Archive for January, 2003

January 28, 2003

TRANSATLANTIC AXIS OF WEASEL UPDATE: It’s in the title of this piece in The Times (“Paris and Berlin: the axis of weasel”) by Ferdinand Mount, who writes:

In 1963 two ancient titans, de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, were leading two renascent nations out of the ruins of war. Now in their different ways France and Germany are led by two weaklings. Schröder survived the German elections only by resorting to a humiliating pacifist stance which he didn’t even sound as if he believed in. Chirac managed to see off an ancient fascist and now exercises more or less unfettered power, which, as ever, he doesn’t seem to have much clue what to do with except cling to the Franco-German pact.

However, the newer members of the EU, as Le Monde has the grace to point out, don’t think of the Americans as demons at all. After all, if the Yanks had gone home, as those old post-war French graffiti used to demand, half of those new members would not be free today.

In Britain, too, you can feel the change. Whenever Macmillan or Wilson or Heath or Major was “let down” by the French, there was an audible “ouch” throughout the Establishment. Our foreign policy had been derailed again. We didn’t know where to turn.

But now? I haven’t met anybody outside the Foreign Office who gives a toss.

I think the French and Germans may be suffering from imperial overstretch.

UPDATE: This Christopher Hitchens column in Slate on Bush’s alleged “cowboy” ways is good, too. Excerpt:

To have had three planeloads of kidnapped civilians crashed into urban centers might have brought out a touch of the cowboy even in Adlai Stevenson. But Bush waited almost five weeks before launching any sort of retaliatory strike. And we have impressive agreement among all sources to the effect that he spent much of that time in consultation. A cowboy surely would have wanted to do something dramatic and impulsive (such as to blow up at least an aspirin-factory in Sudan) in order to beat the chest and show he wasn’t to be messed with. But it turns out that refined Parisians are keener on such “unilateral” gestures—putting a bomb onboard the Rainbow Warrior, invading Rwanda on the side of the killers, dispatching French troops to the Ivory Coast without a by-your-leave, building a reactor for Saddam Hussein, and all the rest of it.

Indeed.

January 27, 2003

GWEILO DIARIES IS UNIMPRESSED with E.U. diplomacy regarding North Korea. He’s not that thrilled with U.S. moves in Indonesia, either.

January 27, 2003

JAY MANIFOLD WRITES on Iraq/Georgia parallels, and why Iraq will suffer less in war than Georgia did under Sherman.

January 27, 2003

STEPHEN GREEN: Flaming Liberal.

January 27, 2003

DIANE E. IS GRATEFUL TO THE FRENCH. No, really.

January 27, 2003

“YOU GET WHAT YOU DESERVE” — Anti-American graffiti on a 9/11 memorial.

My response: be glad you’re not getting what you deserve, buddy.

January 27, 2003

RAND SIMBERG REMEMBERS THE APOLLO 1 FIRE.

I’ll note that it was memorialized, together with some other tragedies, by the Rainmakers in a great song called “Rockin’ at the T-Dance.”

January 27, 2003

YOU DON’T FIND A LOT of nice things said about George Tenet on this site, but this article from Time on the “CIA’s Secret Army” has an interesting passage:

It was George Tenet who began rebuilding the SOG five years ago when he took charge of the CIA, but the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, accelerated his efforts.

The CIA folks seem to have done an excellent job in Afghanistan, and I mentioned somewhere that whoever was behind revitalizing them deserved praise. If it’s really Tenet (I suppose this could just be after-the-fact PR puffery) then he deserves considerable credit.

UPDATE: Here’s my old post which was about Special Forces, not just the CIA paramilitary operations. The point still holds, though.

January 27, 2003

HERE’S MORE ON THE ALGERIAN TERROR CONNECTION, from the Christian Science Monitor. Excerpt:

Over the past six weeks, European investigators in four countries have arrested more than 50 people with suspected links to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network. Police have uncovered explosives, chemicals, fake passports, and documents, including maps of the London Underground.

Algerians are consistently among those detained – a fact that Western intelligence officials say points to the formation of a North African network of Al Qaeda that is preparing to act.

Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, referring to the arrests Friday of 15 Algerians and a Moroccan in northeastern Spain, said police had broken up a “major terrorist network” linked to the Algerian Salafist group, a splinter of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which he said had clear links with Al Qaeda. He said the network also had connections with suspects recently arrested in France and Britain.

Interesting.

January 27, 2003

APPARENTLY, THE COOKEVILLE DOG-SHOOTING INCIDENT was the result of improper training. Yeah, but who could have foreseen a problem with this?

January 27, 2003

NOBODY WANTS TO PAY FOR PUBLIC DEFENDERS. But, you know, nobody wants to convict innocent people, either. Do they?

January 27, 2003

JOHN COLE EMAILS: “This might be my snarkiest post ever.” It involves the French.

January 27, 2003

2245 MESSAGES are in the process of downloading from the server, into archival stasis. I read most of ‘em, but not all. If I should have replied to yours, sorry. I do my best.

January 27, 2003

A PACK, NOT A HERD: Here’s an interesting article on citizen-based defense strategies.

January 27, 2003

THE DAMNING OF SADDAM: This article from The Telegraph has a nice summary of Saddam’s misdeeds, and says that Blix’s report has greatly strengthened the case for war.

January 27, 2003

HERE’S THE WEBSITE of United For Peace (“Soon to be ‘United for Peace and Justice!‘”), an anti-war group that seems to be trying to set itself up as an alternative to the nasty looniness of A.N.S.W.E.R. The differences with A.N.S.W.E.R. aren’t exactly played up on the site, but at least there’s no obvious Stalinism or anti-semitism. Jim Henley is hopeful.

January 27, 2003

MORE EVIDENCE of good sense:

WEST PALM BEACH – A judge threw out a jury’s verdict today in what had been considered a landmark case against the distributor of a gun used in the shooting death of middle school teacher Barry Grunow. . . .

Bob Montgomery, a prominent personal injury attorney who won an $11.3 billion settlement against the tobacco industry, had sought $76 million in damages against Valor. The case was closely watched because it was the first to combine claims that Saturday night specials are inherently defective and should be sold only with safety locks.

Next, the defendant should seek sanctions.

January 27, 2003

MORE ON MATERIAL BREACH.

January 27, 2003

HOW MANY PEOPLE HAS SADDAM HUSSEIN KILLED?

The terror is self-compounding, with the state’s power reinforced by stories that relatives of the victims pale to tell — of fingernail-extracting, eye-gouging, genital-shocking and bucket-drowning. Secret police rape prisoners’ wives and daughters to force confessions and denunciations. There are assassinations, in Iraq and abroad, and, ultimately, the gallows, the firing squads and the pistol shots to the head.

DOING the arithmetic is an imprecise venture. The largest number of deaths attributable to Mr. Hussein’s regime resulted from the war between Iraq and Iran between 1980 and 1988, which was launched by Mr. Hussein. Iraq says its own toll was 500,000, and Iran’s reckoning ranges upward of 300,000. Then there are the casualties in the wake of Iraq’s 1990 occupation of Kuwait. Iraq’s official toll from American bombing in that war is 100,000 — surely a gross exaggeration — but nobody contests that thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians were killed in the American campaign to oust Mr. Hussein’s forces from Kuwait. In addition, 1,000 Kuwaitis died during the fighting and occupation in their country.

