Instapundit.com Instapundit.com

July 12, 2002

VACATION AGAIN! Yep, I'm going on vacation for another week. Well, lots of people have been telling me to take it easy, so I'm following that advice. As Billy Joel says, working too hard can give you a heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack, and there's been enough of that going around the blogosphere lately to make me take his advice seriously.

I'm taking the laptop this time, so there may be intermittent blogging. But don't send email, unless it's really, really, really important. Important enough that you'd want to get it on your vacation. Capice?

In the meantime, read this piece by Rand Simberg on appropriate celebrations for July 20th, and as the day draws near read his weblog for more updates.

TIPS FOR BLOGGERS: If you're using Blogger, the old Archive Bug Fix apparently doesn't work. This new one does, according to Bobby Allison-Gallimore of BaggySlims.Com. Bobby writes:

I don't know if you want to share this with your readers or not, since a lot of them (and those you link to) use Blogger via Blogspot, but it might help. I've found that in order for the direct post links to work these days, I have to republish the current month's (or week's) archives (under the archive section) each time I add a new post or series of posts to my weblog. Once I've republished the current month's archive, the links seem to work just fine. So for instance, if I add a new post tonight, then I need to republish my July archive in order for the permanent post link to work.

Ugh. Well, there you are.

CRITICIZE THE STATE DEPARTMENT, GO TO JAIL: At least, that's (sort of) what happened to Joel Mowbray of NRO. He was briefly detained by armed guards after asking some unfriendly questions. But NRO has the last word:

But for at least a few minutes, Mowbray had a harder time leaving the State Department than many Saudis have had entering the country.

Sadly, it's also true.

THE L.A. EXAMINER HAS MORE on the Crooks incident.

This has gotten so much attention it's starting to eclipse the incident he taped. Hey, you don't think. . . .?

"GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT:" Yahoo is trying.

Oops. This isn't Yahoo! Fooled me.

EVERYTHING NEW IS OLD AGAIN: The Indepundit reports:

The director of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a Bush appointee, instructed his enforcement chief to investigate allegations of insider trading by George W. Bush in connection with his sale of stock in Harken Energy.

LEGGO MY HUGO: Porphyrogenitus says Chavez is a dictator, pure and simple.

THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS has filed an amicus brief on behalf of "dirtybomber" Jose Padilla. TalkLeft has more.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has comments. This link works now; if it doesn't when you try it, try his main page. Damn Blogger bug.

JONAH GOLDBERG BLAMES ISLAM. Well, the nasty Wahhabi part of it, anyway. Weirdly, John Derbyshire is taking a softer line.

AL QAEDA IN SEATTLE? Here's a report from AP on the grand jury investigation.

MICHAEL BELLESILES has a new essay out on guns, and it's getting bad reviews from Eugene Volokh and John Rosenberg.

ATTENTION BLOGGERS: N.Z. BEAR has a concrete proposal on what the Blogosphere should be doing to promote freedom in Iran.

Somebody tell Michael Ledeen.

GRAY DAVIS UPDATE: There's good news and bad news in this latest Field Poll on Gray Davis. Bad news (from Davis's standpoint): most voters think he's doing a bad job. Good news: not as many as in April.

BEN DOMENECH HAS TAKEN THE BAIT with my earlier post on Judy Levine and teen sexuality. He emailed that he wanted to be sure he hasn't misconstrued my own views. He hasn't.

You'll have to scroll, because -- in the latest weird Blogger behavior -- his permalinks aren't working. Or, well, they work in that they take you somewhere -- they just take you to a different post than the one the permalink is supposed to go with.

I don't know what the problem is. I unsubscribed from Blogger's email list a while back; I'm still technically a subscriber, I guess, but I don't use it anymore.

It pains me to see it having so many problems. Blogger has done great things, and I probably wouldn't be here if it hadn't existed. But it seems to be developing more problems, not fewer, over time.

All I can say is, if this is too much for you Blogger users, Movable Type seems to work fine, and Stacy Tabb sure made the move painless for me.

UPDATE: Here's another view, from The Compleat Iconoclast.

THE PROBLEM WITH FINANCIAL SCANDALS is that when you start digging you find that people from both parties are involved. That was the problem with Enron, and it looks like it's happening again.

IMPLANTABLE NANOSENSORS: Here's a new research program from NASA that's another stop toward what I wrote about in my last TechCentralStation column.

Of course, there's a downside, which is something I'll write about in my next TechCentralStation column.

SOME READERS THOUGHT I WAS TOO HARD ON THE L.A. District Attorney's office about the arrest of beating-videographer Mitch Crooks. They pointed out that he had outstanding warrants. (Yeah, but go try to get someone arrested on outstanding warrants sometime and you'll see how little that means). But now the L.A. Examiner is reporting that Crooks is hospitalized with injuries received as a result of the arrest.

I said before it looked like witness intimidation. Now it really does. This stinks.

Memo to John Ashcroft: sounds like it's time for a federal investigation.

PROLIFE LANGUAGE IN KASS REPORT: This isn't exactly a surprise, but it's still a good catch by TAPPED.

JOHN SCALZI has his own ambient electronic music available on his site. Check it out.

JASON RYLANDER notes claims that a cloned human baby will be born in December. I'm skeptical of these reports, but sooner or later, one of them will be true.

CLIMATE CLIMBDOWN: Back on June 18, I linked to data suggesting that a story on Alaskan climate change by Timothy Egan in the New York Times was, ahem, exaggerating things. Now Andrew Sullivan, who was also on top of this, notes that the Times has (sort of) admitted the error.

ELECTED DICTATORS: Can you be a dictator if you took power legitimately through an election? Readers seem to be enjoying this debate, so I guess I'll weigh in further.

The short answer is "yes," and in fact the original "Dictator" -- a war leader used by the Roman Republic -- was legitimately chosen, though he was "elected" by the consuls. (But as this Roman history page from the University of Texas illustrates, the Dictator is sometimes grouped with the elected magistrates. The Roman Republic -- like our own system -- was far from a pure democracy). The Dictators tended to abuse the, um, dictatorial powers they were granted, which led to the term becoming pejorative. (This is a cautionary tale regarding the grant of extensive wartime powers generally, of course, even through legitimate processess).

Reader John Monasch writes:

Will the "Chavez, dictator or democrat?" debate continue? I contribute the following recent, non-Nazi example of a democratically elected leader morphing into a dictator (in case you haven't thought of him or others already):

Peru's Alberto Fujimori

Please use him if you continue this mini-feud (it's fun for the readers). This example also seems to back up Porphyrogenitus's claim that people would be more outraged if Chavez was right-wing. I'm definitely a Reynolds partisan but I think that Alterman may have the advantage in that, so far, Chavez cannot be completely booted out off the democratic leader camp and into the dictator column. He hasn't rigged or cancelled any elections (yet) a la Arafat and Fujimori and the shooting of protestors and jailing opposition has not quite reached dictatorial proportions (yet), but I could be wrong. I know he's tried to tinker with the Venezuelan constitution but it may have been through proper legal challenges; I don't know enough about the details to say for sure. He's very iconoclastic.

Alterman may be right about the label you used but you, however, have the advantage in the big-picture argument in that Chavez (former failed coup leader) is a dangerous figure and needs to be watched, if not overthrown outright. Just because he's not a dictator, doesn't mean his actions are defensible. If he makes it to the next election, he's toast and will probably cancel or rig them and then you will be able to laugh at Alterman. In the meantime, democrat or not, Chavez will continue to cause further misery and shame for the people of Venezuela. At least Fujimori did mostly good things for his country and is an anti-terrorist hero. Too bad he slipped into corruption couldn't let go of power in the end. I have a hunch that if conditions in Peru worsen, Fujimori's reputation may eventually be rehabilitated and he may even return from exile in Japan. Maybe not. He slipped pretty badly. But I'd take him, over Chavez any day. Alterman wouldn't.

Well, I'm glad you're enjoying this (very) mini-feud. We aim to please.

Personally, I'd say dictator is as dictator does -- and more important than whether he/she was democratically elected is the question of whether he or she can be democratically unelected. Chavez, as I mentioned earlier, is no Hitler. But he's hardly a posterboy for democracy and legitimacy, either. It seems clear that he's willing to do pretty much anything, legal or otherwise, to keep and expand his power, which to me is the hallmark of a dictator.

Another example is Robert Mugabe -- democratically elected at first, but a pretty indisputable dictator now. If you don't want to count him as a dictator, then it suggests that your definition of dictatorship is too damned narrow.

UPDATE: Lynxx Pherrett notes that no similar outrage attended the removal of the Estrada regime in the Philippines:

Both Chavez and Estrada were clearly elected, both convincingly ran as champions of the poor, both fail(ed) as President, both were ousted in mob rule/direct democracy protests; Chavez was reinstated after counter-mob rule/direct democracy protests while the EDSA III protests/May Day riot failed to regain the Presidency for Estrada.

