June 2, 2002
DAWN OLSEN has decided to start offering sex advice. Well, now that Rachael Klein’s graduated, the position of sex-advisor to the Blogosphere is open, I suppose.
DAWN OLSEN has decided to start offering sex advice. Well, now that Rachael Klein’s graduated, the position of sex-advisor to the Blogosphere is open, I suppose.
FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH. Airport security is a dangerous joke. You’ve said it. I’ve said it. Now the people who run airports are saying it. But will “underperformin’ Norman” Mineta listen?
INTERESTED IN THE COMING SEASON’S TV SHOWS? Me neither. But the Weisblogger has actually managed to sit through the pilots of five new shows and reports back.
Just reminds me why I love the Internet.
TIME’S COMICS REVIEWER, Andrew Arnold, gives a boffo review to Ted Rall’s book. He says “Rall reveals that ‘contrary to the propaganda back home, the U.S.A.F. bombed anything and everything.’” If you’re wondering how that can possibly be true given that the latest civilian casualty estimates are even lower than we’d heard before, well, I guess that means that we were just bombing, you know, the enemy. Apparently the Afghan people knew this, too, as we also learn from Rall that “Reasoning that the odds of being hit are slim, people learn to disassociate the sound of bombs from death. Instead they worry about the gangs of heavily-armed thugs who rob and murder with no recourse.”
In other words, Afghans are more worried about the local thugs than about the U.S. bombs that Rall is decrying, since they recognize that they’re not much of a threat to civilians. Afghan civilians have learned to “disassociate the sound of bombs from death.” Rall apparently hasn’t, given his complaints about the bombing (and Arnold’s statement that we bombed “Afghanistan” rather than “Al Qaeda” or “The Taliban” suggest that he’s too dumb, or too dishonest, to figure out what the Afghans knew). Yet neither Rall, nor Arnold, notices the contradiction. No surprise there. Interestingly, I didn’t even know about this until I noticed a reference in Flit. I guess the “ignore Ted Rall” campaign has been working. Too bad Time didn’t get the word.
By the way, there’s a click-through to email Arnold.
UPDATE: Bill Herbert fact-checks Ted Rall’s ass and includes a link to an email exchange he’s had with Rall over Afghan casualties and Rall’s inability to find a source to support his rather inflated claims. He also discusses Rall’s latest column.
THE JOY OF SETS: Jay Manifold has some shrewd thoughts on why politics is getting harder to figure out.
READER RICHARD AUBREY writes to explain why nobody took the lessons about FBI ineptitude that the Ruby Ridge and Waco debacles made plain:
The reason the FBI got away with that is that nobody cared. Not just the FBI. Nobody in the media, the chattering classes, the universities, gave a rodent’s patootie about this. You will recall the WaPo’s view of Pentacostals and Fundamentalists? Poor, dumb, and easily led. When the doo-doo hit the fan, their excuse (the first attempt) was that they were only saying what everybody knew. What happened on Ruby Ridge and at Waco was no more than those people deserved, was the general view. You could get called a redneck really, really, quickly if you mentioned something about Vicki Weaver.
So the FBI had nothing to worry about. My guess is they probably knew it. Now, even looking at a mosque while driving by…. That’s a different story.
This is probably right. Sadly, if you look at it rationally, the smart thing to do was nothing. Go arrest a bunch of Arabs and turn out to be wrong — or just unable to prove beyond any doubt that you were right — in predicting that they were going to commit a gigantic terrorist attack, and you’d lose your job for sure. Fail to arrest them, and . . . um, well, nobody’s lost a job over this yet, right?
THIS NEWSWEEK STORY supports the theory that 9/11 wasn’t so much a failure to gather intelligence as a failure to properly make use of intelligence we already had.
Meanwhile the USA Patriot Act, and almost all the intelligence-related “wish list” items we’ve seen from the FBI and CIA, are about gathering intelligence, not analyzing or acting on it.
Heads must roll.
A WINNING STRATEGY FOR THE PALESTINIANS. But do they care more about winning? Or killing Jews? And maybe Americans?
STEVEN DEN BESTE says that global warming is the biggest snail darter in history. He zeroes in (scroll down) on another scam in a way that suggests he’s good at spotting bait-and-switch operations.
UPDATE: Allison disagrees, but I’m not persuaded. I do think that there are people who are far more anti-development than they are pro-environment. They’re like the communists who were angry not because so many were poor, but because some were ricH.
ANOTHER UPDATE: But Drudge is reporting that the Administration is about to do a one-eighty on global warming.
I can’t figure this administration out. It’s getting to be like Clinton without the bimboes.
STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Ed Driscoll says that this is a preemptive strike aimed at taking an issue away from the Democrats for the ’04 elections, and that it’s a mistake.
MATT WELCH has sobering reflections on the latest Afghan casualty estimates.
KATIE GRANJU HAS A NEW ESSAY, inspired by her recent time in Childrens’ Hospital with a very sick child. But there’s more to it than just a tale of woe.
