June 9, 2002
CUT ON THE BIAS has moved here (off of Blogspot). Please adjust your links accordingly.
CUT ON THE BIAS has moved here (off of Blogspot). Please adjust your links accordingly.
FOOLED BY THE HYPE: Yes, that would be me. The New York Times article about blogs is now online and David Gallagher is a man of his word: it’s a well-done and fair piece, despite the rather, ahem, overstated hype (quoted below) that the Times sent out to its affiliates. I’d hoped that was the case.
By the way, the reason I’m holding the microphone in the picture is that when the photographer showed up I was doing some experiments with the soon-to-appear “Radio InstaPundit” service. No, really. It’ll be NPR-style commentaries and monologues, and maybe even the occasional interview, streaming in MP3 and RealAudio. I had planned to have it up and running by tomorrow, but the audio hosting site that I’m using is undergoing a server upgrade and won’t accept uploads at the moment. Stay, er, tuned.
JOANNE JACOBS talks about grade inflation. We have blind grading, meaning that I just found out today (I wasn’t in the office on Friday) who got what grades (the exams come with random ID numbers on them, and we turn in grades keyed to those numbers). It’s always sad — I don’t like giving low grades, though I gave more than usual this time, as I used a new exam approach that was either harder, or less prone to encouraging my sympathies (the students thought it was harder). I’m sure that if each exam had a name on it I’d be inclined to go softer on the low end. Anonymous grading doesn’t put an end to grade inflation, of course — you still know that someone will be unhappy with a low grade even if you don’t know who — but it probably helps.
HMM. Dave Winer and I (and some other folks, actually) were suspicious of a New York Times story on weblogs, since it seemed that they might be trying to hype a nonexistent feud between techies and political bloggers. Here’s how the New York Times service is hyping the story to its affiliates, courtesy of an InstaPundit reader who works at a newspaper and who may not want his name used:
BLOG-PURISTS-PUNDITS (Undated) — In the latest version of the Net techies being outraged by the onslaught of the opportunists, purists in the Weblog or “blog” community are fighting with pundits who are using the diary-like blog format to publish political commentary. “Warbloggers” is the derisive term for the pundits, whom the purists accuse of turning the Web log medium into the text equivalent of talk radio. By David F. Gallagher.
Well, I’ll have to wait and read the story to see if this is actually representative, but I have to say that Gallagher told me that it wasn’t going to be this kind of a story. After hearing of Dave’s concerns I went to the trouble to telephone him and specifically raise the issue, and he specifically denied that this was how the story was being cast. This item itself contains a howler — since the term “warblog” appears to have been invented by Matt Welch, one of the punditloggers himself. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Dave Winer has posted on this too. I’ve emailed Gallagher, too, to see what he has to say. And Matt Welch points out that the Times has turned me and Dave — who didn’t really know each other very well — into friends. Maybe it should start trying to gin up a war between Sharon and Arafat, instead of calling for peace. . . .
IBERO-BLOGGERS JOHN AND ANTONIO deconstruct charges of “Jingoism” with a bracing dose of historical literacy of the sort their critics generally lack. Read it.
IT’S REAL WRATH-OF-GOD STUFF in Colorado.
UPDATE: Robin Roberts emails:
You linked to a news article on the Glenwood Springs fire in Colorado. Right now, I’m on the east side of the Denver metro area and the sky is just solid orange overcast. Not clouds, but smoke from the Hayman fire which is 55 miles south-southwest as the crow flies. Sitting here in my basement office smells strongly of smoke although the house is closed up tight.
Wrath of god indeed.
But at least no oceans boiling or cats and dogs living together.
PUNDITWATCH IS UP!
EUROTOPIA: Jim Bennett has some thoughts.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE NEWS BUSINESS: A dialogue. I guess this is why blogging is so popular.
ERIC S. RAYMOND, who seems to be developing into an Den Beste – style essay-blogger, has some lengthy ruminations on why pornography is (usually) bad and what that means.
UPDATE: Here’s a response to Raymond. Be sure to click on “comments” and read the observations of Jacqueline and Elizabeth, too.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A regular InstaPundit reader (and if I hadn’t gotten thoughtful email from her before, I’d assume this was just a shameless effort at promoting her site, but I have) sends this email:
Suicidegirls is a website that depicts girls in various stages of undress, but also provides the girls with their own journals (blogs?).
Here is one of the girls’ takes on dancing (stripping).
For the record, the girls either provide images of themselves or choose what sort of set they want to shoot and ask our photographer (one of the girls on the site – Missy) to shoot it for them.
I’m not saying we’re the epitome of morality, but we try to present a kind of erotica where the models decide exactly how they are depicted and are given a forum to explain themselves and to present the other sides of their personality. We are often called blogger porn (on sites like metafilter and in various blogs) – but I’m not sure that¹s an accurate term, either way, I’m a loyal reader of your site, and thought I’d send you a link to mine.
“Blogger porn.” Now there’s a niche market. I can’t help but feel, though, that with a name like “Suicidegirls” it’s going to be hard to project a really positive image. But it’s certainly free of the teased-blonde-hair phenomenon that Eric identifies.
OKAY, I’ve been interviewed a lot by journalists writing about the weblog phenomenon. Being interviewed is nice in that it concentrates your mind on things you might not think about otherwise. Anyway, I’ve combined some of the questions and answers and put them over at InstaPundit EXTRA! for the benefit of anyone who’s interested.
BLOGSPOT IS DOWN. VERY DOWN. I don’t know how long it will last (you can check Rand Simberg’s blogspot-o-meter). I will note that my move off of blogspot didn’t seem to improve its reliability, for those who thought that it was InstaPundit’s bandwidth that was causing the problems.
