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February 08, 2003

YEAH, I KNOW, I HAVEN'T BLOGGED MUCH TODAY: We've done a spell of spring cleaning at the InstaPundit household, and various other family activities have had priority. But hey, there's a lot of new stuff over at Virginia Postrel's page, and Charles Murtaugh has a lot of new stuff up, too.

And here's an indication that war is near: Civil Reserve Air Fleet activation.

Meanwhile, don't miss Colbert King's thoughts on Harry Belafonte and Colin Powell, in light of Powell's Security Council speech.

UPDATE: Okay, as I dip lightly into my ocean of email, here are a couple more worth reading: an indication that Homeland Security is still a joke, with armed uniformed Cubans not being noticed until after they've landed and given themselves up, and Steven Den Beste's thoughts on the latest French diplomatic counteroffensive.

Den Beste's worried about it. I'm not. First, I wouldn't be surprised if bombs started falling before this jells (see above). But more importantly, the argument has now shifted: the question is now not whether Iraq should be occupied, but by whom. American troops? Or the French army?

Some questions answer themselves. Though it would serve the French right if we waved them in with bands playing, and with a warning that if Saddam does anything untoward, they'd best duck.

Of course, the French will abandon this when they realize that it was originally an American idea. Unless this is all some sort of devious diplomatic ballet. . . . Nah. Couldn't be.

IN THIS ARTICLE ABOUT ANTI-WAR POETS AND LAURA BUSH, the author marvels at poets' belief that poetry must be morally pure.

And well he might. It's easy to understand why poets might like to think that poesy confers high moral stature -- just as beekeepers may think that the apiary arts do the same. But the evidence, frankly, is stronger for the beekeepers' position than for the poets'. In fact, what's interesting, or perhaps revealing, is that genocidal thuggish dictators so often have artistic aspirations. As has been noted here before, there's often a lot of overlap between mediocre artistry and murderous tyranny:

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.

I'm not sure if Saddam has written poetry, but he's certainly a novelist of some renown. And there's something about the artist's desire for total control over his or her work of art that seems to find resonance with the dictator's desire for total control over society. Indeed, some dictators seem to regard themselves as artists, artists who work with people and nations.

So perhaps the "antiwar" poets simply recognize a kindred spirit.

I'M KIND OF BUSY THIS MORNING. Head on over to Betsy's Page for lots of fresh posts. Back later.

UPDATE: Still busy, but go read Eamonn Fitzgerald's on-site reports from the appropriately sited Munich conference on security.

HERE'S MORE ON "PATRIOT ACT II" -- some astounding provisions . . . .

ON A MORE HOPEFUL NOTE, there's this story.

CRUSHING DISSENT -- AND LOVING IT! Eugene Volokh takes the New York Sun to task for its apparent approval of New York City's efforts to forestall an antiwar protest. He's right, and the Sun is wrong. And the Sun should know that it's wrong -- and, worse, probably does.

February 07, 2003

THIS IS INTERESTING:

Morale was very low, he said, both among his fellow conscripts and among civilians. "We want America to attack because of the bad situation in our country. But we don't want America to launch air strikes against Iraqi soldiers because we are forced to shoot and defend. We are also victims in this situation." . . .

The soldiers Abbas left behind, meanwhile, sit in their hilltop bunkers, pondering an unenviable fate. "We are all very tired," Abbas said. "I haven't heard of Tony Blair. But if George Bush wants to give us freedom then we will welcome it."

Credible? I report. You decide.

BUT I DIDN'T LIKE THE FIRST ONE! There's talk now of a "Patriot Act II" and I don't like it. Read more about it here, here, and here.

Jeez. We need this like we need "Dude, Where's My Car? II."

A POODLE WITH TEETH: Jim Bennett writes:

The true peculiarity of the Bush-Blair relationship lies in the fact that the two share one important characteristic, albeit understood in different ways, while differing in another extremely important way. This creates a tension between cooperation and conflict that has characterized, and will probably continue to characterize, this peculiar instance of the Special relationship.

The shared characteristic is that Bush and Blair, almost alone of the world's leaders, genuinely believe that they are facing not merely opposition, but evil. The unshared characteristic is that for Blair, one of the principal aspects of Saddam Hussein's evil is his defiance of international law. Blair is not only a Gladstonian internationalist, but a robust internationalist, who believes that international order must be backed with effective action.

When words fail, Gladstonians, like Wilsonians, are willing to bring out the guns. In the Web logs, there is much talk about the rousing of the Jacksonian spirit in America. A careful reading of history would warn foreigners that the truly dangerous situation comes when the Wilsonians are aroused as well.

One of the many ironies in this situation is that here Blair is being a more consistent backer of the international order and the United Nations than his critics on the left, and on the European Continent. It is exactly the same motivation that leads Blair to criticize America for failing to ratify Kyoto that causes him to support Bush on Iraq.

Interesting.

FIRST THE COOKEVILLE DOG SHOOTING, NOW THIS. Jeez.

IT JUST GETS WORSE:

Gun control groups are downplaying questions about plagiarism after one organization issued a statement to the media containing language that is, in some instances, identical to passages in a copyrighted news report published four days earlier by the Associated Press.

Leah Barrett, executive director of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse (MAHA), denied any wrongdoing in issuing a statement Monday that contained numerous statements that were mirror images of portions of an AP article that appeared in the San Jose Mercury News and other media outlets Jan. 30. . . .

Barrett issued a statement to CNSNews.com Feb. 3 in response to an inquiry for a news article being prepared about the Department of Justice taking over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), confirming that the statement was sent by her exclusively to the Internet news wire in response to its inquiry.

"The rabid NRA has no better ally in Washington than Attorney General John Ashcroft, once featured in a National Rifle Association magazine cover story as 'a breath of fresh air' in the capital," read a portion of Barrett's statement.

In a Jan. 30 AP article about gun control, reporter Curt Anderson wrote: "Gun owners may have no better ally in Washington than Attorney General John Ashcroft, once featured in a National Rifle Association magazine cover story as 'a breath of fresh air' in the capital.'"

Barrett's Feb. 3 statement contained other passages that were identical to parts of Anderson's AP article.

Of course, as the reader who sent this link noted, it's really the Associated Press who should be embarrassed -- for publishing a news story that could be turned into an advocacy-group press release with only a few words being altered.

Conspiracy theory of the week: this is proof that the American gun-control movement is a tool of British intelligence. Lyndon Larouche, call your office!

UPDATE: Reader Drew Kelley emails: "My question Glenn, is: How do we know that the original AP news story wasn't just a reworked press release from one of the gun-control groups?"

CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER: Readers of The Guardian are supporting war, according to this poll.

UPDATE: A persnickety reader emails with this shocking news:

When a web site invites people to participate in a "poll", it is not actually a poll. The missing ingredient is representative sampling. In a self-selecting group, the results will be biased toward those who feel the strongest, or at least strongly enough to participate. For this reason, they cannot be deemed representative of the population as a whole. I suspect you already knew this.

You may have noticed disclaimers to this effect issued by reputable journalistic organisations engaged in such "polling". I noticed that such a remark was omitted from your blog, but (as you have said) you are not a journalist.

Well, duh. No, unlike "journalists," I assume that my readers aren't idiots, and know that an online poll isn't a scientific sampling.

I also assume that a sampling of Guardian readers, even if unscientific, is interesting when it goes in such an unexpected direction. Either (1) Guardian readers as a whole are persuaded, which isn't implausible (I mean, if Mary McGrory is persuadable, there's hope for anyone short of Noam Chomsky); or (2) pro-war people are so numerous and well-organized that they can flood a Guardian poll and overwhelm its natural tendency to go the other way, which is news in itself, no?

And -- unlike those "journalists" you invoke -- I think my readers are smart enough to figure this out on their own. But that's where blogging differs from journalism, I guess.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The poll has swung the other way now, so I guess this has become a dog-bites-man story. Suspiciously, however, it wouldn't let me vote.

NEW YORK POLITICIAN'S RACIST REMARKS GO UNREPORTED: I wonder why?

UPDATE: This isn't very impressive, either:

O'REILLY: We'd save lives because Mexican wetbacks, whatever you want to call them, the coyotes -- they're not going to do what they're doing now, so people aren't going to die in the desert. So we save lives, all right, and we seal it down and make it 100 times harder to come across.

Ouch.

I GUESS THAT THE "ANALBRENDA" CHARACTER who's been spamming the WarbloggerWatch list is really a warblogger herself. Heh.

UPDATE: Yep. Gotta be.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Just to be clear, the first link is to Susannah Breslin's blog, but I'm not suggesting that she is the porn-spammer.

I'VE MENTIONED NEW STUDENT GROUPS AT YALE AND OXFORD: Now there's one at Brandeis, too. Three instances constitute a trend, right?

UPDATE: Here's a similar group at Columbia -- "Students United for Victory." They're trying to bring back ROTC, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: There's also the Princeton Committee Against Terrorism.

SOME THOUGHTS ON AMERICA from Shanti Mangala -- part of an ongoing discussion in the Indian portion of the Blogosphere.

TRUTH, LIES, AND WAR: All discussed over at GlennReynolds.com for your reading pleasure.

EAMONN FITZGERALD is blogging from the Munich Conference on Security Policy. Apparently, the choice of Munich for the conference was, well, appropriate. . . .

ERIC MULLER is fact-checking Howard Coble's ass.

THERE'S AN INTERESTING DIALOGUE on the future of the space program over at Slate. Start here.

EARLIER, I BLOGGED ABOUT YALE COLLEGE STUDENTS FOR DEMOCRACY (essentially a pro-democracy, anti-dictator -- and hence pro-war -- student organization), and now there's already a sister organization starting at Oxford. Maybe we've got a movement going here.

