Archive for October, 2002

October 29, 2002

THE MOTIVATION ISN’T ENTIRELY CLEAR, but the Iranian Navy is helping to enforce the blockade of Iraq.

October 29, 2002

DANIEL PIPES writes that John Muhammad isn’t an exception, but is in fact acting according to type — and suggests that media treatments of him as crazy merely indicate how little most press people know.

October 29, 2002

BELLESILES UPDATE: The Emory Wheel (which is doing a lot better job of covering this than the New York Times) has a long story on Bellesiles’ resignation with numerous quotes from historians. There’s also an editorial in The Wheel that concludes:

If Bellesiles did find the environment at Emory hostile, he has only himself to blame. Throughout the controversy, Bellesiles repeatedly made conflicting and misleading claims to the media, as well as to those who openly criticized him. His defenses and evidence were consistently erratic, and only furthered the skepticism of those following the case.

He also claims the scope of the committee’s investigation was too narrow, and that his main thesis still holds true despite the errors found in a minor part of his research.

By making this claim, Bellesiles is skirting the real issue. It doesn’t matter now if the argument in Arming America is valid — it matters that he has lied numerous times in defending his book. It’s unfortunate that Bellesiles, who is a talented, brilliant writer and scholar, will have his reputation marred by his evasive statements.

Emory has no reason to apologize to Bellesiles. Should a similar situation arise in the future, Emory should consider acting more quickly in response to public outcry, but not at the expense of fairness and accuracy.

The investigation, and Bellesiles’ subsequent resignation, should be a reminder to the Emory community that academic research is, above all, about searching for the absolute truth. That’s what our professors teach students every day. We should expect the same from them.

Well said.

UPDATE: Tightly Wound blames critical theory:

Now back to Bellesiles. He’s guilty, and I’m not trying to exculpate him, but to me it seems like he was just continuing to do what he was trained to do by the system–look at a subject, determine the conclusion you want to reach, and manipulate the data accordingly. After all, he was just “opening the facts up to new interpretation and exploration.” And it would have worked, too, if not for those pesky kids at the NRA! His politics were correct, thus no one reviewing his work looked at his research, source material, or thought processes. But here’s the kicker: the fact that he continues to insist that he’s going to keep researching probate materials when half of the ones he said he looked at DON’T EVEN EXIST! Bellesiles has completely surpassed me and my fellow students in shaping reality to his own ends. In the current academic envrionment, Mr. Bellesiles gets a gold star.

Read the whole post. I wasn’t familiar with this blog before, but its slogan “Making fun of academics — because it’s easy!” should give you an idea of its focus. Also Jacob T. Levy (noted in the post below, too — he’s on a roll!) suggests that the committee that Emory brought in to investigate Bellesiles can hardly be called tools of the NRA.

October 29, 2002

MICKEY KAUS thinks that a 50/50 split may become the new equilibrium state in American politics. He also warns Bush that there’s plenty of time left to lose before the elections.

UPDATE: Jacob T. Levy says that Kaus has rediscovered a classic theorem of political science. Way to go Mickey!

October 29, 2002

TOM HOLSINGER says that the Bush Administration is getting it all wrong on homeland security because it’s neglecting an important tradition.

October 29, 2002

TIM NOAH writes about why conservatives seem to miss Paul Wellstone more than liberals. But does this mean there will be lots of sad farewell columns written by the left when Jesse Helms expires?

UPDATE: This, on the other hand, is just plain mean.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Just noticed that Oliver Willis seems to have missed the point — or perhaps commented without reading Tim Noah’s piece. Noah’s point was that conservatives liked Wellstone because, being to the left of most Democrats, he made them look more extreme than they were. Hence the Helms point.

October 28, 2002

TONY ADRAGNA reflects on dysphemisms.

Is “warblogger” one?

October 28, 2002

THE BAGHDAD VIEW of American “peace” protesters in Iraq. It’s not a very flattering one: “Dear american friends, please stop sending her over here, she is not helping. Some people might think that this sort of thing I like to see happening. It is NOT. Kelly baby you have been used. They have put you on show for the westerners.”

October 28, 2002

ONE OF MY MOLES says the AP wire is about to produce a story saying that John Muhammad has been linked to a killing / synagogue shooting in Tacoma from last February.

UPDATE: It’s not up yet, but this backgrounder is interesting.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s a link to the story, which says Muhammad is now linked to the shooting of a 21-year-old woman and to a shooting incident at a synagogue. And go to page 17 of this synagogue newsletter for a contemporaneous description: “A more serious incident occurred in May when it was discovered that a bullet was fired into the west side of the Temple by the Biblical garden. It eventually ended up in the ark in the small chapel.”

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan: “So he was a terrorist, a Muslim, a member of the fanatical anti-Semitic group the Nation of Islam and someone who shot up a synagogue. Who’d have thought it?” Yeah, go figure. Who’d have thought those things would go together? Not the “angry white male” profiler crew. . . .

October 28, 2002

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL: Fredrik Norman identifies a reasonable facsimile.

October 28, 2002

LILEKS ON WELLSTONE: There’s a reason we worship Lileks. His on-the-scene reporting from Minnesota is hard on some of Wellstone’s detractors — and on some of his friends.

October 28, 2002

CLAYTON CRAMER points out that the University of Arizona is a gun-free zone, something that — as usual — did nothing to prevent a mass shooing. Indeed, as John Lott and William Landes have demonstrated, mass shootings appear to be more common in places where guns are prohibited.

More poignantly, this policy was criticized in a sadly prophetic piece by Rachel Alexander in the University of Arizona student newspaper several years ago:

The U.S. government surveyed 1,874 felons, and found that 40 percent said they had at one time decided not to commit a crime because they were afraid the victim was carrying a firearm. Too bad the signs prominently displayed around campus let the criminals know we’re all defenseless.

The consequences, sadly, are all too predictable.

UPDATE: I thought the Rachel Alexander column was interesting, so I googled her to see what she’s up to nowadays — and discovered she’s quite accomplished. Who knew?

October 28, 2002

AMERICANS LESS COMFORTABLE WITH ISLAM: According to this ABC News poll, Americans remained sympathetic to Islam after the 9/11 attacks, but have grown steadily more uncomfortable with it over time:

The percentage of Americans having an unfavorable view of Islam has jumped from 24 percent in January 2002 to 33 percent now.

The portion of Americans who say that Islam “doesn’t teach respect for other faiths” rose from 22 percent to 35 percent.

The article treats this mostly as a failure of tolerance, but at the end it presents this alternative explanation:

Muslim leaders maintained that Osama bin Laden was an aberration, a single twisted soul distorting Islam. But the reality is something more disturbing — that Islam is now being used as a justification for violence — not by a few, but by many. Though many Muslim leaders criticized the terrorists, few stated that the problems with Islam’s misuse were dangerously widespread. As a result, Muslim leaders may have lost some of their credibility. . . .

American University professor Akbar Ahmed admitted as much: “For the first time in history, Muslim civilization is on a direct collision course with all the world religions.”

Ahmed said that at this point, he is aggravated that many Muslims won’t acknowledge this. “After Sept. 11, there was this mantra, ‘We are peaceful, we are peaceful.’ After Muslims killed 3,000 people, it makes no sense to me.”

Yes, Muslims who are unsympathetic to the views of the Islamofascists need to get out front on this issue.

UPDATE: This post by Damian Penny is worth reading.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Steve at HappyFunPundit wonders why this article is so dumb, attributing most of the change in attitude to people like Jerry Falwell instead of to Islamic terrorists. Personally, I think the glass is half full. What impresses me is that the story at least entertains the possibility that Islamic terror might have something to do with American attitudes.

It’s all a function of how high your expectations are, I guess. Mine aren’t very high, so I’m easily pleased.

October 28, 2002

WELL, HOTDAMN! We’re back in business. There were serious server issues, and mine was the last to be put back in operation. Blogging was ongoing at the GlennReynolds.Com backup site but I’m happy to be back up for real. More to come.

October 28, 2002

BELLESILES UPDATE: Well, actually it’s a Jon Wiener update, but here’s a withering response to Wiener’s Bellesiles defense from The Nation last week:

What is also particularly notable is that Wiener, a Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, apparently refuses to examine actual documentary evidence in making his case. Equally striking in this day and age when oral history and interviewing participants to events is all the rage among historians, he failed to interview the critics he attacked — Roth, Lindgren, Cramer, and myself — which, I think, is why he has made so many errors. It also accounts for the reason why Wiener’s contribution to the debate over Arming America compares unfavorably with that of such reporters as David Mehegan of the Boston Globe, Robert Worth of the New York Times, Melissa Seckora of National Review, Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal, David Skinner of the Weekly Standard, and Ron Grossman of the Chicago Tribune, who, like Wiener, holds a Ph.D. in history.

