Archive for December, 2002

December 31, 2002

EDWARD BOYD IS BACK! Maybe it will be a happy new year.

But will Scoble get his wish?

Either way, happy new year! I’ll see you tomorrow.

December 31, 2002

THESE PHOTOS of Iranian actress Hedieh Tehrani aren’t very exciting to Americans. But they’re creating a sensation in Iran:

This is because nobody in Iran has ever seen her body or her hair in a film or even in public, for Islamic laws prevent Iranian women to apear in public without covering their body and their hair (thanks God, not their faces though, like many Arab women). Aside from the fact that these photos might result in serious damages to her career as a successful and well-paid actress in the future, they can also reveal the huge gap between the private and public lives and values of Iranian people, which is absolutely an outcome of extreme Islamic rules and religon-derived traditional culture.

I find that gap hopeful. Visit WomeninIran.com, too, and hope that this time next year things there will be better. It certainly will if these women have anything to say about it.

December 31, 2002

ON NEW YEAR’S EVE, A LITTLE LIQUID COURAGE seems, well, appropriate, somehow.

Here at Stately InstaPundit Manor, it’s a quiet night. My mother’s recently-scoped knee is bothering her more today than yesterday (I think the drugs were still having some effect for the first 24 hours) so she’s staying here tonight; she’s reading my daughter a “Samantha” story at the moment. I have another half-dozen exams to grade, and I’ll probably celebrate the New Year, or at least the end of the old year, with a glass of Remy XO, followed by ZZZ.

I’ll likely post again before it’s all over.

December 31, 2002

AN OBSERVATION that sadly will be just as true next year, from Juan Gato:

You know, I’d feel a lot better about the world if I could find some “rebel” group out there actually fighting for liberty rather than for the privilege of stamping everyone under their particular boot.

Yep.

December 31, 2002

JAY MANIFOLD HAS PREDICTIONS for the coming year. Spoons reviews his track record for the past year. And Kevin McGeehee boldly predicts:

Michael Moore will say something that actually makes sense — and promptly retract it, claiming he’d been taken out of context.

And Virginia Postrel demonstrates that one of my predictions has already come true!

December 31, 2002

VLOGGING FOR THE NEW YEAR: Jeff Jarvis rounds up the reactions to his video-blogging (“vlogging”) experiment. Follow the link to his videohosting service, be a little patient with the multiple windows it spawns, and watch several new vlogs.

I’m not sure exactly how this relates to blogging, but it’s very, very cool stuff.

December 31, 2002

HAPPY NEW YEAR:

U.S. intelligence officials have identified approximately 15 cargo freighters around the world that they believe are controlled by al Qaeda or could be used by the terrorist network to ferry operatives, bombs, money or commodities over the high seas, government officials said.

American spy agencies track some of the suspicious ships by satellites or surveillance planes and with the help of allied navies or informants in overseas ports. But they have occasionally lost track of the vessels, which are continually given new fictitious names, repainted or re-registered using invented corporate owners, all while plying the oceans. . . .

“If the Coast Guard can’t stop 200 people on a freighter from coming into the port of Miami, how can they stop a terrorist with a dirty bomb?” asked Bruce Stubbs, a former Coast Guard captain and now a security consultant.

Long-term, this is likely to put an end to flags of convenience and to introduce the maritime industry to a degree of regulation it has escaped so far. My feelings on that: very mixed.

UPDATE: I wonder if there’s a North Korea connection?

December 31, 2002

BRYAN PRESTON is back and blogging up a storm.

December 31, 2002

ETHICS AND ETHICISTS, CLONING, IMMIGRATION, LOW-CARB DIETS, AND REFERRAL TRAFFIC: Virginia Postrel has posted a bunch of new stuff on her blog, and there’s something for everyone!

December 31, 2002

MORE GOOD NEWS ABOUT BOOZE: And at such an opportune moment! But this passage is troubling:

Thirty years ago, policy makers just preferred to keep the whole conundrum quiet. The Framingham study, which began to examine risks for heart disease in 1948, was one of the first big studies to find heart benefits from alcohol. One of its researchers, Dr. Carl Seltzer, wrote in a short 1996 memoir that when he and his colleagues informed their government sponsors at the National Heart and Lung Institute in 1972 of these findings, they were forbidden to publish them.

Isn’t this, sort of, like tobacco companies covering up bad news because it would hurt their agenda? It seems reasonable to believe that quite a few lives could have been saved had this research not been suppressed.

And this underscores a point that I’ve made before: claims that the politicization of science is something that only the Bush Administration is engaged in are, well, lies. Public health has always been politicized, which is one reason why people are distrustful today.

December 31, 2002

BLOG COVERAGE OF THE BOALT SEX SCANDAL has broken out of the Internet and into California legal newspapers. Stefan Sharkansky has a post here, XLRQ comments here, but so far no word from Erin O’Connor, who has been on hiatus for the holidays.

I haven’t read the article in question, since it’s not on the web, though Sharkansky features lengthy excerpts. Big Media reporting, though, isn’t coming off very well in these first-person accounts of being interviewed on the question.

December 31, 2002

ALTERMAN CLAIMS that the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has taken over the New York Times.

I tried to reach Ann Coulter for comment, but all I got was a recording of what seemed to be her voice, saying “Buwhahaha!”

December 31, 2002

THIMEROSAL UPDATE: This post from The Bloviator spells out a lot of the legislative issues more clearly than the mainstream press coverage I’ve read. Advantage: Bloviator!

December 31, 2002

TONY WOODLIEF RESPONDS TO CRITICS, and very cogently, too:

Well, since you asked, we aren’t the world’s policeman, until the world goes and gets itself in another bind, usually involving the Germans directly or indirectly, and requiring some sort of rescue of the French, during which they will try to overcharge us for amenities. Come the wet-ass hour, to quote Al Pacino, we are everybody’s daddy. So no, the Europeans don’t want us involved, because they are too busy having fun pretending, now that we’ve defeated the U.S.S.R., that somehow they can manage their own safety without actually having armies, and while selling technology and weapons to terrorists and communist China. About the time they have their fat heads in a noose, made of rope they’ve sold at EU-subsidized prices to their executioners, then they’ll start carping about how isolationist and hard-hearted we are. So the Europeans can bite me. And another thing — it may be fashionable for liberals whose sole source of education is the E Channel to deride Ronald Reagan as an idiot, but he is a hero, that’s right, a hero to millions of East Europeans, because he had the moral courage to call the Soviet Union what it was — an Evil Empire — while the slack-shouldered agnostics ladling out second-rate education in our nation’s colleges were too busy sipping cappuccino and banging co-eds to recognize that communism is responsible for more state-sponsored murder than ten Nazi holocausts. So to answer your question, no, we aren’t the world’s policeman, but when there are people out there who want to kill me and my children, and they are actively seeking the means to do so, then my personal philosophy is that you kill them and everything within a ten-mile radius of them, post freaking haste. And if the U.N. doesn’t like it, they can pack their louse-filled bags and hold their busy little seminars on gender inequality and structural racism on somebody else’s dime. Since you asked, I mean.

Plus he has this stirring observation: “This website may not change the world, but by golly, it sure makes me feel better.” Us too, Tony.

December 31, 2002

IN A BIT OF DUBIOUS MORAL EQUIVALENCE, Josh Marshall is comparing the Administration’s treatment of North Korea with Ruby Ridge.

He’s quoting someone else here, but I think he’s agreeing.

UPDATE: David Adesnik at OxBlog responds to Marshall’s earlier post on anti-Americanism.

ANOTHER UPDATE: “Gene Lyons,” nee Atrios, thinks that this post was unfair to Josh Marshall. But Josh and I discussed this by email within minutes of its appearing, and I offered to change the post if he thought it characterized his views unfairly. He said no.

December 31, 2002

TIM BLAIR HAS PREDICTIONS FOR 2003: I hope that at least one of them doesn’t come true. . . .

