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August 05, 2006

HEZBOLLAHLAND PHOTO GALLERY: Last year I took dozens of pictures of Hezbollah-occupied Lebanon, along the border with Israel and in the suburbs south of Beirut. Many have never been published before. You can view them here. Much of what you'll see has since been destroyed.

RED ON RED: Radical Saudi cleric Sheik Safar al-Hawali, who inspired Osama bin Laden, says Hezbollah is not the Party of God but the Party of the Devil.

"THE GOOFUS AND GALLANT GUIDE TO LAW SCHOOL": Priceless. (Warning: contains some bad language.)

LAWYERS BEHAVING BADLY, PART N+1: From my colleague Marcia McCormick comes this "Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Acceptance of Lunch Invitation."

"CONTROL YOUR INTEREST IN PUBLICITY FOR YOUR IDEAS," UW-Madison Provost Patrick Farrell told Kevin Barrett, the part-time instructor who believes the U.S. government is behind the 9/11 attacks. Barrett is planning to teach students about the factual truth of this theory in a course called "Islam: Religion and Culture." Citing our university's tradition of academic freedom, Farrell rejected demands that Barrett be fired. But the political uproar has continued, and Barrett -- unsurprisingly -- has gotten numerous invitations to appear in the media. And now, we see that 10 days after Farrell made his decision to retain Barrett, he warned him about all that media activity:

"[I]f you continue to identify yourself with UW-Madison in your personal political messages or illustrate an inability to control your interest in publicity for your ideas, I would lose confidence ... ,"...

Announcing his decision on July 10, Farrell declared, "We cannot allow political pressure from critics of unpopular ideas to inhibit the free exchange of ideas."

Farrell said he wanted Barrett to know that he could reconsider his decision if he did not meet expectations. He said Barrett has "modestly made some efforts" to cut down on publicity.

"I was trying to be fairly careful to not inhibit his privilege of speaking freely," he said. "My point was that he should be aware as he exercises those rights there may be a time when I have to rethink the assurances he has given me about his ability to separate his opinions from what happens in the classroom."...

Farrell scolded Barrett for identifying himself as a UW-Madison instructor in e-mails in which he challenged others to debate his theories. The provost said the challenges suggest "that you speak for the university -- precisely what I told you was inappropriate in that context."

Barrett, for his part, says that he isn't seeking this publicity. It's seeking him. And what, exactly, is wrong with his speaking publicly? His reprehensible conspiracy theory is fine to inflict on students, but please stop showing your face to the general public because it's making trouble for the university? That Barrett is teaching at the university is -- unlike his crazy theory -- a plain fact. It's an embarrassing fact, and we can easily understand Farrell's interest in suppressing it. But the public is entitled to know this fact and to react to it. This too is part of free speech. Why are we so keen on airing all sorts of ideas within the university but averse to letting the general public have access to those facts?

When I go on radio or TV, I am introduced as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, whether I'm talking about law or politics or culture or some other topic I presume to blab about. It's never even occurred to me that stating this true fact -- where I work -- means that I "speak for the university" or that listeners might be confused into thinking that I do. You'd have to think ordinary people are idiots to believe that they think Kevin Barrett is speaking for the university when he spews his offensive theory. The problem is not confusion about whom he speaks for, but the embarrassment to the university that he thinks what he thinks and he teaches here. How can you justify suppressing this factual information of great public interest?

And why should Barrett have to refrain from publicizing his ideas in order to keep his job? It's acceptable for him to teach here, but please, be very quiet about it? And this is held out as an attempt "to be fairly careful to not inhibit his privilege of speaking freely"? The letter makes a connection between speaking out publicly and being able to "separate his opinions from what happens in the classroom." But what is that connection? And would we use that reasoning on other teachers? Promoting a strong political position in the public arena raises a suspicion that you can't fairly present material in the classroom anymore? All politically active academics would feel threatened if we thought the university would apply that reasoning across the board. And if Farrell is not going to apply that reasoning across the board, why is he inflicting it on Barrett?

KOS COY? Why?

August 04, 2006

BIG SURPRISE: Lebanese officials at odds with Iran.

BACK FROM THE FRONT: Israeli soldiers describe what it's like to fight Hezbollah in Lebanon.

FULL DISCLOSURE: For Instapundit readers unfamiliar with my biases in the Middle East (and let's admit it, everyone who writes about the Middle East is biased in some way, especially when there's a war) here is my explanation.

FROM BEIRUT TO JERUSALEM: Lee Smith, recently of Beirut, Lebanon, is now filing dispatches from Jerusalem.

THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF of Kuwait's Arab Times says Hezbollah has found itself in a quagmire. (Hat tip: Stephen Meyer by email.)

WIDENING THE WAR AGAIN: Israel is bombing Christian and Sunni areas in Lebanon.

EVISCERATED: Al Bawaba says Hezbollah's social network is torn to shreds. (Hat tip: Tony Badran via email.)

BELT OF DESTRUCTION: Here are aerial photographs of the "belt of misery," Hezbollah's stronghold in Beirut's southern suburbs, before and after the war began.

INSIDE THE MIND OF THE ISRAELI LEFT: Many of those who pushed for Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 now say they were wrong.

LIBERTARIANS ON IRAQ: One of the more interesting and lively debates on Iraq I've read in a long time.

ADVICE TO LAW STUDENTS REDUX: Orin Kerr offers some additional good advice.

NOT OVER SOON: Iran says it will supply Hezbollah with surface-to-air missiles. "Iranian authorities conveyed a message to the Hezbollah leadership that their forces would continue to receive a steady supply of weapons systems."

THE RETURN OF THE MORALS CLAUSE? Today's Wall St. Journal has an interesting article about how studio execs are pining for the days of the morals clause, in which studios could sever contractual relationships with stars who got in trouble that might generate bad press for the studio. Tom Cruise's general looney behavior, Lindsey Lohan's antics, and, of course, Meshuggah Mel Gibson are all prominently mentioned.

ADVICE TO INCOMING FIRST-YEAR LAW STUDENTS: It's just about time for classes to start. The first year students at Cumberland begin orientation a week from Monday. I remember my first year experience as being profoundly challenging and humbling. Thinking back over my first-year, first semester experience and seeing first-year students from the other side (this is my eighth year teaching), I have a few pieces of advice for the up-and-coming first-year law student.

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A GREAT REFERENCE FOR FIRST-YEAR LAW STUDENTS: Orin Kerr has posted an essay on "How to Read a Judicial Opinion."

MORE GOOD ADVICE from LaShawn Barber on avoiding Blogosphere Scandal. Today's installment, "Don't Plagiarize."

PEAK AESTHETIC EXPERIENCE. Readers of my blog know that two things I love are driving my car -- an Audi TT Coupe -- through a beautiful landscape and listening to my favorite radio show Theme Time Radio Hour with Bob Dylan. I just completed a drive from Madison, my home town, to San Jose and back, going out by a southern route that took me through Arches National Park...

Arches National Park

... and returning by a northern route that included the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, the Big Horn Scenic Byway, and -- yesterday -- the Badlands. The Thursday morning rebroadcast of this week's radio show began as I was entering that spookily ravaged landscape. The theme was the devil, and I was steering my car through swooping curves past eerie rocks like this:

The Badlands

On the radio, it was Robert Johnson, singing Me and the Devil Blues:

It must-a be that old evil spirit
so deep down in the ground.

HIS FAVORITE COLOR IS GREEN! He keeps Hershey's Kisses in the office! It's a new book about Chief Justice John Roberts by Lisa Tucker McElroy, author of "Meet My Grandmother: She's a Supreme Court Justice."