SHUTTLE WING DAMAGE HAS BEEN CONFIRMED by Air Force cameras:

High-resolution images taken from a ground-based Air Force tracking camera in southwestern U.S. show serious structural damage to the inboard leading edge of Columbia's left wing, as the crippled orbiter flew overhead about 60 sec. before the vehicle broke up over Texas killing the seven astronauts on board Feb. 1.

According to sources close to the investigation, the images, under analysis at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, show a jagged edge on the left inboard wing structure near where the wing begins to intersect the fuselage. They also show the orbiter's right aft yaw thrusters firing, trying to correct the vehicle's attitude that was being adversely affected by the left wing damage. Columbia's fuselage and right wing appear normal. Unlike the damaged and jagged left wing section, the right wing appears smooth along its entire length. The imagery is consistent with telemetry.

It's still not clear what caused it, though.

UPDATE: This story is interesting, as is this earlier story, on upper-atmosphere electrical phenomena known as blue jets, elves, and sprites. (Also interesting -- these phenomena were reported by pilots for years but the reports were dismised before scientists realized that they were real.)

HEH.

TONY ADRAGNA IS FACT-CHECKING ROBERT FISK. As always, the results are amusing -- especially the Beckett reference.

I GOT HOME YESTERDAY and there was a fat manila envelope in the mail. Sadly, it wasn't stuffed with small, unmarked bills -- but it did contain something almost as nice: the prototype issue of the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper that Matt Welch and Ken Layne are starting with a little help from some guy named Riordan.

It looks very good, and it has a different feel from most alt-weeklies: no pretending that it's put out by a bunch of 23-year-old hipsters in a basement, a pose that has grown increasingly lame as the actual readership, and staff age, of most alt-weeklies climbs toward the mid-40s. Instead, it's a paper for actual adults. I like it. Not as much as an envelope stuffed with cash, but . . . .

ERIC ALTERMAN has a new book out. But Pejman Yousefzadeh has posted a critique of Alterman's latest article that's long enough to be a book. Well, almost. . . .

UPDATE: Oh, I should link to the website for Alterman's book, What Liberal Media? You can read the first chapter for free.

THERE'S AN INTERESTING BACK-AND-FORTH concerning deterrence, rogue nations, and weapons of mass destruction over at The Cardinal Collective, a Stanford group-blog.

February 06, 2003

ANOTHER TARNISHED ICON: Did William O. Douglas fake his military record? Quite possibly. How much does this matter? It depends, I guess.

A SMOKING GUN OF A DIFFERENT SORT?

Expurgated portions of Iraq's December 7 report to the UN Security Council show that German firms made up the bulk of suppliers for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. What's galling is that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his minions have long known the facts, German intelligence services know them and have loads of information on what Saddam Hussein is hiding, and Schroeder nonetheless plays holier than thou to an easily manipulated, pacifist-inclined domestic audience.

If it's not the height of hypocrisy and opportunism, Schroeder's preemptive "no war. period" stance on Iraq and insistence on a "German Way" (Deutscher Weg) certainly come close. German Way? Haven't we heard that sort of talk before sometime, somewhere? But leave that be. It falls in the same category as Schroeder's former justice minister's comparison of US President George W Bush to Adolf Hitler in last summer's election campaign. Not only Schroeder and that unfortunate lady, but politicians elsewhere are of limited mental accountability when desperate about winning an election, and suffer lapses of speech and memory.

There's much more, in this piece from Asia Times. It seems like some other media outfits might want to look into this. It certainly dovetails with Steven Den Beste's theory that the German and French governments are desperate to avoid war because they know that once a war is over we'll find out just how thoroughly in bed with Saddam they were. And, perhaps, still are.

THE FAMILY OF THE MAN THE U.N. INSPECTORS TURNED OVER TO THE IRAQI SECRET POLICE is appealing to Amnesty International for help.

Good luck, folks.

I GUESS THIS IS A STUDENT PRO-WAR GROUP:

NEW HAVEN, CT, February 6, 2003 - Undergraduate students at Yale University have formed a proactive group for the defense and perpetuation of democracy around the world.

Yale College Students for Democracy (YCSD) is a new coalition of Yale students from across the conventional political spectrum that seeks to further the "protection of liberal democracies and the expansion of those universal rights and liberties we exercise here in the United States," according to YCSD President Matthew Louchheim.

Student members believe in the following principles:

That targeting innocent civilians is an unjust act;

That governments are established to uphold justice and serve their citizens;

That human dignity demands respect for people of every religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation;

That the rule of law and self-determination are necessary to protect these rights from an arbitrary authority;

That the United States must continually strive for moral clarity in the formulation of foreign policy.

And that democratic countries, including the United States and its allies, have the right to vigorously oppose those despotic regimes and terrorist organizations that threaten international security.

YCSD exists because "many in the Yale community ignore human rights abuses and injustice abroad and continue to focus on so-called evils of the American government," Louchheim said. "They fail to recognize the vulnerability of the United States and other democracies in the face of despotic, intolerant, and illiberal regimes and terrorist organizations."

There's a bunch of contact information for various Yale students, but I won't publish that here. If you're a journalist and want to reach 'em, email me and I'll copy you.

DAVID ADESNIK has some thoughts on how Colin Powell's speech affected views on the war.

RAND SIMBERG WRITES:

The lesson we must take from the most recent shuttle disaster is that we can no longer rely on a single vehicle for our access to the new frontier, and that we must start to build the needed orbital infrastructure in low earth orbit, and farther out, to the moon, so that, in the words of the late Congressman George Brown, "greater metropolitan earth" is no longer a wilderness in which a technical failure means death or destruction.

NASA's problem hasn't been too much vision, even for near-earth activities, but much too little. But it's a job not just for NASA--to create that infrastructure, we will have to set new policies in place that harness private enterprise, just as we did with the railroads in the 19th Century. That is the policy challenge that will come out of the latest setback--to begin to tame the harsh wilderness only two hundred miles above our heads.

Read the whole thing.

ANOTHER SMOKING GUN?

Though he would not have known it at the time, the deputy's congratulatory telephone call to two men accused of murdering the US diplomat Laurence Foley last October – killed in the garden of his Amman home by a volley of eight shots – was an error of incalculable proportions. The call was intercepted by Western intelligence services, possibly America's National Security Agency (NSA) or Britain's electronic eavesdropping service at GCHQ, Cheltenham, and allowed coalition operatives to trace the man from Syria, then to Turkey.

When he arrived in Turkey, those intelligence operatives took the decision to pounce. The al-Qa'ida deputy was seized and taken to one of the interrogation centres covertly operated in the region by the US Central Intelligence Agency. In many cases, America prefers certain prisoners to be questioned by the intelligence services of countries where the rules governing the use of torture or psychological pressure are less strict. In this instance, it appears America led the interrogation, using, in the words of one official, "unspecified psychological pressure" to obtain information.

US officials quoted by The New York Times say the deputy revealed that Zarqawi was operating a cell out of Iraq, that he had been given medical assistance there and that he was planning and conducting attacks across Europe and the Middle East with up to 24 al-Qa'ida fighters. Mr Foley, 62, head of America's Agency for International Development mission, was the first of the cell's targets.

How many of these do we need, anyway?

U.S. CHEMICAL STRIKES AGAINST IRAQ? Well, sorta, kinda, in a way. I'm inclined to doubt this. Under what circumstances would this be useful?

WHAT HATH BLOG WROUGHT? TAPPED has responded to the Dave Kopel piece that was responding to TAPPED's earlier post involving an email from Kopel about a post of theirs commenting on an email of his that was posted here in response to an email responding to an email of Kopel's that was inspired by a post of mine.

Or something like that.

UPDATE: Steve Verdon is unimpressed by TAPPED's response.

SUBLIMINAL MAN strikes an editorial from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

THE CRACKED-SHUTTLE-WING PHOTO IS BOGUS, according to Snopes.

NOT EVERYONE is persuaded by Colin Powell's speech. But this "they lied to us before" argument cuts both ways. The "peace" folks told us that the Afghan war would lead to deliberate "silent genocide," with millions starving, etc., etc. They knew, or should have known, that these statements were false -- I think it's fair to call them lies.

UPDATE: Robert Crawford replies.

HAS SADDAM LOST THE ARAB STREET?

"SOULLESS ROBOT BLOWFISH" -- it's a Layne-ism, of course. I guess Layne will never work at The American Prospect now. . . .

ADVICE FOR JOURNALISTS AND NEWS ORGANIZATIONS:

Next time a really big news story breaks in your news organization's back yard, create a temporary weblog.

I think a lot of news people are catching on.

FIRST NORWAY, NOW SPAIN.

DANIEL DREZNER says that creeping Rainesism has hit the International Herald Tribune. Excerpt:

"Initial reaction from Asian countries on Thursday indicated that most remained unmoved by Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation of Iraq's noncompliance with United Nations mandates."

If true, this would certainly be newsworthy. Read the story, however. Malaysia is the only country with officials quoted as being unconvinced. In contrast, foreign policy leaders from Australia, Japan and the Philippines are all quoted with expressions of solid support for the U.S. position. The story acknowledges the extent of Japan's policy shift:

"Moving as close as Tokyo has come to backing the use of military force against Iraq, [Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro] Koizumi added: 'Iraq holds the key to whether this matter can be resolved peacefully or not.'"

By my count, then, shouldn't the headline read, "ASIA SWAYED BY POWELL'S DATA"?

Jeez.

THANKS TO THE WARBLOGGERWATCH FOLKS, I'm now getting email from "AnalBrenda." (Trust me -- that doesn't mean that she's compulsively organized. . . .) I'm not sure if this is directed at me personally, or if she's just the only one posting to the WarbloggerWatch list. At least her emails are, um, friendly.

And the spelling's better. I thought of signing them up for regular emails from Soldier of Fortune by way of reply, but that seemed a bit much.

MARK STEYN WRITES that the U.N. is toast. And good riddance:

When the Cold War began, the UN structure quickly ossified into two mutually obstructive veto-wielding blocs: whatever its defects, this too neatly distilled the political realities of the age. But since the collapse of the Commies, the UN has reflected not the new realities but a new unreality, an illusion.

