SAM MACDONALD WRITES IN REASON about the antigun lobby's declining fortunes:
It's not exactly news that some people think that it's "basically impossible" to use a gun to defend yourself. What's more instructive here is to note just how far the anti-gun lobby has fallen, and what a recent spate of setbacks has done to the once-powerful movement. They are no longer simply wrong. They are becoming desperate. . . .
These official setbacks pale in comparison to a far more pervasive threat, however: People just aren't so keen on gun-control stories anymore. . . . The National Association of Chiefs of Police issued their 14th annual survey on Monday. Over 93 percent said yes to "Should any law abiding citizen be able to purchase a firearm for sport or self-defense?" Over 62 percent said concealed handgun permits would help reduce crime. This caused exactly zero waves on the political or media landscape.
Yep. Desperate is the word.
READER MARK BOURRIE WRITES:
The photos you've linked to are proof that the US Air Force has liberated more women than all the faculties of womens' studies, the NY Times editorial board, Noam Chomsky, and the rest, could ever hope to. (And Afghan women are nice looking, too.) It's a lot easier to oppress people, and, like the left, live with that oppression by saying it's just cultural difference, if you can't see the pain in the faces of these women and children. I hope everyone in the Armed Services of the US and allied powers is shown these photos to remind them that, along with avenging the American victims of bin Laden's paid murderers, much other good has come from this wonderful war. I notice bin Laden is not so quick to head off to Paradise as he is to send others skyward.
Indeed. The womens' studies profs won't like that remark about the Afghan women, though, Mark.
STRATEGY PAGE REPORTS THAT DEFENSE INVESTIGATORS FEAR THERE ARE terrorist cells operating within the U.S. military. Apparently, background checks on foreign-born servicemembers, and recently discovered information on Al Qaeda, have turned up cause for concern.
ADVANTAGE: WEBLOGGERS! Too many bloggers to count predicted that anthrax fears would be very bad news for the cocaine trade. Now there's this from the New York Times:
WHEN it first became clear that bioterrorism would change the world forever, it probably didn't occur to many people that this meant models would have to stop snorting cocaine.
"People are just too scared now," a young woman with a kind of truckstop Lolita beauty who has appeared on many international runways said the other day.
"I mean," she continued, after insisting, understandably, that her name not appear in print, "it's a white powder, made by who, and cut with who knows what? Who is going to put that up their nose now?"
NEWS FLASH: Robert Mugabe is a shameless thug. No, really. Sarcasm aside, what's sadly amusing about this story is that the EU diplomats were surprised.
PEOPLE IN MASSACHUSSETTS WANT GUNS -- NOW! At least, according to this article in the Globe they do.
Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, gun instructors say, attendance at firearms courses in Massachusetts has skyrocketed among a broad swath of the population for whom personal safety has become a big worry. Most instructors are reporting that their classes have grown by 50 percent or more since the attacks. . . .
''Before, people wanted a firearm not so much for protection, but for recreation,'' Green said. ''Now, it's the individual starting to take responsibility for his own and his family's self-preservation.''
And most of the new students, Green said, had never fired a gun before.
Pat Neumann, 47, of Hopkinton, recently completed GOAL's course with her husband. The couple wants to shoot for recreation, she said, but the terrorist attacks reinforced their decision to get training.
''I'll feel more confident if there's an emergency,'' Neumann said. ''None of us would have predicted what happened Sept. 11, but I'll feel a little more prepared because none of us knows what might be around the corner for any of us.''
Once they realize how hard Massachussetts makes it on gun owners, some people may lose heart. But then again, they may support changes in the law. And heck, with Massachussetts getting an initiative to end the state income tax
on the ballot for 2002, who knows what political changes may be in store?
WISHFUL THINKING, MODERN LEFT STYLE courtesy of Ted Rall. Reading this, I get the feeling that Rall would be a lot happier if (1) our bombing had killed a lot of Afghan civilians instead of a couple of dozen; and (2) if a bunch of American soldiers had been killed, instead of, so far, well, none.
MORE AMUSING STUFF ON MEDIA NEGATIVITY from Ken Layne. Here's my favorite:
And thanks to the magic of the Internet, I've found the NYT front page from the same day. The headline? "THE WAR IN EUROPE IS ENDED! SURRENDER IS UNCONDITIONAL; V-E WILL BE PROCLAIMED TODAY; OUR TROOPS ON OKINAWA GAIN."
The nerve of those 1945 editors ... our troops? Where's the self loathing? I'm sure our well-educated post-modernist editors of today would respond with the proper, somber and objective tone. Something like, "Pentagon: War Has 'Ended;' Tensions Rise Between Uneasy Allies; Devastated Germany Unlikely to Prosper; Unsettling Reports of U.S. Brutality; Little Proof of Hitler's Guilt."
My question: how long can the media continue to convince themselves that reactions like this -- which extend from bloggers like Layne, to Saturday Night Live,
to the man on the street -- are the result of some flaw in the culture, rather than a problem with their coverage? And if they can fool themselves this thoroughly about their own obvious problems, then why should we trust them to see through anyone else's deceptions?
SOME VERY MOVING PHOTOS of liberated Afghanistan, from the Dropscan weblog. Don't miss these.
INSTAPUNDIT WAS FIRST off the mark dissing Cornel West's rap album. But Matt Labash of the Weekly Standard scores pretty well, particularly with his comparison of West's release to William Shatner's cover of "Mr. Tambourine Man."
HEY, GUESS WHAT! Muslims like freedom too!
MATERIALISM + INDIVIDUALISM = HUMANITARIANISM? That's what Lawrence Lindsey argues, in a Financial Times piece reproduced on Declan McCullagh's Politechbot page.
RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE UPDATE: Just took the girls to Build-a-Bear at the mall, where the crowds looked pretty good. I queried staff at a few of the stores, and they reported that yesterday was a terrific day, and that today had started off slow (lousy weather) but had gotten better as the weather cleared. The parking lot was full, and people certainly seemed to be buying things.
Of course, that wasn't easy sometimes. It was another "buy nothing" day for me (aside from the bears, pizza, clothes for the bears, candy, shoes for the bears, and, well, you get the idea). Brooks Brothers had lambswool sweaters at half price, but nothing was left in my size when I got there. Low inventories may actually undercut what might otherwise be a successful Christmas shopping season.
AMERICA: NO BETTER THAN THE TALIBAN, PART II: Why, according to Frank Rich, our Attorney General is fostering terrorism all the time:
The obvious suspects include those on the Timothy McVeighesque fringes of the Second Amendment cult, who proudly trade in germ war "cookbooks" at gun shows, and those in the anti-abortion terrorist movement, who have a history of wielding anthrax scares as well as explosives in pursuit of their cause.
But is Mr. Ashcroft pulling in, say, any of America's own Talibans, like the Army of God, with his dragnet? It seems unlikely, given that these organizations, which are big on advertising their own self-martyrdom, haven't reported any such detentions. A cynic might think that domestic extremists who share the attorney general's antipathy to abortion and gun control — and are opposed to the likes of Mr. Leahy and Tom Daschle — receive a free pass denied to suspicious-looking immigrants.
Rich's casual slurs are worthy of Ann Coulter -- whom the New York Times
would surely find unworthy of oped page enshrinement -- but that's how the NYT
's oped page goes these days. As vicious as any of the rightists they accuse, but less amusing. And, since I am unaware of any "Second Amendment enthusiasts" who have actually mailed anyone anthrax, the Times'
fact-checking, if any, has apparently fallen down on the job, too.
Why does anyone listen to these guys? Well increasingly, of course, we don't.
AMERICA: NO BETTER THAN THE TALIBAN! That's because, according to the authors of this piece, "During the 20th century, American culture has dictated a nearly complete uncovering of the female form." So, you see, American women who follow the dictates of fashion because they want to look stylish are exactly like Afghan women who wear burkas because religious police will beat them to death with sticks if they show their ankles!
Whether it's the dark, sad eyes of a woman in purdah or the anxious darkly circled eyes of a girl with anorexia nervosa, the woman trapped inside needs to be liberated from cultural confines in whatever form they take. The burka and the bikini represent opposite ends of the political spectrum but each can exert a noose-like grip on the psyche and physical health of girls and women.
Statements like this have gone unchallenged for years because their absolutely mind-numbing stupidity makes a reply seem almost pointless. This, unfortunately, has caused the people who make them to believe that they must have something worthwhile to say. They don't. In fact, this kind of thing betrays an inability to make simple distinctions that suggests its authors are incapable of critical thought.
Thanks to Fredrik Norman, who emailed me the link.
SOME INTERESTING LETTERS on military tribunals and international courts.
WATCHING THE CAMPUSES: A new group called the American Council of Trustees and Alumni is monitoring anti-American statements on campus. The New York Times article treats this as little more than McCarthyism, but it's hard to see why: for the last 20 years at least, professors have faced this sort of monitoring from groups of a leftist persuasion. Even The Nation has noticed that this has undermined support for free speech on campus. That's what makes this statement from history professor Eric Foner so funny:
Scholars protest that the council is taking advantage of a national crisis to further its academic agenda. "Their aim is to enforce a particular party line on American colleges and universities," said Eric Foner, a professor of American history at Columbia University whose name appears in the report. "Now they're seizing upon this particular moment and the feeling that they're in the driver's seat to suppress the expression of alternative points of view."
Where has this man been for the past decade or two? Oh, yeah: trying to enforce a different
OPINIONJOURNAL points out the domestic terrorists who haven't been getting much attention: the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front.
IS PRESIDENT BUSH A DICTATOR? That's the question asked by David Tell in The Weekly Standard and the answer, of course, is no.
Tell is right that many of the criticisms of "dictatorial powers" are overwrought. But I would prefer to live in a country where people react viscerally against the notion of military tribunals than in one where they are accepted as a matter of course.
Tell also ignores the real scandal of the "USA Patriot Act" -- which is that most of it isn't about terrorism at all, but is simply a bureaucratic grab for things that have been on wish lists for years.
When this crisis is over, some people in Congress, and in the agencies, need to be held responsible for what's in that act -- and for how the powers it confers have been used.