SFSU UPDATE: I just ran across this comment by Armed Liberal, who feels that the SFSU administration is still more anxious to look evenhanded than to actually be fair — since fairness would involve punishing the pro-Palestinian rioters. A pretty good analysis here, especially this comment:
But there is an measurable difference between heated political expression and the politics of violence and intimidation. And it is in the nature of politics in our relatively free nation that it must be free from intimidation and violence; the other side…and there is an other side…sees intimidation and violence as everyday political tools. And, frighteningly, they are extending the kind of politics that we see on the ground in Arafat-controlled Palestine and bringing a lind of “lite” version of it here.
I would add a challenge to SFSU President Corrigan: put the unedited videotapes of the event out, and make them available on the Web. Then people can judge your actions for themselves. (Link via Gail Davis.)
BRENDAN O’NEILL says that he’s always been anti-Israel, but he’s deeply suspicious of the anti-Israel bandwagon that’s developed recently.
I was never anti-Israel, but I used to have some sympathy for the Palestinians. I don’t any more. I saw them dancing in the streets on 9/11, and I’ve been paying close attention to their words and their actions since.
ORRIN JUDD fact-checks Maureen Dowd and Mary McGrory by comparing their complaints about FBI timidity now with their complaints about FBI storm-troopering last fall. He’s especially good in taking down Dowd’s usual smarmy war-of-the-sexes slant on the Rowley memo. Does Dowd’s contract say that she has to find (or create) that angle on every story?
THIS WASHINGTON POST COLUMN ON THE NSA is right to point up the shortage of linguists: “Last September, the number of linguists fluent in the primary languages of Afghanistan — Pashto and Dari — could be counted on one hand with fingers left over, a senior intelligence official told me. The problem is not new: When U.S. troops went into Haiti in 1994, for example, the NSA had only one Haitian Creole linguist.”
On the other hand, this suggestion is a bit late: “One way to lessen the chance of future attack by al Qaeda or similar groups would be to create a sort of national linguistic reserve force along the lines of the military reserve.” Actually, the U.S. government has been paying people to learn obscure foreign languages for years, via a scholarship program aimed at addressing precisely this problem. People aren’t subject to call-up, as in the military, but I’m sure that the agencies could have (and probably did) call on some of these people in the aftermath of 9/11.
The real problem with communications intelligence is that you have to know what and who you’re listening for. If your other intelligence isn’t up to that, you have to throw out a dragnet that’s likely to draw in irrelevancies while missing the important stuff.
THE WEEKLY JAMES has uncovered another example of Orwellian P.C., this time in the New York schools. And he’s saying that it makes homeschooling look more attractive. I’m hearing more and more stuff like this.
In fact, I’m hearing more and more criticism of the public schools and their bureaucracy from non-usual suspects. For example, Jesse Fox Mayshark (who could, and probably should, write for The American Prospect, or at least its cooler online version) is endorsing charter schools with this observation:
I don’t agree with Van Hilleary about many things. Or Lamar Alexander, for that matter. I’m not impressed with the campaigns the two Republican blowhards are running for their respective offices—governor and U.S. Senate—and I think it will be too bad for the state of Tennessee and its citizens if either man gets elected.
But having said that, I can’t help agreeing with both of them on one thing: charter schools. For a variety of political reasons, most of them connected to the influence of teachers’ lobbies on the Democratic party, an issue that should be a natural rallying point for progressives and liberals has been ceded in Tennessee almost entirely to Republicans. . . .
I hate to be cynical, especially since I have a lot of friends and family members who teach in both public and private schools, but the biggest reason for institutional resistance to charter schools appears to be simple turf protection. Charter schools by their nature are supposed to exist somewhat outside the current public education hierarchy. They are public schools, but they are not entirely part of any public school system. People who run public school systems don’t tend to like that idea.
The educational bureaucracy has managed to disconnect itself so thoroughly from reality that it’s getting attacked even from the Left now, making real reform much more likely. Hey — maybe there’s hope for reforming the FBI, too!
UPDATE: See this post by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, too.
DESPITE MY CRITICISM OF THE FBI, I have to note that some of my former students are flourishing there. And they’re damned good — and in some cases rather unconventional — students. But the FBI has always tended to have really good people at street level and really lousy people in mid- and upper management. That seems to be the lesson of this inquiry into the Bureau’s failures before 9/11.
One problem is that although agents face punishment for failure, higher-ups seldom do — and the Bureau never does. I remember Louis Freeh noting that his budget went way up (at a time when other budgets weren’t doing that) after he was raked over the coals during investigations of the Ruby Ridge and Waco debacles. If this was the penalty for failure, he remarked, it wasn’t so bad.
Ruby Ridge and Waco were, in fact, clear evidence that the FBI was badly managed — and particularly that it was inept at dealing with people of, ahem, strong religious beliefs. The problems revealed in the investigations of those failures were not addressed, except in an ass-covering sense, and the lesson to the Bureau was that even major national scandals wouldn’t produce any real accountability.