Roberts still takes his kids to school or camp, and during the school year works with them on homework assignments -- including a styrofoam model of the planet Neptune with Josie, and a paper Thanksgiving turkey in a pirate's outfit with Jack, who is deeply into pirates these days. One priceless photo in the book, from last Halloween, has Josie adjusting Groucho glasses on the chief justice's face.
Come on, you know you want this book! I've got McElroy's book on Grandma O'Connor on a shelf in my office, and I've seen lawprofs get rather excited about it.

IT'S ALL ABOUT INTENSE MOTIVATION. Amba reads an article in Scientific American about what it takes to become an expert -- in chess, in brain surgery, in hunting. She writes:

And motivation operates in a feedback loop: the pleasure of difficult success feeds the drive for more such challenges and rewards. It's easy to see that the reinforcing rewards are both internal -- the aesthetic rush of solving a problem -- and external: praise, status, opportunity.
Ah, but how to get started on that loop? Our ancestors had the easy start-up motivation of hunger, but we -- or our children -- could wander aimlessly through life, never feeling the initial motivation. Perhaps nothing is more valuable and mysterious than becoming interested in something in the first place.

DANIEL DREZNER points out that Jake Weisberg's argument that we should replace sanctions with engagement has a tiny little hole in it:

The constructive engagement approach rests on an odd assumption -- that the leaders of a rogue state are somehow unaware that they will become trapped in a web of economic interdependence. The truth is that applying constructive engagement against as a means to induce economic and political change tends not to work either. Put crudely, if a regime wants to stay in power at all costs, all of the economic openness in the world is not going to make much difference, because the government that wants to stay in power will simply apply strict controls over trade with the outside world. If the United States were to unilaterally and unconditionally lift all barriers to exchange with Cuba, the government in Havana would immediately erect a maze of regulations designed to limit Cuban trade with the United States.

August 03, 2006

SPEAKING OF BLOGS The Economist has a piece (not written by me) in this week's print edition on economists who blog.

BELIEVE IT ONLY WHEN YOU SEE IT: Syria says it kinda sorta maybe, if it's not too much trouble and if they get something juicy for doing it, just might consider playing a "constructive role" in pressuring Hezbollah to agree to a ceasefire on Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Seniora's terms.

LEBANESE BLOGGER Josey Wales fisks the useless minister of the interior.

A PEACEKEEPING DREAM TEAM: Mustafa at Beirut Spring says the international peacekeepers Lebanese can trust most would come from Canada, Brazil, and Japan.

IRAN RATCHETS UP THE BELLICOSITY. Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei: "The American regime can expect a resounding slap and a devastating fist-blow from the Muslim nation..."

LEE SMITH challenges the conventional wisdom that everyone in Lebanon loves Hezbollah now. “There are many Lebanese imagining, fantasizing, hoping against hope that Hezbollah will be wiped from the face of the earth.”

Lee is right. He and I both lived in Lebanon, and he lived there longer than I did. (He only left a few weeks ago.) Lebanon’s “support” for Hezbollah is nothing more than an attempt at national unity during a fight. It will evaporate the instant Israel leaves. It will remain, though, as long as Israel stays and throughout cease-fire talks.

WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION: After long quiescence, inflation is making a comeback. Obviously, high oil prices are a big part of this. But there's another part of the story: the entrance of China (and to a lesser extent India) into the global labour market has effectively held down prices in developed countries, even when those economies are running at full capacity. Economic bottlenecks and problems with the financial system in China are making it harder for China to effectively export deflation (deflation is the opposition of inflation), which means consumer prices may rise still further.

That, in turn, is forcing central banks to raise interest rates even when the economy isn't that strong. Both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England did so today, and while the former was all-but-foreordained, the latter move was a big surprise to everyone. If you have a subscription to The Economist (and if you don't, what are you waiting for?! We're giving away four free trial issues right now), you can read about it here; that's what I've been labouring on under the sweltering August sun*.

Why should I care? I hear you cry. Why, because in these days of global markets, we're all as interconnected as characters in an MCI ad; when the European Central Bank sneezes, your stock portfolio catches cold. Plus, if we want to be able to take a break from buying all the tea, (and televisions, and turkey basters, and tricycles) in China, we need Europe to get off le divan and get some gosh-darn economic growth. Which is harder to do when the interest rate on Das MasterCard just went up another two points.

*Well, technically I am under it--it's just that there's a roof and some air conditioning between us.

WARNING FRESHMAN ABOUT MYSPACE, FACEBOOK: Colleges are apparently reminding freshmen to be careful about what they put up on the web. This strikes me as useful advice. The Wall St. Journal had a recent front page story about employers checking MySpace and Facebook to see what potential employees had written or posted.

I'VE LONG SAID that if the Palestinians had had a Gandhi, they would have had their own state years ago. Matthew Yglesias makes the point at more length:

(continued below the fold, to accomodate those who do not come to Instapundit for my marathon-style post length. Those who are interested can pretend it's a hyperlink to another site.)

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WHY DO SCHOLARSHIP?: The Empirical Legal Studies blog had an on-line discussion (which starts here) about Tennessee law professor (and my buddy) Ben Barton's paper, which concludes, on the basis of data he painstakingly collected, that there is no correlation between teaching and scholarship. In other words, just because one is a prolific scholar, that doesn't mean that person is a good teacher. Much of the discussion has centered on whether using student evaluations is a good proxy for measuring teaching effectiveness. I think that Ben makes a great case for using them. However, one of the most interesting questions raised by Ben's paper is whether (assuming that his findings are true, or are largely true) the legal academy needs to come up with an independent justification for the production of scholarship. The ABA and the AALS require that law schools hire full-time teacher/scholars, and require that vast resources be devoted to facilitate the production of legal scholarship. (Query how much this focus on scholarship and the resources that need to be devoted to it push up the cost of legal education?) Before Ben's study, my sense is that many scholars would have bet there was some relationship between good teaching and good scholarship. Now that he's called that into question, should we be asking ourselves whether we need to justify scholarship on other grounds? Don't misunderstand, I am all in favor of scholarship. I like writing and thinking about problems in the law and (I hope) advancing the discipline in my own modest way. But my interaction with alumni (among other groups) suggest that we in the academy treat the need for scholarship as self-evident when it is not necessarily apparent to others. Perhaps Ben's paper could (among other things) begin a converstation on that topic as well.

DWS?: Joe Olson sends this article from the Times describing Preston, Lancashire's attempt to ban "Drinking While Standing."

WHEN BLOGGERS CAUSE TROUBLE for the candidate they support. You know those bloggers, with their daring, feisty ways. Sometimes when they're trying to help, they hand ammunition to the other side. (Better hire a blog wrangler.) Then there's the secondary effect, where bloggers criticize the bloggers who are politically aligned with the offending blogger, for not speaking out: "I only see righties that posted criticism of this weird use of blackface." Meanwhile, Jane Hamsher apologizes, and it's that sorry if you were offended form of apology with the extra oomph of implying that a lot of the offense was bogus and an immediate descent into justification for giving offense. Ah, bloggers and politics! Who knows what these free-swinging characters will do next? Do you even want them on your side? Do you even know how to figure out if you do?

THE MARY MATALIN/JAMES CARVILLE REALITY SHOW. Would you want them in your high school? I think it sounds like a cool show, and I'd be tempted to say yes, but I think the proper answer for school authorities is no. If you know anything about reality show editing, you know it's not fair to the real individuals who produce the footage and who often don't understand how they are providing the material for their own humiliation. If you don't know what I'm talking about -- or if you just want to see the greatest TV comedy of all time -- get the DVD of "The Comeback" and see what happens to our darling (fictional) character Valerie Cherish.

GIVE HER SOME AIR! In New York City, where I am, an unexpected side effect of the heat and humidity--I can't breathe. I have mild asthma, and the air quality must be some kind of bad, because the bottoms of my lungs have that burning soreness you get when you've had a bad cough, or decided to run a 5K after seven years on the couch. Which, incidentally, I had to sleep sitting up on last night so I could breathe easier.

