InstaPundit.Com

1/26/2002

AUDITING GLASS HOUSES: InstaPundit reader Neville Crenshaw writes:

Interesting article in the Houston Chronicle about a proposed "freedom ride" for former Enron employees being organized by Jesse Jackson. Story contains this quote:

"A major theme of Jackson's emotional, sermon-like speech was that the federal government bears some responsibility for the Enron debacle because it created policies allowing the firm to use questionable accounting."

Could those "policies" be the idiotic tax code with which successive Congresses have tinkered to the point of incomprehensibility? And, can Jackson actually be suggesting that the federal government would have permitted those "questionable accounting" practices had it known what was actually being done? Is he trying to out-Sharpton Al Sharpton?
If I were Jesse, I wouldn't be encouraging the government to crack down on questionable accounting practices.

THIS STORY ON THE ENRON SCANDAL quotes yours truly. Basic point: the storyline is getting too complex to make a good scandal.

Part of this is because there are 10 committees -- and an amazing 248 members of Congress -- investigating. That's going to generate so much buzzing confusion that actual news is likely to be lost in the white noise.

EXTORTION AND DEATH THREATS BY UN EMPLOYEES: The UN reports that its employees were shaking down African refugees, and worse, in the Guardian. Now, I don't want to be too hard on the UN -- every big organization has bad apples.

But what would the Guardian be saying if it were, say, American military folks who had done this?

KEN LAYNE REPORTS on the West Coast Warbloggers' Convention, held last night. Wish I could have been there.

Instead, I'm in Tennessee, with family visiting and a sick kid. So posting will probably be pretty light today.

THE MILOSEVIC WAR CRIMES TRIAL is "on the verge of collapse" and in "disarray."

Those folks who keep saying that the Al Qaeda terrorists should be sent to a "competent international tribunal" are going to find their case much more difficult to make if this one melts down.

HMM. Compare this item, which tells the sad story of computer-assisted efforts at detecting plagiarism, with the treatment of the same events in this story in The New York Times. Plagiarism?

I wouldn't say so, but then I've been chided for not taking a hard enough line on this stuff.

BELLICOSE WOMEN UPDATE: According to this very interesting poll from the Pew Research Center, more women than men now view national security as the top budgetary priority for the federal government.

Oh, this is going to have an interesting impact on the coming political campaigns.

PUNDITGATE UPDATE: A sharp-eyed reader makes this point about Paul Krugman's column defending himself on Enron-cronyism charges:

[Krugman writes:] "Never mind that the compensation I received per day was actually somewhat less than other companies were paying me at the time for speeches on world economic issues."

Oh, really? Which other companies, how much money ... and what has he written -- or refrained from writing -- about them?

Do we know yet how much we need "Pundit Finance Reform"?

There's another point here, that I wasn't going to mention, but now that the subject's raised: Krugman says that "conservative columnists and newspapers" have made a "concerted effort" to smear him. But, as Virginia Postrel points out, they haven't. The whole thing has come from one guy's website (and Andrew Sullivan, a gay man who used to edit The New Republic, isn't a credible front for the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.)

But this does prove the power of the Blogosphere, doesn't it? Charges raised on Sullivan's weblog (it's even Blogger-powered) have reached the point that they're resonating on the New York Times editorial page.

Another reader makes this telling observation: Krugman hasn't invoked the traditional "ink-stained wretch defense," in which journalists say that they have so little power that they're not worth scrutinizing, while politicians have so much that any sort of journalistic excess in scrutinizing them is justified. That, he says, is a tacit admission that a New York Times columnist is at least as powerful as a random member of the House Banking Committee. He suggests that journalists may soon find the whirlwind of scandal and ethical investigation upsetting applecarts in their profession, as it has done in so many others. Interesting.

AIRLINE SECURITY: An excellent suggestion, in a letter to the editor, not an official document, natch.

UPDATE: InstaPundit reader John Fulton reminds me that he sent me this very suggestion in an email on January 14. He's right. Here's what he said:

Suppose that check-in luggage were ended, and replaced by shippers that picked up and delivered your steamer trunks a la Fedex. Baggage handlers and the accompanying theft and bad service would be replaced instantly with a more convenient and competitive option. Carry on luggage can be searched as usual and the threat of bombs,
at least in checked baggage would be eliminated. How "out of the box" is that?
Advantage: InstaPundit Reader!

CORNEL WEST UPDATE: Well, Cornel hasn't gone to Princeton, but K. Anthony Appiah has. Harvard should make Princeton take West too -- it's only fair.

LOSER-CULTURALISM: NPR ran a piece yesterday on the sadness inherent in K-mart's bankruptcy. Do you think they'd have run a pro-K-mart piece if K-mart were doing well?

CORNEL WEST: A matter of style?

VANESSA LEGGETT UPDATE: Well, really it's an indictment in the Angleton case.

1/25/2002

BAD MOJO -- A READER WRITES FROM LONDON:

It's a problem all over Europe and Jews are by no means the only victims. About a month to the day before 9-11, I had to throw a prat out of here who was giving me a long lecture about how we need the EU to counter the Muslim Threat To White Christian Europe (he wasn't prescient, just prejudiced. This guy's idea of scintillating conversation is to raise his eyebrows, lower his voice and confide, "The Indians in number 38 have been cooking again.") He was practically yodelling the Horst Wessel Song as I hustled him through the door.

Things are feeling like what I imagine when I conjure up the mood of the thirties. Europe is really begining to smell again.

Yeah, it would be bad to set up a big, centralized European superstate and then have it run along fascistic lines, wouldn't it? But then, how likely is that, based on history?

Of course, my first thought on the above was "Yum, Indian cooking! Maybe if I'm nice to them they'll give me some." Guess I wouldn't make a proper Nazi. But then, if Europe is going to smell, I'd rather it smelled of curry.

MATT WELCH WRITES: "Censor me! I need the money!"

VIRGINIA POSTREL HAS what she herself calls a "cynical" assessment of why the Bush Administration supported the steel industry and didn't try to bail out Enron.

RUPERT CORNWELL WRITES, in the Independent of all places, that he's "disturbed by all this hostility to America."

READER TOM ACKMAN SENDS SOME PERSPECTIVE ON PRISONERS, from the Arts section of the New York Times, in an article about monuments:

During the Revolutionary War, as many as 11,500 American prisoners died aboard British ships anchored in nearby Wallabout Bay. "We bury 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 men a day," wrote one prisoner aboard the most notorious vessel, the Jersey. "We have 200 more sick and falling sick every day; the sickness is yellow fever, small-pox and in short everything else that can be mentioned. Our morning's salutation is: `Rebels! Turn out your dead!' "
Compare this to Guantanamo.

BEST OF THE WEB was siding with Paul Krugman -- er, until they read Krugman's defense. Now, BOTW says, Sullivan's argument is looking better. Quote: "One lesson from this whole episode is that complying with conflict-of-interest rules isn't the same thing as being honest. And indeed, such rules can end up serving as a license for dishonesty." Yeah. Hey, somebody should write a book on that!

PUNDIT-FINANCE REFORM: A reader writes with this observation:

Hey, I just got to thinking that all these journalists were all over "Campaign Finance Reform" not one year ago. They were all happily harping away at how about money's corrupting influence...yadda, yadda, yadda.

I have a better idea. How about some Pundit Finance Reform. You know, a complete list of who takes money from where and what "opinion" that money buys. Each and every pundit would have to give a list of any and all sources of income...stocks, bonds, honoraria, speaking fees, consulting fees and so on. I mean, they all seem to think it so important that we know how every last dollar of campaign money is spent - ads being so influential and such. Well, if you think an ad campaign is influential, what about a pundit-opinion campaign. We ought to know just how much opinion a few dollars can buy.

Well, it would violate the First Amendment. But, then, so would most of the Campaign Finance Reform proposals being put forward.

BUSH "MOONING" THE AMERICAN MEDIA? A reader suggests that this photo is the equivalent. Very amusing.

CASTRO IS "TERRIBLY CHARMING" -- and "You don't have any sense that this is a police state," according to Connie Neva, who is vice-chairman of the board at the University of Washington's Center for Women and Democracy. She travelled to Cuba and had lunch with Castro (a "merlot kind of guy"), along with Sen. Maria Cantwell and some other civic-leader types. Michelle Malkin says that they should have asked about something more serious than Castro's taste in wine -- like, say, his propensity for torture. (Perhaps they could have compared Castro's prisons with the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay).

Funny -- I thought these center-for-democracy types were supposed to know something about critical thinking. You know, simple guidelines like "don't judge a dictator by the quality of his catering," and "people always say they're happy when the secret police are listening." But, come to think of it, the line always seems to be "think critically about American policy," doesn't it?

As for the University of Washington's Center for Women and Democracy: folks, you've got the "women" part nailed down, but I think you need to do more work on the "democracy" angle.

PUNDITGATE UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan reports that Peggy Noonan is another recipient of Enron money.

Hmm. When he was after Krugman, it was supposed to be all about attacking the left. But so far we've got Krugman, Kudlow, Kristol, Stelzer, and Noonan. Of course, being evenhanded won't win Sullivan any more friends.

HELL, NO, WE WON'T GO: The National Review editors say that if we leave Saudi Arabia we're handing Osama a victory. After all,

If we are chased from Saudi Arabia, it will be a stinging blow to American prestige and provide a vindication of the Sept. 11 attacks, which were intended primarily to remove the U.S. from the Arabian peninsula. The House of Saud will have sided with the militants, and America will therefore have to do all it can to overthrow it.
Following Voltaire, I personally think we should stick around until the last prince is strangled with the entrails of the last mullah. But then I'm a guy who follows the principles of the Enlightenment.

ENRON UPDATE: Reader Michael Wells writes "I like the coffee mugs, but this is even better." Yep. It is!