Contrary to Wiener’s approach to the subject, all of these reporters carefully examined and reported on substantial amounts of documentary evidence themselves in their desire to get to the bottom of the controversy. They also tried to interview scholars on both sides of the issue, which is apparently why their reportage has held up so well to scrutiny, with both Mehegan and Strassel winning prizes for their work on Arming America.

On the other hand, Wiener, whose command of the evidence presented by Arming America’s critics is thin at best, chose to rely heavily on Bellesiles’s preposterous stories and inventions, never bothering to check them out with those scholars who know the material best. While this might be standard procedure when writing a polemic, it is certainly not good reporting and it is clearly very bad history. But it is apparently in keeping with the accusatory style of commentary Wiener has honed and perfected over the years at the Nation.

The author, Prof. Jerome Sternstein, also reports that Garry Wills, who gave Arming America an embarrassingly positive review in the New York Times, has since pronounced Bellesiles’ book a “fraud,” somewhat undercutting The Nation’s thesis that Bellesiles is the victim of an NRA-inspired witch hunt.

Emory, the Newberry Library, Columbia University, the Bancroft Prize, and now The Nation: It looks as if Bellesiles has managed to embarrass one more long-established American institution.

October 28, 2002

JIANGISM OF THE DAY? Eugene Volokh has castigated Slate’s “Bushism of the Day” feature for sloppiness and out-of-context quotes before, but today Best of the Web says that Slate is charging Bush with fractured English that came, in fact, from Jiang Zemin.

I know that some journalists regard Texan English as something like a foreign language, but it seems unfair to confuse Bush with a native speaker of Chinese.

UPDATE: Slate has run a correction, which says that the error was originally the AP’s. I wonder, though: If you’re going to try to find an example of sloppiness every day (for the “Bushism of the Day” feature) you’re inevitably going to have a problem with uneven material, which means you’re going to make boners like this on a regular basis. Slate’s feature has been uneven at best, and has started to make Slate look worse than Bush. And this is something that should have been predictable from the outset. So why’d they do this? And why are they still doing it?

October 28, 2002

LEONARD DAVID REPORTS that China is moving closer to human spaceflight.

October 28, 2002

THE VIOLENCE POLICY CENTER IS STILL TRYING TO FLOG ITS “SNIPER SUBCULTURE” THEORY, even though that was exploded before John Muhammad was even caught. But facts don’t stand in the way of those guys (have they taken the Bellesiles quotes off their website yet?) as this Boston Globe article demonstrates:

Tom Diaz, senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., said the subculture is fueled in part by gun manufacturers that market high-powered, military-style weapons to nonmilitary people. Certain training schools that teach people how to hunt a person, what part of their body to target, and how to take down a helicopter, and publications like Plaster’s wildly popular and highly detailed book, also contribute to the subculture, he said. Other critics say the glorification of powerful military weapons and rock star-like admiration of military snipers, as well as video games and movies about lonesome but brilliant long-range killers, all lead to the possibility of more incidents like that in Washington and the chilling shootings at Columbine High School.

”This is clearly a hot trend and, yes, there is a subculture out there,” said Diaz. ”Somebody is buying all these books, videos, and going to these schools. They are not Martians. They are human beings from this country and perhaps from some other places, too.”

So even though it had nothing to do with the D.C. sniper (much less Columbine), this “subculture” is being blamed. Makes sense. After all, these guys pushed gun control as a remedy for the Oklahoma City bombing, too.

It reminds me of one of my law professors who said, quoting a movie I don’t recall: “I use gin for colds. But then, I use it for everything.”

What’s interesting is that this time the Globe isn’t swallowing the VPC’s line whole, but is actually presenting the issue as one with two sides:

Weapons experts have said they do not consider the person who terrorized the Washington suburbs a trained sniper. Professional shooters such as Rodney Ryan, owner of Storm Mountain Training Center, a sniper training school in West Virginia, takes issue with the public perception that the killers have been linked to his profession.

”This guy wasn’t really a trained marksman. He was no more qualified than I am 16,” said Plaster, who is 53. ”He was no more trained than anybody who goes to basic training,” he added.

And here’s the real non sequitur in the VPC’s position: Muhammad is a military veteran, an expert says his shooting skills come from basic training, and the VPC is trying to cash in on the publicity brought about by his acts, but:

Diaz said his organization is not criticizing military snipers or even schools that only teach military and law enforcement sniper techniques, but he insists too many people are teaching dangerous lessons to regular people.

So Diaz is only against the “sniper subculture” in circumstances that are entirely inapplicable to the case he’s relying on for publicity.

Sorry, but this is just pathetic.

UPDATE: Reader Byron Matthews writes:

CBS Evening News tonight had sniper story: How easy it is to get sniper training in the U.S.

Highlight was interview with “Gun Policy Analyst” who said he was “shocked” when he went to the Internet to find how many sites offered training and info about sniping.

The “analyst” was Tom Diaz.

Can you imagine an NRA rep being identified only as a “gun policy analyst”?

Nope. I can’t.

October 28, 2002

GUT RUMBLES has a slick new website designed by you-know-who — I especially like the warning label!

October 28, 2002

MEAT MARKETS AND STUD BOOKS: Eugene Volokh lifts the covers on some insider aspects of the law-professor biz.

October 28, 2002

MELISSA SECKORA has a story on the Bellesiles resignation that’s worth reading. Excerpt:

The committee’s investigation focused on Bellesiles’s use of probate records, which the New York Times has called “Mr. Bellesiles’s principal evidence.” Of particular interest was a key table on which the author’s thesis is grounded. “Evaluating Table One is an exercise in frustration because it is almost impossible to tell where Bellesiles got his information. His source note lists the names of 40 counties, but supplies no indication of the exact records used or their distribution over time. After reviewing his skimpy documentation, we had the same question as [one reviewer] Gloria Main: ‘Did no editors or referees ever ask that he supply this basic information?’ … The best that can be said about his work with the probate and militia records is that he is guilty of unprofessional and misleading work.”

The committee also agreed with Professor James Lindgren of Northwestern University that the entire scandal could have been avoided with “more conventional editing” by The Journal of American History and with Ohio State’s Randolph Roth, who determined that Bellesiles’s numbers were “mathematically improbable or impossible.” Additionally, the committee found that “no one has been able to replicate Bellesiles’s results [on low percentage of guns] for the places or dates he lists”; that he conflated wills and inventories which “greatly reduced the percentage of guns in estates”; took a “casual approach” to gathering data; “[raised] doubts about his veracity” in claiming to have worked with records in California; and raised questions about his use of microfilm at the National Archives Record Center in East Point, Ga. They also called implausible Bellesiles’s claim that false data on his website was put there by a hacker, and his disavowal of e-mails that he wrote to researchers, giving the wrong location for almost all of his probate research.

This is a good one-stop summary for those who haven’t been following the case, and it has links to many useful documents. The big news: “And now that the Emory report is out, scholars expect Columbia to investigate the possibility of revoking Bellesiles’s Bancroft Prize.”

UPDATE: The History News Network has a list of questions that remain unanswered after Bellesiles’ resignation. And this comment thread is amusing, in a nauseous kind of way.

October 28, 2002

FLIT says the Russian response to the Arab/Chechen terrorists gives nerve gas a PR boost. No, really. He regards the use as a success of sorts, as do I. The bigger problem was being unprepared to deal with the aftermath, and unable or unwilling to give the doctors sufficient information to treat the victims.

Have you noticed, by the way, that nobody much is complaining about the fact that the Russians seem to have shot the terrorists in the head while they were unconscious from the gas?

UDPATE: James Robbins comments on the shootings in this generally supportive piece.

October 28, 2002

CNN IS NOW CALLING THE ARAB/CHECHEN ‘HOSTAGE TAKERS” terrorists, in what seems to be a change from its earlier approach.

October 28, 2002

THE WHITE HOUSE IS DEFENDING PUTIN with some well-chosen words:

“The Russian government and the Russian people are victims of this tragedy, and the tragedy was caused as a result of the terrorists who took hostages and booby-trapped the building and created dire circumstances,” Fleischer said.