Meanwhile, tempers are fraying. I saw two ladies nearly come to blows yesterday over the last iced mocha at the local deli.

One more day until it breaks. Must . . . stay . . . alive . . . one . . . more . . . day . . .

OOPS! OR NOT? Hezbollah hit Jenin. In the West Bank. Palestinians cheered: “Even if it fall on our heads it wouldn’t have spoiled the party.”

August 02, 2006

HEZBOLLAH THREATENS JOURNALISTS: Christopher Allbritton, reporting from Lebanon, says "To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hizbullah is launching Katyushas, but I’m loathe to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist’s passport, and they’ve already hassled a number of us and threatened one."

They threatened me too, and that was during peace time.

NOT ANTI-WAR BUT ON THE OTHER SIDE: A group that calls itself the Armed Revolutionary Fascists vandalized Jewish stores in Rome and defaced them with swastikas and pro-Hezbollah propaganda.

REMEMBERING STEVEN VINCENT: Judith Weiss hosts a blogburst commemoration to the murdered journalist over at Kesher Talk.

HEZBOLLAH WOKE UP: Allison Kaplan Sommer interviews Erika Galili live from an Israeli bomb shelter in a podcast for Pajamas Media.

"LEBANON IS A FINAL COUNTRY FOR ALL ITS CHILDREN": Robert Rabil says a fresh debate has broken out in Lebanon's Shia community about Hezbollah's allegiance to Iran.

WHY LEBANESE BLAME SYRIA: A timeline of events, beginning in 1976, that led up to the current crisis.

WALID JUMBLATT, Syria's fiercest enemy in Lebanon, says Lebanon is being pushed solidly into the Syrian-Iranian axis. "Our government will be like the government of Abu Mazen (Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas) next to Hamas or maybe worse like the government of [Nouri al] Maliki in Iraq."

ID KOd in KS: It looks like another defeat for intelligent design advocates. Yesterday's election for the state school board returned "moderate" candidates, who might now have an edge over conservative board members who had sought to change the science curriculum in the state to include discussion of intelligent design. [If they are going to have a slight edge, are you sure that the election represents a KO? -- Ed.] You again? Okay, fine, next time, I'll let you title the post.

MATTHEW YGLESIAS sums up the frustration of many economists who want efficient gas/carbon taxes, rather than next-to-useless alternative fuel subsidies and surprisingly ineffective increases in CAFE standards:


Tragically, if you tell people you're going to tax their ft ossile fuels, they freak out and your political career dies a swift and merciless death. But if you tell people you're going to subsidize alternative energy sources the people will like that. Functionally, however, these are basically the same thing, except for the fact that the tax method works much, much better.

THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES Chris Anderson, the brilliant editor of Wired, says that digital photography isn't just making film cheaper, or special effects more spectacular; it's changing the way actors make movies.

THE NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE on men not at work has gotten a lot of coverage here and elsewhere. It has inspired a provocative post on gender roles over at Family Scholars:

The great gender challenge of our day has been defined by our elites as the fact that men still do not contribute as much as women do to the domestic sphere. . . .

But I wonder if the great gender challenge of the rest of this century will be the abolition of the norms and practices that have supported the male breadwinning role–the idea that men should, indeed, must work, often in jobs not to their taste, throughout their adult lives on behalf of a wife and children. According to the distinguished anthropologist David Gilmore, the danger with men is that they often drift towards entropy unless they are given a unique and highly valued role to play on behalf of their society. This entropy certainly seems to be on full display in this sobering NYTimes story on grown, able-bodied men in the U.S. who refuse to or are unable to work.


THE MAGNIFICENT BISON.

Bison

How did Althouse get that shot? Like many a candyass Yellowstone tourist, this way:

Bison

I put some thought into whether it's okay to write "candyass" on Instapundit, but I was stumped for synonym. I don't like "lame" in this context, because it makes me think of the disabled persons who might need to tour by car. So I tried a Bartleby search for "candyass" and got exactly one hit, and it's not from the thesaurus. It's a quote... from Nixon -- "What does that candyass think I sent him over there for?" -- miffed that the Secretary of the Treasury George P. Schultz wouldn't authorize tax audits for his critics. Wow. That amuses/disturbs me so much I'm going to read it as authorization to write "candyass" on Instapundit. You know, that bison reminds me of Abraham Lincoln. Look at the profile. And doesn't he seem rather depressed? He was trudging along the side of the road, as if he'd been given the job of making it really easy for the tourists to get a good look at a big animal and he'd been doing it for years and years.

FREE SPEECH AND THE U.S. LIBERTARIAN TRADITION: Another book I'm reading this summer, which I highly recommend, is Ronald Krotoszynski's The First Amendment in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Professor Krotoszynski, who teaches law at Washington and Lee, examines freedom of speech in four other liberal democracy, Canada, Germany, Japan, and the U.K., and compares our free speech regime with that of those countries. Some may be surprised at how freedom of expression is often (from the U.S. point of view) subordinated to other values, like multiculturalism, personal dignity, and the like in those countries. In fact, when it comes to protecting free speech, the priority it is given by our courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, makes the U.S. something of an outlier in the world. While I think that our courts get it right, Professor Krotoszynski's book (and comparative studies generally) is a reminder that our libertarian tradition was not inevitable, nor is it the only possiblity for liberal democracies.

"I'M A FIEND FOR MOJITOS": Other than that cheesy line, uttered by Colin Farrell, Miami Vice was a good movie. It was edgy and dark, Farrell and Jamie Foxx brooded convincingly. Michael Mann even found a good replacement for Lt. Castillo, played in the TV series by Edward James Olmos. Remember when it turned out that Castillo was some kind of ninja or something? What was that all about?

WONDERING ABOUT the Floyd Landis doping test? Chemist and blogger extraordinaire Derek Lowe has the scoop.

DEMOCRACIES AND WAR: I forgot something when I made my list of small encouraging signs. Perhaps I left out one that isn't so small.

This war in the Middle East nearly demolishes the theory that democracies don't go to war with each other. Lebanon, aside from Hezbollah's state-within-a-state, is a democracy. At least it's an almost-democracy. Aside from my personal affection for Lebanon, the country where I recently lived, the only country other than the US where I've ever lived, this is what anguishes me the most: The Arab world's only democracy is being torn to pieces by another democracy.

But it's telling, I think, that the Lebanese army, the fighting institution that represents democratic Lebanon and not just one totalitarian-sponsored political party, has chosen to sit this one out.

BAGHDAD BOB IS BACK: Haaretz reports that much of Hezbollah's bragging is bogus.

THREATSWATCH says Hezbollah is doomed.

LEBANON.PROFILE is extremely upset that Israel did not attempt to ally itself with Lebanon. (He could be, and most likely is, just as frustrated that Lebanon did not attempt to ally itself with Israel.) He quite correctly points out that Israel and Lebanon are similar countries with similar regional problems and the same list of enemies. I've been saying for some time now that the two would be natural allies in a more intelligent world. Maybe someday, years from now, after all this is over, and - Inshallah - Hezbollah is out of the picture.

August 01, 2006

HOW GOES THE WAR? Dean's World features two back-to-back essays on the same question. Aziz Poonawalla says Hezbollah is winning. Ron Coleman says Israel is winning. Who's right? Who knows? I link, history decides.

HUGO CHAVEZ HAS MADE enormous changes at PDVSA (pronounced Peh-deh-VEH-sa by those in the know), the Venezuelan state-run oil company, since he came into power. This Page One article in the Wall Street Journal details many of them.

