August 18, 2002
BY THE WAY, I think I was channeling Ken Layne in the post below. I felt his spirit enter my body there for a minute as I typed. If I start writing about bats, send help.
BY THE WAY, I think I was channeling Ken Layne in the post below. I felt his spirit enter my body there for a minute as I typed. If I start writing about bats, send help.
SOME CANADIAN GUY is denouncing America again, with the usual form letter: blah blah oil, blah blah militarism, blah blah Enron, blah blah guns.
Here’s the part he gets right: “Does this bother you? Not in the least.”
UPDATE: James Lileks suggests that this is a brilliant government plan to discredit the opposition to the war — made more brilliant by the fact that it contains nothing with which the opposition disagrees! Lileks resurrects the term “idiotarian” here, and though I think that term’s moment has passed, I’ll grant that this specimen is unusually worthy.
ANOTHER UPDATE: For some reason, the Lileks link above isn’t working. (One reader said that’s okay, because Lileks has the world’s coolest 404 page. I wish I were as cool as James Lileks.) Anyway, here’s the main link; just scroll.
STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Canadian reader Alan Cameron is buying Lileks’ theory:
I’m from Canada and yet haven’t had the good luck to meet Mr. McDougall. Seriously, don’t you wish you could meet him? He’s fascinating. So very stupid, so ill-informed, so vile, so hate-filled. Truly an uncommonly high concentration of all these characteristics to be found in just one fool. There isn’t a conspiracy theory he doesn’t believe. Where, or in what, does he live? How does he get by on the pittance that is welfare subsistence? Can he tie his own shoes? Where does he vacation? What colour was the sky in his kindergarten drawings? I would love to learn more about the man. Thanks for this one.
Lileks’ theory is great, and it seems the most plausible explanation for the letter.
Yes, the disinformation theory would explain a lot about the antiwar movement. And I keep trying to remind myself that just because yahoos like this guy oppose the war does not, by itself, make it a good idea. It just seems that way.
STEVEN DEN BESTE may have found a Homeland Security success story. No, really.
IT’S A FAMILY FEUD, on PunditWatch!
WHAT JOURNALISM SCHOOLS CAN LEARN FROM LAW SCHOOLS. Interesting.
OLIVER WILLIS HAS ADVICE FOR LOUIS FARRAKHAN ON REPARATIONS: “Louis, you owe America more money than you can count for having to endure your sorry shuck and jive for all these years.” He’s also ticked off about media coverage of the subject, and of black people generally.
Except at The American Times, of course.
SKBUBBA SHINES THE LIGHT OF THE BLOGOSPHERE on TVA air pollution. Burning coal is one of the nastiest ways there is to generate electricity. We do a lot of it around here. Wish we had more nice, clean nukes. . . .
MUGABE IS STARVING THE OPPOSITION, according to this report in the Christian Science Monitor. You’d think that after the fuss that Noam Chomsky made about starvation that never happened in Afghanistan, he’d make an even bigger fuss about this since it’s, you know, actually happening. Well, you’d think that if you didn’t know Chomsky.
DEFINING TERRORISM DOWN: Charles Johnson is unhappy with this article by Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson in the Washington Post.
What causes Charles to label this article “appalling” is its cold-bloodedly neutral assessment of suicide bombers’ attacks on innocent civilians as purely a question of military effectiveness. If Israel or the United States chose to attack primarily Arab schools and shopping centers, would the Post take the same tone?
Of course not. And like all those who hold Arabs to a lower moral standard, the Post is being discriminatory — some would say “racist,” though Arabs are caucasian — in doing so. But it’s certainly condescending. “What can you expect from the wogs?” is the implicit assumption behind such treatment.
UPDATE: Sasha Volokh disagrees, sort of. He says he loves dispassionate military analysis, though he agrees that the Post probably wouldn’t be so dispassionate about U.S. or Israeli actions deliberately targeting civilians for the sake of inspiring terror. Which was my point.
MORE ABOUT BLOGS, in Newsweek.
BRUCE ACKERMAN raises legal arguments against the Bush Administration’s doctrine of “strong preemption.” They’re related to, but not the same as, those raised by William Van Alstyne earlier. Had Ackerman’s earlier comments on the war not been so embarrassingly partisan and uninformed, this piece — which has some actual substance — would carry more weight.
UPDATE: Stuart Buck writes that Ackerman is on the wrong side of an ongoing “constitutional moment.”
NEAL STEPHENSON UPDATE: Well, only sort of. My earlier post invoking Cryptonomicon generated a lot of email. One noticeable strand involved the character of America Shaftoe, who many readers saw as unrealistic, and who was referred to by one reader as a “geek fantasy chick.”
I disagree. In fact, my brother’s long-term girlfriend makes America Shaftoe seem tame. She’s gorgeous enough to be a swimsuit model, is in grad school in robotics, and is a crack shot. (And for extra exoticism points, is Nigerian). She even has her own software company selling network billing and management software to Internet cafes in the third world.
Plus, when they were here last weekend, she re-installed my wireless network. The replacement hardware was, of course, an upgrade from what I’d had before, and the installation was totally different. I had looked at it, groaned, and put it off until I had a full afternoon, and plenty of patience, to screw with it. She did it in a couple of hours. And, most impressively, was visibly having a great time while she did.
Let’s see Neal top that!
GO-ANYWHERE BLOGGING? This looks pretty cool. It’s an ISDN-speed (up to 144 kbps) always-on go-anywhere wireless connection via a PCMCIA card. The pricing seems a bit steep, though: it’s based on bandwidth, and I think I’d blast through my monthly allotment in a day or so.
UPDATE: Reader Rob Wald has some firsthand experience to report:
About the Novatel/Sprint card. First of all, Sprint is pure evil. I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with them, but in a world of wireless carriers which are all bad, they are by far the worst.
But as long as you are mentioning the service, Verizon has the same service called CDMA 1xRTT) priced at $99/month for unlimited usage (Mb pricing also available). I don’t know why sprint is getting all of the press because Verizon is a better company with more coverage and better pricing. All cell companies may be evil, but Verizon is not Satanic.