Asked directly about the use of the knockout gas, Fleischer wouldn’t say whether the administration believed it was appropriate. “We don’t know what all the facts are,” he said.

But, he said, “Given the fact that the terrorists were clearly serious and had already killed people, and apparently had the theater booby-trapped so all would die, it’s important to know what the full circumstances are before venturing further.”

I’m prepared to be convinced that using the gas was a mistake. But those who take that position ought to suggest what else Putin should have done under the circumstances. For more on this subject, look here.

October 28, 2002

ROBERT PRATHER sends advance warning of an online invasion. Ugh. Why do people think this will work?

October 28, 2002

CATHY YOUNG WRITES about the D.C. sniper and gun control in the Boston Globe:

Since 1996, Australia has implemented some of the world’s toughest gun laws and a sweeping buyback program. Yet just this month, it has witnessed two shocking incidents. On Oct. 14, South Australia’s mental health chief, Margaret Tobin, was shot dead by an assailant outside her office in Adelaide. A few days later, a gunman opened fire in a classroom at Monash University in Melbourne, killing two.

Editorials in the Australian press responded by calling for even more gun restrictions. Yet they offered little evidence that such measures would have prevented these tragedies, and conceded that criminals were finding ways to circumvent the laws such as smuggling in gun parts from Southeast Asia and assembling them into lethal weapons.

The overall homicide rate in Australia has declined by 10 percent since 1996. But any link between this trend and the antigun policies is hardly clear: In the same period, the United States has achieved an even greater drop in the murder rate. And while the percentage of armed robberies committed with firearms in Australia has decreased markedly, armed robberies overall are up.

Let’s not forget, too, that guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens can actually stop those who prey on the innocent. A largely ignored incident in Pittsburgh, which happened at the same time as the sniper shootings, provides a convincing demonstration. A man who committed a half-dozen sexual assaults in the city’s East End, eluding police and terrorizing women – not as lethally as the sniper, perhaps, but seriously enough – was captured when his intended seventh victim shot and wounded him with the gun she was licensed to carry.

To me the big news is that something like this is appearing in The Globe. And here’s a point that Globe readers might actually appreciate:

Yet the National Rifle Association opposes a national gun registry, fearing a slippery slope toward confiscation of firearms. An extreme position? Maybe. But the extremism of gun-rights supporters is akin to the extremism of abortion-rights proponents who oppose even minimal abortion restrictions. In both cases, they know that there are powerful activist groups that really do see modest restrictions as a first step toward a total ban.

And in both cases, they’re right.

October 28, 2002

MICKEY KAUS has a shocking tale of the Winona Ryder jury selection.

October 28, 2002

CRANKY PROFESSOR MICHAEL TINKLER is disgusted with this Washington Post article on angry young white males, which he suspects was assigned back when the editors of the Post thought that was the profile of the D.C. sniper. Excerpt:

And where does Ms. Stepp find the nerve to quote some professor of workforce education at Penn State “No one’s interested in the Bubbas”? Public voices, people, public voices. If you’ve got a P.C. monitor about referring to the Tyrones and Julios, apply it to the Bubbas, too.

Gosh, newspaper P.C. language is selective and sloppy. No wonder icy loners shoot suburban persons of color. Oh, wait! That’s not what happened!

Scroll down for Tinkler’s take on the Bellesiles report, too:

Folks, this is as damning as one group of humanists can be. . . .

Anyone (like several of my friends) who thinks that ‘gun nuts’ brought Michael Bellesiles down should have to read this. Michael Bellesiles brought himself down. He did sloppy work (at the most charitable) and has been caught.

These professor-bloggers sure are smart. . . .

October 28, 2002

BELLESILES UPDATE: The Bellesiles story is on the front page of the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website, though you’ll need a subscription to read it. I don’t subscribe to the Chronicle online, and the story’s not on NEXIS yet, so I can only report that they’re covering the story prominently — though that in itself is news.

UPDATE: This link to the Chronicle story seems to work. The story is mildly favorable to Bellesiles, in that it closes with a quote from the Nation‘s Bellesiles defense of last week.

Bellesiles is certainly playing the martyr — this story from the Washington Times quotes him as saying: “I believe that if we begin investigating every scholar who challenges received truth, it will not be long before no challenging scholarly books are published.” While it’s easy to understand why Bellesiles might choose to make such a claim, absurd as it is, I’m surprised that his remaining defenders are echoing it. Surely the claim that anyone who dares challenge the NRA will be crushed is a claim that is unlikely to promote more scholarship along the lines they find congenial. I conclude that either (1) they’re too foolish to think this through; or (2) they don’t intend such claims to be taken seriously. Or perhaps a bit of both.

October 28, 2002

JACQUES CHIRAC: THREAT TO WORLD ORDER, according to Tim Hames in The Times:

The evidence that rogue governments can inflict so much more chaos than rogue gunmen or groups does not seem to be concentrating minds much at the United Nations. . . .

It is has been widely claimed that Mr Putin will, after the horrors of Moscow, feel compelled to co-operate with the Americans over Saddam. This is to assume that the Russians are the real problem at the United Nations. They are not. Mr Putin has legitimate commercial and strategic interests in the region and is entitled to drive a hard bargain with Washington. That is what he is doing and it is not resented. The grotesque recent grandstanding by Jacques Chirac is an entirely different matter.

It is he who in the next few days will make or break a meaningful international stance against a menace far more awesome than snipers or Chechens. It is why, ironically, despite the bloodshed elsewhere, it is the President of France who is today the most serious obstacle to world order.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

October 28, 2002

JAMES MORROW wonders if the failure of the “angry white man” scenario where the sniper is concerned will cause the FBI to revisit its Anthrax theory. This Washington Post story casts more doubt on that always-dubious conception of the crime. Sounds like another case (see below) of saying “we’re looking for a white truck.”

October 28, 2002

TIDBITS: This story has a couple of interesting items:

Remarkably, law-enforcement sources tell NEWSWEEK, some investigators continued to cling to the belief that the sniper or snipers were driving a white van or truck. Like the talking heads on TV, they had convinced themselves that the snipers must be white men driving a white truck. They had trouble accepting that they should have been looking for two black men driving a blue car. They were fixated on cars fleeing the scene. It does not seem to have really occurred to them that the shooters would hang around—as they almost surely did. As it turned out, a witness had reported seeing a Caprice driving slowly with its lights off near the scene of the Oct. 3 shooting in northeast D.C. But in the dark, the witness remembered the car’s color as burgundy, not blue, and the lead was lost in the chatter over white vehicles. A witness outside the Fredericksburg, Va., Michaels craft store, scene of a shooting on Oct. 4, reported a “dark-colored vehicle with New Jersey tags” leaving the scene. A woman calling the tip line on Oct. 7 said she had spotted a black man crouching beneath the dashboard in a dark Chevy Caprice. The woman was struck by the intensity of the man’s stare. The agent on the tip line brushed her off. “We’re looking for a white truck,” she said.

(Emphasis added). And it turns out that Muhammad seems to have attacked the U.S. Army in wartime:

His sergeant, however, says he was “trouble from day one. You’d give him an order and you’d get a certain glare,” retired Sgt. Kip Berentson told NEWSWEEK. “He loved being in charge and he had a warped sense of humor.” Williams’s unit was sent to Operation Desert Storm to clear mines and bulldoze holes in enemy lines. A few nights before the invasion of Iraq, Sergeant Berentson awoke in the early hours to find his tent, with 16 sleeping men inside, on fire. Someone had tossed in a thermite grenade. Berentson, who was fed up with Williams’s insubordination, immediately suspected Williams and told the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division. Berentson says he last saw Williams being led away in handcuffs. Williams’s military records make no mention of the incident; indeed, they suggest Williams had a distinguished gulf-war stint. But Berentson always kept Williams’s name and dog-tag number in his wallet. He says he was not surprised to see Williams’s face on television.

Hmm. Thanks to reader Chris Regan for spotting these items. Meanwhile, Robin Goodfellow writes that people misconceive Al Qaeda, but that Muhammad’s actions are consistent with its actual organization: basically, more like a grant-making institution than a centralized hierarchy. And another reader says that Muhammad reminds him of someone else who seemed like a well-traveled ne’er-do-well: Richard Reid.

