enter.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: Here's a piece on nanotechnology and terrorism that I have in today's TechCentralStation. Note that the picture accompanying it is not me, but physicist Richard Feynman. I haven't actually rolled out my "reverse-camgirl" strategy.
MINDLESS (or at least uninformed) ASHCROFT-BASHING: Josh Marshall has really dropped the ball on this one. He's after Ashcroft because Justice won't let the FBI use gun-purchase background-check records to look for terrorists. What Marshall doesn't mention -- perhaps because the Fox Butterfield story on which he relies isn't clear about it either -- is that a firearms registry that permits the lookup of individuals is specifically forbidden by statute. (Butterfield references the Instant-check law's provisions, but not this separate federal law). Marshall's point is that Ashcroft is willing to listen in on attorney-client conferences, plan military tribunals, etc. but not to offend gun owners. But there are no federal statutes specifically forbidding these practices. I'm not surprised that Butterfield, whose bias and intellectual dishonesty on gun matters is legendary, left this out, but relying on Butterfield on these issues is always a mistake.
UPDATE: FYI, the relevant statute is at 18 U.S.C. 926. Key provision:
No such rule or regulation prescribed after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners' Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions be established. Nothing in this section expands or restricts the Secretary's authority to inquire into the disposition of any firearm in the course of a criminal investigation.
This last provision means that you can trace firearms backward from a crime scene or an individual suspected of a crime, but you can't simply go fishing to find out who has bought guns. If Marshall (or Butterfield) has a problem with this, it comes from the statute, not from Ashcroft.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes:
I read the Butterfield article. Yuck. But you know it does demonstrate one thing: that when gun owners opposed the Insta-check system because they said it would be abused just like this . . . they were right, and not just being paranoid. With this sort of information lying around, it becomes irresistable for law enforcement not to want to take a peek
Yep. For those who don't see the issue here, just imagine a National Abortion Registry created for "public health" reasons. Then, perhaps, you'll understand.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Another reader complains that Ashcroft has wriggled and stretched the material witness statute to hold some of the detainees, but won't similarly wriggle here. I don't know that the first part is true -- at least, I haven't heard anyone say that, and I'm not sure how anyone could know that given the paucity of data about who is being held. (Which is another issue altogether). But it's absolutely clear that the no-registration statute was designed to prevent precisely what Ashcroft is being bashed for not doing here, so it would be less a question of wriggling than of flat-out disobeying the law. For all I know, Ashcroft disagrees with that law -- but readers may recall that he promised the Senate, during his confirmation hearings a few months ago, that he would conscientiously follow and enforce even laws that he personally disagreed with.
NOT GETTING IT: Americans are always being accused of not understanding people from elsewhere. But, really, the problem in reverse is much more pronounced. Pakistan's The Dawn features a series of mutedly anti-American screeds (much more muted than they were a few weeks ago), but here's the line that caught my eye today:
Ordinary Americans are so used to following the lights at pedestrian crossings, telling them when to Walk or Don't Walk. Some of the same caution is perhaps required when negotiating the treacherous swirl of ideologies and politics on the international highway.
Actually, that would be Canadians who do that. Americans, on the rare occasions when they are pedestrians, look both ways and then head out, contemptuous of anything so puny and officious as a traffic signal. (And, of course, usually Americans are the ones driving the monster SUVs that will mow down anything that gets in their path, a lesson that this Pakistani writer needs to think on long and hard. . . .)
HEY, INSTAPUNDIT is Political Site of the Day! I'm not sure what that means, exactly, but it's cool. There's even a nifty award graphic.
"HAWKS SAVE LIVES -- DOVES DON'T" is the title of the cover story in The Spectator. Certainly seems true this time. If we'd followed the advice of the squishies, a lot more people would be dead -- especially among those "innocent Afghan civilians" they kept talking about.
HERE'S AN INTERESTING SITE: It's "MuslimPundit.co.uk" -- with the catchy slogan "Going after starry pan-Islamic futurists with a rubber glove and a sharp stick." There's no "about me" section, but he seems to be a pro-Western British Muslim with a nasty sense of humor. Check it out. (Thanks to Keith Spurgeon for recommending this).
NEIL YOUNG SAYS "LET'S ROLL:" This from reader Paul Orwin:
I just heard a song called "Let's roll" by Neil Young on the radio. Obviously a paean to Todd Beamer et al, and a truly touching composition. I am listing to the radio in LA right now, and they are saying that it was privately produced and distributed by Mr. Young himself. In any event, I thought that the blogging world would be very interested in this. I may be wrong, but this song seems to me to say what liberalism is about, and recalls in my mind the fighting spirit of 60's warriors who wanted to change the world, and didn't just whine about stuff, but went out and changed it (By this I don't mean crackpots like the Weathermen, but the kids who joined the Peace Corp, or went to the South to register blacks to vote). In any event, I figured the hyper-blogger was the guy to disseminate this info. I am spending so much time e-mailing bloggers, maybe I should set up my own???
Why not? It seems to be contagious.
HEY, I JUST NOTICED THAT Welch is blaming me for blowing Tim Blair's cover. Sorry; I didn't know it was embargoed -- I just thought it was a cool page.
Besides, how do you "embargo" things on the Web anyway?
STEVEN DEN BESTE has some interesting thoughts on the future of web journalism, and economic models therefor. So does Matt Welch. Me, I think I'm going to switch to what I'm calling a "reverse camgirl" model -- send me stuff, or I will post pictures of myself.
UPDATE: I just ran across Ken Layne's take on the subject. Boy, and I thought I was mean to Salon.
PSYCHOLOGISTS HAVE AN OPINION about the American Taliban. Pyschologically speaking, they've diagnosed him as "an asshole."
MORE ON WIRELESS: A reader writes: "you could always get a mac ... i bet your powerbook would work perfectly on the network if you did." Well, so long as I didn't use OSX it would. But the new Apple OS isn't supported either. Sigh.
CANADA AND EUROPE ARE QUIETLY bailing on the Kyoto Agreement according to this report.
THE TRADE VOTE IS TOMORROW, and there are lots of interesting angles, most of which are getting no attention from the press because, well, the press can only cover one thing at a time and we're at war.
Michael Barone makes this observation, though:
One of the interesting things about the trade promotion authority fight is the almost unanimous opposition of House Democrats. Historically, Democrats were the party of free trade and Republicans the party of protectionism. The top domestic legislative priority of the first two years of the Kennedy administration was free-trade legislation. Most House Democrats voted for it and most Republicans voted against it; in the Senate most of the votes against were cast by Republicans, and weakening amendments were offered by Sen. Prescott Bush (R-Conn.), George W. Bush's grandfather. But starting in the 1970s, labor unions, especially the United Steelworkers and United Auto Workers, sought protection against foreign competition. Today the strongest opposition to trade promotion authority comes from the AFL-CIO.
BOY, LOTS OF PEOPLE have written about the Orinoco card. Thanks for all your help, but . . . The problem isn't the card, or its drivers. It's a client/authentication package that runs with it, so that the University network can identify my computer as one that's allowed access. It's by Orinoco but it's semicustom. That's the problem. The card works fine. Windows recognizes the card fine. But the network won't let it on without software that won't run under XP.
It sucks. It's partly Orinoco's fault, for not shipping an XP update (apparently, lots of institutional customers have this package) and partly the University's fault, for setting things up that way. (Is broadband wireless-poaching that big a problem? Well, maybe).
Since there's so much expertise out there, I'm thinking of setting up a wireless home network with a Linksys wireless access point/router and the Orinoco card in the laptop (probably Linksys USB points on the stationary PCs). Any experience out there on this?
MORE SUPPORT FOR THE FREE-TRADE-VS.-TERRORISM ARGUMENT from Yale Law Professor Alan Schwartz.