In the real world, Libya is an irrelevance. So is Cuba, and Syria. In the old days, the ramshackle dictatorships were proxies for heavyweight patrons, but not any more. These days President Sy Kottik represents nobody but himself. Yet somehow, in the post-Cold War talking shops, the loonitoons’ prestige has been enhanced: the UN, as the columnist George Jonas put it, enables ‘dysfunctional dictatorships to punch above their weight’. Away from Kofi and co., the world is moving more or less in the right direction: entire regions that were once tyrannies are now flawed but broadly functioning democracies — Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America. The UN has been irrelevant to this transformation. Its structures resist reform and the principal beneficiaries are the thug states.

Yes.

MARY MCGRORY says that she's persuaded by Colin Powell's speech. Well, I figured that Stephen Green would bring her around. . . .

UPDATE: Gotham thinks it's an avalanche.

CHARLES MOORE WRITES IN THE TELEGRAPH THAT IT IS THE HAWKS WHO ARE AHEAD OF THE CURVE:

Every time I go to Washington - I returned from there this week - I find a seriousness and depth of thought about terror, the Middle East and the nature of power that, whether one agrees with it or not, is not matched by an alternative vision this side of the Atlantic.

As long ago as the 1980s, thinkers such as Andrew Marshall, the head of the Office of Net Assessment in the Pentagon, were predicting the global re-ordering that would follow the end of the Cold War. They spoke of what has been termed the "revolution in military affairs", in which technology mattered much more for Western superiority, and the enemies of the West, unable to win any spending race, would resort increasingly to terrorism. . . .

It followed from all this that the hawks were the only Westerners not surprised by September 11. The attacks that day fitted with how they thought the world was going, and they were therefore ready with the analysis and with the counter-attack. The "war against terrorism" and the "axis of evil" were not mere phrases - they were formulations of doctrine.

Because the hawks are so dark in their view of what is happening, European elites make two mistakes about them. The first is to suppose they are "gung-ho" and rush unilaterally into action. This is not so. President Bush got Nato and the world behind him before the attack on Afghanistan, and yesterday's performance by Mr Powell was only the latest whirl in a long diplomatic dance with the UN that, he hopes, will at last sweep even the French off their feet. Yes, America reserves its right to act unilaterally, but it bases its policy on the paradox that it is only by convincing people of your readiness to be unilateral that you can win multilateral support. . . .

To the European cynic, an Iraqi leader such as the head of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, who shares Western values, is a mere "saloniste". To the hopeful hawk, he is a big step in the right direction. And if Iraq can be reborn, the same optimist reasons, something similar might start to happen in all the broken polities of the Islamic world.

Is some of this rather starry-eyed? Perhaps. Is it a rhetoric that seeks to justify in moral terms the bald assertion of American power? Certainly. But if the conflict is between extremists who hate the West and want to destroy it and the political and cultural values that all European nations claim to share, why is it so wrong? And what, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroder, is the alternative?

The rest of the article is far from a claim that the hawks have everything right. But it does point out that failing to engage their ideas (what, those papier-mache statues of Bush don't count?) is foolish and unserious.

JEFF JARVIS IS SUCCINCT: "Let's get this straight: Sex sells. Sex is fun. Sex is good. Gotta problem with that? Then you're the freak, geek."

UPDATE: Justin Katz responds.

"VA. TROOPER SHOT, ONE KILLED DURING WATER CONTAMINATION PROBE:" I wonder if there's more to this story than we're getting.

UPDATE: Here's another story, though it's still unclear exactly what was going on.

COMPUTING GRIDS, SMALLPOX, AND YOU: The Bloviator has an interesting item on efforts to mobilize computing power to find a new treatment for smallpox. Very interesting. It's kind of like SETI@Home, though I hope that the marketing guys are smart enough not to name it "Smallpox@Home."

THE THEORY THAT THE COLUMBIA WAS HIT BY A METEOR -- or a piece of space debris -- is not implausible, but I doubt it's the most likely explanation. As between the two, the odds favor debris; in Low Earth Orbit there's about twice as much manmade debris as natural meteor flux.

But assuming the impact occurred during re-entry, the Shuttle was a bit low for that. It would have had to collide with something that was re-entering (or in the case of a meteorite, just entering) the atmosphere at the same time, which is far less likely than an on-orbit collision.

DON MCARTHUR has noticed yet another invasion of Internet privacy. I may amend my Terms of Use to specify that such 'bots are unauthorized and their users subject to suit for theft of services.

PHYSICIST / SCIENCE FICTION WRITER GREGORY BENFORD looks at post-Shuttle space programs.

NORTH CAROLINA LAW-PROFESSOR-BLOGGER ERIC MULLER is all over the Howard Coble story. I meant to blog this yesterday, but as you may have noticed it was a light-blogging day -- faculty meetings and assorted other projects do get in the way of this hobby from time to time.

Anyway, Coble expressed the view -- which Muller correctly calls "bizarre" -- that the Japanese-American internments were for their own protection. Uh, right. As Muller notes:

Folks, this is the guy running the show on homeland security in the House of Representatives. The guy who will have oversight over how well Tom Ridge's new department is balancing national security with individual liberties.

If he's not already doing so, Dennis Hastert should be looking for a new Chairman for Judiciary's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Indeed. Muller also paints a larger political picture that Karl Rove should probably pay attention to.

UPDATE: Here's a suggestion that Coble doesn't even know the history of his own party on the subject.

HIGH-SCHOOL BLOGGER DAVID RUSSELL, quoted here a couple of days back, has hit the big time -- he's now being quoted by Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post.

VIRGINIA POSTREL WRITES:

The danger may make international support more valuable. But that support does not significantly reduce the risks of war. The only reason to go to war, taking enormous risks today, is to prevent greater risks tomorrow. Wisdom dictates that we make that decision based on the worst-case assumptions about war today, not on happy scenarios of easy victory with minimal casualties. That's true with or without international support. And it was true before Powell's speech.

Indeed.

IT'S ROPE-A-DOPE AT THE UN:

The administration's refusal to supply its opponents with the answers they demanded on their schedule emboldened them. There were anti-war rallies. Democrats in the Senate began finding fault with the president. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle basically said he feared the administration was making up reasons to go to war.

The administration remained patient, waiting until it was ready to speak. And by doing so, the president and his team also showed once more that they possess an astonishingly high level of strategic and tactical intelligence in dealing with the messy realities of world politics.

Powell's masterful and inarguable presentation yesterday means the administration has once again outflanked its adversaries and out-argued its opponents - just as it did in September, when Bush went to the United Nations and began the process that led to the unanimous passage of U.N. Resolution 1441.

Via Betsy's Page.

GEORGE WILL WRITES:

It would be more difficult for the president to wage war against Iraq if the United Nations did not exist. But if the United Nations, having passed 1441, now refuses to authorize war, the United Nations will essentially cease to exist.

There is the outline of a satisfactory outcome: Saddam Hussein removed, the United Nations reduced.

The United Nations' power -- like that of France -- grows mostly out the the United States' unaccounted willingness to pretend to take it seriously. But that's getting steadily harder with both.

MICKEY KAUS gives Hillary's war speech a failing grade:

The cynicism is clear -- if there's another terrorist strike, Hillary can say it was because the Republicans didn't earmark that extra $150 million for interoperable radios. But mainly what comes through is state-of-the-art lack of imagination. It's Robo-Senatoring.

He also asks, weirdly, if the Spector-mansion shooting will prove a shot in the arm for gun control efforts. I don't see why it would. Especially because even areas with strict gun control always make exceptions for rich and famous people, as the distribution of New York concealed-weapons permits demonstrates.

February 05, 2003

MARK STEYN DECODES FRENCH DIPLOMACY.

UPDATE: Vaara emails to point out the following:

Hi Glenn,

I just thought I'd mention that on Tuesday evening, the U.N. Security Council *unanimously* passed Resolution 1464, which authorizes the existing deployment of French and African troops in Ivory Coast.

He's right (he? I guess). I'd missed that development. Here's a story on the subject, from VOA.

This seems to me to suggest that the French have hit upon a wonderful strategy -- invade first, ask permission later. I think that it's one you might see employed again in the near future. . . .

STEVEN DEN BESTE ANALYZES FRENCH STRATEGY. They're not our allies.

JAMES LILEKS WRITES:

"How can we possibly go to war without the approval of the United Nations?"

This question would make sense if there was a big red button marked "START WAR" in a locked closet at the U.N. Secretariat, and we had to beg Kofi Annan for the keys. The United States can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the United Nations can do is pass more worthless paper. The only way a resolution could stop a truly determined president would be if they wrapped it around a rock and threw it at George W. Bush's head.

Read the whole thing.

UNILATERALISM, MY ASS!

Statement of the Vilnius Group Countries
For the record: 5 February 2003, Wednesday.

Statement by the Foreign Ministers of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in response to the presentation by the United States Secretary of State to the United Nations Security Council concerning Iraq:

Earlier today, the United States presented compelling evidence to the United Nations Security Council detailing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, its active efforts to deceive UN inspectors, and its links to international terrorism.

Our countries understand the dangers posed by tyranny and the special responsibility of democracies to defend our shared values. The trans-Atlantic community, of which we are a part, must stand together to face the threat posed by the nexus of terrorism and dictators with weapons of mass destruction.

We have actively supported the international efforts to achieve a peaceful disarmament of Iraq. However, it has now become clear that Iraq is in material breach of U.N. Security Council Resolutions, including U.N. Resolution 1441, passed unanimously on November 8, 2002. As our governments said on the occasion of the NATO Summit in Prague: "We support the goal of the international community for full disarmament of Iraq as stipulated in the UN Security Council Resolution 1441. In the event of non-compliance with the terms of this resolution, we are prepared to contribute to an international coalition to enforce its provisions and the disarmament of Iraq."