We’ll see. It appears that the definition of “terrorism” favored by many in the government is a narrow one, requiring a decoder ring and an autographed picture of Osama bin Laden. The model here may be more akin to that in Bruce Sterling’s novel Distraction, where ideology and propaganda were used to direct whatever susceptible individuals were available toward a chosen target.

October 27, 2002

WHY I LOVE COOL EDIT PRO: Cool Edit Pro is an audio editing program. There are others that are bigger sellers (WaveLab and Sound Forge, for example, both of which I also have, and which are perfectly fine). But Cool Edit Pro is the geek’s favorite, and here’s an example of why. I was reading the manual the other day. I hadn’t bothered before because Cool Edit is very intuitive, and if you know your way around a recording studio most of its functions are quite obvious and easy to use. But the manual’s actually very good, and in the midst of a multi-page section on different types of filters I ran across this:

Cool Edit Pro attempts to give as much flexibility as possible when designing filters. You can specify pass and stop band frequencies and an attenuation dB, and Cool Edit Pro will do the rest. However, advanced users may want to set the order of the filter for a number of reasons. . . . There is also an option 2 for this type. For this you specify everything but passband ripple, and Cool Edit Pro picks that. This can lead to some pretty strange-looking filters, but is good to give you an idea of the tradeoffs involved if nothing else. This is a holdover from the bad old days when filters were expensive and one was always trying to push what could be done with a low order filter. Now it’s just there as a learning tool.

“Now it’s just there as a learning tool.” I love that philosophy, and the whole program is that way. It’s easy to use, but it’s designed to teach you things as you use it. Not coincidentally, it began its life as shareware.

October 27, 2002

THE VILLE has comments on the weekend’s “peace” protests. Cato is unimpressed too, though he’s addressing a slightly different group of antiwar activists. Meanwhile, reader Paul Music says that this incident reflects anti-war protesters’ ability to foresee and respond to threats.

UPDATE: Reader Howard Veit emails:

Saw one in Eugene OR this weekend. Several hundred on two street corners. I was only impressed at the lack of young people demonstrating in this college town. I saw none. This was like an old time 60’s or 70’s bunch of wandering demonstrators. Old time peace signs, scraggly looking guys and dumpy looking women (no makeup, no hair, and serape like dresses), and no organized shouting.

This is clearly the old Anti-Vietnam crowd having their alumni moment.

Could be.

October 27, 2002

NATALIE SOLENT says Putin did the right thing, in spite of the casualties. I think she’s right. The gas thing seems to have been handled in a less-than-optimal fashion, and people died.

But people would have died anyway — probably in greater numbers. And this was done in an emergency, with hostages already being killed by terrorists who were ready to die themselves.

I can’t help but feel that some of the criticism of Putin is a weird and particularly despicable form of schadenfreude, which has been echoed in a few emails that I’ve gotten, along the lines of “Your get-tough approach didn’t work too well, did it?”

It seems to me that this attitude — that it’s preferable to do nothing and let people be killed than to do something and perhaps cause people, even in smaller numbers, to be killed — is an example of the pathological fear of effectuality that I was discussing earlier.

I think that — as Natalie writes — it’s better to do something like this than to pay the Danegeld and encourage more such behavior. It’s possible that Putin’s decision will turn out to be wrong, but I don’t think so. Letting a mixture of Arab and Chechen terrorists kill over 700 citizens unobstructed would have been wrong.

UPDATE: Ron Campbell agrees. So does Cato.

October 27, 2002

SOME GUY WHO DOESN’T AGREE WITH STEVEN DEN BESTE has decided that arguing with him is too unpleasant. Instead, he thinks that Den Beste should be sealed off by some sort of Saudi-Arabian-style Internet firewall. Bruce R. of Flit isn’t having any of it.

October 27, 2002

SECURE BENEATH THE WATCHFUL EYES: I meant to link to this post on surveillance in Britain the other day, but forgot. Check it out, and be appalled.

October 27, 2002

RADLEY BALKO OFFERS ONE OF THE MOST THOUGHTFUL ANTI-WAR POSTS that I’ve seen lately. I’m still not convinced, but it’s better than anything you’ll hear from Susan Sarandon, Al Sharpton, or any of the other famous demonstrators from this weekend.

October 27, 2002

ACCORDING TO THIS REPORT FROM THE ABC, Jemaah Islamiyah has plans to create an Islamic superstate including Indonesia, Australia, and apparently parts of Asia.

Kind of ambitious for a bunch of guys who just blew up a disco, but insufficient ambition has never been these guys’ problem. This may serve as a further wakeup call for Australia, though.

October 27, 2002


The more you know about the rancid methodology of Michael Moore, who wants you to see him as an honest documentarian, the less appealing he becomes.

This is, I think, the most favorable statement in the review.

October 27, 2002

COLBY COSH has an extended rant on the terrorists-are-idiots theme. I think he’s basically right. Osama and his ideological soulmates were doing pretty well as of 9/10/2001, and they’d be doing better if they’d just left well enough alone.

UPDATE: This post by Nick Denton is, sort of, along the same lines.

October 27, 2002


October 27, 2002

INSTA-POWER, BABY! I don’t know if it was in response to the comments at the end of this post or — more likely — in response to comments from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s lawyers, but the AP has issued this clarification to yesterday’s Bellesiles story:

ATLANTA (AP) — An Oct. 26 Associated Press story about the resignation of Emory University professor Michael Bellesiles amid questions about his research for a book on the history of guns in America mentioned three other historians or academics recently caught up in controversy over their work.

The story misleadingly suggested that the three had been accused of academic fraud of a kind similar to that alleged against Bellesiles, who was found by an academic panel to be “guilty of unprofessional and misleading work” in his research. Bellesiles has denied the allegations.

In fact, the three others are not accused of fraudulent research, but of actions ranging from inadequate attribution of source material to plagiarism.

Whatever, I’m glad to see them make the point clear. (Thanks to reader Mike Daley for the headsup).

UPDATE: Fritz Schranck has criticisms of the original story and the correction. I like the Nixon comparison.

October 27, 2002


Mukhlis is one of 5 million Iraqi expatriates wandering the world like so many Gypsies. Unlike many of his countrymen, he’s a leader in a group looking to bring democracy to Iraq. The Iraqi National Movement has U.S. State Department support and advice from the CIA, but Mukhlis points out that if Iraq wants democracy, it’s going to have to rely on itself.

“What we are advocating is Iraqis getting rid of Saddam with American help,” he said.

What the Iraqi National Movement suggests is turning Iraq’s army against Saddam. “They have family and friends. And every family has suffered,” Mukhlis said. “The opposition has to be a broad spectrum where there’s representation for everybody.”

I wonder why anti-Saddam Iraqis in America don’t get as much attention as the much smaller number of anti-American Americans who go to Iraq?

October 27, 2002


NPR ran a story this morning on this weekend’s ‘peace’ demonstrations in the US. The reporter noted that many of those demonstrating were veterans of Vietnam war era protest. In a revealing slip of the tongue, one woman recalled how those protests had “ended Vietnam”. Indeed they did. Within two years of the US withdrawal, South Vietnam had fallen to communist rule. Thousands were murdered by the new regime, an estimated 500,000-1,000,000 people (out of a population of twenty million) were incarcerated in concentration (oh sorry, ‘re-education’ ) camps for periods of up to ten years, and hundreds of thousands of boat people took the dangerous and often fatal route into exile. Quarter of a century later Vietnam remains a communist dictatorship. Doubtless the Vietnamese are most grateful to the peace campaigners of yesteryear.

And the campaigners remain proud of their success.

October 27, 2002

I’VE BEEN WORKING on my TechCentralStation column for this week (inspired by Jim Henley’s “a pack, not a herd” phrase) and ran across this post from September. I think that as people fight over the Homeland Security department, it’s worth remembering that so far on-the-spot responses from ordinary non-law-enforcement people — the passengers on Flight 93, the folks on hand at LAX when Mohammed Hadayet started shooting, the passengers who subdued “shoebomber” Richard Reid, and now the truck driver who spotted Muhammad and Malvo’s Caprice — have been responsible for pretty much all of our domestic victories against terrorism.

October 27, 2002

BELLESILES UPDATE: The New York Times has finally run a story on Bellesiles’ resignation in disgrace — but it’s just the AP story from yesterday. Given all the attention that the Times gave Bellesiles’ book when it came out (and even the big story it ran early on attacking Bellesiles’ critics) it’s rather surprising that it’s giving this denouement so little attention.

Or maybe it’s not so surprising, after all.