DAVID PLOTZ discusses our legal and moral duty to Taliban and al Qaeda fighters who want to surrender. Hmm. Well, I think we have no duty to encourage them to surrender rather than being killed, and perhaps a moral duty to do the opposite.
Plotz seems to think that we have a duty, both legal and moral, to use our influence with the Northern Alliance to keep them from slaughtering surrendering Taliban and (more significantly) foreign al Qaeda fighters. I'm sensing a more farsighted Bush strategy here than I had previously appreciated. Consider: we called on the Northern Alliance not to enter Kabul but they did, establishing that we don't control them. So our obligation to make them do anything is limited.
Second, if they do surrender and wind up in our hands, the whole military-tribunal thing suddenly makes a lot more sense. Was this what the White House was planning for all along?
CRYING "HAVOC": According to this Washington Times report, U.S. special forces have been given free rein to kill Taliban in Afghanistan, and have killed hundreds in a series of small ambushes and lightning strikes.
Two observations: The benefit of this, of course, is not so much the number killed as the fear this sort of thing spreads when people are being ambushed in places thought to be safe. (Based on how nervous the Taliban were seeming in early October, I speculated that something like this was going on). Second, here's a story praising CENTCOM commander Gen. Tommy Franks for allowing such independence, appearing just a few days after Tom Ricks' story in the Washington Post in which unnamed sources claimed that the target approval process for airstrikes was too slow and cumbersome. Coincidence?
CHINA HAS DECIDED IT MUST DOMINATE SPACE and is building up its aerospace industries.
STUDENTS TAKE ON PROFESSORS: This oped from the UCLA Daily Bruin argues that too many professors are pushing a nihilistic version of antiestablishment politics that is in the process of destroying traditional liberalism:
Murder, slaughter, and terrorism are OK, they say, as long as they are directed at law-enforcement officials or civilian Westerners. It's fine as long as the murderer is anti-capitalist, anti-establishment or anti-conservative.
This frightening ideology has not only blurred the line between liberalism and radicalism – it has destroyed it. This ideology cannot truly be called liberalism – it can only be called evil.
A bit overwrought in places, but fundamentally right. Certainly worth reading as an example of a current of campus opinion that gets less attention than it might.
Of course, the professors he talks about are, and always have been, a minority of the professoriate. But they have exercised much authority because they are loud, and usually no publicly opposed. That, however, is changing.
ARE U.S. SANCTIONS STARVING IRAQIS? This report says that they're not. Instead, it's Saddam who's doing it.
THANKSGIVING, through Andrew Sullivan's eyes. Very nice.
FRANCE IS SENDING ITS AIRCRAFT CARRIER to the Indian Ocean to help. Hmm. Aside from its rather late-in-the-day nature, this reminds me of what Rommel allegedly said about the Italians joining the Axis: "If they oppose us, we'll need two divisions to hold the passes through the Alps. If they join us, we'll have to send twenty divisions to give them some backbone." (I believe Churchill's remarks on the same subject were, "It's only fair. We had them in the last war.") Given the record of the Charles de Gaulle, we'll probably need to station a rescue fleet permanently in its vicinity as a precaution, assuming it makes it there in one piece.
ELIZABETH DOLE: Not so anti-gun after all. That's what she's decided, now that she's running for office in North Carolina. Well, no surprise there. Virginia just saw a Democrat elected governor on the strength of his pro-gun stance, and Tennessee's leading Democratic candidate is stressing his pro-gun credentials because of polling data showing that gun control is what cost Al Gore Tennessee in 2000. Gun control just isn't working politically. If Democrats in Tennessee and Virginia have figured it out, why wouldn't a Republican in North Carolina learn something from that?
NATALIE SOLENT WRITES:
While flicking to the Ted Turner suck-up story like you told me to, another item in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution caught my eye. A man called Michael Lasseter has been driven from his home after inadvertently causing a major flap at Hartsfield airport. The story is here
I blogged it myself but think it deserves wider coverage. Closing down airports every time someone runs down the up escalator is like crying "wolf": it just means everybody yawns when the real crisis comes.
JAY ZILBER differs with the assessment of reader Chris Fountain below about the relative level of friendliness in lower Manhattan. Fountain calls it a post-9/11 phenomenon. Zilber says it was actually well underway before 9/11.
I express no opinion. The last time I lived there was in 1984, and it certainly wasn't underway then.
THE OIL WEAPON: Like most weapons, it can point both ways. Reader Randall Parker forwards a link to this Economist article on oil price wars, with this comment: "Maybe Putin and Bush have decided to destabilize the gulf oil emirates by lowering the price of oil so far that they can not afford to maintain their existing structure of parasites." I think he's right. It's a punishment, pure and simple, and a reminder: if you use oil revenues to fund terrorism and terrorist sympathizers, as the Saudi and Kuwaiti royal families do, then perhaps we need to see that you have fewer such revenues.
If I'm right, you'll see a lot of U.S. investment flowing into Russia for exploration and development of Russian oil resources, which poses a serious long-term threat to the gulf Arabs. (There are likely other disguised payments being made, too, probably hidden in military expenditures supporting the action in Afghanistan). And the punishment being inflicted here is more than economic. As Parker notes, while the Saudis' cost of production is low, they have so many expensive subsidy programs shoring up their regime that they really need a price of $15-20/barrel. Keeping the price below that will tend to deparasitize them. Since many of those parasites are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers/front groups/proselytizers there is a direct benefit; since cutting off money to parasites may destablize the regimes, this is also a way of applying the squeeze to those regimes without doing anything too overt. Other Islamic nations might squawk (though perhaps not all that loud) if we sent the Marines to take over Saudi Arabia, but no one will sympathize with them if they're hurting because of low oil prices.
Say, think this is why Saudi-controlled media have changed their tune?
GOOD SENSE IN THE NATION: This article by David Glenn suggests that the left has created a climate of intolerance on university campuses by sponsoring "speech codes" that have undermined respect for free speech, and that this climate is responsible for the cases of anti-war professors being censured. Gee, where have I heard that before?
LOVING UNDERDOGS, BUT HATING LOSERS: Suddenly, the Arab media are featuring thoughtful denunciations of bin Laden. Hmm. Think it's because we're winning and he's losing?
This just shows that firmness often does more to win people over than appeasement. After all, why should people be persuaded by the position of someone who appears not to believe it himself?
RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE SITREP: There's good news and bad news. The good news: "Buy Nothing Day" is a complete flop. I went to a computer store to take advantage of an incredible deal on an HP copier/scanner/printer. Sold out -- of that and just about everything else. It was like the place had been hit with a plague of locusts. Well, locusts with credit cards. So I wound up, in fact, buying nothing, because there was simply nothing to buy. Dang.
And that's the bad news. I wonder if a lot of stores are holding much less inventory in expectation of dismal sales. If so, the economy may get a lot less of a boost from Christmas than it could.
Judging by the number of cars in the parking lot of the big mall across the street, the shopping season will be good, limited only by the availability of, you know, stuff to buy. I'm not letting this discourage me, though: I'm going out and trying to buy more stuff after lunch. After all, we Americans don't give up that easily.
THE OPINIONJOURNAL HAS A LIST of colleges and universities that don't require history or western civilization courses. Pretty appalling.
THE "DOMESTIC TERROR ANTHRAX" theory is looking weaker in light of discoveries in Kabul. One plan was for weather balloons full of anthrax spores to be lofted above big cities, where they would either burst on their own or be shot down, releasing spores over a wide area. (I actually doubt this would work -- not a high enough concentration in any one area). But it clearly indicates that our major opponents were working on anthrax pretty hard. Occam's razor suggests that its appearance in the U.S. at the same time as a war with them is not a coincidence.
I PLAN TO DO A LOT OF SHOPPING TODAY, because I heard some idiot from Adbusters on NPR calling for today to be "buy nothing" day as a statement against wealth, or war, or, well, something. He wasn't very articulate about his reasons. Apparently, however, it's somehow an antiwar statement to buy nothing. The not much more informative webpage on this suggests that we wear t-shirts reading "PEACE WORKS," while, er, not buying things. (I don't know where we're supposed to get the t-shirts -- weave 'em at home out of flax grown in our backyards, I guess).
Well, screw this stupidity for the self-indulgent moralistic crap that it is. The peace folks are always talking fatuously about terrorism coming from Third World poverty, but they're always pushing solutions like this that -- in the unlikely event anyone listened -- would plunge the Third World into a vast, crushing depression. We're supposed to overlook this because their intentions are supposed to be good.
I don't think they deserve credit for good intentions. In the law, we presume that people intend the ordinary, natural consequences of their actions, and the consequences of people taking them seriously would be dreadful, and cost millions, perhaps billions, of lives in a sustained worldwide economic collapse. You want Chomsky's "silent genocide?" That would be it.
Of course, maybe they don't expect anyone to take them seriously. Well, I don't. And neither should you. Especially when the ads suggest that the stores are practically giving things away today. Retail support brigade, lock and load! We'll show these guys how the war on terrorism, and global poverty, is really won!
BIZARRO WORLD: As I muzzily nursed my first cup of coffee this morning, a Barbie doll dropped down from the balcony, a noose around its neck. Ah, I thought, the newest item: "Frontier Justice Barbie!"
But no. I asked the girls what they were playing. "Bungee jumping!" they replied. I guess, like a lot of things, it's a question of viewpoint.
"U.S. FEARS MASSACRE OF FOREIGN FIGHTERS" says the headline to this story in the Telegraph. Obviously, for space reasons, someone left off the words "won't happen."
Good night, and happy Thanksgiving!
READER CHRIS FOUNTAIN offers this observation of life in New York City:
My younger brother came out to Connecticut after watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade for perhaps the twentieth time in as many years. His observation on what was different this year: the police, firemen and the Mayor were all boisterously cheered along the route. A marked difference from the reception accorded these groups in past years. I myself took the subway down to Wall Street last week and noticed that when a suited businessman asked for directions, three different individuals offered advice. Before September 11th, he'd have been met, in my experience, with blank stares. Geeze, before you know it, the place is going to start resembling Des Moines!
Well, that wouldn't be so bad.