Anyway, I’m currently testing the service. Happy with some of it, but for my admin duties, the latency is very bad which makes telnet/ssh somewhat unpleasant to use. Not sure if it is good enough. Is fine for email and surfing, but one doesn’t spend $100/mth of other people’s money for surfing.
Nice slogan: “Evil, sure, but not Satanic!” Sounds interesting. $99/month unlimited bandwidth isn’t bad. A bit too steep for me, especially since my home and work environments have wireless networks that are much cheaper, since they’re free. But it wouldn’t have to come down a whole lot to be worth my while.
THE POLITBURO is reporting on the reparations rally on the mall, with a big wrapup promised for a bit later. Highlight so far: Brooklyn councilman Charles Barron’s expressed desire to slap a white person just for his mental health. There are audio excerpts from the speeches.
UPDATE: The Corner has discovered this too, and has some observations.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Susanna Cornett has a transcript of a radio interview in which Barron tries to explain the remark away as “black hyperbole,” and claims that if a white person said that sort of thing it would be different. Cornett’s verdict:
Barron was being flagrantly racist in his comments, and the fact that he was applauded by blacks and whites alike only says that his kind of racism is acceptable in some circles, not that it wasn’t racism. I hope the mainstream media pick up Barron’s explanation from Malzberg’s show, because it makes his racism very clear.
I’m with Oliver Willis on this stuff.
JURY — AND GRAND JURY — NULLIFICATION: Howard Bashman points to an interesting Ninth Circuit case on grand jury instructions, and goes from there into a general discussion of jury nullification: the power of juries to refuse to convict (or, where grand juries are involved, to indict) even where the evidence is sufficient, if they feel that such a refusal is necessary to serve justice.
Howard sees jury nullification as an inevitable bug in the system: “Jury nullification is something our system endures because there’s no other alternative, but it’s not something to be encouraged.” I think this is wrong: it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
Jury nullification gets a bad rap, being associated in the public mind with the O.J. trial and with the failure of various juries to convict racist killers in the South in some famous cases during the 1940s and 1950s. Such discretion, the conventional wisdom says, is at odds with justice.
Well, maybe — but if so, the jury is the least of the problem. Everybody else in the system, from the cop on the beat, to the prosecutor, to (realistically) the judge, has discretion to let an offender off if they think conviction would be unjust. But oddly enough, it’s only the excercise of this power by juries that gets a horrified reaction from the justice system. A cynic might conclude that this is because juries don’t have union cards, and aren’t as readily controlled by the other players in the justice system.
The cynic would have a stronger case for this position than Howard’s post suggests. In a recent book entitled Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine, Clay S. Conrad looks at the conventional wisdom and the history of jury nullification and finds some mismatches, concluding that juries were meant to have this power, and that the justice system’s opposition to it comes mostly from institutional self-interest. He also draws support from legal scholars such as Leonard Levy and Akhil Amar.
For a summary of Conrad’s argument, and some suggestions of my own, you can read this review of Conrad’s book that I wrote for the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy. The opening sentence, with all due modestly, is among the catchier ones in legal scholarship.
UPDATE: Howard calls my remarks “especially thoughtful,” which coming from him is quite a compliment. Though I notice he doesn’t say whether he agrees. . . .
DANIEL TAYLOR is still in the ICU, though doing a bit better. There are daily reports on his blog from his wife, Oreta. Leave a get-well message in the comments if you like — she’s reading them to him in the hospital.
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY UPDATE: Reader Martin Grace lives in Atlanta, and has this report about Robert Redford campaigning for Cynthia McKinney:
My wife just got a phone call from Mr. Redford (one of those prerecorded campaign phone calls) plugging Ms. McKinney for next week’s primary election here in De Kalb County. Louis Farrakhan and Robert Redford. Who’d of thunk it?
Well, I’ve never seen them photographed together. . . .
UPDATE: Mickey Kaus has an observation on Marxism and the Gore campaign.
IT’S A LESSIG-O-RAMA over at Brad De Long’s page, with links and info on copyright from Larry Lessig.
TALKLEFT has a new URL. Set your bookmarks accordingly.
THE DEMOCRATS ARE GOING TO ATTACK BUSH for going too easy on Saudi Arabia, predicts Silflay Hraka, whose case looks pretty strong in light of today’s Frank Rich column, Rich being a near-infallible conventional-wisdom weathervane where the Democratic establishment is concerned.
HOLY SH*T! As of 7:32 this morning, 6837 people had downloaded the Lindgren piece on Bellesiles.
And I thought the 1600 or so who downloaded the two articles of mine that I put up earlier was a lot. The Web seems to be an underappreciated tool for the dissemination of legal scholarship.
WE HAD AN ANTIWAR PROTEST IN KNOXVILLE YESTERDAY, right across from the law school. It was one rather overweight and unkempt guy with a handwritten sign that said “U.S. OUT OF” followed by an illegible list of scrawled country names. There was also a “honk for peace” sign. I didn’t hear anybody honk, and I didn’t see anyone give him the finger, either. It was like he wasn’t even there.
The law school, I should note, has been displaying an enormous American flag since September 11.
MY DAUGHTER IS WATCHING CINDERELLA II on video as I write this. Like most of the Disney remakes, it’s not a patch on the original. But the theme is relevant to the times: Cinderella is now the Princess, scandalizing the very European-accented aristocrats (Cinderella, of course, sounds quite American) with her egalitarian approach to the commoners, her choice of banjo-and-fiddle music in place of waltzes, etc., etc. The aristocrats huff and puff about how crass this is, and how such things aren’t done, but their huffing and puffing is, of course, impotent, and they are left to fume on the sidelines.