You prove you’re serious in these things by firing people and cutting their budgets. Nothing else matters — it’s correctly interpreted as mere noise.
LINK REORGANIZATION: A reader writes to ask why Virginia Postrel isn’t in the Big Journalism group, since she writes for the New York Times and all.
My thinking was that only corporate blogs go there. (Okay, I stretched a point with the L.A. Examiner, but it’s going to be a newspaper, so. . . ) Virginia’s a big journalist, but (like Josh Marshall) she has a blog that’s freestanding. If, like Kaus, she “takes the Boeing” and goes the in-house, corporate-sellout, big-bucks blogging route, I’ll move her into Big Journalism.
And why’s The American Times in the Big Journalism group? Just to keep the rest of ‘em from getting swelled heads.
THE RIAA has stumbled upon a an approach that may just solve their problems.
YASMEEN GHAURI UPDATE: A bunch of readers have written to inform me that Yasmeen Ghauri is only ethnically Pakistani (on her father’s side) and is actually Canadian. That’s what I get for only googling her image. I had seen some puff-piece bio that gave the impression she was Pakistani, but it was no doubt just an effort to make her seem more exotic than mention of Canadian citizenship would have accomplished. Thanks for correcting me.
Thanks also to the people who pointed out problems in the links. InstaPundit: constantly moving toward perfection, without ever getting very close!
NICK DENTON is doing a lot of gloating today. And he seems to be enjoying it immensely.
KEN LAYNE has a column about India and Pakistan. You know, choosing allies based on “hot bikini models” isn’t as dumb as it may sound. . . .
UDPATE: Then again, Pakistan has Yasmeen Ghauri. Well, but she’s just from there. I’ll bet they don’t have her plastered all over billboards, or sunning by hotel pools in Karachi.
MORE BLOG BOOK NOMINATIONS are up for your consideration and comment.
WOBBLY WATCH: H.D. Miller is reassured by Bush’s commencement speech at West Point today. Nice speech. Action to follow?
To some degree, these speeches do matter, of course, as they’re fodder for attack ads if Bush doesn’t follow through. The White House must know that, right?
LINKS have been reorganized in alphabetical order, in response to popular demand. I dropped a few that led to sites that aren’t active much (Shiloh Bucher, where are you?) and added a few “convenience” links at the top, as much for my own purposes as anyone else’s. More will follow.
DEN BESTE IS BACK! And his vacation has done him no harm.
I’VE STAYED OUT of the whole Intelligent Design / Creationism debate raging among some weblogs. This lengthy post from Rand Simberg, however, raised the “evolution is just another religion” point that you sometimes hear from creationists. Simberg answers that just fine, but I’ve always felt that this quote from Isaac Asimov was dispositive:
It is the chief characteristic of the religion of science, that it works.
CATHERINE SEIPP has a great article on weblogs at the American Journalism Review. I like the Dennis the Menace analogy.
UPDATE: Seipp quotes Alex Beam as saying that bloggers hate him because he’s liberal. Naw. Bloggers like TAPPED a lot, and it’s at least as liberal as Beam. Jim Treacher says it best:
Dude, bloggers dislike you not because you write for a “liberal” newspaper, but because you’re a sneering dickhead who tried to pull one over on Lileks. I’m sure it wasn’t fun when it blew up in your face, but you need to get over it. You made your bed; now quit blaming the rest of us because we pointed and laughed when you shat in it.
Yep. Treacher helpfully provides a link to Pampers.Com.
TRAFFIC: Everyone’s been fighting over this statement by Eric Alterman:
The Prospect is killing on line, however, with 450,000 unique users a month at www.prospect.org. The Nation is 357,000, TNR is 275,000, and The Weekly Standard is 247,000. National Review Online claims 55,000 a day, but I don’t know what that means, month-wise.
I’m not going to get into the meat of this argument any more (several readers have expressed a preference for teen sex, or cloning, or basically anything but more discussion of the difference between pageviews, unique visits, and hits.) But by way of comparison, for the first 10 days at the new site, Extreme Tracker reports that InstaPundit had just under 183,000 unique vistors, which translates (183,000 x 3) to over 540,000 a month. That suggests to me that the figures Alterman quotes (which come from the CJR) are low. I really doubt that InstaPundit is getting more unique visitors every month than TNR and the The Weekly Standard combined. (If it is, then I should ask my boss for a raise. Oh, wait. . . dang!) I’m not blaming Alterman, but I suspect that the CJR figures are outdated, or just plain wrong.
Of course, you can click on my counter at the bottom of the page and see for yourself. I wonder why these “big media” web publications aren’t willing to do the same. What do they have to hide? It seems to me that there are two possible dynamics going on here:
(1) A general prejudice in favor of secrecy, of the sort that many of these publications impute to, say, the Bush Administration. (“If we don’t have to tell people stuff about our operations, why should we?”)
(2) A fear that if they open up their numbers, people will realize that they’re getting their asses kicked by InstaPundit, and some teen girl’s “tribute to Lance Bass” site.