INSTAPUNDIT READERS already know about the role that a privately owned handgun played in ending the shooting rampage at Appalachian Law School -- but as John Lott points out in an oped today, those who follow more traditional media probably don't:

ANOTHER school shooting occurred last week and the headlines were everywhere the same, from Australia to Nigeria. . . .

Yet in this age of "gun-free school zones," one fact was missing from virtually all the news coverage: The attack was stopped by two students who had guns in their cars.

The fast responses of two male students, Mikael Gross, 34, and Tracy Bridges, 25, undoubtedly saved multiple lives.

Mikael was outside the law school and just returning from lunch when Peter Odighizuwa started his attack. Tracy was in a classroom waiting for class to start.

When the shots rang out, utter chaos erupted. Mikael said, "People were running everywhere. They were jumping behind cars, running out in front of traffic, trying to get away."

Mikael and Tracy did something quite different: Both immediately ran to their cars and got their guns. Mikael had to run about 100 yards to get to his car. Along with Ted Besen (who was unarmed), they approached Peter from different sides. . . .

What is so remarkable is that out of 280 separate news stories (from a computerized Nexis-Lexis search) in the week after the event, just four stories mentioned that the students who stopped the attack had guns.

No wonder, says Lott, that so many people find it hard to believe that ordinary citizens stop crimes with guns 2 million times a year -- it's so seldom reported. Yet, by fostering incorrect ideas about effective responses to crime, such misreporting -- or self-censorship -- actually endangers lives.

COURTING TEHRAN IS A MISTAKE say the editors of The New Republic -- we should be undermining the mullahs instead. This is absolutely right.

"CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE" treatment of Islamic criminals. Puts the whole beard-shaving thing into perspective, doesn't it? At least, for those who have perspective.

THE ENRON SCANDAL is looking more and more like a financial scandal first and foremost. But the emphasis on trying to find a political angle is obscuring just how big a financial scandal it may be.

THE AMERICAN ENERGY INDUSTRY IS COMING UNDER CYBERATTACKS sponsored by Middle Eastern governments, according to this story. Hmm. I wonder which governments?

NEW TRAFFIC RECORD: 30,526 yesterday. Thanks!

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER offers full-throated contempt for the "jackals" criticizing U.S. policy. Funny, how come the "why do they hate us?" crowd in Europe isn't asking why they're inspiring such feelings?

TOLD YOU SO:

Of the 248 senators and House members serving on the 11 Congressional committees that are investigating the Enron (news/quote) collapse, 212 have received campaign contributions from Enron or its accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, according to an analysis of campaign contributions.
Of course, it's just about as disgraceful that 248 members of Congress are investigating. Prediction: All these multiple investigations will produce a Keystone Kops atmosphere and ensure that little useful work gets done.

1/24/2002

I LOVE THIS:

The captured Taliban that are now in Cuba are getting one bath towel, they are getting shampoo and toothpaste. The people there are seeing this and asking Castro, "Can we get this stuff?" - David Letterman
(Via Samizdata)

JAY MANIFOLD DOES THE MATH and concludes that trips of less than 530 miles are quicker by car thanks to new air-security hassles. I think it's even worse than that.

GUILT-FREE STEM CELLS? That's the gist of the stories William Sulik links to in this post. Here's one of the stories if you're too lazy to visit his site, which you shouldn't be.

Sulik disagrees with me on cloning, etc., but if this works, there's less to disagree with. He's wrong, though, when he says I'm mischaracterizing Leon Kass's position about Hawthorne and science that works.

I'M TOLD BY READER ERIK ZOLAN THAT THERE ARE DOZENS OF THESE for sale on the Internet now. They may be the only Enron items that are gaining in value.

MICHAEL KINSLEY says lying is different from spin, and that the latter is permitted mostly to politicians.

Well, that's his spin. What he means by this, I think, is that we tolerate a degree of lying from politicians that we'd never tolerate from, say, business leaders. Which is odd. Business people, after all, are (sooner or later) forced by the market to deal with reality. Politicians are forced to deal with reality, mostly, by us. So why are we giving them a pass on dealing with reality, when they're already too unconstrained?

WILL WILKINSON chastises conservatives for a "chinese-menu" approach to the Enlightenment, then offers some usually-ignored choices from, ah, Column B.

GREAT BLOG SLOGAN NOMINEE: "Manufacturing Consent Since 2001"

OSAMA, THE SUDAN, AND SLAVERY: Read this oped by Clarence Page.

BELLESILES UPDATE: Quite some time ago I posted this link to Michael Bellesiles' rather inadequate response to his academic critics. The OAH page where it appears allows comments, and it has attracted quite a few, which you can read here.

TIM BLAIR makes a moving case regarding the cruelties committed upon prisoners whose heads are covered, their bodies encased in hot, bulky clothing, their movements restrained, and -- oh, hell, just read it.

MATT WELCH DECONSTRUCTS PROTESTERS' ANTIGLOBALISM. And he does it so well.

There could be an intelligent movement based on the excessive influence of corporate interests -- as opposed to free trade -- in the world economy. But there's not. And the people Matt talks about are helping to preserve corporate power by being so utterly, irredeemably stupid.

RICH LOWRY makes this interesting point:

What is it that the Bush administration's European critics like so much about civilian casualties?

It's a natural question, given the Europeans' evident contempt for one of the purposes of the Geneva Convention: to deter un-uniformed soldiers from hiding among the civilian population — a practice that obviously makes it impossible for an attacking army to distinguish between legitimate targets and noncombatants.

In other words, the Geneva Convention seeks to protect innocent civilians by keeping soldiers in uniform, and by defining those combatants who don't wear uniforms as being outside the rules of warfare and undeserving of the privileges afforded to legitimate prisoners of war.

During the bombing in Afghanistan we heard a lot from the Europeans about collateral damages, so it is strange that they should now turn around and be willing to overlook the chief cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan: al Qaeda and Taliban troops who not only didn't wear uniforms, but actively hide among civilians.

Funny that those who complain most about U.S. "unilateralism" are acting in a way that might as well be calculated to promote it.

THE RED CROSS IS ABUSING THE AL QAEDA DETAINEES by giving them addictive drugs. Does Joe Califano know about this?

MORE ON GROWING BRITISH-INTELLECTUAL ANTI-SEMITISM, this time at the New Statesman. Hey, I thought those guys were all multiculturalists!

Oh, my mistake. They're loser-culturalists, full of sympathy for cultures going nowhere but (rightly) insecure enough to be threatened by anyone with anything on the ball. Hence the fusion of anti-semitism and anti-Americanism.

Hey, you guys should feel insecure. Blaming "zionist conspiracies" is a sure sign of complete chowderheaded irrelevance.

UPDATE: Reader Alex Bensky writes:

Oh my God.

I dug out the entire article. At least they left out the blood libel, Big Jewry's program as listed in "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," and how Jewish doctors invented AIDS to exterminate blacks. But based on this article, that should be coming along soon.

Of course, the Zionist conspiracy to shut down criticism of Israel doesn't seem to be particularly effective. The people who are being cruelly silenced are shouting about it from the rooftops.

Nothing about Arab, and particularly Saudi Arabian, money used in the UK to swing media to its side and fund terrorism and hate. Of course, that's understandable, compared to the monstrous scale of Zionist perfidy and insidiousness.

I haven't read anything recently that has stunned me as badly as this has. I was born in 1948, so I have lived my life during the historically odd time when public displays of anti-Semitism were consider a bit infra dig. That has now changed.

Yes, it seems to have done so. But while seeing this stuff right out there is depressing, the war has had the salutary effect of smoking out a lot of people who need to be called idiots -- and worse -- loudly and often. So let's get to it!

GOOGLING: A media reader who probably doesn't want his name used says that not only do media folks google themselves, they google each other. He adds that this story is being forwarded around CNN with some glee.

THE CORNEL WEST / ENRON CONNECTION: No, it's not just that he's another overpaid academic like Paul Krugman. It's that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have left him for . . . Enron.

Does this mean that Cornel's rap CD and the bankruptcy of the nation's 7th-biggest company are equivalent disasters? Well, listen for yourself and decide.

CHERNOBYL OVERRATED? Nick Schulz of TechCentralStation emailed a heads-up to this piece describing a U.N. report saying that hysteria over Chernobyl's radiation did more harm than the radiation itself.

REBECCA BLOOD has a book coming out on blogging, but it looks like the revolution is already here as NRO has started something that looks suspiciously like its own version of Samizdata, sans Natalija Radic.

The most striking thing is how much fun the NRO folks seem to be having. And, of course, that's what's cool about the whole blogging phenomenon. Even with single-person blogs, it's like a conversation as people elsewhere respond to what you say.

ELLEN GOODMAN TAKES ON LEON KASS'S TASTE IN LITERATURE and cheerfulness about human suffering. Hawthorne's story "The Birthmark," after all, is about a trifling imperfection. In assigning it, was Kass suggesting that he regards all the targets of research as similarly trifling?

Just imagine what parents of a child born with a devastating disease such as Fanconi anemia would make of having it compared to this ''birthmark.'' Cystic fibrosis, for that matter, is not a little blemish on a perfect cheek. And curing Parkinson's disease is not the hubristic pursuit of perfection.

There are indeed some serious moral arguments about what is a ''defect.'' But is anyone ready to argue that Alzheimer's disease should be protected from the mad hand of a scientist?

As Dartmouth bioethicist Ron Green says: ''The people who are trying to develop the new tools of genetic science and cell research are not seeking perfection. They are, like scientists and physicians for the past 200 years, seeking to reduce the burden of human suffering.''

I don't think Kass is getting off to a very good start, but there's still hope.

HANSON (yes, the boy band) AND THE HOLY TRINITY: Some startling observations.

JOSH MARSHALL has the best opener on Enron yet: "Smoking gun, or steaming pile?" His main point, though, is that Bush should be judged by his proximity to Ken Lay et al. -- and I expect he's right that this will be the Democratic spin, if they're not able to uncover any smoking guns. But Rand Simberg has a pretty devastating response to this.