December 31, 2002

NEW YEAR’S AT TIMES SQUARE — some thoughts from Michele:

I’ve lived in New York my entire life and never once have I gone into the city for the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square. Why anyone would want to stand out in the freezing cold with half a million people, most of them trying to feel you up or steal your wallet as they brush up against you, is beyond me.

I can have just as much fun getting drunk at home and letting my husband feel me up. And he won’t try to steal my wallet.

Yeah, baby! Oh, and she’s got a poll on blogging up, too.

December 31, 2002

INTERESTING DEVELOPMENT IN PARIS:

A former soldier who alerted police to a bomb and weapons cache at Paris’ biggest international airport has himself been taken into custody.

The man raised the alarm when he said he saw a weapon in the car of an airport baggage handler at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport.

The original story — that a passerby saw weapons in the trunk — seemed a bit odd to me, but I thought it might just be a cover story to protect an informant or some such. But while the weapons found were real, the question of how they got there now appears, well, complex.

December 31, 2002

ROBERT MUSIL WONDERS when Paul Krugman will discover the power of Google.

December 31, 2002

ANDREW SULLIVAN is making his year-end awards. Read ‘em, then go to Kausfiles to find out what they really mean!

December 31, 2002

SGT. STRYKER SAYS THAT CHARLES RANGEL IS WRONG ABOUT THE DRAFT: Me, I just think it’s funny that it’s the Democrats calling for a draft now. I don’t see this as a winning political strategy, though.

UPDATE: A reader likes the Rangel approach and wants to extend it:

I say, excellent idea! Next, New York’s very own Sir Charles with the lifetime seat will put forward legislation requiring all Congressfolk to send their kids to public schools. Perhaps this will help re-focus the debate on education reform.

We’re more likely to see the draft back first, I think. And we’re not likely to see that at all.

UPDATE: Reader Arthur Fleischman notes that the essence of Rangel’s strategy is to have a draft so that people can oppose it, and asks:

Basically, isn’t Mr. Rangel’s proposal one which is designed to reduce the capability of the military while increasing opposition to our government’s policies?

That’s what Stryker thinks. And I think he’s right.

December 31, 2002

THANKS, JIM! My final TechCentralStation column of the year is up. It was inspired by Jim Henley.

December 30, 2002

DON’T BAN CLONING:

Not only is the U.S. position – complete prohibition – extreme, but even the more conservative, limited ban is insupportable. . . .

But legal prohibition – national or international – is a poor answer. Even if a new law or treaty were able to eliminate reproductive cloning from most of the world, practitioners would likely spring up in places with minimal regulation, next door to the quack cancer and fountain of youth clinics. The actions of rogue cloners in these wholly unregulated milieus could be disastrous.

The potential problems of cloning are, arguably, best left to the forces of the marketplace and the existing protections of national legal systems. If, as experts expect, reproductive cloning is largely unsuccessful, its practitioners will find themselves without clients. If they fail to deliver on their contractual obligations or cause death or injury to an infant, they may be subject to various civil and criminal legal strictures, including fraud, breach of contract, criminal negligence, and manslaughter. They might even be subject, ultimately, to “wrongful life” suits brought by the clone or its agents.

If bureaucrats pursue a legal prohibition , it is likely that they, the research community and society at large will be confounded by the law of unintended consequences.

Yes. I keep waiting for some clear explanation of why cloning is so awful that it must be banned, but nothing I’ve heard really gets much past the “it gives me the willies” argument. Which isn’t an argument at all.

UPDATE: Bigwig is all over the cloning issue. Start at this link and scroll up.

December 30, 2002

LARRY MILLER on Cardinal Law:

So. Here’s the thing. Law knew. He always knew. He denied it for years, and he covered it up his whole career; and you know he did. Worse, he knows he did, and, worst of all (for him), God knows he did. Time after time, as a matter of official policy, he hip-checked the victims and their families (and their nightmares), and, in return for their written promises not to say anything, he threw a few bucks onto their floors.

Why? He liked his job, and he didn’t want to leave. He was–what’s the word?–selfish, and he waited and weighed the world’s reactions with the calmness of a drunken billionaire watching the stock-ticker at his club (a guy I hope to be someday, by the way).

And finally, only when the awful calculus told him things were looking dim, he resigned. Not because he had seen the light and decided to do the honorable thing, but because he assessed his chances and did the only thing he could. Gee, thanks.

Here’s what Cardinal Law should have said a long time ago, here’s what he should say now, here’s what he will never say: “Every time a monster destroyed a boy’s life by following his sick urges, it was horrible beyond words. And it was all infinitely worse because the offenders acted in the employ of God. I knew these things happened, and I did nothing. In fact, often I saw to it that the malefactors could continue on professionally. If it happened even once, it was the worst thing in the world, but it happened far more than once. If I thought I was helping my church by my actions, I was wrong. By these actions I might as well have been saying, ‘Go ahead. I just won’t look.’ I cannot ask for the forgiveness of the victims, because too much time and horror has passed. Instead, I will spend the rest of my life fighting this evil as God’s representative in protecting the innocent. In other words, being a priest.”

He has some thoughts on Trent Lott, too.

December 30, 2002

MSNBC’S VIEWERSHIP MAY BE DISAPPOINTING, but its website is Number One in readers among news sites. That kind of surprised me, though I suppose it’s not really that big a shock when you allow for the big MSN audience.

December 30, 2002

NEW YEAR’S EVE PLANS: Gawker has a list of suggestions. Some make me wish I still lived in New York. Others make me glad I don’t.

December 30, 2002

WILL VEHRS REVIEWS THE YEAR IN PUNDITRY. Don’t miss it.

December 30, 2002

I THINK THAT GWEILO DIARIES HAS THIS RIGHT:

The Saudis provided — at a minimum — money to al Qaeda. I know it. Kleiman knows it. Graham knows it. You know it. The administration knows it. The Saudis damn sure know it. Al Qaeda knows it. The families of the victims know it. I’ll lay odds that my Chinese taxi-driver on the way home tonight knows it. Yet its classified?!?

What’s this, the betrayal that dare not speak its name?

If the Bush administration’s plan does not ultimately include regime change in Saudi Arabia, it is destined for failure and the President is going to lose a lot of supporters very quickly. This had all better be part of a brilliant Machiavellian strategy to oust the House of Saud, while Poppy Bush lulls them into a false sense of security by groveling before them for donations to that sanctuary for the needy and oppressed, Andover Academy.

I can understand not pressing the Saudi issue at the moment, but the above is absolutely right.

December 30, 2002

THE HISPANOSPHERE: Jim Bennett writes on some changes in Latin America.

December 30, 2002

MORE ON THIMEROSAL: Mark Kleiman is pointing out a problem that Dr. Manhattan has also noted: the controversial amendment to the Homeland Security bill may not have been anonymous, since Dick Armey has admitted being behind it, but it is, ahem, screwed up. Here’s Kleiman’s email description, which is particularly clear, and which I think is right (email me if I’m wrong):

1. Frist offered a bill to get Eli Lilly off the hook on thimerosal in the Senate. No hearings were held.

2. That provision appeared in neither the House nor the Senate version of the Homeland Security bill as passed before the election, since it has nothing to do with homeland security.

3. After the election, a version was reported out by the conference committee, with lots of stuff, including the thimerosal language, that hadn’t been in either bill.

4. There’s no mystery about who put it in: Armey did. But Armey had no particular interest in the thimerosal stuff. The “mystery” is who asked him to put it in. Frist, the author, specifically says he didn’t. But no one will say who did. The natural suspect is Mitch Daniels; the early reports were that the pressure came from “the White House,” and Daniels is an ex-officer of Lilly and planning to go back to Indiana, where Lilly is based, to run for governor.

5. The Frist version had a necessary conforming amendment to the Internal Revenue Code. The Armey version, the one that passed, didn’t. As a result, the bill as passed blocks all lawsuits and directs the claims to VICP, but the VICP trust fund is still barred by law from paying any such claim.