Casualties from Iraq’s gulag are harder to estimate. Accounts collected by Western human rights groups from Iraqi émigrés and defectors have suggested that the number of those who have “disappeared” into the hands of the secret police, never to be heard from again, could be 200,000. As long as Mr. Hussein remains in power, figures like these will be uncheckable, but the huge toll is palpable nonetheless.

Where’s Marc Herold when you need him?

January 27, 2003

FAREED ZAKARIA WRITES that our previous policies toward Iraq and its neighbors have been so bad that war might well make things better:

Of course, not everyone would be helped by a successful war. The ruling elites in the Middle East—particularly those that remain stubbornly set in their old ways—will be challenged, threatened and eventually overturned. For these potentates and their courtiers it would mean the end of one of the richest gravy trains in history. That is why they will fight change as fiercely as they can. But for the people of the Middle East, after the shock of the war fades, it could mean a chance to break out of the terrible stagnancy in which they now sit.

There are always risks involved when things change. But for the past 40 years the fear of these risks has paralyzed Western policy toward the Middle East. And what has come of this caution? Repression, radical Islam and terror. I’ll take my chances with change.

Let’s hope it turns out well. But at least “better” should be easy to achieve.

January 27, 2003

ARAB NATIONS ARE “FALLING INTO LINE” regarding the war.

January 27, 2003

BELLESILES UPDATE: Howard Bashman reports that the Ninth Circuit has gone back and removed citations to the work of Michael Bellesiles, author of the now-discredited Arming America. from its recent Second Amendment opinion, Silveira v. Lockyer. Sadly, they left the rest of the opinion intact.

Does this mean the Ninth Circuit thinks the Supreme Court might conceivably grant cert. on this case, and doesn’t want an obvious red-flag in the very first footnote? Beats me. I’ll leave the tea-leaf-reading concerning this action to the tea-leaf readers.

January 27, 2003

I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO HEARING EXPLANATIONS AS TO WHY THIS ISN’T MATERIAL BREACH:

The document indicates that 13,000 chemical bombs were dropped by the Iraqi air force between 1983 and 1998, while Iraq has declared that 19,500 bombs were consumed during this period. Thus, there is a discrepancy of 6,500 bombs. The amount of chemical agent in these bombs would be in the order of about 1,000 tons. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we must assume that these quantities are now unaccounted for. . .

I turn to biological weapons. I mention the issue of anthrax to the council on previous occasions, and I come back to it as it is an important one. Iraq has declared that it produced about 8,500 liters of this biological warfare agent, which it states it unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991.

Iraq has provided little evidence for this production and no convincing evidence for its destruction.

There are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared and that at least some of this was retained over the declared destruction date. It might still exist. . . .

As I reported to the council on the 19th of December last year, Iraq did not declare a significant quantity, some 650 kilos, of bacterial growth media, which was acknowledged as reported in Iraq’s submission to the Amorim panel in February 1999. As a part of its 7 December 2002 declaration Iraq resubmitted the Amorim panel document but the table showing this particular import of media was not included. The absence of this table would appear to be deliberate, as the pages of the resubmitted document were renumbered.

In the letter of 24th of January this year to the president of the Security Council, Iraq’s foreign minister stated that, I quote, “All imported quantities of growth media were declared.” This is not evidence. I note that the quantity of media involved would suffice to produce, for example, about 5,000 liters of concentrated anthrax.

There’s much, much more. But this is enough.

UPDATE: Robin Roberts emails:

Regarding the excerpts of Blix’s report you posted, I note that he mentions the great quantities of anthrax unaccounted for. I have this vague recollection of people being killed in this country with anthrax …. and a bungled FBI probe of same.

Hmm. I seem to recall something of the sort too, but it’s probably entirely unrelated.

January 27, 2003

WHO I VOTED FOR IN THE GRAMMIES — plus an Axis of Weasel roundup — is reported over at GlennReynolds.Com.

January 27, 2003

JAMES LILEKS reports on the Super Bowl ads and on what he found by Googling the “ordinary Americans” in a Star Tribune story about the antiwar movement.

January 27, 2003

WHEN POLICY KILLS — U.N. complicity in mass murder in the Balkans:

The Bosnian Muslims were told by the U.N. that they didn’t need weapons of their own; instead, they would have immediate access to the upper echelons of U.N. and NATO “peacekeeping” forces. As noted in U.N. documents, Bosnia-Herzegovina president Izetbegovic “was in favour of the UNPROFOR [United Nations Protection Force] proposal, which, as he understood it, meant that the Bosniacs would hand their weapons over to UNPROFOR in return for UNPROFOR protection.” . . .

By the summer of 1995, the population of Srebrenica, a designated safe area, had swelled with refugees. By the time of the massacre, it was an island of Bosniacs in Bosnian Serb territory — an island the U.N. had sworn to protect.

But the U.N. would not honor its pledge. As the BBC later reported, “A former United Nations commander in Bosnia has told a Dutch parliamentary inquiry into the Srebrenica massacre that it was clear to him that Dutch authorities would not sacrifice its soldiers for the enclave.”

And, indeed, on July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb forces entered Srebrenica without resistance from Bosniac or U.N. forces; not a shot was fired. (The Bosniac general in Srebrenica had recently been recalled by his government, leaving the Bosniac forces leaderless.) Ethnic cleansing and genocide followed. The men and boys were separated from the women, then taken away and shot.

“Don’t worry — the U.N. will protect you!” Unfortunately, it seems to devote most of its efforts to protecting dictators from the United States. Why, it’s almost as if anti-American dictators are a constituency group within the U.N., while innocent civilians aren’t. Say. . . .

UPDATE: This piece that I wrote a while back is probably relevant enough to link here.

January 27, 2003

DUANE FREESE WRITES:

In 10 weeks, on April 3, the United Nations will celebrate the 12th Anniversary of United Nations resolution 687. In that resolution, the Security Council directed Iraq to provide a list of all weapons of mass destruction, their components and parts in 15 days. Iraq was directed to comply unconditionally. It had agreed to such compliance when it agreed to a ceasefire that ended military action.

Four years, four months and a fortnight ago on Sept. 10, 1998, Iraq delivered a deficient 800-page report detailing its biological and chemical weapons, before kicking U.N. inspectors out.

President Bush’s threat of military action forced Saddam Hussein to capitulate and let those inspectors back in.

Iraq lost the war. Knowing that, Saddam made a bargain to avoid destruction. He’s broken that bargain.

January 27, 2003

STOP THAT, OR I’LL SIC HANS BLIX ON YOU: SKBubba is researching weapons of mass destruction.

January 27, 2003

ON A LESS SERIOUS NOTE: Here’s a State of the Union drinking game that everyone can enjoy.

Well, everyone with a liver the size of Vermont, anyway.

January 27, 2003

ANOTHER ONE BACK FROM HIATUS: Prof. Jeff Cooper is back, with wine recommendations and a Kausfiles mystery.

Actually, I know the answer to the mystery, but in my new status as a minion of Microsoft I’m forbidden to speak of it.

(Note to credulous readers/media conspiracists: No, not really.)

January 27, 2003

YOU ALL KNOW ABOUT Dave Barry’s new blog, right? And that the puppies are Ken Layne’s fault doing contribution?

January 27, 2003

MICKEY KAUS calls Rep. Robert Matsui “the man who lost Congress” for the Democrats.