MUGABE UPDATE: His financial mismanagement (er, and corruption) has reached the point that he’s deeded over his embassy in London to Qaddafi to cover bad oil debts. The good news is, Libya’s own state oil enterprise is close to bankruptcy, in part from covering for Mugabe’s profligacy. I also learned something I didn’t know: the land seized from white farmers has been deeded over to Tripoli to cover bad debts. New slogan for Zimbabwe: “No land for oil!”
THE MORAL BANKRUPTCY OF SUBURBAN MAHATMAS: That’s the subject line in an email directing me to this post about those who want moral superiority on the cheap.
THIS PIECE ON FANTASY IDEOLOGY AND AL QAEDA has been linked by a lot of blogs, but people keep emailing me asking why I haven’t linked it. So here it is.
HERE’S A NASTY LITTLE BIT OF HATE from Juan Andrade in the Chicago Sun-Times. Mr. Andrade is not only hateful — he’s ignorant. Here’s what he says about Charlton Heston:
In his taped remarks, Heston compared himself and his own resolve to John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan: three of the most revered names in America. He has nothing in common with any of them, save for Reagan, with Alzheimer’s.
No, nothing in common at all — except that Heston marched with King. (Here is a photo of Heston with Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte during the 1963 March on Washington).
As the antigun folks get more desperate, they get nastier. And this is pretty nasty. (Thanks, I guess, to reader Zachary Barbera for pointing it out).
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has a much lengthier post on this piece, which he characterizes as “blind hatred.”
And just to make Mr. Andrade’s day, I’ll link to the Charlton Heston Online Shrine and to Heston’s speech at Harvard Law School on culture wars. I usually don’t like the “war” metaphor there, but Mr. Andrade’s piece certainly sounds like something coming from the bunker, doesn’t it?
UPDATE: Some people have been sending polite letters to the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, with which Andrade is affiliated, suggesting that this piece reflects badly on the Institute.
I’VE JUST DELETED ABOUT A THOUSAND unread emails as part of the effort to clear out the mess in my inbox. If you’ve sent me mail and I haven’t replied, well. . . sorry. I really do try to read them all, and reply to as many as I can. There’s just so much email. And as Newman said “the mail never stops!”
UPDATE: Um, several people have resent emails “in case I deleted them.” This defeats the purpose. Unless your email was earthshatteringly important, please don’t do that.
UPDATE: Joe writes that the terror information is just because of recent events, and not really the intended focus of his blog.
Of course, I could say that, too.
I DON’T GENERALLY LIKE FLASH INTROS, but this one, on the website for Canadian breakbeat/house/jazz-funk band The New Deal is pretty cool.
HMM. MAYBE THE EUROPEAN UNION SHOULD BE ADDED to the lawsuit against entities supporting terrorism.
JOSH MARSHALL UPDATE: He’s got the latest on his blog.
AIRPORT SECURITY HASSLES are causing flyers to drive wherever possible instead. No surprise there. And anything less than 500 miles is short enough to make driving faster. And often less frustrating.
WE’RE AT WAR, and the press just hasn’t noticed, writes Mark Ericson in The Asia Times. I guess somebody forgot to send out a press release.
UPDATE: And I’m beginning to thing that more obvious hostilities may come sooner rather than later.
GEDANKENPUNDIT has some more thoughts inspired by maps, and wonders why breaking Iraq up is supposed to be a bad idea given that it’s an artificial country composed of people who hate each other, and who apparently can be held together only by a brutal dictatorship. Why, indeed?
DC STATEHOOD PROPONENTS have sent me a lot of email with the slogan “no taxation without representation.” Ben Domenech has heard that one too, and he’s got the answer.
SHIRI NEGARI UPDATE: Reader S.E. Brenner was moved by the memorial page to terror-bomb victim Shiri Negari that I linked to the other day. She now sends this link to a BBC story on the human cost of terror, revolving around the Shiri Negari story, and adds this comment:
This was a five-minute piece on the 5:00 pm news. You can click on the link to hear it. Not only did it make me (a right bitch and total non-cryer) cry in the middle of the crowded book store caff, it had a marked effect on the announcers, who are normally quite unsympathetic to all things Israeli alive or dead. They were subdued and gulping too after it played. So, warning: Do not listen if in a fragile mood.
UPDATE: Here are some more victims of “Islamic militants,” who aren’t getting as much attention as they deserve.
JOHN HAWKINS has found a more murderous and misogynistic stuff over on the ClearGuidance bulletin board for Islamic youth.
MURDERERS ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU AND ME: Eugene Volokh responds to the claim that murders result from ordinary people who get angry, and happen to have a gun around. Most murderers, he points out, have rather lengthy and serious criminal histories. And though they may murder “acquaintances,” those acquaintances tend to be other criminals.
BELLESILES UPDATE: James Lindgren has a devastating dissection of the many errors in Michael Bellesiles’ Arming America in the Yale Law Journal. Unfortunately, it’s not available on the Web, and they haven’t sent him the final PDF file necessary to put it online. However, he’s given me permission to put a copy of the galley proofs online here until the final version becomes available. The differences are minor; I believe the final version is available on Westlaw and Lexis for those with access to those services. For everyone else, click here.
A READER FROM DC WEIGHS IN ON DC STATEHOOD:
You are absolutely right on DC statehood. As a resident of the District since 1976 (and also in 1973-74), I am absolutely opposed to statehood. The Framers of the Constitution were aware of what happened to London during the Gordon riots of 1780 and didn’t want the federal government to be intimidated by mobs uncontrolled by local government. It’s sort of like they anticipated Marion Barry.
When statehood advocates first started making noises in the 1950s, the District, with 802,178 people in the 1950 Census, was larger than eight states. Today it is larger than just one state, Wyoming. It is one-sixth of a metropolitan area. Why should one-sixth of a metropolitan area be a separate state? (OK, you could say that Delaware is a smaller proportion of the Philadelphia Consolidated
Metropolitan Statistical Area; but who would create Delaware anew today?) . . .
No one is forced to live in the District of Columbia. Every adult who lives there knows they don’t live in a state. In the 1950s it could be argued that a lot of black people were forced to live in the District because they couldn’t buy houses in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs. Today they can. A majority of blacks in the Washington CSMSA live outside the District of Columbia.