UPDATE: Seems to be back up now.
MANUFACTURING DISSENT: Matt Welch delivers a sound Fisking to the lies of Noam Chomsky, Marc Herold, etc., in The National Post. Excerpt:
Like Chomsky’s bogus prognosis, Herold’s study turned out to be notable mostly for being so wildly off-base, yet so enduringly popular among anti-war circles. Within days of publication, an army of amateur online writers picked through Herold’s math and discovered several instances of double-counting and heavy reliance on the Afghan Islamic Press, which got its data from the Taliban. Later, The Associated Press, Reuters and other organizations conducted their own inquiries into civilian deaths, arriving at numbers between 600 and 1,500.
In the real world of intellectual rigour and academic standards, such peer review might conceivably lead to recalculation and revision. In the fantasyland of the anti-U.S. Left, it does not even break the stride on the march to the printing press. For, despite being thoroughly discredited on arrival in 2001, Chomsky’s “silent genocide” charge and Herold’s 3,700-dead-Afghans howler have shown up, unaltered, in slim paperbacks that have been climbing the charts in 2002: Chomsky’s best-selling pamphlet 9-11, and a City Lights Books offering titled September 11 and the U.S. War: Beyond the Curtain of Smoke.
If these books have their fingers on the pulse of the anti-U.S. Left, then it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the patient is in need of some serious attention.
IS ARAFAT MAKING A NUCLEAR THREAT HERE? That depends on what you mean by “disastrous explosion.”
C-LOG writes: “This is precisely the problem FBI and CIA officials had pre-9/11. Should they have arrest Arafat because he threaten an explosion? or should they chalk his statement up to political rhetoric?” Well, that’s where it’s not like pre-9/11. Arrest him? Just kill him. I’m with Den Beste on this, I think. He’s outlived any usefulness he might have — except perhaps as a warning to whoever comes next about what happens if you make what even seem to be nuclear threats.
Yeah, the Vatican and the EU will complain. So what?
UPDATE: Reader Laurence Simon writes:
Not a serious threat at all, but extremely clever. He’s just seeing that “Sum of All Fears” is a hit at the box office, the Bush Administration didn’t think it was good timing of the release of the picture so it boosted the hype, so Arafat is trying to use the plot from “The Mouse That Roared” to his own advantage.
It’s too bad that Peter Sellers is not with us anymore, because he could make one heck of an Arafat. And Ariel Sharon. And Yasser Rabbo. And George Bush. Heck, he could probably do Kofi Annan, too.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Simon has expanded on this theme over on his page.
VATICAN SUICIDE! Check out these comments on the American press’s coverage of the Catholic sex scandals, from Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga. It’s not the Church’s fault for covering up thousands of instances of abuse, and leaving the perpetrators in a position to do it again. Oh, no. It’s the press’s fault for reporting it! Oh, and it’s the Jews’ fault, too, since they’re just trying to get back at the Church for its pro-Palestinian position. I would say that we’re seeing not just sympathy for Palestinians, but an adoption of Arafat-like attitudes toward the value of external scrutiny.
Moral authority? What frickin’ moral authority? You wouldn’t have to look far to find hookers and publicans with a better moral compass. Hmm. . . .
UPDATE: Here’s more damning evidence.
Matthew 21: 32
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”
Just when we think the Curia can’t get any dumber…
Yes, that was the reference. Some things don’t change, apparently.
I’ve mostly stayed out of this whole matter, since it’s being amply addressed over at The Corner, and by the many erudite Catholic bloggers — and I have enough stuff to worry about as it is. But public statements like the one above — and the Vatican’s siding with Palestinians in the most atrocious ways — suggest to me that the Church’s lack of a moral compass has consequences that make it an issue for everyone. John Paul II came in with moral clarity. He’s not going out the same way. And when a potential successor feels free to mouth off as the Cardinal does, above, then there’s something deeply, deeply wrong, and it’s going to have serious consequences for the Church. As it should.
HERE’S A PRETTY PERSUASIVE CASE for why this country needs more armed liberals. And more Armed Liberals, too.
THE PRE-9/11 INTELLIGENCE FAILURES look much worse than many people thought they would. One thing that is really, really clear is that the problem is in data analysis, not data collection. All the pieces of the puzzle were there — but nobody put them together. Indeed, it’s not clear that anyone tried very hard.
She reflexively dismisses any critiques of mandatory celibacy as having any import, when it does on a number of levels: mandatory celibacy discouraging heterosexual men from entering the priesthood, thereby narrowing the pool of candidates, shaping the identity of the priesthood in a certain direction, which then works to discourage even more men from entering because they feel uncomfortable. Save your breathe – I know it shouldn’t have this effect, but do you know what? In reality It does. Dispense with mandatory celibacy and sure, you’d have a whole set of new problems which others have exhaustively documented, but you would also have a priesthood that looked and felt very different from what it does now.
Read the rest of her post. It’s very thoughtful, and better than I would have done anyway.
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK about Bush taking away the right of airlines to let pilots arm themselves in July of 2001. InstaPundit intern (yeah, I’ve got an intern now) Kevin Deenihan has the scoop here. The cool thing is, he works for free.
RADLEY BALKO identifies the Drug War’s true victims — and perpetrators.
WHAT IS A WARBLOG, THAT THOU ART MINDFUL OF IT? Dave Winer sends this email:
Since we talked, I’ve been reading your weblog every time it updates, and finding you have a clear voice, you’re a peacemaker, not a warblogger. Where did that term come from. What does it mean. It could be easily misunderstood.