GERALDO KILLED FOX NEWS? Well, Matthew Edgar reports that Fox used to be his favorite, but that he now changes to CNN whenever Geraldo appears. And he's always appearing! If this phenomenon is widespread (and, er, how could it not be?) it could be the end to Fox's ratings success. On the other hand, this effect can be used for good as well as evil: as Uthant.Com pointed out, no sooner did word of Geraldo's arrival leak out than the Taliban went scampering off to their caves! So in a way, the Geraldo move may have won us the war. Fox -- a news network willing to die for its country?
AUSTRALIAN BLOGGER TIM BLAIR shares his thoughts on weblogging and high-priced commercial journalism. Bjorn Staerk, Ken Layne, and Matt Welch come out well under his analysis.
WALTER SHAPIRO REPORTS ON the runup for the hearings on military tribunals. An interesting story of bipartisanship beyond the soundbite level.
SECRET SERVICE CALLS INTERNET ESSAYIST, investigating an essay on the writer's, er, desire to have carnal knowledge of the President. Apparently, the Secret Service guys did their job right, being neither overbearning nor obnoxious.
To my surprise I didn't feel harassed or bigbrothered. There had been no impingment of free speech, no chilling effect. Clearly my case would be routinely marked "no threat" and filed away. If I had vibed hinky, though, I might have gotten a house call the next time the Prez came to town: "So, pal, are you planning to come down to the motorcade tomorrow? You been taking your medications?" These guys are professional bodyguards for the executive branch, trying to preempt bad guys, asking questions, doing their job. An expensive project, no doubt. But other cops should be so fine-tuned in their threat assessment process.
One crucial thing to remember: if my piece had been titled "Why I Think John Ashcroft is a Big Dumbass" and the government gave me a call, this would be a very different story, and I'd be hollering bloody murder.
And rightly so. (Via Declan McCullagh)
EARLIER TODAY, Jay Zilber wrote about palestinians' last-ditch efforts on NPR to dictate what Israel "must" do. I'm listening to NPR now, and it's the same stuff.
What the palestinians must do is give up this crap, or be squashed like bugs. It's that simple.
A CONTRAST: NPR is treating today's "friendly fire" incident as a horrible screwup. CBS radio, which I heard in my car this morning, described it as one of those things that inevitably happen in wartime.
CLAYTON WAAGNER IMPLICATIONS:
With the arrest of nut-case Clayton Waagner, is it too much to expect a chorus of apologies from the radical pro-choicers who publicly attacked Attorney General Ashcroft for "doing nothing" because of his personal religious beliefs?
I will not hold my breath for these apologies, but I will take quiet satisfaction in the fact that the
Ashcroft-haters have been proven wrong...again. The Lefties' problem is that they cannot imagine a man of high-principle putting the law before personal beliefs. They cannot imagine it, because it is beyond
what they themselves are capable of.
Several other readers have written wondering if Salon
will apologize for its savaging of Ashcroft along these lines. We'll see.
You know, I don't hate Salon. In fact, I like them, or did back when I could read most of their articles. I'm just deeply, deeply disappointed.
PETE DUPONT says that gun rights have gained ground in the wake of Sept. 11, but that this is just continuing a trend from before. I think that's about right.
NEWSFLASH: Antiabortion wacko Clayton Waagner, believed to be behind the phony anthrax letters sent to abortion clinics, has apparently been arrested in Ohio. At the moment, that's all I know.
VIRGINIA POSTREL disagrees with my sturdy Jeffersonian cyber-yeomanry post. She says that authors need to be paid.
Well, yes. Though in truth, they usually aren't paid much. I write regularly for magazines and newspapers, and write books from time to time (though, thank God, not for a living) so I have a pretty good idea of what authors get paid. This has given me enormous respect for people who make a living as freelancers.
Nonetheless, I don't think that's the point. I'm pretty sure that of Salon's near-$74-million deficit, not very much is because they overpaid writers. Instead -- and this is true with all sorts of magazines -- most of it was wasted on typical corporate bloat. Lots of magazines, of course, don't turn a profit. The New Republic and The National Review are sometimes in the black, but basically depend on rich people for support. (Ditto for The Nation, though I think it's actually somewhat more profitable than the other two, oddly enough.) The same is true for a lot of magazines -- but they don't lose money to the tune of $74 million.
But a cyber-yeomanry doesn't have to go unpaid, any more than Jefferson's yeoman farmers farmed for free. It does have to be free from, well, corporate bloat, though. And while I certainly don't think that bloggers will replace The New York Times they could replace -- and for some readers already have replaced -- its increasingly lame op-ed page. And, to be brutal, there's not much in Salon that couldn't have been done cheaper (and probably better) by bloggers. Or college students. What that tells me is that the money wasted by Salon wasn't money that was being put toward producing a good magazine.
What I think this means is that publishers -- and professional writers -- are going to have to be smarter, and deliver more value, to compete with the stuff that's available on the Web for free. Salon isn't doing that, and its demise is pretty much a matter of time, I think. It should serve as a wake-up call elsewhere. The real losers from Web technology should be editors, layout people, etc., who can be replaced to a large degree by computers. That ought to leave more money for paying writers. But perhaps, based on how writers do generally, it makes sense to be pessimistic here.
ARKANSAS HAS A BUDGET DEFICIT. Gov. Mike Huckabee doesn't want a tax increase, and told tax advocates that if they thought the state needed money they could donate to a special "tax me more fund" that he established to receive contributions in support of state government. Total amount received in the first week: $260.
HASHEMITES! HASHEMITES! The U.S. is proposing Jordanian troops to police the West Bank. This is brilliant. First, Arafat will hate the idea, since it weakens him and serves as an admission that he isn't in control -- and paves the way for an exit strategy in which the area goes back to Jordan (who had it before 1967) and leaves the "palestinian" movement as just another separatist movement in an Arab country; and second, the Jordanians can crack down hard without inspiring the Islamic backlash that the Israelis would. In fact, given the bad odor that Arafat is in throughout the Arab world, they may even get support from other Arab countries for doing so. Somebody is on the ball with this suggestion, which I guarantee is causing heartburn with the right people even as I write. What's missing from the story, however, is any sign of how the Jordanians feel about it.
"IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT GUNS," some John Lennon fans used to say. Dave Kopel actually does it, and it's not that pretty.
SHEESH! No wonder Salon's sex-advice column is all about depression. Just read this article on Salon's financial position, including an "accumulated deficit" of nearly $74 million!. How can this possibly be?
The article talks about David Talbot's delusions of grandeur and desire to deliver content on a daily basis. Well, hell, I do the latter (form your own opinions about the delusions-of-grandeur part -- but if I'm deficient there, give me time; I'll learn). And I do it a lot cheaper!
What's more, there are lots of people who do. Look at Will Vehr's PunditWatch, which is as good as any feature in Slate or Salon. Look at most of the pages under "recommended" on the left and you'll see people doing just as well, for peanuts.
What they don't have, of course, is a CEO who makes around 250K a year, or a 36-person sales-and-marketing staff, etc., etc. This is classic corporate flab.
The blogging explosion is making me wonder if the Web isn't best off as a noncommercial or hobbyist space. Hmm. That doesn't sound catch enough. Ah, here we go: as the abode of sturdy, Jeffersonian cyber-yeomanry! Yeah, that's it.
Maybe it's a good thing if it's hard to make money on the Web. Of course, maybe it's not as hard as they make it seem. Salon's experience puts me in mind of the John Wayne quote that appears on Neal Boortz's page: "Life is tough. Life is tougher if you're stupid."
VIRGINIA POSTREL'S WSJ PIECE ON CLONING isn't available on the WSJ website unless you're a subscriber. But it is available on Reason Online and that's free! I love the Internet!