Sorry for venting, but–please, please, don’t make me part of a state. I can move to Maryland or Virginia any time I want to. (Or better yet, establish a 183-day-a-year residence [elsewhere], in which case I would not have to pay the District’s 9 percent income tax.)
Yeah, I remember that income tax. But the sales tax was high, too!
BELLESILES UPDATE: A reader from Emory writes:
As for the investigation into Bellesiles’ scholarship, expect an announcement from the University on that any day now. That’s what the PR folks have indicated. Last week, a faculty member was told by an Emory media relations officer that the University would have a new announcement in the next 7 to 10 days.
I’ve been told that the independent panel charged with evaluating Bellesiles’ work reported back to the university on July 1. It’s not clear why it’s taken so long to release the results from that panel, but the dean of Emory College– Robert Paul, who’s handling the investigation– was on vacation most of last month. It’s likely that they waited for Paul to return to campus before they made their new announcement. Far from a deliberate attempt to delay and obstruct, this may simply be a slow process made even slower by Paul’s summer vacation.
One hopes. Many rumors have suggested that Bellesiles was going to be bought out, with no formal finding of wrongdoing. But they’re just rumors.
TED TURNER LAND GRAB UPDATE: Turner has surrendered his claim to the land on St. Helena Island, owned by descendants of Gullah slaves, that he was attempting to claim. Good move, Ted. But then, when InstaPundit and Michael Moore unite in a good cause, the result is well-nigh irresistible.
UPDATE: Here, courtesy of reader Simon Ashton, is another story on the subject.
HOWARD OWENS has the first review I’ve seen of the new Supreme Beings of Leisure CD, Divine Operating System, due out next month. I’m insanely jealous that he got a review copy. Where’s mine, dammit?
MATTHEW HOY SAYS THAT Eric Alterman is wrong about the Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades, Marwan Barghouti, and the prospects for negotiated peace with the Palestinians any time soon.
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY has Louis Farrakhan stumping for her.
“I’m worried that just as dryers have a knack of making socks disappear, the federal government has discovered a core competency of losing computers,” Grassley wrote White House budget chief Mitch Daniels.
This time it’s the IRS. And the computers may hold private taxpayer data that would be valuable to hackers and identity thieves.
‘WE ARE ASKING GOD FOR THE U.S. TO ATTACK SADDAM:” Some prayers do come true.
AFTER A LONG HIATUS DURING WHICH SHE WAS SORELY MISSED, Virginia Postrel is back with a lot of new posts. Woohoo!
THERE’S NOW A “CHRISTIAN BLOGGER MANIFESTO.” Josh Claybourn doesn’t like it.
THE RICH GET RICHER AND THE POOR GET . . . RICHER, TOO! That’s what Virginia Postrel says in this New York Times column on global capitalism that’s getting a lot of attention today. The exception is found in places like Nigeria, where bad government makes sure that the poor stay poor. The Nigerian members of my extended family would agree, I think.
BRAD DE LONG OFFERS advice that you should follow.
BELLESILES UPDATE: Disgraced Emory Historian Michael Bellesiles has said for some time that his life was threatened by rabid gun nuts after the publication of his now-discredited book Arming America. This article on History News Network expresses skepticism at that claim:
Threats of violence are indeed despicable. Moreover, such threats are felonies in themselves, each punishable by a substantial fine, imprisonment, or both, as prescribed by the codes of Georgia (16-11-37)1 and the United States (see for example 18 U.S.C. Part 1 Ch. 41 Sec 875b). As a first step toward an investigation, credible threats must be reported to local authorities.
Bellesiles did not do this. Such complaints are in the public record. The police departments of Emory University, the city of Atlanta, DeKalb County, and Fulton County report no complaints from Bellesiles about harassment or threats. Of course, that doesn’t mean he received no abusive messages, but it does suggest that he didn’t really feel very threatened by them if he did — not even enough to seek help from law enforcement. It seems too that he was right in this judgment: I know of no mention of actual attempts to physically harm him or his family, and I think he would have mentioned it, if any such attempt had been made. So, we are left wondering if he really did move his family out of their home over something he openly talked about but didn’t feel a need to report. Based on his record so far, I’m not ready to take his word on this.
It is a fact, and not a new one, that in America, public discourse about strongly held opinions often leads to strong language. When the continuing attention given to these alleged threats and abusive messages is set alongside the almost nonexistent coverage of similar threats made against John Lott Jr., author of More Guns, Less Crime (1998, 2000), we can see that it is threats presumably made by ‘gun-nuts’ that are deemed newsworthy.
Indeed. There’s more discussion in the comments, after the article.
And when are we going to hear from Emory about the results of its Bellesiles investigation? It’s safe to say, I think, that if there were evidence exonerating Bellesiles (though it’s hard to imagine what that could be at this point) the report would have been released. Emory’s slow response on this scandal makes a mockery of its press release about business ethics issued last week.
Bad scholarship is as corrupt as bad accounting. Emory — and the profession of history generally — are in no position to point fingers. Perhaps they need to listen to these words from an Emory business ethicist:
“One of the messages I convey in class is how strong corporate culture is; the culture either reinforces or doesn’t reinforce the company’s formal messages on ethical conduct,” says Robertson. In the case of Enron and Arthur Andersen, for example, the pressure to serve the client overcame any kind of formal ethics program. “If the culture doesn’t support ethics, you can throw policies out the window,” she says.
What sort of culture is Emory reinforcing?
H.D. MILLER SAYS NOT TO GET TOO EXCITED: The House of Saud isn’t going anywhere. I’m not convinced, but he argues the point well.
STARTING LAW SCHOOL THIS FALL? Dahlia Lithwick offers helpful advice, “pre-outlined for your convenience.”
ANDREW SULLIVAN IS STILL ON VACATION — but he’s brought Camille Paglia in as a special guest blogger.