I responded that I don’t know where it comes from (it wasn’t Bill Quick this time, was it?). The term just sort of appeared. But I don’t think that “warbloggers” are necessarily in favor of war as a principle (see Steven Chapman’s discussion of why being in favor of this war doesn’t necessarily require you to be pro-war in general). I’m anti-war, in the sense that I think that war is a bad thing. That’s not the same as saying that it’s always wrong. Rather, like most things, it varies depending on the circumstances. If the Ladenites merely wanted to sneer at us like the French, I’d be happy just to sneer back. Since it’s their professed goal to kill as many of us as they can, well, I want to see them stopped, which basically means war. If I could wave a magic wand, and make them happy members of a rising bourgeoisie, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Sadly, I lack such powers.
UPDATE: Howard Owens has similar views.
And the consensus (including an email from The Man Himself) is that Matt Welch invented the term. Okay.
BIKINI WARS: Eric Olsen disagrees with Den Beste. There’s merit to some of what Olsen says, but this part is dubious:
There is a problem if a middle-aged man finds young women in their late-teens and early-20s to be the height of sexual attractiveness. Sexual attraction can never be based purely upon looks alone: there is no real person who consists of only looks, therefore it is counterproducive, at best, to find most-attractive women with whom there is no hope of actual interaction.
Middle-aged men should feel protective, avuncular, even paternal (not paternalistic) toward young women – toward young people – in their late-teens and early-20s: people who are young enough to be their children. They shouldn’t see them as sexual objects. There is just no way a real romantic relationship is possible at 20+ years age difference: too many cultural divides, too many differences of perspective, attitudes, interests, place in life. ALL such relationships are imbalanced, are exploitative one way or another. There just isn’t all that much to talk about, and if you don’t talk, then it’s not the real thing. It’s fantasy, just marking time, avoiding the real issues, and keeping life at arm’s length rather than dealing with it head-on.
The women most attractive to a middle-aged man should be those with whom he could have an actual relationship. Beauty isn’t only found in the very young, and the combination of physical beauty with some actual life experience is vastly more sexy than the callow beauty of youth alone – that is if you find actual living, breathing women more sexy than stereotypical abstractions.
Actually, one of the loveliest marriages I’ve known was between a middle-aged man (one of my law professors) and his (originally 19-year-old) student wife. She went on to become the Dean of Columbia Law School and a successful scholar in her own right. They had several kids and a long happy marriage. Had they listened to this advice, they wouldn’t have.
And what’s all this should stuff? I can’t help noticing that although it’s politically incorrect to tell women what they should want in a relationship, everyone feels happy to hector men on the same subject. Which goes to the other part: men are genetically programmed to find young women appealing, just as women are genetically programmed to like men of higher status. It’s perfectly natural for men to feel that way. It may or may not lead to successful relationships, but hell, most relationships are unsuccessful. I find women in their teens and early 20s to be (usually) rather immature for my taste; I felt that way when I was in my teens and early 20s myself, and my opinion hasn’t changed with age. But so what? What I find appealing shouldn’t be the standard for everyone else.
I can only conclude that offering unsolicited opinions about other people’s sex lives must be genetically programmed too — I guess I just missed that gene.
UPDATE: Den Beste replies here. I think he’s carried the day, personally.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Uh oh. Now Eric’s getting fact-checked by his wife. Run up the white flag now, Eric. While you still can.
STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Matt Moore chimes in. But he, like a lot of people, takes it for granted that everyone finds the idea of his/her parents having sex gross. I don’t. Neither does my wife. We were wondering about that the other day, in fact: do people hate the idea of their parents having sex out of self-hatred (“ugh, that led to me”), or out of narcissism (“now that I’m here, what’s the point?”) or out of something else? That’s just another one of those things that I don’t get.
There are a lot of things about other people’s attitudes toward sex that I don’t get (strippers, for example — what’s the point?). That’s why I’m not so quick to tell people what they should want.
THE CHARACTERIZATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY AS A “U.S. GESTAPO” is rather overwrought — and not even supported by what comes next in this article from The Register. But this part is dead on:
The Feds will know what you’re buying and what you’re reading and what you’re watching on TV, but they certainly won’t be in a position to use any of that to stop terrorists. They’ll be swimming in data, drowning in it, hopelessly struggling to sort it out. Keep in mind that the current Congressional hearings on the CIA/FBI intel failures indicate not that the agencies lacked the raw data they needed, but rather that they were unable to distinguish the signal from the noise. And now we’re to have an enormous new Department which can accomplish nothing more than to get a lot more federal employees listening to a lot more noise.
Right — we feel safer already.
EUROWEENIE ANTISEMITISM UPDATE: Reader Jason Rush writes:
Do you notice that bad guy introduced in Episode 1? He’s a Jewish caricature!!! How perfect for a European comic strip.
He’s a “ruthless speculator” with a great hook nose!
That’s not anti-Semitism, Jason. It’s just opposition to Israel’s policies. . . . Though to be honest, I fell asleep before making it that far. If an antisemitic stereotype is deployed, but no one is awake to see it, is it antisemitism?
Also, reader Joe Stocker sent the suggestion that I google the words “captain euro” and “racist” and see what I find. The answer is a lot of complaints about Captain Euro as Nordic propaganda.
RECYCLING ALERT: Charles Rich says a recent CNN story on the environmental impact of cellphones came straight from an enviro-group’s press release — even retaining an obvious arithmetic howler.
As I’ve written before, this sort of thing is common. And agree with Rich that it’s far less likely that CNN would have taken a press release from, say, the NRA or the Heritage Foundation and given it such an uncritical regurgitation.