JUST WASTED A COUPLE OF HOURS trying (well, mostly watching our excellent I.T. guy trying) to set my laptop up for the campus wireless network. The card saw the network, and Windows saw the card, but there's client/authentication software involved that isn't XP-compatible. (XP politely warned us about that; we tried to go ahead anyway, producing my first blue-screens in XP). Orinoco (or whoever they are this week) hasn't released a new version for XP yet. They also don't support Linux or OSX, which just plain bites. Anyway, I can't use the campus network without a cable until this is fixed. Dang.
WILL VEHRS HAS IT ALL WRAPPED UP IN PUNDITWATCH (the Wednesday "print pundit edition"). He's good. I missed Slate's "Pundit Central" feature, but really, this is better.
JONATHAN RAUCH HAS this captured "transcript" of an al Qaeda strategy meeting. It's a parody, but surprisingly hard to tell from the real thing.
HERE'S A LIST OF MAJOR BOMB ATTACKS SINCE THE OSLO ACCORD: Think this is why the Israelis are pissed?
What's more, these are all cheered by the Palestinians in large numbers. I agree with what Tom Friedman says below: if the Arabs can't get this under control, the U.S. should just take a hands-off policy to Israeli self-defense. What's funny is, so many people in that part of the world blame the United States for Israel's actions, when really the main role of the United States has been to hold the Israelis back. Maybe we should stop, and let them appreciate the difference.
JOHN MCGINNIS writes a good column on why free trade is bad for terrorism and why Congress should approve fast-track authority.
He's completely right about this. (Brink Lindsey also had an excellent piece in The New Republic about how the various Arab countries sponsoring or encouraging terrorism have one thing in common: they don't belong to the WTO.) Great quote from McGinnis:
Free trade is a way to drain the swamp of despair where terrorists thrive. It opens new markets in areas where developing nations produce efficiently, thus enriching their citizens.
It also brings the poor of the developing world into the web of exchange, encouraging the skills of entrepreneurship and habits of industry that will lift them from poverty.
Over time, free trade can also expand civil rights. And civil rights are helpful in waging the war against terrorism - they create nonviolent outlets for social change in countries whose frustrated citizens now
project their discontent as violence against other nations.
As I say, McGinnis is right. BUT -- and this is a big but -- the problem is that free-traders haven't bothered to make this case in the past. If you look at the discussion around, for example, NAFTA or the U.S. entry into the WTO, the free-trade side basically said: free trade is good, and people who oppose it are troglodytes (or, as the Clintonians called them, "extremists"). Period. They then proceeded to play an insider-political game to get those agreements adopted.
The problem with this approach is that you don't build public support, and you look like you've got something to hide. That hurts you in the long run. It's good to see people like McGinnis engaging the issues and making the strong arguments that actually exist for free trade.
Mickey Kaus points out this Washington Post article on why the threat from a "dirty nuke" is overrated. The article does, however, note that any terrorist group that pulled off such an attack would get "immense prestige."
Is that really true? It hasn't worked out for bin Laden. But at any rate, that's something we can attack -- in part by making clear that retaliation in kind is in order for any nation that has helped in any way. Hell, if it gave us an excuse to nuke Baghdad, such an attack would just be playing into our hands -- which is exactly the line that ought to be slipping out into the Arab world.
(Why am I saying "Arab world" instead of "Islamic world?" Because, as is now pretty obvious, that's where the main problem lies.)
TOM FRIEDMAN is one of the few points of light on the post-9/11 New York Times oped page. Today's column makes clear that Arabs understand the difference between Palestinian guerrilla attacks on military targets, and deliberate efforts to kill a lot of civilians -- but don't want to let on that they do.
But the Arab world needs to understand that the PR game has changed. The question in the United States is no longer "how can we keep them happy," but rather "what should we do to them to make sure they don't cause any more problems." The House of Saud is already in deep trouble with the United States, and other Arab countries aren't doing much better. They're now in a situation where Bush may have trouble restraining the sentiments of the American street. And, unlike the "Arab street," the feelings of the American street matter. Because we have, like, real elections, and a free press, and all that other stuff that Arab countries -- every damned one of them -- lack.
SHE'S BAAACK! Virginia Postrel finally has some new stuff up (hey, unlike me she has to write stuff for a living), including items on cloning, the perfidious writing habits of Robert Reich and William Bennett, Bible Belt understanding of Saudi nastiness (based on all the people who've done construction and military work there) and much, much more. It's a good day already.
BLOGGER: Several people who know about this stuff, like Charles Johnson and Patrick Ruffini (links to their sites on the left) wrote me to suggest moving off of Blogger. I'm torn. It's amazingly easy. It's accessible from anywhere you can reach the web. And it works fine most of the time -- which, in my experience, is about all you can say for any computer-related item. I'm going to explore some new options, though, as part of plans for a bigger and better site. The InstaPundit part won't change much, but I want to have a place that will easily archive all my columns, etc. and that will make it easier for me to put up bigger files occasionally.
But what I've liked about the current setup is that I don't really have to think about anything except the content. There's a lot to be said for that, and as long as it works I may well stick with it.
But if Blogger ever craps out for good, the InstaPundit.Com address will take you wherever the new site is set up.
McDONALD'S UPDATE: Reader Dan Hartung writes:
Starting about 18 months ago, McDonald's decided through focus groups that their biggest failing was all those burgers sitting on the warmer-racks getting cold and stale. So now you get everything "fresh" which has improved taste perceptions but sent service into the crapper. (I hate going to McD's inside, now, because you can never tell what registers are open, but you HAVE to pick a line, and then you can get stuck waiting while the clerk literally holds the bag over by the kitchen for your or your predecessor's food. It would be so much better if they'd make you line up like Wendy's and BK.)
This also makes special orders easier to handle, or perhaps vice versa, so now they offer a rotating menu of special items to pique customer interest.
Interesting. My old law firm represented McDonald's on their food & regulatory work. (My very first project, before I moved into a specialty, involved regulatory clearance for the "McRib" sandwich. Don't laugh; there were (dumb and pointless) regulatory issues). I've never been that crazy about their food, but I was impressed with how well run they were. And, I have to say, the hamburger I got the other day was
hot, fresh and good, which was a big change from McDonald's burgers in recent years. I haven't noticed that the lines are worse, but then I don't go there much and when I do it's usually drive-thru.
HERE'S AN ANTIWAR SITE THAT is supporting the war. The link takes you to the explanation of why. Very interesting.
BLOGGER WAS DOWN FOR MOST OF THIS EVENING or I would have posted more. BTW, if Blogger ever dies a true death, remember that the InstaPundit.Com address will always work (unlike the local instapundit.blogspot.com address, which is tied to this particular host), and will point to whatever new site I set up. It might take me a day or two to activate the InstaPundit Emergency Relocation Plan, but don't worry, it would take more than that to kill InstaPundit. Just save InstaPundit.Com as an address.
Matt Welch had some item a while back suggesting that George Soros funds Blogger. Can this be true? If so: George, send them more money!
A TERRIFIC IDEA FROM READER TOM COHOE:
I believe that you are right that the real walk for capitalism occurs in the shopping malls. The "Walk for Capitalism" sounds a little naive to me. Nevertheless, some kind of hitting back at the type of anti-globalist protesters who like to smash things would be satisfying. McDonald's seems to have been singled out as the target corporation of choice for the violent rage of these haters of freedom. Hardly an international forum on trade goes by without news that a MacDonald's restaurant somewhere has had its windows smashed.