Me, I’m in favor of transparency, and I’d like to see open, counters (they don’t have to be third-party counters like I use, though I suppose that adds a bit of credibility). But why not? Openness is what the web is about, and I really can’t see why this sort of information should be secret.
BELLESILES UPDATE: David Skinner reports in the Weekly Standard that the committee that awarded Michael Bellesiles the (formerly) prestigious Bancroft Prize wasn’t really qualified to judge Bellesiles’ work, and isn’t at all repentant about its screwup, though its members are, at least, embarrassed enough to decline interviews.
The members are Arthur Goren, a professor of Jewish history at Columbia, Jan Ellen Lewis, a Rutgers historian specializing in Jefferson who has written a book on his relationship with Sally Hemings, and Berkeley professor of history and women’s studies Mary P. Ryan. Skinner couldn’t get any of them to be interviewed; the weasely responses that he received are a bit embarrassing to the academy. But then, so is the whole Bellesiles affair.
There seems little reason to doubt that people lacking the expertise to judge Bellesiles work, and lacking the inclination to check it, endorsed it because they felt it was politically beneficial. The result is yet another black eye for the profession of history, and for academia as a whole.
Skinner suggests that the Emory investigation is likely to be a whitewash. I rather doubt that will be the case. But I hope that Emory realizes that the whole world is watching.
EUGENE VOLOKH has a thorough analysis of the District Court decision in which the CIPA ‘s mandatory-internet-filtering requirement was struck down.
He also gently upbraids Andrea See, though not for blogger-stalking.
VIETNAM is accusing Sen. Bob Kerrey of war crimes.
KATIE ALLISON GRANJU says that the Iranians just don’t get it when it comes to insulting Americans.
TEENTALK! Okay, I’ve pretty much burned out on the whole teen-sex item now, but IsntaPundit has more to say — particularly on the value (or not) of a high school diploma.
WHY THEY HATE US! In yer face, Osama.
BYRON YORK accusses the FBI of Clintonian lying.
It’s a bad time for the FBI. It’s been getting hammered by civil libertarians. Now it’s getting hammered from people who feel it’s not investigating hard enough.
The cop-out answer is “if we’re getting criticized from both sides we must be doing something right.” It’s also possible, of course, that when you’re being criticized from both sides you’re just doing a lot of things wrong.
ANDREA SEE finally admits that she’s a blogger-stalker. She needs to repeat sex ed, though.
JON GARTHWAITE points out that polls showing a decline in confidence in government are not really bad news for conservatives, since they undermine the public’s willingness to support new big-government initiatives, which conservatives don’t want.
Yeah. Question is, does it help Bush? That depends on whether Bush is a conservative of the sort that Garthwaite means, or a big-government Republican in the Nixon/Kristol mode. As Nixon proved, those folks don’t do well when confidence in government declines while they’re in office.
BUSH MAY BE WOBBLY, but he was apparently right when he said David Gregory was just parroting memorized French — and getting it wrong to boot! I don’t want to get on my high horse for this — since my last visit to Paris there has been a warrant out for my arrest from the Academie Francaise (charge: “Murdering the French language” — also lesser charges for “mutilating the French language,” “abusing the French language,” etc., etc.). But then, I don’t pretend to be a highfalutin’ globe-trottin’ Euro-connected international correspondent, either. I found this via Henry Hanks’ page.
NEVER TRUST RANKINGS. This one is self-refuting.
BILL QUICK HAS demonstrated just how smart he is, by hiring Stacy Tabb to do a site move and redesign. He’s got a new location, and this URL will work until the DNS propagation catches up, after which the old dailypundit.com address will work again.
I must say that it’s quite a handsome site. Will all blogs be this good looking soon?
BLOGGER N.Z. BEAR has a piece in Salon today. It’s his/her first professional sale. Congrats, Bear!
WOBBLY WATCH UPDATE: Reader Craig Schamp says that I’ve ruined his day:
You say that “gun rights supporters should be very unhappy with Bush.” Of course, you’re right, but why did you have to go and say that? Bush’s gun rights stance was one of the things I hadn’t yet lost hope in. Now I have nothing, with the war on terrorism looking more and more like the war on drugs (endless and ineffective, full of political posturing), the domestic policy front completely in shambles (steel tariffs, anyone?), and the cabinet full of idiots and clueless political losers.
Unless things change, and PDQ, I think any political capital that would help Republicans in the fall will have been wasted. I also think that Bush is opening himself up for more hawkish challengers. Not that any of this would be bad. It shows the dynamics of our political system. But my concern is that Bush’s loss may turn out to be more than just a political one, if all of his bumbling on the war (at home and abroad) brings more death and destruction to the home front.
– Craig Schamp
P.S. I have voted for a Republican for president since 1980 (voted for Carter in 1976, first time to the pools, I’m ashamed to say). I will gladly cast my vote for a hawkish Democrat next time, given the chance.