CHARLES JOHNSON has words of support for Lou Dobbs — not only from Charles but from scads of commenters. Dobbs apparently was on an L.A. talk radio station this morning saying “to hell with political correctness.” One commenter is recommending an email campaign to CNN in support of Dobbs.
Two chapters of Harry Potter were read, Commerce Clause manuscript is now revised and in envelope to go out tomorrow. I’m going to bed.
EUROWEENIE ANTISEMITISM ALERT: This time it’s — surprise — the French, specifically their Ambassador to the United States:
“The ambassador agreed to speak on the issue of anti-Semitism in Europe and suggested four separate dates,” said an organizer of the forum. “He was later notified who was coming and got cold feet. He bailed out.”
A large number of groups that signed up were Jewish, including the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, the Zionist Organization of America, and the American Jewish Committee.
Jeez. It’s a shame that these simplistic Europeans have such a poor grasp of diplomacy, and thus have to alienate so many of the Americans whose good wishes they need.
MARY ROBINSON NEEDS TO LOOK TO ZIMBABWE rather than focusing on condemning the United States.
HAS MARY ROBINSON EVER SEEN FRENCH IMMIGRATION CONTROLS? It’s time for her to go, to coin a phrase.
NORWEGIAN BLOGGER Vegard Valberg has the first of what’s promised to be a series of deeply critical posts on “Captain Euro.”
BILL HOBBS HAS MORE ON THE TRUMMEL CASE, including links to the Free Paul Trummel website, etc. It’s blogtivism at its finest!
AHA! Someone unpronounceable has identified an intergalactic right-wing conspiracy. Of course, now they must be silenced. . . .
ANOTHER UN-CHEERFUL ASSESSMENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY:
So — the problem of turf wars between the FBI and CIA is dealt with by giving them both a new agency to fight with, the problem of information hoarding at headquarters is dealt with by establishing a new hoard of information at headquarters, and we also improve matters by imposing a new layer of centralized bureaucracy on agencies which (with the possible exception of INS) didn’t have much to do with the problem.
But it does have strong bipartisan support in Congress.
What could possibly go wrong?
MICHAEL LEDEEN has this comment on the new Department of Homeland Security:
But what worries me — what has worried me from September 12 — is that he has yet to call anyone to account. It would be nice for him to announce a compassionate purge of the failed agencies as he folds them into Homeland Security. Without that, the bureaucrats will not believe that anything serious has happened.
And they’ll be right.
TWO IN ONE DAY! Now Jonah Goldberg is writing Get your ass to Mars!
CAPTAIN EURO IS RACIST! Here’s the evidence.
WOBBLY WATCH: Patrick Ruffini says the Bush Administration is doing just fine, thank you, and people should just settle down and stop whining.
EUGENE VOLOKH has some nice observations on the futility of long-range demographic prediction. And a special bonus item for nitpickers!
MATTHEW YGLESIAS ON HOMELAND SECURITY:
It seems to me that no matter what we do, some people somewhere will still be able to pull off a devastating attack sooner or later. The answer to the terrorist problem isn’t trying to devise foolproof counterterrorism measures, it’s defeating the Islamist ideology that inspires the attackers. Going on the offense, (a) kills terrorists, thereby making it harder for them to attack us (b) deters states and other powerful figures from sponsoring terrorism, and most importantly (c) shows that hijacking planes and crashing them into buildings doesn’t make America give in — it makes America topple your regime. Going on defense, on the other hand, makes us look weak. It makes it look like if the terrorists can foil our new, better, homeland security that maybe then we’d give in. That means they’ll try to foil our new, better, homeland security. And you know what? They’ll be able to. There’s only so much security an open society can provide. We need to go out into the world, into the regimes that sponsor this sort of garbage — Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority — and find newer, better, governments over there. They definitely cannnot defeat the United States’ military power, especially when you take into account our ability to vastly expand that power if we see fit. Playing terrorist vs. counterterrorist is their game, though, and they’ve shown us that they can play pretty damn well.
THE EUROWEENIE ANTISEMITES AT IT AGAIN: Note the combination of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism:
The wife of the European Central Bank chief has left Amsterdam for her holiday home in France after outraging her Jewish neighbours by draping a Palestinian flag over her balcony and blaming Palestinian’s woes on an “elite club of rich American Jews”.
She lives near Anne Frank’s house.
LAWMEME says that myriads of small media like weblogs are coming to matter more than Big Media.
PEGGY NOONAN says that “underperformin’ Norman” Mineta needs to grow up:
We are in the middle of another systems failure.
We are busy for instance debating absurdities. Such as: In an era in which certain Arab and Muslim males roughly 18 to 40 years old are taking active steps to severely damage the United States and kill Americans, is it wrong to give added scrutiny to Arab and Muslim males 18 to 40 years old as they attempt to enter America, board planes, rent charter planes and ask for maps to the nearest nuclear power plant?
How absurd and clueless do you have to be to be having this debate? You have to have surrendered all common sense. . . .
Norm Mineta, our transportation secretary, has a searing memory, and that memory determines U.S. airport security policy in 2002. When he was a little boy at the start of World War II, Mr. Mineta and his Japanese-American family were sent to an interment camp. It was unjust and wrong. The Japanese of America in 1942 were American citizens, not illegal aliens or visitors newly arrived; moreover, they had never, not one of them, launched an attack on the United States. What FDR did to them was wrong.