My idea is that every time a MacDonald's outlet is damaged by these protesters, every member of an ad hoc group pledged to "solidarity with MacDonald's" goes out and purchases something at a MacDonald's
restaurant. I already do this with a few of my friends (I normally don't eat at MacDonald's), but my little "action" is too trivial to be symbolically significant. However, the internet could provide the means to organize this on a scale large enough that every time a MacDonald's is vandalized, the corporation receives a consequent revenue boost large enough that the terrorist action results in a net profit boost larger than the damage.
This would impotentiate (sorry, can't think of the word I want here) the protesters vandalism, and send a message about who it is who really represents "the people".
It's an idea. Maybe with some input from some others, it could be organized.
I like this. A quarter-pounder is patriotic!
Interestingly, I ate an actual, regular McDonald's hamburger for the first time in years the other day. They've never been my favorite fast food place, and their regular burgers were horrible the last couple of times I had one (usually I get a Big Mac, on the theory that everything there is fattening, but it's at least pretty good). But this one was hot, juicy, and delicious -- like I remembered from when I was a kid. Either they've upped their quality control, or I just lucked out for once. But I might actually get one again. Maybe as a show of support.
WORTHWHILE CANADIAN INITIATIVE: A reader fills in the story:
Ok - here's the history of the "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative":
Back in, oh, 1989 or so, The New Republic ran a short article which talked about a contest that an Austrian paper ran in 1920. The contest was for the most sensational conceivable headline, and least interesting headline. In 1920, the winners were "Franz Ferdinand Alive, World War Fought By
Mistake", and "Small Earthquake in Chile, Not Many Dead". They liked the idea, but said that the 20th Century had seen too many real sensational headlines, and that it would be too hard to judge, so they were only looking for submissions for the most boring possible headline.
About 3 weeks into the contest, the New York Times actually ran an article headlined "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative". The next issue of TNR reported this headline, and declared the contest over, with the New York Times the winner.
Yeah, that fits with my hazy recollection.
A FINE LETTER IN TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL by one of my colleagues here at Tennessee. It's not online, so I'm reproducing it in full below. I think the people at Reuters should get a copy or twelve:
Regarding the declaration by British Liberal Democrat Graham Watson, "Terrorist organizations in one country can be freedom fighters in another," in a Nov. 27 article:
I have heard this true but inane statement, or a variant, one time too many. Yes, one man's terrorist can be another man's freedom fighter, and the man who to the jury is a murderer, to other people might be a meal ticket or perhaps a beloved nephew. None of which changes the fact that the murderer is a murderer, and the terrorist a terrorist. To some people Attila the Hun was one of the best-dressed people of the Fifth Century. So what?
Mr. Graham should attempt to substitute actual thought for mindless slogans. It's hard, but with discipline and application, can be achieved.
Professor of Philosophy
University of Tennessee
(Prof. Cohen is author of "Arms and Judgment: Law, Morality, and the Conduct of War in the Twentieth Century," Westview Press, 1989).
You tell 'em, Sheldon. It's sad that a politician needs a professor of philosophy to explain such simple and obvious facts. But sometimes explaining the obvious is the function of a teacher.
MICKEY KAUS gets hate mail from Bob Kuttner for his remarks about Robert Reich's doomed gubernatorial campaign. Or maybe about Reich's doomed magazine? Or just Reich's doomed career? You be the judge as to what really set Kuttner off.
OH, CANADA! Still more incisive mail from Canadians about the Canadian political situation, on InstaPundit EXTRA!.
ROTC AT YALE wasn't ended because of the Vietnam War, according to this article in the Yale Daily News. Instead, it was ended because of the Yale faculty's contempt for what they saw as "vocational education."
Well, I'm not sure whether this makes the Yale faculty look better or worse, but it certainly removes even the pretense of moral high ground.
WELL, everyone says I'm spending too much time at InstaPundit, so I took a nice long walk around campus. Now I'm going to dinner with my wife. Back later this evening.
JIM PINKERTON WARNS about China's plans to dominate space in the 21st Century. He's right.
JOSH MARSHALL HAS this good argument on why we should support Pervez Musharraf. I'm happy to see that he notes Musharraf's Kemalist leanings, and this passage is dead on:
If all this weren’t enough, there is another, more pressing reason for us to do right by Musharraf - one with implications far beyond Pakistan: In the Islamic world the United States has built up a reputation - often deserved - of dropping our friends like yesterday’s paper whenever it’s convenient or opportune. To an extent, this was the case in Afghanistan in the 1980s; and even more so with the anti-Saddam rebels in northern and southern Iraq in 1991.
In the long view, Musharraf may have had no choice. But he took a big risk in siding with us. And now he’s going to need all the help he can get.
The one thing our own national interest cannot allow is to have it seem, once the dust has settled, that we played Musharraf for a fool, with respect to Afghanistan, India, Russia or anyone else.
This is absolutely right.
BIG ENTERTAINMENT: The tobacco industry of the 21st century? This story from The New York Times says that the FTC is going to release a report critical of marketing to juveniles. Expect to also see antitrust actions (discussed in the very first posting on InstaPundit) proceed against both the motion-picture and music industries.
Interestingly, we had a panel discussion here on entertainment law issues featuring a Grammy-winning songwriter and some bigshot entertainment lawyers. I was moderating, and in the hopes of provoking some good disagreement suggested that both industries were vulnerable to racketeering actions under the RICO law. Everyone -- even the industry guys -- agreed that this was true.
Did I mention that the entertainment industry tends to support Democrats?
AND THE PRIZE GOES TO: James Lileks, who writes about my "Worthwhile Canadian Letters" headline:
Either I'm reading too much into this, or you're making one of the loooongest callbacks in pundit history: is your little headline a reference to that ancient New Republic contest for the Most Boring Headline Ever? The winner, I recall, was "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative."
If it's a reference to that, well, I got it.
Give the man a prize! He's absolutely right -- and I'm happy to see him find something to talk about besides how sick he's been. It is, no doubt, the healing power of punditry. But then, that's InstaPundit: chock-full of tasty pundit goodness!
SPEAKING OF REASON, this article says that affirmative action isn't as popular among actual black people as popular discussion suggests. Interesting.
THE SEGWAY: OVERRATED? That's what Jeff Taylor writes in Reason Express. Is a small vehicle with no cargo space that useful as a car replacement? Probably not, if you actually think about why people like cars. You can't carry friends, or much in the way of packages. And it doesn't keep you out of the weather. Rather than a car replacement, it seems to me, it's really a bike replacement, or maybe a competitor for walking.
Would I use it for any trips? Maybe for some of the short bops I take to the mall. But it won't carry a kid, so it's only good if I'm going alone, and the weather's good, and if I can use it on the sidewalk as it's too slow -- and too unsafe -- to share a road with cars. Is that worth $3000? Not to me. And given my proximity to destinations that I often drive to alone, and my fondness for gadgetry, if it won't sell to me it probably won't sell very well anywhere else.
KEN LAYNE, trading shamelessly on his Pacific Time Zone advantage, has picked up on the Salon SexWatch feature, and also speaks favorably of Rachael Klein, who appears to be setting up her own website. (I've actually gotten a lot of email thanking me for pointing out her columns, which readers say they like a lot better than, say, Dan Savage. I agree. They're positive, well-written, and 100% snideness-free! Which is harder to do than you think, until you try.) Ken also has a story about why the Salon feature is so lame.
It is pretty lame, though as an "advice" column rather than as a "sex" column it would be merely mediocre instead of pathetically embarrassing. But aside from the tech reporting of Damien Cave and Janelle Brown, there's just not much worth reading in Salon anymore, so maybe that's not so obvious to them. . . .