DEFRAUDING BY THE GOVERNMENT: Kimberly Strassel writes about an issue briefly noted here in December -- government employees who planted lynx hairs on land so as to use the endangered species act to prevent its development.

When Richard Nixon said that "if the President does it, it's not illegal," he was roundly criticized. But at least he was just talking about the President. Too many people seem to want to apply that doctrine to the entire federal government.

In wartime, people need to trust the government. That means that untrustworthy people in government need to be gotten rid of, and punished.

UPDATE: Reader Sean Marrett sends this link to a GAO report that he says contradicts the WSJ story. Trouble is, I couldn't get it to open. See if it works for you -- I've got a new computer in my office and I'm having all sorts of problems.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I still can't open the link (or WordPerfect, or Word) but some people emailed me the item, and I agree with what reader John Hawkins says:

I was able to open the GAO report you Sean Marrett pointed you at. It does not refute the Strassel OpinionJournal article. The GAO report exonerates one Dr. John Weaver, whom the USFS contracted with in 1998 to conduct a lynx study. His results indicated lynx lived in Washington and Oregon, but it was later shown his DNA samples had been contaminated and were not from lynx. The GAO report claims Dr. Weaver notified the USFS that his findings were inaccurate, and that the USFS accordingly did not use them. Dr. Weaver claims the contamination was accidental.

Ms. Strassel's article mentions Dr. Weaver's study, but it was not the study which the seven state and federal employees diliberately falsified. According to her article, the employees were disturbed when they couldn't duplicate Dr. Weaver's findings, and resorted to fraud in order to do so. The GAO report makes no mention of fraud by government employees, it deals only with Dr. Weaver's study.

This seems right to me, and it's consistent with what earlier reports said. Sorry to waste people's time with a link I hadn't checked myself, but it sounded important, and I wanted to be fair, in spite of technical difficulties.

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT: Pistol-packin' mama. Does Hillary know about this?

MARK STEYN has some words for the British pundits who are criticizing the facilities at Guantanamo Bay. Excerpt:

It’s correct that, for hygiene purposes, they were shaved, which was 'culturally inappropriate’. But then, if the US wanted to be culturally appropriate, they’d herd ’em on to a soccer pitch and stone ’em to death as half-time entertainment. As to whether or not they are prisoners of war, there is a legitimate difference of opinion on their status: you can’t ask them for name, rank and serial number, because the last two they lack and, if Richard Reid is anything to go by, they keep a handy stack of spare monikers. This is new territory. But surely the Fleet Street whingers must know, if only from the testimony of their fellow Britons among the inmates, that there is no ‘torture’ (the Mail on Sunday), not even by the weather.

Still, my colleagues may be heartened to know that Britain’s getting far more attention for its anti-Americanism than it did when it was backing Bush 100 per cent. I drove from New Hampshire to Montreal the other day and, on both Vermont and Quebec radio, I heard references to the 'British-led international protests’ against Guantanamo. ‘British-led international protests’ is a much more convincing formulation than the ‘American-led international coalition’. Your side really has got a coalition: Britain, Mary Robinson, the EU, UN, Red Cross. And it’s making quite an impression: many people over here had no idea quite how ridiculous you are. You’re shocked by us, we’re laughing at you.

Yep. Even a reporter questioning Rumsfeld the other day noted that she had grown up in South Florida without air conditioning. You know you've hit bottom when you're being mocked by journalists.

THIS ARTICLE ON ALIENATED BRITISH MUSLIMS seems to put the cart before the horse. It blames Britain's crackdown on Islamic extremists for Muslim alienation. But it was before the crackdown that British Muslims were enlisting with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. (And now it looks like there's a British-Muslim connection to the violence in India). But then, the article's in The Guardian.

Personally, I'd say that if British Muslims are unhappy with the crackdown they should be doing something about Islamic extremism themselves.

NORAH VINCENT echoes the "don't get cocky" point. I find it hard to see the end of Talk magazine as a sign of decline, though.

VICTORY IS THE BEST PROPAGANDA, writes William Safire. Well, it's beyond that. Nations that act uncertain invite people to try to influence them by carping, criticizing, and sabotaging. Resolution, on the other hand, makes people weigh the costs of opposition.

Just don't get cocky.

DON'T MISS SHILOH BUCHER'S paean to WalMart. Take that, Louis XIV!

TONY ADRAGNA'S Enron observations are worth reading.

MATT WELCH SAYS THAT Jim Glassman is a smart guy, looking back to a 1998 list of stories that Glassman said the media should have been covering.

YASSER ARAFAT is in deep trouble. The truth is, Arafat was always a puppet -- first propped up by the Soviets to cause trouble for America, then, unwisely, propped up by Americans in the belief that he was necessary to peace. But in truth, he's not necessary, nor is he useful. He has no real constituency, and without external support he's deflating like a burst balloon.

AFGHAN UPDATE: Michael Kelly has a good column about seeing it through and rebuilding Afghanistan, while this report makes clear that the last thing the mullahs running Iran want is a free, prosperous, country next door. Reason enough to do it, and to drop a daisy-cutter or two on their pawns in Afghanistan, if necessary. And if we're willing to do that, it probably won't be necessary.

JOANNE JACOBS is onto my secret. Now you know why I've been taking out after Leon Kass!

1/23/2002

I GOT A LOT OF EMAIL on the M-16 thing. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

WHY AM I GETTING A LOT OF HITS FROM "Lolitapost.com"? I don't think I want to know.

LAYNE MUST HAVE FOUND SOME DRUGS, because he's already got the new Indiana Jones movie plotted out. I like his version.

SMALL WORLD DEPARTMENT: RuPaul was in Knoxville last week, and stopped at my brother-in-law's coffeehouse. I just discovered that it's all memorialized on RuPaul's weblog. But of course. It would be, wouldn't it?

AXOLOTLS, MS-WORD VIRUSES, AND WHY LIBERTARIANS CAN'T GET DATES: All on The Daily Dose.

THE EVER-EXPANDING ADRAGNA/VEHRS EMPIRE has this exhaustive report on Enron fallout. Read it and, well, have your head spin.

KEN LAYNE WANTS THE DRUGS that he says must be the secret to how many posts I've made today. No, he doesn't.

The secret is, I've been cleaning out my study. Old ratty couch gone, replaced by sleek new "radius" faux-Scandinavian recliner. Problem is, the old ratty couch was good at hiding the many stacks of papers, accordion folders full of research, MIDI cables, stacks of CDs, etc., etc. The sleek faux-Scandinavian recliner isn't. Had to do a massive two-garbage-bag cleanout, and I'm not done yet.

You'd post a lot, too, if the alternative were that kind of work.

AS USUAL, THE DOUBLE STANDARD:

With each step deeper into the ground, the air grows colder and staler.

The stairs give way to a dark basement corridor, where a guard unlocks a door, revealing some of his keep: shivering Pakistani men, piled eight or nine to a space fit for two or three, in a bare cement cell that's as cold as a meat locker.

The cell has no washroom or latrine, and the stench of sour milk, unwashed clothes, and fear hang heavily in the air.

While European politicians and human rights groups protest the treatment of 158 Afghan detainees in tropical Cuba, little attention is being paid to some 4,800 men being held here in Afghan prisons.

But of course not. It's no big deal being mistreated, so long as you're not being mistreated by Americans.

EVE KAYDEN OBSERVES: "Amazon makes money as Kmart files for bankruptcy. Did I fall asleep and wake up in an alternate universe?"

JACK SHAFER IS savaging Andrew Sullivan in Slate over l'affaire Krugman. Geez, as reader Ted Warin notes, the spin-cycle has gotten so fast, its like watching a jet engine rev. But here's where Shafer's analysis breaks down -- and to his credit, he's open about it:

I'll concede that Sullivan's and Krugman's adventures in conflict of interest aren't totally analogous. PhRMA offered Sullivan's Web site a $7,500 sponsorship as a kind of reward because it agreed with his views and wanted to help advance them. (And as long as Sullivan practices opinion journalism and agrees to disclose his backers, I see no problem with taking the money.)

In Krugman's case, Enron paid him $50,000 not as a reward but, we assume, as some sort of future investment. Not unlike their investments in the two presidential candidates, hundreds of members of Congress, and a yet undetermined number of pundits. (Dude, where's my Enron money?) But the key similarity here is that when the relationships became relevant, both Sullivan and Krugman disclosed them.

Well, that's the "key similarity" only because Shafer makes it so. To me, the key issue here is that Krugman was denouncing Bush's ties to Enron as "Crony Capitalism" when he was a crony himself. And -- as many people have emailed me -- Krugman got fifty grand in his own personal pocket, which is presumably more corrupting than the more-typical (but still railed-against) $5K contribution to someone's election campaign. Yet the press seems to regard it as insulting to suggest that Krugman could be corrupted by something that the press would immediately seize upon if an officeholder were involved.

THE NEW YORK TIMES remains hopeless on guns. Reader Andy Freeman notes the opening passage in this story: "Wearing a blue jacket and carrying an M-16 semiautomatic rifle. . . ."

Freeman writes: "What are the odds that it was a semiautomatic? (And, if it was, it wasn't an M-16.)" I think he's right about that; I believe that all M-16s are capable of firing multiple rounds with a single trigger pull, though to conserve ammunition (and encourage aiming) some armies are now limiting them to three-round bursts as opposed to full rock-and-roll. So why did the Times reporter write what he did? My guess is a combination of (1) sheer ignorance; and (2) inculcation with anti-gun groups' propaganda that equates "semiautomatic" with "bad." (Note to reporters: if you're not sure, just say "rifle." So long as it has a long barrel, and it's not an antique musket, you're reasonably safe.) [UPDATE: A few readers wrote, "what about shotguns?" Picky, picky. But soldiers don't generally carry shotguns.]