But the facts of Japanese-Americans in 1942 do not parallel the facts of our enemies today. Our enemies has already killed civilians and announced they will kill more. We know who the enemy is–we know many names, and we certainly know the general profile–and we have every right, or rather duty, to give those who fit the profile extra scrutiny. Instead we play games and waste time wanding people we know to be innocent, and searching their tired old shoes. We do this to show we’re being fair. But we really know otherwise, all of us.
We are being irresponsible and careless in the hope that history will call us tolerant and compassionate. It is vanity that drives us, not the thirst for justice and a safer world. Mr. Mineta has received many awards for his sensitivity to ethnic profiling. Good for him, but I’d personally give him an award if he’d begin to act like a grownup and recognize that his childhood trauma shouldn’t determine modern American security policy.
Yeah, the plastic-knife ban was asinine in September and it’s even more asinine now. And the unrealistic response from the powers-that-be makes me doubt that a new Cabinet department will do any good — unless it’s a lot less asinine. I don’t see that in any part of the President’s proposal.
JOHN HILER SAYS THAT LAST YEAR WAS THE YEAR OF THE BLOG, and this year is the year of the Blogosphere. I think that’s about right.
PULCHRITUDE, REAL AND IMAGINARY: Steven Den Beste has had an interesting series of reflections. Here’s the latest.
KENNEDY COUSIN MICHALE SKAKEL has been found guilty, if anyone cares.
WHY THE EUROPEAN UNION IS IRRETRIEVABLY LAME: Another potentially endless series. This appears to be genuine.
WHY JAMES LILEKS RULES: A potentially endless series:
I’m 43 now, and I find bleakness and tragedy less interesting than I did at 23, mainly because I’ve seen some of the real thing. When you’re young and melodramatic, you identify with the tragic because it seems more authentic than your parents’ sunny bouncy happy-crappy attitude. Later you learn that they’re probably far more aware of the Dark than you were, and kept it from you, and from themselves most of the time. It’s how you get through the day without going mad. It’s hard to concentrate at work when you stop and think of the yawning grave that awaits us all. A fascination with things Dark ends up being a self-regarding melancholic pose, a way of signaling to your fellow adolescents that you possess a deep, deep nature. You’re wrong, of course. It’s no insight to think that Life Sucks. The insight comes when you understand that it doesn’t have to, and that its nature is up to you.
Did I mention that Lileks rules?
HOMELAND SECURITY: Reader Trent Telenko sends this link demonstrating that the turf wars have already begun.
KEN LAYNE identifies the root causes of terrorism.
ONE OF THE INTERESTING THINGS I NOTICED about the homeland security speech last night was that Tom Ridge was referred to in the past tense. So maybe someone else will replace him. Reader Will Allen has a suggestion:
The point is, Greenspan is famous for poring over reams of arcane data from all corners of the American and world economy, which is, needless to say, an extraordinarily complex organism. Greenspan has been fairly effective, although not perfect, in assimilating this exceedingly diverse information in a fashion that has allowed him see patterns and make inferences that engender effective decision-making in what is a very difficult job. I say this as a person who is generally supicious of central bankers; the very idea of central banking runs counter to the evidence of the futility of all economic central planning. However, credit should be given where it is deserved, and Greenspan has been very good in executing a very daunting task. This is exactly the sort of talent that is needed in a Homeland Security Office, in addition to managerial skills. Seemingly unrelated, arcane, data will be flowing in from all corners of the globe and someone near the top will need the ability to notice patterns and make inferences in a fashion that allows us to stay ahead of our enemies. If done well, it will even allow us to be more efficient in conducting offensive operations, which is the best defense. Maybe someone with a background in economics would be very effective is assisting this
We could do worse. And we very well may.
UPDATED FALLOUT MAPS for an India / Pakistan nuclear war are available through Shoutin’ Across the Pacific. As long as it’s not “irradiating across the Pacific.”
Actually, the fallout generated by Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons appears to be relatively minor anyway, and there’s no reason, as far as I know, to suspect that anyone has done anything to modify the weapons to create more fallout.
BILL HOBBS has an update on the Trummel case. Paul Trummel is being kept in jail for something he said on his website. The judge, King County Superior Court Judge James A. Doerty — who appears to be a blithering idiot who should be removed from the bench immediately for incompetence — says that Trummel doesn’t get First Amendment protection because he isn’t a paid journalist. Funny, I missed that “paid journalist” clause in the First Amendment.
UPDATE: William Sulik objects to my use of the term “blithering idiot” to describe Judge Doerty. He says it’s unfair to blithering idiots worldwide. He suggests instead: “It is clear that Judge Doerty has just ‘stopped watching wrestling because it’s too complicated’ so he needs some other amusement.’”
Well, okay. I want to be fair after all — but this decision is so far outside the zone of reasonableness that it makes me wonder if Judge Doerty ever actually attended law school.
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, writes Jonah Goldberg. And women need Mars, he adds. Nice column.
HOW UNFORGIVABLY INEPT are the Washington, DC police? Pretty damn unforgivably inept, according to Josh Marshall. This is mind-boggling.
HERE’S AN ANALYSIS PIECE ON THE HOMELAND SECURITY REORGANIZATION, from the Washington Post.
