June 15, 2002

THE "SMALLPOX" OUTBREAK reported by Pakistan's The Dawn turns out to be a chickenpox outbreak. Good.

HOMOPHOBIA isn't actually a phobia. That seems about right to me.

JOSH MARSHALL has a post on the origins of the creepy term "homeland defense".

I'm certainly among the large number who regard it as creepy. But perhaps it's a good thing: given the ineffective-yet-intrusive nature of the domestic-security approach to date, why give it a popular name? One that sounds creepy and slightly unAmerican may, in fact, be perfectly appropriate.

ISTANBLOG is, well, what it sounds like: a blog from Turkey. (By an American living there). I don't pay enough attention to Turkey because. . . well, because I'm a guy who does this as a hobby, and there are only so many hours available for blogging and reading. So I'm glad somebody else is.

JIM BENNETT EXPLAINS why he's not an Anglophile.

MORE STRANGE GOINGS-ON on the Mexican border.

CHARLES JOHNSON identifies bribery as the reason that we're going so easy on Saudi Arabia.

I think this is an issue for the Democrats, if they want one. But will they?

READ THIS POST from Dan Hanson on the Hollings bill. Then get mad.

SFSU UPDATE: Karen Alexander writes in The New Republic about the growth of antisemitism at SFSU and Berkeley. Excerpt:

ProPalestinian activism certainly isn't confined to SFSU and UC Berkeley. But on most campuses the protesters--while often hyperbolic--have been careful to avoid explicit anti-Semitism and threats of violence. When students at Harvard and MIT circulated a petition calling on their universities to divest from companies doing business with Israel, for instance, they were careful to call "the recent attacks on Israeli citizens unacceptable and abhorrent." But in the Bay Area anti-Israel activism has a far more militant and far less liberal flavor. That's not because UC Berkeley and SFSU have unusually large or radical Arab populations; it's because they are home to a deep wellspring of free-floating, hard-left authoritarianism. And unfortunately for Goldstein, today's left-wing authoritarians have set their sights on Israel.

I have hopes that this will lead to closer scrutiny about what's going on at SFSU and Berkeley. Despite the attention generated by the Blogosphere, there's a real tendency among mainstream media to ignore this sort of thing. Compare the relative lack of attention to posters claiming that Jews eat gentile children (mentioned again in this article) to the New York Times reporting of anti-Muslim remarks by a Baptist preacher.

UPDATE: On the Baptist preacher angle, reader Bill Sommerfeld writes:

So one thing the NY Times article conveniently omitted is that Vines is making hay from a traditional (but apparently controversial) Muslim belief that Muhammed married his youngest wife when she was six and consummated the marriage when she was 9. (This was one of many aspects of Muhammed's life which was parodied in "The Satanic Verses").

A Google search for "muhammed aisha wife age" turns up a fair number of polemics on the subject, as well as other references where it's mentioned in passing as context for other Muslim practices.

another link

Um, okay.

ANOTHER UPDATE: InstaPundit intern Kevin Deenihan, whose own blog has been covering these Bay Area shenanigans for some time, blogs some corrections to Alexander's piece.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Gary Farber has comments. So does Meryl Yourish, who got the ball rolling on this story to begin with.

OKAY, I'M OFF TO THE POOL: But have no fear: Gary Farber is back after a hiatus, and posting up a storm.

PHONY VIRUS THREATS: From antivirus software companies! Who'd've thought it possible?

NATIONAL MALAISE? Bush political operatives can't like it that this Reuters piece uses that particular word. But the Carter-era version of "malaise" occurred in no small part because Americans knew that we should have been responding vigorously to the Iranian embassy attack and hostage-holding, but that the powers-that-be were too committed to a Colin-Powell-like strategy of talking rather than doing to mount such a response.

Hmm. Maybe there is a lesson here for Bush, after all.

UPDATE: A few people have written to say that Carter gave his "national malaise" speech some months before the hostage taking. Yeah, but he didn't even use the words. I'm referring to the era, not the speech.

BACK FROM THE LAKE: We took the boat to Calhoun's at the marina, where we took my dad out for an early Father's Day dinner. We cruised around the lake for a while, played several games of "Sorry!" with my daughter, and generally had a lovely evening. We drove back a little while ago. This afternoon I'm taking her to a little-girls' pool party while my wife goes downtown to do some editing on her documentary.

Much happened in my absence. Over 50 comments appeared -- quite good ones for the most part -- on the post regarding the Al-Muhajir confinement. And Eric Alterman ran a letter from one of my former students, Ken Berry (not the guy from "F Troop," I note in response to a reader inquiry that strangely appeared to be entirely serious). Berry says he's a big fan of Chomsky, which only proves (along, sadly, with the quality of grammar and punctuation in his email) that I didn't teach him much. (Actually, I remember Berry as a pretty nice guy; an older student -- though not as old as the actor Ken Berry -- who was something of a lefty, though his enthusiasm for Chomsky was news to me).

Berry wonders if I'm neglecting my teaching and writing to do InstaPundit. Well, my scholarly output hasn't fallen off yet (I have 2 pieces in the pipeline and another one in progress) and my student evaluations -- for whatever that's worth -- were up by a statistically insignificant margin last year. It's mostly a question of efficient use of time, especially small increments of available time (like this one) during the day. That's something that I have to say my years in law practice, where I managed to squeeze in a book and a couple of law review articles on the side, taught me a lot about.

Also, Eugene Volokh has a very interesting post about an important but little-noticed Supreme Court case that's soon to be argued, and Kathryn Lopez emailed to thank me for taking weekend time off, thus lowering pressure on The Corner to keep up. Puhleez.

Mac Frazier has some interesting observations on weblog traffic, and Bill Quick has inaugurated a new feature on "stupid security tricks." Finally, reader Micael O'Ronain sent a review of the Postrel appearance on John Stossel's program last night, which I missed and was too stupid to tape. Micael says Virginia did extremely well, and that the whole show was quite interesting and well done. Maybe this will get Virginia a slot on the revamped "This Week" program -- which I expect would benefit greatly from her presence.

June 14, 2002

IT'S OFF TO THE LAKE FOR ME AND MINE. Blogging will be limited for the next 24 hours or so. Have a nice weekend!

EUGENE VOLOKH HAS A LENGTHY POST on military versus civilian interrogation and confinement of suspected terrorists.

MICKEY KAUS EXPLAINS why "Homeland Security" sounds creepy and notes that Peggy Noonan invites nominations for a better term. Excellent piece.

UPDATE: Also, it's Kaus vs. Kuttner in this story on the American Prospect's finances. I say: let the print magazine go if you must, but keep the online version! And if you can't do that, at least keep the blog!