That the Left is acting outraged over Bush's response to the events in Venezuela in 2002, after only mildly questioning while tacitly approving the Philippine coup in 2001, has more to do with their disapproval of Bush's Mid East policies than any actual concern for constitutional procedures and the rule of law in other countries. In 2001, Bush wasn't telling the Palestinians that they had better come up with some responsible leadership if they wanted to talk to the US, so both the Left and the Right could quietly watch a (mostly) bloodless coup in the Philippines. But now it's a little over a year later, the Left had to squawk about Chavez to maintain their front of "principled opposition" to any Administration pressure for the ouster of Arafat.

I'm not sure that it's concern for Arafat that's the motivator here -- even my cynicism has limits -- I think it's more that this presents an opportunity to attack Bush.

UPDATE: And no, this isn't a "feud" that Alterman and I have cooked up to generate traffic. We're responsible bloggers, and we wouldn't do that.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Boy, but if we did, we'd be geniuses, judging by all the email this has generated. Reader Robert Hochman writes:

I noticed your discussion of elected dictators and couldn't agree more with your analysis. Democratic legitimacy comes not only from getting elected, but most importantly from ruling and submitting oneself for re-election.

Without trying to be self-promoting, this is the very point I made a few days ago in the The New Republic online, when talking about democratic reform in the Palestinian territories. President Bush said that rejecting old leadership and adopting reforms is a pre-requisite to statehood. What he didn't say, and what he should have said, is that electing new leadership that implements anti-terror policies, AND re-electing those leaders after a fixed term in office is a pre-requisite to statehood.

Yes. I think that being able to get rid of leaders is a greater hallmark of civilization than electing them in the first place.

July 11, 2002

THE ENTIRE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE CASE IS A FRAUD, reports Howard Bashman, citing this report that the girl in question isn't an atheist and doesn't mind the "under God" language in the Pledge.

Hmm. Since the suit was filed by her father, in his capacity as parent, I'm not sure how much this matters; you have two interests -- hers in religious freedom (now apparently not in play) and his to raise his child. But that makes the case look more like Mozert v. Hawkins County school board, where the parents lost. Interesting development. Rory Little, who's a pretty smart guy, is quoted in the story as saying it makes a difference.

It certainly provides a convenient way out for the Ninth Circuit, if it wants one.

COYOTE HOWLING has a bunch of cool links on space colonization, and arguments on why we should be working at it.

JEFF COOPER isn't big on the idea of arming flight attendants.

SOME INTERESTING ECONOMIC DATA at RobertPrather.com.

TEEN SEXUALITY: Judy Levine writes that she's for it.

CLONING AND MORE: As I predicted earlier, the elusive Virginia Postrel has reappeared, with multiple cloning-related posts, and more! I like this aside:

Fiscal watchdogs should take a look at the "council staff and consultants" list, which demonstrates that a) this really was a jobs program for neocons, particularly Public Interest alums b) people in Washington expect an amazing amount of administrative assistance. The commission had an administrative director, an executive assistant, a staff assistant, and a receptionist/staff assistant. Haven't these people ever heard of computers?

BRAD DELONG says the economic news isn't so bad.

TURN IN A COP, GO TO JAIL: The guy who shot the video of the Los Angeles police beating has been arrested as he waited to be interviewed by CNN:

Amateur photographer Mitchell Crooks was arrested outside CNN's Los Angeles bureau where he was scheduled for an interview. Witnesses said he was screaming as he was driven away by plainclothes officers.

Authorities said Crooks was taken to the grand jury investigating the beating case. He had failed to appear before the jury Thursday morning as scheduled. Authorities said his arrest was unrelated to that case.

Sorry, but I don't believe there's anything routine about this. It looks like an attempt to intimidate a witness. Somebody at the L.A. County D.A.'s office should lose his/her job over it.

UPDATE: Hmm. Read this phone transcript. The DA doesn't look any better.

I've been agnostic on this story -- but now LA is acting like it's got something to hide. That makes me believe they're guilty.

REASON points out that George Bush may be positioning himself to the left of Barbara Boxer on the question of arming airline pilots. And he's already to the left of Richard Cohen!

JOHN WEIDNER IS CALLING FOR BLOGGERS TO MOUNT AN OFFENSIVE in favor of freedom in Iran. Let's do it!

GRAY DAVIS UPDATE: Today's Field poll gives him a lead of only 7 points, and says his "supporters" don't like him very much, they're just uncomfortable with Simon. Daniel Wiener, who has been skeptical of Simon's chances up to now, thinks that Davis is in trouble.

I'm no California political expert, but today's power problems can't be helping.

OKAY, THIS ISN'T REALLY NEWS: I remember a scientist telling me at a conference in 1999 that with a protein synthesizer and a computer anyone could make homemade viruses from scratch. But now someone has gone and done it.

Unfortunately, we're in a technological window of vulnerability at the moment. In a decade or two, you'll be able to manufacture a cure just as easily. But not now.

MARK, STEYN WRITES THAT IT'S ROPE-A-DOPE AGAIN -- only it's the Euros who are the dopes:

For Bush, it’s a win–win situation. If the Palestinians elect the Hamas crowd, he can say, ‘Fine, I respect your choice. Call me back when you decide to put self-government before self-detonation.’ If they opt for plausible state and municipal legislators, Bush will have re-established an important principle: that when the Americans sign on to nation-building they do so only to bring into being functioning democratic, civilised states — as they did with postwar Germany and Japan. Who’s to say it couldn’t work in Palestine? Not being a colonial power, the Americans don’t have that win-a-few-lose-a-few attitude — here a Canada, there a Zimbabwe — that the British have. So the Bush plan is perfect: heads we win, tails you lose. That’s also how some of these other international questions are being framed: heads, the International Criminal Court will be modified to our satisfaction; tails, we won’t have to do any more lousy UN peacekeeping.

The question Matthew Parris might like to ask as he weeds his borders is why could no European leader make a speech like that? How did it come about that the entire EU reflexively stuck with an aging terrorist who cancelled the last scheduled elections? Which bear is really the one with the little brain?

Personally, I think of the Europeans more as Eeyore: always talking about how nobody likes them and nothing's going to work out, but being invited along anyway.

ERIC ALTERMAN can't stop defending Hugo Chavez. But I don't see where his comments about Hitler's election differ from what I said below.

Alterman adds an unattributed version of Godwin's Law:

[W]e have a rule in my house. If you have to go to Hitler, you’ve already lost the argument.

Well, we have a rule in my house, too: If you keep claiming that Gore really won in Florida, you've lost the argument, too. And the election!

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus isn't having any of it:

If he was a right-winger, then the behavior of the Chavez government and the mass protests against him would be an international cause-celeb and Chavez would be rightly drummed out of the community of "respectable" government leaders. Since he's a Left-wing Fascist and friend of Castro, they're ignored (and the Liberals and Leftists who usually claim to speak for "human rights" seem to admire him and say that anything against him is "contrary to democacy"). Typical.

Indeed, the double standard here is quite visible.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Dennis Bumb writes:

RE: Eric Alterman's "Hitler Rule"

Mr. Alterman says "[We] have a rule in my house. If you have to go to
Hitler, you've lost the argument."

I'm a big fan of Godwin's Law, but when the topic of conversation is, I
don't know, DICTATORS, then maybe bringing up Hitler is somewhat apropos.

Does the Alterman Rule also apply to discussions of genocide or the Nazis?
That must make for some weird conversations.

Well, I've never visited Eric's house, so I couldn't say.

ANDREW HOFER has uncovered an internal Al Qaeda memorandum that, apparently, didn't make it to all the troops.

LOUIS FARRAKHAN IS DENYING earlier reports that he prayed for an Iraqi victory over the United States:

"I would never ask God to allow the American people, of whom I am one, to be slaughtered in a war or to die in a war for really what I see is a vendetta of our government against Saddam Hussein," Farrakhan said.

Weirdly, this makes Farrakhan sound more patriotic than Stanley Hauerwas, who prayed for something very much like that:

Sober us with the knowledge that you will judge this nation, you will humble this nation, you will destroy this nation for our pride. Send us a reminder that you are God, that you alone have the right of vengeance, and if it be your will, make those we bomb instruments of your judgment.

IS THE L. A. TIMES GOING TO FOLLOW SALON'S BUSINESS MODEL? Sounds like it, based on this L.A. Examiner report. And is there a teensy bit of antitrust concern in that "priceless" quote?

SPEAKING OF STACKED PANELS: Now that the Kass Council is done, and turned out to be less stacked than it appeared, maybe there's hope for this NAS panel on gun violence. Though one panel member denied being "rabidly antigun," critics said otherwise. Let's see whether they prove the critics wrong, or right.

TAPPED SAYS I'M WRONG about the insignificance of the Kass Council report on cloning. According to Tapped it signals a new political strategy: now that an outright ban on cloning has stalled, go for a "moratorium" instead. This is probably right -- but its entirely political nature underscores the insignificance of the Kass Council's expertise. You don't need a panel of bigshot experts to be politically expedient.