January 27, 2003

WILLIAM SJOSTROM notes more disrespect for the French — and in The Independent, of all places, where Bruce Anderson writes that “French perversity has denied Europe any influence over American foreign policy,” and goes on to note:

They believe that their foreign policy is not only more compatible with a desirable balance of global forces; they think that their superior intellectual and moral stance also expresses French self-interest. They are thoughtful and independent; we, muddled and subservient.

It is easy to make that argument on paper, as many French commentators have recently demonstrated. There is only one problem. It has no purchase on reality. When Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the Franco-German position on Iraq as “Old Europe”, one French minister retorted that in growing old, Europe had acquired wisdom. But this apparent intellectuality is just so much flummery; the French are still desperately seeking compensation for their loss of global influence.

The whole thing is very much worth reading.

January 27, 2003

ANDREW SULLIVAN has advice for Bush on the State of the Union address and how to make the case for war.

I also recommend this lengthy essay by Bill Whittle.

January 26, 2003

EUGENE VOLOKH is deeply disappointed.

January 26, 2003

ARE EFFORTS TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE RACIST? Follow the link and decide for yourself.

UPDATE: Armed Liberal emails that I should include this link, too.

January 26, 2003

VIRGINIA POSTREL has posted a full account of her Lasik eye surgery, some good advice for U.S. Embassy staffers abroad, and some comments on anti-semitism in the Davos protests:

(At least they equate Jews with apes rather than rats, taking the Islamofascist line rather than the Nazi one.) It’s also inevitable. Opposing Jews and opposing trade, opposing trade and opposing America, opposing Jews and opposing America–it all goes together. I do have one question: Do these people think Donald Rumsfeld is Jewish? My guess is yes.

Well, those people are confused about a lot of things. . . .

UPDATE: Here’s more from Gotham.

January 26, 2003

SPEAKING OF PEOPLE BACK FROM HIATUS: The UnaBlogger is back! (Er, and he’s been gone long enough that if you’re new to the Blogosphere, I should note that whether this counts as “safe for work” depends on where you work. To me, it’s just cute cheesecake. If you think your boss is less progressive than me, well, be warned.)

January 26, 2003

JIM TREACHER IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE. Hey, I’m just glad he’s back.

January 26, 2003

ATRIOS seems to think that I write a column for the Washington Times, and derive great income thereby. If so, it’s escaped my attention. (Especially the “great income” part.) I think the only thing I ever wrote for the Wash. Times was a piece entitled “Greasing the Skids at the Start of Death Row,” condemning the Habeas Corpus provision of the 1996 antiterrorism bill, which oped I coauthored with GWU professor Bob Cottrol and which was placed there through the efforts of that noted Moonie front group, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

What you’re seeing is desperation in the face of the A.N.S.W.E.R. debacle. (Atrios’ post tries to compare writing for the Washington Times with standing alongside anti-semites and Stalinists.) And it’s well-founded desperation. Or such sloppiness that he thinks my book reviews for the Washington Post were actually in the Times. (Or maybe it’s just trolling. . . .)

And have you ever noticed how it’s okay to show religious prejudice against Moonies, but not against fanatical Muslims? Nothing political there. Jeez.

UPDATE: TalkLeft is offering me a free membership in the NACDL. Dare I accept, in this era of creeping McCarthyism?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Kleiman thinks I’m entitled to a retraction, but thinks that my point about religious bigotry is weak.

January 26, 2003

HEY, I THINK I GET HATE MAIL FROM THIS GUY, TOO. If I replied to it, I hope I’d reply in the same vein.

January 26, 2003

HEARTENING NEWS: “Members of the British Muslim community are among those calling the loudest for Abu Hamza — the radical Islamist preacher whose mosque was raided yesterday by London police — to leave the country.”

January 26, 2003

AFRICANS ARE PROTESTING French unilateralism and neo-colonialism.

January 26, 2003

IF THIS IS THE A.N.S.W.E.R., says Mike Silverman, it must have been a pretty dumb question. Heh.

January 26, 2003

THIS ABC NEWS REPORT IS NOTHING WE DIDN’T KNOW, but it’s nice that it’s being reported:

Two related California studies to be released this week conclude it is currently impractical to catalog the ballistic “fingerprints” of every firearm in the state.

Recording every firearm made and sold in the nation’s most populous state could be overwhelming, according to an internal California Department of Justice report obtained last fall by The Associated Press. . . .

Given the miserable failure of Canada’s gun registry, it’s no real surprise that a California bullet registry would be, well, a miserable failure.

January 26, 2003

SCRAPPLEFACE DOES IT AGAIN: France Warns Iraq Against Acting Alone:

“Unilateralism is bad,” said Mr. deVillepin. “We urge Iraq to work in a multilateral way, through the U.N. perhaps, to manufacture, deploy and conceal weapons of mass destruction.”

Heh. Read the whole thing — the final sentence is the, er, killer.

January 26, 2003

INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS on “war tourism,” NGOs, and nuclear threats, from Baghdad blogger Salam Pax.

January 26, 2003

OLIVER WILLIS is football-blogging, and I think he plans to keep it up. He also asks a question that I wish I had thought to ask, and makes an observation worth a lot of people’s attention:

Dave Winer throws in some Internet triumphalism describing how “In 2003, when we want to, we can beat the NY Times, on a technical subject” in relation to today’s worm attack.

What use is any “internet reporting” when half the internet is inaccessible?

ALSO: This thing should make us think twice about how net-centric we want to make things. ATM machines were disrupted for most of the day, and I can bet that telephony like Vonage was offline as well.

Plus, he’s got cheerleader photos!

January 26, 2003

N.Z. BEAR HAS A CROSS-EXAMINATION OF HANS BLIX that’s worth reading.

January 26, 2003

BUSH’S FAILURE: He’s doing all right on the war — but he’d better be, because this is really damning:

WASHINGTON — Addressing the delegates more than two years ago at the Republican National Convention, President Bush invoked a line that had become a sort of mantra.

“Big government is not the answer,” he said.

Now, just past the midway point of his first term in office, Bush is presiding over the largest, most expensive — and, some would say, most intrusive — federal government in history.

Domestically, we might have a smaller government with Al Gore as President. As the article notes:

In the past five years, while median household income has grown by about 16 percent, the federal government’s spending has increased by 45 percent.

The trend was under way when Bush took office. After a four-year period ending in 1997 that saw fairly stable spending management — Congress’ budget authority grew from $509 billion to $511 billion — a spike began in 1998, when federal spending got an $18 billion boost to $529 billion. Spending in 2003 could top $750 billion.

Okay, a lot of that happened under Clinton/Gore — but Bush promised to stop it, not to carry on the policies of his predecessors. That was Gore’s schtick.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias points up another dropped ball, though he’s surprisingly charitable about it. Still, someone in the White House needs to be paying more attention here.

January 26, 2003

JIM HENLEY is now in his new bloghome. I don’t think you’ll notice a lot of difference in the way it looks, but it’s an MT setup on a more stable host.

January 26, 2003

CHEMICAL WARFARE SUITS WERE FOUND in the Finsbury Park Mosque raid:

BRITISH police investigating a terror plot by Islamic saboteurs have found chemical warfare protection suits in a north London mosque.

The discovery has shocked detectives, who believe the find confirms supporters of Osama bin Laden were planning a poison attack on civilian targets in Britain.

Scotland Yard and MI5 detectives had kept the discovery of the nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) suits secret.

They feared disclosing it would spark panic.