6. All the thimerosal claims are time-barred by the terms of VICP. Neither the Frist version nor the Armey version deals with that.

So unless the thing gets undone, the families are out of luck. Not being a lawyer, I’m not sure why denying someone the right to press a damages claim isn’t the sort of “taking” that requires compensation.

Well, as for the last, the answer is that lots of things that ought to be considered “takings” that require compensation aren’t treated as such. (And don’t even get me started on “qualified immunity”). But this — unlike the bogus “anonymity” claims that have been raised earlier — seems like an actual issue, and one that deserves to be addressed.

And why wasn’t Bill Keller’s column on this, or Eleanor Clift’s, this clear and to the point? Were they so anxious to try to pin something on Frist that they missed the real story here? Maybe someone should just give Kleiman a bigshot oped slot.

December 30, 2002

SORRY FOR THE LIGHT POSTING: My mother had knee surgery and I had to pick her up and bring her here, where she’s staying for the night. She’s doing fine now.

Er, and a bit of advice: yes, if you do aerobics and go running while wearing heavy ankle weights, it will tone you very impressively. But there is a price. . . .

December 30, 2002

I’ve posted on this before, but via Ann Salisbury I notice that Kos’s Political State Report is still looking for correspondents. Drop by and sign up if you’re interested.

I also agree with Ann that we really need a good, sharp increase in defense spending to meet America’s global responsibilities. . . .

December 30, 2002

NOW THE UNITED STATES IS BEING CRITICIZED FOR EXCESSIVE MULTILATERALISM!

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea (news – web sites) said Tuesday it is only the United States that can solve the dispute of its nuclear weapons, warning Washington that internationalizing the issue would bring “uncontrollable catastrophe.”

“There is no need for the third party to meddle in the nuclear issue on the peninsula. The issue should be settled between the DPRK (North Korea) and the U.S., the parties responsible for it,” said the North’s ruling-party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun.

“If the U.S. persistently tries to internationalize the pending issue between the DPRK and the U.S. in a bid to flee from its responsibility, it will push the situation to an uncontrollable catastrophe,” it said.

Those damned cowboy Americans, always trying to round up a posse and bring the whole community into dealing with wrongdoers, instead of doing things one-to-one like civilized people. . . .

I guess we just can’t win. Which, I suppose, is the whole idea.

December 30, 2002

FINANCIAL ISSUES at TomPaine.Com:

But liberals smelled a rat. Drug company Eli Lilly had long sought the clarification, and TomPaine.com, a left-wing Internet publication, promised $10,000 to whomever could conclusively document how the provision found its way into the bill. On December 12, TomPaine.com got its answer. “I did it,” House Majority Leader Dick Armey said on a CBS newscast. “I’m proud of it.”

Now Mr. Armey has asked TomPaine.com to send the reward to the Cornerstone Community School, a nonprofit private school in Washington for disadvantaged children. But the Web site is balking and has now issued a clarification. “What TomPaine.com is looking for is THE PERSON WHO *ASKED* ARMEY to ALLOW it to happen,” it says in characteristic feverishness, braying that “Public officials who work secret deals like this are cowards,” and that “democracy requires accountability.”

Since TomPaine.com brings up the subject of accountability, it’s worth noting that the organization has its own issues regarding ownership. According to its Web site and filings with the Internal Revenue Service, the publication is wholly bankrolled to the tune of $2 million by the Florence Fund, a tax-exempt organization whose purpose is “to invigorate public debate by helping public interest groups put their messages and work products before larger audiences or target audiences more deeply.” Of particular interest to the Florence Fund is “the role of money in politics.” But what’s the role of money in the organization itself?

In its initial tax filings with the IRS in 1999, the Florence Fund claimed over $6.25 million in pledged money.

Jeez, if I’d known they were that rich, I’d have claimed the ten grand for real! Though I guess Armey has a prior claim.

December 30, 2002

BROCK YATES reports that Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle may turn out to be right.

December 30, 2002

PATTY MURRAY said that if we did more humanitarian work, like Osama bin Laden did, we’d see less terrorism. That was profoundly dumb on many levels, but here’s another example of why:

Three American humanitarian workers were shot and killed at a hospital in southern Yemen, by a man the authorities described as a fundamentalist extremist. They said that he went into the room where the workers were gathered at about 8:30 a.m. local time.

A fourth was wounded in another room in the attack, which took place at a missionary-run hospital in the town of Jibla, the officials said. This individual was later reported to be undergoing surgery.

The man, whom they said was a suspected Islamist militant, was subsequently arrested. He was believed to be a student at Yemen’s al-Iman university. . . .

The dead staff were identified as the hospital’s administrator, Bill Cane, 60; an obstetrician, Dr. Mersa Miers, and the storage department manager, whose full name was not immediately known.

According to the Yemen Times newspaper, the doctor had spent several years doing humanitarian work in the country.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a humanitarian: you’re still just a target to these people.

Meanwhile, the UPI story contains a bit of editorializing that proves that Patty Murray isn’t the only one who’s profoundly dumb:

Yemen has seen the widespread possession and use of weapons throughout the country, especially in rural areas.

Yeah. As the reader who sent this link notes, “If we could only take away their guns, then they’d have nothing but airliners with which to attack.”

December 30, 2002

JACKSON DIEHL WRITES that the conventional wisdom on American unilateralism is wrong. It ties in well with this post, below, and especially with this essay by John Hawkins.

December 30, 2002

STEPHANIE SIMON AT THE LOS ANGELES TIMES reports on the most segregated city in America — Milwaukee:

The furor over GOP Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott’s praise for a former segregationist candidate for president has focused attention on the long history of racial division in the South. These days, however, the gulf between white and black is widest in the North.

Interesting story.

December 30, 2002

KATE MALCOLM, at Kitchen Cabinet reports that U.N. inspectors seem to be bungling their interviews of Iraqi scientists. I’m shocked.

December 30, 2002

THIS KEEPS HAPPENING:

Police have arrested a baggage handler at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, after two automatic weapons, plastic explosives and a detonator were found in his car.

The man, who is reportedly of Algerian origin, was arrested late on Saturday after a tip-off from a member of the public who saw a weapon in a car boot at the airport. . . .

In total, nine arrests have been made since 16 December, when four people were arrested in the Paris suburb of La Courneuve.

All those arrested are said to be of Algerian or Moroccan origin.

The arrests stem from an investigation into possible connections between Islamic militants in Europe and Chechnya.

Keep your eye on this.

December 29, 2002

SUMAN PALIT has a bunch of interesting new posts. Read ‘em, if you’re so inclined.

December 29, 2002

JOSH MARSHALL warns about U.S. unilateralism, and suggests that it would be nice if we shared this world-leadership thing a bit.

Porphyrogenitus agrees, and fantasizes about letting Europe take care of the whole North Korea problem:

Thinking further about this, perhaps it’s time to let our EU peers, who believe they should have a full share of leadership alongside the U.S., take the lead in this crisis. This is, after all, only reasonable since the reactor North Korea is using for its plutonium production, designed and built not for energy production but for weapons programs, was designed and built for North Korea by Europeans (Germany, to be exact).

37,000+ French, Italian, Dutch, German, et al troops can replace the American troops on the peninsula and be responsible for serving as a “tripwire” in case of North Korean attack. They can take the lead in deciding how to diffuse this one, and if they decide force is needed, they can bear the lion share of the burden – our troops are busy elsewhere, and our full partners should be able to handle this one while we handle the other. Oh, the U.S. won’t be out of the picture – like I said, it will be role reversal. The EU will be expected to “consult” with us at every turn, whatever moves they make will be subjected to un-constructive criticism, and if they make even the smallest of mistakes we’ll be quick with the finger of blame.