NEOCOLONIALISM IS MANIFEST in diplomats' approach of moral equivalence in the mideast, writes Michael Gove in The Times. Interesting point:
This tragically arrogant neocolonial attitude governed Britain’s approach to Bosnia, and it still governs Establishment attitudes towards Israel. Britain insisted throughout the Bosnian conflict that it was an intractable dispute between “warring factions” fuelled by unfathomable ancient ethnic quarrels which were susceptible neither to easy explanation nor moral judgment. The miserable consequences of our amoral equivalence are brilliantly recorded in Bernard Simms’ new book, Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia. Britain’s failure to recognise that the Serbs were totalitarian aggressors and that the legitimate Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina was a sovereign democratic entity deserving of support, condemned thousands of innocents, many but not all
Muslim, to their deaths.
And now, again, the failure of many in the West clearly to discern the difference between a democratic state fighting for survival and its totalitarian aggressor is condemning more innocents to death. . . .
Arafat is another Milosevic, a kleptocrat, an autocrat, a sponsor of terror and yet still the West’s “indispensable partner” in peace talks. We view the conflict in the Middle East from underneath the district commissioner’s pith helmet, as just another tribal wrangle between Big Chief Sharon and Sheikh Arafat. Until we see it for what it is — a totalitarian assault against democracy — we shall continue to be accomplices to injustice. . . .
The only expiation we can make now is to fight energetically for democracy in the Middle East — by supporting that region’s only democracy as it defends itself today against terror, and arming democracy’s allies in other Middle Eastern nations. Starting in Iraq.
Yep. As a reader emails me, Arafat doesn't really want peace, because if he had peace, and a separate, sovereign Palestinian nation, he'd just be another small-time corrupt autocrat of a tiny country -- whereas right now he's a bigshot frontline "fighter" for the Arabs. Of course, playing both sides against the middle is getting harder and harder for Arafat, who has in fact been kept afloat, and probably alive, only by United States protection. That protection is, along with American patience, wearing awfully thin as it becomes clear that he either can't or won't deliver anything like peace. And one reason why he can't, or won't, is that he is, in fact, just a small-time corrupt autocrat who depends no keeping his people heated up about outsiders to preserve the tiny amount of legitimacy he can claim.
JOHN TIERNEY REPORTS ON the "walk for capitalism" in New York. Most amusingly, some "antiglobalist infiltrators" came with signs depicting "extreme hypercapitalism" to discredit the marchers. Then they videotaped themselves to use in antiglobalist agitprop sessions. Tierney's sort-of-suggestion: pro-capitalists should send infiltrators to antiglobalist marches with signs reading "Keep Those Natives in Their Quaint Villages." But, really, is there anything outsiders could do in an antiglobalism march that would discredit it more than the real marchers?
Alternative theory: This is already going on, which explains, when you think about it, a lot of what takes place at antiglobalist marches: most of them are really ringers paid by Exxon!
POT AND KETTLE: Here's a New York Times writer calling Fox News biased. Sadly, this guy probably actually believes that the Times is neutral and objective in its coverage.
A NEW EU "ANTITERRORISM" proposal goes farther than anything the Bush Administration has proposed. Will the Eurojournalists who are calling the U.S. a police state rise to oppose it? Or are they OK on any power that's in the hands of nice, well-dressed Eurocrats?
WORTHWHILE CANADIAN LETTERS: A couple of long and interesting items from Canadians about what's going on there. They were too long for InstaPundit, so they're over at InstaPundit EXTRA! for your enjoyment.
MORE ON MILITARY RECRUITERS: A retired USAF recruiter writes:
I read the story about the USMC recruiter at the UNLV Law School with considerable interest. I was a USAF recruiter in Akron, OH from 1989-93, and unfortunately, none of that story surprises me. The sad fact is that from my own experience, perhaps as many as half the high schools and colleges in this country place active roadblocks in the path of military recruiters, and many of the rest have faculty members who actively encourage resistance to recruiting activity. At one affluent high school near Akron, I had a young lady (at best a freshman) overturn my information table while screaming something about us being killers. The principal never even offered an apology, and instead suggested that this was a perfectly acceptable form of free speech, and that perhaps I should not return. They are often aided and abetted by local organizations that should know better but have their own axes to grind. In Akron, our efforts to recruit minority students from high schools and colleges were frustrated by two very well known civil rights organizations that did not believe the military had anything to offer anyone.
This may - stressing the 'may' -change in the near future with a bill that has gone through Congress and IIRC is in final committee now that would withhold Federal funds from any college or school that refuses or hinders military recruiters in their work. Now, they will find ways around that - several religious high schools in my zone were ordered to allow us in, but put highly restrictive conditions on our visits. But if it's enshrined in law, they will have to do so with at least some grain of doubt.
Well, I must say that this is just plain disgraceful. The law is nice, but what will end this is not so much legal pressure as public pressure. In particular, military recruiters and students who want to be recruited need to make a stink when this happens, and ensure that the events are publicized.
I should say that so far I haven't been able either to confirm or deny the UNLV story. It doesn't quite ring true to me: academics are capable of being jerks, but not generally in the way the story describes. I'll let you know if I find out more.
SALON SEXWATCH UPDATE: Bottom line: still no sex in Salon's sex column. Why don't they just admit that it's an advice column? But no -- right at the top it says "sex column," even though all we hear about is whether a 60-year-old woman should lie about her age to get dates, what to do about a Japanese girlfriend who doesn't want to move to the states, yada yada yada. There's more sex (a lot more sex!) in the average issue of The Ladies' Home Journal. Meanwhile, Rachael Klein at the Daily Cal has another hardcore column that's chock-full of advice on masturbation for women. (Men, she says, don't need her advice).
Salon has been upstaged by the Daily Cal every Tuesday. And yet, I'd be willing to bet, Salon costs a lot more to publish. (Where does that money go?) If I were David Talbot -- well, let's not go there. But if I were editing Salon, I'd take advantage of the multitudes of great writers out there on the Web instead of publishing the same old same old from their usual stable of overpaid hacks. It would cut their bloated costs somewhat (though I'd bet that most of their money goes to someone other than writers -- it is ever thus). And it would be better.
LARRY TRIBE HAS a pretty good critique of military tribunals in The New Republic, calling on Congress to narrow Bush's order, which he correctly calls overbroad. But what my fellow lawyers (and the news media) haven't been willing to face is that the Administration's preference for military tribunals, and the public's endorsement of them, is in fact a stinging rebuke to the way several high-profile trials have gone. It's no coincidence that defenders of the military-tribunal order always invoke the O.J. trial. I knew at the time that the O.J. trial was a watershed event, and not in a good way. This is proving it.
TONY ADRAGNA'S REVIEW of the Harry Potter movie is up. Bottom line: Hey, I won't steal his thunder. Read it.
SURGEON GENERAL DAVID SATCHER SAYS that the CDC's labs are a "disgrace". They say it's because of underfunding. But I note that they've had money to crusade against guns and accidents for years. Perhaps they need some help focusing on, you know, their actual mission.
MORE ON CANADA: A reader writes:
This isn't exactly news, but it is related to an item you just posted regarding Canada's "Canada Loves New York" and "Walk for Capitalism" rallies, and how pro-Allies sentiment seems to meet with little more than indifference, if not hostility.
The National Citizen's Coalition, the largest non-profit organization in Canada, bought billboard space in lower Ontario and elsewhere slightly over a month ago and posted billboards expressing solidarity with the U.S. and the
war on terrorism. Less than two weeks later, a Canadian left-wing group attacked the billboard campaign as "inappropriate," saying it should be suspended, and less than one week after that the billboards were defaced by vandals.
This, despite polls that show Canadian support for the war effort at 80% or more.
Hmm. That fabled Canadian culture of niceness probably makes life a lot easier for the people who aren't
nice, eh? I appreciate the tip, as I knew nothing about this.