A BACKDOOR EFFORT TO GET A NATIONAL ID? Read this. I'm against it. If we can't keep the State Department's employees from selling visas to terrorists, how are we going to keep lowly DMV clerks from circumventing this for pay?

LOOKING FOR A DIRTY BOMB: Now this is just plain weird.

TODAY IS THE FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY of the first transatlantic TV transmission, via Telstar.

Which, by the way, is also the title of a very cool song by The Shadows, produced by music-tech-geek hero Joe Meek.

UPDATE: Oops. Reader Chuck Freund informs me that it was the Tornadoes, not the Shadows. He's right, too. Well, I was in diapers at the time. . . .

NPR IS GETTING IT FROM BOTH SIDES -- while conservative groups say it's biased, lefty alternative media say it's sold out to corporations, and that it played an evil and inappropriate role in squashing low-power radio. Sadly, I think both groups are right.

NPR IS APOLOGIZING to the Traditional Values Coalition for suggesting, apparently with no basis whatsoever, that the group may have been behind anthrax attacks.

I'm sure I disagree with the TVC on at least as many issues as I do with NPR, but the report on NPR here sounds pretty damned bad -- and all too typical, I'm afraid.

OBSCENE MORAL EQUIVALENCE, a continuing series: Here's how Patrick Bateson, Provost of Kings College, Cambridge, justifies Mona Baker's removal of two Israeli scholars from an academic journal based on their nationality:

Always," he said, "science is set in social contexts." As an example he cited Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz doctor who tortured Jewish children in experiments.

"Supposing we had the possibility of collaborating with a Mengele," Professor Bateson said. "That would be a case where everybody would say politics would definitely come into science, and say we could not let that happen."

Sometimes I think I'm too hard on the Euro-academic crowd. But maybe I'm not hard enough.

BARBARA BOXER supporting armed pilots? And over the objections of the Violence Policy Center! That's what Craig Schamp reports. The VPC's star has really set.

UPDATE: Heck, these guys can't even keep Massachussetts from liberalizing its gun laws. (Though once you get past the Globe's hysterical coverage there's not all that much going on here). Still, it's Massachussetts. Looks like I was right when I said last fall that the tone was shifting on this issue.

THE KASS BIOETHICS COUNCIL has issued its report. The Post is treating the results as mixed, but anti-cloning people are crowing while researchers say the process was political.

But as I wrote in May, it doesn't really matter. Bush has already made up his mind to oppose cloning, making the Kass Council a sideshow at best, phony political window-dressing at worst. The big news, if there's any, is that the Council, despite looking stacked, was so closely divided. This suggests that anticloning legislation is going to continue to have trouble in Congress. That's as it should be, since it's none of Congress's constitutional business anyway.

Here's a link to the report. I'm going to try to read it later, though I'm very pressed for time, trying to get a project finished today. In the meantime, you can read this FoxNews column of mine from February, and see if you think the report answers the objections set out there.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel hasn't weighed in on this yet (in fact, she hasn't posted in two weeks) but I imagine she will, soon. Meanwhile, Charles Murtaugh has a post.

GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS ABOUT IRAN: Tom Holsinger writes on StrategyPage that the mullahs are so desperate that they're importing Palestinian and Iraqi mercenaries to keep their own people in line. "A tottering government's resort to foreign mercenaries for domestic suppression, in lieu of existing regime-protection forces, indicates that its end is near."

The bad news is, they're also getting assistance from the U.S. State Department, which values stability over the collapse of a hostile regime. Holsinger says that this is typical:

The major issue here is the State Department, as it has been so captured by its foreign constituencies that it is effectively on the other side in the war on terror.

Sounds like major housecleaning is in order.

H.D. MILLER POINTS OUT that the odious Pakistani honor-rape decision is more about caste than about Islam.

CHRISTIAN BLOGGER MARTIN ROTH is disturbed by figures showing a correlation between non-catholic Christianity and HIV/AIDS incidence in Africa, and shows commendable honesty in worrying about what that means.

I'm not sure it means much. Over the years I've seen a lot of charts correlating AIDS incidence with everything from language to circumcision rates.

Roth also notes that Islamic areas tend to have lower rates. This may well be true (among other things, the widespread Muslim custom of washing before and after sex may help). On the other hand, they may just have lower reporting rates, for reasons of stigma. (This may be true of the Catholic Christian areas, too.)

Why AIDS has spread so extensively in Africa, and why rates are so different in different parts of Africa, remains a mystery. Religion might be the explanation, but there are a lot of other candidates.

THE MINUTE MAN says that armed pilots may not, ahem, "fly," with European air security rules:

The bill applies to domestic and international flights. Left unanswered is whether the Euro-weenies will allow armed US pilots into their tranquil airports. Perhaps the bill covers this by deputizing the pilots into Federal service, but I wonder if it is that easy. There are also real issues here: if an armed pilot looks Germanic, there is a good chance that half of the natives on a flight to Paris will surrender.

This is an outrageous calumny. As the response to "shoebomber" Richard Reid demonstrates, French civilians are quite courageous when circumstances require. So unless the flight is full of French politicians, no surrender is likely to be forthcoming.

WHICH WWF IS FOR YOU? Tim Blair ponders the strange resemblance between wrestling and wildlife organizations.

EUROWEENIE ANTISEMITISM ALERT: German literary critic Martin Walser has a new novel coming out, said to be the first antisemitic novel published in Germany since the War. The book, Death of a Critic, features a thinly disguised version of a real person, well-known German (Jewish) critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki. Here's what the Times says about it:

This being Germany, there is one other element in the book which has sent shock waves through the literary world. It is anti-Semitism. The principal character in Death of a Critic is a Jew — and not just any Jew. He is, in the words of Die Welt, “not a man, but a monster of corruption, of vulgarity, vanity and lubricity. He personifies the Jew as an object of hate.”

So this is more than just an attack on Reich-Ranicki, it constitutes an assault on his race as well. It is the first anti-Semitic novel to be published in Germany since the war. Realising this, the publisher of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has hurriedly cancelled his plans to serialise it, describing the book as riddled with “anti-Semitic clichés”.

His nervousness is not surprising. Reich-Ranicki himself is not just any Jew. He survived the Warsaw Ghetto in the most dramatic of circumstances. As a young man in July 1942, he was deputed to take the minutes as Sturmbahnführer Hermann Höfle determined which Jews were to be “resettled in the east” and which would be kept back. Reich-Ranicki was allowed to stay. His parents were not. They did not survive.

So Walser’s attack is more than just an injured writer hitting back; it is, as the current literary editor of Die Welt, puts it, “an execution, a settling of scores, a document of hate”. The editor was particularly repelled by a sentence towards the end of the book where the critic’s wife observes that “getting himself killed would be out of character”. As a comment aimed at the sole survivor from a family destroyed by the Nazis it was, he noted, “nothing short of horrifying”.

And, sadly, not especially surprising these days.

CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER! Four airport screeners have actually been fired for incompetence!

ASK AND YE SHALL RECEIVE: The kids at Warbloggerwatch invited Howard Owens to Fisk them. He complied. It's pretty much a waste of time, as their sloppy ad hominem attacks are unlikely to convince anyone anyway, but shooting fish in barrels can still be fun.

AL QAEDA IN THE UNITED STATES: This report is worrisome. 5,000 Al Qaeda operatives and supporters?

I'm a bit skeptical, unless the terms are defined rather broadly. And in a way it's good news if it's true: a group that big should be easy to infiltrate. But Al Qaeda will die based mostly on what we do abroad, not what we do playing defense at home.

THAT'S ECLECTIC! Stanley Fish's postmodernism and Bush's energy policy -- deconstructed in adjoining posts on The Twelfth Parsec!

SCOTT ADAMS says there's nothing to get excited about in today's raft of CEO scandals:

But here's the strangest backwardism of all: People seem surprised that captains of industry are stealing vast amounts of money at every opportunity. Back in our old dimension everyone assumed that C.E.O.'s and C.F.O.'s were weasels. Now it's big news.

I think it's useful to put these corporate scandals in perspective. Every employee I ever worked with in my old cubicle-dwelling days was pillaging the company on a regular basis, too. But the quantity of loot was rarely newsworthy. My weasel co-workers were pocketing office supplies, fudging expense reports, using sick days as vacation and engaging in a wide array of work-avoidance techniques.

Most people rationalize this kind of behavior by saying that corporations are evil and so the weasel employees deserve a little extra. The C.E.O.'s and C.F.O.'s aren't less ethical than employees and stockholders; they're just more effective.

MICKEY KAUS CONTINUES HIS FEUD with the MediaWhoresOnline crowd. Maybe we can get Jesse Ventura as guest referee.

July 10, 2002

TOOK 'EM LONG ENOUGH: Amnesty International is finally condemning Palestinian attacks on civilians. Late as it is, this is another sign that the suicide-bombing campaign has failed.

BO COWGILL provides this link to a safe-sex-education videogame that you can play on the web.

Some people won't like this. I think it's kind of cute.