Well, a pro-gun Democrat could do pretty well, I think, and Bush is vulnerable to attack from the right on the war unless more hawkish undertakings are forthcoming. Bush did well when he kept a clear vision. He’s been muddled lately, and it’s going to hurt him if it lasts. What’s more, I predict that if his stock falls substantially it will do so very rapidly, as a number of these matters reach critical mass.
To be fair, the prosecution in DC is (I think) only for “carrying” a gun illegally and there’s a respectable argument that laws governing the carrying of weapons don’t implicate Second Amendment rights. There’s no evidence that that’s what’s motivating the Justice Department, though.
UPDATE: Bill Quick says this is a problem for Bush, too.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Best of the Web is noting the contradiction between the Justice Department’s actions and its Second Amendment position, too.
HMM. Maybe this bellicose women thing isn’t just an American fashion. . . .
BRENDAN O’NEILL offers a firsthand report from the London launch of Francis Fukuyama’s book, where he says Fukuyama was asked a lot of tough questions. O’Neill comments:
But surely Fukuyama is in danger of reducing our common humanity to a shared biology? Surely there is more to tie humans together than just the fact that we share biological features like eyes, ears, legs, arms, hearts and brains? Listening to Fukuyama, it sounded like he was arguing that human equality is a natural thing, based on biology, rather than a human-created political thing, born out of past struggles, the Enlightenment, and industrial and social development. Surely it is those human-created and human-centred values that tie us together and capture our humanity, rather than our biological make-up?
I think this is dead right. The statement that all men are created equal from the Declaration of Independence referred to political and moral standing — not natural endowments, which the Framers of the American Constitution (like Enlightenment thinkers in general) were very much aware came in unequal distributions. There are enormous differences now in people’s intellectual and physical gifts. That doesn’t prevent a polity from giving people equal respect.
GUN RIGHTS SUPPORTERS should be very unhappy with Bush, as the Justice Department punts on the D.C. gun ban.
Apparently Ashcroft’s view of the right to arms is like the beer in a beer commercial: you can pour it, show it brilliantly illuminated, talk about how good it is — in fact, do absolutely anything except actually drink it.
NETWORK HELP REQUEST: Okay, the home wireless network sort of works. About one time in ten the laptop connects fine. The other computer never does. Both can see the network, and report an excellent connection — but when I try to launch Explorer on the laptop, the MSN log-in appears every time; when I make it go away I can access Explorer only in offline mode. The other computer just returns a “page not found” response. I’ve spent a lot of time fiddling with the Windows network settings, to no avail. Any suggestions?
SPIES IN THE FBI? Howard Owens has some thoughts.
I’VE BEEN POINTING UP MUGABE’S MISDEEDS for quite some time here. The current New Yorker has a superb article on what’s going on in Zimbabwe, which is now up on the Web. I highly recommend it, though it’s pretty depressing. Mugabe makes quite clear that he regards Zimbabwe as his personal property, and that he’ll kill anyone who gets in the way, regardless of what it means for the people of Zimbabwe.
What’s worse is that he’s still getting a lot of support from South Africa and from South African political leaders. That bodes poorly for Zimbabwe, but it’s even worse for South Africa, because Zimbabwe has served as a groundbreaker and role-model for South Africa for the past couple of decades.
HENRY COPELAND is interested in seeing bloggers make money, and he’s got some plans.
BIZARRO WORLD, CONT’D: The New Republic is savaging the Pentagon brass for being unwilling to go to war. Okay, this is a longstanding issue, as their editorial points out, but still. . . .
But timidity is one thing; insubordination is another. The military establishment has crossed that line several times over the last decade–when a general named Colin Powell penned op-eds in 1992 cautioning policymakers against intervening in Bosnia; and in 1999, when the Army brazenly dragged its feet in delivering to Albania the Apache helicopters President Bill Clinton had ordered for the Kosovo campaign. And now it appears they are doing so once more.
There’s nothing worse than waging war in a half-assed fashion. Stephen Green said the other day that we’ve lost the initiative. I’m afraid he’s right.
If we lose this war, it’ll be because it was mismanaged. If that happens, we need to be sure that heads roll — from the White House, to the Pentagon, to the CIA. I agree with those who see the mideast turmoil as a distraction play intended to keep us from taking decisive action. Seems to be working.
The absence of rolling heads right now, as evidence of 9/11 screwups emerges in greater and greater quantities, is already worrisome.
EX-NAZI AND EX-U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL Kurt Waldheim (what? he’s still alive?) has been visiting Lebanon to hear complaints about Israel. Hmm. Perhaps there’s an important position awaiting Waldheim at the ICRC or the UNHRC. He seems to have the qualifications.
ANDREW SULLIVAN (whose permalinks are actually working now) weighs in on the Great Web Traffic Debate. Hey guys: all it takes is an open counter. And Mickey Kaus has responded to Sullivan’s “burly beer-buddy” Jonah Goldberg’s remarks on the traffic that Slate gets via MSN and MSNBC: “It’s called leveraging monopoly power, buddy! You got a problem with that?” You tell ‘em, Mickey!