"HEY, MAYBE IT'S A MISTAKE TO PISS OFF THE AMERICANS." Apparently, many jihadists are regretting their support for Osama now. Good. Let's ensure that they regret it even more before all is said and done.
In Talash, returning fighters gave dispiriting accounts of a war in which they expected to encounter American troops, but instead encountered confusion, retreat and the gun barrels of fellow Muslims. . .
"We had an idea that some foreign troops, some American troops and British troops, were in Afghanistan. We wanted to capture some American troops--it would be a great honor for us to capture a U.S. Army man. But when we entered the area, we never saw any foreigners. They were all Muslims. They were all Afghans. And nobody told us about the airstrikes, this carpet bombing."
The article does note that the jihadists now say they're biding their time until there is a government in Kabul to fight. Keep biding, guys, until people forget about this time.
AS I'VE BEEN WORKING I've had the TV on in the background. I just flipped to CNN where Larry King is doing an interminable interview with Dan Rather. It's like "Grumpy Old Men III: The Afghan War."
READER KEVIN MAGUIRE reports that he saw a report of the "Canada Loves New York" rally on "one of the cable channels," but can't recall which one. Yeah, it's hard when you're surfing among CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CNBC, etc. -- they tend to blend together in your mind. How well I know.
WENDY MCELROY says American feminists are so eager to "own" the issue of women's rights in Afghanistan that they're not actually listening to Afghan women.
ANDREW SULLIVAN TAKES ON CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTION on his page, but anyone interested in that subject should read this 1998 piece by Walter Olson exposing the nasty nuttiness of that movement:
"The Christian goal for the world," Recon theologian David Chilton has explained, is "the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics." Scripturally based law would be enforced by the state with a stern rod in these republics. And not just any scriptural law, either, but a hardline-originalist version of Old Testament law--the point at which even most fundamentalists agree things start to get "scary." American evangelicals have tended to hold that the bloodthirsty pre-Talmudic Mosaic code, with its quick resort to capital punishment, its flogging and stoning and countenancing of slavery, was mostly if not entirely superseded by the milder precepts of the New Testament (the "dispensationalist" view, as it's called). Not so, say the Reconstructionists. They reckon only a relative few dietary and ritualistic observances were overthrown.
So when Exodus 21:15-17 prescribes that cursing or striking a parent is to be punished by execution, that's fine with Gary North. "When people curse their parents, it unquestionably is a capital crime," he writes. "The integrity of the family must be maintained by the threat of death." Likewise with blasphemy, dealt with summarily in Leviticus 24:16: "And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him."
Reconstructionists provide the most enthusiastic constituency for stoning since the Taliban seized Kabul. "Why stoning?" asks North. "There are many reasons. First, the implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost." Thrift and ubiquity aside, "executions are community projects--not with spectators who watch a professional executioner do `his' duty, but rather with actual participants." You might even say that like square dances or quilting bees, they represent the kind of hands-on neighborliness so often missed in this impersonal era. "That modern Christians never consider the possibility of the reintroduction of stoning for capital crimes," North continues, "indicates how thoroughly humanistic concepts of punishment have influenced the thinking of Christians."
But do they allow women at stonings?
SPEAKING OF NPR, this segment on a new play about Afghanistan was just an exercise in self-parody. When I listened in the car on the way home, I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry or just shake my head in bemused disgust. The audio isn't up yet (it'll be up at 9 EST), but if you didn't hear it, give it a listen. With a strong cup of coffee. Jeez.
MOIRA BREEN RAZZES CANADIANS and disses European journalists with almost Hitchensian verve. But, as proof that razzing is fundamentally affectionate, she also provides a link to this story about the "Canada Loves New York" rally, in which thousands of Canadians went to New York to show their support. Boy, the majors sure didn't report this one. I've seen more (which is to say, something) about the "Walk for Capitalism." Heck, even NPR's "All Things Considered" had a story on the "Walk for Capitalism."
SPEAKING OF MAIL, Jonathan Gewirtz sums up what several readers said in this comment on the "mass shootings" item: "Throw things? Sure. The best things to throw? Bullets."
AIRCARS: Several readers have sent me links to this experimental aircar, which is very cool although it won't fold up into my briefcase.
There has also been some suggestion that if we can make robots with sufficient skill to keep house, they will probably be used as sex robots (or, in Greg Bear's wonderful term, "prosthetutes") instead. I think that there's probably a market for such devices already. Unlike some, I have nothing against robosexuals. But I still want a friendly machine to clean my bathroom and kitchen. And maybe watch the kids. And mow the lawn.
Did I mention painting and putting up Christmas lights?
HERE, from Cryptome, is a list of 93 of the detainees being held by DoJ.
MORE GOOD STUFF: Not only is the weather fabulous, but strangers are sending me cash in the mail. Just got a $20 bill from one reader and -- mindblowingly -- a $500 check from another, both in appreciation for InstaPundit. Thanks!
That raises the total to about $2000 since late October when I put the Amazon Honors System button up. I'm still amazed that people are so willing to pay for things that they can get for free. It makes the whole "open source" software model look pretty plausible, doesn't it?
IT'S GORGEOUS HERE: I think it's broken 70 degrees, the sky is perfectly blue, and it's just wonderful -- especially for December. We've had (along with quite a lot of the eastern half of the United States) one of the best falls ever. It was cooler than usual early on, and now it's warmer than usual. I love it. I just went out for a little walk to soak it up.
NOW DOES THIS SOUND LIKE A "FAR SIDE" CARTOON, OR WHAT? "Bear-proof" suit to be put to the test:
A Canadian man and a three-metre, 585-kilogramme Kodiak bear will face off on 9 December, in an attempt to test a handmade, purportedly bear-proof suit.
Fifteen years of tinkering and US$100,000 have gone into the design, which incorporates plastic, rubber, chainmail, galvanised steel, titanium - and thousands of metres of duct tape.
Ordinarily, I'd bet on the bear. But I'm not sure there's anything
you can't do with thousands of meters of duct tape.
EMAIL FROM UPI COLUMNIST JIM BENNETT:
Iain Murray has some good comments on abolition of juries in England at http://englandssword.blogspot.com.
England seems to be a mine canary for the Anglosphere, probably because its elites have traditionally wielded more power over the political system. Second Amendment activists have been considered paranoid for arguing that abolition of jury trials would follow disarmament of the people, but it seems to be happening.
Not so much directly, as if the political classes feared an armed insurrection for abolishing the jury, but indirectly, because
disarmament of the people implies a contempt for the people. Once you can't trust them to defend themselves, why should you trust them to participate in the administration of justice?
Yes, I need to add a link to Iain's blog. I need to do a lot of things. I'll try to get to it. Excellent point, too.
HOW TO DEAL WITH MASS SHOOTINGS: John Weidner says, "throw things:"
Imagine the next time someone comes into a crowded room and starts shooting. People don't panic and scream and crawl under tables. Instead, they throw things. Anything. Chairs and tables. Computers and cell phones. Keys and coins and books and purses and shoes. The pictures on the wall.
Imagine the torrent of stuff that 20 people in a frenzy could throw. Enough to overwhelm one guy with a gun, that's for sure. Some people would get shot, but not many.
But this only works if everybody knows what to do. And is willing. Maybe now we may be willing. Airline passengers certainly are. Suppose everyone who reads this passes it on to a few friends. Soon, everyone will know what to do . . .
WHILE BUSH IS GETTING FLAK over military tribunals for noncitizens suspected of terrorism, Britain is planning to abolish trial by jury for an enormous range of ordinary offenses by citizens. Isn't that worse?