SECOND AMENDMENT UPDATE: There’s a nice, clear primer on the Second Amendment from George Mason University law professor Nelson Lund available at the link just above.
CARLA PASSINO AT POYNTER.ORG WRITES about InstaPundit’s traffic: “Call it the revenge of editorial over marketing.”
Yeah, the InstaPundit Marketing Department is running on a pretty lean budget. Uh, do T-shirts and such count as “marketing?” If so, the Marketing Department is actually running at a (tiny) profit. And the InstaPundit Lunchbox (“what all the cool blogger kids carry their lunches in!”) is even on sale for back-to-school!
STILL MORE BAD NEWS FOR THE SAUDIS, courtesy of George Will:
The House of Saud almost certainly is a dead regime walking. Saudi Arabia’s male unemployment rate is 30 percent. Its population growth — birth control is disapproved — is among the most rapid in the world (3 percent per year). Eric Rouleau, a French diplomat, writing in Foreign Affairs (“Trouble in the Kingdom”), says that since the overthrow of the Taliban, Saudi Arabia is the Islamic world’s most rigorous theocracy: “Universities require male professors teaching women’s classes to give their lectures through a closed-circuit one-way television system . . . 30 to 40 percent of the course hours in schools are devoted to studying scripture.” Furthermore, the marriage rate is dropping sharply:
“Unable to afford the traditional dowry, many young Saudi men are now doomed to a prolonged celibacy. At the same time, growing numbers of young women are refusing to marry men chosen for them by their families, men whom their would-be brides are not allowed to meet before their wedding night. As a result, an estimated two-thirds of Saudi women now between 16 and 30 years of age cannot, or will not, marry.”
As Will notes, “Sooner or later, and probably sooner, all this will meet its match in modernity.”
The most dangerous thing to the House of Saud is the notion that its continued existence is something short of inevitable. And that notion is widespread.
MORE UNWELCOME NEWS FOR THE SAUDIS:
LONDON — The United States has warned Arab leaders to prepare public opinion for a change in the Iraqi regime.
Diplomatic sources said the Bush administration has sent letters to the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states in the Middle East. The letters, said to be nearly identical, assert that Washington is determined to topple the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
U.S. officials did not confirm the message, Middle East Newsline reported. But in Washington, U.S. National Security Council Adviser Condoleezza Rice stressed in an interview on Thursday with the British Broadcasting Corp. that the Bush administration has presented a powerful case for toppling Saddam.
“We certainly do not have the luxury of doing nothing,” Ms. Rice said. “We believe the case for regime change is very powerful.”
The Saudis don’t like talk of regimes changing.
Relatives of victims of the 11 September attacks have filed a trillion dollar lawsuit against various parties accusing them of financing Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terror network and Afghanistan’s former Taleban regime. . . .
Those accused include the country of Sudan, three members of the Saudi royal family – including the Saudi foreign minister – and various Islamic charities, in addition to seven financial institutions and the Bin Laden family’s Saudi construction firm.
More than 600 family members, firefighters and rescue workers, calling themselves the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism, are seeking the money “to force the sponsors of terror into the light and subject them to the rule of law”, according to the suit. . . .
Lawyer Allan Gerson, who also worked on a lawsuit for families of victims of the 1988 Pan Am airline Lockerbie bombing, said that the suit was aimed at uncovering the complicated financial transactions which funded the 11 September attacks.
“We’re trying to expose the extent, the depth, the orchestration, the financial support that terrorist organisations have received for perhaps a decade from various Saudi interests.”
Mao used the term “paper tiger” to refer to things that need not be feared. But Mao never got hit with a discovery request. And the Saudis are the ultimate “deep pocket” defendants.
ONE OF THE ARGUMENTS against the right to keep and bear arms is that it is absurd to believe that the Constitution is meant to protect people’s ability to revolt against a tyrannical government. Eugene Volokh responds to this. David Williams has also done so, in an excellent article on what he calls “conservative revolution” — which means not revolution by conservatives, but rather revolution in the name of constitutional principles against those who would violate them. Unfortunately, the piece isn’t on the web as far as I can tell.
You may also want to see this article, coauthored by Volokh, me, and some other folks, on teaching the Second Amendment as part of a constitutional law class.
HERE’S THE LATEST on flooding in Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. My sympathies to the victims of what looks to be a pretty major catastrophe. I hope that the U.S. military forces in the region are offering assistance.
MUTANTS ARE TAKING OVER THE WORLD, using a weird ability to communicate thoughts to coordinate their actions. Okay, so it’s old news now. . . .
LAST WEEK, I wrote about a group of American intellectuals administering a sort of “heavyweight group-Fisking” to a group of German intellectuals who accused the United States of mass murder in Afghanistan, etc. Now the Weekly Standard’s Claudia Winkler reports that it’s made quite a splash in Germany.
NORM MINETA IMPEACHMENT UPDATE: Here’s more grist for the mill:
For years, the government touted federal air marshals as the best of the best — an “elite corps” of undercover officers trained to stop hijackings on commercial flights.
But today, after rushing to hire thousands of new marshals, the program is so beset with problems that sources say at least 80 marshals have quit, and other marshals say they are considering a class-action lawsuit over working conditions that they fear put travelers at risk.
Documents obtained by USA TODAY and interviews with more than a dozen current and former marshals from around the nation suggest many have grown disillusioned with a program that one says has become “like security-guard training for the mall.”
Hiring standards for marshals added since Sept. 11 have been lowered dramatically, sources say. No longer must applicants pass a difficult marksmanship course that used to be the make-or-break test for the program. In addition, many new hires were given guns and badges and put aboard flights before extensive background checks were completed.
Yeah, but arming pilots would be too risky. Read the whole thing: it actually gets even worse.
TERRORISM’S TARGETS: Here’s one.
CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER: Hesiod Theogeny praises the Bush Administration. And rightly so.