The clear and present danger posed by the Saddam Hussein's regime requires a united response from the community of democracies. We call upon the U.N. Security Council to take the necessary and appropriate action in response to Iraq's continuing threat to international peace and security.

That's in addition to the earlier letter of support from Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Denmark. The diplomatic isolation of "Old Europe" continues.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh thinks the Security Council has Leagalized itself. That's a new term he's coined, referring to international bodies that replicate the League of Nations.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Jody Green emails:

I really like the statement that we need "a united response from the Community of Democracies". Community of Democracies (COD). Got a ring to it, eh. How about abandonding the U.N. and creating COD. No more fascists heading human rights committees. Bye bye Syria, China, Iraq and all you other fascist pigs. We have a new club and if you want to join, you must change your ways and we can show you how. Good plan, don't you think?

I'm sure the French will denounce its simplisme.

I CERTAINLY CAN'T VOUCH FOR THE ACCURACY OF THESE REPORTS FROM NORTH KOREA, but if true they suggest that North Korea is indeed close to collapse.

THE NEW REPUBLIC CALLS POWELL'S CASE FOR WAR "BRUTALLY COMPELLING:"

No doubt about it, Colin Powell laid out a brutally compelling case for war with Iraq at the U.N. Security Council today. The audio tapes of high-ranking Iraqi military officers conspiring to hide evidence of chemical and biological weapons; the satellite footage of Iraqis sanitizing chemical and biological weapons facilities; the descriptions of Iraqi mobile production facilities and un-manned delivery vehicles--all these pieces of evidence were both damning on their merits and dramatic in their effect.

TNR wonders if Powell didn't make more arguments than he needed to. I guess that depends on who you think the audience is.

FRED KAPLAN AT SLATE SAYS THAT COLIN POWELL DELIVERED THE GOODS ON SADDAM:

Secretary of State Colin Powell's briefing to the U.N. Security Council was far more powerful than anyone had predicted. Not all his points were equally compelling: Some, as he admitted, were open to interpretation; some were vaguely sourced (if understandably so). But contrary to his own (clearly low-balling) remarks of recent days, Powell did produce the proverbial "smoking gun." And, while his evidence may not have been quite as shattering as Adlai Stevenson's U-2 photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba, it came remarkably close—so much so that, if the Security Council does not now take action against Iraq, it might as well disband.

Sounds like win/win to me.

NICHOLAS PACKWOOD IS CALLING IT "GATESGATE" -- the scandal over CBC interviewer Jennifer Gates' remarks about American "arrogance." He's posted the CBC's reply (several readers were kind enough to forward me copies, too -- thanks!) and has his own analysis. Since Nicholas is Canadian, I think it's appropriate for him to take the lead on this.

STEVE VERDON is unimpressed with Bush's budget and suggests that libertarians may start bolting the G.O.P.

MORE SAUDI PERFIDY: Best of the Web reports on how the Saudis are helping terror witnesses avoid testifying, and training up new terrorists in America.

MY THOUGHTS ON MARIJUANA PROSECUTIONS, JURIES, AND THE TRUTH ARE NOW UP, over at GlennReynolds.com.

DAVE KOPEL TAKES TAPPED TO TASK for shady editing and more.

DODD HARRIS points out a report that Gerhard Schroeder is facing domestic political heat -- not only over the economy, but on his position relating to Iraq.

I LISTENED TO POWELL ON NPR, and it seems to me that he's made the case that the UN must act, or become the League of Nations. The Russian response, though, seems weak so far. We may need another resolution? Or maybe more than one additional resolution? The Security Council will resolve itself to death under that approach.

HEY, NOW THE STORMFRONT GUYS ARE calling InstaPundit's content "atrocious!" My day is made.

My new slogan: "InstaPundit: Even more atrocious in 2003!"

Or, as another professor once said, "Nazis. I hate these guys."

UPDATE: Reader James Foster emails:

They would also probably hate that most of your readers are pro-Second Amendment. Just like Condoleezza Rice's pastor father, who organized shotgun brigades to protect his church and community from their hooded brethren during the dark days of civil rights protests in Birmingham.

Yep. They probably share Hitler's view on civilian disarmament. Several readers also sent this line from the Blues Brothers movie:

"Who are those guys?"

"Nazis."

"In Skokie? Illlinois?"

"Illinois Nazis."

"I hate Illinois Nazis!"

Yep.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT:

Meanwhile, outside an estimated 500 pro- and anti-Bush demonstrators clashed in a savage snowball fight.

“There was about 10 inches on the ground,” reported Ehlers, so opposing forces had plenty of ammo.

By the time order was restored, several demonstrators were arrested. But Ehlers, a professor at UC-Berkeley in the 1960s, wasn’t impressed.

“Nothing like a Vietnam protest,” he said of the melee, in which outnumbered Bush supporters routed their opponents, according to one participant, by using “better target selection and superior firepower."

Heh.

MICHELLE MALKIN has a very unsympathetic treatment of the John Lott controversy.

MORE ON WHY Germany + France does not equal Europe.

UPDATE: Chris Lawrence has more.

ACCORDING TO THIS REPORT, Colin Powell has made some last-minute changes in his U.N. presentation in the hopes of bringing Democrats on board.

NUKES IN SPACE: NASA is planning for nuclear spacecraft, and according to this Wired News article, it's getting good reviews. Also, here's a link-rich survey of the issue that I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

I HAVEN'T SEEN THE ARTICLE YET, but Media Minded reports that Michael Kelly is praising the blogosphere in the latest Atlantic Monthly.

EUGENE VOLOKH ADDRESSES the Nazis from Stormfront:

Look, if you're still reading, don't you get it? We call ourselves The Volokh Conspiracy. That's obviously an allusion to the International Jewish Conspiracy, no? One of the creators of the Internet was Leonard Kleinrock -- coincidence? I think not! We control the banks; we control the media; we're sleeping with your daughters; now we're controlling cyberspace. What's the point of resisting, really?

No point at all.

February 04, 2003

I THINK THAT THESE REMARKS BY RICHARD PERLE were carefully timed.

SEVERAL TIMES I'VE MEANT TO LINK TO THIS ARTICLE BY MATTHEW PARRIS on how to be an honest critic of the war, but somehow I never did. My memory was jogged by seeing it on Mellow-Drama. If you haven't seen it elsewhere, follow the link now. Excerpt:

Don’t, in summary, dress up moral doubt in the garb of wordlywise punditry. Give warning, by all means, of the huge gamble that allied plans represent, but if all you are talking is the probabilities, say so, and prepare to be vindicated or mocked by the outcomes. We are very quick to aver that Tony Blair will be discredited and humiliated if the war goes wrong. Will we be discredited and humiliated if the war goes right? If the basis of our objection was that the war would fail, that should follow.

I do not think that the war, if there is a war, will fail. I can easily envisage the publication soon of some chilling facts about Saddam’s armoury, a French and German scamper back into the fold, a tough UN second resolution, a short and successful war, a handover to a better government, a discreet change of tune in the biddable part of the Arab world, and egg all over the peaceniks’ faces.

I am not afraid that this war will fail. I am afraid that it will succeed.

I am afraid that it will prove to be the first in an indefinite series of American interventions. I am afraid that it is the beginning of a new empire: an empire that I am afraid Britain may have little choice but to join.

Well, that's something to worry about. But it's not as bad as, say, smallpox.

THE TWO WTC REPLACEMENT DESIGN FINALISTS have been announced. Hmm. I'm not overwhelmed by either. But what do I know?

TONY ADRAGNA RESPONDS to Gregg Easterbrook's Time essay.

JIM HENLEY IS RIGHT: This post by Hesiod is thoughtful and temperate.

TODD GITLIN:

Anti-Americanism is an emotion masquerading as an analysis, a morality, an ideal, even an idea about what to do. When hatred of foreign policies ignites into hatred of an entire people and their civilization, then thinking is dead and demonology lives. When complexity of thought devolves into caricature, intellect is close to reconciling itself to mass murder.

One might have thought all this obvious. On the evidence of two of the works under review, it is not. Consider the sad case of Gore Vidal, once "a great wit" (in the words of Norman Mailer, who proceeded to skewer him), now a witless crank. Reposing in Ravello, Italy, Vidal maunders from snippet to snippet. His latest volume of musings manages to be skimpy and redundant at once. Collecting one's Vanity Fair pieces as if they would stand up in book covers is an act of, well, vanity. That such an exercise should be escorted into the world by the Nation's book publishing arm speaks unflatteringly about publishing standards on the left.

There's much, much more.

A PACK, NOT A HERD: Several people have emailed me that NASA has set up a site where people can upload images and video that may help with the Columbia investigation. Great idea.

UPDATE: This is good, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: So is this!

MORE ON VLOGGING from Jeff Jarvis.

IT'S NOT A FISKING, but Rand Simberg has a lengthy and thoughtful response to Gregg Easterbrook's Time essay on the Space Shuttle. Don't miss it.

MEGAN MCARDLE RESPONDS to letters of concern from close friends.

ANOTHER ROBOSEXUAL COMES OUT OF THE CLOSET.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

UPDATE: Then there's RoboJournalism. Heh.

ERIC ALTERMAN IS TOUTING HIS NEW BOOK, and he even has a fancy website where you can read the first chapter for free.

I've read the book (I wrote a bit about it here) and I'm going to write more about it later. For now, I'll just say that his thesis depends on a particular definition of "liberal."

CATS AND DOGS, LIVING TOGETHER: Porphyrogenitus is praising Stanley Fish.

ONE OF THE STORIES THAT I'VE NEGLECTED because of the Columbia matter -- er, except that "neglected" would suggest that this was my job or something -- is this one about a California medical-marijuana prosecution that seems like a travesty of justice to me. Jeez.

I should note that the incentive program for prosecutors that I propose here would quickly put an end to these kinds of abuses, where jurors -- once they find out the truth -- regret their verdicts.