IT’S A KUTTNER-A-THON over at Kausfiles. That guy can’t get out from under Kaus’s eagle eye.
Hey, it’s as persuasive as the Wills approach. And I especially like the affirmation (as in “oath or affirmation”) supporting searches and seizures.
IT WAS A LOVELY EVENING: My daughter and I went to a carnival nearby (we’ve gotten a lot of those lately) where several stuffed bears were won (largely at the shooting gallery), unhealthy food was eaten, and a good time was had by all (well, both) as we killed time while my wife finished a late appointment. Then a nice dinner, several chapters of Harry Potter and some involved and difficult for me to follow play scenarios involving a lot of dolls and plastic horses. Not a suicide bomber in sight, either. Too bad that not everyone can say that.
EUGENE VOLOKH has noticed that the expansion of FBI surveillance powers announced today — strictly for terrorism-related investigation — is actually going to be used in drug and child pornography cases. Mission creep? Or misdirection?
KEVIN HOLTSBERRY says that my approach to teen sex is probably unworkable because our culture isn’t capable of demanding responsibility from teens.
ANOTHER NEWS WATCHBLOG: It’s called “ChronWatch” and it’s devoted to the San Francisco Chronicle. That should keep ‘em busy.
ERIC OLSEN HAS A TRIBUTE to the National Spelling Bee. I was in the National Spelling Bee in eighth grade, placing number 28th. Sadly, I knew the word that I went out on, and just muffed it. That’s usually how it goes in spelling bees, though.
Though people correlate spelling ability with intelligence, it’s been my experience that there’s not all that much there. Oh, really dumb people usually can’t spell. But there are plenty of smart ones who are lousy spellers, too. I enjoyed the spelling bee, though, and even traded emails a few months ago with one of my fellow contestants whom I hadn’t seen since. She’s an actress now, and probably doesn’t get to make much use of her spelling skills in her work. But it was fun.
TEEN SEX! I got a couple of long letters on the Teen Sex piece that I’ve posted over at InstaPundit EXTRA! for your reading pleasure. A homeschooler liked the piece!
DEMOSTHENES (no, not the dead one) says that lunar environmentalism is dumb, but he disagrees with my Teen Sex article, which he finds, well, too conservative I guess.
TED BARLOW is dissing the Supreme Court for its state sovereign immunity decisions. He’s right to dis them — but wrong to blame the Rehnquist Court in particular, which is just following a long line of stupid decisions in this area. This utterly screwed-up line of cases started with Hans v. Louisiana in 1890, and it’s been continued by every Court since, regardless of political position. I don’t know why, and I’ve asked a lot of law professors, most of whom seem mystified at the Court’s near-religious enthusiasm for extending state sovereign immunity way beyond the letter of the Eleventh Amendment.
It’s true, of course, that the Eleventh Amendment cases are a substantial degree of departure from the text for a Court with many justices who say they’re strict constructionists. (It’s so true, in fact, that I wrote a law review article saying that in 1992, called “Penumbral Reasoning on the Right,” in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review). But in a way this illustrates the meaninglessness of the term “judicial activism.” On the one hand, the Court is way outside the text of the Constitution, which can certainly be characterized as activist. On the other hand, its recent decisions are entirely consistent with a line of cases that’s over a hundred years old, which could be considered respectful of precedent and hence not activist at all.
TRAFFIC, TRAFFIC, TRAFFIC! The USA Today item below has generated a lot of email, but I noticed this post by Jonah Goldberg over at The Corner about web traffic in which he compares Slate (which gets a lot of traffic via MSN) with USA Today, which gets a lot of readers via hotel placements. Provocative!
MARK ELLIOTT, circulation manager for USA Today, takes great exception to what I said earlier about print media inflating their paid circulation numbers:
As an circulation employee for USA TODAY I wanted to set the record straight regarding “free” papers and their “bundling” with hotels to count as paid. You make it sound as if it were a gimmick. They are counted as paid because they are paid for. They are bought and paid for by the hotel (at a slightly reduced rate for the large chains) for their customers. You can argue that many of those people would not normally buy a paper if one was not presented to them each morning but I don’t accept that. USA TODAY presents a fresh product each morning unique among its competition that is regarded as a must-have by the business traveler. Since the majority of hotels who offer this amenity serve the business community, I don’t feel there would be a significant drop off of circulation numbers should this practice end tomorrow.
Well, I don’t know about that. I appreciate Mr. Elliott’s point, but I’ve also gotten those papers when I stayed in hotels a lot more than I’ve bought them on my own. When you present your product free at someone’s door, they may read it or they may chuck it in the trash. I don’t think that it shows the same degree of reader interest as a subscription or a newsstand purchase. By way of comparison, if I were to spam InstaPundit content out to thousands of people — or have the spam bundled in with some other product or service (“subscribe to this porn site and get InstaPundit absolutely free!“) I don’t think it would demonstrate the same degree of interest as visits to this page.