BRENDAN O'NEILL says (scroll down) that I'm not negative enough about hate-speech laws. Well, there's a first.


Thanks for highlighting the cover story about the Secret Service. I've had a number of interactions with them, and although many of them are clearly very professional, there are a few bad apples who are compromising the security of the President.

A friend of mine has done some advance work when Bush travels to his state. He's encountered similar serious lapses -- classified itineraries just lying around detailing the President's every move. At least once, he's received an e-mail update from the website detailing the President's minute-by-minute schedule days before any of the people who were supposed to be in the loop knew anything (and these schedules are NOT supposed to be released to the public). On one trip, he encountered a rather belligerent agent who repeatedly referred to the "fucking White House," and had to be reprimanded by the higher-ups in D.C. for trying to screw with the order of the motorcade in such a way as to delay the whole trip.

Now, flash back to September 11, and the leak of the code name for Air Force 1. I don't think this is an isolated problem.

Here's the disturbing conclusion: "If you choose to highlight this, you can attribute it to an anonymous correspondent. I don't think I need a knock on my door at 3 AM." Hmmph. I'm tempted to invoke G. Gordon Liddy, but I won't.

TAPPED says that Washington, DC should be able to field a team in the World Cup.

I agree. Of course, I also think that Tennessee should get a seat at the U.N.

After all, if the E.U. is now a nation, it's no sillier than letting, say, France have a seat. In fact. . . .

UPDATE: Interesting response here.

BRINK LINDSEY honors Flag Day by exhuming the British drinking song ("To Anacreon in Heaven") that supplied the tune to "The Star Spangled Banner." His conclusion:

Is this a great country or what? Our national anthem is a patriotic parody of a party song that's all about entwining "the Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" -- or, in other words, getting drunk and doing the nasty. Take that, Osama!

Hmm. Think I'll make a special effort to, ahem, demonstrate my patriotism this weekend.

DAVE TROWBRIDGE EXPOSES another Fisk error, in answer to a question posed by Chris Bertram. I think, though, that Bertram's right on the sentiments even if Trowbridge is right on the facts: I'd give every Saudi visitor an Al Gore-level going-over on general principles. After all, that's where most of the terrorists come from -- and it's where all the terrorists get their ideology.

I JUST NOTICED this writeup of the coming National Press Club weblog panel, by Jennifer Harper. Cool.

THIS STORY FROM USA TODAY describes how Americans studied in madrassas schools that taught their students that Islam requires the destruction of America. They apparently went off to join Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

These guys should be locked up, if they're still alive. I also wonder: Padilla/Al Muhajir picked up Islam in prison. This should make us reconsider who we lock up, and how much religious freedom prisoners are granted. The prison system has been a slow-motion disaster for two or three decades, and here's yet another reason to address it.

HOW TO BE A CEO SUPERVILLAIN: Chris Suellentrop explains, in a piece that's about the press more than it's about the business world.

I HAVE MY DOUBTS about the genuineness of this purportedly autobiographical piece in Salon that Charles Murtaugh pointed out. But I liked it. Especially the ending.

JOHN STOSSEL will have uber-blogger Virginia Postrel on his ABC special tonight at 9 eastern. The topic is "tampering with Nature," and I'll bet that cloning will be discussed.

WOW. The "Al-Mujahir confinement" post below has garnered 65 comments, most of which are very thoughtful. Feel free to add your own.

Hmm. The Al-Mujahir Confinement. Sounds like a Ludlum title, doesn't it?

TAPPED explains why posting has been so light. It's not as good an excuse as Asparagirl's, though.

OUCH! Check out this zinger on Romenesko's letters page:

From GEORGE R. ZACHAR: Michael McFadden says: "... data would suggest that Jews are not at particularly high risk. Vandalism at synagogues in Europe -- where hate crimes against Arabs -- like crime generally are also rising -- does not foretell a Holocaust. It is insultingly simplistic to suggest otherwise." While it is true that crime against Jewish property in Europe has ramped up dramatically, Mr. McFadden is quite correct in saying such action "does not foretell a Holocaust". And the reason is, indeed, "insultingly simplistic". There aren't enough Jews remaining in Europe for there to *be* a Holocaust.

Yeah, and what's worse is that there are a lot of Europeans who are happy about that.

BRIAN LINSE emailed me looking for a response to his gun-show loophole post, but I was kind of busy with the wireless network (laptop now works fine; upstairs computer -- which runs Win98v.1 -- doesn't and probably needs an operating system upgrade) and I'm kind of tired of the whole subject for the moment.

But Jeff Goldstein rose to the bait, and has a good post that I'll incorporate by reference. That's a legal term meaning "I'm too lazy to do it -- read it over there and pretend I did it here."

MORE ON MARS: Leonard David has a cool piece on an experimental Mars aircraft.

UPDATE: Reader John Allison sends this link with more information on similar work being done by hobbyists. Yep, hobbyists. And in a (sort of) related development, here's a fairly cool Los Angeles Times article on Micro-Aircraft. But catch this rather dumb subhead: "The laws of aerodynamics are a big obstacle for designers." Uh, yeah. Why, without having to worry about those pesky laws of aerodynamics, we could design flying bricks powered by thistledown. . . . Do these guys even read what they write?

THIS RICH GALEN item on small businesses sounds a bit hokey, but -- like many things that sound hokey -- is also very true.

MICKEY KAUS fact-checks Robert Reich, a Kaus specialty.

U.S. NEWS has a covers story on problems with the Secret Service. That's a theme that InstaPundit has sounded with some reqularity (Here's an example). The story seems pretty good, though it doesn't really address the increasingly thuggish behavior of Secret Service agents on the protective detail.

Any organization that receives little public scrutiny will inevitably become corrupt and inefficient.

WARP DRIVE: Reader Ray Heasman emails that it's well on the way. Er, okay.

I'm, ahem, skeptical. But I'd love to be wrong.

THE SPOONS EXPERIENCE has some advice for spotting phony news reports. I hope it's being read by Chinese newspaper editors everywhere. Er, well, everywhere in China, anyway.

THE LONG-LOST ASPARAGIRL has reappeared, with an x-rated explanation of what (or should I say who?) has been keeping her from from blogging these past weeks.

A CAR BOMBING AT THE U.S. CONSULATE IN KARACHI killed seven (not counting the bozo with the bomb) and injured 45. No Americans were killed, though. Al Qaeda is being blamed, as you might expect.

STILL MORE ON VENEZUELA from El Sur (and scroll from this post). The good news: the U.S. role is apparently being handled better. The bad news: a delegation from the Carter Center is on its way.