You know, this may seem picky, but the Times routinely makes mistakes like this when it talks about guns. And that costs them a lot of credibility with a lot of people who know the difference.

UPDATE: Several readers sent links to M-16 information -- here's one.

SOME PEOPLE THOUGHT IT WAS ODD for me to give space to the Center for Public Integrity, below. But now The Weekly Standard is doing it too!

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN takes another hit from the indefatigable plagiarism-pursuers at the Weekly Standard, who run an interview saying that Goodwin has misrepresented, and minimized, her use of Lynne McTaggart's work.

MICKEY KAUS says welfare reform is a smashing success in the Democratic Leadership Council magazine Blueprint, which I discovered via Joanne Jacobs.

IF IT'S WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, IT'S TIME FOR Print PunditWatch!

BELLESILES UPDATE: In the Chicago Tribune story that I mention below, there's a quote from Professor Paul Finkleman to the effect that it doesn't matter if Bellesiles cooked the data. A lot of people have emailed me to ask why I didn't stress that. I'd like to say that I had a gut instinct that it was false, but if I did, I didn't realize it. I just didn't think it was that important, and I was trying to stick to the facts.

Now, though, on a law professors' email list to which I belong, Finkleman has said that he doesn't think he said that, or that if he did, it's out of context. (This isn't as weasely as you might think: his argument is that the nonquantitative parts of Bellesiles' argument might be true, even if the quantitative data don't support them). Anyway, Finkleman is making clear that he does not take the position (taken by some Rigoberta Menchu defenders) that the truth is less important than a good story. Just thought I'd mention that.

NOZICK UPDATE: Here's the obituary from Harvard's webpage.

READER JACK O'TOOLE sends this link to a Krugman column on how much economists should be paid. The column concludes with a worry about "what is already a disturbing propensity to favor attention-grabbing showmanship at the expense of deeper, more time-consuming work."

READER DOUG LEVENE sends this Enron prediction:

The dirty little secret of structured finance is the degree to which they depend on appraisals that are driven more by the needs of the sponsor than a true determination of fair market values. This leads me to the following prediction about Enron.

In typical off-balance sheet financings (such as securitizations of mortgage pools) the fair market value of the price at which the assets are sold to the SPE is often confirmed by an independent appraisal. It would not suprise me to learn that in the Enron partnership deals there is similarly an appraisal confirming the sale price. However, as we know now (or at least suspect), that sale price was inflated. Indeed the whole purpose of the sale to the partnership was to avoid having to recognize a loss on the falling value of the asset. Thus, it appears that the sale price was artificially determined so as to avoid the recognition of a loss or even to trigger an accounting gain. The lenders to and the other investors in the partnerships didn't care because Enron guaranteed them against loss. Hence, my prediction: the appraiser who blessed these deals will soon be publicly identified and added to the list of villians to be investigated, sued and denounced.

Interesting. Keep your eyes open.

SOME SENSIBLE OBSERVATIONS on the Guantanamo prisoners, from University of Toronto Political Science professor Clifford Orwin.

PLAGIARISM: The Idler has put up the plagiarism chapter of my book, The Appearance of Impropriety: How the Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business and Society, meaning that you can read it for free. (How's that for putting my ideas into the public sector at low cost?) This is with the permission of my publisher, Simon and Schuster's The Free Press. However, they couldn't find an electronic version of the chapter (yeah, I know) so what's posted is not quite the final version. Only the printed version is canonical.

In particular, we list Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village as having been ghostwritten. The good folks at her publisher (which, er, happens to be the same one) swore up and down that her book was not ghostwritten, despite many media claims that it was, and that phrase was removed from the final version. Who do I believe? I'd rather not say.

Note this prophetic quote from Charles Krauthammer: "If lying about authorship is now a hanging offense, there are not enough lampposts in Washington to handle the volume." Judging by what The Weekly Standard has stirred up, we may soon find out if this is true.

NOW JOE MCGINNIS IS SLAMMING DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN for falsely accusing him of plagiarism in 1993.

This is starting to look like the historians' version of the WWF.

LOSING ITS READERS? Britain's tabloid The Mirror ran this hysterical editorial denouncing the United States policy toward prisoners it said were "brutalized, tortured and humiliated." Then its own readers' poll appeared (scroll to bottom), saying that 91% of its readers support America. Now it seems to be backing off from full-throated condemnation of America, a backing-off made more striking by the editorial's unwillingness to admit that its first story was just plain wrong.

Jim Bennett's observation about the disconnect between elite and non-elite opinion is looking better every day.

SAD NEWS: I just got an email that Robert Nozick died this morning. More when I know more.

THE KRUGMAN/WEST SCANDALS CONNECTED AT LAST, in this reader email on Andrew Sullivan's page. Here's the key passage:

I think the big money available to top academic economists has fractured the old social contract, where a professor viewed lifetime job tenure as a reason to put their ideas in the public realm at low cost, and was willing to get by on a college paycheck, along with maybe a little money from writing books or a $500 speech honorarium here and there. Now there's a sense among many top professors that the academic salary is just a base, and seeking compensation for everything else is how to play the game.
Well, I'm right here putting my ideas in the public realm at low cost (to you, anyway: I'm flirting with RSI from all this typing). But I think his basic point holds, and not just in the field of economics.

MY TECHCENTRALSTATION COLUMN for this week is up. It's about Leon Kass's bioethics council. I give him a lot of advice. Wonder if he'll follow it?

I caught a few minutes of Kass on C-SPAN today. The part I caught may not have been representative, but he was getting a hard time from callers, who wanted to know why he was holding up lifesaving treatment for their sick children, why he was giving so much weight to ethicists and theologians rather than patient advocates, and so on. The one supportive call was from a rather wacky-seeming religious advocate who seemed to believe that clones would be born without souls, and hence evil, because of the lack of a "spiritual father."

BELLESILES UPDATE: Yesterday, I mentioned that Michael Bellesiles said that he had found the missing California records. Now this story in the Chicago Tribune says that (1) those aren't the records; and (2) Bellesiles doesn't appear to have ever done the research that he claims the new records represent. At least, a senior staffer of the (apparently very small) archive in question says she doesn't remember him ever being there.

Kathleen Mero, a longtime archivist there, says she and other staff members are quite familiar with the controversy surrounding Bellesiles' book. She says she doesn't remember Bellesiles doing research at the group's storefront archives.

"If he had examined our records," Mero said, "he would have found guns all over the place."


The other big news is that historians are now using the "F" word -- "fraud" -- to describe his work:

Other former supporters have turned critics, among them Donald Hickey, a history professor at Wayne State College in Nebraska. Bellesiles previewed the thesis of his book in a scholarly article that he submitted to the Journal of American History. On receipt, the editor asked Hickey to "referee" it according to the time-honored process by which one scholar's work is evaluated by another. Hickey recommended its publication, saying it made a persuasive case that guns weren't widely owned in
America's early days.

Since then, Hickey has changed his view of Bellesiles' work.

"It is a case," Hickey said, "of genuine, bona fide academic fraud."

DID ROMAN LEGIONS LET THE BARBARIANS DICTATE THEIR DRESS CODE? No. And now we've decided we're not sucking up to the Saudis where our female military are involved.

If the Saudis don't like it, they can go find another country. They're just the leftover puppets of a no-longer-extant colonial empire anyway.

UPDATE: A reader says I have this all wrong:

You've missed the point about the restrictions on apparel, driving, etc., for American military women in Saudi Arabia. The restrictions weren't demanded by the Saudis, they were self-imposed by senior American military officials. That's why Lt Col McSally was suing the Dept of Defense. As she pointed out, women who work at the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia don't have to wear the bhurkas, and are allowed to drive, etc. Neither are the restrictions imposed on other foreign women working there or who are spouses of foreigners there.

While I think you're spot on in highlighting the hypocrisy of the SA regime in its many guises, I'm afraid you can't hang this one on them.

Steve Gardetto
Tallinn
Estonia

Personally, I just think it's cool that I have a reader in Talinn. Which I hear is a cool place. Well, the military wouldn't do this, I think, if it weren't for Saudi pressure, and I understand that female soldiers irritate the Saudis far more than female diplomats, since they send the (entirely correct) signal that "You guys are being defended by women!" But it's certainly true that when you out-toady the State Department, you're doing something wrong.

ESTONIA UPDATE: Is this cool, or what?

Yes, not only do you have a reader in Tallinn (indeed a cool place) but also in Tartu, which is way cooler (hey, it's a University town!)

I think the amount of handwringing going on by European elites over Camp X-ray is directly related to the death penalty. As a post-modernist might say, European elites have moved beyond the constraints of reason in opposing the death penalty into the realm of hysteria. Along the way, the US has lost all credibilty among them in matters of crime and punishment.

Kõike Head (all the best),

Ted Nunamaker

Wow. Two readers in Estonia. When I started this thing, I thought I'd be lucky to have two readers, period.

PROMISES, PROMISES: Tim Blair imagines a future without Robert Altman.

NOTE TO NATALIJA RADIC FANS (who appear to be legion): Samizdata has solved their bandwidth/hosting problems and the pictures are back up.

I DIDN'T SEE THIS SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE SKIT, which is mentioned in the Rosett column below, but I love it:

As it stands, the ICRC's harping on Guantanamo has elements not of serious policy, but of a sick joke. It has already served as grist for a scathing skit on last week's "Saturday Night Live," in which actor Jimmy Fallon asked why the Red Cross is so fixated on the detainees' living conditions: "They're suicide bombers. They hate living conditions."
Isn't it interesting that the press and the "relief groups" have come in for such a shellacking on Saturday Night Live? Shouldn't that engender just a bit of self-examination?