RAND SIMBERG points out that today is the anniversary of JFK's assassination, and nobody seems to have noticed. He's right; I'd forgotten it myself. This seems to be of deep social significance.
THE LAMB WAS EXCELLENT, and so was the turkey. We also drank a superb (and dirt-cheap) Chilean cabernet sauvignon. Hope your Thanksgiving was and is as good.
KEN LAYNE GIVES THANKS for everyday magic, and this time no alcohol is involved.
BESTSELLER IN KANDAHAR, according to Amazon.Com: An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the Confederate Government, by William C. Davis.
No, not really. Besides, with Kunduz surrendering, I don't think they'll have time to read it, even with express shipping.
THE TURKEY'S DONE, but the lamb has a bit longer to go. Sure looks, and smells, good though. I think Tony Adragna made a mistake not going with the lamb, but he does have a spiral-sliced Smithfield ham, which -- with half the family Jewish -- I lack.
The turkey was cooked not by me as usual, but by my brother's Nigerian girlfriend and my 10-year-old anglo-french niece. A first for both of 'em.
JOANNE JACOBS has good thoughts on civilian casualties (or, as it turns out, the lack thereof) and on Microsoft's not-so-generous offer to give obsolete computers to schools. Happy Thanksgiving, Joanne! I'm going to go put the lamb on.
THE TURKEY'S IN THE OVEN: The lamb is still marinating. Mmm.
DALE AMON reports on Samizdata that efforts to end the Income Tax in Massachussetts (no, really!) have produced 100,000 signatures. That's enough to put the question on the ballot in 2002, which should have some fascinating political ramifications.
A HARVARD VIROLOGIST HAS GONE MISSING right here in Tennessee (though Memphis, which is only marginally closer to Knoxville than Washington, DC, isn't really "right here"). Hmm. Foul play? Possibly. Probably not, though this story from the Memphis Commercial Appeal leans a bit harder that way than the Boston Globe account.
THANKS to all those who emailed suggestions for the lamb marinade. Some of them actually more-or-less replicated my recipe (I wasn't going to post all the ingredients -- the recipe might be downloaded by terrorists and used for nefarious ends, after all.) Some others sounded interesting; maybe I'll try 'em. I'm not sure about the Vanilla extract, though.
SOME VERY INTERESTING THOUGHTS by David Brin on including civilians in antiterrorism. Must reading.
THE GYM WAS PACKED. There was a "pre-pigout cardio attack party" consisting of a massive "body attack" combat aerobics class (basically, a tae-bo clone) and assorted activities. Watching all those toned women punch and kick, I could see what the Islamofascists are afraid of. Tee hee. In the weight area beneath the aerobics classroom, it sounded like a thundering herd above -- kind of like what you hear in an old western right after somebody yells "stampede!"
The rest of the gym was busy, too. On the year's biggest feast day, great masses of people are busy pumping iron and running the stairmaster. And people think Americans are soft?
THINGS I'M THANKFUL FOR, in no particular order:
My family and friends, and my lovely and talented wife (okay that really does come first). I'm lucky to have a large, close family despite multiple parental divorces and remarriages. We all get along. Everyone comes on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and ex-spouses even mingle comfortably.
The Internet. I love it! It's basically a big playground for guys like me. Want worldwide distribution of your music? Got it! Want to write a syndicated column without the bother of involving newspapers? Got it! Curious about the relationship between Flavius Aetius and Attila the Hun (closer than you think, even though Aetius kicked Attila's ass big time)? It's at your fingertips.
You folks. With the exception of one guy now laboring unknowingly under a "bozo filter," I get hundreds of emails a day from people who are smart, knowledgeable, and nice.
The United States of America, and Western civilization generally. Hell, we all know it's not perfect. But look at the alternatives. Plus, it gave us the Internet, and it's the place where many parts of my family came to keep from being killed by people in less enlightened locales. And -- thanks in no small part to the immigration of people like that -- it's a place that can kick the ass of anyone who tries to do that to them now that they're here.
The New York Times, which is increasingly a source of comic relief not unlike The Onion, as in this headline, which refers to the al Qaeda terrorists trapped in Kunduz as "militants." Any time you start to doubt yourself, and wonder if you're fit for the big leagues of American thought and opinion, you can just read The Times and be thankful that the standards of the big leagues aren't so high.
Coffee. I don't think true civilization is possible without it.
The Lord of the Rings. I hope the movie doesn't suck.
Britney Spears. Sure, people make fun of her. But think about it: soft-porn videos that keep your kids amused -- it's been every dad's dream forever, and now it's a reality thanks to her! Plus, she's a role model for American girls by not starving herself into a whippet-like state of near-anorexia.
All those scientists out there researching ways to keep us alive longer, to make sure that we can still have sex at advanced ages, and to cure various diseases that make life miserable. They don't make all that much money (few make as much as I made when I quit practicing law at the age of 28; of course, I don't make as much now as I made when I quit practicing law at the age of 28.) They work absurdly hard. Few of them attain the kind of fame they could get by being even a mediocre baseball player. But they've done more to make humanity's lot better than all the politicians put together.
All the other cool bloggers (some are linked at the left; more should be, and will be when I get to it).
Leg of lamb. Soon to be marinating in olive oil, rosemary, wine, garlic, and a hint of soy. Mmm. There'll be a turkey, too.
The strudel that my mother brought by yesterday so that our houseguests would have something yummy for breakfast. And my mother (see item 1, above), who still nurtures a crush on John Fogerty.
The gym, where I'm going now to launch a preemptive strike against the leg of lamb.
Happy Thanksgiving! Make your own list.
LOTS OF GREAT STUFF on Matt Welch's page today. Don't miss it.
AIRLINE TRAVEL: An excellent suggestion from reader John Rose:
One of the things I like most about your column is how open you are to simple, common sense suggestions, which no doubt come from your libertarian perspective. So here's one to reduce frustration at the airline check in counter. Its a real low tech idea, so simple that my bakery counter uses it.
Instead of forming long lines complete with all the luggage, why not allow passengers to be given a number and give them seating? One advantage of this arrangement, aside from the obvious benefit of being able to sit, rather than stand, is that you could be given a number in relation to the time of your flight. Flights about to depart, lower number; later flights, higher numbers. This is so simple a way to reduce peoples discomfort that even New York State Department of Motor Vehicles uses it ! In fact
they combine it with an estimate of the amount of time before your number is called so that you can walk outside if your wait time is long enough. In an airport setting, this would allow you to go and purchase a magazine, and come back in time.
Going further, especially busy restaurants give you a beeper (sometimes one that lights up) to summon you when your table is ready.
As you say, perhaps it will take an airline bancruptcy before, say, a newer innovative airline like JetBlue implements such a procedure.
Yes, there are all sorts of ways that security could be made less of a pain. I suspect, however, that they want
it to be inconvenient, since they believe that in most people's minds, inconvenience is equal to security. They're past the point of diminishing returns on this, though, as most everyone I know who has any discretion over his/her travel is trying to cut trips out because of the hassles involved.
HATE MAIL FROM BILL GATES:
Hmmm, Let's examine the facts. Your new toshiba laptop doesn't function properly. Have you considered returning it rather than blaming the malfunction on Microsoft? We don't sell computers. If this were a problem relating to software installation I'd be anxious to assist you. Instead of addressing the problem you choose to attack Microsoft and the best Windows ever before thousands of your readers. Shame shame. And you want a tip? I'll give you one. Lay off, 'law proffesor'. -Bill-
The return address is "firstname.lastname@example.org" but I rather doubt the authenticity of this message. The email is different from the last email I got
from "Bill." (Of course, I
have more than one email address, and so I suppose Bill probably does too.) I'm scoring it a 90% on the probability-of-bogosity meter.
Anyway, I fixed the problem. It was, of course, a Windows XP issue, not a hardware problem. It usually is. To be fair, that's partly Toshiba's fault: it's my experience that hardware manufacturers always use a suboptimal, and often downright improper, installation of Windows. On the other hand, if it's so hard to do a good job installing Windows that computer companies don't get it right, that suggests a problem of its own. Having said that, though, I'm actually pretty happy with XP Pro so far.
Also, I can't help but think that Bill Gates can probably spell "professor." And given his recent experiences, I think he'd be more respectful of lawyers.
THINGS TO BE THANKFUL FOR: Ken Layne offers, naturally, something relating to alcohol.
ANDREW SULLIVAN offers some interesting thoughts on the deep importance of America's commitment to the pursuit of happiness. I like it very much, and it's inspired quite a debate on Matt Welch's page.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS: That's what some DC cops are saying about the city's ticket-writing traffic camera system:
"Half the time, speed limits are not posted on roads in D.C.," said retired D.C. Detective John Hawkins of Mitchellville, Md.
He said the city's speed cameras are "unfair" for that reason and scolded the adjudication process that offers drivers little possibility of successfully protesting a citation.
"You should be able to protest a ticket at all times, but with these you have no reasonable ability to protest," said Detective Hawkins, who served for 18 years.
Sgt. Bell, who retired in 1986 from the youth division after 23 years on the force, said he has a hard time believing the department's contention that the program is about public safety and not revenue.
So do I.
STATES' RIGHTS IN THE SERVICE OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS? The police department of Portland, Oregon is refusing to cooperate with the FBI in investigating potential terrorists. Well, the FBI can't make them cooperate. The Supreme Court made that clear in Printz v. United States, when it held that the federal government can't "commandeer" local law enforcement into enforcing federal law.
In Printz the issue was gun control. Here it's "national profiling" of young foreign men from middle eastern countries. Federalism works both ways.
That said, I think a policy of noncooperation is probably counterproductive. If local law enforcement won't cooperate, the feds are left with several possibilities. One is to stop looking at these guys. Another is to abandon an individualized approach using background checks and interviews in favor of a wholesale approach featuring mass deportations or internment. If we see no further acts of terrorism, it will probably be the former. If we do, it will probably be the latter.
LYNNE KIESLING (who by her photo is quite a babe, especially for an economist) has an interesting piece on how regulatory policy makes the electricity industry vulnerable to terrorism by discouraging redundancies. Go for the photo; stay for the analysis.
PATRICK RUFFINI takes on Mickey Kaus's 9/12 prediction that 9/11 would be largely forgotten by Thanksgiving.