June 13, 2002

OOPS. My Sobran link below knocked the Midwest Conservative Journal offline for a while today due to bandwidth problems. He's moving to a more reliable site: Blogspot! Well, compared to Tripod, it may be.

Christopher, call Stacy.

SUMAN PALIT has some thoughts on document management and nuclear war. A 12-year-old boy and NASA are involved, too.

BTW, I'm posting this via the home wireless network. A firmware upgrade in the wireless card fixed the laptop's problem. The upstairs desktop still has issues, alas. But we're working it, as Ken Layne would say.

THE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT'S effort to seize control of the Internet in that country has been foiled. The goal was feared to be censorship, but the .za domain administrator has moved the primary zone file offshore. The folks on Slashdot seem (mostly) to think he's a hero.

South Africa isn't distinguishing itself in the cause of freedom lately -- from its silence on Mugabe to Mbeki's AIDS policy (or lack thereof) to Mandela's suckup to Libya. And now this. Not very impressive.

UPDATE: Neither is this.


ABDULLAH AL-MUHAJIR has had his habeas corpus petition denied -- though pretty much the only quotes in this story come from his lawyer. It would be nice to know what the judge said.

Still, he's had his day in court for the moment -- more proceedings next week. So you can't exactly say he's being held incommunicado, or outside the law. Perhaps Volokh will have more observations later.

ALEX WHITLOCK admirably addresses a contradiction that I've often observed regarding teen mothers.

VENEZUELA UPDATE: Reader Jorge Schmidt forwards this Miami Herald article saying that Hugo Chavez is facing a "storm of coup threats" as "wary Venezuelans hoard food, guns." He also sends this email report:

I just received an email from Venezuela that confirms today's story in the Miami Herald. It also conveys the sense of unreality and imminent violence permeating the country. Here it is, translated and redacted to protect the identity of my correspondent:

"Dear [me], the stuffed animals arrived Tuesday. Yesterday I operated on the frog to make it look more like the old one, [baby] did not totally reject it, but also does not totally accept it. The elephant I will not operate because [baby] likes it like that, perhaps not to sleep with, but to relax with. I can't tell you how much we appreciate you having sent them. Everything here is very tense, everything is expected, we live on the verge of a nervous breakdown, everyday we expect a military coup, it's been discovered in the past weeks that the government has embezzeled around 11 billion bolivares . . . I don't even know how many zeroes those are . . . so I have milk and diapers and [husband] and my dad are armed with various weapons and ammunition . . . the gun shops have run out of rifles . . . they seem like bakeries . . . well, I have to go, we're closing for lunch."

It seems more and more likely that there will be extreme violence down there soon. I should add that about a month ago, in the wake of the April 11 non-coup, government officials suggested that, in order to reduce tensions around the country, private ownership of firearms should be banned.

Sounds more like they should ban government ownership of firearms, especially after what happened during the last round of protests, but you tend to hear such noises out of a government that's insecure, or that has tyrannical tendencies, or both. There's more reportage over on El Sur.

TONY PIERCE OFFERS helpful math advice for flagburners.

MORE THOUGHTS on the McVeigh / Padilla connection.

FILE SHARING ISN'T HURTING THE MUSIC INDUSTRY -- but this expert wonders why.

VERY COOL STORY BY NOAH SCHACHTMAN at Wired -- it appears that we've discovered a planetary system like ours, a "mere" 41 light years away.

Well, it's not clearly like ours, but it's more like ours than others we've found. It does seem to be clear that planetary systems are common, which suggests that earthlike planets are likely to exist. Start working on that warp drive!

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN THE SUBJECT, YOU PROBABLY ALREADY KNOW, but Amy Welborn is giving the Dallas Bishops' meeting saturation coverage, even to the calls for all the Bishops to resign. And Andrew Sullivan has an essay.

CYNTHIA MCKINNEY UPDATE: Bill Quick reports that Georgia Democrat Zell Miller is supporting Cynthia McKinney's opponent.

THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY is taking over, well, everything.

JOE SOBRAN GETS FACT-CHECKED to within an inch of his life.

IN CALIFORNIA, high government officials like Attorney General Bill Lockyer see prison rape as part of the official punishment process. But now there's a move to do something about it.

I'M A KNIGHT OF THE LAW! Pardon me for a while -- I'll be out shopping for my golden spurs.

KRUGMAN WATCH: With Andrew Sullivan vacationing, others have stepped in, accusing Krugman of material nondisclosure.

CHARLES OLIVER LINKS to this article about Texas Senate candidate Ron Kirk's alleged links to terrorism -- or, more accurately, that claims:

U.S. Senate candidate Ron Kirk is employing an anti-Israel activist who has defended terrorist groups and is friends with American Taliban John Walker Lindh. The Review has also learned that Kirk has received numerous campaign donations from individuals linked with terrorism and anti-Semitism, one of whom also violated U.S. export laws by shipping sensitive technology to Libya and Syria.

I don't know anything about The Austin Review and can't vouch for it. Some of these charges sound unlikely, but then again, so did the notion of Caribou Coffee having links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

I know next to nothing about Kirk, other than that somebody doesn't like him. His website shows that he has support from the Texas Democratic establishment, and his OpenSecrets record doesn't show anything obviously odd (though individual donor names aren't available).

It's certainly possible to make too much of these things: in a six-degrees-of-separation world, nearly everyone can be found to have "links" of some sort, which is why I don't like that word. If the Kirk allegations are true -- or for that matter if they're not -- no doubt we'll hear more on the subject soon.

DESERTPUNDIT informs me that the Arizona Bar is investigating Glendale lawyer Stan Massad, who wrote the threatening letter to the teacher who flunked a still-unnamed high school student.

Let this be a lesson to you, folks. I'm sure his insurance carrier already knows about this, and is reevaluating his premiums even as I write.

UPDATE: Edward Boyd has more on this, including the email address for the Arizona Bar's disciplinary office.

DAN GILLMOR is very unhappy with the detention of Al Muhajir, since he's a U.S. citizen. I agree that that's an important distinction.

If the U.S. government locks up noncitizens, it may be a human-rights violation (or it may not) but it's not politically corrupting. When the government locks up citizens without following Constitutional niceties, it may tempt it to abuse that power, and it may intimidate critics by the threats of such abuse, both concerns that don't exist when noncitizens are involved.