BELLESILES UPDATE: Well, it’s really a Garry Wills update. Northwestern University professor Jim Lindgren sends the following on Garry Wills, who has apparently disavowed Arming America in scholarly settings, but not in public:
The continued criticism of Garry Wills for not changing his mind on Arming America may be somewhat off base. Wills was approached about a panel on the Arming America controversy to be held at the Criminology meetings next fall in Chicago. In response to the organizers’ request for him to appear or to suggest another defender of the book, Wills replied by email in March with only four words: ‘no one defends it.’ In April when I spoke briefly with Wills at a campus lecture (we are Northwestern University colleagues, though I have met him only twice), I asked Wills what his current view of Arming America was. His reply was blunt and used harsher language in its negative assessment of the book than anything that Randy Roth, Joyce Malcolm, Gloria Main, Robert Churchill, Eric Monkkonen, Randy Barnett, Eugene Volokh, or I have said in any of our public statements. From his two recent statements, it appears that Wills is like several historians who have changed their positions on Arming America and have said so (apparently on the record) to scholars involved in the controversy, but who are not yet willing to discuss their current views fully with the press. Just because Wills has not been as public in his statements as former Bellesiles’ supporters Roger Lane, Don Hickey, and Sandy Levinson does not mean that he still supports Arming America. One should recognize that most historians’ views on the book did not gel until after the William and Mary Quarterly forum came out in late February.
Um, okay. Perhaps some intrepid reporter should call him up and give him the opportunity to speak on the public record. Or he could simply write a short addendum to his glowing New York Times review of Bellesiles’ book.
MOHAMMED ATTA sought a government loan to buy a spray-equipped airplane and get started in the “crop dusting business” according to this report.
She said she rejected Atta for a loan because he was not a U.S. citizen. Before he left, Atta tried to buy a panoramic photograph of Washington, D.C., that hung on her office wall. He pointed specifically to the White House and Pentagon and called the photo “one of the prettiest” he had ever seen of the capital. . . .
“His look on his face became very bitter at that point,” Bryant said. “I believe he said, ‘How would America like it if another country destroyed that city and some of the monuments in it’ like the cities in his country had been destroyed?”
She also remembers Atta mentioning al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden, saying bin Laden “would someday be known as the world’s greatest leader.”
The good news is, these guys (who were presumably among Al Qaeda’s finest) weren’t exactly slick about maintaining their cover. The next guys will have to be a lot slicker. I hope.
This also makes me wonder about Al Qaeda’s resources. A government loan? Either Al Qaeda didn’t have the money, or they weren’t allocating a whole lot to this mission. Both seem like interesting bits of information.
Or perhaps they simply thought it poetic to let American taxpayers subsidize an attack.
UPDATE: Reader Phil Fraering has this interesting observation:
Just wondering, but you reported he said something along
the lines of “how would Americans feel if their cities
and monuments had been destroyed, like the ones in my
I thought he was from _Egypt_?
Hmm. Interesting point.
ANDREW SULLIVAN is invoking the Alexa rankings to show that The New Republic gets more traffic (with a ranking of 22,840) than The American Prospect does, with a ranking of 23,581 . But I’ve always been suspicious of Alexa — and rightly so, it seems, since it gives InstaPundit a ranking of 1,825.
This seems deeply suspicious to me. And rightly so, as Slate shows up at a miserable 161,025. That actually made me wonder if the rankings were somehow backwards, but Drudge is 396, which destroys that theory. And, I think, the credibility of Alexa.
UPDATE: Boy, lots of people sent email on this one. Turns out ALL Blogspot sites (Alexa still thinks InstaPundit’s on Blogspot) return a rank of 1,825. That’s apparently the rank for Blogspot as a whole. And Slate returns at 2 if you enter its address as slate.msn.com instead of www.slate.com, because it aggregates all the MSN addresses. Jeez. Jon Garthwaite has more on this if you’re interested.
I DON’T KNOW WHY THESE GUYS ARE COMPLAINING. My class voted for Mr. T, and got Howard Baker and Marion Wright Edelman instead.
LOU DOBBS IS RIGHT.
REPLAY TV USERS are suing the television and movie industry to have their use of Replay TV declared legal.
N.Z. BEAR has a roundup of lefty blogs, with helpful commentary.
Wasn’t TAPPED working on something like this?
WHAT IF APOCALYPSE NOW STARTED OFF IN KNOXVILLE? It might look something like this. If Coppola were having a really good day.
DEEDEE RAMONE IS DEAD. Damn. “I wanna be sedated” makes my top-ten list.
BLOGGERS AND BLOG READERS ARE MORE ATTRACTIVE than the average, so they may not need advice on how to flirt. But just in case you’re an outlier, there it is.
BELLESILES UPDATE: Kimberly Strassel blasts the historians:
But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of L’affaire Bellesiles is that despite the enormity of the scandal, nearly every institution involved–from Emory University, to Columbia University’s Bancroft Prize Committee, to the publisher–has refused to take a professional or moral stance. The silence of these bodies–groups charged with maintaining the standards and ideals of the academic profession–has been so deafening, that even the traditionally closed-mouth world of scholars is calling for some public disclosure. . . .
The American Historical Association, which might have been best placed to undertake a scholarly inquiry, instead limited itself to passing a “resolution” on Mr. Bellesiles’s behalf. “the Council of the American Historical Association considers personal attacks upon or harassment of an author . . . to be inappropriate and damaging to a tradition of free exchange of ideas and the advancement of our knowledge of the past.”
Strassel does note that individual scholars, such as James Lindgren of Northwestern and Jerome Sternstein of Brooklyn College have worked hard to set the record straight. Interestingly, Eric Alterman sort of agrees:
I don’t doubt that Michael Bellesiles’ “Arming America” is fundamentally flawed. But I wonder how so many in the media can continue to write about academia as if it is populated by nothing but sixties-style radicals when in fact, it was these very academics who undertook to judge the book and find it wanting when questions about Bellesiles’ research methods were raised.
Despite the highly charged nature of the argument over whether America really is, historically, a nation of guns, historically, Bellesiles has not enjoyed a closed-ranks defense of his work from the counterparts of the people who feel compelled to defend say, the racist pseudoscience of Charles Murray. I feel certain, moreover, that those institutions that rewarded Bellesiles will, after careful consideration, act on the question of whether to rescind those awards.