READER EMAIL: Reader Patrick Thomas writes:
In addition to the DoJ harassment of Dr. King sanctioned by AG Kennedy, Bobby also worked on the staff of Joe McCarthy, and served as staff counsel of the HUAC. Now, some could argue that Tailgunner Joe was right, and no shame betide Bobby for working for him, but I doubt any of the younger Kennedy's would make that argument.
JONAH GOLDBERG has a nice list of things to be thankful for.
A NOT VERY ATTRACTIVE PORTRAIT of one of bin Laden's recruiters in the United States. Highlight:
A second marriage ended in divorce after less than a year. A court investigator concluded the marriage was "primarily based on convenience," and was strained by Dahab's insistence that he had the right to discipline his wife by beating her.
"He believes it was not appropriate to hit one's wife with a hand, but it was appropriate to hit her with a stick," the investigator wrote in a report.
And yet the feminist groups have been squishy on the war.
MURKY WATCH UPDATE: It's in the headline to this Washington Post article.
READER HEATHER MCFARLANE WRITES: "There are increasing complaints over all those Middle Eastern men held in jails across America (and, indeed, probably Canada and Europe, etc.) It has occurred to me that jailing all of these guys is the explanation for the lack of further terrorism. What do you think?" Could be. I think that the FBI thinks that this is the case, but of course there's no easy way to tell. Besides letting them go and seeing what happens, which we'll have to do except where there's a criminal or deportable offense. It may be, however, that once Osama's operation is closed down, any sleeper agents who may be left won't be much of a threat.
A WHILE BACK I said that our attacks on bin Laden and the Taliban were Double-Asymmetric Warfare because they took advantage of our strengths and their vulnerabilities, which turned out to be a reversal of their approach to attacking us. Will Saletan takes this idea much farther in Slate. Asymmetry goes both ways.
WELL, I'M BACK. Traffic was flying at 85+ mph, which makes it a short drive. I didn't see a single trooper -- they're usually out in force on the day before Thanksgiving. Maybe they're using up all their overtime on antiterrorism.
ONE MORE: I have CNN on and some guy from MetWest Financial is being grilled about Al Gore's job, with the strong suggestion that this is a payoff of some sort. Well, I criticized that yesterday. It's not Al in particular -- all these guys do this sort of thing. But should they?
I'M HEADING BACK TO KNOXVILLE, hopefully ahead of the very worst traffic. For those of you who surf here from work (which is, er, most of you as best as I can tell), have a happy Thanksgiving. I'll be posting, though on a reduced holiday schedule. We're having, as usual, both my family and my wife's over. I'm cooking a turkey and a leg of lamb. (Everyone else brings the other dishes -- thus, I look like a bigshot, but other people do the actually hard stuff. Oops, now my secret is out!) Enjoy your Thanksgiving. And remember: Osama, if he's still alive and not bunker-buster paste, is not enjoying his.
A READER EMAILS THAT "MURKY" HAS REPLACED "QUAGMIRE:" And sure enough, the next thing I read was this News Analysis piece in the New York Times, which concludes:
Still, what is remarkable just two months into this war is how close the Bush administration has come to its objective of destroying Al Qaeda's sanctuary, how unrestrained the executive power of the president has suddenly become at a time when no war has been officially declared — and how murky the way forward in this war remains.
Can journalists operate without cliches? Only time will tell.
LAWYERS AND LIBERTY: My webmail is so slow that I've only read a few emails. But several readers discount the lawyerly opposition to the antiterror bill that I mention below. One asks if we would find support for vegetarianism at a convention of meatcutters.
In fact, however, this betrays a misconception. Lawyers who oppose dumb laws are almost always doing so against their economic (and political) interest. Dumb laws make lawyers rich, and make them look good. The various financial controls in the "antiterror" bill will make a lot of lawyers money, at a time when work for financial-type lawyers is comparatively scarce. But what upsets people the most are the expanded searches and military tribunals -- neither of which is going to impact lawyers in general (much less the ones attending last night) very much.
But, regardless, the hostile reception that these provisions are getting from lawyers has important political ramifications. I think that Kerry Kennedy Cuomo was trying to cash in on that, but her clumsiness has the effect of strengthening Bush's position.
EVAN THOMAS says that we need to focus on using science and technology to secure an advantage over terrorists and terrorist-harboring states, and uses the Cold War approach as a model. Maybe, though this is not the Cold War.
He also pooh-poohs covert action, saying that we did that badly during the Cold War. This is largely true, though there were quite a few successes. But unlike Russians -- whose centuries of experience living in police states make them good at keeping secrets -- Americans don't have a national character that's naturally suited to such things. On the other hand, we are a nation of salespeople, marketers, and persuaders. Whatever we do about covert action, we should remember our true strengths.
"A WORLD OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES:" Michael Kelly warns of overreach if we follow the advice of some who are urging us to transform Afghanistan, and the entire Islamic world.
I agree, with some reservations. I think the danger isn't trying to enact this transformation -- which is essential. We can't share a planet with people who desire our destruction in large number, and are willing to use any means to achieve it. But such transformations must be grown over time, not imposed in short order by force. As Kelly points out, that's been hard enough to do in Kosovo and Bosnia. We should focus on things like promoting women's rights (yeah, there will be backlash but it's worth it), supporting modernizing and pro-Western forces, etc. But it's a project for 10 or 20 years (maybe more), not something we'll do in the next year.
I'd like to see Afghanistan peaceful, prosperous and happy. But we should remember that making it so isn't the mission. We want to kill as many Taliban and al Qaeda as possible, and send a signal to other regimes that harboring terrorists is suicidal. That's the essential part. Everything else falls into the nice-but-not-essential category.
WALTER SHAPIRO has a comprehensive survey of the options on Osama. It's worth reading, although I think the "martyr" angle is less important than people make it. My favorite quote:
"The good news is that bin Laden is increasingly looking like a loser," says Michael Mandelbaum, a foreign-policy expert at Johns Hopkins University. "This is a part of the world where they take losing hard. The problem with Islam is that they have been losing for 500 years."
I want him to look like a loser, because he is. And I want people to take it hard.
Shapiro worries that Osama will be killed anonymously (as in a bombing raid) and we'll then face Elvis-like sightings for years. I think we should take advantage of that by spreading rumors that we're sending out Osama impersonators to smoke out sympathizers and mark them for destruction.
NO CLASS: USA Today reports that Kerry Kennedy Cuomo dissed George Bush just hours before he dedicated the Justice Department building in the name of her father, Robert F. Kennedy. In a made-for-TV-moment , Cuomo told her 6-year-old daughter: "Cara, if anyone tries to tell you this is the type of justice your grandpa would embrace, don't you believe it." This was apparently a reference to some of the antiterrorism laws and regulations enacted under the Bush Administration. (I don't remember Ted Kennedy opposing the antiterror bill, however.)
The story goes on to note, though, that RFK approved FBI wiretaps of Martin Luther King, Jr. Those with long memories may recall that King was sent a "highlights" tape containing excerpts from those wiretaps relating to his extramarital affairs, along with a helpful note suggesting that he commit suicide.
Conservatives have been critical to Bush for his many efforts to reach out to the Kennedys. But I think he's deliberately taking advantage of the younger Kennedys' tone-deafness. With these remarks, Kerry Kennedy Cuomo makes herself -- and not one, but two major Democratic names -- look spiteful and self-absorbed. Advantage: Bush.
WELL, NOBODY GOT DRUNK. But the event where I spoke offers some interesting insights. It was a meeting of the Nashville Inn of Court, which is an outfit designed to bring lawyers together across disciplinary and firm lines and promote the kind of collegiality that old-timey lawyers felt. There were some Vanderbilt Law School faculty there, but it was about 90% practicing lawyers, mostly from big corporate type firms.
I spoke for a while, then there was a panel and questions. The interesting thing is that the crowd was foursquare opposed to the antiterrorism bill, and this was not some lefty ACLU-type college crowd. If anyone liked it, they kept their mouths shut. Everyone who spoke (and that was a lot) was vocally opposed, and skeptical of the way the powers would be used.
I think this is further evidence that terrorism hysteria is mostly a phenomenon of the Washington chattering classes. It also suggests that the people who supported this bill won't get any political benefit from it, and may even pay a political price.
Now I am going to go have a drink: I'm meeting a friend from law school who lives here. Good night.
THE DRIVE TO NASHVILLE was beautiful, as usual. You cross the Clinch river, go over the Cumberland Mountains, then drive through rolling farmland until you reach the extensive outskirts of Nashville. Two observations: the traffic was FAST -- hardly anyone under 80, and one woman doing 75 in the left lane was backing up traffic for a quarter mile. THP troopers were cruising blithely along, not stopping anyone; perhaps our risk thresholds have been adjusted upward by anthrax and crashing planes.
The other was the flags everywhere. On cars. On the side of the road. On barns. In place of ads on billboards. My favorite: a pickup truck with a huge flag decal, plus two bumperstickers: "Proud to be a Blackfoot," and "America: Love it or GIVE IT BACK!" It gets complicated being an Indian and a patriot, though most pull it off with panache.
That's all for now. I just wanted to see if my data connection worked. It does -- at a whopping 26Kbps. Oh, well, it's something. More later if I get back in time. If I wind up going out and getting drunk, you'll have to wait until tomorrow. But, really, how likely is that with a crowd of lawyers and law professors?
A POSTING HIATUS: I'm driving to Nashville, where I'll be talking to a bunch of law types at the Vanderbilt Faculty Club about privacy. I'm taking the laptop, so if I can get an Internet connection I'll post some stuff tonight. But they've got me in a hotel I've never stayed at, so I can't promise that it'll work. Back tomorrow.
RED CROSS BLOOD-BURNING: They got too much blood. They're destroying some of it. And they kept trying to get more even when it was obvious that they didn't need it in NYC because there were almost no wounded living victims.
Is this terrible? Not to me. As InstaPundit reported back in August: New York faced a blood shortage already. I don't blame the Red Cross for topping up its supplies, especially when it wasn't clear what new needs would appear. And since people who have given blood once are more likely to do it again, they built up their donor base against future needs.