CLAUDIA ROSETT spotlights what's really going on:

So why the hoopla over Guantanamo? Perhaps because the relief business, pioneered by the ICRC, has mushroomed into a global industry entailing rivalry for attention, funding, access and authority. Humanitarian aid is in many ways a business like any other: The field has become crowded, and there's a lot of jockeying to hitch relief wagons to headlines. The ICRC itself alludes to such problems in a 1997 report pondering its own future, in which it notes that the proliferation of humanitarian agencies, though "a welcome development in itself," gives rise to "competition and confusion" that causes problems in "ethical and operational terms."
Yes, such as briefcases full of unaccountable cash, a staple among such groups. Note to investigative reporters who don't want to investigate Enron: the "international relief agencies" are home to a degree of fraud and creative accounting that dwarfs what has gone on at Enron.

SPEAKING OF AIR SECURITY here's another account of crappy flying experiences.

AIR SECURITY PROBLEMS: This letter to the New York Times raises an interesting question. Now that air security is a federal operation, are special lanes for frequent fliers and first class passengers unconstitutional? Let the lawsuits begin!

UPDATE: Reader Robert Williams writes:

Just a question. Since the security at airports has been federalized and the screeners are to become government employees does this not raise Fourth
Amendment questions in the area of baggage searches, pat downs, and confiscation of items contrary to law?
On the searches, I'm afraid that this indicates little more than a touching faith in the efficacy of the largely-eviscerated Fourth Amendment. On the confiscations, however, it's another question entirely. There's a class-action lawsuit waiting to happen, there.

HEY, WHERE'S AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL on this story?

PUTIN GATHERS THE REINS: this oped raises some important issues. I had meant to post something yesterday on the blacking out of independent media, but this piece covers the bases.

Putin is, by all appearances, being a pretty good ally. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't continue to press for freedom and democracy in Russia. A weakness for friendly autocrats has long been a problem with American foreign policy, but we need to get beyond that. Especially in Russia, which is too important to allow to become a dictatorship.

ANDREW SULLIVAN has a bunch of updates on Enron, pundits and money.

ENRON NON-SCANDAL ALERT: Mickey Kaus (who seems to be taking this more-frequent-posting thing seriously) has this observation:

When George W. Bush promised, in the 2000 presidential campaign, to put limits on greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) from coal-burning power plants, it was considered a victory for Ken Lay and Enron, which was into cleaner gas-fired plants and also wanted to get into the to-be-created market for trading carbon-emission credits. ... So if the Bush-Cheney adminstration was in the tank for Enron, why was one of its first controversial acts reneging on this pro-Enron greenhouse pledge?
Good point.

1/22/2002

INDIAN INTELLIGENCE says there's a Pakistani/Bengali (of all things) intelligence-services link with the 9/11 attacks. I don't know what to make of this -- though didn't the Bert & Osama posters appear simultaneously in both countries?

CHRIS MOONEY shares some of my views on the uses of 19th-century proto-science fiction as a substitute for rational argument. (He has a link to this earlier piece of his, too.)

I think it's time to dismiss the argumentum ad Frankensteinum as the red herring it is, and proceed with actual discussion.

IT SEEMS THAT THE MICHAEL BELLESILES AFFAIR has diminished the majesty of the Bancroft Prize in American History just a bit.

MORE KRUGMAN, MORE OF THE TIME: Virginia Postrel has more on Krugman. I"m interested to know just how many pundits Enron was giving money to. Larry Kudlow says that he was paid for consulting, which is what he does for a living. OK. But what about Bill Kristol? And would Enron have paid Kristol, Krugman and Kudlow for these services had they not also been opinion leaders?

And where else was Enron spreading the wealth around? Not to me. And not to Josh Marshall to his chagrin. But it seems likely that these three weren't the only ones.

Of course, it didn't buy Enron any protection on the way down -- none of these guys have been flacking for them. But it may have bought them some buzz on the way up.

UPDATE: More on what Paul Krugman has really done wrong (and it's not about Enron) from Stromata.

SOME INTERESTING THOUGHTS ON TERRORISM IN INDIA from Suman Palit and Josh Fielek.

AN OLYMPIC IDEA: Dan Rector writes:

Why doesn't someone take this opportunity in Salt Lake City to protest gross human rights abuses committed by our Arab friends? Surely human rights groups will stage mass protests and the British media will fill their pages with stories of women living in Saudi Arabia? I mean, if flip-flops and a shaved head are considered torture, then logically the systematic, Institutionalized sexism of Arab culture is too. Right?
Only if Americans do it, Dan. Don't you understand?

ENRON UPDATE from Andrew Sullivan: Bill Kristol got $100,000. Larry Kudlow got 50 grand. I wonder who else got money from Enron?

Not me. But I can't help but feel that this will generate a lot more interest in punditry as a profession. Though it may not enhance their credibility.

That's why you should read InstaPundit, whom nobody has even tried to buy off. New slogan: "Credibility that's not for sale -- and not worth buying!"

TIM NOAH TAKES ON DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN in Slate. I wonder, though, about relying on freshman composition handbooks for definitions of plagiarism. Many such rules are designed to ensure that student work is fairly evaluated, not to lay down all-purpose commandments. Calculators were banned when I took math in high school, but that doesn't mean that using them now is cheating.

READER CHAD ORZEL MAKES AN IMPORTANT POINT -- AND MISSES ONE:

As one who doesn't agree with your slant, but reads your blog anyway, I'd say that the fact that you don't understand why someone would read something they don't agree with is a symptom of the mindset that both prevents weblogging from being the revolution in reporting that its proponents claim it will be, and deludes those same proponents into thinking that the Revolution has arrived.
I didn't say people have to agree with my slant -- but I get the occasional hate mail that pronounces my stuff so odious that one has to wonder why the reader has stuck around. It's true, those are usually people who consider themselves liberals (?) and who consider me a conservative. Both claims seem, er, implausible, but anyway, that's not the point.

The point is, you may well read bloggers whose views you don't agree with. God knows I do. But what bloggers offer, to a large degree, is viewpoint and style, which are not really the same as substantive positions on issues. But if you don't like those you're better off moving on.

WITH THE DEMISE OF PUBLICATIONS LIKE LINGUA FRANCA AND FEED, Rick Perlstein writes in The New York Times, we've lost our "farm team" for public intellectuals.

Ahem. Mr. Perlstein? You may want to visit Blogland.

ANDREW SULLIVAN HAS LAID OFF PAUL KRUGMAN, but Mark Steyn weighs in with a medley of Pink Floyd, and tells Krugman he's no Mariah Carey.

FURTHER EVIDENCE THAT SEX SELLS: Reader Todd Fletcher has this comment on Samizdata's use of Natalija Radic photos to boost traffic:

She MUST be hot - when I tried to hit the site where the broken picture originated, I got this:

"The site you are attempting to access has exhausted its allocated bandwidth and has been suspended."

Perry de Havilland thought I was criticizing his legitimacy as a journalist in my earlier post on this phenomenon, but actually I was suggesting that Samizdata had, CNN-like, entered the big leagues. Natalija Radic: the Paula Zahn of the Blog set?

Sadly, I don't think that my picture is going to draw any traffic to the site -- and I'm not ready to emulate the mysterious Unablogger -- who seems to have boldly taken the "sex sells" approach where no blogger has gone before. Or, perhaps, should go again. But then, I don't really need more traffic anyway.

PERRY WHITE UPDATE: Several people have emailed me to say that I was too nice to Rumsfeld. Well, I was really commenting more on his manner than on the merits, though so far I'm still looking for the scandal. But I got this email from InstaPundit reader and Center for Public Integrity bigshot Bill Allison:

First, let me say I greatly admire your page. While I don't always agree with your views, I find your commentary lively and thought-provoking, and I think you've proved your point that any reasonably intelligent man with a modem can challenge the conventional wisdom of the media and punditocracy without breaking a sweat.

About the Rumsfeld story, however, I think you might be interested to find that, regardless of what the major media outlets did, we at the Center for Public Integrity made a conscientious effort to find out whether Rumsfeld or his wife held the stock (the annotation was ambiguous) and whether he still held his stock before posting our original story. Our story, incidentally, clearly noted that some of the 14 officials we identified may have sold their stock.

We contacted both the Pentagon and the Rumsfelds' personal accountant. The Perry White metaphor is a bit inapt, if Perry is the interview subject and refuses to return phone calls. How can he then castigate Clark, Lois and Jimmy for not having the story?

You can read our release on the matter here.

SALON SEXWATCH UPDATE: Finally, we have a winner -- with the old "my boyfriend wants a threesome" conundrum. And Salon columnist Cary Tennis says, essentially, go for it, but use a condom. Okay, there's still lots of "relationship" stuff in the column, and even in this question-and-answer, but I think it's enough to count.

Oh, and for all you Rachael Klein fans out there, she's back!

HOW BUSH CAN LOSE the elections, and maybe the war: Just look unserious, and too-chummy, with the Saudis. Then the Democrats can attack him from the right. Think that's impossible? Not hardly.

We already have the too-close relations between the Bush family and the Saudi royals, which contrast sharply with the growing hostility among Americans where the Saudis are concerned. We have the spiriting-out of bin Laden relatives right after 9/11. And now we have Neil Bush (see below) talking to the Saudis about an anti-Arab and anti-Muslim "campaign" of the American media (and you know what kind of a campaign, at least in the minds of the Arabs, that he's talking about). I can imagine how to use this against Bush in a way that would leave me insulated from charges of unpatriotism, and I'm no James Carville. God knows what he could cook up. (Though with allies like Robert Altman he'll have to sweat a little).

This stuff is still at sub-critical mass right now, suitable for the occasional zinger in The Nation and Mother Jones, which don't matter. But it wouldn't take a lot more to lift it to a whole new level, and turn the war into an issue that can hurt Bush, rather than help him.

The Administration may be playing good cop/bad cop with the Saudis, using the threat of the "American street" to get cooperation. (If this is working, it doesn't show, but never mind). But they're going to need results they can point to where the Saudis are concerned, and somebody needs to take Neil Bush out of circulation for a while. And they need to realize that they've used up their quota of screwups and off-message moments where the Saudis are concerned. There's not much margin for error left.