But, as he notes, Europe can’t do it, and wouldn’t do it if it could. Which is the problem. I don’t think many Americans — except maybe Bill Kristol — actually want America to be the world’s hyperpower. We’d love to see responsible and capable allies picking up the global-policeman duties. But Europe couldn’t even deal with the Balkans — a minor threat in its own backyard — without American help. And everyone else, aside from Britain and Australia, is worse.

It’s not leadership by our fault. It’s leadership by default.

Meanwhile Rantburg notes that the anti-Americanism seems pretty shallow — like Gerhard Schroder, Roh is trying to throttle it back now that he’s been elected and has to actually govern. Like Gerhard, though, he’ll discover that America doesn’t forget this stuff. Chris Lawrence makes a similar observation.

UPDATE: Juan Gato emails to remind me to link this essay by John Hawkins entitled “confessions of an isolationist wannabe,” from earlier this year. I had linked it when it was new, but Gato’s right — it belongs in this discussion. This post is worth reading, too.

December 29, 2002

TIM CAVANAUGH reports on something missing from this year’s poll of top religious stories. You’ll never guess what it is.

December 29, 2002

HISTORICAL ILLITERACY at the New York Times. They could at least have used Google.

December 29, 2002

THE FBI IS ASKING FOR YOUR HELP, but Kathy Kinsley is skeptical.

December 29, 2002

A WORRY about strong digital identification systems that’s worth reading.

December 29, 2002

“USEFUL IDIOTS” — Mark Steyn comments on the risible Archibishop of Canterbury and his fellow churchmen. Excerpt:

How naive do you have to be to swallow that baloney? The Wise Men were Herod’s patsies, his useful idiots. Now who does that sound like? Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld? Or Dr Williams, Sean Penn and George Galloway, to name just three of the legions of “wise men” who insist that their appeasement of Saddam demonstrates their superior insight and intelligence?

Penn and Galloway are just following their America-is-always-wrong instincts. By contrast, in tortuously bending the Gospels to his political needs, Dr Williams distorts his faith at least as much as (according to “Muslim moderates”) al-Qa’eda does Islam. It’s hard not to conclude that the archbishop’s secular beliefs have seduced his spiritual ones. He was, of course, wrong on Afghanistan, and – speaking of the slaughter of innocents – utterly silent on this year’s vast mound of Christian corpses, culminating in the murder of three small girls in a Pakistani church on Christmas Day. That’s “moral surrender”.

Catching the eye of godless Britain is an unenviable task, but there’s no future for the Church playing catch-up with the Lib Dems. “Tony Blair’s – appointment of Rowan Williams as archbishop is his most exciting act of patronage so far,” gushed Simon Jenkins in The Times. “Mr Blair has dealt us a wild card, a risk.” Hardly. The archbishop offers only the certainty of decline, the final death-spiral into secular liberal irrelevance. No wonder Islam is Britain’s fastest-growing religion.

Indeed. And, speaking of the prolific Steyn, he’s also critical of Bush on the war, and even cites Bill Quick, in another column:

The endless postponement of the Iraqi D-Day, now as routinely rolled over as those Soviet five-year plans, is all part of some cunning Bush ”rope-a-dope” strategy. So is Colin Powell’s recent statement that the administration isn’t looking for regime change in Baghdad. So is the ongoing mantra of ”the Saudis are our friends, no matter how many of us they kill.”

It’s true that lulling the enemy into a false sense of security can be very cunning. But only if the sense of security does, indeed, turn out to be false. Otherwise, as the Internet commentator William Quick puts it, how much longer can Bush dine out on Afghanistan? And a lot of what the Bushies do barely falls into the lulling category. When Princess Haifa, wife of the Saudis’ Washington ambassador, was revealed to have funneled money, unwittingly or otherwise, to the 9/11 killers, why did Alma Powell and Barbara Bush rush to phone her to commiserate? The connection between Saudi ”charitable giving” and terrorism is well-known. The most benign explanation is that the princess is an idiot, and Americans are dead because of her idiocy. The wife of the secretary of state and the mother of the president have no business comforting a stooge of their country’s enemies.

Indeed, again.

December 29, 2002

TOMORROW’S NEWS TODAY! Tim Blair reviews Bowling for Columbine for tomorrow’s Australian. Short excerpt: “It’s a kid flick for the adult anti-American market.”

Thanks, international date-line!

December 29, 2002

WAR AND CUTE BUNNY RABBITS: Anna has one weird blog, but I kind of like it!

December 29, 2002

ARMED LIBERAL SAYS THAT I’M IRREDEEMABLY WRONG about barbecue. Hmm. I haven’t tried any of the places he mentions. Guess I’ll have to do more “research.”

Hand me that big industrial-sized bottle of Zocor. . . .

December 29, 2002

PUNDITWATCH IS UP!

December 29, 2002

AL FRANKEN had a good observation on This Week: We live in an America where the number one rapper is white, and the number one golfer is black.

UPDATE: Okay, okay. A bunch of people have emailed to say that Charles Barkley said this already. It’s still good.

Meanwhile Josh Kraushaar points out that there’s nothing new about this sort of thing:

In 1956, long before the civil rights movement, one of the top baseball players (Jackie Robinson) was black while the top R&B singer (Elvis Presley) was white.

Well, it wasn’t really “long before the civil rights movement,” but good point. And reader John Tuttle writes that Tiger Woods isn’t black — just ask him. Finally, reader James Cooper says that the quote’s originally from Chris Rock (but doesn’t provide a link) and suggests Rock should be the designated comedian on This Week, not Franken as he’s both funnier and smarter. From your keyboard to George Stephanopoulos’ ears, James.

Rand Simberg agrees that Tiger’s not black, and adds: “one of the refreshing things about him is his refusal to play the race game.” Okay.

UPDATE: One more, from reader John Briggs:

Back in 1967 after the Six-Days War someone noted how much the world had changed — the best businessmen were the Germans and the best soldiers were the Jews.

Heh.

December 29, 2002

“MASSIVE STREET DEMONSTRATIONS” in Venezuela. There’s also this observation from El Sur:

Whether he wins or loses in the end, President Hugo Chávez is learning one very important lesson from Venezuela’s nationwide work stoppage. That is: it is difficult, if not impossible, to run a modern industry (let alone a country) by force. Chávez has fired oil workers and ordered the military to take over struck facilities owned by state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA). So far, nothing’s worked.

I’m going to be writing more about that point later.

December 29, 2002

SOME WESTERN ACTIVISTS are going to Iraq to serve as “human shields.” I tend to think of this as evolution in action, but Tim Blair has a lengthy response.

December 29, 2002

JOEL ROSENBERG and Jerry Pournelle have been debating war and the mideast by email. The exchange is posted on Joel’s weblog.

December 29, 2002

SOME OBSERVATIONS ON SMALLPOX PREPAREDNESS:

The other thing we can do is to prepare for the worst-case scenario — simultaneous releases of aerosolized smallpox virus at major airports or sports stadiums, for instance. The success of the smallpox eradication campaign has made the public-health community confident that it could quickly contain and stop several, even dozens of, smallpox outbreaks if the virus were introduced here. The real question is: Could we meet the challenge if we had thousands or tens of thousands of primary cases? Not with the current plan. It is important to reassure the public by providing a plan to vaccinate the entire country within days if such an outbreak occurred. Many feel that is impossible. Yet it is no more impossible than having the entire country vote in one day.

There is no part of the vaccination process that is so complicated that it would preclude reaching everyone in the United States within three days if the risk of contagion is high. It does mean getting needed supplies in place and training volunteers, National Guard and public health workers how to vaccinate with bifurcated needles, a simple procedure that can be quickly learned. It also means strengthening the public health infrastructure throughout the country, decentralizing the job to every county, shipping vaccine nationwide overnight if the threat proves real and holding clinics in every high school. And it is critical that this be done. A plan to vaccinate the population over a matter of weeks is simply inadequate.