I don't think this was so bad. People wanted to give blood. Partly that was because they thought it would help, but partly it was just out of a desire to do something.
The money's a different issue -- though there, too, the politicians should be careful about casting the first stone, given what they've done since September 11.
TURNER SUCK-UP WATCH: This story from his hometown paper gives him credit for incredible farsightedness.
MARK STEYN takes on the gloomy-pundit crowd:
Let's make it easy for Professor Schlesinger and Co, and spell it out. In liberated Kabul, people are very happy. In Pakistan, anti-American protests are poorly attended. In Iran, the Ayatollahs are more worried about pro-American demonstrations. In the recent Bangladesh election, Islamic fundamentalists got less than five percent. In repressive Saudi Arabia, the House of Saud has instructed its vile press to support America. Two months after the bloody attacks on American cities, the government that supported the men who did it has been overthrown and its troops are corpses in the dust. It's early days, but that alone is cause for all Americans - and Britons - to rejoice. Even journalists.
Wonderful. Read the whole thing.
But then remember Han Solo's advice: "Don't get cocky." The bad guys aren't all dead.
DOMESTIC ANTHRAX: I'm still not convinced there's domestic terrorism here. But if there is a domestic component, I predict that you'll find that the anthrax was provided by Al Qaeda operatives, but mailed by the locals. The far-right fringe that likes bin Laden (and yeah, there are a few, as I've reported before) is just about up to the task of mailing a letter without screwing it up. Though if they were choosing the targets, they would have been more likely to choose Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton over Tom Daschle and Pat Leahy.
THE GREAT FIREWALL OF SAUDI ARABIA: This Slashdot thread discusses Saudi Arabia's efforts to keep the world out, by blocking Internet connections. King Fahd, tear down that wall!
SPEAKING OF BELLICOSE WOMEN: Wendy McElroy argues that we should arm Afghan women.
EMAIL: Lynn Kiesling sends this:
I just got back from the gym, where I was catching up on my Economist reading, and on the television in front of my elliptical machine was "The View", that quintessential "women's" program. One of the hosts had a vintage fur stole from a 1930s movie star, and the hosts were speculating on the type of fur it was. The conversation went something like "It feels like fox ... maybe it's cat ... it's not cat, maybe it's Bin Laden! ... That's what we should do: make a muff out of Bin Laden's beard!" The audience, mostly women, hooted and hollered and laughed and applauded. The Bellicose Women's Brigade rocks!
Secondly, in the most recent Economist is a six-page color advertising spread similar to those appearing in other periodicals show how great and civilized Saudi Arabia is. Boy, they sure have hired a PR firm,
haven't they? With oil prices heading toward $10-15/barrel in expectation because Saudi Arabia and OPEC are following a punishment strategy that will hurt them too, I hope the PR firm had them pay in
Hell, I'm just impressed that they had something nice to say about fur
. But the increasing bellicosity of American women is a very interesting phenomenon to behold, and I don't think that it's entirely a short-term phenomenon.
JIU-JITSU: Rush Limbaugh is currently bemoaning the new airline security bill. Well, there's plenty to bemoan. But if he thought more deeply, he'd realize that this is a wonderful thing for small-government Republicans. The GOP has focused on the addition of new, probably unionized, federal employees to the payrolls, seeing it as a gain for the Democrats and the Democrat-supporting public-employee unions.
But the flipside is this: airline security will continue to suck. It will be annoying, and it will be ineffective. The result of the airline security bill is that members of the chattering classes (who travel more than most) will soon deal face-to-face with rude and inept federal employees on every trip. (How do I know they'll be rude and inept -- airline screening pretty much sorts for that: high irritation, no repeat interactions to speak of, heavy boredom combined with high stress, and dealing with a public that's at its worst.) It used to be that when you lost a bag, or got stuck in line and missed your flight, you blamed the airlines. Now when that happens, people will blame the federal government!
Clever Republicans will position themselves to take advantage of this. They should be thrilled. If these extra federal employees went into some back office in the Department of Agriculture, it would be a pure win for Democrats and the public-employee unions. But here, they're all in places where their almost-inevitable rudeness and ineptitude will irritate lots of influential people, and their visible positions will make them emblematic of the entire federal workforce! This bill has just created a federal equivalent of the DMV.
Hmm. I've often noted Bush's predilection for "rope-a-dope" tactics with his opponents. Is this another example?
AL GORE will be a Vice President at a capital management firm. Okay, I'm not knocking Gore particularly for this (look at what Newt Gingrich has been doing -- hint: not living off the royalties from his not-bad-but-horribly-unsuccessful novel 1945). But these bogus jobs for former politicos are just another sign of general political corruption. I mean, what does Al Gore know about capital management? About as much as Gingrich knows about whatever it is he's doing. In Gingrich's case, it's at least partly a payback. In Gore's case, I guess it's more of a pay-forward. Either way, it's kind of shady.
BUSH/RICE UPDATE: Over at Quasipundit, they're pretty skeptical of this idea. The biggest worry: whether Rice will be a good campaigner. I agree that she's unproven in this area, but look at the last 5 winning VPs: Fritz Mondale, George HW Bush, Dan Quayle, Al Gore, and Dick Cheney (go back one more and you get Spiro Agnew). This proves that while stump skills may be an asset, they're hardly necessary. I'd put Condi Rice up against any of these guys right now, and she's got a couple of years to get better. (And as a professor, she probably has more experience speaking to groups than many politicians). One more substantial objection: Colin Powell may think he deserves the slot, and may pout. There's something to this, but not much. First, there will be a dozen or more Republicans who think they deserved it, whoever Bush picks. Second, Secretaries of State are usually damaged goods after a few years; Powell probably won't bring much to the table by then. Of course, having Colin worry about being upstaged may improve his performance in coming years. . . .
NOTE: I'm posting via the new laptop, on a dialup connection. Pretty slow compared to my DSL, but it's working fine. When I get the home wireless network up and running (not for a few months) I can do this out on the deck. Woohoo! Well, I take what excitement I can find.
SALON SEXWATCH UPDATE: Bottom line: Still no sex, but some advice on what to do about your boyfriend's bad combover. No, really: that's one of the headlined topics. This is some kind of a sick, twisted joke, right? Once again, the Daily Cal's sex columnist comes out on top. This week's column is about communication, which at first seems to stray dangerously close to Salon territory -- but read the examples and you'll see that the danger is entirely illusory.
Actually, I think I've figured this out: everyone at Salon is so depressed about the dot-com crash and Salon's own desperate financial straits that they're all on libido-destroying antidepressants.
ON TO BAGHDAD, says Michael Barone. Sentiment certainly seems to be moving that way, and I doubt that Saudi objections will get much respect. As they are beginning to learn, their views count for little -- indeed, their continued existence is increasingly in doubt.
BLOG AND MABLOG: Jonah Goldberg has an item on weblogs that puts me in company with Andrew Sullivan, Virginia Postrel, Mickey Kaus, Jim Romenesko, Jay Nordlinger, and the Pope. I'm very flattered to be in their company; I suspect that they -- or at least the Pope -- are less so to be in mine.
ALSO FROM BOORTZ: "Jay Leno: They're watching TV again in Afghanistan. Their favorite show is The Flintstones, but over there it's called The Jetsons."
TAKEDOWN! Neal Boortz takes down the "USA Patriot Act" (which, as he points out, he's actually read -- unlike most of the members of Congress who voted for it) and an absurd FBI brochure on spotting domestic terrorists (they tend to "defend the Constitution.") He points to quite a few examples of bureaucratic opportunism and nest-feathering, but I feel sure he's only scratching the surface. All I can say is I told you so, way back on September 14.
This sort of idiocy is going to undermine support for the war effort a lot faster than Noam Chomsky could, even in his wettest dreams.
DON'T OVERESTIMATE BIN LADEN: That's the point of this surprisingly good piece in The Guardian. Excerpt:
Osama bin Laden, too. He is, among other things, a ridiculous figure.
We are required, because of the havoc he has wrought, to dub him a mastermind, the supreme spider at the centre of an evil web. His disciples committed terrible acts. We saw them on CNN and wept. Here was a foe worth a "war" to defeat. The aircraft carriers and rhetoric cruisers set sail.
But consider this supposed genius now as he treks by donkey through the passes of southern Afghanistan, moving from cave to cave, eating fried eggs and kipping on ammunition boxes. What has he achieved? . . .
What's happened since, moreover, has been a masterpiece of military ineptitude. Look at the Taliban army, carpet-bombed to collapse. Did they really suppose that forming conventional lines of defence in open country was smart tactics? Earl Haig would have paused over that. Examine the numerous safe houses left deserted in Kabul, with their mounds of "half-burned" top-secret documents, seemingly confirming the sum of all George Bush's nuclear and chemical fears. Did no one have the nous to see
what was coming 30 minutes earlier - or had they run out of matches?
Either, pursuing Blofeldian conspiracy theories, you think that these charred dossiers and notebooks - these child's guides to making your own Nagasaki and China syndromes - are Machiavellian forgeries designed to scare western reporters and the CIA witless, or you take them for what they are: evidence of a shambles deserted in further shambles.
Of course, part of the writer's agenda -- this is The Guardian
after all -- is to ensure that there is no unseemly Western, or worse yet American, triumphalism. But he's right. The destruction of the Taliban is something to be proud of, but I am (as always) reminded of a line from Star Wars:
"Great shooting kid! --- Now don't get cocky!" Bin Laden isn't Blofeld, and al Qaeda isn't SMERSH or SPECTRE (Matt Welch's Bond theory seems to be gaining ground) but events have proved that you don't have to be all that bright to do considerable harm.
But we should also be stressing the ineptitude of bin Laden, even at the cost deflating our triumph, because his rapid destruction and revealed ineptitude (the Internet scams rear their head) will discourage imitators and irredentism. The "your Mahdi wasn't just false, but also stupid" line, properly deployed, will do a lot of good. Bin Laden is ridiculous. He should thus be ridiculed. It's what Bugs Bunny would do. . . .
UPDATE: Reader Jackson Cooper reminds me that the Bond-villain idea was originally Ken Layne's, not Matt Welch's. He's right. I was remembering Welch talking about Layne's idea.