COLUMNIST JIM BENNETT EMAILS:

Two weeks ago I wrote a column, one of the main points of which was that opinion throughout the Anglosphere divided more readily along Anglosphere elite vs. Anglosphere non-elite lines than "American" vs."British". Some European bloggers found this opinion shocking and bizarre!

Now note this Washington Post story; note especially the last four sentences. Advantage: Anglosphere Beat!

Here are the last four sentences:
Immediately after Bradshaw's statement, several members of Parliament repeated the charge of American mistreatment.

There were signs, though, that the allegations of brutality are more a concern to the media and the political world than to the Briton-in-the-street.

After the the issue was discussed today on the "Richard and Judy Show," Britain's equivalent of "Oprah," the hosts held a telephone poll. About 5,000 responses came in, producers said.

The result: Only 8 percent felt the prison was "inhumane," with 92 percent supporting the U.S. treatment of the suspects.

Yes, the main impact of the war on the opinion classes will be the discrediting of many "opinion leaders" in the eyes of those whose opinions they hope to lead.

READ THIS STATEMENT ON RUMSFELD'S NON-OWNERSHIP OF ENRON: Then notice the last paragraph:

The Associated Press, Washington Times and the New York Times stories all cited the Center for Public Integrity as a source. USA Today cited its own research. All were inaccurate. To the best of our knowledge, none of the news organizations contacted Mr. or Mrs. Rumsfeld to determine the accuracy of their stories.
Rumsfeld isn't just the Secretary of Defense. He's the reincarnation of Perry White, giving journalists hell for not doing their jobs.

PERHAPS LARRY SUMMERS needs to have a Cornel-West-like talk with Alan Dershowitz. True, he hasn't done a rap album. But he's not exactly burning things up as a scholar, unless you count this contribution:

In my new book, "Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age," I offer a controversial proposal designed to stimulate debate about this difficult issue. Under my proposal, no torture would be permitted without a "torture warrant" being issued by a judge.
Maybe Dersh is just hoping for a date with Ann Coulter.

WE BANNED SOUTH AFRICA from the Olympics for racial apartheid, notes Jeff Jarvis so why not ban Saudi Arabia (and a few other Arab countries) for gender aparthied?

VANESSA LEGGETT UPDATE: Dave Kopel and Paul Blackman are savaging the FBI and DoJ for their handling of this case. Excerpts:

At a time when the DOJ has demanded and received unprecedented new powers, and has promised that it can be trusted to use those powers carefully, the persecution of Vanessa Leggett raises new concerns that Justice can nevertheless be the most dangerous part. . . .

There is good reason to suspect that Leggett is being targeted not for what she won't tell the grand jury, but for fear of what she will tell the general public, if allowed to finish her book. There is no question that the book will be highly critical of the government's entire investigation and prosecution of the Doris Angleton case.

When officials first contacted Leggett, they demanded that Leggett contractually agree to let the federal government decide when, if ever, she could publish her book. This restriction was part of the DOJ's plan for Leggett to become an undercover DOJ informant.

When Leggett refused to serve as a government spy rather than as an independent author, the DOJ subpoenaed not only all the information she had, but all copies of it as well. In other words, Leggett would have been unable to write the book. . . .

By trying to stop Leggett from writing, the DOJ is deliberately preventing an exposé of local and federal law-enforcement incompetence and impropriety.

Something stinks about this case. It shouldn't be allowed to drop off the radar screen simply because of the war on terrorism -- because in fact it raises troubling questions about whether the FBI and DoJ can be trusted to conduct the war on terrorism.

BELLESILES UPDATE: Eugene Volokh sends a link to this story on Michael Bellesiles. Bellesiles now says that he's found the missing -- and according to everyone else, unavailable since 1906 -- California probate records.

Given Bellesiles' record to date, this statement isn't enough to settle things all by itself, but stay tuned. There may be new developments. Note, however, that this doesn't address the question of misreported probate records from other jurisdictions.

WHAT THE HELL IS NEIL BUSH DOING advising the Arabs that they should deal with "The US media campaign against the interests of Arabs and Muslims" by hiring a bunch of high-paid lobbyists? Er, who did you have in mind, Neil?

Okay, my source for this is the Saudi-controlled ArabNews.Com, which is no doubt putting its own spin on this story. But if Neil Bush is over there pitching the Arabs for business, and talking about a "U.S. media campaign against the interests of Arabs and Muslims" he needs to be slapped down big-time.

Hello, White House? Can you say "Billy Carter?"

MORE ON K-MART from reader Tom Reynolds (who, as is sadly the case with the aluminum and tobacco Reynoldses, is no relation):

I've not been to my local K-Mart in some time. It wasn't because it was dirty (it wasn't) and it wasn't even because of Rosie. My local K-Mart, when last I was in it, was bright, clean, open 24 hours, and had a grocery store in it. When I first moved here, and all we had was a tiny dorm fridge (which I picked up at that K-Mart) and a couple of pans, plus lots of paper plates, I stopped there almost every night on the way home. (Well, it was actually early morning, but you get the idea.) Lots of stuff for setting up the house. Keeping the hours that I do, I appreciated the 24 hour service, and stopped there regularly for five years.

The day I stopped was the day they stopped selling handgun ammo. It wasn't because they stopped, I didn't buy my ammo there anyway. It was the smarmy fake piousness of their announced reason for stopping.

If something isn't selling but is taking up valuable shelf space, it has to go unless there is some other reason for keeping it. I understand that. If they wanted to make a marketing decision that was fine. But to [see] Michael Moore and three Columbine survivors one day, and announce they would no longer sell handgun ammo the next day had a distinct odor of dead fish.

I wasn't the only one to think so, the press release from the Second Amendment Sisters at http://www.2asisters.org/press/pressrelease/063001.html says it more eloquently than I can at the end of a long night.

Well, as I said earlier, a lot of gun folks were unhappy with K-Mart for reasons that go beyond Rosie.

The real news here, though, is that Tom actually found a K-Mart that wasn't run-down and depressing!

STEPHEN AMBROSE UPDATE: Well, really what I've noticed is that the Weekly Standard's item on Doris Kearns' Goodwin's alleged plagiarism seems to have aroused no interest. Part of that, I imagine, is that it came out on a holiday weekend. But part of it is also that the Ambrose story hasn't really developed legs. Isn't it?

UPDATE: Well, Doris Kearns Goodwin is mentioned in this WSJ op-ed, so maybe it's the holiday-weekend thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: There's a story in the Boston Globe too.

1/21/2002

STEPHEN AMBROSE ALERT: A reader writes

The Newshour with Jim Lehrer reported today that the prisoners at Gitmo had to "endure the searing heat" of Gitmo "by day" and "the glare of fluorescent lights by night."

Is everyone using these catch phrases now? MSNBC said the same thing in their broadcast earlier tonight. They were also using some ITV report. What, Americans aren't biased enough for them?
And don't these guys get the Weather Channel?

IF YOU DON'T LIKE MY SLANT ON THINGS (then why are you reading this to begin with? but my email says that some people don't, and do) you may like Ted Barlow's more traditional liberal spin. And, of course, there's always Brian Linse. And Dan Simon, too. Remember: there's always another blog out there, somewhere, waiting to be read.

IN A SHAMELESS EFFORT TO LURE TRAFFIC, Samizdata is running a picture of Natalija Radic in a low-cut dress. This photo does not appear to accurately represent her current flu-ridden state.

STARTING TO CATCH ON: This story from The Times describes an anti-hijacking class:

The classroom is not for the faint-hearted. Around the room are life-sized dummies wearing balaclavas or gas masks, assault rifles across their shoulders.

But then this is not Europe. At least four of the class have checked their firearms at the door, including Claudia Salazar, a 28-year-old office worker who keeps a fearsome-looking Glock 9mm pistol by her bed at night. (In Florida, citizens can carry handguns, on licence, as long as they are concealed under clothing.) And when he’s not running the training sessions, Philbrick also runs the 911 store at the front of his offices, firing range and classroom. Named after the US emergency telephone number,the store sells guns and other self-protection paraphernalia.

Frankly, I'm happy if this is part of the image of America that is being spread around the world.

MORE ON KMART: Reader Holly Gallagher writes with many insights, including this one on KMart:

One more thing: I've been reading your postings about KMart going under because of guns rights activist boycotts. That may be partly true, but you're ignoring the Target factor. It used to be that KMart was your one-stop superstore for toiletries, garden supplies, cheap furniture, guns, electronics, etc. Then WalMart and Target came on the scene. WalMart cut their prices real low, and Target provided a bright, clean store with cheap products that have a funky design. I'm a regular Target shopper, but I stopped into a KMart over the summer to see what kind of workout clothes they had. The store was dirty, the racks were overstuffed with crappy clothes, and the whole place depressed me. Based on that visit, I think it's about time KMart went out of business.
Yeah, K-Mart has sucked for years. The gunowner boycotts may have sped up an inevitable trend, but the place has been depressing for a long, long time. Here's another theory, via my brother's Nigerian girlfriend:
I mentioned the KMart woes to Victoria, and she expressed no surprise at their trouble. She says she hates to go there because of all the retail department store chains, it is the one that treats black people the worst. Indeed, on many occasions I have heard her complain about being followed by security, having her bags stapled or checked, having exchanges refused, etc. Wal Mart and Target she says, are much better. Wonder if there are any other such reports out there?
So K-Mart is pissing off gunowners and black people (not distinct sets, I realize). And they're not real big with yuppies and the old-money set. So who's left to shop there?

No big loss. I prefer Target and Walmart anyway. Chalk this one up to creative destruction, and it sounds like nobody will be shedding too many tears.

UPDATE: Reader Ambika Shankar doubts that K-Mart is rude to black people:

It's a bit ironic that K-Mart is accused of losing visitors both because it panders to leftists and because it has a Jim Crow security policy.