I’ve got no grudge against USA Today, which I think is a lot better paper than many people realize. But I think this just underscores an important point: people argue about web stats, but older media bring even less information to the table about what people are reading. If I read Walter Shapiro’s column on the USA Today site, they know I’ve read it. If I buy a copy of the print edition to hold over my head because I don’t have an umbrella, I count as a “reader” of the whole thing even if I never open it.
Sadly, I don’t think there’s any leverage in the InstaPundit / Net Porn bundling scheme, either.
MORE ON MARTIAN WATER: The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting wrapup story on the subject here.
I think that — assuming this turns out to be true, as seems highly likely — this will turn out to be the big story of the year in many ways. But that probably won’t be apparent for decades.
BRINK LINDSEY, obviously no suckup, says that Joseph Stiglitz’s new book is very bad. This is a good argument for places like the Cato Institute, where Brink works. Stiglitz is a very famous economist, and dissing his book this way could be a damaging career move for an academic economist at many universities. At a think-tank, though, such considerations don’t exist in the same way. Think tanks, especially non-PC think tanks, thus help to promote intellectual diversity — which to me seems like a good thing.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: Matt Moore thinks that efforts to raise consciousness about steroid use may backfire:
The numbers being thrown around are incredible. 50% or even 85% of baseball players are (possibly) spiking it up. If I’m a highschool player, do I watch all these reports and think, “Man, all my heroes are cheating, precancerous scumbags”, or do I think, “Well, if that’s what it takes…”
Yeah. Kind of like when you see these media stories on how much sex teenagers are having. How many say “oh, my, I’m part of a destructive social trend,” versus how many say, “Hey, how come I’m not getting any of that?”
SONIA ARRISON USES THE GRAY DAVIS CASE AS A SPRINGBOARD for an interesting discussion of how technology can promote transparency and hence reduce corruption. I think she’s right — and the success of the OpenSecrets.org website shows how that can work.
But, of course, for it to really do the job there have to be people who care about corruption, and there have to be politicians who sufficiently less corrupt than others to allow people to vote (or shame) their way into more honest government.
RAND SIMBERG writes about ice on Mars, China owning the Moon, and many other interesting topics.
DAVE KOPEL POINTS OUT that the Dervishes are on our side. As they should be.
STEALTH LEGISLATION? Some people are saying that the Brownback anti-cloning bill would also ban abortion from the moment of conception. Of course, such a bill would still be unconstitutional under Roe and Casey — but if you wanted to try putting the issue in front of the Supreme Court without taking political heat for it, this might be a good vehicle. George Annas notes the former, but not the latter, aspect in a statement quoted in the article (though of course he might actually have made both statements to the reporter).
This is an interesting aspect. While it’s true that there are some pro-life people who are opposing the Brownback bill, it’s also true that its supporters are largely made up of people who would like to see Roe overturned.
WEB TRAFFIC SMACKDOWN: Well, not exactly. John Garthwaite, over at the C-LOG (that’s “see-log” as in conservative-log, not “clog” as in plumbing) has criticized TAP’s numbers, and now TAPPED is firing back.
Well, this kind of thing is why I put an open counter on my site. It seems to undercount somewhat compared to my server stats logs (I don’t understand how this can be, but several people told me Extreme Tracker undercounts) but the difference isn’t huge — maybe 10% at most, and given the inherent unreliability of web stats that’s within the noise floor. I did it basically because I was unhappy with John Scalzi’s remark that some bloggers might be padding their numbers. So why not do the same?
I understand why actual commercial sites that sell advertising and stuff might be especially sensitive about such claims of number-padding (and read TAPPED’s response to see that they are), but I don’t understand why anyone would object to an open counter. Advertisers know your traffic — they can look at their own server logs. (Yeah, I know ad-blockers affect that some, but in a well-understood way). So who would you be hiding it from?
Print media are shy about this stuff because they do all sorts of things to inflate their paid circulation figures (like bundling “free” newspapers with hotel stays in a way that lets them be counted as paid) but on the Web advertisers are harder to fool. I recommend transparency.
BTW, Garthwaite seems to have broken his Blogger template. I had the same problem, and could only fix it by restoring my template from a backup file. Hope he’s got one. Another minor but annoying Blogger bug.
Hey John: Hire Stacy Tabb to move you over to Movable Type.
UPDATE: Seems to have fixed the Blogger problem.
TIM BLAIR TAKES ON AN IDENTITY HACKER: Let others beware.
MARTIN DEVON has a response to my FoxNews column on teen sex. He’s right about the drinking, and the rest.
The wonderfully ‘nymed Group Captain Lionel Mandrake shares some experiences, too, as does one of his commenters.
EUGENE VOLOKH has some interesting observations on open-mindedness in the Blogosphere.
KEVIN MCGEHEE says Tom Clancy may be right again. I kind of hope so.
LILEKS NAILS IT, in a discussion of the antiwarbloggers:
To my surprise, the site had an actual graphic. You might recognize the photo – Robert Capa’s famous “Death of a Loyalist Soldier.” It shows a soldier standing on a hill with his arms spread wide; either he’s just been shot or he is preparing to launch into the refrain from “Somewhere.” The site’s authors have written “Avoid This” below.