THANKS for the many kind and thoughtful replies to my more-personal-than-usual post from last night. I appreciate them very much. Rand Simberg was inspired to write this disquisition on whether things that are "natural" or "normal" are necessarily good. I agree with most of it.
THE NEWS MEDIA ARE VERY UNHAPPY about the criticism they've been getting. But, you know, they have only themselves to blame. Like academia, they've made PC concerns a trump card for years, which means that people just don't believe them when they talk about their paramount duty to keep citizens informed. Once you show that you'll cave to pressure on your coverage, other people start to get into the game. That may be a bad thing, but when it happens you're in a poor position to cry foul.
MY LIFE AND WELCOME TO IT: First, the good news. I'm writing this on my new Toshiba laptop, paid for with InstaPundit donations. Yes, the tip jar has been up for a little over a month and has brought in around $1200, more than half of that in the first week (the computer was $1229). It's very cool, though it came with Windows XP Pro, which I could have lived without – I would have preferred W98. Now I'll be starting from scratch when I try to figure out why the Windows Media Player audio won't actually play through the speakers or the headphone jack, even though it looks as if everything is working as it should. (NOTE: If the "Bill Gates" who emailed me last week is reading this, please send the appropriate technical tip. Er, and speaking of tips, don't miss the tip jar over there, Bill....)
These, however, are quibbles. My first Toshiba laptop, purchased with a law firm starting bonus back in 1986, was an 8086 machine (16 MHz) with no hard drive and two 720K disk drives. It weighed 9 pounds, and cost $2500. This one is half as expensive, weighs less, and has a 20G hard drive, a DVD ROM drive and a 1GHz processor. Within my adult lifetime it would have counted as a supercomputer. I love that. That it's paid for by InstaPundit makes it all the sweeter.
The bad news, unfortunately, is a lot more bad than the good news is good. My father-in-law, a mathematician and very nice man who I like a lot, has advanced duodenal cancer (it's adenocarcinoma, for those to whom that means something). It was only diagnosed a few weeks ago, and his prognosis is very poor. Surgery is out of the question; chemo is doubtful. We're working on a second opinion at the moment from an excellent oncologist, but the late stage and rare nature of the cancer make it a poor prospect. They're giving him a month.
He's still at home, listening to NPR and reading mathematics books (it was something on "stochastic analysis" when I went by last night to check on him and deliver a prescription). At his doctor's recommendation, a home hospice worker went by, but that worked out badly. She seemed mostly interested in getting him to "confront his mortality," which isn't really the issue at the moment. We were hoping that she'd, you know, take his vital signs and so on. Although some of the people we've dealt with have been very good, overall the medical situation has been marked by cold, mechanical treatment, dropped balls, and general unpleasantness. You could see the doctors withdraw as they decided there was little prospect of doing anything. Following Mickey Kaus's "first rule of punditry" ("generalize from your own experience"), I'd have to say that the medical profession has made a lot less progress with "end of life" issues than I had thought. Unlike Leon Kass, though, I'd rather see them make progress at keeping people alive. They're doing better, but, also unlike Kass, I wish that medical care had advanced as much since 1986 as laptops have. There's nothing noble or natural about seeing someone die of cancer. Cancer isn't natural. It happens because something has gone horribly wrong. Unavoidable, perhaps, but that's not the same as "natural." The same is true of everything else people die of.
Fortunately, my wife's family is large and nice. Some of them are down from New York now. I like them, and the upside (such as it is) is that there has been a lot of family togetherness lately. I'd rather have it another way.
I won't be posting bulletins on this – this isn't one of those "day in the life" weblogs. But some of you have been kind enough to email and ask questions about how these things are going. So now you know.
EMAIL: Lots of people disagree with me about Clinton. Well, that's a guy that a lot of people disagree about, period. I've got to confess, I just find it hard even to care anymore. That's why I've barely mentioned him on InstaPundit.
One reader -- actually a colleague I like very much -- thinks my Doonesbury remarks regarding Clinton and McVeigh were unfair. I don't agree there, either. George Stephanopoulos' memoir (which is the best of the Clinton tellalls in my opinion) has a whole section on how Dick Morris used the Oklahoma City bombing to revitalize Clinton's presidency (which was then in some trouble) by tarring everyone from Newt Gingrich to Rush Limbaugh as having inspired "anti-government" sentiment that led to the bombing, and by pushing through an antiterrorism bill that was as stinky as the one we just passed, helping Clinton regain momentum. (Here is some contemporary commentary on that.) So such a cartoon would have been as fair -- or as unfair -- as the Doonesbury strip I was pointing out. I think there's a double standard here. Don't agree? That's okay. If you find yourself agreeing with everything I say, it's probably a sign that you need a vacation.
Reader Laurence Jarvik sends this link to a story about Jordan's King Abdullah, who is trying to secure guarantees of Israel's right to exist from all the Arab countries as a way of facilitating a peace agreement. You know, he's looking very statesmanlike. Gotta love those Hashemites. . . .
And finally, reader Philip Murphy passes on this lead in the mysterious Kathy Nguyen anthrax case:
This weekend I was walking on the Upper East Side with my 5-year old and a
friend over to the new swank candy shop that Ralph Lauren's daughter opened recently in the East 60s and on the way we passed a Jackson Hole hamburger joint. There were four or five postman's pushcarts out front and even more letter carriers inside. It looked like one of those diners that is popular with cabbies or a truck stop surrounded by big rigs. My companion suggested that this was a lunchtime hangout for mailmen at the end of their shift and it sure looked that way. Then we noticed that it shared a
building with a hospital. And not just any hospital. It was the Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital . . . the same place Kathy Nguyen worked until she mysteriously contracted anthrax. It's not hard to imagine her running in for lunch one day about week before she died and pushing her way through a crowd of mailmen to place her order. If the FBI is looking for places where she may have crossed paths with anthrax, I hope they are checking out the Jackson Hole restaurant on East 64th Street.
I've suggested to Murphy that he forward this directly to the FBI, but here it is for what it's worth.
UPDATE: Still more finally, a bunch of people have sent me links to Rich Galen's skewering of Maureen Dowd over her column yesterday. Read it for yourself; I'm not excerpting this one. See if you can guess why.
SORRY FOR THE DELAY: Blogger has been down. More later.
MORE BAD NEWS FOR THE SAUDIS in this column by Jeff Jacoby. I think it's going to take more than some four-page ads to dig them out of this hole.
It is time to face the truth about our Saudi ''friends:'' Their money, their diplomacy, their politics, and above all their Wahhabi strain of Islam - extremist, intolerant, aggressive, and poisonously anti-Western - made Sept. 11 possible. The Taliban and Al Qaeda represent not perversions of Wahhabism but its full flowering. That is why they had the support of so many Saudis - and why the blood of the victims is on Saudi hands.
For years the House of Saud has had it both ways, posing as a friend of America while spending lavishly to advance America-hating Islamist extremism around the world. When forced to choose between the two, they have generally kept faith with the extremists. In 1996, for example, they derailed the US investigation into the Khobar Towers terrorist bombing in Dhahran, which killed 19 American soldiers and maimed 372. The FBI was not allowed to examine the evidence or question suspects.
This is not how friends should behave. And absorbing such insults is not how a superpower should behave.
The "big mo" is against the House of Saud right now. Meanwhile we are seeing a lot of positive press
about the Jordanians. Hmm. Could this whole Hashemite-restoration thing be gaining steam?
ONE WONDERS what would have happened if a major cartoonist had drawn a cartoon showing Bill Clinton thanking Tim McVeigh for saving his presidency? I imagine it would have been called "Clinton-hating." But that's pretty much what this Doonesbury cartoon is about. It shows Bush saying "thanks evildoers," for their help in advancing his agenda. Will Garry Trudeau be similarly denounced for "Bush hating?" Certainly not by the same people.
Look, I've tried not to even talk about Clinton. I voted for him the first time. By 1994 it was obvious that I had been had. But the Spinsanity guys got him back on my mind. Thanks a lot.
ROUND TWO: The post-Afghanistan psychological war is already starting: this CNN story reports efforts to get MTV into Arab markets. Britney Spears: Culture Warrior. Those guys don't stand a chance.
THE RED CROSS IS GETTING A LOT OF FLAK for its "bait-and-switch" on donations. Many government officials are piling on them, and promising investigations.
Fair enough. But I note that an awful lot of government actions that have been taken in the name of antiterrorism fall into the same "bait-and-switch" category. Will we be investigating the sponsors of those actions?
PUNISHING SAUDI ARABIA: It just occurred to me -- we already are. One of my colleagues bought gas for under $1/gallon. Oil prices are in free fall. And it seems certain that the U.S. will invest heavily in supporting Russian oil exploration and drilling: partly as a quid pro quo for Putin's support, but also partly to weaken the hand of various mideast regimes. More oil not only diversifies the U.S. supply -- it pushes prices down, putting the financial squeeze on them and leaving them with less money with which to export ideology and support terrorism.
SPINSANITY SAYS BILL CLINTON WAS DONE DIRTY: And they're not talking about Monica Lewinsky. Rather, they're arguing that Clinton's remarks at Georgetown, in which he talked about America "paying the price" for its wrongs, have been blown out of proportion. I think they're overstating their case rather seriously. My post (which they mention) is here. Spinsanity quotes this sentence from my post: 'That same day, Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds claimed in a 1:37 PM post linking to the Washington Times story that Clinton's speech "sound[s] exactly like what we hear from the 'America had it coming' folks." ' Well, it did. They omit the next sentence, which reads: "If he didn't mean to say anything of the sort, then he showed such appalling judgment in speaking as he did that it calls into question whether it's appropriate for him to be speaking in public as an ex-President right now." And I stand by that. He's supposed to be a great politician -- didn't he think about how his remarks would sound? And I don't agree that they sound that much better when you read the entire transcript. At another time, Clinton's remarks might have sounded different -- but context is everything, as politicians are supposed to know. A war, and the aftermath of an attack in which thousands of Americans were killed, is just not the right time to be giving a speech that talks about America's historical shortcomings. Sorry, but it's just not.