The K-Mart people may have treated your Victoria badly, but this doesn't necessarily lead to the conclusion that K-Mart corporation is "pissing off black people." I find it hard to believe that any major corporation today would not be solicitous about its image among non-whites.

Trust me, it's possible to be both P.C. and racist -- I see it on university campuses all the time.

SOME THINGS never change.

KRUGMAN: My email's split between people who think I'm too hard on him and people who think I'm not hard enough. One from each camp:

First, Krugman is a hypocrite. His defenses, "it didn't impact my opinion," "I'm worth it," "everyone does it," sound suspiciously similar to the politicians he excoriates for participating in 'crony capitalism.'

More importantly, Krugman isn't peripheral to the Enron story. His column was as much a part of building that sand castle as any vote by a politician. Did Enron get its $50k worth? You bet. Lay even got a personal kudo in the Fortune puff piece. For Krugman to suggest he would have written this column without the 'soft money' strains belief.

Is it less relevent to buy a column than to buy a vote? The press is as powerful an institution as any in America.

And, on the other side:
It is difficult for me to believe that you and your ilk would be blogging away furiously about the Enron advisory board if the first disclosure had been about Kristol rather than Krugman.

Would you have been as hard on Kristol if he were out front on this issue?

Well, I've been pretty hard on Kristol on other issues -- like his absurd position on cloning, where I've savaged him as a hypocrite. But it was Krugman, not Kristol, who was going on about Enron and "Crony Capitalism" without admitting that he was one of the Cronies.

Please bear in mind: I don't think that this should be a scandal. But I think that Krugman and the Times are all too eager to treat things like this as scandals until they hit close to home. And that is a scandal.

UPDATE: Orrin Judd puts it better than I did:

I think you're right on this one. The scandal isn't necessarily what Krugman did; it's that his brethren in the Press believe that he can take $50k for his personal use and remain objective, but that a politician who gets a campaign donation has been bought.
Yeah, that's what I was trying to say! Thanks, Orrin.

EARLIER I MENTIONED THAT WE SHOULD BE TRANSLATING THE FEDERALIST PAPERS and distributing them around the world. I still think it's a good idea. In the meantime, though, they're available here on the Web.

IT'S NOT JUST THE BRITS: Reader Joe Palmer writes:

The Newshour with Jim Lehrer reported today that the prisoners at Gitmo had to "endure the searing heat" of Gitmo "by day" and "the glare of fluorescent lights by night." Take a look at Gitmo weather: Highs in the low 80s, lows around 70, usually breezy (10-15 mph winds). "Searing heat"?!? Sounds like absolutely perfect weather to me, and a tropical vacation compared to the Hindu Kush.
Hmm. The "brutal Afghan winter" (50s) and the "searing heat of Guantanamo" (80s) seem to be only a few degrees apart. I pity whoever adjusts the thermostats at these media folks' offices.

ANNE APPLEBAUM SAYS THE ISRAELIS ARE RIGHT to be attacking official Palestinian media. They promote suicide bombings (and are loudly anti-American). My question: why didn't the United States rein in Arafat's propaganda apparatus after Oslo? Imagine if Bill Clinton had told Arafat: "You're our creature. You bring peace, and squash those Hamas guys, or we let the Israelis kill you and all your supporters, perhaps with our help." I think we'd have peace now.

BEST OF THE WEB IS SAVAGING THE NATION for losing track of chronology -- and of the difference between the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros -- in its haste to somehow tie Bush to the Enron scandal. My capsule description does not do justice to the magnitude of The Nation's foulup -- read the whole thing.

REUTERS AGAIN: An anonymous media tipster sends the following:

Mr. Reynolds:

Here's a line from a Reuters story that crossed the wire Sunday at 2:41 p.m. :
Enron, the Houston-based energy trading company with ties to President Bush and other Republicans, was once a darling of Wall Street with a soaring stock price and a future made bright by the promise of energy deregulation.
In the Boston Herald, it was changed to:
Enron, the Houston-based energy trading company with ties to politicians in both major parties, was once a darling of Wall Street with a soaring stock price and a future made bright by the promise of energy deregulation.
Consider me an anonymous tipster.
Note: I added the link. The story I found was 2:44, but contains the line. The Boston Herald wants me to subscribe in order to search its back issues (as if!) so I can't confirm the change.

WE'RE ALWAYS HEARING about how little Americans understand the rest of the world. But Steven den Beste illustrates that Europeans don't understand the United States. And Daniel Taylor observes that it's worse: Americans realize that there's a lot they don't understand about the rest of the world. The rest of the world, on the other hand, wrongly believes that it understands us because it watches Friends and Survivor.

I think it's time for the United States to begin a massive public-education program, starting with distributing a lot of translated copies of The Federalist Papers. Most world leaders will probably hate that, which only adds to the fun.

READER MARTIN PRATT sends this link to a longer BBC item that more thoroughly debunks the Americans-are-torturing-prisoners angle. I'm delighted to see the BBC reporting the facts now that it has investigated them; perhaps next time it will refrain from treating accusations from people who know nothing as near-fact prior to any investigation.

Meanwhile, I'd be interested in hearing what Martin thinks of this editorial, and whether he thinks it will be retracted.

MICKEY KAUS has made a horrifying discovery: more postings equal more traffic. Sorry, Mickey -- you're now on the slippery slope to being, well, like me.

THOSE AWFUL PRISON CONDITIONS: Reader C.T. Brown writes:

Four months ago all we heard about was how much trouble the United States' special forces would face from rugged people who could live in a small cave in the harsh weather of the Afghanistan mountains for years at a time with
little food and poor shelter. Now those same sources (primarily the U.K. press) are appalled at the savagery of making these rugged people sleep on the beach with three culturally appropriate meals a day.

Maybe the Red Cross and the Mirror should investigate the conditions of the American soldiers in Kandahar. Field rations, a foxhole, and no shower for weeks on end. Oh, that's right...They're Americans.

Indeed.

JAMES LILEKS has some cogent thoughts on Kathleen Soliah, upper-case versus lower-case, and Charlotte Raven's rants, all neatly tied together.

THE PIGS ARE AT THE TROUGH, reports Sam MacDonald after an interview with U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Thomas Donahue. Bush could do himself a lot of good by waging a frontal assault on corporate welfare. It would be good for the economy, too.

JOSH MARSHALL weighs in on Krugmangate (yeah, I know, but I wanted to be the first to use this idiotic term so that I can write an oped about it later). Josh doesn't think it's such a big deal. (He also provides a link to Krugman's defense of his conduct here). There's also a story in the Washington Times that says that Bill Kristol and Irwin Stelzer of The Weekly Standard got money. I'd be willing to bet, given Enron's habit of throwing money around, that other pundits got money too. (Hmm. Wonder if this is why all the big pundits are going so easy on Krugman?)

Krugman's defense says that he was paid that money in a reasonable exchange for value because he was a hot commodity. This isn't exactly absurd -- but we are usually rather skeptical of such remarks from people who are the subjects of conflict-of-interest complaints, because people tend to believe that they're worth large sums of money. It's difficult for me to believe that Krugman would accept this defense from someone on the right. (It might be easier for me to believe if Krugman's columns hadn't had such a consistently nasty, gotcha kind of tone in recent months.) The L'Oreal slogan -- "Because I'm worth it!" -- isn't generally given a lot of credence in cases like this.

Is this a big deal? Well, that depends. Were these people actually corrupted? Who knows? Did they get a lot of money for doing next to nothing? Absolutely! Was Enron trying to corrupt them? Certainly. Would Marshall -- or Krugman -- have been harder on Kristol if he were the one out front on this issue? Probably. Should that matter? Yes. I personally think that this sort of concern with hidden motives and conflicts of interest is overblown. But it's a bit late in the day for Krugman, or the New York Times, to suddenly adopt my views.

POLITICALPROFESSIONAL.COM, a website dedicated to campaign consultants and the like, has named InstaPundit its first Cool Site of the Day. Thanks guys!

And note the amusing item about the Alabama political consultant who was held for ransom -- or not -- by an Afghan bandit lord. Perhaps he was simply let go out of professional courtesy?

WITH AN ALMOST PALPABLE SENSE OF DISAPPOINTMENT, the BBC is now reporting that there's no torture going on at Guantanamo:

The Foreign Office has confirmed the name of one of three British al-Qaeda/Taleban suspects being held at Camp X-Ray in Cuba.

Confirmation that Feroz Abbasi, from Croydon, is among the men comes as British officials said the three Britons in the camp had "no complaints" about their treatment.

What? You mean this whole thing was a bunch of hooey spread by people desperate to find something to complain about, when even the prisoners aren't complaining? Imagine that.

Will the BBC and other British media learn from this? Doubtful.

JIM HENLEY has it right: Jimmy Carter destroyed the Soviet Union. But Henley doesn't appreciate the full extent of Carter's genius: People picked on him for responding to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan with an Olympic boycott, but that's because they didn't understand the plan. The Olympic boycott wasn't to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, it was to keep them in, by making a withdrawal look like capitulation. The result: disaster for the Soviets. And when Tito died, the Soviet troops that were supposed to be available to seize Yugoslavia were busy elswhere. Now it can be told.

Coming up next week: How Marxism was a brilliant plot by British intelligence to subvert the Russian economy for over a century!

1/20/2002

DAN GILLMOR has some interesting and disturbing thoughts on the future of the Web.

DOC SEARLS is unhappy that the Congo volcano isn't getting more attention. He has a bunch of links, too.

I haven't written about it because I can't think of anything to say besides "those poor bastards." Though in truth, they're better off being ruined by a volcano, which will produce some Western aid, than by a random band of disaffected former soldiers, which will produce bupkus. Which is a lousy commentary on, well, a lot of things.

AN IN-DEPTH ACCOUNT of what special operations units did in Afghanistan, from Monday's New York Times. Very interesting.