I think that's a good reason for maintaining a firewall between treatment of citizens and noncitizens. One offers a risk (so far, based on Guantanamo, not realized) of human rights violations. The other offers a risk of tyranny, in which the government, which should be the servant of the people, begins to act as master. We're not close to that yet, but we're closer than we were.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh identifies a World War Two case holding that citizens who join enemy belligerents can be imprisoned without trial for the duration of the war:

On the points made about the detention of the dirty bomber, I think this case is instructive: In re Territo, 156 F 2d 142 (9th Cir 1946), [which holds] that a citizen who is an enemy belligerent [there, a prisoner of war] can be held without trial for the duration of the war. The only question is whether the Executive's determination of belligerent status is subject to habeas [corpus] review. I believe that it is, and should be, and I predict that the dirty bomber will seek habeas, and that the Executive will present its evidence, and that the federal courts will determine that he is in fact an enemy belligerent subject to detention without trial.

JUST ADDED A NEW COUNTER: The Extreme Tracker only counts visitors to this front page; it doesn't see anyone who follows a link to an individual post. (It also apparently can't see anyone who has Java disabled). It's open, too. Since the Sitemeter just went up, it won't be accurate for today's totals, but it should make an interesting comparison starting tomorrow.

I don't know if I'll keep these up forever (a couple of people have complained that it's an invasion of privacy since it shows some information on the last few visitors) but in the interest of transparency I'm doing it for a while at least.

JAMES LILEKS explores Caribou Coffee's connections to terror, or at least to the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideas. He says their coffee's bad, too.

LIVIN' THE BLOGGING LIFE: John Hiler notices that he's not just getting book and music recommendations from bloggers -- now he's reading unpublished books and listening to unsigned bands that he found out about through bloggers. And he likes it! Yeah, I think that's a growing trend.

In fact, I think that the growth of these forms of micro-publishing is what really has the MPAA and RIAA scared. They're not so much worried about piracy as competition. And they should be.

UDPATE: Dave Winer agrees.

BRUCE HILL SAYS THAT IN THIS WAR, we don't need to hate the enemy. He's onto something. When I see these guys' faces I don't feel hatred. Frankly, they tend to look like pathetic goofballs.

Yeah, they're evil and bad, and they're dangerous and have to be stopped. But I can't really summon up a lot of hatred. And that probably would bother them even more.

UPDATE: Will Allen writes:

If this war is prosecuted with efficient ruthlessness now, hating the enemy will not be required. If this is not done, however, and the enemy has success in pursuing his logic, then this society may well decide to pursue a logic that WILL require hating the enemy, which will have terrible effects for this society. Much as slavery is toxic to the enslaver, massive slaughter is toxic to the slaughterer. All the more reason to prosecute this war with tremendous urgency now, so as to avoid what may be required later. There are times in which this conflict seems to have entered a "phony war" stage, in which goals seem to be muddled or put off. Hopefully, this is not the case; that our war leaders are quietly taking care of business while setting the stage for what must happen, which is a wholesale change in much of the Islamic world. One of "Rumsfeld's rules" is that when one is faced with an intractable problem, the most effective response is to enlarge it. This problem needs to be enlarged beyond Al Queda and Iraq to include Iran (where a substantial population wishes to rid themselves of the mullahs), Syria, and most of all, our "friends" on the Arabian peninsula, who use their oil money to fund entities from Nigeria, to Pakistan, to the Phillippines, and beyond, which kill Americans with great glee. Put bluntly, the House of Saud is an enemy of the United States. It is time that we approach them as one, lest far more horrible methods become necessary later.

Indeed. I agree that not taking the situation seriously now is likely to lead to a situation where far more will be required, to everyone's detriment.

MUSIC DOWNLOADS: Yesterday I posted a link from Slashdot saying that Sony and Universal were planning to sell reasonably-priced music downloads without "crippleware." But LawMeme doubts that this is true.

BY NOW a lot of people have heard the story of the high school senior whose parents threatened to sue the teacher who -- apparently quite properly -- flunked her. Now this editorial raises the question that has occurred to me: Why don't we know the names of those parents?

The girl's parents, who have done nothing to deserve the anonymity this and other reports afford them, have performed perhaps even a worse service than the district. Perhaps even worse than the lawyer.

They've made clear to their daughter that failure is never her responsibility. And that is a terrible message for any parent to send.

Yeah, they don't deserve anonymity. Maybe the girl's a minor -- but is there a general rule of never reporting a minor's name? I don't think so. And why not report the parents' names? They're not minors. Yeah, sure, that would get the daughter's name in public. But given that they threatened a lawsuit, well, that goes with the territory. I don't see why they should be cut a break here. In fact, the letter sent by lawyer Stan Massad seems to border on extortion, something that the Arizona Bar should perhaps look into (and if I received such a letter I would lodge a disciplinary complaint): "Of course, all information regarding your background, your employment records, all of your class records, past and present, dealings with this and other students become relevant, should litigation be necessary." Whether or not this constitutes a crime or a violation of legal ethics isn't for me to say -- but anyone willing to threaten to make private facts public in order to get an action they desire from a public employee surely has no standing in demanding that his/her own privacy be respected.

The press's bizarre incidents of over- and under-sensitivity baffle me.

UPDATE: Reader David Bernstein writes:

Often, the difference between illegal extortion and legal "encouraging settlement" is whether the deman has an attorney's signature. Remember the case of the women who claimed that Bill Cosby had fathered her daughter? If she had cut an attorney in for 1/3 of her claim, she would have been immune from extortion charges, so long as the attorney had a good faith belief that she *might* be telling the truth. Or am I wrong?

Well, it depends. Yes, it's true that filing a lawsuit inevitably means that otherwise private information will become public, and that threatening to file a lawsuit isn't, itself, extortion. The question is, if a lawsuit is sufficiently frivolous (as this appears to be based on the press accounts I've seen and heard), should that rule hold? This ties in with a bigger problem: that of attorneys using threats of frivolous litigation to extort (in the generic, not the specific legal sense) things from people to which they're not entitled. (Look at some of the threatening letters sent by technology companies in IP cases, for example, some of which are worse than Massad's letter).

I've talked with a colleague who specializes in this area, and he believes that a lot of lawyers are doing things that should -- and ultimately will -- subject them to discipline, civil litigation, and perhaps even criminal charges, based on an unjustified belief that anything you do relating to litigation is, somehow, not subject to such sanctions. I believe that this is a subject that deserves far more attention.

Actions like Mr. Massad's certainly serve to bring the profession into disrepute, and to undermine people's faith in the legal system. Unfortunately, people often cave in to them.