UPDATE: When I blogged the above I was working from memory. The Times story in question is pretty pro-Bellesiles and paints his critics in a fairly negative light, but “attacking Bellesiles’ critics” probably gives an overly harsh view of the story. Unfortunately, I don’t have a web link for it.

October 27, 2002

DIANA HSIEH is a proud alumna of the Front Sight Institute. She’s thus rather unhappy to discover a connection between the Institute’s head and the Church of Scientology.

October 27, 2002

JIM BENNETT’S ADVICE TO EUROPE: Be careful what you wish for — you might get it. “Americans must stop equating ‘Europe’ with the European Union. Europeans often complain about the failure of Americans to discern fine yet significant nuances in local situations. Thinking of Europe and the European Union as the same thing is precisely a failure to discern an important difference, although it is probably not the nuance European intellectuals had in mind.”

I also like his suggestion for moving NATO headquarters to Warsaw or Budapest. (I’ll bet Nick Denton would agree with him).

UPDATE: Reader Matt Crandall writes: “How about the Europeans stop equating all ‘Americans’ with cowboys? Perhaps the Europeans would also like to discover the significant nuances in our fifty states.” Heh. I don’t know — moving NATO HQ is one thing, but Crandall’s proposal seems a bit unrealistic to me. . . .

October 27, 2002

IT’S FOR THE CHILDREN: Michele at A Small Victory responds to Susan Sarandon.

October 27, 2002

MY DOUBTS ABOUT THE “SLEEPING GAS” appear to be correct:

The doctors in the footage described the gas as being a neuro-paralyzing agent, one that disables the body’s nervous system. The description contrasts with other reports that described it as a sleeping gas.

Several readers point out that it seems to have killed an awful lot of the terrorists in proportion to the hostages. I’m reminded of the “Vee-Two nerve gas” from E.E. Smith’s vintage science fiction stories: disabling, but fatal after a while without the antidote. This seems quite similar.

(Link via Shoutin’ Across the Pacific).

October 27, 2002

MORAL EQUIVALENCE is hitting a new high in Germany. One wonders if this was the agenda all along.

October 27, 2002

WILLIAM SJOSTROM takes on Professor Diana Abu Jabr, who seems to think that people aren’t agreeing with her because they’re afraid to speak out. Sjostrom suggests that perhaps it’s just that not that many people agree with her.

(Blogger problems, link broken, scroll down, blah blah).

UPDATE: Hmm. Or maybe she just can’t read them because they’ve adopted the mind-boggling new lefty approach to debate identified by Nick Denton.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Maybe there are just a lot more Grandpa Jones types out there than Professor Abu Jabr realizes. (And no, he’s not the father of Mother Jones, though that would make a kind of sense, wouldn’t it?)

Meanwhile Josh Chafetz says that Abu Jabr confuses epistemology and ontology. “Please don’t confuse losing a debate with having your opinions silenced.”

October 27, 2002


The documents contain a handwritten statement by Zawahiri in which he signs himself Amin Abdulah Aman Mohammed, a businessman. “We entered Dagestan to study the local market and to build contacts for our business,” he wrote.

There is little doubt of the captive’s real identity, however — files stored on an Al-Qaeda laptop computer which later surfaced in Kabul contain extensive notes written by Zawahiri about his failed mission.

He came to the Caucasus in search of a new base: like Bin Laden he had found a safe haven in Sudan, but in 1996 both men were among militants who were expelled.

Chechnya seemed ideal — Muslim rebels had defeated the Russian army and gained de facto independence in their first war which had just ended in humiliating defeat for Moscow.

Zawahiri is not the only possible link between Chechnya and Al-Qaeda. A court in Hamburg heard last week that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the September 11 hijackers, planned to travel to Chechnya to fight there.

The Times story expects Putin to make much of this. Will he make enough of it to start supporting the United States in the Security Council?

October 27, 2002

GORE VIDAL probably isn’t out of bed yet, but his column in the Observer today has already been Fisked.

UPDATE: Damian Penny has a roundup of responses, and observes:

Vidal’s pathetic conspiracy theorizing is yet another example of the moral quandary in which the ultra-left finds itself. The one and only guiding principle for the fringe left is that the United States is the most evil, oppressive country the world has ever known, period. And when an “alternative” like Islamofascism – a movement completely opposed to every stated goal of the far left, including women’s rights and acceptance of homosexuality – comes along, the left is left with three choices: acknowledge that the Yanks and their allies are the lesser of two evils (as Christopher Hitchens has done); pretend to be “neutral” in the conflict, on the basis that (American) military action can never, ever be justified; or, in the case of Vidal and the IndyMidiots, assume that the Americans – especially the Republican president and his inner circle – must be in the wrong, because they simply cannot comprehend them ever being right. When the third option is chosen, wild conspiracy theorizing is what you get.

Yep. On a related front, the Angry Clam has a collection of links to Wellstone-related conspiracy theories.

October 27, 2002

EGYPT AND ANTISEMITISM: Geitner Simmons has a long post. Excerpt:

And so, with the new Egyptian TV series on the Protocols, the lies of anti-Semitism march into a new century. The ancient anti-Semite Manetho surely would be delighted.

Egyptians ought to be ashamed that such ignorance is about to be displayed so rapturously in their country. That they are not should give Americans great pause about the depths of prejudice and gullibility in the Muslim-Arab world.

Or no pause at all.

October 27, 2002

FLASHBUNNY has a hilarious post on why Hollywood has an unrealistic attitude toward guns and gun control:

Of course, we can see where they’re coming from. A lot of movies would be pretty short when practical, real-world gun usage came into play. Consider the lack of suspense and drama if proper gun usage was depicted in the following movies:

Cujo: “Oh no, I’m trapped in my car by a large, rabid dog. Where did I put my Glock?”

The Birds: “Boy, the air is so thick with birds, you don’t even have to


Signs: “Unarmed aliens are trying to kill us? Grab the AK’s boys, we’re

going a-huntin’.”

Se7en: “Some psycho is trying to force me to eat until I die. I think I’ll

shoot him instead.”

Fargo: “Oh no, two men have broken into my house and are trying to kidnap

me. How will I get their bloodstains out of my carpet???”

Halloween: “If I can’t actually kill Jason, he’s going to look pretty damn

funny walking around after I blow his head off with a 12 gauge.”

And my abolute favorite:

The Fugitive: “Good thing my wife was able to shoot her one-armed attacker. He was trying to murder her and frame me for it.”

There’s more. Read it all. As Flashbunny points out, realistic use of firearms would blow the contrived suspense that keeps most dumb thriller movies (which is most thriller movies) going.

UPDATE: Check this out, too.

October 27, 2002

NO WAR FOR OIL: More like anti-war, for oil. This article in the New York Times points out, Hussein is favoring non-American companies from countries that are currently opposing war. So they’re against war because it might interfere with their cozy contracts with a murderous dictator. Nice to see them taking a strong moral position.

A stronger moral case exists — as Steven Den Beste has pointed out — in favor of repudiating these contracts, and Iraq’s existing debts, where countries like France, Russia and Germany are concerned. There should be consequences for supporting murderous dictators, and new countries, freed of dictators, should start out free of ruinous debts, too.

And, as Bush said in a different but related context, there have to be consequences. Crossing the United States should be expensive.

UPDATE: Reader Brian O’Connor writes:

This raises an interesting point about our friends & allies, the

French and Russians …

France and Russia indeed do have heavy financial interests in

Iraq. But I doubt that this alone accounts for the strength

of their opposition to our UN resolution. After all, we could

simply guarantee that their investments and deals with Saddam

would be honored by whatever government succeeds his. Or

we ourselves could cover Iraq’s outstanding debts in exchange

for French and Russian votes in the UN.

No … it’s not just about money. And it certainly isn’t principle.

There is almost desperation in their opposition, and I’m betting

that they are scared to death that if we enter Baghdad, we’ll find

records detailing exactly what those two countries (and others

as well) have been up to with Iraq over the past 10 years.

I’m betting that there are some documents there that would prove

to be immensely embarrassing to Paris and Moscow (and perhaps

others as well), and that Saddam is simply reminding them of that

fact in exchange for their support in the UN. I think it’s a case of

international blackmail.