He’s more optimistic about “ring vaccination” than this excerpt makes it sound, though he admits doubts about whether it could work in mass-exposure cases. And he’s certainly right that many problems would be solved if we could develop a safer vaccine. To that I would add the prospect of antiviral drugs: if smallpox could be treated with something that would prevent most deaths, it would be nearly as good as vaccination.

December 28, 2002

GOOD NEWS in Kenya.

December 28, 2002

BILL FRIST: Lackey of Eli Lilly? Or of Rosalynn Carter? I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of this pseudo-scandal (there’s an earlier post here, with links to still earlier ones) and have found, via the magic of Westlaw, a long Senate floor speech by Frist in favor of the liability limits. Follow the link to read it — it’s posted over at InstaPundit EXTRA! because it’s just too damned long to post here. Frist, as you’ll see, is quoting “Every Child By Two,” the Rosalynn Carter – Betty Bumpers campaign for vaccination, in support of the language, and in debunking a New York Times article on thimerosal that misquoted important sources. (He quotes the sources, too, who say that the Times was woefully deficient in fact-checking.)

Also, any readers familiar with the history of this, please let me know if I’m right about the timeline here. I believe that Armey put the language in the bill originally (er, because he said so, on CNN) and that the bill passed the House, with that language in it, and then went to the Senate, where the actual question was over an attempt by Joe Lieberman to take the House language out.

Am I right about this? Because if I am, then what Bill Keller and Eleanor Clift are accusing Frist of — putting the language in the bill — is not only contradicted by Dick Armey’s statement, but was also impossible because the Senate action was about removing language that was already there, not about putting the language in in the first place. I don’t swear that I’m right about this, as the history is awfully complex, but that’s how it looks.

But at the very least, claims that Frist was acting secretly in support of the language are contradicted by the speech — on the Senate floor — supporting the language. And claims that this was some sort of sleazy corporate bailout would seem to be contradicted by the words from the Rosalynn Carter – Betty Bumpers Campaign. Unless the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has gotten really, really vast.

Here’s a link to an oped by Carter and Bumpers denouncing what they call “Internet scare campaigns” about vaccines. And here is a link to a newsletter at the Carter / Bumpers campaign page that says the language originated in the House, and is intended to keep trial lawyers from end-running laws already in existence:

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) was enacted by Congress as a no-fault alternative to the tort system for resolving claims resulting from adverse reactions to mandated childhood vaccines. Claimants have the option to file vaccine injury lawsuits against physicians who administer vaccines and vaccine manufacturers only after their claim is adjudicated under the VICP and the judgment is rejected by the claimants. Recent lawsuits have gone directly to the tort system by claiming that thimerosal was an additive to the vaccine and therefore not applicable to the VICP. If the Senate passes this bill, parents will be required to file thimerosal claims first through the VICP. The unfortunate consequence of this provision has been the inadvertent fueling of fears, by several Senators and the press, that vaccines cause autism.

Follow the link to read Frist’s speech and I think you’ll see that he’s on the same page as the Carter-Bumpers Campaign. (The “several Senators” are opponents of the language, one of whom Frist quotes, and “the press” appears to refer to the New York Times’ flawed account). Which I think makes this an even more pathetic — if slightly more successful — effort at pseudo-scandal than the pencil incident.

What penance will Bill Keller assign himself?

UPDATE: Talkleft emails a link to this story from the Washington Post dated December 20 that says Frist wrote the thimerosal provision. I’m confused, though, because the article doesn’t mention Armey at all (again!) and the Tom Paine reward offer (re-weaseled to avoid crediting Dick Armey — or paying the reward to me!) is still up, with no mention of Frist on the page. Nor is there any context about the purpose of the amendment, or who else supported it. But there must be a pony here somewhere, right?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Nora Cannon emails in response to the Post story:

Yuck: “Frist wrote a provision, enacted into law, that restricted the ability of plaintiffs to sue the company for injuries resulting from Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines against childhood diseases. The Lilly provision was quietly woven into the legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security.”

Some technical truth to that as worded, but intentionally misleading. Frist wrote a free standing bill; here’s a column he wrote on it: Link

Here is the summary from Thomas:

S.2053

Sponsor: Sen Frist, Bill(introduced 3/21/2002)

Latest Major Action: 3/21/2002 Referred to Senate committee.

Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Title: A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to improve immunization rates by increasing the distribution of vaccines and improving and clarifying the vaccine injury compensation program, and for other purposes. (search bill number here: http://thomas.loc.gov )

The particular provision is:

Section 2133(5) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 300aa-33(5)) is amended by adding at the end the following: `For purposes of the preceding sentence, an adulterant or contaminant shall not include any component or ingredient listed in a vaccine’s product license application or product label.’.

And that, of course, addresses the concern pointed out by the Carter – Bumpers campaign above — that trial lawyers were using the “adulterant” claim regarding thimerosal to end-run existing law.

All evidence seems to indicate that this is a bogus issue from top to bottom. TomPaine.Com should be ashamed for trying to make so much of it (not to mention for welshing on their prize award, which would have put me that much closer to a 350Z!) and Bill Keller and Eleanor Clift should be ashamed of being suckered this way.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Tom Dahlgren writes: “Call me paranoid but doesn’t it seem that TomPaine.com, Bill Kellor and Eleanor Clift are all working from the same memo? Maybe a DNC memo? This whole non-event-event sure seems very Blumethal-esque.” Hmm. Maybe someone will investigate that.

I emailed Bill Keller about this yesterday, but I haven’t heard back. It is the weekend, though, a time when only unpaid bloggers answer their email.

December 28, 2002

COLBY COSH SAYS that Patty Murray and I are both wrong. Well, sort of. (My response: “Fwee Muwway!”)

He also points readers to the blog of Sarah Eve Kelly, which is indeed worth reading.

December 28, 2002

DROP BY MISSY’S and wish her happy birthday!

December 28, 2002

WELL, I CAN POST ABOUT war, disease, and cheap political tricks — but what generates the most email? Barbecue! Here’s one I can’t argue with, though, from Ft. Collins, Colorado reader Gary Rosenlieb:

Well, you are correct that you can get into an honest, and sometimes violent, debate on who serves the best barbeque. I have never had the pleasure of eating at Ollie’s, but for my money I think you have one of the best in the country right there in Knoxville in the form of Calhoun’s. I have had occasion to travel through there on business about twice a year, and I always make it a point to stop at Calhoun’s for a full slab of ribs.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner, it doesn’t matter. Always bring back two or three bottles of their sauce too.

Yep. And their microbrewery doesn’t suck, either. We’re also fortunate to have a branch of Corky’s, a Memphis operation here, as well as a local chain called Buddy’s that’s pretty good. It’s a wonder I don’t weigh 300 pounds. But as John Tower once said, I am a man of no small self-control.

December 28, 2002

FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS ASSISTED 9/11 HIJACKERS: That’s what Senator Bob Graham reports, in a statement that I had missed. Excerpt:

I think there is very compelling evidence that at least some of the terrorists were assisted not just in financing — although that was part of it — by a sovereign foreign government and that we have been derelict in our duty to track that down.

The Memory Hole (link above) has more excerpts. Here’s a link to the full transcript. Funny that the Democrats aren’t all over this issue.

December 28, 2002

FOOLED! Bill Keller falls for the bogus “Eli Lilly Bandit” story in today’s New York Times.

In the twilight of the Congressional session, some legislator anonymously arranged for a provision to be slipped into the Homeland Security bill protecting vaccine makers (mainly Eli Lilly) from lawsuits filed by the parents of autistic children. Hundreds of parents are pressing a claim that the mercury in a measles vaccine contributed to their children’s disorder. For all I know, the suit may be baseless, but surely that’s for a court to decide. This is a glaring example of legislative malfeasance. And strong evidence points to Dr. Frist as its author. He is cozy with Lilly and he drafted identical legislative language earlier. But he refuses to own up to it.

Penance, anyone?