ANIMAL RIGHTS TERRORISM IN SEATTLE caused hundreds of people to be evacuated from a building. The "weapon" in question was a military smoke grenade. So is this really "terrorism?" Well, of the nuisance variety, anyway. It was calculated to inspire terror -- and at a time when people are fearing terrorists' use of chemical or biological weapons, it worked. It's on a par with fake-anthrax mailings, which certainly count as terrorism.

Not one of those borderline, could-be-or-not cases, like, you know, shooting up an airport.

UPDATE: Reader Worth Colliton writes:

According to the SeattleInsider, the animal rights group calling itself "Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty" targeted Marsh, Inc., a company which insures Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Marsh, Inc. is a subsidiary of MMC, Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., the largest insurance brokerage firm in the world. MMC corporate headquarters were located on floors 93-100 of Tower One in the World Trade Center, the floors which took a direct hit from the first plane on 9-11. MMC lost over 300 employees that day.

Nice folks. Brimming with compassion.

CATERINA FAKE WRITES about the Compassion Project ,which is soliciting photographs that will inspire compassion. I thought about submitting these two -- but then I thought, hell, the originals didn't succeed in inspiring much compassion, so . . . .

A PALESTINIAN PEACE ACTIVIST explains his strategy for peace.

MARTIN DEVON SAYS I'm wrong about the FBI's reasons for downplaying terrorism.

WORRIED ABOUT A POPULATION EXPLOSION? Stephen Green explains who's to blame -- and who's not.

RED HEIFER ALERT: The End Time is surely upon us.

TOMPAINE.COM is still quoting Bellesiles on the Second Amendment. Well, strictly speaking they've published a book excerpt that quotes Bellesiles, but it still doesn't do much for their credibility:

Moreover, as historian Michael Bellesiles has found, actual firearms ownership in America has been greatly exaggerated and mythologized. He reports that, from colonial times to 1850, gun ownership never exceeded 10 percent of the population, owing in large measure to the scarcity of guns, which were difficult and expensive to produce, and the considerable difficulty involved in maintaining in working condition those that existed.

Well, that's not going to do a lot for their credibility on this issue, given that even the National Endowment for the Humanities and Garry Wills have written off Bellesiles' work . Next up: Joe Ellis on his Vietnam combat experiences!

NONE DARE CALL IT TERRORISM: Okay, so when NBA star Allen Iverson storms into a home and threatens two men while looking for his wife, the police want to charge him with "making terroristic threats." Meanwhile, the Hadayet shooting at LAX still isn't officially being called terrorism.

Reader Mike Branom, who sent the link, says he's unimpressed with these developments. He should be.

THE FAT GUY responds to Al Qaeda bluster with a quote from Samuel L. Jackson.

THIS MORNING CounterSpin Central was pooh-poohing my "Condi in 2004" point, saying that Cheney was going to be around for a while. But by this afternoon, he was saying Cheney is about to step down.

Condi in '04!

THE RECORD INDUSTRY LYING? Surely not.

HERE'S A PAPER ON BIOLOGICAL TERRORISM that should have special appeal to Melissa Schwartz and Orchid.

TED BARLOW (permalinks not working -- you Blogger types need to call Stacy Tabb and find something more reliable) says that I was wrong to cite Media Pundit's take on the Harken affair.

Barlow may be right: I missed it, being blissfully unaware of the news while on vacation last week, and I haven't really caught up. Barlow does, however, say that those discounting this scandal should apologize for hyping Whitewater.

I hope he doesn't mean me. I never thought much of Whitewater -- in fact, my 1997 book The Appearance of Impropriety: How the Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business and Society (Free Press) was spurred in part by my belief that too much was being made of minor ethical lapses in the Clinton Administration. Lanny Davis has even used it as a text in his political communications class at GWU.

So I don't think I can be accused of being a premature Clinton-basher. It was only later that I came to believe that Clinton was a sleazeball's sleazeball, but that's another story, and it doesn't have much to do with Whitewater.

In the meantime, will all those (er, all us?) who said Whitewater was no big deal now change their stories, too?

NONE DARE CALL IT TERRORISM: My FoxNews column can be read now, though it's technically for tomorrow.

REBECCA BLOOD nails it:

First a Department of Homeland Security and now a Corporate Fraud Task Force (or the Committee for Corporate Feasance, as I like to call it).... And I thought that throwing more goverment at problems was the hallmark of a Democrat administration.

If only it were so. It was Nixon who presided over what scholars of administrative law call the "regulatory explosion" of the early 1970s. And he did it for political reasons that, I'm afraid, resemble those motivating the Bush Administration.

UPDATE: Nick Denton had a similar reaction.

STEVEN DEN BESTE has responded to an earlier post by Group Captain Lionel Mandrake on why Switzerland was never invaded. I tend to agree with Den Beste, though I think he's a bit optimistic regarding the range at which Swiss soldiers could kill Germans.

IAIN MURRAY sends this link to a piece on "Air Rage" from 1999 in which he observed: " Air rage, insofar as it exists at all, is an invention of airlines and the media, covering up a series of underlying problems with the industry as a whole."

And it's only gotten worse.

ERIC ALTERMAN wants to know how I can call Hugo Chavez a dictator when he was elected to office.

What does that have to do with anything? Hitler was elected to office.
Chavez is no Hitler, but he's been using, ahem, extralegal methods including the shooting of unarmed protestors and the creation of unofficial armed gangs to intimidate his opponents. Sounds dictatorial to me. (Points off for the snarky Bush dig, too.)

And back atcha, Eric: would Ann Coulter really be "in jail" for her inflammatory comments if she were a lefty?

UPDATE: Brian Carnell notes that Chavez celebrated the 10th anniversary of his own failed 1992 coup attempt earlier this year, suggesting that it's a bad idea to lean too hard on Chavez's democratic bona fides: "Yeah, it must have been the CIA that put those thoughts of military coups into the heads of Chavez's opponents, since Chavez himself is such a firm, outspoken supporter of democracy."

Of course, people keep trying to tell us that Yasser Arafat is a democratically elected leader, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Several people have written to say that Hitler wasn't elected. This is only sort of true. Hitler was originally appointed as Chancellor by Hindenburg in a busted-coalition situation. But that was legitimate under the Weimar constitution, and elections that confirmed Hitler's power followed, as this capsule history from the BBC makes clear:

When he took office, Hitler was leading a coalition government. There were only three Nazis apart from himself. He immediately called a general election to try to win a majority.

On 27th February, just a week before the election, the Reichstag caught fire and burnt down. A communist, Franz van der Lubbe was arrested inside. Hitler used this as an excuse to arrest many members of the Communist Party, his main opponents.

The general election took place on 5th March 1933. the Nazis won 288 seats. This was not a majority, but 52 Nationalists supported them. At the first meeting of the Reichstag on 23rd March, the 81 Communists stayed away. Hitler could now do as he liked. . . .

When President Hindenburg died in August 1934, Hitler was finally able to gain total power and combined the posts of chancellor and president, giving himself the title of Fuhrer.

So unless you regard the parliamentary system, or at least coalition governments under a parliamentary system, as democratically illegitimate, I think it's fair to say that Hitler was democratically elected. Sure, he behaved undemocratically once elected, but so has Chavez (and so has Arafat, whose "election" was far less legitimate than this) which was my point.

GRAY DAVIS UPDATE: Matthew Hoy says he's trying to destroy a small newspaper that criticized him.

UPDATE: Daniel Wiener says Davis has the Democratic party scared over his vow to sign the "little Kyoto" bill, which Dems think will create referendum problems in November.

GOOD NEWS / BAD NEWS: RonK sends this Wharton study which finds U.S. corporate reports the cleanest in 31 countries.

That's a response to Gerhard Schroder's barbs, but it does make me wonder about the state of foreign markets.

TIM BLAIR says he's figured out why Salon is folding.

JAMES LILEKS has some thoughts on realistic war games:

While doing a radio interview about computer-game violence the other day, I came up with a good definition of a “realistic” war game: they ship 45,000 copies, and only 15,000 of the games allow you to proceed past the beach. That’s it. No refunds, either. You get off the landing craft; your screen goes black; your computer seizes up and cannot be rebooted. Game over, man.

I don't play computer war games, but this sounds like an idea that won't sell.

JUST RAN ACROSS this amusing warblogger piece.

MORE ON AIRLINE SECURITY: Reader Dave Ragsdale writes:

Regarding the America West incident and general airport security rudeness, the point that security personnel aren't even faking being professional and courteous anymore reminds me of a story Bill O'Reilly told on his radio show last week. His bag was being searched by the security guard, and when the search was done she began stuffing his clothes back in as though it were a laundry hamper. O'Reilly politely asked her to replace things the way she had found them, and she snapped, "Come over here," and pulled him out of the line. Of course O'Reilly wasn't having any of it and quickly called a cop over and demanded to speak to her supervisor and was ready to talk to the airline about her unprofessionalism. But the idea that a polite request to put items back neatly into a suitcase should trigger that kind of hostility and abuse to a passenger doesn't seem very suprising these days.