UPDATE: Max Power has more on this. But I wasn't talking so much about filing frivolous lawsuits, as threatening to file a frivolous lawsuit. The former may be constitutionally protected (though in some cases I think bad faith should trump that) but it's also subject to sanction via Rule 11, etc., at least in theory. The threats -- which sometimes include objectively false statements of the law addressed to nonlawyers; there was a doozy linked via Slashdot a few months ago that I can't seem to find now -- seem to me to fall outside the First Amendment, and well within the bounds of attorney discipline. The teacher's letter in response, by the way, makes the point that discovery cuts both ways. It also says that the student (whose name the paper removed) is an adult -- so I'll repeat:

Why are the papers keeping the studen'ts name secret?

SURE TO UPSET SOME, this high-school yearbook has a special section on its students who are mothers or pregnant.

UPDATE: Ross over at The Bloviator emails to say that he had this link up on Monday. Er, okay. I'm amused by his Chess Club analogy. If teenage pregnancy becomes as popular with highschoolers as the chess club, well, that'll be the end of it.

NO TANK YOU: Howard Bashman has an amusing report of a tank-repossession case. Bashman's summary might leave the impression that it is illegal for individuals to own tanks, though. Actually (as numerous emailers informed me last fall when I posted something tank-related) there are quite a few people who collect tanks, and a couple of wealthy individuals who have more working tanks than some third-world nations.

Is this a great country, or what?

June 12, 2002

DEN BESTE responds to Eric S. Raymond and wins a convert. I want a T-shirt too.

OKAY, you've seen the Al Muhajir / John Doe No. 2 pictures. But this is an even creepier resemblance.

ACCORDING TO THIS ARTICLE IN THE AMERICAN PROSPECT, America needs more rich unwed mothers!

UPDATE: Okay, that was a bit of a tease. But then again, read this:

High-achieving women are far less likely than women in the general population to have children out of wedlock. Only 7 percent of never-married high-achieving women between 28 and 35 had had children, according to the CPS. In contrast, fully 32 percent of other never-married working women had done so. One hardly need look farther afield to explain why only 60 percent of high-achieving women had children at ages 36 to 40, whereas among working women generally the figure is 66 percent. High-achieving women are simply much more reluctant to take on single motherhood.

The so-called baby bust thus has far less to do with female accomplishment or age-related infertility than it does with the persistence of traditional values among economic elites. For high-achieving women, it might as well still be the Eisenhower era, which was the last time the nation as a whole had such a low rate of unmarried births. Because of high-achieving women's greater behavioral conservatism, it is marriage -- not degree of professional success -- that is the single largest determinant of whether they will have children.

See where the high-income baby-bust comes from? Sure, TAPPED coyly suggests later on that rich women should just consider marrying younger men -- but the data speak for themselves, and they're up front. And that would get us out of that dreadful Eisenhower era!

Er, or you could conclude that the avoidance of unwed motherhood has a causal relationship to "elite" economic status, I suppose.

MICKEY KAUS has picked up on my reference to Dave Winer's post on what newspapers should do about weblogs, and is giving it the Mickey Seal of Approval.

That's very generous of him considering our newfound rivalry: Moira Redmond of Slate emailed today that she wore an InstaPundit t-shirt to a Slate editorial meeting, and that Mickey immediately tried to outbid me for her affections with the offer of a "Kausfiles" coffee mug.

Of course, my initial reaction was: "Kaus goes to editorial meetings?"

SLASHDOT has an interesting thread on the latest music-download happenings. Record companies are reportedly going to allow singles to be downloaded for $0.99 and full CDs for $9.99, without annoying "crippleware," etc.

Well, they should: a CD at that price probably costs them about $0.01 to "manufacture." There's also some interesting debunking of their "global piracy" claims, and some technical observations (natch).

I GOT A LOT OF EMAILS ON DDT. So did the mysterious "Juan non-Volokh" at The Volokh Conspiracy, so I'm incorporating his posts by reference. Start at this one and scroll up.

READER JOHN KLUGE WRITES in response to this post:

Its very funny that your liberal colleagues are scratching their heads over the Supreme Court's evisceration of the 6th Amendment right to confront witnesses. Strict constructionists have argued for years that broad readings of the Constitution create a slippery slope for civil liberties. No one has listened. Instead, liberals have created this straw man that anyone on the Right who disagrees with them is automatically against civil liberties.

Yes, unrestrained governmental bodies are fine as long as they're doing what you like. But, really, how long are they likely to keep that up?

BRIAN FINCH SAYS OUR ANTI-TERRORIST PLANS are looking in the wrong direction.


SOME GOOD ADVICE from Jim Dunnigan. I took a similar lesson from Max Boot's book, The Savage Wars of Peace, which is excellent.

35 TRILLION CHILDREN GUNNED DOWN! Er, either that, or someone who's a mathematical illiterate, reports Minute Particulars. I think I've seen this story before, but it bears repeating.

MUSIC INDUSTRY SALES ARE DOWN? People must be stealing the product.

I mean, it couldn't be because it sucks.

"HE'S STILL IN FEDERAL CUSTODY" -- Reader Natalie Cohen sends this slightly surreal story on John Gotti's post-demise activities.


I also find it interesting that the articles refer to al Muhajir as Jose Padilla. Most of the press seems to prefer to call him by his birth name, rather than the name he has chosen just as they refuse to call John Lindh by the Muslim name he has adopted. Funny, no one calls Muhammad Ali Cassius Clay or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lew Alcindor. Are we supposed to believe that only good guys truly convert to Islam?

UPDATE: One Hand Clapping wonders the same thing.

JOHN CARTER, ROLE MODEL: Orrin Judd emails with this interesting essay on the political and moral dimensions of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

NOTE: The link to the Flashbunny video on the gun show loophole has been unreliable, apparently. Try this one instead. It may just be that it was slashdotted -- Kopel linked it from The Corner, too.

Or maybe it's Sarah Brady's minions at work. Flashbunny emails that she's got her tinfoil hat on, just in case.

A BUNCH OF PEOPLE have said that I'm wrong about the DDT ban saving birds, and have sent this link to JunkScience.Com. Er, okay.

ENJOY THESE LETTERS from the National Post in response to Matt Welch's piece. Note the linguist who says a number of unflattering things about Chomsky's professional persona and then adds:

Welch's most important point, however, is that because of Chomsky and others like him, dissent has itself become discredited. Its state is parlous if not terminal. Without credible and dispassionate dissent, government tends inexorably to excess. So do academic theories. Chomsky's legacy may yet prove to be an ironic one: that U.S. government and that of the West generally may slip into true tyranny for lack of balance.

Yes, yes, yes. Dishonest and sloppy dissent isn't just cheesy. It's destructive. That's why there's no value to "dissent" generally, independent of its substance.