October 27, 2002


One month after Muhammad arrived on Antigua with Gianquinto, he flew into Miami International Airport. He entered the country on April 14, 2001, with two Jamaican women and a young girl. Muhammad presented a false birth certificate, and the women and the child also presented false documents, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the case.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service interrogated Muhammad, unsure whether he was a U.S. citizen. The INS contacted the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami, but prosecutors there declined to charge Muhammad, the sources said. A conviction for presenting false identification documents carries a 15-year prison sentence.

Jeez, this guy is like the old joke: he couldn’t get arrested! No wonder he was so confident in his actually rather limited criminal skills.

Here’s more on the Antigua connection. And note that the April 23, 2001 date on this document doesn’t match the story Muhammad apparently told the feds on April 14 about having just changed his name: “One source close to the case said Muhammad told INS agents that he had changed his last name after converting to Islam and that he received the phony certificate to match his driver’s license, which listed his last name as Muhammad.” Kind of embarrassing that they fell for that.

October 27, 2002

BIG STORY ON THE PATRIOT ACT in tomorrow’s Washington Post, setting it up almost as a battle between Viet Dinh and Pat Leahy. One apparent error:

In the year since the Patriot Act was approved, the government has moved quickly to take full advantage of new and existing powers.

More than a thousand noncitizens were detained without being charged last fall, and their identities were kept secret.

If I’m not mistaken, those detentions were pretty much a done deal by the time the Patriot Act took effect, and were not based on its authority.

October 26, 2002

SOMEBODY THINKS I USE THE WORD INDEED a lot, judging by my search-engine referrers.

Indeed I do.

October 26, 2002

JUST WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR! I thought we were way overrated in the preseason polls, and boy was I right.

October 26, 2002

WALTER OLSON HAS A LOT OF LINKS on the Moscow theater attack. Most interesting is this report from the Telegraph:

The Telegraph has learned that a number of Arab fighters, believed to be of Saudi Arabian and Yemeni origin, were among the group that seized control of the theatre.

“There were definitely Arab terrorists in the building with links to al-Qa’eda,” said a senior Western diplomat. “The Russians will now want to know how much help the Chechens received from bin Laden’s organisation.”

Mr Putin had claimed that “foreign elements” were involved and suspicions about al-Qa’eda’s connection deepened after the Chechens broadcast a pre-recorded message on the Qatar-based al-Jazeera television network, which is frequently used by bin Laden and his lieutenants.

Can’t say I’m terribly surprised to hear this, but it’s news nonetheless.

October 26, 2002

LOOKS LIKE IT’S NOT JUST AMERICAN IRAQIS WHO ARE SICK OF SADDAM HUSSEIN — as this article in the New York Times demonstrates:

In a country where the merest hint of dissent had been a death sentence in years past, many foreign reporters have been approached in recent days by individuals offering forbidden thoughts. Taking advantage of moments in which the official “minders” assigned to journalists by the information ministry were distracted, or briefly absent, these Iraqis burst out with vehemence against the government, and often against Mr. Hussein personally.

One man, an out-of-work engineer, sat down beside a reporter relaxing at a Baghdad coffeehouse. After initial pleasantries in English, the man, who gave his age as 58, glanced about to make sure he was not being overheard, then leaned forward and said that almost no Iraqis would support Mr. Hussein if he allowed Iraq’s dispute with the world over weapons of mass destruction to plunge the country into another war.

“We had eight years of war with Iran in the 1980’s, and all we got was death,” he said. “Then we had the war over Kuwait, and more death. Nobody here wants another war. We want jobs. We want peace, not death.” The man left without giving his name, and disappeared quickly into the crowd. . . .

“What the Iraqi people would like to hang on their walls would be banners saying, `Yes, yes, Mr. Bush. Yes, yes, America.’ There are 22 million Iraqis, and every one of them has 100 stories to tell of their suffering under Saddam.” He gestured to the secret police building and added, “If you go there, you are lucky if you live three days, maybe five.”

Hmm. Maybe those Ceaucescu comparisons aren’t so out of place after all. This conclusion sure sounds that way:

Several Iraqis said scores of Baath Party members had mailed their membership cards to party headquarters in recent weeks, apparently in a bid to distance themselves from Mr. Hussein should an American invasion come.

With a membership of about 500,000, the party has a monopoly on virtually all top positions in the government, armed forces and state security agencies — the very apparatus of fear that has kept Mr. Hussein in power. In the past, quitting the party at a time of crisis for Mr. Hussein would have been seen as treachery, and treated as such. But now, apparently, those mailing in their cards have chosen to take that risk in the hope of avoiding something still more menacing — the specter of the kind of vengeance killings that have been seen elsewhere when brutal oligarchies have come tumbling down.

The trick is, of course, that for Saddam to be deposed by Iraqis, they have to believe that the alternative is having him deposed by Americans. Somebody tell these people.

October 26, 2002

ORRIN JUDD says that Harry Belafonte was righter than he knew.

October 26, 2002

BURIED IN THE ANTIWAR COVERAGE: A true man-bites-dog story that isn’t getting much play:

All in all it’s exactly the same as every other story written to cover every other recent Iraq war protest. However, buried down at the bottom of the article is this little nugget:

About 500 Iraqi exiles came to Washington to show support for efforts to remove Saddam from power.

Tamir Musa, an Iraqi who has lived in Michigan for 10 years, said, “The war is good if it goes to kill Saddam Hussein. He has a lot of bombs. He’s terrorist number one.”

The focus of the story is on the hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters, but their presence is to be as expected as flies on a dog turd. And considering the anti-war machine has done this exact same protest two or three times recently, how is this big news? On the other hand, 500 Iraqis show up in Washington to support the war, and this isn’t big enough news to warrant more than two tiny paragraphs at the bottom of the anti-war article?

Apparently not.

UPDATE: Here’s another report on the protests, where Palestinian flags were much in evidence.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here are some photos of the Iraqi demonstrators with “Kill Saddam” signs, etc.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s a firsthand blog account of the protests.

October 26, 2002

CNN WON’T USE THE “T” WORD: “The death toll suffered in bringing an end to the three-day Moscow theatre siege has risen to 90 captives and 50 hostage-takers.”

“Hostage-takers?” Jeez.

UPDATE: Reader James Davila writes:

You can give CNN feedback on their coverage at this link. I’ve just written them a note on their lack of use of the word “terrorist” in the article on the storming of

the Moscow theatre. It would be nice if a few thousand of your readers did the same.

Well, go for it if you’re so inclined.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Michele has noticed, too.

October 26, 2002

THE SNIPER LETTER appears to be influenced by an offshoot of the Black Muslim movement called the “Five Percent” movement — though the Five Percenters apparently don’t regard themselves as Muslims. The evidence seems a bit shaky to me.

UPDATE: Louis Farrakhan acknowledged today that Muhammad was a Nation of Islam member. Which means he’s not really a Muslim at all, at least in the opinion of most non-Nation of Islam Muslims. In fact, I seem to recall that the Saudis actually fund some sort of program dedicated to pointing out that the Nation of Islam isn’t really Islam.

Which isn’t to say that he sees things this way himself, or that he might not have been a Useful Idiot. Stay tuned.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roy Innis is warning of terrorist infiltration into Black Muslim groups, especially those operating in prison.

October 26, 2002

RIAA HONCHO HILARY ROSEN debated file-trading at the Oxford Union and lost. Slashdot has lots of links and information.

October 26, 2002

AID AND COMFORT: Even the New York Times has to acknowledge it. And this quote shows the mindset of the “peace” movement:

“I don’t think there’s any way to sidestep the fact that there have been abuses” in Iraq, she said. “However I come from the United States, and my primary responsibility is to speak out against the U.S.A.”

There was a time, you know, when Americans thought they had a different primary responsibility by virtue of their citizenship, especially when in hostile foreign countries. And, actually, most still do. The rest do stuff like this.

UPDATE: Here’s an article by John Tabin on “peace” activist Kathy Kelly, who’s the speaker quoted above. It’s entitled “Evil’s Enablers.”

October 26, 2002

BILL HOBBS is a fine blogger and journalist who’s looking for work that’s a bit more full-time than what he’s doing for Corante. Somebody hire him.

October 26, 2002

DANIEL DREZNER has thoughts on Bush’s grand strategy. He says it’s more multilateralist than people realize.

October 26, 2002

I HAVEN’T BLOGGED MUCH about the “peace” protests today because I don’t have a lot to say that I haven’t said before. But this passage from a rather sympathetic report says it all:

In Washington, civil rights activist Al Sharpton addressed Mr. Bush, even though the president was at an economic summit in Mexico.