Maybe Frist refuses to own up to it because, you know, Keller is wrong. Sorry, but there’s no mystery here — except maybe one manufactured by interest groups to fool the gullible. As I reported here, Dick Armey admits it was him. (This was no great scoop on my part, since Armey admitted it live on CNN! “ARMEY: I put it in.”) And — in the process of trying to weasel out of paying the promised reward — TomPaine.Com, the spreader-in-chief of the “Eli Lilly Bandit” story, seems to have accepted that it was Armey too.

So why is Bill Keller repeating this already-exploded story of a “mystery?” Worse yet, despite Armey’s public statement, now several weeks old, Keller suggests that the “anonymous” legislator was Bill Frist. If Keller knew that Armey had admitted this, surely his comments would reflect Armey’s admission — it’s quite different to say “Dick Armey admits it, but I don’t believe him” than to say what Keller says above. Since Keller makes no mention of it, I can only conclude that he somehow missed out on the story.

Obviously, he doesn’t read enough blogs. Or, at least, enough InstaPundit!

What penance will Keller offer? I’d say an apology in his next column would be sufficient. And, perhaps, a promise to do better in the future, by diligently reading more weblogs. . . .

UPDATE: Eleanor Clift falls for it, too:

The liberal Web site TomPaine.com offered a $10,000 reward for “the Eli Lilly bandit.”

The Lott imbroglio diverted attention from the mystery, but not for long. As reporters delved into the legislative background of the man who would replace Lott, the trail led to none other than Frist as the anonymous author. In retrospect, Frist should have been easy to finger. He had written similar language and tried to attach it to legislation once before, and he had praised the provision’s intent in congressional debate.

Once again, no mention whatsoever of Dick Armey’s statement. Why is it that when another guy confesses, it gets the Central Park Five off the hook, but here nobody’s paying attention? And lame efforts to claim that the “real question” isn’t what TomPaine said it was at first, but what TomPaine says it is now, just illustrate what’s going on here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Tom Healey writes:

In another paragraph, she cites tompaine.com’s reward, but not does not mention that the site seems to have accepted that Rep. Armey was the bandit.

It’s surprising that Clift accuses Frist so flatly. Based on the limited information she provides about Frist’s history on the issue, he has been open about his support for the provision in the past. Why would that make him more likely to be anonymous about it now?

Also, is the very similar ending to Bill Keller’s NYT column today a coincidence or more evidence that many of the big paper columnists read the same messages from the same e-flacks, consistent with Mickey Kaus’s theory about Sidney Blumenthal and Lott’s Thurmond speech?

Finally, Keller admits to knowing nothing about whether the rider was a good idea, but being concerned that this was an improper way to legislate. And although she says it was a ‘blatant’ payback from Frist to Lilly, Clift doesn’t talk about the merits of the rider either. Somehow I doubt that either of them has ever hounded Democrats for anonymous riders based simply on ‘open government’ principles.

Yes, and — as I said earlier — this whole thing seems bogus to me. It’s a demand to uncover a “secret” that was revealed on CNN, about a (common) legislative maneuver that was designed to protect a company from being groundlessly sued for doing something that, as far as I can tell, wasn’t wrong.

UPDATE: It’s looking even more bogus with further research.

December 28, 2002

GARY HART UPDATE: The Hart trial balloon floats skyward in The New Republic.

Just remember where you heard it first!

December 28, 2002

WHENEVER I SAY BAD THINGS ABOUT THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, and especially its police department, I get angry email accusing me of “D.C.-bashing,” and saying that my impressions are out of date. Only I keep reading things like this:

The nexus between corruption and the vast areas of moral wasteland within the D.C. government is a topic that should come up next week when Mayor Anthony Williams delivers his second inaugural address.

It won’t. . . .

The speech will have everything but a candid assessment of the District’s dirty open secret: Despite Marion Barry’s four-year official absence, a culture of corruption is still present in the city.

Calendar year 2002 saw a steady stream of high-profile scandals, including improper fundraising activities in the mayor’s office, the Democratic primary petition fraud, the bankruptcy of Greater Southeast Community Hospital due to financial shenanigans by its owners, and now the unfolding story of the alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars in Washington Teachers’ Union funds. A constant throughout all of these improprieties is, of course, Anthony Williams’s association with most of the scandals’ major actors.

All this within one year. Why? . . .

Because a pervasive climate of impunity prevails in the city. It thrives in a culture where explicit, measurable job performance standards don’t exist, where favoritism and nepotism carry the day, and where sanctions and firings are reserved for people without connections. And when the person at the top of the government wins elections but, through years of actions and inaction, compromises and squanders his moral authority, what should you expect from the people at the bottom?

So is Colbert King out of touch with the District, too? And what about this?

UPDATE: Nikita Demosthenes has some observations.

December 28, 2002

I’VE SUSPECTED THIS CONNECTION FOR SOME TIME, and StrategyPage offers support:

Thousands of Islamic terrorists have fled Algeria in the last five years, as the army and police gained the upper hand in its war against terrorism. Many of these men fled to Canada and Europe, where they have established al Qaeda cells.

Keep your eye on the Algerian connection. And on who’s connected to the Algerians.

December 28, 2002

CATS AND DOGS, LIVING TOGETHER: Mickey Kaus is praising Paul Krugman — for his humility!

December 28, 2002

IT DOESN’T GET MUCH MORE RED-AMERICA THAN THIS: Yesterday, my grandmother and I stopped for barbecue on the way (yes, it was a two-barbecue-stand week! Woohoo!). Here’s a view of the lobby at what is, in my opinion, the best barbecue place in the greater Birmingham area — though that is, naturally enough, a controversial opinion.

Interestingly, though, I’ve never heard anyone claim that Ollie’s Barbecue — integrated by order of the Supreme Court in the case of Katzenbach v. McClung — is the best in town, though. In fact, it wouldn’t make most people’s top ten. I’ve eaten there, and while it doesn’t suck (it’s hard to get bad barbecue in Alabama) it’s no great shakes. Obviously, whatever criteria were involved in choosing Ollie’s for that case had nothing to do with barbecue excellence.

UPDATE: Law-professor (and commerce clause expert) Brannon Denning emails:

FYI, Ollie’s closed down in 2000 or 2001. It had moved out to the ‘burbs from its downtown location, and couldn’t make a go of it. Ollie Sr. died some time ago, and Ollie Jr. had been running it since then. Folks from B’ham told me that while Ollie’s never was as good as when Sr. was running it, it was still the place to get one’s pies for Alabama tailgate parties. You just got the BBQ from elsewhere.

I don’t know if you saw this, but here is a review of a book on the Katzenbach v. McClung and Heart of Atlanta Motel cases that I did for the Law Library Journal.

The book, by Richard Cortner, a political scientist, is quite good, particularly in its description of the personalities involved. I came away with a different picture of Ollie McClung than when I’d started. He was not, as I think many assumed, a sort of Alabama version of Lester Maddox. Though he’d have preferred not to serve blacks in his dining room, he didn’t chase them out with a revolver as Maddox did at the Pickrick.

Maddox, happily, was not typical. The review provides some interesting background on how Ollie’s wound up in the Supreme Court, and why things went as they did. I have always felt, though, that Gerry Gunther (and, with him, Justice Harlan) was right about the preferability of grounding the Civil Rights Act in the 14th Amendment rather than the commerce clause.

December 27, 2002

JAY MANIFOLD is comparing the Raelian cloning story to Cold Fusion.

December 27, 2002

SMALLPORX: Chuck Simmins is wondering where the money is really going in the smallpox-preparedness campaign. Investigative journalists: here’s your tip!

UPDATE: Ross at The Bloviator doubts that Chuck’s theory about pork is right, and has some observations about Israel’s decision not to engage in mass smallpox vaccinations.

December 27, 2002

SKIPPY HAS FOUND THE MYSTERY POLL that TAPPED couldn’t. (Apparently, no one actually reads Time anymore, something I’ve long suspected.) The poll shows Bush’s approval rating at 55%, which Skippy calls “dismal.”