UPDATE: Here's more from Kos, Kevin Drum, and notorious lefty Bill Quick.

THE WAX TADPOLE WONDERS if Rumsfeld's Old Europe / New Europe statement has started something:

His "Old Europe/New Europe" meme is taking hold broadly and in some surprising places (see the Vanguardia article cited here at Iberian Notes) and "New Europe" is becoming a rallying cry for the forces that want to save Europe from itself.

The sputtering outrage from the establishment and the chattering classes serves only to highlight the difference between the dynamic and forward-looking "new" Europeans and stodgy, reactionary old Europe. I'm sure the "age is wisdom" tack seemed clever in the heat of battle, but by using it they've endorsed the notion that there really is a "new" Europe and placed themselves firmly in opposition to it. Once tempers have cooled, they'll find themselves on the wrong side of a real and growing divide.

Interesting.

UPDATE: Reader Ted Nolan quotes Robert Heinlein: "It's amazing how much 'mature wisdom' resembles being too tired."

TIM NOAH ASKS if John Lott is the Michael Bellesiles of the right. (It's carefully posed as an unanswered question, perhaps on the advice of Microsoft's libel lawyers . . . .)

Noah does a good job of summing up the developments so far in one convenient package. I think it's fair to say that the serious charges against Lott -- falsely claiming to have done an unpublished survey in 1997 -- are unproven, while the proven charges against Lott -- using a pseudonym on the Internet -- are embarrassing and reflect badly on him, but are not terribly serious.

But even if the serious charge were true, something that is so far a matter of conjecture rather than actual evidence, I think it would be an exaggeration to equate that to Michael Bellesiles' misconduct, though it's easy to understand why some people would like to do so.

Bellesiles, after all, was found to have fabricated research that was crucial to the thesis of a published academic work. Lott is accused of claiming to have done a study that was never published at all. If proven, that would be serious misconduct, but it's possible for misconduct to be serious and still not rise to the level of the Bellesiles affair, which is probably the most serious case of academic fraud in the past decade. And, again, I can see why some people would like to blur that distinction (as Noah does by simply posing the question), but it's a distinction nonetheless.

A better analogy might be to historian Joseph Ellis, who falsely claimed to have seen combat in Vietnam -- a claim that, if true, might have lent greater force to his scholarship and public statements, but that was not in fact part of his published scholarship. Ellis's conduct was serious, though not so serious as Bellesiles', and he was punished -- he was suspended for a year -- but he's now back delivering keynote lectures at prestigious conferences. One might argue, I suppose -- as lawyers sometimes do -- that a person who has lied on one subject presumably lies on others. But if such arguments are to be directed at Lott, one must wonder why they have not been directed at Ellis, and whether those who espouse politically-incorrect views might one day enjoy the same opportunities for genteel rehabilitation. Like Noah, I'll just ask that question, and not answer it.

UPDATE: Reader Raphael Laufer writes:

I think that you understate a bit what Lott is accused of doing: it's not just claiming to have done a survey when he may not have -- it's fabricating the result of the survey and presenting that as evidence in a book. That this is only one instance makes it different in scale, not in kind, from Bellesiles' fraud. As to Joseph Ellis -- I was under the impression that his lies never actually impinged on his scholarship, that his lies were done more to satisfy his ego than to promote one thesis over another.

A distinction can be made between those academic sins that reflect poorly on the sinner, but not their work (Ambrose, Goodwin, Ellis) and those sins that call the whole academic enterprise into doubt (Bellesiles and perhaps Lott).

And Richard Riley notes:

With respect, I don't think your post on Tim Noah's discussion of John Lott fairly acknowledges the seriousness of what Lott is alleged to have done. You say Lott "is accused of claiming to have done a study that was never published at all," and you compare that to the fact that "Bellesiles ... was found to have fabricated research that was crucial to the thesis of a published academic work."
But as Noah points out, Lott's "survey" is what he (currently) claims to be the support for a crucial passage, indeed a crucial theme, in his major published work - that is, the assertion that brandishing a firearm rather than firing it, almost all the time, is all it takes to stop an attack. If Lott didn't do his survey - as Noah says, he's changed his position on what his supporting sources are, but he currently says it's his survey that supports the assertion - then it sure looks as though Lott "fabricated research crucial to the thesis" of his major published work.

If proved (big "if"), that's pretty bad. Much worse than Ellis, I'd say.

Well, even Lott's critic-in-chief Tim Lambert says otherwise, as I noted in my first post on this, where I quoted Lambert as saying:

Finally, I should comment on the overall significance of this question. Lott's 98% claim takes up just one sentence of his book. Whether or not it's true, it doesn't affect his main argument, which is about alleged benefits of concealed carry laws. I don't think any fuss would have been made if Lott hadn't repeated the claim numerous times on TV shows, on radio shows, and in opinion pieces.

Now others may disagree -- and as I've said repeatedly, I do think the charge is a serious one, just not of Bellesiles-caliber. And if the charge of survey-falsification is proven, people will be justified in not trusting Lott any more, and AEI, where Lott works, would be justified in letting him go, or suspending him for a year, or whatever. I do feel, though, that trying to turn Lott into the "right wing Bellesiles" has a lot more to do with political positioning and paybacks than it does with Lott, and I very much believe that there is a double standard here.

As many of Lott's pro-gun critics have said (and Lott has a lot more pro-gun critics than Bellesiles had anti-gun critics), Lott should know that there's a double standard, and should conduct himself accordingly. That's good, prudent advice. But it doesn't mean that the double standard shouldn't be pointed out, either.

UPDATE: Michael Pollard makes the point well:

Timothy Noah asks if John Lott is "the Bellesiles of the Right." But Slate readers may be puzzled about what this means given that Slate published no articles about Bellesiles' notorious academic fraud and disgrace until ... Timothy Noah decided to mention it in today's attack on Lott. . . .

Noah's new-found interest in academic honesty would be easier to take seriously if he'd shown the slightest interest in Bellesiles before this.

Indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Brian Linse weighs in: " Is he the Bellesiles of the Right? Who gives a shit? In my opinion they are both useless to the gun policy debate."

What I hate about Brian is that he's so stuffy and proper he won't tell you what he really thinks. . . .

KOS IS STILL LOOKING FOR CORRESPONDENTS for his Political State Report site. It seems to be going quite well, and if you're interested in covering your state, drop by and email him via the link there.

DANA BLANKENHORN EMAILS: "Two words -- Space Elevator." Sounds good to me. He didn't like my paper-ballots piece much, though. Oh, well.

UPDATE: Technoptimist has the punchline.

JIM BENNETT WRITES:

Rather than a solution to the fulfillment of these needs, the shuttle has become an awkward legacy. It will never deliver the cheap access its proponents had promised, and after Columbia's loss, lingering doubts will remain regarding the system's reliability no matter what the result of the investigation may be. Yet it cannot be merely scrapped at this point, without scrapping a substantial range of activities, most notably the International Space Station. . . .

The shuttle's real problems stem from the system that produced it and managed it from day one. In Lyndon Johnson's eyes, NASA was primarily the Marshall Plan for the Confederacy. The shuttle was a political creature from the beginning, and the complex set of compromises and tradeoffs needed to bring it into being assured that it would forever be too expensive to fly often enough, or build enough of, to get the proper experience base to really understand reusable space flight. The total number of takeoff-landing cycles flown by the shuttle fleet even now is smaller than that typically flown by a new airliner prototype. In some ways, we still cannot say that anything that has happened with the shuttle fleet is statistically significant. . . .

Government should think less about what the ideal piece of hardware should be, and more about how to help private companies mobilize the capital to develop multiple approaches. Smart buying practices are one such means; permitting capital from close allies like Britain to have a role in financing development might be another.

Read it all. Sorry about all the Shuttle-blogging. I'll return to my usual hobbyhorses soon enough. . . .

MORE PEOPLE THAN VOTED FOR HUGO CHAVEZ have reportedly signed an anti-Chavez petition.

WANT TO HEAR THE TRIAL LAWYERS' SIDE OF THINGS? InstaLawyer -- hey, at least he didn't call himself "TrialPundit" -- delivers it.

CBC ARROGANCE UPDATE: I reported earlier (and here) about a CBC interviewer (her name, apparently, is Jennifer Gates) who blamed the Columbia crash on American "arrogance." It turns out that Canadian science fiction writer Spider Robinson saw it too. He writes:

Many will spin this new disaster to support their political agenda. Within minutes of the shuttle's destruction, a CBC newstwit was asking my colleague, novelist Rob Sawyer, on the air if he didn't agree that the tragedy was caused by American arrogance in the Middle East? He was so stunned by the question he answered it.

But the rest of his column is what's really worth reading. Here's an excerpt:

We need to put people on Mars, and in orbit, and keep them there. As the world simmers and stews in its own madness, the one thing we cannot afford to cut is our only means to rise above it.

Robert Heinlein said this planet is too fragile a basket for humanity to keep all its eggs in. We're easily dumb and quarrelsome enough to drop the basket one of these days. If that happens, it would be nice if there were grandchildren somewhere to whom the cautionary tale might be told.

Indeed.

KEN LAYNE'S POST ABOUT COLUMBIA is a must-read. This guy needs his own newspaper, or something.

NEWS FROM THE OLD EUROPE:

Chirac is walking a political tightrope at home, where public opinion is set against any military action not sanctioned by the UN and where an immigrant population of four million Muslims exercises an unspoken influence on policy.

Muslim youths in Paris and other cities are carrying out a low-level "intifada" against French authority, burning cars in nightly raids, mostly unreported in the national news. The risk of escalating violence is real.

In other words, French policy is the victim not of American imperialism, but of Arab colonialism, no?