LEFTY SURVIVALISM? Rebecca Blood links to an article predicting the end of global civilization in 2030. The article looks rather crackpottish to me (and its invocation of Joseph Tainter is so out of context as to be deceptive), but I’ll leave its merits to others. It’s Rebecca’s comments about sustainability that interest me. Yes, an “agrarian” society is “sustainable.” But for the world to shift to a non-industrial mode, several billion people would have to die off.
The resulting mass of traumatized survivors, perhaps a billion or two people, would then, after this unparalleled catastrophe, be “sustainable” in the sense that human society was “sustainable” at the time of the Pharaohs, with most people living hand-to-mouth existences with most of their time spent at backbreaking drudgery. Another word for this kind of sustainability is “stagnation,” and the biggest risk of such an event would be that we would return to the metastable state that marked most of settled human history: barbarous despotisms run by a thin layer of exploitive priests, soldiers, etc., above a huge mass of near-starving peasantry and slaves.
I prefer the “sustainability” of the high-technology path, in which nanotechnology, biotechnology, and space resources permit an environmentally friendly life that doesn’t involve reducing humanity to the kind of misery that prevailed in preindustrial society. People find the idea of self-reliance in a post-apocalyptic world romantic (and if I find myself in a post-apocalyptic world, I’ll certainly do my best to be self-reliant) but the truth is, it would suck. Big time.
While the “Olduvai Theory” that Rebecca links to seems dubious, it’s certainly true that our current global economy is unsustainable. Like being halfway up a ladder, it makes sense only as a step toward something else. And “lifestyle management” approaches like traveling less, or using less electricity at home, won’t make any real difference beyond stretching things out a bit. Human society is probably “sustainable” only in a very low-tech mode, or a very high-tech mode. Anything in between is necessarily transitional, in one direction or the other. We must either move forward, or die in large numbers, and face miserable stagnation afterward. Personally, I’m against the latter.
SOME USEFUL OBSERVATIONS from Frank Fukuyama on the American / European divide:
The ostensible issues raised in the US-European disputes since the ‘axis of evil’ speech for the most part revolve around alleged American unilateralism and international law. There is by now a familiar list of European complaints about American policy, including but not limited to the Bush Administration’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, its failure to ratify the Rio Pact on biodiversity, its withdrawal from the ABM treaty and pursuit of missile defence, its opposition to the ban on land mines, its treatment of al-Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, its opposition to new provisions of the biological warfare convention, and most recently its opposition to the International Criminal Court.
The most serious act of US unilateralism in European eyes concerns the Bush Administration’s announced intention to bring about regime change in Iraq, if necessary through a go-it-alone invasion. . . .
In the realm of economics, the Europeans don’t have all that great a record with regard to respect for multilateral rules when compared to the United States. They have been on their high horse this year because of American actions with regard to steel and agricultural subsidies, and they are right to complain about American hypocrisy with regard to free trade. But this I regard as kind of normal hypocrisy: all countries act in contradiction of declared free trade principles, and the Europeans have been notorious for, among other things, agricultural subsidies maintained at higher levels and over longer periods of time than American ones. America is guilty only of the most recent outbreak of hypocrisy.
There are a number of areas where the Europeans have acted unilaterally in economic matters, and in ways that at times contravene the existing legal order. The EU resisted unfavourable decisions against them on bananas for nine years, and beef hormones for even longer. They have announced a precautionary principle with regard to genetically modified foods, which is very difficult to reconcile with the WTO’s sanitary and phytosanitary rules. Indeed, the Europeans have been violating their own rules with regard to GM foods, with certain member states setting standards different from those of the community itself. The European Competition Commission under Mario Monti successfully blocked the merger of GE and Honeywell, when the deal had been approved by American and Canadian regulators, in ways that promoted suspicions that the EU was simply acting to protect specific European interests. Finally, the EU has succeeded in exporting its data privacy rules to the United States through its safe harbour arrangements.
For all their talk of wanting to establish a rule-based international order, the Europeans haven’t done that well within the EU itself. As John van Oudenaren has argued, the Europeans have developed a decision-making system of Byzantine complexity, with overlapping and inconsistent rules and weak enforcement powers. The European Commission often doesn’t have the power even to monitor compliance of member states with its own directives, much less the ability to make them conform. This fits with an attitude towards law in certain parts of Europe that sees declarative intent often of greater importance than actual implementation, and which Americans tend to see instead as undermining the very rule of law.
Not much here that the blogosphere hasn’t said, but it’s interestingly put together.
MICKEY KAUS FACT-CHECKS THE NEW YORK TIMES –AGAIN! It’s almost like having SmarterTimes back, only with more font changes!
SPINSANITY delivers a brutal takedown of MediaWhores Online. Excerpt:
MWO’s tactics simply pollute the public discourse. While many intelligent people read the site and are not seduced by its methods, the overall effect is to build a self-reinforcing community of aggrieved partisans and to help break down taboos among liberals against the rhetorical viciousness promoted. . . . The reality is that, with liberals increasingly agitated, both sides will continue to escalate their rhetoric to the point of hysteria, all the while pointing wildly at each other to rationalize their actions. In the end, these tactics are unacceptable no matter who uses them.
They’ll get some hatemail for this one.
ADD THIS TO THE AIR SECURITY FILE. Jeez.
THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF TALK IN THE BLOGOSPHERE about the perfidy (or not) of Delaware. I’ve kind of ignored it, because I learned in law school that the Delaware-screws-shareholders argument doesn’t hold water. Now WyethWire points to a new law review article on this subject that says (echoing Ralph Winter, my old Corporations professor) that rather than a race to the bottom among the states, we have a leisurely walk to the top. You may find it interesting. I haven’t read the Jonathan Chait article that started all this, but if Chait doesn’t address this thinking, then he didn’t do enough research.
UPDATE: I just looked. Chait mentions it in passing, but dismisses it rather blithely. The whole piece appears less serious than the Blogosphere attention it got would suggest.
CHARLES JOHNSON reports an interesting historical connection for the Saud family. These guys were never our friends.