DAVE WINER has advice for newspapers on what to do about weblogs. It's good advice, too. Oh, and I just ran across this Doc Searls post (via Winer, natch) on the New York Times story from Monday.

ERIC ALTERMAN IS DEFENDING Bush's intelligence and teen sex, in that order.

SKBUBBA has his own war-on-terror alert system.

RACHEL CARSON DISS-A-THON: Ron Bailey joins the growing group of Carson skeptics.

Carson was also an effective popularizer of the idea that children were especially vulnerable to the carcinogenic effects of synthetic chemicals. "The situation with respect to children is even more deeply disturbing," she wrote. "A quarter century ago, cancer in children was considered a medical rarity. Today, more American school children die of cancer than from any other disease [her emphasis]." In support of this claim, Carson reported that "twelve per cent of all deaths in children between the ages of one and fourteen are caused by cancer."

Although it sounds alarming, Carson’s statistic is essentially meaningless unless it’s given some context, which she failed to supply. It turns out that the percentage of children dying of cancer was rising because other causes of death, such as infectious diseases, were drastically declining.

In fact, cancer rates in children have not increased, as they would have if Carson had been right that children were especially susceptible to the alleged health effects of modern chemicals. Just one rough comparison illustrates this point: In 1938 cancer killed 939 children under 14 years old out of a U.S. population of 130 million. In 1998, according to the National Cancer Institute, about 1,700 children died of cancer, out of a population of more than 280 million. In 1999 the NCI noted that "over the past 20 years, there has been relatively little change in the incidence of children diagnosed with all forms of cancer; from 13 cases per 100,000 children in 1974 to 13.2 per 100,000 children in 1995."

As I mentioned in the September 3 post I reference below, I enjoy seeing the blue herons, bald eagles, and other birds that have come back as a result of the DDT ban -- but I feel kind of guilty that my enjoyment is purchased at the cost of millions of third-world deaths from DDT-preventable disease.

It's a surprise that more people don't feel bad about that.

TRUMMEL CASE UPDATE: William Hobbs reports that his Blogtivism regarding Paul Trummel, who has been imprisoned by Washington State judge Jim Doerty in violation of the First Amendment (because he's not a "paid journalist") is having an effect. Just check out Doerty's reelection website, especially its Guestbook where a number of vocal First Amendment fans are taking Doerty to task.

Better check soon, though -- I rather doubt this will stay up.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has more on web censorship. Censors are scum. Pure and simple. And if you don't understand the Constitution, you're not fit to work for the government.

DAVID TELL has some devastating stuff about Arab antisemitism.

These guys aren't our friends. And given their colonialist approach to the rest of the Muslim world, they aren't really anybody's friends.


Howdy from Senegal! Made it over with no real problems -- aside from having to spend eight sucky hours in the crappy Paris Airport. Food sucked (but cost a fortune), seats were uncomfortable, people were rude. France in a nutshell. Oh, and the plane had to sit on the runway for an extra hour before taking off. I was pleased to get to Dakar where the airport staff were so friendly and efficient!

Slept like a stone last night, got up and went exploring with one of the panelists from Nigeria (though he teaches in Britain). We've had a grand time, and are now both e-mailing via a high-speed internet connection for 75 cents an hour. Woohoo!

And... the beer is cheap and the Senegalese women are BABES.

People laughed a few weeks ago when I said that Europe would be in danger of being eclipsed by Africa in a few decades. But I really believe that if Africa were liberated from the crappy kleptocratic governments it's suffered under, the energy and ambition of Africans might produce just that.

And when I was last in Paris, I definitely thought that the Senegalese women there were the most attractive women I saw. Perhaps they should invite a bunch over to staff the airports.

JUST HEARD ONE OF MY COLLEAGUES talk over lunch (we do this weekly during the summer) about how the Supreme Court has eviscerated the Constitutional provision allowing defendants to confront witnesses against them. It's a classic slippery slope, in which initially narrow exceptions have consumed the rule. Being a curmudgeonly textualist, I think "confront" means confront, and isn't satisfied by things like "other indicia of reliability" or video monitors.

Interestingly, Justices Scalia and Thomas take more or less the same position, which had some of my traditional-lefty colleagues scratching their heads a bit. But in criminal matters, it's not at all clear that strict construction is worse for defendants than creative judging.

JUAN NON-VOLOKH says that DDT has gotten a bum rap. He's not the only one to take that position, as this rather elderly InstaPundit post entitled "Rachel Carson, mass murderer?" illustrates.

WELL, I'M BACK -- but later than I expected, and now I have a faculty meeting to go to in a few minutes. Here's the direct link to my TechCentralStation column, which combines constitutional law with Mars colonization.

June 11, 2002

I HAVE TO GIVE A TALK TOMORROW MORNING, so posting will get off to a late start. But my column should be up on TechCentralStation around 9 A.M. Eastern.

NOW IT'S TED BARLOW ENDORSING NUCLEAR POWER! Well, it really is a lot cleaner than coal, you know.

And compared to dirty bombs -- and real nuclear wars looming possible in South Asia -- nuclear plants just don't look as scary any more.

ERIC OLSEN joins in the chorus saying that Eritrea is the key to beating the Ladenites.


DAVID HOGBERG looks into charges of racism at Iowa State.

UPI REPORTS FROM PAKISTAN that more men of American origin have been arrested as part of a roundup of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists. Details are scarce, but we're told that they were under surveillance for an extended period. Also, there have been more arrests in Morocco.

IT'S NOT JUST NOAM CHOMSKY'S POLITICS THAT ARE DISCREDITED: His linguistic opinions aren't faring so well either.

POSTING WILL BE LIGHT TONIGHT, as I'm kind of busy at the moment. But my FoxNews column got moved up to today, so you can read that if you're desperate for more of my blather. It's about homeland security.

Read this post too, which offers the frightening possibility that Bush is to the left of Garrison Keillor on profiling and homeland security.

HERE'S some background on "dirtybomber" Abdullah Al-Muhajir. Nice guy.

DESPITE ALL THE TALK ABOUT "HATE SPEECH," Jay Caruso has discovered that California campuses are tolerating a lot of antisemitic nastiness from Muslim students.

I'm against hate speech rules, of course. But I'm against one-sided application of them even more. And you know these schools wouldn't be tolerating this kind of thing from, say, the Klan.

IS YOUR TEEN A TERRORIST-IN-THE-MAKING? Ken Layne offers helpful tips for parents.

EUGENE VOLOKH has more links and information on citizenship-stripping, military commissions, and other relevant topics.