TONY ADRAGNA understands hating Rosie O'Donnell but doesn't understand why gun activists would boycott K-Mart. Rosie is only one reason (though the boycott K-mart angle started, I think, when she dissed Tom Selleck over his position on guns). K-Mart has given money to antigun groups, I believe, and has done other things to annoy the gun folks over the years. I haven't followed the issue that closely, if you can believe it, but I'm on some email lists where I've seen numerous angry missives about various K-Mart policies. The biggest recent one was when K-Mart ordered its stores to stop selling guns and ammunition on 9/11. Although this policy was quickly rescinded, it made a lot of people mad. The belief in those circles (echoed by a lot of emails I got after my posting below) is that WalMart is on their side. K-Mart is willing to take their money, but can't be trusted. So even though Rosie's gone, I don't think K-Mart's forgiven.

Oh, and although Tony links to a TV Guide story saying that Rosie dropped her pitchwoman role over K-Mart's gun sales, I think that was probably spin. I think she was the dropee, not the dropper.

UPDATE: Tony links to another story that says the same thing. Maybe I was the one being spun on the who-dumped-who question? It's possible.

ANDREW SULLIVAN has been on a crusade where Paul Krugman's money from Enron is concerned. I've gotten email from some folks who say he's over the top.

I'm not sure. I think that Krugman's money scandal is comparable to, say, a sex scandal involving Gary Bauer or Bill Bennett. Somehow, I think that a smoking-gun sex scandal involving either of those guys would get more press than Krugman's problem, though -- probably, even from Krugman. But Krugman has been attacking greed of late just as intemperately as Bauer and Bennett attack sex.

People love to attack hypocrisy, of course, for two reasons: (1) it's a good way to score points; and (2) a good way to discipline people who advocate overly strict moral standards is to force them to live up to those same standards. I won't try to allocate Sullivan's enthusiasm between those two motivations (and generally, both are in play). But I don't think he's working any substantial unfairness by hammering on this subject until somebody else starts to pay more attention.

It's my own view -- spelled out in that book I keep plugging -- that people are overly fastidious about such conflicts to the exclusion of other things that may be just as important. But while that's my view, it hasn't been the view of The New York Times. Or of Paul Krugman.

CHARLES JOHNSON HAS a telling observation about the Saudis. It's expanded upon in this piece by Daniel Pipes.

I think that Arabia will make a fine province of Turkey.

THERE'S ALL SORTS OF INTERESTING WAR-RELATED STUFF ON FLIT. Some I agree with, some I don't, and some I'm not sure -- and it's all so various that I won't even try to summarize it. Just go see for yourself.

CHARLES MURTAUGH has all sorts of interesting observations about Leon Kass and cloning, but here's my favorite bit:

Since Kass seems so concerned about fictional characters, maybe he would turn around and point to all the interesting consumptives that populate 19th-century literature. What would have happened to all that interesting tragedy if science had been ahead of its time? What would Crime and Punishment have been without the tragic decline and death of Katerina Ivanovna, whose consumptive suffering moves Raskolnikov to pity? Sure, science has helped people, but it's killing good literature!
Thus does science deprive us of the richness of life.

MORAL LEADERSHIP FROM THE ARCHBISHOP -- How utterly pathetic:

The leading contender to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury has attacked the West's war against terrorism, denouncing military action in Afghanistan as "morally tainted".
The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev Rowan Williams, said the bombing campaign in Afghanistan had lost credibility and was morally equivalent to the terrorism it sought to defeat. . . .

Dr Williams is touted as the leading liberal contender to succeed Dr Carey, and is recognised as an outstanding theologian and intellectual.

Funny, I thought that Church intellectuals were supposed to be capable of making reasoned distinctions. Obviously, I was wrong.

COLUMNIST JIM BENNETT has some interesting thoughts about the future of Japan.

OKAY, A COUPLE MORE BEFORE I GO: UPI reports that gun rights activists are taking credit for K-Mart's demise:

Rosie scenario -- The rumored impending bankruptcy of the venerable Kmart department store chain does not have everyone upset, even in these economic bleak times. Pro-Second Amendment activists who have been boycotting the chain because of the vocal anti-gun activity of Kmart spokesman Rosie O'Donnell are claiming at least some credit for the chain's difficulties. O'Donnell has repeatedly used her platform as host of an afternoon talk show aimed at women to attack gun ownership. She also played host to a fundraising event for former Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno, currently a Democrat candidate for governor of Florida. Outraged firearms owners have been encouraging people to shop at WalMart instead.
Hmm. And WalMart is doing well.

I generally take boycotts with a grain of salt, or three. But K-Mart's customer base has a lot of gunowners in it, and gunowners are really mad about K-Mart, not just because of Rosie O'Donnell but also because of a number of things K-Mart itself has done.

I'M OFF TO BORDER'S, OR MAYBE THE OFFICE. But relax -- PunditWatch is up, and it's even better than last week. Will Vehrs is worthy of the big leagues here -- perhaps he'll find a bigleague home for PunditWatch. So long as we're all still invited to drop by.

SUELLEN O'HARA -- ROLE MODEL FOR AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL? A reader writes (from Britain, no less) with this observation:

We have heard a lot from the finger-wagging brigade about our sub-par behaviour to certain battlefield veterans. Are we humiliating and degrading the Al Quaeda prisoners at Guantanamo? I began to wonder.

To answer this question, I thought of Leon Kass, and his appeal to the timeless truths of great art. Perhaps they may help us understand the moral problems we face today.

I found myself considering the perhaps unfairly neglected minor character of Suellen O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. Specifically, I thought of that scene in the movie in which everyone is working hard after the war except for selfish, whiny, do-nothing Suellen. Then her long-suffering beau, Frank Kennedy, is demobbed and turns up at dear old Tara sorely in need of a hot bath and a square meal.

Mammy: [to Frank Kennedy behind improvised screen] "You hand me those trousers, Mr Kennedy [who throws them from beneath blanket, which he clutches for modesty. Mammy catches them on pitchfork] I'm gonna put them in the boiling pot. [stirs] The whole Confederate Army's got the same trouble -- crawlin' clothes and dysentery!"

Suellen: "I think it's humiliating the way you're treating Mr Kennedy!"

Mammy: "You'd be a sight more humiliated if some of Mr Kennedy's lice gets on you."

Yes. Perhaps Suellen was the prototype Human Rights activist. She was certainly daft enough.

Beautifully said.

THE FRONT PAGE OF MY LOCAL PAPER features several stories about a rather pathetic little Ku Klux Klan rally held in the mountain town of Newport. It's a town that, despite being heavily white (and, recently, hispanic) has a black mayor.

Message to the Klan: What's with all the Nazi bullshit? I know you're a bunch of morons, but even morons ought to figure out that carrying around swastikas doesn't exactly improve your market share. Aside from all your other problems, you're blithering idiots.

But I guess that's not really news. Best take on the subject, from one observer:

"That's nuts," he murmured. "My dad was a POW in World War II. He and his dead buddies earned that fellow the right to carry his flag and speak nonsense."
I'll bet Robert E. Lee wouldn't have thought much of Nazis, either. And not much more of Klansmen.

JOANNE JACOBS has some interesting thoughts on the place of weblogs, Bush's popularity, and Christopher Hitchens' discomfiture.

THE BBC is still going on about the cruelty (surgical masks that might be undignified!) of American treatment of Al Qaeda prisoners in Guantanamo.

Here's a suggestion for a sidebar: do a comparison with the conditions in Castro's prisons. Perhaps the Eurotourists who frolic on Cuba's beaches would like to know something about the conditions there?

Who am I kidding?

The real tragedy is that, if they ever do uncover any actual abuses, nobody in America will listen to these guys because their treatment of the war has been so consistently biased, anti-American, and nonsensical.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has this amusing observation:

Without irony, the Observer notes the same day that (1) Tony Blair warns us to treat our prisoners better while (2) Britons complain about the treatment of all the terrorists Britain played host to.

THE WASHINGTON POST'S oped page is routinely showing up the New York Times' increasingly lame effort. But today the contrast is greater than usual. Here, in particular, is a great piece, one of several on the value of education in fighting terrorism.

ALL ENRON, ALL THE TIME: Here's a column by me on Enron in today's Newsday.

My sense is that this scandal is already on the wane. It may heat back up again, but it doesn't seem to be generating the major self-reinforcing coverage that will be necessary to keep it going.

Wouldn't it be ironic if its main victim turned out to be Paul Krugman? Ironic, but in a way not surprising, as the victims of such scandals tend to be people you wouldn't expect. On the other hand, as a reader points out, if you compare the $50,000 that Krugman got from Enron with the size of the campaign contributions that most politicians got, Krugman's is far, far bigger.

NOW FOR THE REAL NEWS: Forget war and the future of humanity. There's a new aphrodisiac in testing, and it reportedly works instantly, and on women as well as men. Expect to hear a lot about this one.

THE VENDETTA AGAINST BJORN LOMBORG is usually Ron Bailey territory, but this piece from the Telegraph is worth noting. Here's my favorite part:

The Danish environment minister even sent Lomborg's articles to 2,500 civil servants, instructing them to report any mistakes they could find.
Reminds me of the scene in the movie Blazing Saddles where the Governor, played by Mel Brooks, calls all his cronies into a conference room and says "Gentlemen, we've got to protect our phony-baloney jobs!"

PERHAPS LEON KASS, et al., should join the ASPCR while they're at it.

ORRIN JUDD takes exception of my views, expressed below, about Leon Kass's use of Nathaniel Hawthorne. But I think that Judd actually shares Kass's concerns, which are that the science will work, not -- as in Hawthorne -- that it will fail.

Perhaps Katz, and Judd, should read Greg Egan's Diaspora, instead. They may not like that world (in fact, I suspect that they won't) but at least it won't be apples and oranges.




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