MICHELLE COTTLE has a good piece in The New Republic on white supremacists' support for radical Islam and Osama bin Laden (a subject first covered here on September 11). Best quote:
Just when you thought things couldn't get any more unsettling, some of America's biggest bigots sound like they're bucking for a column in The Nation. It's not just that radical racists admire Al Qaeda's grit--though National Alliance official Billy Roper did recently lament, "I wish our members had half as much testicular fortitude." Nor is their praise merely a by-product of their overwhelming hatred of the Jews. White supremacists and Islamicists like Osama bin Laden just plain agree on a lot of things--in particular, that globalism and multiculturalism are the uber-enemies, and that separatism and cultural purity are the answer. As Pierce has said of Muslims overseas, "Because we are separate and both of us would like to stay that way, we need have no conflict." In fact, for neo-Nazis, the real conflict is with their fellow Americans who want to go over to the Muslim world and make them more like us. . . . . "It's bizarre," says Potok. "They sound like Trotskyites. What they're saying in effect is that we should stand shoulder to shoulder with Third World peoples in their anti-imperialist struggle against the U.S."
It's no puzzle, really. Like many of their fellows on the Left, they just hate America and what it stands for. Let's return the sentiment, shall we?
FOXNEWS IS REPORTING that U.S. Marine recruiters were jeered at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. A Marine lawyer speaking at the law school there was reportedly drowned out by faculty members who turned up the volume on nearby TV sets and laughed loudly among themselves.
Hmm. I know some folks at the UNLV law school, and this doesn't sound like their style. But of course, I don't know everyone there. Either way, this indicates that the hostile position that law schools are taking on military recruiting is making such stories credible, and generating a lot of bad press. It's also the wrong thing to do. As regular InstaPundit readers know, I'm against the military's ban on gays in the military, and the witchhunts that the Clinton "don't ask, don't tell" policy actually produced in practice. But that's not a reason to try to exclude military recruiters, or to treat them with immature rudeness.
The academy is so far a big loser in this war, and people in the outside world are beginning to ask why their tax dollars and donations go to support people who treat the larger society, and its beliefs, with contempt. It's time for academics to follow the advice they're always giving mainstream America, look deep into their souls, and ask "why do they hate us?" Hint: read the item above.
MOIRA BREEN has a lot of good stuff on the war and European media coverage thereof. Great bit: "I'm convinced that the European wanker class is manically and mindlessly shooting up any ugly fact of war it can score on the street, in order to restore (for briefer and briefer periods) that soothing delusion of righteous moral superiority to which it is so addicted." Well said.
NOTE: If you're trying to email me, both my main account and the backup webmail account where the InstaPundit mail goes are down. Is there a new Internet virus going around?
SOME INTERESTING thoughts on multiculturalism in this email from a reader:
For years now, I have mused over the cultural perspectives of my students, particularly African-American and white American. The African-Americans frequently expressed their distaste for "white" culture, while they also grumped that the white students (and, historically, white people in general) were constantly stealing "black" culture. White students, on the other hand, thought black culture was "cool," or just didn't seem to care. There is a real point here. Despite the reality of past and present racism and social barriers towards blacks and other non-whites, whites Americans have been perfectly willing to pick up on and incorporate whatever elements of black culture that were seen as desirable. From Vaudeville to Elvis to the Backstreet Boys, white Americans (aside from nutty extremist groups like the KKK and fanatical Baptists) have had no problem with utilizing whatever they liked.
Take it a step farther, to the international stage, where it goes way beyond pop culture to include economic frameworks (just-in-time production, anyone?), alternate philosophies (perhaps helping to break down narrow WASP religious bigotries)and even politics. I'm not sure, but I think this is all in contradiction to what I have seen of Bennett's _Anglosphere_ stuff. [NOTE: I disagree here -- I think that Bennett sees this willingness to adopt ideas that work as an essential part of Anglosphere culture]. He sees other ideas as inferior and polluting, while I see them as providing the US with the flexibility essential to adapt and expand. The more you embrace, the more you expand your range of creative ideas and options. The key, of course, is to pick and choose (so maybe this is where Bennett is less exclusive, I don't know) based upon a real set of underlying values. Sushi and Japanese labor management? Good. Wife burning? Bad. Immigration, here, does not simply necessitate assimilation, as Bennett very certainly calls for, because he misses the fact that all cultural groups involved are being altered -- but the key is that as a result of social dynamics and identity creation that some are more epicurean in their tastes. [Again, I think this misstates Bennett, who believes in assimilation only where certain key political/social ideas involving individual liberty and honest politics are concerned].
Most American whites spend little time worrying about what is "white"... so they pick and choose as they see fit. The same obviously goes for certain recent African immigrants -- who don't see themselves constrained by notions of either "blackness" or "whiteness". The true losers here are the ones who define themselves too narrowly -- whether by religion (hey, pick a fundamentalist group, any fundamentalist group) race, culture, or nationality. Such definition often lead to definitions of opposition. (If X does Y, then we don't do Y, because we think X is bad).
Phrased another way, notions of cultural "authenticity" are a drag on creativity. For example, just last night at the African Cultural Fest, I asked one of the African-American students there how he liked it. He said he was depressed because it showed "how much we have lost." I said "don't sweat it, it isn't as if I have any stronger ties to my European roots..." at which point I noted that I was wearing African clothes and had just performed several Blues tunes from the 1930's. The difference? many minorities feel like they are being inauthentic or even oppressed whenever they do "white" things. Meanwhile, I get rewarded as a culturally sensitive guy for doing "black" things.
Final dose of irony? This means that "Multiculturalism" has largely served the needs of majority US culture, simply because it is actually far less threatening to most whites, who have little racial identity, than to those US minority groups who have a lot. Go figure, maybe even the relative "bashing" of whiteness and the stroking of ethnic identities within academic culture has played into this dynamic.
Yep. Multiculturalism is an ideology pushed by academics, mostly upper-middle-class whites, that has the effect of burdening lower-class nonwhites with a lot of counterproductive crap that tends to keep them in their place -- yet through an amazing feat of propaganda, the propagators of multiculturalism have managed to convince the victims of their racialist ideology that it's good for them. Hey, these guys don't study "false consciousness" for nothing. . . .
I'VE BEEN MEANING TO DO A "WINNERS AND LOSERS FROM THE WAR" item, but now Michael Barone has done it for me. All things come to those who wait. Though I'm still waiting for my Jetsons-style aircar, dammit. And it's 2001! Where are they? Exotic, gyro-stabilized scooter-type things are nice, but not good enough. I want my aircar! A housekeeping robot would be nice, too.
MICKEY KAUS REPORTS on Robert Reich's plans to run for Governor of Massachussetts. Personally, I think that this is some sort of slick Republican plot, but Kaus has an even more interesting theory of what's really going on here.
THE CASE FOR CENSORSHIP: This interesting story from the Denver Post tells of the Japanese transpacific balloon-bomb attacks on America. I had always believed that only a couple made it across the Pacific. Turns out that's what the Japanese thought, too -- but actually a lot did, and some got as far as Michigan. The press was convinced to hush it up, and the Japanese, who expected the American press to go hysterical over such an attack, concluded that it must have failed. This may have forestalled later attacks using biological weapons, which the Japanese had spent a lot of effort (and a lot of Chinese prisoners) on perfecting.
ANDREW SULLIVAN says that Yassir Arafat's days may be numbered. He's not worth negotiating with because he can't deliver peace -- and the phenomenal corruption of the Palestinian Authority makes it unlikely that he'll have enough legitimacy among Palestinians to do so. (Plus, as is increasingly clear, somewhere between a large minority and a large majority of Palestinians just plain don't want peace, but rather the destruction of Israel at any price). As I've been pointing out since just after September 11, Arafat has realized that he's in a tough spot here, and that his only hope of political survival is to please America. But, apparently, he just can't deliver the goods. If I were Yassir, or one of his top satraps, I'd be moving money to accounts in Liechtenstein and planning my exit now.