BRIAN CARNELL REPORTS that the spray-on foam insulation used on the Shuttle external tank was reformulated to be CFC-free -- and that one of the side effects is an increase in flaking. He has more on the subject -- including a report that the reformulated foam led to flaking that caused significant damage to tiles on an earlier Shuttle mission -- here. Very interesting. This New York Times story mentions the foam problem, but not the reformulation.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER WRITES:

The risk of catastrophe for a commercial jet is 1 in 2 million. For a fighter jet, it is 1 in 20,000. NASA's best estimate for the shuttle was 1 in 240. Our experience now tells us that it is about 1 in 50.

That is a fantastic risk. It can be justified -- but only for fantastic journeys. The ultimate problem with the shuttle is not O-rings or loose tiles but a mission that makes no sense. The launches are magnificent and inspiring. But the mission is to endlessly traverse the most dangerous part of space -- the thin envelope of the atmosphere -- to get in and out of orbit without going anywhere beyond. Yet it is that very beyond -- the moon, the asteroids, Mars -- that is the whole point of leaving Earth in the first place.

We slip the bonds of Earth not to spend 20 years in orbit studying zero-gravity nausea, but to set foot on new worlds, learn their mysteries, establish our presence.

Yes. As Robert Heinlein said, once you're in orbit you're halfway to anywhere. It seems odd to get that far, and then stop, but that's what we've been doing.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Jim Pinkerton writes:

In the wake of the Columbia tragedy, the arguments of the pro-space constituency are strong, but not strong enough. If space advocates can't bring themselves to make the most powerful arguments of all—that space is vital to human freedom, even to human survival—then their cause will falter as the soaring spirit of heroism and martyrdom fades, and as the counter-arguments of the cost-benefiting, bean-counting critics gain footing.

He's right. Read the whole thing.

February 03, 2003

IT'S NOT PALESTINE, ABU, -- it's Nineveh.

READER TIM KRAMER SENDS THIS PHOTO, which he says is of debris that landed at an airport he was using, and a firsthand account that I've posted over at InstaPundit Extra! It's over there both because it's long and because it raises a few odd questions. I should stress that while I have no particular reason to doubt it, I haven't confirmed the details, either. So treat it with caution, and apply the critical intelligence of the Blogosphere.

HERE'S THE STATEMENT by the astronauts' families.

DAVID JANES has an interesting picture that seems to show cracks in the Columbia left wing.

UPDATE: More, including some skepticism, here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more skepticism here.

Meanwhile reader Woody Emanuel writes:

The supposed photo of a shuttle wing is totally bogus. Someone had fun conning a paper to publish it.

There is no possibility of viewing either the upper or lower wing surfaces from the shuttle unless on a spacewalk, and then only the upper part of the wing. You can't see the wings from any window in the shuttle; the cargo bay doors are always open during flight blocking any view of the wings anyway.

There would be no "crack" anyway. Tiles don't crack - they get damaged. And NASA saw no need for for a wood stove pipe extending from the wing.

Several readers had similar comments.

INTERESTING POLL:

82% said the U.S. should continue manned space flights.

71% expected that an accident such as the one that occurred Saturday would happen sooner or later.

Count me "yes" in both categories.

HIGH-SCHOOL BLOGGER DAVID RUSSELL WRITES:

We didn't watch astronauts land on the moon, we don't have many notable space achievements, it's all been done for us. My generation has always had astronauts, they aren't heroes to us, we haven't discovered anything new through them. We take astronauts for granted, space travel is supposed to be easy; we're going to live on the moon. Today's discoveries and feats are made through computers, how can I make that my hero? The people most effecting my generation are the computer programmers, the game makers, and those who brought us Napster and Kazaa.

The people who have accomplished great during our time on Earth are invisible to us. When was the last time you saw a poster of a computer programmer on your child's wall?

Our ignorance is not an excuse but look at what we are left with. Generations before have explored many of the conceivable frontiers. We have no New World, no Oregon Trail, no gold rush, no Alaska, and no man on the moon. You've left us to do the almost impossible. We are lucky, and happy we have the things we have today. We're glad we didn't have to grow up without the Internet, cable TV and video games. But look at where you've left us.

We must achieve the almost impossible to go further than you. To go further than you we have to establish human life beyond the confines of our home. That is a mighty task you have left us with. Hopefully we can do that while finding the solutions to earthly problems in the process. We need a place to go, and we'll find that place. Then we will go there, with our kids in the backseat (of the spacecraft) asking "Are we there yet?"

Until then, please forgive us as we learn just how much these events really mean to you.

Nice post.

THERE'S AN INTERESTING DEBATE ON SHUTTLE SUCCESSORS AND PROBLEMS over at JerryPournelle.com -- just keep scrolling.

IT'S NOT WORTH THE RISK TO SEND PEOPLE, writes Scott Ott. We should send robots, instead.

DAVE WINER GRADES COLUMBIA COVERAGE:

I think they missed the big one. How about teaching us something about space and the universe. Seems like the perfect opportunity. They say we wouldn't understand, but I'm not sure they're right. I think maybe they're just lazy.

Instead, he says, they're covering it the way they cover everything: as a political story.

JOHN LOTT will be on the Larry Elder show at 7pm eastern time. It says you can listen live by clicking this link, once the show's on.

UPDATE: The link didn't work, but Arthur Silber blogged the show. Conclusion: "Lott sounds very, very weak. He knows he was wrong -- and I guess he just thought he could get away with it. And he knows Larry has been a great champion of his, so he's obviously very uncomfortable."

I CAN'T TELL THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES WITHOUT A SCORECARD: Concern about voting machines being untrustworthy used to show up in email from militia types. Now it's a staple of the left.

Which isn't to say it's wrong, necessarily. Anyway, I've already proposed a solution to the problem that's eminently workable. I'd love to see Congress require it in federal elections, along with other anti-fraud measures like a requirement for photo ID and measures to ensure that people don't vote twice. But I think that both parties have too much invested in voter fraud to get behind something like that. Cynical? Maybe. But that's not the same as wrong.

THIS ANALYSIS OF COLUMBIA MEDIA COVERAGE -- which I found through Romenesko, natch -- mentions Bill Harwood, who used to edit my opeds at the University of Tennessee Daily Beacon. ("Your paragraphs are too long," I remember him saying. I hope I've fixed that now. . . .) Here's what it says:

Stern fans notwithstanding, at least this weekend belonged to the science guys and the space enthusiasts.

There was "CBS News" space consultant, Bill Harwood, who's covered the comings and goings of the shuttle for at least 15 years, doing the kind of explanatory journalism that makes us all a little smarter while breaking the news that NASA's suspicions were focused on the shuttle's left wing.

I wish I'd seen that. I lost touch with Harwood years ago, but the last I heard he was covering Cape Canaveral for UPI. Then again, the story notes:

(It's not Harwood's fault, or even Rather's, that CBS, which was the first of the Big Three to get its main anchor on the air Saturday morning, was also the first to ditch coverage, cutting away from a much-delayed NASA news conference to carry the Bob Hope Chrysler Golf Classic.)

Oh, well. Interestingly, though, it never occurs to me to turn to the Big Three when there's breaking news: I generally alternate between CNN and Fox. I guess that's because they never break to a golf tournament. Meanwhile this story from Mark Jurkowitz in the Boston Globe notes:

Yet, as often happens in today's interconnected, high-tech universe, much of the reporting was done not by journalists, but by ordinary citizens: witnesses, video camera owners, and law-enforcement officials. In midafternoon, CBS interviewed Raymond Cervantes, a video camera ''hobbyist'' who captured the shuttle's breakup over Texas and described it as ''an unbelievable fireball.''

Thomas Kerss, the sheriff of Nacogdoches, Texas, told NBC what he knew about conditions on the ground where debris was landing. Throughout the day, on-the-scene observers provided insight and details.

I think that the network that manages to bring together this kind of reporting best will have a leg up on the others. Here's a piece with tips for journalists on how to make use of the blogosphere.

THERE WILL BE A PRO-WAR RALLY at the Colorado state capitol building on February 16. Here's a link to the press release. I hope a lot of Denver-area bloggers will go, and take their digital cameras.

Meanwhile, Denver's own Dave Kopel is criticizing media coverage of the anti-war movement.

HERE'S MORE ON THE L.A. BLOGOSPHERE CONFERENCE being organized by Susannah Breslin, Xeni Jardin, and Beverly Tang. If you're in the L.A. area, or can be, on February 15, don't miss it!

SOME FOLKS AT NSF sent this photo of the flag at half staff on the South Pole. Like space explorers, Antarctic explorers do something dangerous and important that a lot of people would like to do despite its dangers and discomforts.

Meanwhile, over at GlennReynolds.com, I've posted a bunch of reader email. It was foursquare in favor of doing more, not less, in space. Since I sent them that posting I've read hundreds more emails, and what's posted is still representative.

RAND SIMBERG has a column at NRO about the manned / unmanned space exploration debate. Excerpt:

If history is any guide, policymakers won't ask the right questions, the useful questions, those fundamental metaquestions that haven't been asked since the dawn of the space age and NASA's founding. First and foremost among them are: Why do we have a "space program"? What are we trying to accomplish?

Every press interview, every congressional hearing, every blue-ribbon commission assumes answers to that question, and the assumption is assumed to be shared, and none of those assumptions are ever questioned. . . .

The debate about the future of space exploration should include the American people, and what they want to do in space, not just what they want, like voyeurs, to watch either government employees or robots do.

But it all starts by asking the right questions. And, by the way, that's not robot work, either.

Read the whole thing.

MORE ON THOSE RADAR IMAGES: Reader Timothy Lang emails:

Research scientist at Colorado State University here. My specialization is radar meteorology. You expressed hope that the NEXRAD loops of the space shuttle plume would be saved. NOAA is actually doing this, with a Lake Charles radar loop of the debris cloud specifically at: Link.

There is a general archive of NEXRAD imagery at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The following web page has data for the past month or so, from every radar:Link.