Government ministers have warned any suggestion that the Finsbury Park mosque had been involved would have worrying racist overtones.

It would? Why, exactly?

January 26, 2003

ROBERT MUSIL has an answer for Maureen Dowd.

January 26, 2003

PUNDITWATCH is up, and features a memorable quote from David Brooks.

January 26, 2003

DEFENSETECH REPORTS that the United States is considering pre-emptive nuclear strikes in Iraq.

Hmm. If we were really considering it, would we be leaking it? Possibly, I suppose.

UPDATE: Oliver Willis thinks it’s disinformation. But what if that’s what they want us to think . . . .?

January 26, 2003

“THE JUDENREIN ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT:” Kesher Talk reports that even leftie Jews are being frozen out of A.N.S.W.E.R. – organized marches if they believe that Israel has a right to exist.

Huh? I thought this was all about peace, and Iraq. How did Israel get into this? You think there’s a bigger agenda here?

January 26, 2003

TODD STEED, who I was in a band with once back when Jimmy Carter was President, has a new album out called “Knoxville Tells.” You can follow the link to read about it, or read a review here, or you can hear “East Towne Mall” here. You can hear “Smoky Mountain Dip” in RealAudio here.

There’s more vintage Steed here, including two of my favorite songs, “Five O’Clock” and “Ethiopian Jokes.” Yet another reason why I’m glad to live in Knoxville.

January 26, 2003

READER RAFAEL S. is disturbed by this defaced American flag featured in the Davos protests. “I hope the 3 bloody stars don’t represent the 3 states hit by Al-Qaeda,” he writes, asking “What else could it mean?”

I don’t know. Any ideas?

Then there’s this. Jeez. Andrew Sullivan has commentary.

UPDATE: Meryl Yourish has more.

January 26, 2003

EUROPE AND AMERICA: Gianni Riotta writes in the Post:

It is not America’s unilateralism that relegates Europe to the kids’ table. It is Europe’s budget priorities. Europe spends $2.50 a day on every cow that grazes happily on the grass of the EU. Yet defense spending lags. Andrew Moravcsik, a professor of government at Harvard University, estimates that “the United States spends five times more on military R&D than all of Europe.” Europe’s soldiers cannot fight beside their U.S. comrades-in-arms because they lack technology such as the AN/Pvs-7 night vision goggles; the U.S. Army has 215,000 of them. European forces have 11 heavy military transport planes; U.S. forces have 250.

The United States will accept Europe as a real equal when it sees muscle behind diplomacy. However much Europeans dislike Uncle Sam’s war machine, they forget that Europe can’t fight without it.

Yes. And the United States would, I think, be happy if Europe took actual responsibility for some of the world’s problems instead of carping from the sidelines. Most of America’s biggest problem areas, after all, from Vietnam to the Middle East, were inherited from others. But so long as Europe favors subsidies over substance, carping from the sidelines will be all it can do.

January 26, 2003

A HERD, NOT A PACK: Jeffrey Collins points to this not-very-encouraging story from Newsday:

Several government security screeners at LaGuardia Airport said that moments before they took a certification test to operate machines that detect bombs in luggage, instructors told them answers to all or most of the questions.

Four screeners interviewed separately described nearly identical scenarios from classes last month: an instructor taught material for several hours and then read and answered a series of 25 multiple-choice questions that were on an exam the screeners took immediately afterward.

“He read the questions right out of the test, word for word, answer for answer,” one screener said, adding that the 25 people in his class wrote down the correct answers on note paper and copied them onto their tests with the instructor out of the room.

A second screener, in a separate class in mid-December, said the instructor stayed in the room during the test but that the exam questions “were the same questions he asked orally just before the test.”

“It was pretty much set up so that you shouldn’t have any way to fail,” said a third screener, who, like all screeners interviewed, asked not to be named fearing retaliation. “The guy read all 25 questions to you just before he gave the test. To tell you the truth, as he gave the questions, I wrote the answers down, because he read them exactly in order.”

Jeez.

January 26, 2003

ARROYO GRANDE UPDATE: A reader said below that the story of the two high school students who tackled a gunman was talk-radio material. Talk-show host Michael Graham emails that he agrees, and he’ll be talking about it on his show on Cincinnati’s WLW, today from 12-3 Eastern. The URL for online streaming is here, or you can click the button on the stations’ website during the show.

January 26, 2003

SHORT-TERM ENLISTMENT: Here’s an article on a new short-term enlistment plan designed to produce more enlistees without resort to the draft. I’m not sure what I think about this — I’m not encouraged by one backer’s statement that it’s just a step along the way to compulsory “national service,” which I don’t support, and I’m concerned about the creation of a two-tiered military. On the other hand, there are a lot of military specialties that don’t require the kind of extensive training or commitment that combat arms tend to, and — in fact — we’ve already got a sort of two-tier system, as Tom Ricks noted in comparing the training regimen at Parris Island and Fort Benning with the less rigorous training provided to support troops at Fort Jackson. And it’s likely that a non-trivial number of short-term enlistees will decide to stick around for longer, which should help with recruiting.

Anyway, it’s an interesting development. There’s also a paper from the Progressive Policy Institute, Citizen Soldiers and the War on Terror, endorsing the idea.

Speaking of recruiting, somebody sent me a link to an article saying that Northern California was producing military recruits at a higher rate than anywhere else except (of course) Nashville, but I’ve lost the link. If you read this, can you send it again?

UPDATE: Reader Anthony Kim sends the link, but notes that the headline, “suckers for a uniform” is rather insulting.

January 25, 2003

AXIS OF WEASELS UPDATE: This article reports a sign at the antiwar protests last weekend reading “Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield – Axis of Weasel” — meaning that Scott Ott didn’t come up with the term first. But, of course, that makes the Scrappleface use of the term all the more impressive: not just creating a meme, but turning the opposition’s term against it, to the point where only geeky bloggers such as myself note the prior usage.

UPDATE: “Axis of Weasels” has made Maureen Dowd’s column for tomorrow. She also has a kind-of retraction of the Jefferson Davis wreath story. I’m calling that two triumphs for the blogosphere, with extra points for degree-of-difficulty.

January 25, 2003

NEW YORKISH is sort of like the offspring of a drunken roll in the hay involving Gawker and The Onion.

January 25, 2003

MICKEY KAUS ARGUES that if you’re anti-war, you should support Medicare reform!

I’m not sure I’m buying this, but it’s amusing.

January 25, 2003

JOHN COLE’s Balloon Juice has moved. Drop by, say hello, and adjust your bookmarks accordingly.

And via Balloon Juice, I noted that this Norman Borlaug oped — which appeared in the for-pay Wall Street Journal earlier this week — is now online at OpinionJournal. It’s a must-read on the subject of genetic engineering and third-world hunger. Borlaug won a Nobel Peace Prize — and, unlike some more recent recipients, actually deserved it.

January 25, 2003

VENEZUELANS ARE STAGING A 24-HOUR RALLY AGAINST CHAVEZ:

The rally – intended to last 24 hours – was called in protest against a court decision to block a referendum on President Chavez’s rule, which opponents say is dictatorial.

Venezuela, the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, has been gripped by the eight-week strike, which has caused severe fuel and some food shortages.

President Chavez is refusing to step down, saying his opponents are being manipulated by Venezuela’s wealthy elite. . . .

The protesters have accused Mr Chavez of behaving like a dictator and mismanaging the economy and have called on him to resign or call early elections.