In some cases, Mr. Chávez has literally taken PDVSA assets and handed them to the poor. The elegant five-story headquarters for PDVSA Servicios, a subsidiary that oversaw communications and technology services for the oil giant, has been turned into the Bolivarian University of Venezuela. The university's 5,000 students get a free ride: tuition, materials, health care and food are paid for by the oil company.

Students and teachers view the campus's marble-lined elevators, expensive artwork and baseball field as evidence that PDVSA's executives lived too cushy a life for a poor nation before Mr. Chávez came to power. As a group of students and teachers play baseball, 36-year-old English teacher Claire Bendahan looks on in approval. "This is socialism in action," she says. "Now our country's oil money is being used for the poor."

Unfortunately, as the WSJ piece documents, that oil revenue is eroding--by my understanding, because Chavez sacked all the managers who knew anything, and replaced them with reliable political supporters who spend money on social programmes instead of oil exploration. The only thing saving Chavez from himself is steadily rising oil prices; if they reverse, it's a good bet that the Venezuelan government will fall, doing serious damage to the resurgant left-wing populist strain of Latin American politics. I'm told that PDVSA used to be known as the only state-run oil company that was competitive with the majors in terms of expertise and efficiency; now it is rapidly descending past other state-run firms in terms of competence. Since Venezuela's oil is unusually heavy, sulphurous, and difficult to extract, that decline will be a disaster for Venezuela's poor, who may be enjoying those marble elevators without electricity to run them if oil falls back towards $25 a barrel. This is not some grim gloating of a classically liberal economics writer at having been proven right. If PDVSA screws up the Venezuelan oil supply, consumers around the world will suffer, the poorest worst--and the poorest Venezuelans worst of all.

THE FOG OF WAR makes it nearly impossible to say who is actually winning or losing militarily in Lebanon. The politics are much easier to read. Right now it looks good for Hezbollah, bad for (the rest of) Lebanon, bad for Israel, and bad for the United States. But the politics are in constant flux and probably won't stabilize even after the fighting is over. Here are four small encouraging signs posted over at my own blog.

AL ARABIYA reports that Sunni extremists in the Muslim Brotherhood may have joined with Hezbollah in Lebanon to fight the Israelis. (Arabic here, English reference here.) I don’t know if it’s true. And if it is true the MB guys are almost certainly going to die. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it’s true. Israelis all but guaranteed severe political consequences as soon as they bombed Beirut. Lebanon’s sects are temporarily united in common defiance. It won’t last very long. But it will last until after a ceasefire, making a ceasefire on Israel’s terms instead of Hezbollah’s that much more difficult if the military campaign continues to look anything like a draw.

IS MEL GIBSON MANIC DEPRESSIVE? That's about the only conceivably exculpatory thing I've heard, since some manic-depressives do suffer from paranoia and hallucinations. But even if it were true--and whether or not it is, I bet we hear about it on a very special Barbara Walters--I doubt it will save his career.

A NUMBER OF Y'ALL have emailed me (and I presume the other guest bloggers) about the various claims that Qana was a hoax, based either on the time stamps on the rescue photos, or the fact that the building seems to have fallen down hours after the airstrike.

As I wrote to several people, having spent a year working at Ground Zero, I have a very high level of scepticism about these sorts of conspiracy theories. The photo conspiracy seems to be based on the ignorance of how wire services work; its author has confused the dateline, which indicates when the wire service loaded the photos into their system, with a digital timestamp. And the claims that the building couldn't have collapsed after so much time sound remarkably like the WTC Building 7 conspiracy theories, which were based on the fact that 7WTC, the farthest from the twin towers, inexplicably collapsed nine hours after the planes hit, even though it suffered no apparent structural damage.

In the "fog of war" all sorts of rumors get started--remember how tens of thousands were thought killed in the WTC, or the various reports of impending terror attacks in the days that followed? And when something bad happens, it's normal to look for reasons it's not your fault, especially if it was an accident. But I need a pretty high standard of evidence to accuse the victims of a tragedy of staging it to make us look bad. Meanwhile, it's not exactly helpful that many of the people arguing against the conspiracy theories are making remarks that sound like borderline anti-semitism, trending into grand Zionist conspiracy theories.

I've never managed to convince anyone of anything on the Israel/Palestine conflict, and perhaps it's impossible (though perhaps I'm just a lacklustre debater). But I think there are helpful and less helpful ways to express the deep rifts that divide us, and looking for grand plots in the chaos strikes me as among the least productive.

A PLEA at Publius Pundit: Save Lebanon, Save Arab Democracy.

DOH!

TIMES SURE HAVE CHANGED. Greg Mankiw points out that it wasn't all that long ago that the New York Times was editorialising against the minimum wage.

My position on the minimum wage is like that of many economists: I'm agin it. It does a lousy job of targeting poverty, because most of the people who get it aren't poor, and most of the people who are poor don't get it. To the extent that it does help the poor, it often does so by transferring money from other poor people--those who lose jobs due to the higher minimum wage, and those who shop at places that pay the minimum wage. Instead, I favour the Earned Income Tax Credit.

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NO JOB, DON'T CARE: I found this story, from yesterday's NYT, profoundly disturbing. These guys are unemployed, not looking for work (like Clark Griswold's cousin-in-law Eddie they all seem to be "holding out for a management position") making their wives work to support them at crummy jobs they won't take , and laying waste to their savings. What happens, I wonder, when the savings runs out? And who are these super tolerant women? When I was practicing law, I used to beg my wife to let me quit and go work at a bookstore. She laughed. "Why should you get to quit your job?" We compromised; we both quit . . . .

SORRY FOR THE GLOOM: I know you don't want to hear this right now, but Brett Stephens, Ralph Peters, and National Review think Israel is losing the war in Lebanon. That also means Lebanon and its rising democracy, as opposed to Hezbollah, are losing the war.

(Two months ago I wrote that Israel should relatiate against Syria or Iran instead of Lebanon if they wanted to see good results.)

SEND IN THE STANDARD “RICH AND FAMOUS” CONTRACT: Ever since Sonny Mehta awarded Yale law professor Stephen Carter a multi-million dollar contract to produce two novels, law professors cum novelists everywhere have seem to have emerged. Kim Roosevelt, Paul Goldstein and Jed Rubenfeld have followed Professor Carter in writing very interesting novels. This summer, I read Roosevelt’s, In the Shadow of the Law and Goldstein’s Errors and Omissions. Rubenfeld’s novel, The Interpretation of Murder, will be released in September. So have the publishers received value for the product? I can say that both are excellent books. What follows are a couple of mini-reviews of both.


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ANYONE WHO'S EVER worked from home will sympathise with Fat Doctor's discovery that quarantine is not as much fun as it looks.

APPARENTLY, the guy who shot up the synagogue in Seattle had recently converted to Christianity.

ON BLOGGINGHEADS, Robert Wright explains why homosexuality is a purer expression of male sexuality: it's not compromised by having to accommodate to women. "You're dealing with somebody who agrees to your rules." This is part of a discussion of whether it's bigoted to say -- as Ann Coulter did -- that male homosexuals are more promiscuous than male heterosexuals. But go watch the whole thing. There's a texture to the whole brilliant conversation that I'm not even going to try to reproduce here: Mickey Kaus wields an Ann Coulter doll on camera and has some juicy things to say about narcissism and "fruity" gestures, there's plenty of analysis of Bill Clinton as a gay man, and much, much more. Meanwhile, over on Kausfiles there's a supplemental transcript with Peter Beinart badgering Coulter about bigotry and Kaus's opinion that Beinart "comes off as a posturing fool." (To get in on a conversation about this, come over to my home blog, where we've got comments.)