The debris cloud was tracked by multiple NEXRADs over a period of 6 or more hours. The backscatter signal from the debris was equivalent to a very weak rainstorm, but showed up clearly given the sunny weather at the time. Tough to speculate about exactly what kind of particles we're seeing in these images, but I would suspect small (< 1 mm diameter) with slow fall speeds, as it took them a few hours to settle out. The radar reflectivity factor goes as the sixth power of particle diameter, so only a small handful of the largest particles will give the kind of signal we saw.

The radars would have a hard time picking up the big pieces that fell quickly to the ground, due to the slow scanning schemes employed in radar meteorology (as opposed to, say, military scanning). You have to be lucky to have the radar looking at the right angle at the right moment for fast-moving targets. But small stuff that takes a long time to fall out would be no problem to see.

Yes. Some people have told me that the big orange smear is probably an ionization trail, but others have told me that it's small debris, and I think that's right. If you look at this loop there's a star-shaped pattern in the very first frame that I think is caused by bigger fragments, but I'm not sure. It's not ground clutter because it changes. It appears in this loop too.

FORGET "BALLISTIC FINGERPRINTING" -- TalkLeft reports that ordinary courtroom bullet-matching isn't what it's cracked up to be. I remember a lawyer telling me 20 years ago that he always challenged scientific evidence, and that even where the FBI lab was concerned, independent experts got different answers about half the time.

This seems to be a problem with "forensic science" in general. Hair, fiber, polygraphs, etc., all turn out to be rather more forensic than science.

OMENS AND IDIOTS: Lee Harris has a response to people who think that the Columbia explosion was a message from God. Excerpt:

The essence of human intelligence is the search for pattern. We seek it everywhere; and, if we are not terribly careful, we succeed in finding it everywhere—even where it is not. Yet it would be folly to condemn this instinctive craving for an imagined order that would mirror the true order of things, since this is the same drive that has produced the great edifice called Western science.

And nowhere is the distinctive Western-ness of Western science made clearer than in Arab response to the shuttle disaster. It is not that they feel the ominous whereas we do not, since I am convinced that, however inarticulately, we do—but that is where the similarity ends. We feel it—but we insist on going beyond the mere evidence of own feelings; and how hard this is to do is nowhere clearer than in the case before us. Yes, we see all the signs, but we must force ourselves to step back and to ask, "Does it really make sense to see this disaster as somehow magically attached to the fate of our nation—no matter how strongly we may make such a connection at the visceral level? Is it possible that the world could really be organized like that?"

The answer we give is a resounding, No. But this answer is only forthcoming because we exist in a civilization that has achieved the unique distinction of having successfully banished magical thinking from all those critical realms of life that were once and everywhere haunted by the spooks and spirits of primitive mind.

Well, mostly. There's a lot of "magical thinking" in contemporary politics, even in Western nations.

The Stirrer has some observations on this subject, too. And my rather uncharitable response to such concerns can be found here.

UPDATE: Meryl Yourish has more.

MY TECHCENTRALSTATION COLUMN is up early this week. It's about space.

MAX BOOT WRITES in the Washington Post: "The crew of Columbia gave "the last, full measure of devotion" to this epic voyage of discovery. The best memorial we can offer them is to keep going."

YOU CAN HEAR MEDBLOGGER ROSS SILVERMAN ON THE BBC at 10 am EST. Here's a post with more information and a link for online listening.

JOSH CHAFETZ offers a lengthy firsthand report of Gary Hart's speech at Oxford. Hart gets a mixed review.

UPDATE: TalkLeft differs with Chafetz's assessment.

IF GEORGE BUSH HAD MADE THIS HISTORICAL BONER, would we read about it in Slate? Will John Kerry get a pass?

JAMES LILEKS ON SPACE EXPLORATION:

NPR had an interview with one of those people who think we should not send people into space, but rely entirely on robots. As I pulled into the parking lot at the mall he casually asked “what can a man do on Mars that a robot cannot?”

PLANT A FUCKING FLAG ON THE PLANET, I shouted at the radio. Pardon my language. But. On a day when seven brave people died while fulfilling their brightest ambitions, this was the wrong day to suggest we all stay tethered to the dirt until the sun grows cold. Are we less than the men who left safe harbors and shouldered through cold oceans? After all, they sailed into the void; we can look up at the night sky and point at where we want to go. There: that bright white orb. We’re going. There: that red coal burning on the horizon. We’re going. And we’re not sending smart toys on our behalf - we’re sending human beings, and one of them will put his boot on the sand and bring the number of worlds we’ve visited to three. And when he plants the flag he will use flesh and sinew and blood and bone to drive it into the ground. His heartbeat will hammer in his ears; his mind will spin a kaleidoscopic medley of all the things he’d thought he’d think at this moment, and he'll grin: I had it wrong. I had no idea what it would truly be like.

Yes.

THE NEW YORK TIMES REPORTS ON CALLS FOR A NANOTECHNOLOGY RESEARCH MORATORIUM:

The rhetoric is hardly dispassionate. "Today," it warns, "mighty Goliath (industrial corporations) has learned his lesson and is exploiting the power of small to become mightier still, while little David (society) cannot even see his opponent."

That might all seem like ignorable fringe-group ranting if ETC and its executive director, Pat Roy Mooney, did not already have a reputation for successfully stirring things up. During the 1990's, they faced down Monsanto and other chemical giants in a public debate over the ethics of creating genetically modified plants whose seeds were sterile.

And like the manifesto, Mr. Mooney is more often cautiously earnest than shrill. "We are not assuming this is an evil, awful technology," Mr. Mooney said last week. "I suspect quite a bit can be done that's useful." The danger, he said, is that governments and public interest groups do not have enough control over assessing risks and setting priorities.

Well, these guys are rather too green (or at least, too Green) for my taste, but they're not idiots. It's worth reading their report (which is linked from the NYT story) together with this paper from the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology on nanotechnology and the Precautionary Principle.

I've also addressed some of these issues in this paper for the Pacific Research Institute, on regulatory issues in nanotechnology.

UPDATE: Here's a good story from SmallTimes on the ETC group's report, and reactions thereto, which are somewhat more negative than the Times story above indicates.

February 02, 2003

TOM FRIEDMAN POINTS OUT A PARADOX:

But next to the meat imported from the U.S. was a tiny asterisk, which warned that it might contain genetically modified organisms — G.M.O.'s.

My initial patriotic instinct was to order the U.S. beef and ask for it "tartare," just for spite. But then I and my lunch guest just looked at each other and had a good laugh. How quaint! we said. Europeans, out of some romantic rebellion against America and high technology, were shunning U.S.-grown food containing G.M.O.'s — even though there is no scientific evidence that these are harmful. But practically everywhere we went in Davos, Europeans were smoking cigarettes — with their meals, coffee or conversation — even though there is indisputable scientific evidence that smoking can kill you. In fact, I got enough secondhand smoke just dining in Europe last week to make me want to have a chest X-ray.

So pardon me if I don't take seriously all the Euro-whining about the Bush policies toward Iraq — for one very simple reason: It strikes me as deeply unserious. It's not that there are no serious arguments to be made against war in Iraq. There are plenty. It's just that so much of what one hears coming from German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac are not serious arguments. They are station identification.

They are not the arguments of people who have really gotten beyond the distorted Arab press and tapped into what young Arabs are saying about their aspirations for democracy and how much they blame Saddam Hussein and his ilk for the poor state of their region. Rather, they are the diplomatic equivalent of smoking cancerous cigarettes while rejecting harmless G.M.O.'s — an assertion of identity by trying to be whatever the Americans are not, regardless of the real interests or stakes.

Or steaks.

WELL, SOMEBODY IS OPTIMISTIC about the future of space travel. . . .

BRENDAN LOY HAS POSTED IMAGES OF NEWSPAPER FRONT PAGES regarding the Columbia crash on his site. It's interesting to see the differences -- and similarities -- across the board.

THIS ARTICLE BY LEONARD DAVID of Space.com looks at what will likely happen to the space station as a result of the Columbia crash.

HERE'S MORE ON INDIA'S MOURNING for Kalpana Chawla.

My reaction, echoing a comment I saw on someone's blog somewhere, is that this is a classic American story: from immigrant to astronaut in one decade. And people are hardly even paying attention to that angle because it just seems, well, normal. Of course you can move here, work hard, and if you're good enough, become an astronaut! Of course.

WE TALK ABOUT LIABILITY FOR FALLING DEBRIS IN MY SPACE LAW CLASS, but -- though there has, in fact, been damage to things on the ground from falling debris before -- the issue always seemed somewhat remote. But then there's this:

NASA is accepting claims from people who say they were injured or their property was damaged by falling Columbia debris.

The space agency is coordinating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to address claims requiring immediate action, officials said Sunday.

A foot-long metal bracket smashed through the roof of a dentist's office in Nacogdoches, Texas. A jagged, half-moon-shaped metal piece about 5-feet long landed in a front yard in the town. . . .

An 18-inch piece of what appeared to be duct piping put a dent in the roof of Rice High School in Navarro County. Debris was also found near the pitcher's mound of the school's baseball field and track.

At least no one on the ground was hurt.

IT'S A BOY!

PALESTINE, SCHMALESTINE: Reader Adam Edwards emails:

The Shuttle exploded over Palestine. Doesn't that tragic fact give you pause?Could this just be a terribly ironic coincidence or could God be trying to warn us?

I've gotten a lot of email along these lines, most of it less succinct than Mr. Edwards'. But I think readers have it all wrong. First, if you'll look at the map, you'll see that the Shuttle actually exploded over "Tennessee Colony" -- an obvious warning from God that I, and other members of the Rocky Top Brigade will soon take over the Blogosphere. It was also over Frankston, thus providing an obvious warning (especially in connection with "Tennessee Colony") that Chirac's neocolonialist efforts are doomed. Or maybe it was over "Nineveh" -- an obvious sign from God that we should support the Assyrian people's desire for freedom in the face of Muslim tyranny. (Don't believe me? Visit this website -- Nineveh.com -- and see for yourself. Note the prominent mention of Columbia and the fervent pro-Americanism.) Coincidence? I think not. It's a sign from God!