To be fair, my experience with the security folks has been uniformly good, and I've been uniformly polite. But by all accounts there's a lot of power-tripping going on by some of these folks.

This underscores my theory that by federalizing them the Bush Administration was really engaged in a stealth move to blacken the reputation of federal employees generally. Looks to be working. Of course, America West is doing the same for the airlines, so I suppose it could just be widespread incompetence.

I'VE GOTTEN SOME HOSTILE EMAIL about my links to Mickey Kaus's posts on leftist political violence. So has Charles Austin. He's posted this response.

UPDATE: And here's another one.

BUSH NAMES FIRST HISPANIC TO SUPREME COURT, reports Howard Bashman.

DANIEL TAYLOR OF Dreaded Purple Master has been hospitalized after a heart attack. His wife says he's expected to make a full recovery. Feel free to visit and leave your get-well wishes in the comments section.

He's a trouper: "Daniel did ask for a room with an internet connection but the nurses just laughed." Hey, a man's gotta blog. If they can't give me a room with a T-1, I just won't get sick.

JUST NOTICED Enterprise Economy, a new economic news-and-analysis site run by Charles Oliver (formerly of Investor's Business Daily).

FROM THE NOT-SERIOUS-ABOUT-THE-WAR DEPT.: Mickey Kaus reports that members of Congress have decided that homeland security isn't important enough to justify actually firing incompetent employees!

AMERICA WEST UPDATE: Robin Roberts emails:

I think that the item you refer to re: America West tossing off a
passenger who joked about drunk pilots shows something I've noted
before. That airlines are treating their own customer service failures
as "air rage" incidents. How many businesses can deal with upset
customers by criminalizing them?

Absolutely. And this, of course, makes a mockery of security and antiterrorism.

TERRORISTS ON A TEST RUN? This story sounds alarmingly like the one told by James Woods. Only it's from March.

UPDATE: Reader Frederick Larsen sends this note:

My sister is an America West employee (in Phoenix) who works at the boarding gates. She told me that last week boarding of a flight was disrupted by the presence of a group of 3 obviously Arabic men. Apparently they were not carrying or checking any luggage, were praying in the terminal (and a passenger alerted my sister's boyfriend -- also an America West gate employee -- that they were praying about some pretty odd stuff, things that make you very anxious - I guess she understood Arabic). Of course, this had a bunch of the passengers very nervous. The pilots didn't want to fly. Some supervisor apparently then interviewed the people and checked them out somehow and determined that they were not terrorists and cleared the flight for departure. Apparently about a dozen people chose not to take that flight.

This incident was scary enough for me to hear about, but to then hear that similar things are happening in other parts of the country REALLY makes me
worried.

Well, on the one hand you could say that this story proves the sytem worked. A reasonable suspicion led to a followup, which determined that everything was okay, and it was. I wonder, though: would a dozen passengers have been unwilling to fly with the woman who asked if the pilots were drunk? Probably not. But she wasn't allowed to fly after further inquiry -- she was bumped to another flight entirely.

Airline security is a joke. And it's not a funny joke.

READER MARK WHITE writes that with Cheney getting flak over financial scandals, it's time for the GOP to think seriously about moving Condi Rice onto the ticket.

Well, as the Ruffini-certified originator of the Condi 2004 boomlet, I'm all for that. Though I think perhaps the White House should be focusing on the war at the moment.

A PASSENGER WHO JOKINGLY ASKED IF HER AMERICA WEST PILOTS WERE SOBER was forcibly removed from the plane.

Best quote:

"Nowack said the crew decided to take the woman off the aircraft after determining that her remarks constituted a potential security problem.

"While this passenger may have been joking it is difficult to determine if someone is joking or serious. We take any comment regarding safety seriously," she said.

Here's a clue: when somebody says "I have a bomb," it may be hard to tell if it's a security threat. When somebody says "Are your pilots drunk?" it isn't. Jeesus Christ, how stupid can the airlines be?

The worst part of becoming an airline employee, I guess, is when they stick a straw in your ear and suck out half your brains. And we trust these guys to operate potentially lethal equipment?

UPDATE: A reader writes to say that I'm unfair here. Pilots are under a lot of stress, and security is hard.

Yeah. But this wasn't about security. This was about abusing security-related powers to take petty revenge on a passenger who said something the crew didn't like. I don't think I'm unfair to point this out. In fact, I think I was pretty gentle, considering.

BRING ON THE CYBORGS! And thank an engineer. My TechCentralStation column is up.

GERHARD SCHROEDER, reports Mickey Kaus is saying that the various U.S. accounting scandals prove that American-style shareholder capitalism is inferior to the European approach.

Anyone who believes this should read David Ignatius's article on the Elf-Aquitaine scandal from last months' Legal Affairs. That scandal -- with its mafia-like behavior by government officials -- suggests that European-style state capitalism has little to brag about in the scandal department. Indeed, the eagerness of American politicians to respond to things like WorldCom and Enron, compared with the coverups in the Elf-Aquitaine matter, suggests the opposite.

July 09, 2002

ENDLESS REHASHING OF BUSH V. GORE leaves me cold, but here's an oped by Julie Hilden at Findlaw arguing that subsequent decisions by the Supreme Court suggest that the decision was a principled one.

I doubt this will change anyone's mind, which is one reason why it's hard for me to get excited about discussions of the case.

DONALD SENSING WRITES:

The terrorists will attack again, but nothing counts as terrorism!
On the one hand, we keep being told that new terrorist attacks are pretty much inevitable. On the other, when an Egyptian Muslim shot up an El Al ticket counter the FBI et. al. quickly claimed that there was no reason to believe it was terrorism.

Color me confused and losing confidence rapidly.

My FoxNews column for tomorrow will say something similar.

SOME LINKS to bizarre Rapatronic photos of nuclear detonations, courtesy of BrownPau.

The Rapatronic camera, by the way, was (natch) the invention of Harold "Doc" Edgerton, a minor hero of mine in my youth. Yeah, I was a geek. Still am.

"PSSST. HEY, BUDDY: I know where you can find some o' them Ann Coulter pictures you been lookin' for. But don't tell nobody else."

I MISSED THE WHOLE HARKEN FLAP last week, and I'm still not clear what it was about. But this post suggests why it's already died down.

WHILE AIDS PROTESTERS ARE BOOING TOMMY THOMPSON, Brian Carnell notes that South African President Thabo Mbeki is still fighting to keep AIDS drugs out of the hands of pregnant women. Well, he was until South Africa's Constitutional Court ruled against him last week, anyway.

SKBUBBA DESCRIBES his money call from Tom Delay. It went badly.

REID STOTT has proof that he's not a "right wing wacko war monger." He's a left wing wacko war monger.

So there.

I MENTIONED BLOGGER DIFFICULTIES BELOW. I should have mentioned that if you're tired of Blogger, Stacy Tabb can set you up with a new, pretty site like this one.

And she's cheap! reasonable!

UPDATE: Hey, check out the new, Sekimori-designed Andrew Olmsted site. Cool.

STILL MORE on the Arafat Baby-Wipe mystery. (Via LGF.) I think that Slate should do an "Explainer" column on this one.

BRAD DELONG says that Brink Lindsey's book, Against the Dead Hand, is "brilliant."

TAPPED SAYS THAT Jonah Goldberg was too easy on Stanley Fish. According to Tapped, Fish isn't even good on Milton.

JUAN NON-VOLOKH takes on Sean Wilentz in a no-holds-barred assault.

WHY IS THE LEFT SUPPORTING OPPRESSION? Mangeclous wants to know. So do I.

Hey, linking to the Google translation actually works! If you want it in the original French go here.

DAMIAN PENNY finds a new low in anti-American hate speech.

DON'T FORGET IRAN: Joe Katzman has thoughts and links on the subject.

NICK DENTON CALLS IT WELL on the corporate-corruption front:

In criticising Bush administration economic and security policy, Democrats fear sounding anti-business, and anti-American. And they have only themselves to blame for that. The Democrats damn corrupt CEOs for impoverishing small investors, and putting their employees' livelihoods at risk. And a few kneejerk liberals whine about mistreatment of Arabs, and a heavy-handed security policy.
These attacks may be just, and even popular, but they are small-minded. The real reason to attack corporate corruption, and to let the fatcats swing from the rafters, is to defend the system of American capitalism. The CEOs who inflated earnings, the investment bankers who encouraged them, and the accountants who turned a blind eye: they are not just white-collar criminals, they are traitors. They have done more to undermine the freewheeling culture of American business than any external enemy.

Yep.

MORE ON WHY THE SAUDIS ARE NOT OUR FRIENDS: From Victor Davis Hanson.

BOGUS RACISM BULLSHIT ALERT: Eric Alterman smacks George Bush with the old "some of my best friends are Negroes" line.

The problem is, Alterman -- like most who abuse this rhetorical trope -- has it all wrong. The classic example was the white bigot who said he couldn't be a racist because some of his best friends were black -- only to have it turn out that those "friends" were his caddy and his shoeshine guy.