They flooded a four-kilometre stretch (2.5 miles) of the major highway, chanting Until he goes! and waving the national colours of the Venezuelan flag.

There are blog-pictures here.

January 25, 2003

THE U.S. MARIJUANA PARTY has formed. There’s even a branch in Tennessee.

I was tempted to make the usual Stoner joke, but, actually, I wish them success. The “War on Drugs” is a horrible disaster that will, I think, be looked back on as an episode ranking somewhere between Prohibition and slavery on the scale of institutionalized evil.

January 25, 2003

LOTT UPDATE: So is the Lott affair over, or not? A few days ago, it looked as if it had been laid to rest, but people are still talking. I’ve been waiting for Jim Lindgren to do a wrapup on this, which he was going to do last week but which he’s now promising for sometime next week. Lott critic-in-chief Tim Lambert summarizes the whole affair here, and while his dislike of, and distrust of, Lott is quite evident, he’s got all the links pro and con. There is now substantial evidence that Lott did in fact conduct a survey in 1997 — some factual corroboration and one person who says he was surveyed, which seems to be enough to satisfy most people, if not all. And certainly there’s no evidence presented, beyond inference and questions, that Lott didn’t conduct the survey. If that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

But for now, the surest sign that this issue is largely settled is that Lambert is now arguing a different question — not whether the survey was conducted, but whether the 98% figure is accurate. I have no opinion on this at all. I’m not qualified to judge the statistical merit of this stuff, and at any rate, the question originally presented wasn’t whether Lott is a poor scholar, but whether he’s an honest one.

I’ve been uncomfortable blogging on this subject because I’ve been involved in trying to get to the bottom of it, though chiefly in the form of repeated and forceful admonitions to Lott to make as much information public as possible, as soon as possible. Lott has released his income tax data and all of the information on his forthcoming survey replicating the 1997 study to scholars for examination. They seem satisfied. (Interestingly, Lott, like Lambert, seems to think that the real question is whether his figure is ultimately right. They’re both wrong, in my opinion). Unlike the Bellesiles affair, where I was on the outside wondering why it was getting no attention, here I was (somewhat) on the inside — enough, at any rate, that blow-by-blow blogging felt wrong, especially on side issues like email pseudonyms.

I’ve been a bit annoyed by the efforts on behalf of many to make this into a Bellesiles-payback case. First, the Bellesiles case was in the email-list and scholarly inquiry phase for over two years. When I first blogged it, on October 3, 2001, the Bellesiles case had already been the subject of extensive detective work by Clayton Cramer, investigative reports in the Boston Globe and National Review Online, and over a year of back-and-forth on the same email list where people have been discussing Lott. My first post was, in fact, occasioned by Emory University’s demand to Bellesiles that he explain himself. I hadn’t blogged the issue earlier because it seemed premature; people were still looking into the matter.

As I said in my first post on this subject, even Lambert stated up front that this question didn’t call Lott’s main argument into question. Bellesiles was accused of, and eventually shown to have engaged in, outright fabrication of major data crucial to the essential argument of a major published work. Lott was accused, and not shown to have engaged in, false reports of conducting a study that was never published anywhere. The Bellesiles process went on for two years. The Lott process, by that standard, has taken place in an eyeblink. It’s also notable that Tim Lambert wasn’t ignored or dismissed in the way that Clayton Cramer was for years, and that some of those (including me) who have leaned hardest on Lott to explain himself are those who generally favor the results that his work shows. That’s in notable contrast to the Bellesiles case, too.

Greg Beato, who sometimes takes it upon himself to lecture me on fairness and decorum, has demonstrated his commitment to fairness and decorum by photoshopping Lott in drag and conflating Bellesiles’ false claims that a critic had forged emails attributed to him, with Lott’s use of a pseudonym in chat groups, two rather different things, on the dubious basis that both were “Internet-related.”

Lott has not covered himself with glory in this matter, and the pseudonymous-posting thing is kind of weird (though, um, certain bloggers are not in a position to criticize pseudonymous argument too much, and raising it after the main claim seemed to have been laid to rest seemed a bit cheesy to me). And I think that Lott’s reputation will suffer from all of this, and it probably should. But the desire of many people to have a Bellesiles-payback-on-the-cheap has done them no credit either. Accusing an academic of fraud is a serious matter, best done by those who — like Clayton Cramer, or Jim Lindgren — have done actual work, and have actual evidence relevant to the matter at hand. That’s one reason why I’ve waited on Lindgren, since everyone seems to agree that he’s honest, and he can hardly be accused of wanting a Bellesiles payback. And when Lindgren posts his findings, I’ll report those, of course.

UPDATE: David Levy, an economist at GMU, emails:

I’ve known John Lott for a long time and he’s been really good about data sharing. I require students to replicate published worked in my econometrics classes and one of them had the guts to get data from John. “Guts” only

because the data set is huge. It came on a zip disk (if I remember correctly) and probably in Stata format. No one at George Mason was using Stata then so it was a mild pain to get it converted.

People reviewing their own work and neglecting to sign their name has a long, wonderful tradition. One of the best reviews of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is by … yup … WW himself.

Levy also edits the excellent Library of Economics website.

January 25, 2003

MORE FRIENDS OF PEACE AND DEMOCRACY in San Francisco.

January 25, 2003

DAVID WARREN WRITES THAT:

next week is the crunch. I expect we will come to look back on this as we do now upon the League of Nations in its last moments — the League’s failure to act on Abyssinia, and so forth, in the gathering clouds of World War II.

The U.N. has manoeuvred Mr. Bush into a position where he cannot advance towards Baghdad without pushing them over. It follows he will push them over — and let the world know why. As I see it, we have reached the end of the road, either for Mr. Bush or for the United Nations. I expect Mr. Bush to prevail; but if he doesn’t, I’ll tell you. I expect Mr. Bush to be blamed for the convulsion that then seizes the U.N., but in the longer run I think it will be seen that the U.N. killed itself.

The North American media are if possible overplaying the soap operatic performances of Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder, as they strew thumbtacks along the road to Baghdad. If you turn to the European media, you see that the French and Germans themselves hardly take their leaders so seriously. They are used to this kind of cynical posturing, and it doesn’t make the front page. What scares them is rather the American earnestness, the possibility that Mr. Bush means what he says. They expect politicians to lie to them — it is part of the “social contract” as in Canada — and when one of them starts putting his money where his mouth is, they are naturally alarmed. . . .

Here, in microcosm, is the real battle, the one reflected in macrocosm in the contest between Mr. Bush and the United Nations. It could be summed in one sentence:

“Do we think that what we ARE is worth defending?”

Yes.

January 25, 2003

HERE’S A RATHER UNDER-COVERED DEMONSTRATION: 40,000 Koreans demonstrating in favor of the United States, and getting next to no coverage in the United States.

January 25, 2003

ELECTRONIC BALLOT-BOX STUFFING isn’t very hard in Canada’s NDP elections, according to David Artemiw. More proof of the general superiority of paper ballots.

January 25, 2003

MORE ALGERIANS: This just keeps happening:

Four Algerians are being investigated over possible terrorist links after being stopped leaving a bureau de change with thousands of pounds in cash.

The men held outside a London bureau by Customs officers were carrying more than £16,000 in US dollars.

Security services were alerted and are investigating where the money came from, what it was for and the possibility it was linked to terrorist funding in the UK or abroad.