MORE ON HUNGER: Catallarchy's Matt McIntosh directs me to a post on Cindy Sheehan's hunger strike:

After all, if Sheehan is on a "hunger strike" there must be a sliding scale of increasing food intake. The first five ranks:
(100) The UN Food Aid Recipient :: You eat nothing, at least nothing resembling food. You may stave off hunger using sand or copious amounts of brackish, untreated water. No one notices you but a few missionaries but, sadly, the Bible proves to not be a source of nutrition. Too bad the rest of this list is probably pushing for policies that place you in unbreakable poverty and protests the removal of regimes that divert your food to their armies and cronies.

(90) The Devil Eats Nada :: You eat nothing, but what a fashionable nothing it is! You've got a t-shirt designed by a hot fashion house that declares your allegiance to saving pandas/the rainforest/face/whatever and unlike your deprived brethren awaiting UN food aid, you've got a high dollar bottle of purified water at all times. Far from donating the savings from foregone meals, you've invested in a high definition plasma display. Unfortunately, you're going to need every protestor buck and then some to pay back society, you consumer whore.

Which reminded me of the time, way back in March of 2002, I threatened to go on a hunger strike to protest the fact that Jonathan Last hadn't mentioned me in one of his articles:

Well, I'll show Last. I'm going on a fast until I'm mentioned in his column. But since it might be a long fast, and I don't want to contribute to the perpetuation of the White Male Power Structure with my early demise, I'll still be eating enough calories to maintain life. At a healthy weight, I mean. In fact, some people who haven't been radically empowered might call it more of a reducing diet. Or just "eating right". But you can bet your copy of The Feminist's Guide to Saving the Earth that not one piece of Auntie Em's Organic Coffee Cake will pass these lips until this weblog appears at the Weekly Standard Online.

Hey! Do you think this means Cindy Sheehan reads my blog?

"DON'T TOUCH IT." Indeed. (Via Metafilter.)

SOME GOOD NEWS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST Daniel Drezner reports that "despite the turmoil in the Middle East -- and the blame that many place on the United States for what's happening -- the Security Council still voted 14-1 to threaten Iran with economic sanctions unless that country suspended its nuclear enrichment and reprocessing activities."

I'M A HUGE FAN of clean, green nuclear power. And while I understand Senator Harry Reid's quixotic crusade against Yucca mountain, I haven't found it very convincing. But as Bruce Webster says, he does rather have a point when he says that we don't want Yucca mountain to be built by the same folks who brought you the Big Dig.

THE NYT IS COVERING THE KEVIN BARRETT STORY that is dogging my university.

Mr. Barrett and Chancellor Wiley both said the controversy might actually be helping provide Mr. Barrett with a larger platform to voice his ideas.
Oh, really? Just maybe? If only everyone could have kept quiet and let him teach his course in peace. In fact, all of you people, look away, pay no attention to what goes on inside the university. If you see something you don't like and criticize it, you'll only be amplifying it. So, go, scrutinize something else. But please, send us your kids and your money.

I SURE HOPE HE'S WRONG, but I fear he might not be: Lebanon.Profile at the Lebanese Political Journal says Hezbollah effectively mounted a coup using Israel to assassinate the government. There are a few signs it won't turn out this way in the end, and I'll get to them shortly.

July 31, 2006

CASTRO IS STEPPING DOWN TEMPORARILY due to illness, and handing the reins of power over to his brother. From what I know about Castro, I'd guess he must be really damn sick. Not that I wish anyone (even Castro) dead, but it will be interesting to see what follows his demise. I doubt the communist regime will long survive its founder.

FIDEL CASTRO (temporarily) handed power over to his brother Raul.

PROTEST LITE: 1/3 less hunger in your hunger strikes:

Was a time when fasting at the very least meant eating less. But while our soldiers are sacrificing their lives for freedom, their detractors don't seem to be to keen on sacrificing anything at all. Thus we have the Cindy Sheehan "hunger strike," which allows smoothies, coffee with vanilla ice cream, and Jamba Juice. . .

Now the peacenik group CodePink, according to the Washington Post, "has issued a nationwide call for people to go on at least a partial hunger strike, if only for a few hours, to show their opposition to the war in Iraq." Partial? For a few hours? Does that mean if you were planning on having two Twinkies and a bag of chips between lunch and dinner you should cut out one of the Twinkies? The life of a war protestor is a harsh one indeed!

I have a friend who is both a peacenik, and an observant Jew; she has made fun of me more than once in the past about the wimpy Catholic notion of what a fast entails. But this makes the official RC "one meal and one snack" look positively spartan. I'll finally be able to hold my head high again . . .

LEBANON'S FOREIGN MINISTER Tareq Mitri proposes the deployment of the Lebanese army in the south and the disarmament of all non-state militias. No word yet on whether or not Hezbollah finds this acceptable.

MICHAEL YOUNG interviews Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who is now being threatened by Hezbollah as well as Syria.

HOW TO AVOID A BLOGOSPHERE SCANDAL: The title of a helpful series from LaShawn Barber. [Is she trying to tell you something?--Ed.] Don't be snarky just because Glenn didn't take you on his trip!

HEZBOLLAH'S NEXT MOVE? "Ali" from Hezbollah says Lebanese politicians are "next" after Israel withdraws:

And even when the battle with the Israelis is over, he adds menacingly, Hizbullah will have other battles to fight. "The real battle is after the end of this war. We will have to settle score with the Lebanese politicians. We also have the best security and intelligence apparatus in this country, and we can reach any of those people who are speaking against us now. Let's finish with the Israelis and then we will settle scores later."

REAL SIMPLE: George Jonas explains what ought to be obvious:

I’ve stumbled upon the secret of the countries Israel has never bombed or invaded. Different as they may be from one another, they have one thing in common. These countries have never bombed or invaded Israel...No matter how much you detest Israelites in particular, or Jews in general, as long as you can content yourself with calling on God’s wrath to rain down on the Jewish State, and refrain from reinforcing your prayer by supplying missiles to Hezbollah, you can exercise your religious freedom of loathing with no other consequence than perhaps being loathed in return.

HEZBOLLAH lauds Mel Gibson. (This is a joke, by the way. Sort of...)

VOICE OF REASON: Former Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun, a murky figure who entangles himself in sometimes bizarre and counterproductive internal Lebanese alliances, emerges as a voice of reason and offers a way out.

JONATHAN TAYLOR AT PUBLIUS PUNDIT wonders if George W. Bush is serious about democracy promotion after recent events in Lebanon and Ukraine.

IT LOOKS GRUESOME IN LEBANON, but Iran is nervous too. (Thanks to Tony Badran for the heads up.)

LISA GOLDMAN has the story of the (now strained) friendship between the editor of Time Out Tel Aviv and Time Out Beirut. They recently met in Cyprus and hit it off instantly. Then the war came.

THANKS TO GLENN for inviting me to be one fourth of Instapundit again. I'll be covering the Middle East, for the most part, as I usually do on my own blog. There is no shortage of material this week...

IF DOGS COULD TALK: I suspect that a lot of them would say something like this.

FRINGE CONSTITUTIONAL THEORY GOES HOLLYWOOD: The producer of movies like Trading Places has released a "documentary" that parrots the usual claims from tax protestors about how taxes are "voluntary" and that the federal government has perpetrated a massive fraud to collect incomes taxes. David Cay Johnston describes the movie and its, um, casual use of facts here. My favorite: "Not mentioned in the film is that Mr. Russo has more than $2 million of tax liens filed against him by the Internal Revenue Service, California and New York for unpaid federal and state taxes. Mr. Russo declined to discuss the liens, saying they were not relevant to his film." Oh, okay. No reason to doubt his objectivity, then.

WHATEVER YOUR VIEWS on the relative justness of the Israeli and Palestinian/Arab causes, I think it's becoming clear that for Israel, the Lebanese campaign has been a disaster.