Careful consideration, after all, is what academia is good for.
In truth, though, Bellesiles did enjoy that sort of defense until the evidence became overwhelming — as the AHA resolution Strassel cites demonstrates. But ultimately, the evidence does seem to have won out — as the fact that even an antigun lefty like Alterman has written off Bellesiles’ work proves beyond any doubt.
Only Garry Wills is still in denial — or at least in seclusion — on this one. So far nobody’s been able to get a comment out of him, as far as I can tell.
“THE BIGGEST REORGANIZATION SINCE HARRY TRUMAN:” That’s what the White House is promising. That could be good or bad. We really need a massive reorganization in the defense/intelligence/antiterror area. But reorganizations are also what managements that aren’t sure what else to do tend to focus on. We’ll see about this one.
As I said, we need a reorganization here. It’s just hard to do these things well, so we need to pay close attention to what Bush is doing. Reorganization is a means to an end, but such efforts all too often become ends in themselves.
UPDATE: Charles Austin is more hopeful. I hope he’s right.
DAN HANSON has an amusing Music industry suckage report. He asks if readers can name a single member of the Starland Vocal Band, which had the smash hit “Afternoon Delight.” Actually, yes. Her name is Margot, and she was a friend of mine’s secretary (at Skadden, Arps) about 10 years ago.
RYAN ZEMPEL AT C-LOG has responded to my comments on geezer-sex issues. It’s a nice response.
My own feeling is that people are entitled to hold opinions on how others should act, but only entitled to enact those opinions into law when some discrete harm to others may result.
JEREMY LOTT has some interesting, and worried, thoughts about how the Catholic Church’s sex scandals will affect its ability to fend off state intrusion generally.
DAMIEN CAVE compares the annoying and limited music-sharing systems allowed by record companies (which are failing) with the Netflix model, which is succeeding, and notes that consumers like freedom. I agree, natch.
NORAH VINCENT has some thoughts on media sensitivity that are worth reading.
HMM. MAYBE ZOMBIES DON’T RULE BELGIUM: The head of national security in Belgium has resigned over charges that Belgium is serving as a sanctuary and training ground for Al Qaeda and other fundamentalist Islamic terrorists.
Imagine: someone resigning because of failure in their agency’s zone of responsibility. Now there’s a European custom I wouldn’t mind seeing at home.
JIHAD: This transcript from Nightline is worth reading. Here’s what Daniel Pipes said about the Jihad-as-meaning-spiritual-struggle argument:
What’s wrong, Chris, is that it’s a fabrication. Jihad has historically meant, almost always one thing-which is expanding the territories ruled by Muslims through armed warfare. That’s what it’s meant. Now I’m happy to see a development occur whereby it means something more spiritual. But we have to start by acknowledging that that’s the real meaning of the word, the historic meaning of the word, the traditional meaning of the word, and we can’t ignore it. And this young man is ignoring it.
What’s funny is that all the people who were after Bush for using the word “crusade” seem to think that it’s simplistic to criticize the use of the word “jihad.” In truth, the peaceful meaning of “crusade” is more well-established.
And I know other people have already noted this, but what if we had a fundamentalist Christian speaking at a Harvard commencement on the importance of the “crusade” concept? You know, like someone from “Campus Crusade for Christ.” Well, forget the “what if.” It’s basically unimaginable. Religious diversity and acceptance can only go so far, after all.
ROBERT MUELLER says the FBI needs more money. This is conceivably true, though if they quit acting as hired goons for the MPAA and RIAA it might free up a few agents.
But Congress should demand serious accountability — including firings, demotions and reorganization — before it gives the FBI any more money. Massive failure followed by a big boost in funding has been an FBI pattern of late. It needs to stop.
UPDATE: More evidence that the FBI isn’t ready for more money yet. Its demonstrated big problems are in data-analysis and management. What does it want money for? More data-gathering! No, no, no. Show you can manage the data you’re already getting and we’ll talk, guys.
THE BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTRY has refused to allow ammunition to be shipped to Israel for an Israeli sharpshooters’ club.
Humph. When another small country I can think of was fighting off crazed fascistic enemies, the United States certainly didn’t take that line. For which the British should be glad.
Meanwhile, of course, the EU is sending money to Palestinians that winds up being spent on bombs and guns. But that’s just development assistance.
IN LIGHT OF MY JOURNALISM-AND-COWARDICE POST, below, readers may want to check out these real-life stories by Dave Winer.
Journalists say that blogs can’t be trusted because there’s no oversight. Read, and see what oversight means.
Bloggers have biases — but they’re usually right out in the open. And bloggers don’t pretend to be objective professionals.
POLITICS MAY DRIVE PEOPLE APART, but Bourbon can bring them back together. Though the superiority of Jack Daniel’s products remains incontestable.
UPDATE: Any mention of Bourbon seems to generate a lot of email. Yes, I know that Jack Daniel’s is “sour mash whiskey.” Duh. And yes, I know that they also make superb “sour mash” in Kentucky — in fact, I have a fine bottle of Old Weller 107 proof in my liquor cabinet.
HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL student Pat Collins writes about the “Jihad on campus” incident, and several other recent war-related embarrassments for Harvard, and says that Harvard has a governance problem. I think that Larry Summers is trying to fix that. But he’ll need outside pressure to accomplish anything.