But seriously, the real meaning of the Shuttle exploding above Palestine is obvious, and it's directed to Yasser Arafat: If you don't want all kinds of high-tech exploding American stuff to come down on you, you'd better get on the right side of history before it's too late.

It's a message from God, Yasser. Put down those baby wipes, and think about it.

PUNDITWATCH IS UP! NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe gets high marks.

SMOKING GUN? HELL, WE'VE GOT THE WHOLE GUNMAN!

SADDAM Hussein's senior bodyguard has fled with details of Iraq's secret arsenal.

His revelations have supported US President George W. Bush's claim there is enough evidence from UN inspectors to justify going to war.

Abu Hamdi Mahmoud has provided Israeli intelligence with a list of sites that the inspectors have not visited.

They include:

AN underground chemical weapons facility at the southern end of the Jadray Peninsula in Baghdad;

A SCUD assembly area near Ramadi. The missiles come from North Korea;

TWO underground bunkers in Iraq's Western Desert. These contain biological weapons.

William Tierney, a former UN weapons inspector who has continued to gather information on Saddam's arsenal, said Mahmoud's information is "the smoking gun".

You'd think this would be getting more attention.

UPDATE: Several readers pointed out the similarities between the above account and this one from Debka dated January 21. Given that the bodyguard's name is a pseudonym, it could be the same guy -- though he explicitly mentions Hamdi Mamoud / Hamouda in this interview. Of course, that could be a red herring, too.

Conclusion? Beats me. The reason we're not hearing more about this could be because it's not true -- which is always the way to bet when you don't know any more -- or it could be because, well, it is and it's not time yet. Stay tuned. And if you've got any other leads on this story, let me know.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Here's some Congressional testimony of mine from about ten years ago on how to move away from a bureaucratic model and toward a more market-oriented approach to space. Much of it, sadly, remains timely.

THIS STORY REPORTS A "CRUSHING DEFEAT" FOR GERHARD SCHROEDER:


The conservative Christian Democrats won 48 percent of the vote in Schroeder's home state of Lower Saxony, gaining 12 points over the last election five years ago to wrest the statehouse from the Social Democrats, exit polls and early returns compiled for ARD national television showed. The Social Democrats were at 33 percent, down from nearly 48 percent last time.

In Hesse state, the data showed the Christian Democrats surging to 50 percent from 39 percent in 1999, with the Social Democrats slumping to 27 percent from 39 percent. The boost in support left the Christian Democrats poised to drop a centrist coalition ally and govern the state alone.

The story says that it was economics, not his anti-American stance, that hurt him. I wonder, though. At the very least, it demonstrates that his anti-American positions were not a sufficient distraction.

ROBERT SAWYER confirms the story of a Canadian Broadcasting Company interviewer who asked him about American "arrogance," but says that we shouldn't be too hard on her:

The interviewer (I'm sorry, but I don't know her name, or even
what city she was in -- Newsworld does production across Canada;
I've been on Newsworld many times, but never had been interviewed
by this woman) did indeed ask me a question related to whether
this was a terrorist attack, and whether it had been arrogant of
the Americans to launch a shuttle now. The idea that it was
terrorism hadn't even occurred to me -- it looked like a tragic
accident, and I was reliving my memories of when CHALLENGER had
blown up all those years ago. So, the question took me by
surprise.

In any event, I told her no, it wasn't arrogance, and added that
the Bush administration had very much had a business-as-usual
policy post-September 11; I can't remember exactly how I phrased
it, but my thought was that if you let terrorists freeze you into
doing nothing out of fear, they've won. I wish I remembered her
exact words better, and my own, but, like everyone else I was in
shock.

I'm sure she didn't mean to be offensive, and it was quite clear
during our brief interview that she was being distracted by all
sorts of chatter in her earpiece (she first introduced me as
Robert Fischer, who is a staff reporter the CBC).

Well, I don't know if that lets her off the hook, or just means that her guard was down and her prejudices were showing. You can decide that for yourself.

UPDATE: Arthur Silber has some thoughts on charges of "arrogance."

GRIEVE, AND MOVE ON: A lot of people seem to have missed the link I put in below, so here's a pointer to my lengthy sum-up post on Columbia over at GlennReynolds.com.

A PREVIOUSLY-SCHEDULED CARGO ROCKET has launched for the Space Station.

SMOKING GUNS: Already the "advance warning" stories are coming out: Here's one in the Washington Post and here's one in the Boston Herald. But these kind of miss the point: everyone who knew anything about the Shuttle knew it was dangerous -- among my space-community friends, the estimate was that it would average one crash out of fifty launches. (Believing that, most of us would have gone anyway -- I would.)

Like so many things, the press will focus on the short-term, looking for "whistleblowers" and "smoking gun" memos. But the real problem goes back to the original design decisions for the Shuttle, made in the early 1970s, in which the desire to save a few billion dollars up front imposed long term costs, and dangers, on the nation down the line.

UPDATE: Tim Blair notes that various idiots are already trying to make political hay.

WILLIAM SJOSTROM reports that traditionally anti-American columnist Julie Burchill has decided to weigh in in favor of war with Iraq -- and in The Guardian, no less. Excerpt:

The new enemies of America, and of the west in general, believe that these countries promote too much autonomy, freedom and justice. They are the opposite of socialism even more than they are the opposite of capitalism. They are against light, love, life - and to attempt to pass them the baton of enlightenment borne by the likes of Mandela and Guevara is woefully to misunderstand the nature and desires of what Christopher Hitchens (a life-long man of the left) described as "Islamo-fascism".

When you look back at the common sense and progressiveness of arguments against American intervention in Vietnam, Chile and the like, you can't help but be struck by the sheer befuddled babyishness of the pro-Saddam apologists.

She then proceeds to demolish the standard lefty arguments against war ("it's all about oil," etc.). As Sjostrom notes: "This is simply a massive admission from a figure on the British left. For Americans, imagine if Ramsey Clark admitted that the war might be a good idea."

UPDATE: Then there's this, in today's Observer:

Bosnia and Rwanda made the case for action, because inaction was far worse and its consequences were morally intolerable. In the former, the West (rarely acting in concert) took the course of diplomacy backed up by the incredible threat of mild force. The Yugoslavian situation was deemed to be too complicated and too dangerous to resolve by firm action. Didn't they all just enjoy killing each other?

There were sanctions, international mediations, peace brokers shuttled hither and yon arranging ceasefires that were broken, usually by the Bosnian Serbs. The United Nations Security Council declared six safe areas for Bosnian Muslims to be protected by lightly equipped UN troops. One of these was Srebrenica.

On 11 July 1995, almost in slow motion, we watched the Serbs enter the safe haven, disarm the Dutch protectors and separate the men and boys from women and small children. And as I saw General Ratko Mladic pacifying a crying Muslim woman, I think I knew, as he certainly did, what was going to happen to her husband or son.

A year earlier, on another continent, we had again looked on while one of the peoples of a sovereign nation, Rwanda, slaughtered another in their hundreds of thousands. Once more, a small UN force was brushed aside in the early stages. Intervention was never seriously considered.

If leaders must take responsibility for these terrible failures, then so must those who always urge inaction. Over Bosnia, Kosovo and over Afghanistan, voices on both the Left and Right have been consistently raised to object to the use of force. Where these voices have belonged to pacifists, they have my respect, but most often they have belonged to the purely selfish, the pathologically timid, or to those who somehow believed that however bad things were in Country X, the Americans were always worse.

It may be too much to hope for, but I think the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the anti-American left is beginning to sink in.

TODD RUNDGREN: NOSTALGIA ACT. I went to see Rundgren last night at the historic Tennessee Theater. It was a solo show -- not "unplugged" as he had a lot of tapes, sequenced stuff, etc. going, but no other musicians. I had a front-row seat. He's not one of my favorites, but I've always respected him. Not last night. He very obviously didn't care about the audience, barely went through the motions (he hit wrong notes on every song on which he played instruments) and generally put on the worst show I've ever seen by a professional musician.

And most people didn't care. The crowd was a bunch of aging boomers, around ten years older than me on average. They were on an obvious nostalgia trip, and rushed the stage for autographs afterward (he gave out one or two, shook a couple of hands, then fled). I'm glad they had a good time, but I regarded it as a wasted evening. I sat with two other musicians -- one of whom had seen Rundgren play the same venue 30 years ago along with Free, Montrose, and Alice Cooper (it was a better show, he said) -- and they were equally disappointed. Still, with around 1,000 people there, and tickets at 25 bucks a piece, he probably walked away with $10-15,000 for about an hour's work.

Nice for him, but I won't go to see him again. And it's sad to see someone perform when they'd clearly rather be doing anything else.

SORRY FOR THE HIATUS: I went to see Todd Rundgren (bad choice; more on that later). Meanwhile, here's Mark Steyn:

Nonetheless, this will not be as traumatisingly mesmeric as the Challenger disaster. The yellow-ribbon era died with September 11: even if their television networks haven't quite adjusted, Americans are tougher about these things; this is a country at war and one that understands how to absorb losses and setbacks.

What happened happened most likely because the Columbia was just so damn old and rusty. If anything, it symbolises not American "arrogance", but what happens when the great youthful innovative spirit of the country is allowed to atrophy: the entire space programme is now dependent on a transit system a generation old. If Mr Bush really wanted to emphasise the gulf between his country and both the Islamist cave dwellers and "Old Europe", he would announce a major renewal of the space project. A frontier is part of the US character.

For me, the saddest moment was during after-concert beers at the Old College Inn, when I heard a twentyish undergraduate wonder "do you think we'll see a mission to Mars in our lifetimes?"

When I was 20, I didn't wonder. But now, in my dark moments, I do.

See you tomorrow.