AN AL QAEDA / MCVEIGH CONNECTION? That's what this item at The Corner suggests. It certainly bears further inquiry.

UPDATE: Wow -- look at these pictures.

THERE'S THE SPIRIT: A French "anti-racism" group is criticizing Oriana Fallaci over her latest book, which suggests that radical Islam is a threat to freedom. She's responding by threatening to sue them for calling her racist. Bravo.

I'd like to know more about the "Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between People" that's after her. Who are they?

UPDATE: Reader Zach Barbera sends this link to a story about their involvement in the effort to censor Nazi material from eBay. He says that's a sign that they're not all bad. I would disagree. It's better to be a nonpartisan censor than a partisan one (of the sort we find on many college campuses) but it's better not to be a censor at all.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Neal Dodd emails from France with this information:

The MRAP seem to have been keeping interesting company in that link you posted to the Unesco site: I noticed that they had been working with Thierry Meyssan, of the Reseau Voltaire. You might remember Meyssan as the writer of that ludicrous tract claiming that no plane crashed into the Pentagon on September 11th.

There are a few interesting stories on MRAP's home page: - although it doesn't seem to have been updated for a few weeks.

While they have a history of fighting anti-Semitism, today they fall very firmly on the Palestinian side; Back in December, they claim that their offices were attacked and their staff threatened by "fascistes pro-israР№liens". That said, they do attempt a certain balance by condemning violence on both sides - their president was interviewed in the leftish daily L'Humanitie recently, and condemned the attacks on synagogues in France, stating that "racism is never the answer". While he does link the attacks to events in the Middle East, he at least admits that they are racist.

Well, that's something, I suppose.

EUGENE VOLOKH HAS SOME TENTATIVE THOUGHTS on the imprisonment of the "dirtybomber." Well worth reading.

MORE AL QAEDA ARRESTS IN MOROCCO. Say, did you notice that there are Saudis involved?

Meanwhile a reader points out:

On a more hopeful note, Mujahir has all the hallmarks of being a moron--waving pistols around over a traffic dispute, juvie hall, gang affiliation, county lockup. Like that character in "Snowcrash", he might as well have "POOR IMPULSE CONTROL" tatooed on his forehead. If this is their top-flight American agent we're not doing badly.

Yeah, topflight human resources aren't their strength. But persistence and a willingness to learn from mistakes will take you a long way.

And the "Snowcrash" reference is way cool.

EVEN ROBERT SCHEER is writing off Arafat:

Arafat has failed the ultimate test of a revolutionary leader, which is to take his people past the stage of violence to that of self-governance. He has lacked the integrity to challenge the desperation and temporary effectiveness of suicide bombings--tactics that are ultimately suicidal not only for the individual but for the cause of Palestinian statehood. He has failed to encourage the committed and talented youth of Palestine to become honest administrators, tough negotiators and brave truth-tellers, and instead has sent them off to die as mute bomb-bearers.

Facing such a dominant army, those who are stateless can only win by proving their case in the court of world opinion. By embracing the self-immolation of his own people as their most reliable weapon, Arafat has failed miserably to do this. By surrendering to the agenda of the religious fanatics who have long opposed him, as well as the more secular crazies within his own political coalition, Arafat has sabotaged the hopes of moderate Israelis and Palestinians and those who support them abroad.

Rebellion has a long, proud history, in our country and elsewhere, when fueled by the desire of regular citizens to pursue a normal life without abuse and threat.

A rebellion that feeds on the allure of martyrdom and the sacrifice of children, however, can find its end only in more pain and darkness.

It's Scheer, of course, so he still manages to blame the Israeli electorate for having "turned its back" on Barak, and to blame Bush for having "long ignored" (I guess that would be 8 months "long") the plight of Palestinians. But such blame doesn't mean much, given that Barak had the poor judgment to trust a man who no longer enjoys the support even of Robert Scheer. If Scheer wants to blame Bush, he should blame him for still taking Arafat seriously, when even the Robert Scheers of the world know better now.

ANOTHER TERRORIST BOMBING in Israel. I hope the victims sue the European Union.

THE ONTARIO CLEAN AIR ALLIANCE, which the Globe and Mail describes as a "major Ontario environmental group," has released a report pointing out the clean-air benefits of nuclear power.

It's greenhouse-friendly, too!

ZUBAYDAH'S PROTEGE: According to this report, "dirtybomber" Al Mujahir was captured Al Qaeda leader Zubaydah's protege. This supports the notion that Zubaydah is actually producing useful intelligence.

BETTER THAN NOTHING, BUT NOT BY MUCH: The EU's "suspension" of funding to the Palestinian Authority, because of the PA's diversion of that money to support terrorist acts, is likely to last only until June 19 according to this report.

What possible assurance could the EU receive by then that its money isn't supporting terrorism? Especially in light of this poll indicating that Palestinians don't want independence but the elimination of Israel?

UPDATE: On the good news side, the EU is reportedly expanding its list of terror groups to include Hezbollah, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). These groups are subject to asset freezes, etc.

TAPPED is right to worry about civil liberties. I stand by my prediction from September 14th, which the new Homeland Security reorganization seems to be vindicating:

I have no doubt, even as I write this, that longstanding bureaucratic wish lists are being transformed into "essential" anti-terrorist precautions. I also have no doubt that most of them won't do any more good than the dumb "are you a terrorist?" questions immigration officials have been asking embarking passengers for years. . . .

"Increased security measures" don't stop terrorists, except for the occasional bumbling amateur. To put it bluntly, bullets stop terrorists. Terrorists do what they do because it works: it spreads terror, it inconveniences and disrupts societies, and it leads to the adoption of cumbersome security measures that increase the inconvenience and disruption and burden law enforcement and antiterrorist forces with so many pointless tasks that they're actually less effective against future terrorism. If terrorism doesn't work, if the consequences are serious and the payoffs small, then terrorism will stop.

Despite the wish lists of bureaucrats, let's remember who the real enemy is. And let's take the war to him, not to the American people.

This said, I think that those who have cried wolf over unimportant issues (like the allegedly-dreadful conditions at the Club Med-like Guantanamo Bay prison camp) have done a lot of harm, by making it harder for those who point out real problems to be taken seriously.

STRATEGYPAGE has two excellent articles today. The first is on Grand Strategy for the War on Terrorism:

The only feasible means of protecting America's homeland from foreign terrorist attack is to eliminate all terrorist-supporting states. We opposed some foreign terrorism before 9/11, but weren't at "war" with terrorism in general. 9/11 forced us to recognize that most foreign terrorists and their state sponsors cooperate to a greater or lesser degree, and that our security requires rooting out what has grown into a connected system of world terrorism and the state sponsors of its disparate parts.