The cash, which Customs believed to be linked to criminal activity, was seized on January 9 following an intelligence operation.

When stopped, the men claimed the money had been withdrawn from a bank account in Algeria and that it was going to be used for clothes shopping in the UK and US.

They produced copies of bank slips and invoices but investigators established through officials in Algeria that the account did not exist.

“I’m shopping for clothes. My size? I wear a ‘C-4′ — see, that’s why it’s on my shopping list for the Semtex mall. . . . It’s somewhere in New Jersey, I think.”

January 25, 2003

THE NEW YORK TIMES IS WAY BEHIND THE BLOGOSPHERE, but it’s finally onto the International A.N.S.W.E.R. story:

Answer, whose name stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, was formed a few days after Sept. 11, 2001, by activists who had already begun coming together to protest policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Some of the group’s chief organizers are active in the Workers World Party, a radical Socialist group with roots in the Stalin-era Soviet Union. The party has taken positions that include defense of the Iraqi and North Korean governments and support for Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugolav president being tried on war crimes charges.

The positions of some of Answer’s members have caused rifts in past antiwar movements as well. In January 1991, at the onset of the Persian Gulf war, two coalitions of protesters marched separately, on consecutive weekends, because one refused to align itself with the other, whose members included current Answer officers who would not criticize the Iraqi government or support economic sanctions against it.

In an interview today, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a spokeswoman for Answer, said questions raised about the group’s role were “classic McCarthy-era Red-baiting.”

It’s not McCarthyism to call people who are communists, communists. Communists, as devoted followers of murderous totalitarianism, deserve to be called to account every bit as much as their Nazi colleagues. And in the 21st century, they can hardly pretend to be ignorant of their ideology’s true nature.

I think it’s interesting, though, that today’s antiwar movement hasn’t maintained the separation from the communists that it maintained before. Some people are catching on, though:

The next national rally is scheduled for Feb. 15 in New York, and it is being sponsored by United for Peace, a coalition of more than 120 groups, most of them less radical than Answer.

It’s pretty hard to be more radical than a group whose key members think that the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, and the Tiananmen Square Massacre, are both just fine. These guys don’t seem to have gotten the word, though.

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll notes that the Times story has proved James Lileks right: “McCarthyism” today doesn’t mean false accusations of communism; it apparently means calling self-identified communists by their proper name.

ANOTHER UPDATE: David Adesnik criticizes my blanket condemnation of communism, and there’s an interesting debate going on over on Oxblog. Nelson Ascher, who informed me of the debate, sends this answer to Adesnik:

A communist in America today who in his way endorses the Gulag is every bit as much an apologist for totalitarianism and genocide as any rightwing nut who denies the Holocaust. In a way, we could say he/she is even worse, because there is no Nazi extermination camp in activity anywhere, but there are Gulags in places like Cuba, North Korea or China. Thus, while a German neo-Nazi, for instance, is directly responsible at most for some immigrants killed in Europe, a communist is backing exisiting regimes that keep exterminating hundreds of thousands as we discuss.

Then, his idea that they or some of them may have been justified because of “their passionate commitment to social justice” is rather hard to defend. We could even say that at least the Nazis were sincere (though nobody would take them at their word in time) while the communists gave even hypocrisy a bad name. Murdering in the name of lofty ideals is, for me, an extra perversion once, besides the human corpses, they littered the discourse with the corpses of the ideas and ideals they’ve instrumentalised and debased. That, by the way, is exactly what many in the left are doing nowadays when they use terms like “peace” and “human rights” to promote Saddam’s dictatorship or the cold blooded massacre of Israelis. And what was exactly the kind of social justice they actually preached? Hunger for all, except for party members.

It’s because there are people trying to show that, well, the worst the left did wasn’t as bad as the worst the right did, that our European friends keep denying that leftist synagogue burning is anti-Semitic. What’s the next step? Looking for the righteous roots of Islamicist anger? The Muslims too have their own ideas about social justice, right?

When, during the Russian civil war, the Finnish whites were threatening to intervene against the Bolsheviks, Lenin warned Mannenheim that the distance from Henlsinki to Petrograd was the same as the distance from Petrograd to Helsinki. Thus, “the gulf that separates America from Europe” because of “simplistic” American anti-Communism isn’t smaller than the gulf that separates Europe from America because of simplistic European apology of communist crimes.

The Western European communists backed their Eastern European, Cuban, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese counterparts until the bitter end and even after that. For God’s sake: the Trotskyites nowadays do back lunatic Stalinist/Maoist regimes such as that in North Korea! They’ve also backed the fascistic military in Argentine during the Falklands war as well as the Talibans.

Yes, the only unifying thread I can find is opposition to America if possible, and, failing that, opposition to Western ideas of freedom. To call such an ideology evil is no exaggeration. To defend it is to defend, well, evil.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Meryl Yourish responds to the defenders of A.N.S.W.E.R.’s role in the protests.

January 25, 2003

I’VE HAD TROUBLE REACHING A LOT OF SITES TODAY, and Oliver Willis emails that this fast-spreading Internet worm may be the reason. He says he can’t even reach his own site. I hope the first-class tech people at HostingMatters are on the ball; so far, InstaPundit seems fine.

If it goes down, don’t forget the backup at http://instabackup.blogspot.com. And those of you who run your own servers, well, be careful.

UPDATE: Dave Winer notes that blogs beat Big Media on this one.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Of course, if I’d bothered to check the support forum I would have seen that the geniuses at HostingMatters were already on top of it.

January 25, 2003

U.N. INSPECTORS MURDER IRAQI DEFECTOR, FAMILY: How bad is this story? Bad enough to get Chris Kanis to come out of retirement. Excerpt from the CNN Report:

Appearing agitated and frightened, the young man, with a closely trimmed beard and mustache, sat inside the white U.N.-marked utility vehicle for 10 minutes, AP reported. At first, an inspection team leader sought help from nearby Iraqi soldiers, but the man refused to leave the vehicle as the uniformed men pulled on his sleeve and collar.

“I am unjustly treated!” he shouted.

Then U.N. security men arrived, and they and Iraqi police carried the man by his feet and arms into the fenced compound, journalists said. The man was turned over to Iraqi authorities at a government office adjacent to the compound, U.N. officials said.

I guess the U.N. wouldn’t want to give would-be Iraqi defectors the idea that doing so might be, you know, safe. The guy had a notebook. I wonder what was in it?

I suppose he could be just a common garden-variety nut, but he doesn’t look like one in the picture, and we’ll certainly never know. But the message was undoubtedly received by any potential defectors: approach us, and we’ll hand you over.

Can we charge the inspectors with “material breach?”

January 25, 2003

A PACK, NOT A HERD: I reported last week on the two heroic teenagers who subdued an armed and dangerous classmate in Arroyo Grande, California. Sadly, I was about the only one outside the local media in Arroyo Grande who did. Here’s a local column on the subject:

It’s not often that students jump a gun-toting, teenage nut-ball who’s taken a classroom hostage at gunpoint, then wrestle him to the floor so their high school won’t become synonymous with Columbine and grape Kool-Aid.

Arroyo Grande High students Clay Gheza and Jonathan Griswold did. The kid who’d walked into their sophomore English class on Friday waving a 9 mm pistol with murder in mind was more interested in having a bloody good time than conjugating verbs. If Gheza and Griswold hadn’t grabbed him, we’d probably be attending a lot of funerals this week and I’d be so despairing that you wouldn’t be able to read this column because I wouldn’t be able to write it, and it’d be hard for you to read it anyway, blinking away all those tears.