Hizbullah is now unequivocally calling the shots in Lebanese domestic politics. Nasrallah is king. And after an attack like this, on a place like Qana that has such symbolism to the Lebanese people, it could hardly be otherwise. . . .

The attack has, in effect, blasted away Hizbullah's domestic political constraints while tightening both the domestic and international ones on Israel. That may not be fair, but these are the conditions Israel has to fight under. It knew those rules going in, and ignored them at its peril.

Though Americans tend to lump them all into "Islamoterrorists", Hizbullah, Hamas and Al Qaeda are in fact three very different organisations. My perception is that Israel was slowly gaining some traction in Europe (as well as a lot in America), by the perception that it was fighting Islamic terrorists who target civilians.

Unfortunately, in this conflict, Israel responded to a Hizbollah attack on a military target by killing huge numbers of Lebanese civilians. They may be collateral damage, rather than targets, but in the eyes of the world proportionality matters--you don't nuke a neighbourhood to catch a shoplifter.

The massive response gave Hizbollah, which has restricted its attacks mostly (not entirely) to military targets in recent years, the cover to launch attacks on civilian neighbourhoods as "tit-for-tat". I am not in any way justifying deliberately targeting civilians, but Israel's stated aim of using violence to pressure the Lebanese people to reject Hizbollah has eroded the moral edge it normally enjoys over Hamas.

And whether or not Israel has a right to invade Lebanon (a question on which I doubt anyone is open to persuasion), it is hard to imagine a single goal that Israel has achieved by it. Stopping rockets from landing on Haifa? The rockets started after the invasion. Eroding Hizbollah's power? Open confrontation has made Hizbollah a hero in the Arab world, and driven even Lebanese factions historically opposed to Hizbollah to supporting them. And the tragedy at Qana is being laid, rightly or wrongly, at Israel's door, making it harder and harder for the US to maintain its support. Diminishing Syrian influence in Lebanon? Syrian power in the area is growing by the day as the fragile Lebanese government struggles to keep order.

This has led many of the journalists I know into elaborate conspiracy theories about what Israel "really" wanted to achieve. This strikes me as a sort of perverse variant of the Elders of Zion wingnuttery, as if the Israelis are so omnipowerful that any apparent difficulties are merely another chess move in their unstoppable plan to dominate the Middle East. Israel is ruled by a government, which is to say, an entity nearly perfectly engineered for generating mistakes. The parsimonious explanation for the quagmire situation in Lebanon is that the Israeli government was expecting very different results from the ones they got.

Update Michael Young thinks Hizbollah has overreached.

PERSPECTIVE, PLEASE: Mitt Romney apologized for using the term "tar baby" to describe the Big Dig debacle. Can we save the public shaming for public officials who actually intend their comments to be offensive? Like, say, Mel Gibson?

ABOUT THE ONLY nice thing that one can say about Mel Gibson right now is that the statement he released hits the nail right on the head:

I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable.

At least he didn't take the usual famous-person tack of pretending he meant to say something entirely different from "I hate Jews", or that it was all a giant misunderstanding due to his insufficient sensitivity to religious issues. Of course, that's really very small comfort.

ISLAMIC BLOGGERS Ali Eteraz posts a letter from an American in Ramallah. And Aziz Poonwalla mourns that "Hizbollah has won. Again."

Update Why would I post a link to that letter from Ramallah? demand correspondants. Well, because the "warbloggers" tend to get a lot more information from people on the ground in Israel than those on the ground in Ramallah or Beirut. One of the unfortunate aspects of the Israel/Palestinian conflict is that the information blogs are best at generating--informal, personal descriptions and analysis of events--are only available from people who are pretty heavily biased on one side or the other of the conflict. Palestinian activists don't vacation in Haifa, and people with strongly pro-Israel views are rarely found in Ramallah, at least without tanks and air support. Thus, the only way to get eyewitness accounts is to take them from people with a huge axe to grind.

FINALLY, someone is offering a workable, low-cost solution to the problems in the Middle East:

During the several days that it was 112 degrees and I had no AC, all I wanted to do was build an IED and kill the AC guy who kept driving right past my office and helping other people. In fact, I wanted to kill everyone who didn’t agree with me on just about any point whatsoever.

And I realized that the problem with the Middle East is insufficient AC. If you think about it, virtually all of the organized violence in the world is originating from places where they have poor air conditioning. And in the desert, 112 degrees is considered a pleasant day. Imagine how grumpy you would be at 125 degrees. And guess what I never see on TV when they show footage of the Middle East?

Shade.

Every frickin’ person they interview in the Middle East is standing directly in the sun. Some shade would be a good step toward world peace.


PERSONAL NOTES: I'm American, but I tend to drop British spellings all over the place, because I work for a British magazine, and do most of my typing in Limey. I apologize to those who are even now composing sharp notes about the horrors of extra u's, but I'm afraid I can't help it. If it is true that women have smaller brains, the chunk that is missing from mine is the bit that would hold an extra set of spellings for daily use. Having painfully converted myself to automatically supply "travelled" and "centre" in the place of the good, old-fashioned American forms, I cannot easily switch back. If it bothers you, try to think of it as taking a little spelling vacation.

Also, if anyone wants to email me, rather than the Instapundit mailbox, you can do so at janegalt -at sign- janegalt.net.

OH HAPPY DAY: Aaron Haspel's literary blog, God of the Machine, is back, with a snazzy new design. Despite his appalling habit of betting on a weak Texas Hold'em hand just to make everyone else at the table pay to see the flop, he's well worth reading.

THERE'S GENERAL AGREEMENT among economists (and most economic journalists) that the American labour market isn't nearly as strong as we would expect it to be at this point in the business cycle. Unemployment figures are, to be sure, quite low, but in part that is because a number of people have dropped out of the labour force; both the labour force participation rate and the employment-to-population ratio are at least a full percentage point below what they were in the late 1990's. Median wages have stagnated since that time, indicating that labour demand is weaker than you would think if you just looked at the "headline" unemployment figure of 4.6%. One of my colleagues argues that this is because of competition from improving technology and (yes) outsourcing; anyone who has a job that can be routinized is in trouble. This includes a whole lot of white collar workers who used to have relatively secure and lucrative jobs; globalization seems to be making the poor better off at the expense of the middle class. The loss of those jobs isn't a tragedy for the economy, of course; eventually, they will be replaced by better jobs, just as jobs weaving cotton cloth and braiding buggy whips were. But in the short term, it can be awfully hard on people who thought they had a safe living.

Andrew Samwick talks about one of the reasons that this dislocation is hitting the participation figures so hard: men are living off savings or spouses or going on disability rather than accept lower-paying, lower-status jobs. It seems to me that we used to have a society in which going on disability was more stigmatized than taking a job pumping gas. Has that changed?

Greetings and salutations

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Megan McArdle, and I'll be your resident econblogger for the week (as well as a hefty dose of everything else--I'm a dilettante.)

I'm an economics journalist by profession, so as you might imagine, I spend rather a lot of time reading economics blogs. One of the best out there is Econlog, written by Bryan Caplan and Arnold Kling. You never imagined economics could be applied to so many questions, such as: why happiness researchers want you to commit suicide, and an inquiry into why LA has so many liquor stores, when big box retailers are allowed to sell liquor there (unlike Virginia, his current state of residence, and my own beloved New York State).

If I didn't know anything else about these states, I would predict that California's grocery stores would dominate the liquor market. Why make a special trip to a seedy liquor store when you can buy tequila at CostCo during your weekly shopping?

But this prediction is way off. The blatant fact is that there are seedy liquor stores on virtually every commercial street corner in Los Angeles. People are free to buy their liquor in regular grocery stores, but for reasons I can't grasp, grocery stores only seem to have a modest slice of the market.