ACCORDING TO THIS ARTICLE in The Times, the U.S. government no longer considers the Saudis allies and is getting better cooperation from Syria than from Saudi-controlled Arabia:
The final “stab in the back” for Washington was the decision to ban American bombers from attacking Iraq from Saudi airbases. That has soured relations to such an extent that the country from which America launched its 1991 invasion of Iraq is now being excluded from discussions about a post-Saddam era.
Even Syria, which in public is opposed to an attack on Iraq and has been engaged in trade and arms deals with Baghdad, is talking secretly to the Americans and the British about the role that Damascus may play in the region if Saddam is overthrown. A Syrian delegation is understood to have had discussions with British officials in London this week. . . .British diplomatic sources said that the Saudi ruling elite was immersed in a “dynastic battle” and was so concerned about survival that the key figures were afraid of taking any decision that would be interpreted by the people as being pro-Western and anti-Arab.
Free advice for the House of Saud: Screw the dynastic battle, and find yourself a nice safe place to live abroad. I don’t think the Saudi monarchy is going to last long enough to be worth battling over.
Either that, or this is the best disinformation operation of all time.
UPDATE: Robert Crawford asks: “Would a severe dynastic battle in Saudi Arabia warrant western (US, really) intervention?” We may find out.
SPEAKING OF EMAIL: When InstaPundit was new, I tried a feature called “From the Mailbag.” But that was stupid, since there was no mailbag — and “From the Mail Subdirectory on the Hard Drive” just didn’t have the same ring to it. But while I’m replying to email, I should note that I’ve gotten a number of emails from people who think Max Sawicky is wrong (see below) but that I shouldn’t have said the District of Columbia isn’t ready for self-government.
Well, whether I should have said it or not is somebody else’s problem. But it’s true. At least, the District isn’t ready to be a state, and it’s not clear that it’s even capable of being a self-governing city with any expectation of success. And this shouldn’t be a surprise because it’s inherent in the character of a federal district that serves as the seat of government.
The dysfunctional character of recent DC government is beyond dispute. City services are dreadful. (When I lived there, ambulances routinely took 12 hours to arrive — the joke was that if you had a heart attack you should call Domino’s. They’d have a guy there in 30 minutes, and you could ask him to drive you to the hospital.) The homicide clearance rate by the DC police is rotten, and even in a high-profile case like Chandra Levy’s they’re notably inept, as Josh Marshall has pointed out. (I once got a ticket for “driving through a flashing yellow light,” though, which necessitated an afternoon at the DMV before I pointed out to a judge that that wasn’t against the law. And the parking enforcement people had a tendency to ticket legally parked cars with out-of-state plates. I saw this myself.) City officials have gold-plated staffs and offices, but citizens — many of whom are poor and depend heavily on city services — go unserved, or badly served. Roads are potholed and crappy, but taxes are high. Things are somewhat better, I think, than when I lived there — and I lived in the heart of the District, just off of Logan Circle — under Marion Barry, but not all that much.
The statehood issue is a bit silly, and mostly pushed by people hoping to pick up a couple of Senate seats on the cheap. DC has a smaller population (by better than 100,000 people) than metropolitan Knoxville. There are probably a couple of existing states with smaller populations, but that’s not an argument for creating more unpopulous states. What’s more, the Constitution specificially makes the seat of the federal government a district that’s not a part of any state, for reasons of structure and federalism that make sense to me — and that, even if they didn’t, are in the Constitution.
More importantly — and this is why it doesn’t work well as a city, either — DC has a captive main industry and a huge transient population in proportion to its size. One check on lousy government is when business threatens to move away; that won’t happen here. The other is close attention by voters who feel they have a stake, and who have the political skills and interests to pay attention and make a difference. But a lot of the population that in most areas would be most active in civic affairs is transient — officeholders and staff and other people who won’t be there for a long time, and know it. And there’s no tax base. DC, even if it were a state, couldn’t constitutionally tax its main industry, the federal government, and would depend on in-lieu-of-taxes federal largesse, making its financial independence notional regardless.
I don’t think that these problems exist because people in DC are stupid. I think they’re the consequence of the way the place is set up. The voters (and people there do vote, though the Financial Control Board and other structures set up to clean up the financial mess — slightly — undercut that, but the problems certainly arose during a time when the voters were electing who they wanted) don’t pay the city’s bills. Bad government won’t leave voters unemployed, or forced to follow their employers elsewhere. DC is comparatively small and insular, and small and insular places are usually badly governed. The fact that the city government will get less scrutiny than it would most other places because the federal government sucks up most of the press attention doesn’t help either.
DC would be better run, I suspect, under the old Congressional system. It’s true that people would be denied the vote in municipal elections then, but judging by the miserable turnout rates in municipal elections generally, that’s not a right that Americans hold especially dear. And for those who do, the opportunity for residence in a bona fide state is just a couple of miles away.
JOSH MARSHALL UPDATE: I got an email asking if I was going wobbly on the Talking Points question, in light of this post below. No. I’ll try to be clear about this: it’s not that the term “Talking Points Memo” is dreadfully unique. It’s that they’re using it for, basically, the very same thing for which Marshall has already established a reputation.
Thought experiment: “Post” is a pretty generic term as applied to newspapers, far predating a certain DC paper. If I published, say, the Knoxville Post it would just join a long line of papers named after mail. The identical name wouldn’t matter because it would be in a different market (kind of like Bill O’Reilly’s feature, which is on TV instead of the Web, isn’t competing with Marshall). But try publishing your very own “Washington Post” in Washington, and arguing that, well, there’s nothing distinctive about “Post” and, well, naturally it’s the “Washington Post” if you’re publishing it in Washington. Go ahead, try it. I dare you.
The Washington Post won’t sit still for that, trust me. But that’s basically what they’re doing: publishing the same kind of thing, with the same title, in the same neighborhood. I don’t blame Marshall for being P.O.’ed. If they don’t know about Marshall’s use of the term, then they don’t deserve to be publishing a political weblog. If they do know, then they’re just trying to muscle in (and they’d never try to do the same thing to a traditional media feature with the same name). Either way, they ought to be embarrassed.