HEY -- MY FRIDAY SPEECH IS QUOTED IN WIRED. They got it pretty much right.
"GINGER" IS OUT: It's a "self-balancing people mover" that zips you around like a commuter car for $3000, according to Matt Drudge. Hmm. I'm still holding out for a Jetsons-style aircar. Apparently, though, there's a big corporate market for this. Consumer sales are a year or more away.
RICHARD MARIUS was a professor at the University of Tennessee and Harvard. This article tells some interesting stories, including some about his cut-short career as a speechwriter for Al Gore.
NEWS FLASH -- AMERICA WON THE VIETNAM WAR: Just read this story from The New York Times about American tourists, enjoying tropical fruit and sugar-sand beaches at a lovely resort that eagerly caters to their whims. Chortle.
SLASHDOT IS REPORTING that Japan has approved mixed human/nonhuman cloning procedures, aimed at producing organs for transplant. Human cloning will be forbidden.
One Slashdot poster has the obvious comment:
Bart: "How would I go about creating a half-man, half-monkey-type creature?" Ms. Krabapple: "I'm sorry, that would be playing God..." Bart: "God schmod. I want my monkey man!"
What would Leon Kass say? Come to think of it, he kind of reminds me of Ms. Krabapple. . . .
I'M UPDATING INSTAPUNDIT FROM THE LAPTOP UPSTAIRS. My six-year old daughter has fallen asleep next to me watching Nickelodeon. Lots of music videos featuring late-teens, aimed at preteens. Sugary and well-produced, with lots of belly buttons.
KEN LAYNE HAS this list of links that's worth bookmarking. I should add some of them to my links list. I keep meaning to do an organized update; instead I keep adding one here or there. I'll get to it. Things are a bit disrupted at the moment, though gradually starting to return to normal.
LOTS OF COOL STUFF IN PUNDITWATCH: Al Sharpton's remarks are, typically, utterly disgusting, but I don't think he's getting the condescension-inspired pass he used to get. Hey, Al -- take all the rope you need.
VENEZUELA UPDATE: A reader writes:
Funny you should have posted recently about Venezuela. You would score another coup by keeping an eye on things there. Most media have ignored what's been happening in Venezuela for the past few years, and now, with all that's been going on in Afghanistan and the Middle East, Chavez and his project receive almost no attention in the US. But matters there are about to come to a head.
Chavez recently lost a major election, when his hand-picked candidante for the CTV (umbrella labor union) was defeated in a landlslide. In early November he then promulgated 49 laws that, basically, abolish private property. His popularity has plummeted. There is great discontent in the armed forces. And the there are plans for a national strike Dec. 10th.
I've not paid enormous attention, but I've noticed his transition from amusing to alarming.
FOREIGN MEDIA BIAS is the subject of this item in the Post. The United States should take this stuff on aggressively.
Some of us civilians, of course, already are doing so.
THIS STORY OF THE BURN VICTIMS from the Pentagon attack is moving.
FIRST ANDREW, NOW ALLISON: Yep, now Allison Alvarez has drunk the Kool-Aid and become a Mac owner. Being tolerant of other religions, I won't complain. But notice her remarks about the Apple cult. They're true. I had a girlfriend once who was into Macs, but those mixed relationships never work out. . . .
RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE UPDATE: Well, I was at the mall and Border's this afternoon. So, as far as I can tell, was every other one of the 600,000 people in the Knoxville metropolitan area. They were carrying bags, which I suspect means they were buying stuff.
So did I. I also stopped by the massage therapy kiosk and got a 15-minute chair massage. (At a mere 10 bucks it was a steal). Both women there joined in, so it was a four-handed massage, which was pretty cool. It must also have looked pretty cool, because when they were done, there were several people waiting in line. Giving your customer extra value attracts business -- imagine that!
I wonder if any airline executives can.
READER BRIAN MORGAN WRITES:
You'll need to scroll pretty well down the page to see it, but Steve Forbes
is pushing for giving Iraq's oil to the Turks.
Let's see... Iraqi oil to the Ottomans and Saudi oil to the Hashemites.
Instapundit is so far ahead of the curve it frightens me!
Well, I try.
VENEZUELA'S PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ has been denouncing the United States and, essentially, supporting the September 11 attacks. Nor is he alone. His vice president said this:
"[There is] terrorism of the oppressed," she declared, "because there is also terrorism of the oppressors." "[Terrorism] is a perverse sub-product of WASP [White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant] domination," she added, explaining that such domination "becomes intolerable to the more radical and violent of the oppressed and leads them to desperate, destructive and murderous outbursts."
Leaving aside the question of why Western intellectuals haven't denounced this obvious racism (compare the silence on this with the response to Silvio Berlusconi's remarks about Western cultural superiority), the United States needs to make clear that people who say this sort of thing will pay a price, and we need to find subtle ways of putting the squeeze on the Venezuelan government.
This is a war. If you're against us, you shouldn't expect to get off scot-free. Ordinarily, America-bashing is a political freebie for Third World leaders. That has to stop. The sooner that people realize we're serious, the fewer problems we'll have.
WAR OPPORTUNISM ALERT: Let's see: we're at war against religious fanatics who want to create a theocracy. What's an appropriate response? Hey, how about government-sponsored prayer! Yeah, that' makes perfect sense. Jeez.
CARPING AGAINST ASHCROFT by off-the-record FBI middle-managers draws these hostile letters in the Post. They're right: the FBI repeatedly dropped the ball on terrorism. It needs a major shakeup. These efforts at a preemptive strike to prevent such a shakeup are, frankly, contemptibly unpatriotic. The rap on the FBI has always been that bureaucratic turf wars take precedence over doing the job. Seems to be true again.
COASTAL CONDESCENSION in the Washington Post. It's Gene Weingarten's search for the "armpit of America." Well, Washington, D.C. is generally considered to be full of people who are named for, er, another bodily part.
Besides, how bad can a town with a brothel, and seven saloons, but no movie theater be? I mean, have you been to any movies lately?
CATS & DOGS LIVING TOGETHER: The Guardian has a column calling for going after Iraq!
THE BEST PROPAGANDA IS VICTORY, CONT'D:
Attacked it was - for it was precisely that line of thought which led bin Laden to carry out the September 11 attacks. The success of that outrage gave him an almost mystical power and status within the Muslim world. In the immediate aftermath of September 11, there were large demonstrations in his support in many Muslim countries.
The disappearance of those demonstrations over the last few weeks shows that the war against him in Afghanistan has not enhanced bin Laden's mystique - as many confidently claimed it would. On the contrary, it has diminished it.
As he cowers in his cave, bin Laden has become a figure of contempt rather than a symbol of awesome and terrifying power. For that change, the prompt and concerted action by the West is entirely responsible.
SO MUCH FOR THE "ARAB STREET": This story tells of the demise of anti-American demonstrations in Quetta, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Best quote, from one of the few still talking the talk:
''I am ready, and I am going for jihad,'' declared Hezbollah, 20, an Afghan-born student at a Quetta madrassa, or religious institute, who like many Afghans uses only one name.
Asked when exactly he was going, he said: ''How can we go now? The border is closed, and the anti-Taliban opposition control the border town.''
Informed that he would be allowed to cross because he is an Afghan and that the Taliban still controlled the border town, he sputtered: ''There's no need to go. The Taliban are telling us not to go.''
Told that the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had called for Muslims to join the jihad, he replied that his brother had gone, so he didn't need to.
The best propaganda is victory.
TALIBAN/AL QAEDA HOLDOUTS EMERGE: According to this story, one was an American. But it's the final paragraph that says it all.
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