Bush, on the other hand, was referring to Colin Powell and Condi Rice, who he appointed to be Secretary of State and National Security Adviser. It's not really the same thing.

Alterman may just not realize where this phrase came from, because it's been morphed into an all-purpose way to ensure that white guys can't bring up counterexamples when charged with racism. But he ought to know better. And so should everyone who thoughtlessly employs the "some of my best friends" line.

HONEY IS BAD, say vegans, because worker bees are oppressed. Well, naturally. And, of course, others say that the giving of flowers on Valentine's Day is barbarous cruelty. To the flowers. Chortle.

UPDATE: Several readers sent this link, which is well worth checking out. "Carrot juice is murder. V8's genocide."

LOUIS FREEH is getting an undeserved pass on pre-9/11 incompetence, writes Josh Marshall, who adds that "Freeh's chief accomplishment as FBI director was to oversee an almost endless litany of fiascos while successfully ducking responsibility for all of them."

Unfortunately, addressing this would make both Democrats and Republicans look bad, so nobody's talking about it. But what about those two fearless independents, Jim Jeffords and Bernie Sanders?

KINGSLEY BROWNE WRITES that sexual harassment law violates the First Amendment. Interesting piece.

JOHN O'SULLIVAN says that it's obvious that Hadayet was a terrorist. So why won't the government say so?

What seems to be the explanation is that the U.S. government is less afraid of terrorists than of the American public. For the authorities the terrorists are a known factor. Their habits and "M.O.s" can be categorized and studied; their actions predicted; and precautions against their attacks mounted.

But the American public is an unknown beast which the political and media elites long ago decided was racist, sexist and homophobic. Our betters fear us. If not guided and controlled, they believe, we will hit out in dangerous spasms of violence at minorities, immigrants and anyone who looks like "The Other." We cannot be trusted with inconvenient truths. In particular, we have to be prevented from launching discrimination and attacks on Muslims and Arabs in bigoted response to terrorist outrages. . . .

In fact only one thing is likely to provoke the unfair suspicion and hatred of Muslims and Arabs that gives nightmares to Uncle Sam — namely, the fear of ordinary Americans that their government is not taking commonsense measures to protect them against terrorism because it is afraid of offending groups from which the current crop of terrorists comes.

This seems about right. The government's behavior here isn't doing anything to encourage people to trust it. That's a growing problem and there's only one way to address it: by being trustworthy.

SPEAKING OF MICKEY, he's got a nice post on France's Islam problem with references to the welfare-terrorism connection. It's based on Chris Caldwell's piece on the subject in The Weekly Standard, which I meant to reference yesterday. Read both.

INSTAPUNDIT GETS RESULTS! Tapped is back -- with an apology. And they're hiring! What'll Mickey say about that?

SOME MODEST PROPOSALS: While we're cleaning up the corporate world, let's not forget nonprofit corporations. The accounting that goes on at many of them is of Enron caliber, and nonprofits are now a nontrivial economic sector. They take a lot of people's money, often under more-or-less false pretenses, and there's not much scrutiny regarding how they spend it.

Also, let's extend CEO responsibility to political candidates: let's make every candidate face personal criminal responsibility for any illegal campaign contributions, just as CEOs are proposed to be liable for any accounting shenanigans that occur on their watch!

Some readers may think I'm not serious about these proposals. I am.

KATHY KINSLEY reflects on the "war on terrorism" and concludes that she's all in favor of war, so long as it doesn't look like the "war on drugs" or the "war on poverty."

Question is, does the creation of a new Cabinet department tell you which direction we're headed in?

LOTS OF HADAYET COVERAGE at the L.A. Examiner. I notice that I've started going there first for my Los Angeles news, rather than the L.A. Times. The Examiner has better coverage, and no annoying registration requirement.

BRITISH STUDENTS ARE PROTESTING THE FIRING OF TWO ISRAELI ACADEMICS:

The sacking of Israeli academics from two scholarly journals is "nothing short of racist", says the National Union of Students. . . .

The union said the action had "shocked and horrified" the student movement - and it said that individual academics could not be held accountable for the actions of their countries.

"To target individual academics for the actions of a government will lead to a complete loss of academic freedom of speech, irrespective of the issues.

"To target these two will eventually lead to a biased representation of the situation, therefore stifling debate and discussion at all levels," said the union's Michelle Codrington.

Maybe there's hope after all.

UPDATE: Nick Denton emails:

This is actually quite surprising. When I was at university, NUS was always far left, and very anti Israel. They probably still are, but at least consistent enough to attack racism.

Bravo for that.

SALON SEXWATCH UPDATE: Yes, I'm bringing back this once-popular feature to point out that Cary Tennis is losing it: "I get so many letters about the sex not being good in long-term relationships that I'm sort of fed up."

Uh, dude, it's a sex advice column you write, remember? People don't write to tell you that their sex lives are great -- they're too busy enjoying the sex.

The best thing I ever read was that when the sex is good, it's ten percent of the relationship; when it's not, it's ninety percent of the relationship. You'd think a sex-advice columnist would know this kind of stuff. . . .

WHILE I WENT ON VACATION, the Christian-Pacifism debate continued, mostly (natch) among Christian bloggers. Here's a recent post with links back to others.

UPDATE: Damn Blogger Archive Bug. Go here.

I've scrupulously avoided criticizing Blogger, since it's free and it led to the Blogosphere explosion. But it seems to get less, not more, reliable as time goes by.

MORE ON THE MURDEROUS-FAILED-ARTIST PROBLEM: Here's a piece in Salon on Mussolini's artistic pretensions. And don't miss this argument, from Slate:

Bad artists with political views are always picking on Giuliani and calling him Hitler. Yet in truth, our last century's worst disasters came from bad artists with dumb political views (Hitler (lousy art), Stalin (bad poetry), Mao (worse poetry), etc.). Perhaps the resemblance between our neo-conceptualists and Hitler is greater than they imagine. Consider the following behaviors alluded to in the piece, and then consider who besides exhibitors at the Whitney and Brooklyn Museum routinely engaged in them:

Dressing up in dumb costumes and having picture made in public places (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, Pol Pot)

Filling warehouses with severed body parts and icky stuff (Above except, mostly, Mussolini)

Portraying political opponents as subhuman (all of the above)

Spouting mind-numbing political cant while imagining they are saying something original (all of the above)

Thinking that they speak for the masses when they are really playing out own neuroses/psychoses (all of the above)

Genocidal Fascist/Communist dictators or Conceptual Artists? You decide.

Art kills.

TAPS FOR TAPPED? The Prospect's popular blog announced that it was on hiatus (actually, it said it was en vacances) back on July 3, with a promised return of July 8. But here it is July 9, and still no Tapped. Could Mickey Kaus's darkest fears be true? Could there be no one left there at all?

Or maybe it's Chris Mooney, hanging on solo like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man, battling mutants and wondering about the future. Take it away, Mickey!

July 08, 2002

HEH. I just found the Martin Devon post where he discovered that it's not easy to be me. But he did try to drain the keg in a single swallow. . . .

I FINISHED REBECCA BLOOD'S new book, The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog. I liked it very much, and recommend it to anyone interested in the subject: bloggers, blog-readers, and journalists writing about weblogs. (Full disclosure: I have a book with the same publisher -- Perseus. At some places this would disqualify me from writing a review. But not here at InstaPundit, where we don't need no stinkin' codes of ethics! And trust me, Perseus won't be paying me off for this good review; they barely pay me off for my book.)

"Rebecca's Pocket" isn't much like InstaPundit, in conception, execution, or politics. But I've always liked it, and I like her book even more: somehow, to me, her voice comes through more clearly in longer increments.

Her comments on weblog etiquette, self-promotion (and the excesses thereof), flamewars, etc., are likely to be useful to just about everyone, and the history of the early days of weblogging (you know, like, three years ago) is very interesting. There's also a lot of practical advice (even basic HTML and domain-management stuff) in the appendices. So go buy it!

I can't help but feel that the publication of a how-to book about blogging marks an important milestone in the Blogosphere's development, though I'm not sure exactly what it means, for good or ill. What do you think?

UPDATE: Wow. The book was ranked 5,209 on Amazon last night; now it's up to 734. Did I do that? Regardless, it's pretty damned impressive. You go, girl!

HAD DINNER WITH RAND SIMBERG: He was passing through on his way to Washington, DC (everyone comes to Knoxville eventually -- Jean-Paul Sartre once came here via B-29, a more dramatic means of conveyance than Rand managed). Then home to finish Rebecca Blood's book. My daughter is off at her great-grandmother's, while my wife is off in Kentucky with a film crew, interviewing the families of teenage killers for her documentary.

THIS JONAH GOLDBERG PIECE ON STANLEY FISH (spoiler: Goldberg doesn't like him much) makes an interesting point:

Well, not only did the virus of postmodernism escape Fish's lab, but he and his henchmen ground it up into fine particles and sent aerosolized packets of it to every magazine, newspaper, publishing house, and movie studio in America. Fish's hypocrisy is stunning. The PoMo virus has infected millions, destabilizing traditional institutions across the social landscape. And yet when confronted, he says "I'm not responsible for what happens in the real world, I'm just a lab technician." Well, this high priest of the cult of the twelve monkeys is responsible.