I would call that an exaggeration. But if Bush’s poll numbers are dropping, I think it’s because the sitzkrieg has lasted too long. People have been pretty patient, but if you’re going to be a War President, sooner or later people are going to ask where the war is. I think it’s coming soon, and I think that if it goes well, Bush will go back up. If he blows it — as his father did — his numbers are likely to be truly dismal.

Lefty bloggers want to know why the Time poll is getting so little attention. I’d guess that it’s because it seems out of line with other polls that show Bush much higher. Or it could just be a vast right-wing conspiracy. I report, you decide. . . .

December 27, 2002

BILL WHITTLE WRITES on the impossibility of American empire.

December 27, 2002

I WANT MY LILEKS TV, TOO!

December 27, 2002

BILL QUICK IS FACT-CHECKING SOME PREDICTIONS FOR 2002. Hey, having people see if your predictions come to pass takes all the fun out of punditry!

December 27, 2002

ERIC ALTERMAN IS RIGHT about Creedence Clearwater Revival, but wrong about John Fogerty. But we’ll get to that later.

Had a nice drive down with my grandmother. Thanks to a bad knee and a sprained ankle, she’s not very mobile at the moment (“I got old all of a sudden at 85,” she says. “Before that I could do anything.”) But the drive down was very pleasant, and we had a lot of nice conversation. Because my parents were living the intinerant-graduate-student lifestyle when I was little, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents in the summer, and it’s almost like a second home. I wish I could have stayed, but I had to come back today. My speed was aided by the relatively light traffic, and by the enormously high velocity of the traffic that was present. I used to think that 80 was fast. Now if you go 80, you’d better be in the right lane.

On the way back, I listened to some CDs, most notably the remastered Creedence Clearwater Revival box set, which is terrific. The remastering is good, though I have some quibbles with it — but if you’re not a sound engineer you probably won’t have any complaints.

Still, listening to both the great original songs and the terrific covers (“Heard it Through the Grapevine” is great, “Good Golly Miss Molly” is the definitive version, and of course there’s “Ooby Dooby,” written by my University of Tennessee colleague Dick Penner) reminds me of why Alterman is right about Creedence but wrong about Fogerty. Alterman said a while back that Creedence’s music was magic but that only Fogerty really counted. But if you listen to the albums you’ll realize that Alterman’s wrong about Fogerty.

True, John Fogerty was the genius of the band. The other members — Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, Stu Cook, and Fogerty’s brother Tom — were just superbly talented musicians. But the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Listen to the way the rhythm guitar (Tom Fogerty), bass (Stu Cook) and drums (Doug Clifford) work together on “Walk on the Water,” for example, and you’ll realize why Creedence Clearwater was better than any of the bands Fogerty has put together since (even his occasional appearances backed by the Grateful Dead). These guys had played together for years, and they were all great — not just individually, but even moreso as a group. You don’t get that from session musicians, however talented.

That’s the difference between the all-star team and a real team, too. Let those artists who are thinking of splitting up their bands and going solo beware.

December 27, 2002

I’M NOT GOING SKIING like Jeff from Alphecca, but I will be offline for most of the day. I’m driving my grandmother (who at 88 is too old to drive herself such distances, she says) home to Birmingham and then returning. The bad news: 10 hours in the car, minimum. The good news: I get to catch up with her on the way down, and catch up with some CDs I’ve been wanting to listen to on the way back.

December 27, 2002

THERE’S AN INTERESTING INTRA-LEFT BLOG DEBATE on civil rights going on. Here’s the latest installment in TAPPED.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Geitner Simmons is refereeing another blog debate on affirmative action.

December 27, 2002

THE HART JUGGERNAUT ROLLS ON, with Democrat Bill Peschel saying that he’d (reluctantly) vote for Bush over many Democratic candidates because of the war on terror, but that he would support Hart, whose national security credentials are stronger than those of most Democratic candidates. And, as I have said before, after Clinton, the Donna Rice thing seems almost quaint by comparison.

I think that it’s easy to underestimate how much of Bush’s support comes from people like Bill. If Bush wimps out like his father (not likely, pace the repeated worries of Bill Quick) he’s doomed. One reason why I don’t hold with Quick’s theory is that I think Bush knows this very well. Americans either want to wage war with an eye toward winning, or they want to cut their losses and get out of the game. As long as Bush looks serious about winning, he’s in a very strong position. If he stops looking serious, he’s toast.

December 27, 2002

JULIUS CAESAR ONCE SAID: “Beware the politicians and talking heads who bang the drums of Caesarism. I’m Caesar, and believe me, George W. Bush is no Caesar.”

Well, okay, he never actually said that — though he gets quoted for a lot of things he never said. . . . Sam Tanenhaus does say it, though.

December 27, 2002

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION is already lining up its candidates for an expected Supreme Court vacancy. Let’s hope they’re vetting candidates a bit more closely than they vetted Henry Kissinger before naming him to head the 9/11 investigative committee.

Sadly, there’s no mention in this article of Eugene Volokh’s obvious fitness for the Court. An oversight, no doubt.

December 27, 2002

THE NEW SMARTERHARPER’SINDEX IS UP!

December 26, 2002

IS THERE A PATTY MURRAY WHITEWASH? Best of the Web says so. A reader suggests that’s not really the case:

1. She starts out as something of a media darling (remember the “Mom in Tennis Shoes”/”Year of the Woman” stuff from the 1992 campaign). I think the mainstream media will be very reluctant to go after her with as much intensity as they went after Lott. (Even recognizing they were late to that party.)

2. I really don’t see her as an idiotarian in the mold of Fisk, Chomsky, McDermott, Bonior, etc., She’s just a regular, garden-variety idiot. In other words, she says things like “Bin Laden is popular because he builds daycares” because she’s dumb, not because she has a political philosophy that sees the US as the prime source of evil in the world.

As result of #2, I think negative coverage of these remarks and others like them have a good chance of seeming ungentlemanly and/or downright cruel. Again, I believe the mainstream media will be inclined to back off in those circumstances.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong about this. Murray certainly has no business being a US Senator. I just don’t see her getting the full media treatment as Lott eventually did. I also agree that since McDermott and Bonior got a pass, there’s not the slightest chance she’ll ever get pushed out by her own party.

Yeah. In a way, there’s actually something to what Murray said — though given her line about Osama building day-care centers this probably falls into the broken-clock-is-right-twice-a-day category. But one thing I hear from people who’ve spent a lot of time in countries where there’s a substantial Islamic population is that the Saudi money is there year in and year out. The U.S. may come in and do things for a few years, but we get distracted and our interest dries up. The Saudis’ interest doesn’t. They build mosques, they build schools, they provide a lot of medium-influential folks with a secure livelihood and some money to spread around that lets them build up local patronage webs of their own.

We could learn from that. Not only should we work to formulate a reputation for steadfastness instead of flightiness (which we’ll have to do, over time, by actually being steadfast instead of flighty) but we should also seek to make the Saudi money less reliable by interdicting it — either at the source, or somewhere along the line.

I don’t really think that this was what Patty Murray had in mind, though.

December 26, 2002

NOTE: If you want me to blog about something, an email is sufficient. A link with the email is nice. Sending me an email that’s copied to lots of other people, and claiming that if I don’t immediately jump on your story it’s proof of my intellectual dishonesty, is a poor approach. Especially when you don’t have a link to the original story, and when I can’t find the story when I go to the websites that ought to have it, and can’t confirm it anywhere else.

Just a bit of advice.

December 26, 2002

JUSTIN KATZ has a VIDEO BLOG ENTRY saying that I’m too optimistic about the future of video blogging. Heh. Maybe — but the number of video bloggers has doubled in a week. Project that one forward a couple of years and, well, my IPO is next week, and — oops, wrong psychology! It’s not 1997 anymore.

December 26, 2002

HERE’S A CLAIM that a human clone has been born. True? Who knows?