Another way to think about this Los Angeles Liquor Puzzle: It seems like the Wal-Mart model should be working, but it's not. The mom-and-pop liquor stores are thriving in the face of big(ger) box competition.

The comments are also fun; in the post on finding yourself that very special mail-order bride to share your life, commenter Kedar weighs in with some . . . er . . . economic analysis:

Arranged marriage lasts longer. Success rate is also higher. It is a good idea to ask relatives find someone you will see only at the wedding. Love starts at the wedding and it takes time to reach the peak of love and also time to fall. So it takes time for the marginal cost to outweigh marginal benefit of marriage.

I'm imagining a proposal along these lines: "Hey, I calculated that it would take 37 years for the marginal cost of living together to exceed the marginal benefit! What do you think?"

But the image isn't nearly as compelling as picturing the look on my relatives' faces if I asked them to "find me someone I will see only at the wedding".

Not to mention the look on my face when I got my first glimpse of what they'd picked out.

IS THIS THING ON?

I wanted to thank Glenn for inviting me to guestblog this week. I look forward to hearing what's on my co-guest-bloggers' minds as well. I've just started grading my summer school exams today, but later today I'll post about the emerging phenomemon of the law professor novelist.

HAVE A GREAT TRIP, GLENN. And thanks for inviting me back. Hi to Megan, Michael, and Brannon.

I'm in the process of returning from a trip myself. I was just in San Jose for the BlogHer conference. Did you know women bloggers have our own meetings? Do you think anyone complained about how male bloggers dominate and how they don't link to women bloggers? It was nice to be on a panel in front of a large group when someone did, because it gave me a chance to say that hasn't been my experience at all. Glenn's name came up.

My panel was about political blogging, and my take on political blogging is that I'm surprised to find myself doing it at all, because I'd never seen myself as the political type, and I certainly don't blog to push a political agenda. I blog to see what I think and for the sheer joy of self-expression. One of my co-panelists was Lindsay Beyerstein, who might think I'm just posing as the nonpolitical type. She says:

My only regret was that the discussion was more discursive than adversarial. I was hoping for a vigorous debate about the norms of citizen journalism, or the role of the netroots in '06, or the latest controversies in the political blogosphere. Instead, we focused more on our personal approaches to blogging, our subject matter, and the balance between the personal and political facets of our writing

That amused me, because makes it sound as though we were in some stereotypical women's mode, but in fact, I read it as a criticism of me. But it wasn't just me. With our deft moderator Lisa Williams, we really were talking about how we feel about blogging. Maybe some of the conference-goers who opted for one of the other panels -- on art and knitting and "transforming your life" and "staying naked" -- would have liked our panel more than they thought. And maybe some of those who came to our panel were, like Lindsay, frustrated that we didn't have more to say about netroots and campaigns.

One thing we did talk about was hyper-local blogging. There are some blogs that are completely focused on one place. Lisa's blog is all about Watertown. One panelist, Courtney Hollands, writes only about Plymouth. Another, Jarah Euston writes only about Fresno. I'm impressed. I like to write about my city, Madison, Wisconsin, but only as one of many things. Kety Esquivel keeps her focus on a political-spiritual place -- she's progressive and Christian. It takes resolve to fix your perspective like that. It's not the way I like to blog, but in blogging, there are many paths.

I'LL BE OFF ON TRAVEL for the next week, and it's my intention to be offline the whole time. I think I'm ready for a vacation from the blogosphere, and the news, so I can be back rested and ready for my fifth bloggiversary, which comes August 8.

But things will be hopping here, with my usual guestbloggers -- Ann Althouse, Megan McArdle, and Michael Totten -- plus a new one, law professor Brannon Denning.

Heck, things will probably be so interesting that you won't want me to come back! But I will anyway. Sorry. . . .

HEH: "If a drunken Mel Gibson did indeed call out, 'Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,' then there can be only one possible place for a man who believes such things: as the next Secretary General of the United Nations."

JEROME ARMSTRONG defends himself, in response to the Patrick Hynes kerfuffle.

July 30, 2006

PREPARING FOR BIOTERROR: I certainly hope we never need to be prepared, but I suspect that it's a matter of when more than if. Plus, some of these preparations might be useful in the case of natural epidemics. This is certainly another of those areas where it would be nice if we could trust international organizations more.

JEFF JARVIS: "So I took my unsuspecting teenage son to see Woody Allen’s Scoop and here’s the funniest part: The entire audience was geriatric. There wasn’t a person in the theater — in a decent crowd, by the way — who wasn’t under 50 and most won’t see 60 again. . . . Woody Allen is the newspaper of film directors: His audience is dying off."

The audience reaction seems lukewarm. The good news for Woody: At least people are living longer!

CARNIVAL-O-RAMA: This week's Blawg Review is up, and it's hosted by Jeremy Blachman, author of Anonymous Lawyer. There's also this week's Haveil Havalim, and Radiology Grand Rounds. Plus, the Carnival of Cordite, and, naturally, the Carnival of the Cats.

And, of course, don't miss the Carnival of the Recipes!

Don't miss all the carnivals collected at BlogCarnival.com.

I'M NOT COMFORTED BY THIS NEWS:

The first commercial flight in a decade departed Mogadishu's newly reopened international airport Sunday, demonstrating how Islamic militants have pacified the once-anarchic capital and much of southern Somalia. . . . Now, Islamic militiamen are guarding the airport for commercial passengers, said Sheik Muqtar Robow, deputy defense chief for the Islamic group.

Somalia looks like a defeat for the good guys.

JOHN MCCAIN'S SON has joined the Marines.

SO IN THE MAIL the other day I got this book by Jacob Hacker, which looks like a testbed for 2008 Democratic domestic policy themes. The question is, would we be better off if the U.S. labor market looked more like, say, France's? Less risk for employees, yes, but . . . .

I wonder what Gene Sperling would say.

CHESTER TRIES TO DECIDE WHETHER TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL: Much commentary ensues, including this item at the WSJ law blog.

My take: Now that a standard B.A. is worth about what a high school diploma used to be -- an entry ticket, and no more -- a law degree is probably the closest graduate analog to what a liberal arts B.A. used to be. It's good for a lot of things besides law. But, like a liberal arts degree, it's not for everyone. An M.B.A. does something similar, though perhaps a bit narrower, but does it in two years.

But be sure you scroll down to read the comments of Tucker Max, especially the part about student loan debt. I regularly see students who blithely take on a lot of debt in school, and are then surprised at how it limits their choices later. Student Loan debt isn't always bad, but you should take it very seriously.

Finally, while I know some lawyers who are happy, most aren't. It's possible, of course, that they're the kind of people who weren't really happy before they became lawyers -- not surprisingly, the field has an attraction to people who like to complain. But it's also true that older lawyers seem to enjoy it more -- and to have enjoyed it more when they were new at it -- than today's lawyers. I think the practice of law is substantially less enjoyable than it used to be, even if it's sometimes more lucrative. That said, I actually liked practicing law when I worked for Dewey, Ballantine. But if I were still there today, I might not like it as much.

MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE WE'RE DRIVING FASTER?

American drivers are reporting fewer crashes to their insurance companies than ever before, and nobody knows precisely why.

Fewer claims mean record profits for auto insurers like Allstate Corp. and State Farm Insurance Cos. . . .

But behind the profit boon lies a mystery: Insurers can't explain the drop in auto claims. And while theories abound, the lack of a clear, identifiable reason is unsettling in an industry that relies on sophisticated statistical modeling to predict its claim payouts. Those predictions are used to set premium rates, to decide whom to insure and to provide earnings guidance to Wall Street.

Or maybe people yapping on cellphones are worse drivers, but that's offset by a reduced frequency of road rage because they're too oblivious to get mad. . . .

(Via NewsAlert).