No U.S. political figure who made remarks of this sort about any racial, ethnic, or national group -- well, national group besides American -- would get one one-hundredth the understanding that Clinton's defenders think he deserves here. Certainly Jerry Falwell -- whose stupid remarks weren't all that different from Clinton's taken in context -- didn't get much slack. He didn't deserve it. Neither does Clinton.
DAVE KOPEL on how Osama bin Laden's efforts are backfiring:
Yet bin Laden is turning out to have far fewer allies than he expected. His dream of precipitating the fall of Middle Eastern governments may come true. But it now appears that the modernizing, secular military government of Pakistan may be in less danger of toppling than the Islamic theocracy of Iran. And yes, the House of Saud may fall — but the reason may be that Americans finally decide to remove the terrorist world's leading source of money.
Yep. As I said last month
, this whole thing will turn out to be a colossal mistake for the Ladenites, and for those who have supported them.
MORE ON HOW THE ARAB AND OTHER FOREIGN TROOPS IN KUNDUZ are massacring civilians and any Taliban who try to surrender. Has Doctors Without Borders condemned this? I haven't heard.
HERE'S ANOTHER ACCOUNT of the post-Big Game protest at Stanford. I liked Joanne Jacobs' coverage better, but she's a bit overqualified for college journalism, after all. Here's my favorite quote:
Next to Bult stood Fred Duperrault, a member of Peninsula Peace and Justice, and a veteran of World War II.
“We’re trying to inspire, educate and suggest that nobody wins a war,” Dupperrault said.
Dupperault must have taken some shrapnel to the head back during the Big One if he thinks we didn't win in World War Two. If it had gone the other way, even he wouldn't have any doubt about who lost.
OCCIDENTALISM: Edward Said and his disciples have often accused the West of "Orientalism" -- of treating the Eastern as the "Other," dark and dangerous, and of viewing the Islamic world through a lens that says more about Western purposes than anything else. There's some truth to that, though Said's case was always overstated and too-obviously designed to exploit Western-liberal guilt.
But, as Charles Paul Freund notes in Reason, Said's critique is looking rather stale, and he himself seems guilty of what Freund calls "Occidentalism:" essentially, the same thing in reverse:
For example, critics of Orientalism have generated an enormous literature addressing the West’s reduction of the East in erotic terms. But the Occidentalist murderers and their celebrants have developed a parallel discourse that addresses Western women in terms of erotic corruption, immorality, and decadence. According to some news accounts, Osama bin Laden is reported to have been especially disturbed at the presence of American women soldiers in Saudi Arabia, Islam’s most sacred ground.
Critics of Orientalism have accused the West of drawing on negative imagery dating back to the Crusades in addressing contemporary political issues. But Occidentalists are capable of precisely the same rhetorical act. In fact, the murderers evoke the Crusades directly. Bin Laden’s 1996 fatwa calling on Muslims to kill Americans actually refers to Americans without irony as "Crusaders." . . . Occidentalism of this sort thus becomes quite useful, because the unavoidable fact is that Islamism has proved a failure. Far from establishing a benign, new relationship between rulers and people along traditional theological lines, political Islamism’s most notable characteristic is repression. As the author Olivier Roy argued as long ago as 1992, the two models of Islamism from which to choose are the Saudi model of "revenue plus sharia" (the Islamic code of law) and the Sudanese model of "unemployment plus sharia." But Islamists cannot think that way and continue their struggle. Occidentalism provides part of that struggle’s continuing justification. . . .
Well worth reading.
Said blames Western orientalists for the oppression of the East. Will he now accept responsibilty for forging -- or at least defending -- a worldview that leads to poverty, despair, and violence?
SLEEPER AGENTS OVERRATED? Reader Benjamin Morris notes:
Not only was there the Werwolf thing, but in WWI the Kaiser was convinced that all the Americans of German descent were going to rise up against the American government. There's a pretty good account of that in a book called Zimmerman's Telegraph.
While there are stories about Muslims going to fight in Afghanistan from UK, don't they seem largely anectodal? There's always gonna be traitors. You just have to kill the bastards.
Yes, the stories are anecdotal; some of them seem to be true, but there doesn't seem to be any great groundswell of support.
I'm not familiar with the book Morris cites, and I couldn't find a book by his title. I think he may mean Barbara Tuchman's Zimmerman Telegram, which I haven't read.
THE TIME WARP: While sitting in a doctor's office this morning, I leafed through a Time magazine from last June (medical waiting rooms serve a valuable archival function; I'm surprised they didn't have the "Who Will Win the Space Race?" issue of Newsweek still lying around somewhere). Some highlights: A skeptical account of Bloomberg's candidacy for Mayor of NYC. A skeptical account of Bush's foreign-relations efforts, strongly implying that he wasn't up to the task of dealing with foreigners. And a piece by Andrew Sullivan, suggesting that Bush & Cheney's 1950s-style stiff-upper-lip masculinity might alienate voters more used to the bitten-lower-lip style of Bill Clinton. Boy how things have changed! I should note that only Sullivan's was styled as an opinion piece, but that the other two stories seemed to have about the same reportage-to-opinion ratio. Well, not everything has changed.
ANOTHER ADVANTAGE TO CONDI RICE AS BUSH'S RUNNING MATE IN '04: It's such an obviously sound tactical move that it probably won't leave any hurt feelings from those who would like the job but who are passed over. That's significant.
PLANE CRASH SUSPICIONS: I'm getting lots of email from people with various reasons why the Flight 587 crash doesn't make sense. Having a bit of acquaintance with the problems that high-strength laminates can have, I'm not so sure. The plane lost the tail, did a roll, and lost an engine. The roll could have caused the loss of an engine (or vice versa -- loss of an engine could have caused a roll that led to loss of the vertical stabilizer).
The point is that things that aren't intuitively obvious often happen in plane crashes. Of course, in a way it's worse if this isn't terrorism, since that makes all Airbuses at risk. But, then, I have a friend at the FAA who has called them "ScareBuses" for years because of what he regards as their unsafe characteristics.
Jim Dunnigan has some useful observations on this. Although he notes that the speed with which officials discounted terrorism as a call had more to do with Sept. 11 than the available evidence at the time, he's somewhat skeptical of sabotage, as am I.
However: there have been some weird and badly explained things going on. EgyptAir 990 (where a pilot deliberately crashed the plane) is now pretty clearly terrorism, though that was denied at the time. TWA 800, though not clearly terrorism, falls into the category of "official explanation sounds fishy." (Then there was the accidental missile shootdown by Ukrainians of a Russian jet -- probably explicable by Ukrainian incompetence, which is rife, but still. . . .). And the Flight 587 stories, so far, are leaving a lot of people dubious. Stay tuned.
STILL CARE ABOUT THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND BUSH V. GORE? I don't, really. But if you do, check out this article by Harvard Law Professor Einer Elhauge.
BUSH/RICE 2004? I was watching Condi Rice do an excellent job of answering Wolf Blitzer's questions without seeming patronizing earlier today, and it hit me: what a perfect running mate for Bush in '04.
Think about it: the biggest weakness of women candidates is that people fear they wouldn't make tough wartime leaders. That isn't likely to be an issue with Rice. She's enormously smart, she is a good public speaker (and improving steadily), and she's very popular within the Republican party.
And, of course, a black woman on the ticket would hurt the Democrats -- both by threatening (and certainly taking) black votes, and by messing with their minds.
WARLORD MANAGEMENT 101 from Jim Dunnigan's StrategyPage.Com. Very interesting. I find his analyses more informative than Stratfor's.
BRITISH MUSLIMS DIE IN BATTLE in Afghanistan. This story tells the tale.
OH NOOO! SLEEPER AGENTS!! I've seen a lot on the subject of sleeper agents lately, most of it alarmist. Yeah, there are some. But in the absence of a general structure, most will never wake up. Those that try on their own will be much less formidable without outside funding and support. As for the rest, well, c'est la guerre. Hardly worth panicking about.
The Nazis had a sleeper-agent, guerilla resistance program called Werwolf. They were just as fanatical as the Ladenites. It never amounted to much.
B-52 RESURRECTION may not be in the cards, but a couple of readers have pointed out another low-cost big bomber: the BM-747 (based, as you might expect, on a 747 airframe), designed by Boeing in the early 1980s. Reader Brett Thomas sends this link to a page on the BM-747 (the model shown is equipped to carry 72 cruise missiles, but I don't see why one couldn't be designed to carry conventional bombs just as easily). Reader Thomas Wunderlin, meanwhile, sends this link to a discussion on Jim Dunnigan's excellent StrategyPage.Com. Here's an excerpt:
A specially equipped B-747 would be cheap, you could buy ten or more for the cost of a B-2. And the B-747 would carry more bombs just as far as the B-2. The B-747 would not be stealthy, but neither is the AWACS air control aircraft that flys a hundred miles or so from enemy territory to direct the air battle. If you want to send bombers right into the teeth of the enemy defenses, use smaller warplanes you already have. For heavy lifting, you could use the B-747s. But this sort of solution is not popular in the air force.
Well, no. But I like this. I strongly suspect that there will be a major role for aircraft that can drop a lot
of bombs on lightly-defended but heavily dug-in targets. And they might as well be cheap. As Dunnigan adds:
A bomb, all by itself, costs about a dollar a pound. But the original idea behind smart bombs was to save planes and pilots from ground fire by requiring fewer bombs to be sent towards a target in order to destroy it. Over the last few decades this was accomplished, with the air force realistically seeking the formerly unattainable goal of "one target, one bomb." But no one told the aircraft designers, and the cost of warplanes and their elaborate fire control systems have skyrocketed. Indeed, combat aircraft are now so expensive that you cannot afford to build too many of them. And as a result, if you lose a small number of them, you are in trouble. So why not accept the trend and replace the next bomber with a large flying truck like a 747?
Why, indeed? We're already dropping "daisy-cutter" bombs from cargo planes, after all. And GPS has made "iron bombs" amazingly accurate, as the story I quoted below
In fact -- if you really want to upset the pilots' union at the Air Force -- the B747 could conduct its mission unmanned. Commercial aircraft -- including, I think, a 747 -- have taken off, flown to a destination, and landed entirely on autopilot using GPS for guidance. Just add a few lines of code saying when to release the bombs and you're done. And did I mention it would be cheap?