December 26, 2002

YOU HEAR A LOT ABOUT “CAT BLOGS,” but I’m not sure I’ve ever actually linked to one before. So here. Great domain.

December 26, 2002

CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES is at Ravenwood this week. Check it out.

December 26, 2002

GAME THEORY AND SADDAM HUSSEIN: An analysis that doesn’t suggest he’ll be nice, even if he’s rational.

December 26, 2002

MORE:

Four more alleged Islamic militants have been arrested near Paris, on suspicion of planning a series of terror attacks. The arrests were made on Tuesday in the northern suburb of Romainville, the authorities say.

Last week, four other people of North African origin were detained the nearby suburb of La Courneuve.

During last week’s raids, police say they found bomb-making equipment.

Police say the four men arrested in Romainville are of Algerian origin, and that one is the brother of Mourad Ben Chelali, a French national being held at the US base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The French news agency AFP quotes unnamed officials as saying the same explosive substance was found during both raids.

“Alleged militants?” Aren’t they alleged terrorists?

UPDATE: A reader writes:

The various news articles in English were virtually identical so I went digging and found the original AFP release in French. This makes it clear why the difficulties. The articles are all nearly verbatim translations of the French news release.

The French statement identified the four men arrested as “islamists”. They did not say militants, terrorists, etc. They used a word that has more meaning in current French usage than it does in English. But it spans more than terrorist in French usage. It includes advocates, sympathizers and supporters as well as active terrorists.

This leads to the newspaper translators facing the issue of how best to translate this. Militant is a reasonable English translation of what the French sources said.

The French sources may simply be being cautious about criminal accusations. It is fairly trivial to prove that these people are militants. They may have some evidenciary problems proving that they are terrorists. This is like being careful to distinguish between a murderer and a person who attempted murder. They may end up convicting them of illegal weapons possession rather than terrorism simply because they were caught before they did anything.

My French is weak enough that I can’t say — it’s a tossup whether I can do a better job than Google. (Actually, Google has the edge). But there you are, for what it’s worth.

December 26, 2002

NEXT YEAR IN ORBIT: Rand Simberg offers a summary of the year in space, and some advice for next year. This piece is a must-read for space enthusiasts, and especially for NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, and those people in Congress and the White House who deal with him.

December 26, 2002

RADLEY BALKO names his civil rights man of the year. And I have to say, he’s found someone who is inspiring millions.

December 26, 2002

THE GARY HART JUGGERNAUT just keeps rolling on!

UPDATE: Here’s more evidence!

December 26, 2002

ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE: NOT ALWAYS WRONG! At least, suggestions here that Christmas shopping seemed light are echoed by this story declaring that the Christmas shopping season was the “worst holiday season in 30 years.”

On the other hand, a closer reading of the story indicates that what’s “worst” is the increase in sales. That’s right, sales were bigger than last year, just not by as much as usual:

In a weekly report on Tuesday, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishiand UBS Warburg forecast holiday sales in November and December would be up an anemic 1.5 percent over last year, the smallest gain since the banks began tracking weekly sales in 1970.

That makes the headline and the lede, which are pretty alarmist, seem less so. (It’s a Reuters story). But things may be bad. Walmart is reporting weak sales growth consistent with the story quoted above, and an actual drop in sales at Sam’s Club. Meanwhile, I was at Target this morning and the aisles were clogged (literally!) with deeply discounted clearance merchandise, but not with shoppers. I was in and out in a trice, but this suggest to me that (1) they didn’t sell all that stuff before Christmas; and (2) they still aren’t selling it now. This — plus the fact that everyone we know seems to have a lot of stuff, and complain more about lack of closet spacee than about lack of possessions — suggests to me that consumers are bought-out. There just isn’t new stuff to buy that people want enough to spend the money.

Am I right? We’ll know soon.

UPDATE: Bill Hobbs offers this perspective:

Let’s get this straight: 1999 was the best year in history for retailers. But then came 2000 and it was 4 percent better. And then came 2001 and it was 2.3 percent better than 2000. And this year is expected to be one percent better than 2001. So 2002 is now the best year in history for retailers – despite the sluggish economy.

Yet, the retail industry is poor-mouthing it like sales were down. They weren’t. Sales were up.

Good point. And so is this one on Internet sales taxes.

UPDATE: Here’s more bad news, suggesting that sales may actually be down from last year when all is said and done.

December 26, 2002

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT TAXES: Donald Luskin is fact-checking Paul Krugman.

December 26, 2002

BEST OF THE WEB says that there’s a Patty Murray whitewash going on:

Murray’s comments are helping feed enemy propaganda. Taliban Online, a pro-jihadi Web site, excerpts a WorldNetDaily report on Murray’s comments. “Pak Taliban,” who posted the article to the Taliban site, appends his own commentary: “The rest of the story trie’s [sic] to put down Osama with the same old rubbish and a thought, is this why the Kuffar [disbelievers] in Afghanistan are trying to set bases of the so called reconstruction phase, thinking if they look like helping the Afghan’s [sic] that they might start to like them or something? No doubt the Russians did the same thing. What would please us is when you pack and go.”

In Murray’s home state, the Seattle Times published a disdainful Christmas Eve editorial titled “Those Silly Attacks on Patty Murray.” But the Vancouver Columbian, the paper that broke the story, rightly blasts Murray. “She . . . had every obligation as a U.S. senator and high-level representative of this country and this state to present the United States in a far more accurate light. That she didn’t is something voters can consider when she is up for re-election.”

Given that there was no discipline where Bonior and McDermott were concerned, I doubt much will come of this. But the Democrats’ silence will, whether fairly or not, continue to fuel doubts about the Democrats’ patriotism, just as the Republicans’ failure to remove Trent Lott has continued to fuel doubts about the GOP’s commitment to racial equality and — oh, wait. . . .

December 26, 2002

MORE VIDEO-BLOGGING: Jeff Jarvis is at it again. This is pretty cool.

UPDATE: Here’s a direct link that should work.

December 26, 2002

BLOGS AND TRENT LOTT: The Boston Globe has a good story, giving the blogosphere credit for keeping the story alive, but also avoiding too much blogospheric triumphalism. I think the concluding observation by Walter Shapiro is especially on-point. I also think that Atrios deserves more credit than he gets here, and in some other stories, but I guess when you’re anonymous that goes with the territory.

December 26, 2002

IT WAS A GREAT CHRISTMAS HERE. Not that much happened at Stately InstaPundit Manor. We often have a multi-family Christmas here, but we didn’t do that this year. We had Christmas Eve at my ex-stepmother’s house (my dad was there — the two of them are like poster-children for the benefits of divorce, getting along better than they ever did when they were married). That’s the InstaDad over on the right.

My daughter opened presents here in the morning — the digital cameral was her favorite, followed by Cameron the Bratz Boy, who is supposed to be a boyfriend for the Bratz girls, but whose “passion for fashion” and overly-accessorized look makes me wonder if there’s any future in that. Then to my wife’s sister’s, then to my mom’s.

Then we watched Monty Python on DVD, followed by some (also on a DVD collection) episodes of “Are You Being Served?” It was an all-British-humor evening, though to make it more multicultural we drank Japanese and German beer.

And if you don’t know about the Bratz, well, it just means that you’re in the wrong demographic. Relax, you’re not missing much.

December 26, 2002

LILY MALCOLM, who reports that she had a great Christmas, points out this article in the New York Times on low fertility rates in Europe, quoting an expert who says that current trends are “unsustainable, from a cultural and even psychological point of view.”

Back when I was practicing law, one of my clients — the president of the American subsidiary of a European company, a Pole who had lived through World War Two under circumstances that would make a good thriller/tearjerker movie — said that he thought Europe was suffering massive psychological trauma from the world wars, and that it would take a century for it to recover, if it ever did.

That seemed overly pessimistic at the time, but it seems more and more accurate as time goes by.

December 26, 2002

HAPPY BOXING DAY!