In other words: if you disagree with those who believe Bush masterminded 9-11, you are a fascist stooge; if you support fighting actual fascists, you are a blood-crazed warmonger. Anyway, lesson noted: avoid getting shot battling fascists. Stand aside and let them in.
POLICE IN ONE PART OF LONDON have been basically ignoring marijuana and putting extra officers to work on street crime. The result: less street crime. Imagine.
VERY COOL DJ REID SPEED has (of course) a weblog. And in grand blogger tradition, she explains what’s wrong with airline security. (Thanks to Pieter K for the link).
ANOTHER COURT has found secret detentions unlawful, at least when used in sweeping fashion. I haven’t read the opinion, but this seems less broad than the headline might suggest.
D.C.’S HANDGUN BAN ordinance is being challenged by public defenders representing two men charged with violating it. They say that it violates the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms.
It seems to me that this challenge is likely to succeed — if, indeed, the Justice Department will even defend against it. It is the Justice Department’s position that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to arms, subject to reasonable regulations. D.C.’s outright ban goes far beyond “reasonable regulation.” Challenges to state gun control laws under the Second Amendment are complicated by the question of “incorporation,” since not all of the Bill of Rights is applicable to the states, and the Supreme Court has never addressed the question of whether the Second Amendment is incorporated. (In fact, it hasn’t taken a relevant Second Amendment case since it developed the doctrine of incorporation).
But the District of Columbia isn’t a state; it’s the federal government. So questions of incorporation don’t matter in this context. And the ban — which amounts to complete gun prohibition — goes far beyond reasonable regulation. (The fact that gun crime in the District skyrocketed after the ban makes it hard to defend on the facts, too.) The Justice Department should simply admit that the D.C. ordinance violates the Second Amendment; if it doesn’t do that, it’s going to have a very hard time explaining how it’s consistent with the views that Ashcroft has expressed.
About the only weakness is that — based on the Post story — the men are charged only with carrying a pistol without a license, rather than with possession of a pistol without a license. The Second Amendment (in my view, and that of most, but not all, scholars) doesn’t necessarily protect a right to wear a gun, only the right to own one. That’s about the only “out” I can see here. Otherwise it presents the question rather squarely. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh, as he is wont to do, has come up with a new angle on this case.
ANDREA HARRIS HAS SOME THOUGHTS ON TEEN SEX and the virtues of unsociability.
KEN LAYNE HAS SOME THOUGHTS on the FBI’s organizational problem. But where’s my copy of his book?
OLIVER WILLIS HAS A NEW MAGAZINE. Check it out: It’s a very interesting idea.
YOU DON’T TUG ON SUPERMAN’S CAPE: Jonah Goldberg reflects on what would happen if the Islamowackos who want an all-out holy war with America got their wishes:
It would be one thing if this relatively small band of fanatics were murdering people in pursuit of something achievable. You know, if their goal were simply to get McDonald’s out of Cairo or our airbases out of the Gulf. But, if you take them at their word, their ultimate goal is to bring about the total destruction of democracy, America, and the Christian and Jewish faiths. As a practical matter, to believe that this can be achieved through an all-out battle between our team and theirs is like believing war will make squares into circles and ducks will crap plutonium.
This doesn’t mean these daft murderers aren’t dangerous. They are. But they are tactically dangerous. Strategically, they’re cuckoo for Coca Puffs. They can blow up things and kill people. But their ultimate goal, victorious jihad against the “infidels,” is no more likely to happen than the Hale-Boppers were likely to get picked up by an intergalactic shuttle bus. So think about this the next time you hear some knee-jerk pundit exclaim that if we do X or Y we will give Osama bin Laden or the Islamo-fascists “exactly what they want.” What they want isn’t going to happen. Period. If they even get close to what they wish for, they will be very, very sorry.
Goldberg can make this kind of thing sound funny — and, looked at the right way, it sort of is. But in fact, I don’t want to see the mass slaughter of Muslims that would be the only result of something close to an all-out war between Islam and America. That’s why I don’t believe in encouraging the wishful-thinkers and the outright deluded by acting weak. It can only lead to worse things down the line.
STILL MORE TEEN SEX: Eric S. Raymond says that adults are jealous and resentful of teens, and want to control teen sex accordingly.
TEEN SEX UPDATE: My FoxNews column is up. It offers a more refined view of my earlier posts on teen sex.
Well, the hardware firewall (yeah, I got one) isn’t stopping everything anymore, and one computer can see the network, anyway. So that’s something!
POSTING IS A BIT SCARCE TODAY because of the various technical issues here, and at home. My air conditioning is out, and I’m doing some computer reconfiguring at home. Thanks for all the advice. I scrapped the WAP-11 in favor of a more secure approach. Of course, then I turned out to have the wrong cable and, well, you get the idea.
In the meantime, here’s a cool project to index NYC bloggers by subway stop.