Everybody in SLO County knows about it, and that’s the problem: Nobody else does. That’s what makes me more annoyed than usual. . . .

I flipped the channels incessantly, endlessly, annoyingly on Friday and Saturday and all this week, hoping to see Gheza and Griswold being interviewed by Connie Chung and Wolf Blitzer about their amazing act of selfless regard on that Friday morning, how they leapt and struggled the kid to the ground, holding the his arm down, the gun waving, struggling more, it might go off, the students screaming, the bullet, the bullet, it might go off, we could all be killed, hold him, hold him–

And the inevitable lame question from our irrepressible, ubiquitous, and oh-so-coifed national news models: “And how did you feel?” Headlines across the nation, “Student Heroics Avert Classroom Murder,” a phone call from the president, “Boys, your braveness and heroicking makes me proud–could sure use your help with that Baghdad bozo,” and the talking heads nodding and blabbing, “McLaughlin,” “McNeil,” “The Capitol Gang,” all bursting with amazed approval, astonishment, and praise, “Gosh, Jim, can you believe it? Amazing, simply amazing, why if they’d been on board those planes, there’d have been no Twin Towers disaster–we’ll be right back with an exclusive interview right after the break … ”

Nope. Nothing. Zippola-nada-noodle. If there was a mention, I missed it, and so did everyone I know who has a TV remote and a national newspaper subscription and the sense to know that this is the stuff journalists stumble out of bed each morning nursing their hangovers over, hoping to find that big old dog with that big old bite for that big old Pulitzer, maybe today, maybe, maybe–Arroyo Grande? Where’s that? How many kids got killed? None? Bummer. Hey, I know! We could go make some ice cubes on the sidewalk!”

“I just thought, ‘I’m going to take him down,’” Jonathan Griswold told the Tribune. “We didn’t want him to hurt anyone,” said Clay Gheza, with humble modesty that makes me feel like a jerk. I could learn from him.

So could Dan Rather, as soon as he pulls his head out of his butt.

I don’t actually believe that there’s a conspiracy among Big Media to constantly present an image of the American public as a bunch of bumbling, helpless boobs in need of constant supervision by the Nanny State, while suppressing all evidence to the contrary. But, you have to admit, its easy to see why some people do think that.

UPDATE: As far as I can tell, the story only got covered in the item I link above, and in these “”news brief” treatments in the Mercury News and the Fresno Bee, where it sat next to stories about community fund-raising dances and too-tall Santa statues. Pretty damned lame.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Scott Boone reports that it got some coverage:

I DID see a national news story on these guys…I think it was on 20/20 the other night (Thursday). I say “I think” because it could have been Dateline, etc (sorry, I was flipping channels, being a “pirate” and not watching the commercials–please don’t rat on me ;)

Anyhow, the one thing about the interview that really caught me was the fact that the interviewer never really tied this act with the acts on Flight 93…that they really are in the same vein. And more importantly, nothing was even HINTED at that it is THIS kind of vigilance and courage that we, as a country, need to promote in order to vanquish our savage enemies and their idiotarian allies. They wryly made more hay out of the fact that the “jocks” did nothing, and that the “rocker” and the “surfer” saved the day…geez, nice time to solidify the foundations of class warfare.

Just wanted to pass along that it was at least news-magazined, if underreported.

Well, sorry, you’re busted on the commercial-skipping thing, you “thief.” Funny that a local writer didn’t know about this (and neither did the Arroyo Grande local who sent me the link), but not actually shocking. Did anyone else see any coverage?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire has found some other coverage, though far less than the story deserves.

He thinks the story should be all over talk radio. I agree.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, here’s a transcript of a CNN story. Maybe nobody in Arroyo Grande actually watches TV?

And reader Fred Butzen emails:

Many thanks for the posting on Gheza and Griswold. Having a couple of teenagers myself, one of whom has just signed up with the Marines, I appreciate hearing stories like this. There’s a lot of troubled kids out there, but there’s also a lot of kids whose heads are screwed on straight as well.

Their action, though, simply underscores what a woman friend said to me after 9/11:

“It takes balls to live free.”

I can’t think of a better summary of why we fight the Islamofascists – and why we’ll win.

And why the French aren’t interested. . . .

January 25, 2003

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AND THE INDIAN CASTE SYSTEM: An interesting perspective from someone who has seen both.

January 25, 2003

A READER SENDS THIS LINK to an Iraq Daily column and asks “Isn’t Tupac Shakur dead?”

Ah, but that’s what they want you to think. Actually he became disgusted with American imperialism and defected to Iraq, where he’s producing propaganda to educate the masses.

Coming soon: An explanation of why the American people really don’t support Bush, despite the recent election and Congressional declaration of war, by Notorious B.I.G.

Oh, wait — my mistake: it’s already out!

January 25, 2003

HERE’S A WHITE HOUSE PAPER on what genuine disarmament looks like. Not surprisingly, it’s rather different from the shell game that Iraq has been running. Put it together with this oped by Condi Rice from earlier in the week, and the White House has made pretty clear what it’s demanding, and what it’s not getting, from Iraq.

January 25, 2003

I’VE HINTED AT POSSIBLE UNTOWARD FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS involving North Korea and South Korean politicians. This story isn’t quite what I had in mind, but it’s fascinating.

January 25, 2003

MORE ON THE PRIVACY FRONT: I’m deeply skeptical about this program:

Last week, the Transportation Security Agency announced its intent to create a new passenger-screening database that will be the centerpiece of a system to scan for potential terrorists by instantly checking every domestic traveler’s credit history, arrest record and property tax data.

Property tax data? Hmm. I suppose that could be a legitimate way of checking addresses — but only for people who own property. Seems dubious. Or will we — along the lines of other programs — start saying that people who owe property taxes, or child support, will lose the “privilege” of travel by airplane?

There’s this, though, which is comforting as long as you believe it:

Unlike the controversial Total Information Awareness research project, the central database of the Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening Program II, or CAPPS II, will contain permanent financial records, intelligence reports and law enforcement records only on those suspected of posing a national security risk, according to the Jan. 15 Privacy Act notice.

But how many of these assurances do I believe? Sadly, based on past performance, not very many.

January 25, 2003

FRANCE AND IRAQ? Trent Telenko says that France has lost it. A reader calls the current self-destructive stand the diplomatic equivalent of WaterWorld (Ouch!) — an expensive bit of self-indulgence that’s effectively going to end France’s position as a Bankable Star.

January 24, 2003

“IF YOU DON’T REMEMBER HIM, Gary Hart is the Democrat who cheated on his wife with a skinny girl.” Jay Leno, just now. The joke didn’t get a very big laugh.

January 24, 2003

THE NEW SMARTER HARPER’S INDEX is up! Don’t miss it.

January 24, 2003

TONY ADRAGNA is fact-checking TAPPED.

UPDATE: Well, it appears to be more complex than Adragna thought, though apparently it’s more complex than TAPPED thought, too. Does anybody know what’s going on there?

January 24, 2003

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT! No, really, that’s what it is.

January 24, 2003

HEY! There might be hope for Robert Fisk yet! Okay, cuteness aside, this story about a reattached head (yes, that’s what I said) is pretty cool.