UPDATE: Shouting ‘Cross the Potomac notes that Terry Neal’s column ran today and isn’t called “Talking Points.” Could this be victory for Marshall? I’m not sure. I’m not even sure it’s the same feature, though it looks kind of bloglike.
STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Steve Hendry writes:
I seem to recall that sometime in the last 20 years, the Post sued a restaurant in the west for calling itself the Washington Post (hitching post, that is). The menus used the same fonts as the newspaper. I also recall that the Post succeeded in forcing the restaurant to change its name.
Wouldn’t surprise me.
PROBABLY THE LAST UPDATE: Reader Tim Hartin writes:
Yup. Happened here in Madison, Wisconsin, I think around 6 years ago. I don’t know about the menus, but the restaurant was on Washington street, and used a “newspapery” Olde Englishe font for its name (don’t know if it was the same font as the Post uses, but it was similar).
And this was for a frickin’ restaurant.
Also, another reader writes that O’Reilly’s TV feature is reprinted (repixeled?) on the Web under the “Talking Points” rubric. That’s news to me (hey, I just write for the Fox website, why should I know anything?). But, while I admit that makes it closer, the O’Reilly feature is still basically a TV feature that happens to be echoed on the website. It’s not nearly as much of a direct competitor as the Post’s feature.
But not to worry. In case Marshall doesn’t like the Post using his site’s name, he can always change it. Maybe to “The Federal Page.”
GRAY DAVIS UPDATE: According to this AP report he’s getting unusually large donations from Citigroup. The article suggests that Citi’s motivation is to get Davis to oppose financial-privacy legislation that would keep banks and other big businesses from selling personal information.
But Davis is a Democrat. They’re against that sort of conduct by big business. Right?
READER GARY HUDSON SAYS I’M WRONG to think that the grounding of aircraft on 9/11 did any good:
I have to register an exception to the oft-heard comments that Mineta (or whomever was responsible) “saved the day” ordering aircraft to land on 9/11. This action saved nothing and help to bring the commercial and general aviation communities to the point of collapse.
My reasoning is simple. Let’s say there were “threats” in the air. Is there any way that ordering an aircraft to land (vs. letting it continue on flight path) would have any effect on what a hostile aircraft might do? A hostile won’t obey the order to land. Hostile aircraft move towards their targets.
They don’t respond properly to radio calls. The FAA Tracon (and certainly later the AWACS that were airborne) can discriminate between threat/hostil aircraft and vector interceptors to identified threats. We know they had 11 “threats” and 10 of those were false; the other was UA Flight 93. Anyone think to call them up? Maybe ask who the chief pilot of the airline is? If the answer comes back “Allah akbar” you know you have a problem. Otherwise you check it off.
Given that it took three hours to bring down all the aircraft in the system, the order did nothing whatever to help identify threats. It was a classic case of ass-covering by bureaucrats.
I seem to recall press coverage last Fall suggesting that the grounding did prevent some attacks (including one in London) but those reports could be wrong I suppose. Anyway, here’s an alternative view.
UPDATE: But Norm Mineta thinks it’s a big deal — so big that, according to this piece in Slate from last April, forwarded by an alert reader — he went out of his way to take credit for the decision when it was really made by someone else.
WHAT PALESTINIAN TERRORISTS COULD LEARN FROM BUFFY: Dave Tepper has the answer. Take it away, Orchid and Missy!
CORNEL WEST UPDATE: I’ve actually pretty much given up on this feature, now that Larry Summers has successfully maneuvered him out of Harvard and he’s nestled in amongst the Ivy League’s champion computer hackers at Princeton. But Ed Driscoll has brought together some information that supports the notion that West was the provoker, rather than the provokee.
EUGENE VOLOKH FACT-CHECKS HANDGUN CONTROL, INC. with some pretty devastating results.
MINETA UPDATE: I’ve given Mineta credit for deciding to land the planes on 9/11. But according to this USA Today story (scroll down to “9:45 a.m.”) Mineta merely ratified a decision already made by the FAA. He still deserves some credit for not screwing this up (I believe there was pressure from some quarters in the Administration not to ground the planes) but that’s not quite the same.
JONATHAN TURLEY, who can hardly be dismissed as a shill for the Democrats, issues a warning about the Hamdi case and Attorney General Ashcroft’s reported plans for the future.
As I said earlier, there’s a good reason for a firewall between the treatment of Americans and of noncitizens. Locking up noncitizens can’t pervert the political process. But once you lock up citizens without due process, the temptation to target political enemies — and, even if you don’t give in to that temptation, the suspicion or fear that you plan to do so — is deeply corrupting.
It’s possible that Turley’s fears are overdrawn — reports of “prison camps” being prepared for American dissidents have been a staple paranoid fantasy since the 1960s — but reassurance on this front doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, and the government’s rather broad claims in the Hamdi case certainly don’t provide any.
UPDATE: TAPPED has more on this.
THE AMERICAN PROWLER says that Josh Marshall should lighten up and be more like me. Well, yeah — oh, wait, no. I remember a Twilight Zone episode in which a guy wished for that, and wound up in a world where everyone else was just a copy of him. When, obviously, he should have wished for everyone else to be a copy of the (pre-cosmetic surgery) Jennifer Connelly.
A COLLEAGUE was just commenting on law school applications being up. We figured it was the economy, but I suppose there could be something else attracting people to the profession.
GUN CONTROL UPDATE: NYU law professor Jim Jacobs has a book entitled Can Gun Control Work? coming out from Oxford University Press. I haven’t read the book (it’s not out yet) but I’ve skimmed the preface and first chapter, which are available online. Looks interesting.
SCOTT ROSENBERG says that Paul Krugman is wrong about Cisco. He likes Cisco’s hardware, too.
DIANE E. is a bit taken aback to find herself called a “men’s rights advocate.” Scroll and follow the links to see an interesting discussion on parenthood, marriage, child support, abortion, and traditional sexual morality.