PUNDITWATCH is up with this on-the-mark opener: "The weekend TV pundits didn’t waste a lot of time soberly assessing why they completely failed over the past month to see the stunning military successes of the past week." No, it's pointing out other people's mistakes that they excel at... But Punditwatch is no mistake at all. Read it! I'm going to do some Christmas shopping, to help support the economy. Am I a patriot, or what?
B-52 RESURRECTION: Bad news from retired Air Forcer Mike Kozlowski:
First, let me compliment you on your site - I have been a daily visitor since 9/11 and intend to stay that way. RE the comments on your site about the B-52 - sadly, the tooling for that magnificent old lady was destroyed years ago - the early 60s, IIRC. Don't forget that there were at least FIVE other projects (B-58, B-70, B-111, B-1, and B-2) that were supposed to have supplemented/replaced the BUFF (Traditional nickname for the B-52 - Big Ugly Fat...um...Fellow), and Boeing - which had long since amortized the tooling and jigs - needed the production space.
Also, the planes in the desert are - sadly - gone for the most part and the handful that remain are beyond repair. Many of those in the picture are B-52Ds, the workhorse of the Vietnam Conflict, which were well beyond their useful life when they went to the boneyard. In addition all of the later B-52G models - the ones I worked on - were decommissioned within months of the end of Desert Storm and the Cold War. Many of them were in such poor condition that the USAF had volunteer crews fly them to Arizona due to the risk of an accident. Once they got there, the provisions of the SALT treaty required them to be 'demilitarized' as quickly as possible. This meant that the planes were sent under a huge steel 'guillotine' that chopped them into sections as quickly as they could be moved there. At two or three a day, it didn't take long to wipe out the overwhelming majority of the B-52s at the boneyard.
The US taxpayer has more than gotten their money's worth out of the Gray Lady, and it is a shame that we'll never see her like again. The BUFF is - as of now - expected to serve until approximately 2045, and hopefully it will still be scaring the hell out of the bad guys even then.
Meanwhile reader Michael Thyen says that we can't expand the B-52 fleet much because of the START agreement
, and sends this link
to more information.
Well, so much for my idea. Though I do think that there's a place for a long-range conventional heavy bomber, and that one could be put together pretty inexpensively for the kind of role that the B-52 is serving in Afghanistan. And it seems likely that we may need something along these lines in the coming decades. Naturally, the Air Force will resist building anything that cheap, however.
WAR ON FLEET STREET: This is amusing.
DELICIOUS: I'm referring to Moira Breen's takedown of Guardian columnist Mark Lawson, who is now complaining about the churlishness of those who are reading his columns of a week ago back to him and chortling. Boo hoo. Moira's responses are delightful.
NANCY ODEN UPDATE: More on this discussion group from some Greens who describe her as "mostly insane," and express considerable skepticism that she's really been singled out for her Green activism. Gee, even CounterPunch's own discussion groups aren't buying this bit of victimology.
MORE B-52s? Reader Tom Kitchen says we don't need to build more B-52s. We can just refurbish these. Good point. Cool photo, too. I note that it's from 1992, but I doubt that they've gone anywhere. And planes mothballed in the desert hold up very well.
OTHER FACTORS: This story in the Telegraph recounts some things I haven't heard in the U.S. media. Two major factors supporting the Northern Alliance advance: massive Russian supply efforts (which I assumed, but which haven't gotten a lot of press) and -- you can see why this isn't being played up -- the presence of around 300 Indian special forces troops assisting the NA forces. Boy, the Pakistanis must love that. But, of course, their own folks are so tied-in with the Taliban as to be of dubious reliability.
MISSING THE MARKET: Harvard is very happy with its latest scholarly acquisition, Homi K. Bhabha, an expert in "postcolonialism" who is compared to Edward Said. It seems to me, though, that this is like hiring the world's most eminent phlogiston chemist right after Priestley's discovery of oxygen.
BUILD MORE B-52S! Yes, I know most of them were built before I was born. But that's part of the argument for building more: we know they'll work, and for a long time!
The reason that we moved to more sophisticated -- and as it turned out, less reliable -- bombers like the B-1 and B-2 was the need to penetrate Soviet air defenses in a nuclear war. But in the kind of war we're likely to be fighting over the next couple of decades, that need is nonexistent, and the capabilities required by it just get in the way of what we'll really need to do: drop large quantities of explosives on people without much in the way of air defenses. In that mission, the B-52 turns out to be a superweapon. Here's a story from today's Washington Post that underscores this point. Excerpts:
Many times, bombs were dropped from U.S. warplanes that were at such a high altitude they could be neither seen nor heard. Suddenly, the world around Taliban troops would begin to explode, he said.
"You don't hear anything, you don't see anything, and all your best stuff blows up," he said. "It's like God did it to you – your trenches, your tanks just blow up, cloudy or not, day or night." . . .
"It was really loud," said a villager, Ahmed Mukhtar, who lives just a few yards away from what was the Taliban front line. "When the bombing started, we could see the Taliban leaving their positions, and running here to the Northern Alliance front line."
In the final days of the airstrikes here, Northern Alliance soldiers told journalists that the bombing had a deep psychological impact, hurting the morale of the Taliban troops. They reported overhearing radio conversations in which Taliban soldiers spoke of running for cover whenever the U.S. F-18 jets and B-52 bombers approached. . . .
B-52 heavy bombers dropped unguided "dumb bombs" with great precision because they were navigating using global positioning coordinates, transmitted by the Special Forces spotters. "With the B-52s, we're putting long sticks of Mark-82s down with such precision it is ridiculous," he said, referring to 500-pound blast and fragmentation bombs.
Added another official, "The B-52s, because of avionics upgrades, will drop a stick of bombs in a 1,000-yard area." Thus, he added, "I don't think we have 'dumb bombs' anymore – we have accurate gravity bombs."
Now, the Air Force will hate
the idea of buying a couple of hundred more B-52s, instead of something newer and sexier. But consider the advantages: (1) proven reliability; (2) heavy bombload; (3) a corps of already-trained pilots; (4) low, low cost. Congress shouldn't listen to excuses.
I'm sure that we can't build B-52s as cheaply (even allowing for inflation) as we did originally: the government just doesn't work that way. But it has to be cheaper than building something new. The R&D has been done, the tooling is probably still in existence (expect it to vanish mysteriously if this idea gets some play), and this is hardly cutting-edge technology. Go for it! The B-52: a bomber for the 21st century!
HOLMAN JENKINS WANTS MORE BIN LADEN on TV. I think he's right. (He also notes the disinformational quality of the "home grown anthrax mailer" line -- he's right here, too.)
MILITARY TRIBUNALS: I keep meaning to write something lengthy on this, but I haven't. So here's a quick thought: almost every argument in favor of military tribunals invokes Johnnie Cochran, Alan Dershowitz, and the O.J. trial.
I felt at the time that the O.J. trial, and the press's wild coverage of it, did a lot of damage to the American justice system. But it's apparently bred a vein of disgust and dismay wide enough to foster support for replacing the system entirely, at least in this setting. That's not something that the principals in that case should be proud of.
I DIDN'T SEE SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE but a reader forwards this description of a skit last night:
Great parody of reporters... one reporter asks Rumsfeld if we will be stuck in a quagmire and if we will lose Afghan support then realizes that was a question from last week... then she asks if things are moving so rapidly that we will look like a bully and lose Afghan support.
Sounds a lot like the famous Gulf War press conference skit. Should it bother the press that in the past two wars they've been more mocked than listened to?
TWO INTERESTING ITEMS IN THE POST: Bob Woodward reports on special CIA units, made up largely of retired military, that were operating in Afghanistan in advance of, and then in support of, the later attacks. (InstaPundit, you may recall, speculated that this was going on back in early October). Woodward's statement that the existence of these groups hadn't been previously disclosed is a bit overartful and makes it sound like he's got more of a scoop than he does: whether they've been officially acknowledged, their existence has been no great secret. It appears that they've done a good job, but of course Woodward is known for gentleness toward his sources.
Tom Ricks takes a less friendly line, turning up some apparently serious problems in targeting approvals that may have let some very bad people escape. (Ricks notes something that Woodward's gusher misses -- apparently, the "parallel war" run by the CIA operatives has crossed wires with the Air Force operation). Most of the complaints in Ricks' piece, however, are about Central Command's wanting absolute assurance of targets before approving strikes, for fear of killing innocents that would produce a propaganda backlash. After the Chinese Embassy bombing snafu, it's hard to fault them for this degree of caution. Somewhat more troubling is a hint -- though not a clear statement -- that military lawyers are resisting strikes aimed at killing particular individuals, even if those individuals are Taliban leaders. Frankly, I find this difficult to believe. But if it's true, somebody needs to be sent back to law school.
AL QAEDA MASSACRING TALIBAN: Yep, they've started snapping at their own wounds. Osama's Arab troops are now killing Afghan Taliban to keep them from surrendering, according to this report in The Telegraph. I hope that we make sure this is widely reported throughout the Islamic world.
Our spin: we're liberators in a war against Arab colonialism, disguised as Islam. The best part is, it's true.
RAND SIMBERG EMAILS that he's worried about the phony A-bomb materials, actually part of an Internet gag, that were found in Al Qaeda headquarters. Which is more unlikely, he asks: that they're really that stupid, or that this is disinformation designed to make us take them less seriously?
Either is possible, of course. I think we should widely publicize this affair in support of interpretation (1), because that's quite a PR coup for our side. But we shouldn't let our guard down.
All evidence suggests that these guys aren't that bright (given Osama's wealth, I could put together a far more formidable organization made up of American wargamers with no trouble -- er, except that they'd be too smart to embark on such an idiotic venture to begin with). But we should be warned: all evidence suggests that even guys who aren't that bright can do a lot of damage if they're persistent, learn from their mistakes, and have access to a lot of money and state support. We need to cut those off -- which will be the most important part of this campaign, really, and will extend far beyond Afghanistan.
In the meantime, yuk it up at Osama's expense. He deserves it.
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