It occurs to me that the political and cultural thinkers have done far more harm than the scientists (Hitler wasn't a scientist, but a failed artist; ditto much of his regime, as an excellent documentary called The Architecture of Doom explores) -- but somehow the "precautionary principle" is only applied to science.

ERIC S. RAYMOND MUSES ON diet and religion.

BILL CLINTON'S LATEST LAW REVIEW ARTICLE isn't getting much respect. I haven't read it, and it's not terribly likely that I will.

MICKEY KAUS HAS MORE ON LEFT-WING POLITICAL VIOLENCE. MediaWhoresOnline and Paul Begala are mentioned.

HACK ATTACKS ON UTILITIES: I published a reader email on this back in the fall, but I can't find the post now (the "search" doesn't reach the old archived posts, dammit). But the Los Angeles Times has a story on the subject that underscores the problem: lots of hack attacks on utilities, with some thought to indicate probes by terrorists.

MICROCHIPS MADE OUT OF CHICKEN FEATHERS. No, really. (Thanks to reader Gary Pulsinelli for the heads-up).

HMM. IT'S EASY TO IMAGINE THESE FOLKS working with Al Qaeda, now isn't it?

"HALF THE WORLD HAS NEVER MADE A PHONE CALL:" Clay Shirky says this statement is bunk.

MORE DUMB ANTI-RAVE EFFORTS in Congress. (Via Sassafrass). This is something that InstaPundit has been covering since almost the beginning, and in fact I worked on the ACLU's brief in the New Orleans rave case pro bono. (I recently turned down a request from a "major glowstick manufacturer" -- no, really -- to write a brief for them in a related case).

Instead of this sort of idiocy, why don't we take some of those obviously-underemployed U.S. Attorneys and DEA agents and put them to work, you know, looking for terrorists?

LILEKS, as usual, says it best:

As much as I feel guilty about light bleatage, I’ve always thought that the phrase “blogging will be light today” is akin to saying “the free ice cream cones will be 27 percent smaller today.” It’s still free ice cream.

Yep. I actually got cautionary emails from people telling me that I'd lose readers (or worse, "market share," as a couple put it) if I didn't post new stuff daily while on vacation. Oh no -- losing non-paying readers!

I love this, but it's a hobby, not a job, and the responsibilities that go with it are those that accompany a hobby, not those that accompany a job.

I think that most readers realize that -- but some don't. And a lot of the blogger-critics seem to forget that blogs aren't bigshot media operations that claim to cover all the news that's fit to print and to do so (chortle) in an unbiased fashion, but rather personal operations run in someone's spare time, by people who have an axe to grind and plenty of fury to turn the wheel.

That blogs often outperform the big guys anyway doesn't change that. It just makes it sweeter.

PS: Extra bonus points if you can identify the source of the turn-the-wheel phrase.

N.Z. BEAR says that we're really at war with a meme but that our strategy doesn't reflect that fact. He has some suggestions on what to do about it that are very much worth reading and pondering.

TONY WOODLIEF figures out the whole corporate-cheating thing: It's not that colleges and B-schools aren't teaching values -- they're just teaching other values than, well, not cheating and stealing.

LAWMEME points out an interesting New York case setting a short statute of limitations for Web defamation cases.

NICK SCHULZ WRITES THAT FRANK FUKUYAMA HAS LOST IT:

Now, in his effort to regulate biotechnology -- and his ambitions in this regard are global and not just limited to the United States -- Fukuyama has made common cause with an odd bedfellow for him: the most extreme elements of the environmental left.

While his politics until recently had been generally conservative/libertarian in thrust and tenor, Fukuyama now issues a call to arms to radical greens.

Yeah, he does seem to have fallen victim to creeping Luddism.

THE JOURNAL OF LAW AND ECONOMICS HAS A SYMPOSIUM ISSUE on Guns, Crime and Safety. The articles are available online, and the introduction provides something of a summary. Check it out if you're interested in this topic.

ANOTHER ARAFAT BABY-WIPE SIGHTING. Seriously, what's this about?

H.D. MILLER POSTS A LENGTHY FISKING of the World Wildlife Fund's recent environmental report, and of Malthusianism in general.

UPDATE: Oops. The dreaded Blogger Archive Bug appears to have struck. Just go here and scroll.

READER MATT LIERMAN WRITES:

I wonder if you've had a chance to read the latest article to address "Arming America" in the most current issue of Playboy. The author basically trashes all of Bellesiles' critics by suggesting that they are all gun rights nuts and that even if Bellesiles' data is flawed, it only affects "five paragraphs" in the book.

Since you're on top of the story, I thought you might be interested. It wouldn't take much to knock the author's assertions into the cheap seats.

Well, I don't read Playboy, even for the articles (I haven't even picked up a copy of the issue where my brother's girlfriend posed), and I'm not sure if I want to shell out five bucks or whatever just to refute some already-discredited argument. Maybe it'll be on NEXIS -- I'll try to check.

But for the record: Pretty much everybody in the legal-historical community (even, reportedly, Garry Wills though he's said so only privately) now seems to agree that Bellesiles book is bogus, and that the fabrications and misrepresentations permeate the entire book, not just a few paragraphs. I have the advantage of having read the page proofs of James Lindgren's meticulous dissection in the upcoming Yale Law Journal, and it's just devastating beyond any hope of redemption, in my opinion. I'll try to link to a PDF when it's out -- I think that Lindgren will have one on his website.

EL SUR HAS UPDATES ON VENEZUELA -- including Hugo Chavez's belief that Jimmy Carter will help him fend off the Organization of American States.

Jimmy Carter seems to have become a shill for dictators, doesn't he? What's going on?

THE HAUERWAS / FARRAKHAN CONNECTION: I've already mentioned Stanley Hauerwas's prayer for America to be "humbled" by our enemies. Now Louis Farrakhan is in Baghdad saying much the same thing:

The official Iraqi News Agency, INA, said Farrakhan, on a "solidarity" visit to Iraq, held talks with Islamic Affairs Minister Abdul Munem Saleh on "ways to confront the American threats against Iraq."

INA quoted the African-American Muslim leader as saying "the Muslim American people are praying to the almighty God to grant victory to Iraq."

Funny. Stanley doesn't look Muslim.

TENNESSEE'S INCOME TAX BATTLE: A lot of people have emailed to ask me what I think about it. Generally, I refer 'em to Bill Hobbs, who has been covering this issue like a blanket. (Just go there and start scrolling down).

I did write something about this issue for the Nando Times a few years back, and it has held up pretty well. (It's gone from the Nando site, but thanks to the miracle of Google you can read it here.) The big problem is that Tennessee's elected leaders have tried to address this problem by sleight-of-hand rather than persuasion. Every time they've done that, they've hurt their own credibility, and every time they've hurt their own credibility, they've reduced their ability to sell it in an aboveboard fashion.

It's a bipartisan problem. Ned Ray McWherter, our last governor, was a Democrat -- and perhaps the sharpest Tennessee politician in my lifetime. Don Sundquist, the current governor, is a Republican (and, ahem, not quite as politically sharp as McWherter).

Neither tried running on a pro-income tax platform; both said they were against it until they were in their second and final term, at which point they came out in favor of the tax. (In Sundquist's case, he was giving anti-income tax speeches until just weeks before he decided to support the tax).

Had someone started pushing an income tax back ten years ago, been consistent about it, and run candidates on it, they might have changed some minds. Instead, all they've done is harden the opposition. Sure, they might have lost some elections -- but how can you ask the voters to sacrifice when you're not willing to take any risks yourself?

This ties in with what I say about Karl Rove's too-clever machinations, below. When people aren't paying attention, and don't care much anyway (which is most of the time in politics) you can get away with a lot. But when people do care, and do pay attention -- as with the war, or the income tax -- then you have to be straightforward and honest or you'll pay a steep price. Sundquist, who is now despised by almost everyone (a newspaper asked me to write an oped a few weeks ago on the subject of who should hate Sundquist more: the anti-tax people or the pro-tax people) has paid that price.

Bush had better keep Rove on a short leash or he'll wind up in the same boat.

UPDATE: If you want to know more, visit Frank Cagle's site. He's a great source for Tennessee political news generally.

STEPHEN GREEN, who picks up the blogging slack while I sleep, has some interesting thoughts on the upcoming military campaign. For what it's worth, I think it's already started, in ways that aren't too obvious yet.

"EIN VOLK, EIN REICH, EIN EURO:" Here's a commercial that has the Eurocrats up in arms.

STANLEY KURTZ says that he's been smeared by the Chronicle of Higher Education. In general, I've found them to be reasonably fair -- but that's not to say that their reporters are always agenda-free.

STILL PLAYING CATCH-UP, I just ran across this appreciation of Canada by John Scalzi.