January 24, 2003

IBERIAN NOTES HAS MORE ON THE SPANISH AL-QAEDA ARRESTS:

The Al Qaeda arrests here in Barcelona (see below) are significant news. They are solid proof that Al Qaeda is a threat to the civilized world. They planned to commit acts of terrorism, apparently using chemicals, right here. And in London, Paris, and Strasbourg. If this doesn’t convince Europeans, including those in France, for God’s sake, that it’s time to draw a line in the sand and say “Take your stand. You’re either with us and against the terrorists, and we mean all the terrorists; you’re neutral and will enjoy the advantages and also suffer the drawbacks of having been a fence-sitter; or you’re on their side. Which is it?”–then I don’t know what will. And if anyone doesn’t see by now that Al Qaeda is in cahoots with Hezbollah, Al Fatah, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, and all those other flaming bags of shit, you are willfully ignoring the obvious. And where do those people get their money, weapons, and support? Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, North Korea, Sudan, Algeria. AND certain people, some highly placed, in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and everywhere else in the Arab / Muslim world and a lot of places outside it.

What I find amazing are all the educated, intelligent people who are perfectly willing to believe that mobile phones fry their brains, that Monsanto is trying to take over the world, that the CIA or the Mafia or the Teamsters killed Kennedy, that there’s a conspiracy between the government, the referees, and some obscure figures with “muchos intereses” to screw FC Barcelona out of the League again this year, that opening the window when it’s hot outside is bad for you, that you can catch a cold if the wind blows on you, that crystals have a lot of power and so do pyramids and that everyone has an energy field (and that mine is negative), that feng fuckin’ shui is something more than a millenarian superstition, that electric power lines give off radiation, that there are people out there who pay untold sums of money to watch snuff movies, that there are Satanic cults sacrificing babies infiltrating our nursery schools, that it’s possible to lose weight without eating less, exercising more, or both, that AIDS is a plot by the federal government to exterminate blacks or gays or both, that the CIA was running drugs from Nicaragua into the USA to fund the contras, that you can learn a foreign language by paying thousands of dollars and sitting at a computer terminal, that the US Army had hit squads to kill deserters in Vietnam, that O.J.’s son was the one who really did it, or that this whole war thing is a devilish plot cooked up between the oil companies, the Pentagon, the arms manufacturers, Dick Cheney, and the Bavarian Fuckin’ Illuminati, yet they are unwilling to believe that there are governments and organizations out there that are working together with the goal of destroying everything that we all cherish about our Western society and that maybe we ought to take action against them now while we still can rather than wait until we can’t anymore.

Indeed. Scroll down for quite a lot of detailed information on who these Algerian Al Qaeda sympathizers are.

January 24, 2003

LAW PROFESSOR BLOGGER ERIC MULLER has more thoughts on Korematsu.

January 24, 2003

GOOD GRIEF! Traffic’s already over 100K, again! Hmm. I blame the cold weather, keeping people close to their nice, warm computers. . . .

UPDATE: At 11:45, it’s 111, 449 — a new record by a mile. Must be damn cold out there.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Adam Woolcock emails: “Don’t credit the cold weather for all your hits! Here in Melbourne, Australia it was 43d celcius here today (109 fahrenheit). If any of your readers want to swap and come live in this inferno i’ll be happy to take offers.”

Er, well, in your case maybe it’s the nice, air-conditioned computer room. . . .

January 24, 2003

ANOTHER MAN IMPRISONED FOR EXERCISING HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. I assume the ACLU will be all over this one.

January 24, 2003

TONY ADRAGNA OBSERVES: “Problem with the French is that they need a reminder ’bout how everytime the Germans exert influence on the Continent things invariably end up worse.”

You’d think they’d have learned by now.

January 24, 2003

A MAJOR DROPPED BALL in Defense Department computer security. Jeez.

January 24, 2003

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC will be doing a swimsuit issue, next month. Hmm. Maybe I should do an InstaPundit swimsuit issue!

Maybe I shouldn’t.

January 24, 2003

KEN LAYNE EXPLAINS HOW TO FIX SALON: Someone should listen.

UPDATE: John Scalzi is dissing Salon’s business model and also points out that InstaPundit gets as many daily uniques as Salon has subscribers. On the one hand, well, that’s true, but I don’t charge people thirty bucks a year. On the other hand, I haven’t burned though tens of millions of dollars of other people’s money by funding lavish offices, wild parties, and absurd vanity ventures.

Hmm. And too bad — it sounds like it would have been fun!

January 24, 2003

STEVEN DEN BESTE LAYS IT ON THE LINE WITH A PREDICTION:

The Anglo-American conquest of Iraq will be seen in history as what historians like to call a turning point. It will mean the end of the UN as anything even remotely resembling a meaningful international body. It will also mean the practical end of NATO, which just refused a request that it move forces to protect its member Turkey from any Iraqi punishing attack north. It will totally alter the world diplomatic situation, with many bilateral relationships becoming stronger and others becoming much more cool and the reputations of some nations rising and those of others dropping through the floor. And it’s going to end up changing the political dynamic inside Europe which has until now fed the process of formation and expansion of the EU.

The conquest of Iraq will wipe away any remaining traces of the international diplomatic order left over from the Cold War.

And it’s going to happen and no amount of vocal opposition and diplomatic grandstanding is capable now of forcing Bush to involuntarily refrain from ordering the attack.

I think he’s probably right. And I think that a reformed Iraq has the potential to lead to regime change throughout the region — something that the various leaders have been worried about, as have their patrons (and clients?) elsewhere.

UPDATE: The Pontificator says I’m wrong to want regime change throughout the region, since it might be bloody and chaotic.

Bloody might be okay, if it’s the right people. I’m perfectly happy to see the last emir strangled with the entrails of the last mullah, if it comes to that. But it probably won’t, or at least it need not. After all, you could have made (and people did make) the same kind of predictions about the fall of the Soviet Union, and it didn’t turn out that way.

At any rate, regime change will come anyway, sooner or later, because it’s a region of weak states, unhappy citizens, and strong outside interest. I think this is a better context for regime change than we’re likely to find otherwise. And, as I said earlier:

I don’t pretend to offer guarantees that American intervention in the region will make life better for the people who live there. I think it will, I hope it will, and I think we should do our best to make that so. But those are secondary objectives. The primary objective is to make clear to leaders that if their country threatens America, they, the rulers, will be out of power at best, and dead along with all their family and friends at worst. Is that “nice?” No. I don’t care.

This is also why I prefer a Mussolini-style ending in which Saddam is lynched by his own people to exile, or even a trial. I think that would provide a valuable lesson.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ann Haker emails:

If Saudi subjects now see that their neighbor, Iraq, is using its oil wealth to build a dynamic and vibrant economy, while their own leaders have lavished most of the oil revenues on themselves and their Swiss bank accounts, they wil begin to demand that the oil wealth of the Arabian Peninsula be used for their benefit, not the benefit of the al Saud family.

That’s what the Saudi family must fear most.

Well, maybe not most, but yes, I think the “trust” move was a diplomatic stroke that hit several targets at once.

January 24, 2003

BOY, THE U.S. / EUROPE DIVIDE HAS GOTTEN BAD: Rand Simberg has found contingency planning for a U.S. invasion.

January 24, 2003

A LOT OF PEOPLE SEEMED TO LIKE my Neal Stephenson-inspired post on Athena, Ares and war. So quite a few may also be interested in this review by Lynne Kiesling of Joel Mokyr’s The Gifts of Athena.