ARE ALL JOURNALISTS WUSSES? I ask this because of the top three stories on Jim Romenesko’s page:
“Andy Rooney says Ashcroft ‘has put the fear of God into reporters’ “ — saying that everyone’s afraid to write anything critical for fear that Ashcroft will say they’re helping terrorists;
“Why it took so long for the media to expose the clergy sex scandal
National Catholic Reporter Publisher Tom Fox’s view: ‘The secular press wouldn’t touch it because they didn’t want to be seen as anti-Catholic, and the Catholic [press] wouldn’t touch it because they weren’t independent;’” and
“Alt-weekly editors are scared, less idealistic, and more ad-conscious”
Grow some balls, guys and gals. That’s what press freedom is all about. So someone might call you names. Big deal.
The Ashcroft thing is the most startling. Why are people so intimidated by his public pronouncements? Of course, it’s not just the press. People denounced Ashcroft for lighting into a panel of Senators last fall — but not one of those tribunes of the people had to guts to say “You dropped the ball, Mr. Ashcroft — don’t blame us for your organization’s failures.” Now that it’s safer they may come back after him, but by not standing up then, they’ll look like opportunistic jackals now. Screw the poll numbers — if you stand up for what’s right, you’ll probably do okay. And if not, well, isn’t that your job anyway, both in the press and in the Senate?
As Robert Heinlein said, it may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it’s better still to be a live lion. And usually easier — unless, that is, you’re a jackal to start with.
HARVARD DIVESTMENT PETITION: There’s a new call for divestment — saying that Harvard should divest itself of binLaden family gifts and interests. Yeah, I found this via a Katzman post, too. What can I say? The guy’s on a roll.
JOE KATZMAN has a linkfest of resources on the impact of an India/Pakistan nuclear war. He also has an extended analysis of Al Qaeda’s likely reasons for actually wanting a nuclear war between the two. Sadly, he’s pretty persuasive. Of course, if there are nukes flying around, an extra nuke or two in the right place might go unnoticed. . . . And a high-altitude EMP weapon over the wild regions where Al Qaeda has its holdouts, which would blow out anything electronic, would cripple Al Qaeda’s ability to operate anywhere else. These guys are actually far more dependent on sophisticated communications technology than people realize.
PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH says forget this wobbly stuff: we’re getting ready for war with Iraq.
EUGENE VOLOKH explains why making foreigners from some Arab countries register isn’t, in fact, racial profiling. I would say “duh,” but it appears to have escaped the New York Times, along with many other media organizations. My objection to this plan is that it leaves out the Saudis, who are terror central.
If Bush craters politically over this war, it will be because he’s been too deferential to the Saudis. Which he has been.
UPDATE: Neal Boortz isn’t impressed with Arab complaints about this policy.
THE WEBLOG AS AN EXTENDED BRAIN: Cory Doctorow has this absolutely right. I feel the same way.
ORRIN JUDD seems to think that my article talking about the greater danger posed by neuroscience relative to cloning means that I have something in common with Francis Fukuyama. Well, at an appropriate level of abstraction, I do. We’re both carbon-based bipeds.
Okay, not quite that high a level of abstraction, but still pretty high. But Judd seems to (1) misunderstand my position; and (2) miss my point.
Judd seems to think that it’s a big deal for me to admit that there are dangers in bioscience, or science in general. But I’ve never doubted that — I’ve been writing about it for over a decade. (Here is a recent example). I don’t think that there are any significant dangers involved in cloning: the objections to cloning make sense mostly in terms of a particular religious frame of reference that I don’t share. Neuroscience is somewhat more dangerous.
But in both cases — let’s pick the standard reference here and mention Brave New World — the danger is stuff being done without people’s consent. That’s where I differ from Judd. He looks at Brave New World and is unhappy to see cloning and psychoactive drugs. I look at Brave New World and am unhappy to see cloning and psychoactive drugs forced on people by a totalitarian world government. For me, it’s the force part that’s upsetting. If people want to clone themselves, or become “Happy Harrys” with psychoactive medication, that’s okay with me. I just don’t want them forced to do so. Fukuyama, by contrast, wants to stop science because he knows what’s best for everyone. That’s a position that’s closer to the totalitarian-world-government model than to my own.
Judd also misses my main point, which was that all the scrutiny that the Medical Ethics Establishment has directed at cloning — and hasn’t directed at neuroscience — hasn’t made much difference. Neuroscience abuses, despite the lack of Ethics Establishment scrutiny, are largely nonexistent unless you reach back to the 1950s or so for lobotomies and CIA drug experiments, neither of which have much to do with modern neuroscience. My mention of neuroscience wasn’t so much to trumpet its dangers as to illustrate that the Ethics Establishment, a group of nattering nabobs of which Fukuyama seems determined to become natterer-in-chief, has been precisely useless. What’s worse, that may be the most anyone can say in its favor.
SPOONS TELLS ME that if I don’t buy an MR2 convertible the terrorists will have won. Actually, he’s pretty persuasive.
WHAT THEY KNEW AND WHAT THEY DIDN’T DO: This post from Electrolite has an excellent quote.
ERIC ALTERMAN has a reference to me on his blog today. I think he’s referring to this post with its link to some technical/style comments from Dr. Weevil.
I TALKED WITH DAVE WINER ON THE PHONE a little while ago, and I notice he’s already blogged the conversation! Things move fast in the blogosphere. I don’t have much to add. We’ve both been interviewed by an Old Media organ that we suspect may, just may, have more of an agenda than just writing a story. I may post a bit more on this later, but I want to at least note that I’m in complete agreement with Dave on both the absence of any “feuding” and the importance of amateurism.
UPDATE: Ken Layne weighs in. It’s a blogger lovefest!
DOWD WATCH: Josh Chafetz is on the case.