“It would have been good for you to be here, George, so you could see what America really looks like,” Sharpton said. “We are the real America.

Al Sharpton, claiming he’s the real America as he talks to a man who isn’t there. Seems about right.

October 26, 2002

STEVEN DEN BESTE RESPONDS to the anti-warbloggers. Meanwhile, Russell Wardlow describes who we’re fighting in terms that the anti-warbloggers will probably dislike.

October 26, 2002

AZIZ POONAWALLA has a long post on Osama bin Laden’s ignorance of, and misuse of, Islam. It’s well worth reading.

UPDATE: Aziz emails: “I just realized, that I think I just did my first

Fisking. Of OBL, no less :)” Heh. My favorite line in the post is this one, though: “I drive an SUV. Whether I’m killing the Earth or helping muslims do hajj depends on your point of view, I guess.” If I drove an SUV, I’d give the latter response to any green types who complained.

October 26, 2002


BERLIN (AP) – Passports for three of Osama bin Laden (news – web sites )’s wives were found in the apartment of a Yemeni arrested last month in Pakistan and believed to have been the key contact person between the Hamburg cell of Sept. 11 plotters and al-Qaida, a German news magazine reported Saturday.

Der Spiegel, which did not cite sources, said passports for an unspecified number of bin Laden’s children also were found when Ramzi Binalshibh was arrested in Karachi last month. Binalshibh is now in U.S. custody.

Sounds promising to me.

October 26, 2002

THIS POST on Paul Wellstone’s death yesterday drew the following email:

Glenn– Your decision not to discuss the political impact of Senator Wellstone’s untimely death is just a little too slick, too “correct,” and well, a wee bit pompous. Everyone out here knows you’ve thought about the political ramifications of the senator’s death, just the same as we have. Unless you knew the Senator personally, I truly doubt you are in shock or mourning the loss. So why act that way?

Well, the truth is, I just didn’t feel like writing about who was going to take the Minnesota Senate seat after hearing that. I disagreed with Wellstone on some things, but watching them rerun some of his 1990 commercials reminded me why I liked him. He had a sense of humor, he didn’t take himself, or politics, too seriously, and, by all appearances and accounts, he wasn’t a dick.

And while the outcome of the Senate elections is important, I’m kind of tired of seeing it presented like it’s the only important thing in the world, and of seeing people so desperate to win that they’ll say anything. In the words of Chrissie Hynde: “What’s important in this life? Ask the man who’s lost his wife.” Or read this.

October 26, 2002

MICHAEL KAZIN writes on the need for a patriotic Left.

October 26, 2002

BELLESILES UPDATE: Here’s a story in the Boston Globe by David Mehegan, who was on the Bellesiles story early:

At the same time, mainstream scholars raised questions about research Bellesiles did into probate records. His credibility problems were compounded when he said that he had lost all of his research notes in a flood at Emory. A Globe review last year found that San Francisco records Bellesiles cited in his book had been destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire there, and that records in Providence and Vermont contradicted his book and explanations on his Web site. . . .

”His answers raise doubts about his veracity,” the report states. ”He seems to have been utterly unaware of the importance of the possibility of replication of his research. His responses have been prolix, confusing, evasive, and occasionally contradictory. Even at this point, it is not clear that he understands the magnitude of his probate research shortcomings.”

Although the report also says, ”we do not believe it possible to state conclusively that Professor Bellesiles engaged in intentional fabrication or falsification of research data,” it adds, ”we are seriously troubled by Professor Bellesiles’s scholarly conduct. … the failure to clearly identify his sources does move into the realm of falsification.”

Bellesiles is characterized as “defiant.” This seems to me a mistake on his part, though some posters over at HNN expect him to carve out a niche as the “von Daniken of gun history.”

October 26, 2002


October 26, 2002

JOHN MUHAMMAD, frequenter of homeless shelters, had a laptop in his car. Wonder if the cops have it now?

UPDATE: Hmm. “Thompson recalled a laptop computer, its screen glowing blue, on the car passenger seat.” The blue screen of death! I blame Microsoft for driving him over the edge. . . .

October 26, 2002

THE FBI IS NOW HOLDING NATHANIEL OSBOURNE — a Michigan man who is the co-owner of the car used in the shootings — as a “material witness.”

October 26, 2002

HAPPY FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY TO ALFRED E. NEUMAN — and a lesson for those who claim that they’re being “suppressed” today:

The era was the 1950s, the gray flannel fifties, and Mad magazine, which began publishing early in the decade, was so subversive that the FBI actually investigated it, sometimes sending agents to visit the editors and, in the words of an FBI document, “firmly and severely admonish them.”

Mad’s reaction was to draw funny cartoons of J. Edgar Hoover.

Note to Ted Rall: they were funny cartoons.

October 26, 2002

MISSING TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN? This story from the Frontier Post says there are 40. It’s not a tremendously reliable source, and I haven’t seen anything on this elsewhere, but here’s the link for what it’s worth.

October 26, 2002

MERYL YOURISH reflects on the media’s unwillingness to call the Chechen hostage-takers terrorists:

In my lexicon, guerrilla fighters and rebels are names for the people fighting military forces and choosing military targets. The second you move on to deliberately targeting civilians, you are no longer anything but a terrorist. But hey, what do I know? Here’s the AP description of the scene . . . .

Captors. Gunmen. Hostage-takers. Not terrrorists, though many of them were clad in the latest of bomb-belt fashions. Dozens of their hostages are dead today, many wounded, and these simple “rebels” are described as above.

The terrorists have won the language war. Or is it the multicultis and the PC crowds? Certainly, the newsroom staffs across the globe have succumbed to the mindset of—captives. Why else are they so afraid to call a bloodthirsty killer a terrorist?

When is a terrorist not a terrorist? When the media say so.

Mark my words: this is more likely to breed prejudice and vigilantism than to prevent it.

October 26, 2002

A PALESTINIAN WOMAN was dragged from her home and killed in an atrocity that probably won’t get much attention because it was conducted by Palestinians.

October 26, 2002

SPEAKING OF CNN — they’re now calling John Muhammad “John Williams,” in an apparent policy of only calling people by adopted Muslim names when they’re not terrorists. (They don’t call Muhammad Ali “Cassius Clay,” now do they?)

This seems to be part of an overall move to “de-Islamicize” the sniper case. For the authorities, there are two obvious motivations for this. First, if it’s “not terrorism,” then the fact that it happened isn’t a failure of “anti-terrorism.” Second, to the extent that people buy this it makes the anti-American Islamic movement look weaker. For the PC forces of the media, it probably appears necessary to ensure that mobs of peasants with torches and pitchforks won’t set out for the nearest mosque. (Though in fact such distortions make such violence more, not less, likely in my opinion, by breeding distrust of the authorities.)

Anyway, here’s the actual bin Laden fatwa, which clearly encompasses individual acts of terror against America. So the notion that an Islamic terrorist has to be a card-carrying member of Al Qaeda to be a genuine terrorist is absurd under its own terms. Excerpt:

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies–civilians and military–is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of Almighty God, “and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together,” and “fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God.” . . .

We — with God’s help — call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.

(Emphasis added.) Now this doesn’t tell us the specific motivations of John Muhammad, but it does make clear that claims that people who act without a direct connection to Al Qaeda, or people who also rob liquor stories, can’t be Ladenite terrorists are just, well, wrong.

(Fatwa link via Neal Boortz). NOTE: Reader Haggai Elitzur has sent this 1998 analysis of the Fatwa by Bernard Lewis from Foreign Affairs. Lewis’s translation differs slightly; Elitzur says it’s better, but I’m not in a position to judge. Don’t miss this point in which Lewis notes that that even if most Muslims disagree with this kind of reasoning (and they do) only a few need believe it to create problems. STILL MORE: Aziz Poonawalla emails that it’s not a real fatwa, but a call to hirabah (senseless or stupid war), and sends this link to a discussion on alt.muslim on the subject.

UPDATE: And as people have tried to minimize the Al Qaeda connection to the Bali blast, too, it’s worth remembering that bin Laden threatened Australia last year based on its role in the independence of East Timor.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reid Stott emails this link to the arrest warrant, which uses the name “John Williams.” He adds: ” agree with what you’re saying re: playing down the adopted Muslim name, but it isn’t CNN that’s doing it.” Well, it isn’t just CNN. As I said, the government has an interest in playing down this connection, too.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Jay Caruso responds.