THIS IS INTERESTING: "College-age populations of the Midwest and Northeast are shrinking, while those in the South and West are rising." Read the whole thing, and see the map. Upside: "North Dakota will give you a hell of a deal."

PHIL BOWERMASTER has more thoughts on modern health and longevity.

AN UNSOLVED MYSTERY at the Los Angeles Times.

MORE ON THE SEATTLE SHOOTINGS:

The man suspected in a fatal shooting rampage hid behind a potted plant in a Jewish charity's foyer and forced his way through a security door by holding a gun to a 13-year-old girl's head, the police chief said Saturday. . . .

Haq, a Muslim, told authorities he was angered by the war in Iraq and U.S. military cooperation with Israel.

"He pointedly blamed the Jewish people for all of these problems," Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said at a news conference Saturday.

According to a statement of probable cause, Haq told a 911 dispatcher: "These are Jews and I'm tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East."

Muhammad Ullah, a close family friend and a senior member of a mosque founded in part by Haq's father, described Haq as a quiet loner with few friends.

In a statement, the Islamic Center of the Tri-Cities offered condolences to the shooting victims and said "we disassociate this act from our Islamic teachings and beliefs."

As they should, of course. I notice some blogs complaining about the fact that area police are now guarding mosques as well as synagogues. That seems to me to be a wise, though likely unnecessary, precaution. The chance that someone will shoot up a mosque in retaliation here is low, but if it happened it would make things much worse. It seems smart to try to ensure that it doesn't.

KEVIN DRUM: "The fight against Islamic jihadism is essentially a vast, global counterinsurgency, something that the United States is lousy at. But we'd better get good at it fast, and the first step is to discard the fatuous notion that more violence is the obvious answer when the current amount of violence isn't doing the job. History suggests very strongly that the truth is exactly the opposite."

Well, it's not so much a question of more or less violence as it is a question of applying the proper amount of violence to the proper people. And if, as Kevin argues, the current amount of violence isn't doing the job, that actually isn't evidence that either more or less would be better.

While I think that Drum's comparison with U.S. and Israeli strategy today with Soviet strategy in Afghanistan -- if that's what he means, which isn't quite clear to me -- is wrong, I think that his reference to "casual genocide" as the preferred strategy of pro-war people is pretty clear, and pretty absurd. Yeah, you see that kind of thing in blog comments sometime, but I think most people support current U.S. military efforts because they fear that ignoring the problem is likely to produce more death and violence over the long term, not less. (Hence the frequent invocations of 1936 and 1938). That's certainly my view.

In the 1990s, we followed the "ignore it and maybe it'll go away" strategy. As I've noted before, I can't blame people for that -- it was the strategy that I favored, too, based on what I knew at the time, as I thought that if we waited Islamic Jihadism would collapse under the weight of its own idiocy. But it clearly didn't work. I don't know whether the current strategy is correct or not, though it seems to me that so long as we give Syria and Iran (and for that matter, Saudi Arabia) a pass, we're never going to get much of a handle on this problem. But Drum's post is notable for what it lacks -- a specific proposal beyond saying that we'd better get better at this stuff fast. I agree, of course, but . . . .

Neither Kevin or I is a military expert, but I do know that counterinsurgencies, even the most successful ones, are long, drawn-out, messy, and often lacking in obvious signposts of success for most of their duration. So if this is a global counterinsurgency against terror, and it looks long, drawn-out, messy, etc., well then that's hardly a surprise.

Still, so as not to fail at making positive proposals myself I'll make one suggestion: The real problem in the war on terror, I think, is a relatively small number of terror-backers in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Why aren't we waging unconventional warfare against them? They undoubtedly have toes we can step on in the form of business interests, overseas accounts, vacation homes, etc. Would we make more progress by targeting those sorts of things, rather than fighting their cannon fodder in the field? If I recall correctly, a shift to that strategy was what ended the Philippine insurgency a century ago.

But I'm no military expert, so there may be good reasons why we're not doing this. Or we may, in fact, be doing it and it just may be under the radar, though I kind of doubt that.

UPDATE: I think that Hugh Hewitt is too hard on Kevin. I don't think that Drum was ascribing ineptitude to U.S. troops, but rather disapproving of the overall strategy. But I could be wrong.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kevin responds.

MORE: Related thoughts from Bill Quick. And a column on the general subject from Mark Steyn. "In Iraq, the leviathan has somehow managed to give the impression that what previous mid-rank powers would have regarded as a little light colonial policing has left it stretched dangerously thin and bogged down in an almighty quagmire. Even if it were only lamebrain leftist media spin, the fact that it's accepted by large numbers of Americans and huge majorities of Europeans is a reminder that in free societies a military of unprecedented dominance is not the only source of power. More importantly, significant proportions of this nation's enemies also believe the spin. In April 2003 was Baby Assad nervous that he'd be next? You bet. Is he nervous now?"

I REMEMBER BUMPER STICKERS IN THE 1980S saying that "El Salvador is Spanish for Vietnam." Now people are saying that Iraq is Vietnam. Jim Hoft looks at some statistics and sees a pretty big difference.

TIGERHAWK HAS THOUGHTS ON PARENTING. They overlap with the podcast we did with James Lileks and Cathy Seipp (available here with nifty new easier-to-use player) and with some things I wrote here.

And here (via The Corner) is a depressing article from Psychology Today.

JAMES JOYNER looks at blogger burnout.

"PHOTOS THAT DAMN HEZBOLLAH:"

THIS is the picture that damns Hezbollah. It is one of several, smuggled from behind Lebanon's battle lines, showing that Hezbollah is waging war amid suburbia.

The images, obtained exclusively by the Sunday Herald Sun, show Hezbollah using high-density residential areas as launch pads for rockets and heavy-calibre weapons.

Dressed in civilian clothing so they can quickly disappear, the militants carrying automatic assault rifles and ride in on trucks mounted with cannon.

The photographs, from the Christian area of Wadi Chahrour in the east of Beirut, were taken by a visiting journalist and smuggled out by a friend. . . . The Melbourne man who smuggled the shots out of Beirut and did not wish to be named said he was less than 400m from the block when it was obliterated.

"Hezbollah came in to launch their rockets, then within minutes the area was blasted by Israeli jets," he said.

"Until the Hezbollah fighters arrived, it had not been touched by the Israelis. Then it was totally devastated."

I guess that's the kind of thing that explains why we're not neutral in this conflict. (Via The Volokh Conspiracy). Meanwhile, I'm expecting an outcry any year now about Hezbollah's violations of the laws of war. So far, though, there's this: "The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had not received agreement so far to its request to visit two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hezbollah guerrillas."

UPDATE: Josh Trevino writes: "In a sane world, we would give thanks for Hezbollah's failure to murder, regret what has happened in Qana, and reaffirm the justice of the Israeli war. But this is not a sane world: in place of right and wrong, too many appear to operate in a universe of strong and weak (or, one suspects, Jew and non-Jew) -- and their sympathy goes to the weak, even if the weak is a shell of a polity married to a genocide-minded Muslim murder-front."

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here: "The strangest aspect of all this, of course, is that no one doubts that Israel killed the civilians in Qana accidentally while targeting terrorists, whereas, on the other hand, Hezbollah has launched hundreds of rockets into Israel for the sole and express purpose of killing civilians. Yet where is the outrage against Hezbollah? Why is it that Kofi Annan swings into action only to denounce Israel and to promote the course that Hezbollah wants, namely a time-out so that it can rebuild its terrorist infrastructure?"

Yeah, it's almost like he's on Hezbollah's side, or something.

STILL MORE: Questioning the timing, and a shockingly professional and prompt Condi banner.

MORE STILL: Qana photos turn out to be staged. This is common in photojournalism from the region, I'm afraid, but Western press agencies eat it up.

JEREMY LOTT is defending Patrick Hynes.