July 07, 2002

JEFF GOLDSTEIN GIVES TOM TOMORROW A MAKEOVER. I think that Dan Perkins is a smart guy, and not necessarily a knee-jerker in general, but Goldstein's every bit as fair as the original Perkins cartoon was.

JANIS IAN ON THE RECORDING INDUSTRY, courtesy of Reid Stott.

DIDN'T I HEAR SOMETHING ABOUT THIS IN NOSTRADAMUS, or in a Weekly World News article on predictions from Delphi, or something?

Heh, and we just thought it was some sort of symbolic statement.

THE WAGES OF CRYING WOLF: Brian Carnell reflects on apocalyptic predictions and pronounces himself unimpressed with the latest crop.

WELL, I HAVEN'T MOVED on the latest Blogosphere ecosystem ranking, though Steven Den Beste is catching up. More power to him: he rules.

I'm a bit troubled by Bear's suggestion that my proposal for open traffic counters will accelerate the separation of the Blogosphere into non-egalitarian spheres. I certainly hadn't thought of that as a possible consequence of my proposal, and I don't really see that it follows. Of course, my proposal was aimed more at big sites like Slate and The American Prospect than at bloggers, though that's okay too.

UPDATE: Oops. I misread that. It's Clay Shirky's suggestion about counters and inequality, not the Bear's.

RATIONALITY IS BREAKING OUT:

The just-released Arab Human Development Report, commissioned by the United Nations and drafted by a group of Middle Eastern intellectuals, utterly confirms the deep pathology gripping the Arab world that Western analysts have long noted. Yet what was truly astounding about the account was less its findings than the honest acknowledgement that Arab problems are largely self-created.

Khalaf Hunaidi, who oversaw the economic portion of the analysis, remarked, "It's not outsiders looking at Arab countries. It's Arabs deciding for themselves." And what they decided is sadly ample proof of Arab decline. Per capita income is dropping in the Arab world, even as it rises almost everywhere else. Productivity is stagnant; research and development are almost absent. Science and technology remain backward. Politics is infantile. And culture, in thrall to Islamic fundamentalism and closed to the ideas that quicken the intellectual life of the rest of the world, is "lagging behind" advanced nations, Hunaidi says.

Yet this novel panel of Arab intellectuals, remarkably, didn't attribute the dismal condition of Middle Eastern society to the usual causes that Western intellectuals and academics have made so popular: racism and colonialism, multinational exploitation, Western political dominance, and all the other -isms and -ologies that we've grown accustomed to hear about from the Arabists on university campuses.

Instead, the investigators cited the subjugation of women that robs Arab society of millions of brilliant minds. Political autocracy -- either in the service of or in opposition to Islamic fundamentalism -- ensures censorship, stifles creativity, or promotes corruption. Talented scientists and intellectuals are likely to emigrate and then stay put in the West, since there is neither a cultural nor an economic outlet for their talents back home, but sure danger if they prove either honest or candid. The Internet remains hardly used. Greece, a country 30 times smaller than the Arab world, translates five times the number of books yearly.

The report didn't give precise reasons for the growing Arab hostility toward the United States, but its findings lend credence to almost everything brave scholars such as Bernard Lewis and Daniel Pipes have been saying for years.

I can't help but feel that the failure of the Ladenites is emboldening rational thinkers in the Arab world. There may be hope yet.

PATRICK RUFFINI CHANNELS JAMES LILEKS in this ode to Target. Yeah, it's great, and it's cheap. But if this keeps up, the tinfoil hat crowd will start saying that the Blogosphere is controlled by Dayton-Hudson, instead of the Military Industrial Complex, or the Trilateral Commission, or the Elders of Zion, or whoever they're blaming this week.

PLEASE HELP RICH HAILEY find a date. It's waay past time, judging from this post.

HERE'S A WEBLOG THAT'S (MOSTLY) ABOUT frequent flyer miles and airline accommodations.

RADLEY BALKO has the Bush / Gore thing figured out, with maps no less. Hint: It's all about soft drinks.

CHARLES JOHNSON HAS AN INTERESTING ITEM on British academic anti-semitism. There's an email address in the comments, too.

I think it may be the same story as this one, but I'm not sure.

THE ARAB NEWS SAYS BIN LADEN IS DEAD, and echoes the sentiments of a number of warbloggers in its assessment:

With an ego the size of Mount Everest, Osama Bin Laden would not have, could not have, remained silent for so long. He had always liked to take credit even for things he had nothing to do with. So, would he remain silent for nine months during which his illusions have been shattered one after another? If his adjutants can smuggle a video to Al-Jazeera in Qatar, why couldn’t he?

Even if he were still alive physically, Bin Laden is dead politically. He may live some more years in the hide-outs of the tribal zone in Pakistan just as some Nazi fugitives survived in the remote areas of Argentina and Paraguay.

And check out this assessment:

The fifth element that made Bin Ladenism possible was the West’s, especially America’s, perceived weakness if not actual cowardice. A joke going round the militant Islamist circles until last year was that the only thing the Americans would do if attacked was to sue the attackers in court. That element no longer exists. The Americans, supported by the largest coalition in history, have shown that they are prepared to use force against their enemies even if that means a long war with no easy victory in sight.

Hey, I thought that when America fought back, that just added to the problem. Guess not!

Ben Sheriff has some interesting observations on this article -- which is worth reading in full, as are his comments. He notes that Saudi efforts to export Wahabbism get a pass in this otherwise-warblogesque assessment.

HERE'S A REPORT that LAX shooter Hadayet met with an Osama bin Laden deputy. Hmm.

FRODO BAGGINS HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH WAR CRIMES by the International Criminal Court:

Baggins was responsible for casting the Ring of Power (otherwise known as the One Ring or simply the One) into the fires of Mount Orodruin in Mordor ("Where The Shadows Lie!" according to the Mordor Tourism Board), thereby destroying both the Ring and Sauron's long-standing hope to bring heretofore fractious and inefficient Middle Earth under the central political control of the Dark Tower. Without the Ring, Sauron's legions (defensive in nature and made necessary by the Lords of the West's aggression, according to Barad-Dur spokesmen) of orcs, wolves, trolls, and "evil" Men lost the will to fight and became helpless in the face of the armies of the West. Millions were slaughtered as a direct and immediate consequence of the destruction of the Ring. . . .

Both Sauron and Saruman claim that their persecution by Baggins and the Lords of the West is based on their religious beliefs, also clearly in violation of Article 8. With the wanton destruction of the One Ring, Baggins also directly and callously murdered every one of the high priests of the Dark Lord's religious order, known collectively as the Nazgul.

Don't miss the photo of pro-Sauron protests at the White House.

UPDATE: A reader is upset that I "gave away the ending" here. Um, while I'm at it, Romeo and Juliet die at the end of the play, too. I mean, who doesn't know this stuff? Some people, apparently.

THE WORLD WILDLIFE FUND says it's time to think about colonizing space.

JIM HENLEY has some interesting observations on left-wing and right-wing varieties of anti-Americanism.

PUNDITWATCH IS UP!

MATT WELCH writes in the National Post that Bush is losing the benefit of the doubt. He says that it's because too many PR gimmicks are undermining public trust, and he blames Karl Rove.

I think there's a lot to that. As I wrote week before last, keeping people behind the war effort means retaining their trust. And it's hard to retain their trust when you're engaging in gimmicks and evasions. There's been way too much of that (and way too little visible action) from the White House lately, and the Administration is paying the price. The problem is that gimmicks work during normal times, when people don't much care about politics, don't pay much attention, and -- because they don't expect much from politicians anyway -- don't get too angry about attempts to mislead them. But all that changes in wartime. You need trust -- and to keep it, you actually have to be trustworthy. You can fudge that for a little while, but not very long, and probably not for as long as overconfident political operatives think they can.

I wrote some months ago that if Bush took a tumble on this it would happen very fast once it started. I don't think he's to that point yet, but I think he's getting closer. Is anyone in the Administration paying attention?

ANDREW SULLIVAN writes about economic schadenfreude. But he suggests that the economy won't make much of a political issue:

After the crash of 1987, the Democrats and liberals made every effort to portray the 1980s as a decade of greed, fomented by selfish Republicans. But that is politically much harder to do with the 1990s. It was an era when the Democrats finally managed to persuade Americans that they could manage the economy. Today, the Democrats don't have any deep incentive to alter that perception. That's why they want to link the current corporate excess with a Republican administration - a strategy undermined solely by the facts.

THE KAUS-ENRON CONNECTION exposed.

FRIENDLY FIRE IN AFGHANISTAN: If this interests you, you should be reading Flit. He's got steady updates, and is covering this like nobody else.

THE PENTAGON'S PYSCHOLOGICAL WARFARE EFFORT is moving to Omaha, according to Geitner Simmons.

Or maybe that's just what they want us to think. . . .

Or, maybe they're just Moby Grape fans.

COURTESY OF CHRIS BERTRAM AT JUNIUS here's a link to the Economist article on weblogs.