STILL MORE: Then there’s this from The Smoking Gun:

A jovial, laughing John Allen Muhammad can be heard on an official audio recording of the alleged sniper’s appearance last year in Pierce County District Court to formally change his name. In April 2001, Muhammad made a brief appearance before Judge Molly Davis to request that his name be formally changed from John Allen Williams for “religion purposes” (he had converted to Islam years earlier). When Davis granted the name change after only a few perfunctory questions, Muhammad joked, “I feel cheated,” since he was not called on to present witnesses or paperwork or approach the bench. “These are fairly routine,” Davis said.

(Emphasis added). There’s streaming audio of the hearing there, and lots of other links. Reader Allan Gornow, who sends the link, remarks: “Perhaps Ted Turner will provide some decent computers to his news operation so they can access significant information about serious stories.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bill Herbert says I’ve gone off the deep end on this issue. Well, I was thinking about why this bugs me so much while I was shopping, Lileks-like, at Target. What this reminds me of is the Administration’s absurd claim last year that no one could possibly have foreseen the 9/11 attacks. It may have been true that the failure to prevent the attacks was entirely non-culpable — but the claim that they were utterly unforeseeable was so absurd that it was an insult.

Likewise, it may well turn out that — despite rather a lot of suggestive evidence — the sniper attacks by a guy named Muhammad who said he supported the 9/11 attackers and who seems to have had a lot of money and airplane tickets for a homeless guy will turn out to be pure, garden-variety nuttiness. But that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people seem to be bending over backward to be sure it looks that way, and that’s why I’m harping on the issue.

LAST UPDATE: Natalie Solent explains what I mean.

October 26, 2002

APPARENTLY CNN DOESN’T CARE, but the news from Algeria is pretty horrifying:

The Algerian news agency says suspected Islamic extremists have killed 21 people from the same family, including a three-month-old baby. The attack took place in the north-western province of Chlef.

Five other people were reported to be in a serious condition with bullet wounds to the head.

How come this stuff doesn’t get covered?

October 26, 2002

TARNISHING THE IMAGE OF ISLAM: SKBubba is concerned that some people may get the wrong idea from recent events.

October 26, 2002

BELLESILES UPDATE: Erin O’Connor worries that Bellesiles isn’t unusual, but is just the tip of the academic-corruption iceberg:

There were peer reviewers who did not do their job when Bellesiles first began publishing his work on early American gun ownership, and there were the editors who chose them. There were editors who ignored the attempts of scholars such as Clayton Cramer to alert them to problems with Bellesiles’ work and there were publishing houses that did not see past the chance to make a buck and a splash. There were prize committees that decorated Bellesiles with top professional honors.

I cannot speak for the quality of Bellesiles’ training, nor do I know any more than anyone else about where in his work methodological carelessness cedes to blatant falsification. But I do know something about what graduate education in the humanities looks like, and I know something, too, about how low on the list of scholarly priorities such non-flashy things as thorough documentation and judicious restraint are. Until we start interrogating our systems of peer review, our patterns of professional reward, and the professional training we do, or don’t do, in our Ph.D. programs, we have not yet begun to address the issues the Bellesiles case raises.

Well, Bellesiles’ behavior was extraordinary — but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of other problems out there. I agree that peer review is highly overrated as a means of catching fraud. Peer review is pretty good at catching unsound methodologies, but true frauds just fake the data, and peer reviewers don’t double-check those.

UPDATE: Chris Fountain emails that the story isn’t in the print edition of today’s New York Times.

ANOTHER UPDATE: John Bono thinks he knows what’s coming next.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Megan McArdle is offering a prize to the first reader who spots a journalist or academic “making reference to, without irony, Bellesiles work “proving” that early Americans didn’t have a lot of guns.”

Like the bogus Marc Herold study on Afghan civilian casualties, I imagine that Bellesiles’ work will live on. And I’m still waiting for a public retraction on the matter from reviewers like Garry Wills. But I’m not holding my breath. Don’t miss this post from Megan, either.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Megan has a winner. Well, sort of. Personally, I think people should be given at least a few days to update their web pages.

October 26, 2002

HERE’S AN UPDATE on the Russian hostage rescue, which appears to have gone well, though not quite as well as it appeared late last night. Apparently 67 hostages are dead, out of about 750. Considering that the building (and the terrorists) were wired with suicide explosives, that’s good.

Interestingly, the report claims that the Russians used a sleeping gas to incapacitate people. I’m somewhat skeptical of this, since knockout gases have been the holy grail of nonlethal-weapons research and as far as I know there haven’t been any good ones developed. Then again, it’s not like I follow the field that closely.

We should be grateful that the Russians managed this so well, as it makes a repetition of these tactics less likely.

UPDATE: There’s more coverage here from the Moscow Times, which is spinning this very positively. I think it is positive, but the spin is quite evident.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Perry DeHavilland is very happy with this outcome, and says that in the long run it’s always safer not to give in to terrorist demands — which is, of course, true.

October 25, 2002


Harper’s repeats statistics already discredited in print by Matt Welch, and seems incapable of reading a UN document. In other words, a pretty typical effort.

October 25, 2002

CNN IS REPORTING that Russian forces are in control of the theater and Chechen leader Barayev is dead. (But he’s been reported dead before more than once — and note the Wahhabi connection.) That’s all at the moment — reports are still rather fragmentary and confused.

UPDATE: Here’s what Reuters has, but it’s pretty skimpy. CNN says approximately 20 dead, but it’s not clear how many are hostages and how many are terrorists.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s a longer story from UPI. And here’s the AP story.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s the latest on what appears to have been a fairly successful antiterrorist rescue mission. And Bill Quick has some thoughts.

October 25, 2002

THE POST HAS THE SNIPER LETTER up in PDF. Tony Adragna has a link and some comments.

October 25, 2002

UH-OH. Explosions and gunfire near the theater in Moscow. Meanwhile Damian Penny observes:

So, in the capital of the world’s second leading nuclear power, hundreds of people are being held hostage by terrorists who are almost certainly connected to the people who murdered 3,000 civilians on 9/11. As we speak, the final showdown between security forces and the terrorists may be beginning. And what are the 24-hour news channels showing?

CNN has Connie Chung talking about the sniper. (Look, they got the fucker, alright?) CTV NewsNet is stuck on its CRTC-mandated 15-minute loop. (Top story: the sniper. When I watched it a couple of hours ago, the Moscow hostage-taking was not even mentioned.) And CBC Uselessworld Newsworld, funded by the Canadian taxpayer to provide an alternative to the horrible, shallow, corporate American news networks, is showing a shocking expose of burlesque houses. (A half hour ago, they were showing Fashion File.) Incredible.


October 25, 2002


October 25, 2002

AN, ER, “IMPERIAL ‘MISTING,'” by Misha, of the recent New York Times article on John Muhammad’s rifle.

October 25, 2002

IT’S NOT ABOUT BELLESILES, but John Rosenberg has a long post on the work of Jon Weiner, best known to readers of InstaPundit as Bellesiles’ last defender in print, who is described as The Nation’s “academic commissar.” Unlike Rosenberg, I never worked at The Nation, and some of this is inside baseball, but there may be some readers who find it interesting.

October 25, 2002

BARRELFISKING: Rachel Lucas replies to Michael Moore.

October 25, 2002

BELLESILES UPDATE: Here’s the story from the Emory Wheel, which will have a longer treatment next week. Meanwhile, Eugene Volokh has this to say about two of Bellesiles’ biggest critics:

I know Lindgren in person, and Cramer by e-mail, and have always had high regard for their work, which was indispensable in bringing this matter to light, and helping correct the historical record. This is not an occasion to congratulate them; but it is one to thank them (and the others who researched the issue and helped publicize the research) for doing well a difficult, unpleasant, but important job.

That seems about right. (Scroll down to here for more).

UPDATE: Reader Richard Heddleson writes:

More interesting than Muhammad’s last name is the total blackout on the wire services of Bellesiles’ resignation from Emory. If this had been Charles Murray or Abigail Thernstrom being forced to resign you know it would have been at the top of the paper.

Checking the wire-service search engines via Drudge, it appears he’s right. There’s no mention whatsoever of the resignation. Disgraceful.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s a summary of the investigative report, from History News Network.

ONE MORE: There’s an AP story finally, though it rather glosses over the charges against Bellesiles, putting him in the same category as other historians accused of using insufficiently attributed quotes.