President Bush indicated in a recent speech that all governments which continue to use terrorism as instruments of state policy, if only to deflect their own people's anger away from themselves towards us, will be forcibly replaced. He did not, however, mention what will happen when replacing a government won't improve the situation, which will usually be the case with failed/failing states.

Their fate will be extinction. I.e., failed and failing states which have served as terrorist sanctuaries will be conquered and occupied by a friendly country (us if necessary) with the means and ruthlessness to root out terrorist infrastructure.

This is a fundamental change in the post World War II order. Borders will change and whole countries cease to exist. The world will be rearranged to further our domestic security, and we will act preemptively rather than waiting for attack. These are logical and necessary implications of America's new policy, i.e., we'll get there eventually despite claiming the contrary now.

It's a bit hard in places to tell which parts are descriptive of the Bush strategy and which are prescriptive, but it's all worth reading. This article on terrorist radiological weapons is also useful and troubling.

WALTER OLSON reports that they're trying to ban Oriana Fallaci's new book in France for "Islamophobia," (a term used in this nasty review in (where else) The Guardian). Apparently it's evil to point out that people are trying to destroy the culture of openness and freedom, since it might encourage someone to want to do something to defend it. This is what hate-speech laws do -- punish people who point out the haters, while leaving the haters untouched.

UPDATE: Do you think they regard Oriana Fallaci as a "premature anti-Islamofascist?"

HERE'S A LINK (courtesy of the indispensable Charles Johnson) to streaming audio of a Charles Krauthammer speech on "Oslo Messianism" that's getting rave reviews. I haven't actually listened yet (it's 30 minutes long) but it comes highly recommended.

JUST A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO -- in between phoning in pieces on gun control -- Nick Kristof was writing that we weren't going to accomplish anything in the Phillipines. Judging by this report from the Washington Post he was wrong.

JOE KATZMAN has a lot of very detailed thoughts about dirty bombs, the Al Mujahir arrest, and what it says about Al Qaeda's capabilities. Very interesting stuff, and well worth a read.

ORIANA FALLACI explains why the French people shouldn't be blamed for the idiocies of the French intelligentsia in a piece that Chris Newman has translated and posted here.

LOVING AMERICA: H.D. Miller has some interesting observations on the poll I linked yesterday that shows young educated Muslims admiring America.

DUELING AMBULANCES: Dr. Manhattan has identified an interesting juxtaposition.

ATTENTION D.C. BLOGGERS AND BLOG-READERS: I'll be up in DC on June 28, doing a panel on weblogs at the National Press Club with Mickey Kaus, James Lileks, James Taranto, and some other folks. It's sponsored by The Idler; here's a link to their press release. Should be fun.

PAKISTAN SMALLPOX UPDATE: Several readers have emailed to suggest that the outbreak described by The Dawn is really monkeypox. Monkeypox has symptoms similar to smallpox and can be fatal. It's found only in Africa, but has been discussed as a possible bioweapon, and there's some evidence that Iraq has been working with it. Thus we might be dealing with an accidental release.

This is possible, though I believe that monkeypox is far less contagious than smallpox. That makes it more appealing as a bioweapon (smallpox is too contagious) but makes the likelihood of "rapidly spreading" cases due to accidental release less, it seems to me.

UPDATE: Reader Micael O'Ronain sends this link to a story with more information on monkeypox and biowar research thereon.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader sends this explanation, which I hope is true:

Another possibility that has surfaced is that measles is sometimes translated from the Arabic as "the small pox" - this evidently has led to many false alarms in the past. Measles would of course fit the symptomology described in the article.

But would Pakistanis expect the government to do something about an outbreak of measles?

June 10, 2002

ERIC RAYMOND EXPLAINS why he's not a liberal. Or a conservative. Too bad he doesn't have comments on his page; they'd be filling up fast.

GLOBAL POVERTY & INCOME INEQUALITY ARE DROPPING LIKE STONES! That's what this article from Business Week (courtesy of reader Todd Bass) says:

Critics of globalization say free trade and cross-border investment have benefited the rich at the expense of the poor. They argue that the ranks of the poor are growing, and that the disparity between rich and poor has grown.

The truth is more cheerful, says Xavier Sala-i-Martin, an economist at Columbia University. He calculates that the fraction of the world's population below the poverty line (defined as an income of $2 a day in constant 1985 dollars) fell to 19% in 1998 from 41% in 1970 (chart).

Overall inequality has decreased as well. One way economists measure inequality is by the Gini coefficient, a zero-to-one scale on which zero means each person in the world has the same income and one means that a single individual collects the world's entire income. Sala-i-Martin estimates the world's Gini coefficient fell to 0.63 in 1998 from 0.66 in 1970.

Rising incomes since 1980 in China and India, the world's most populous nations, account for most of the improvement. In contrast, poverty worsened in Africa. In 1970, 11% of the world's poor were in Africa and 76% were in Asia. By 1998, Africa's share of the poor had risen to 66% and Asia's had fallen to 15%.

Hmm. Could this be because Asia has become more capitalism-friendly, while Africa remains mostly in the hands of faux-socialist kleptocracies?

FROM OUT OF NOWHERE there's a huge explosion, with a mushroom cloud climbing to the sky. Quick, launch the nukes before we lose them all!

What? It was only an asteroid strike? Oops. Sorry.

Not such a surprising scenario; strikes like this are observed every few years, usually in the many empty places of the Earth (the North Pacific, and the South Atlantic, to pick a couple in the past twenty years that happened to be seen from aircraft). And they look a lot like nuclear detonations: big fireball, mushroom cloud, etc. Since there are so many more empty places than populated places on earth -- most of 'em way out to sea -- that's usually where it happens. But not always. It would be bad if one hit somewhere near India or Pakistan now, for example. And one hit in Kazakhstan in the 1940s. (Good thing it wasn't 20 years later -- or 60 years later).

There are some technical things you can do (the U.S., and probably Russia, and maybe some other countries -- but not Pakistan or India, probably -- have the capability to tell the difference in near-real-time, or close enough to avoid accidentally launching in response to a nonexistent attack). But when you've got a lot of people sitting on nuclear weapons, with enemies close by so that you have only a few minutes instead of the 15-20 minutes of the Cold War era to react, you've got a recipe for accidental war.

HMM. ZACH BARBERA thinks he's spotted a practice run for an Iraqi overthrow operation.

STEVEN DEN BESTE has the answer to why all the college sex columnists are women. I think he's right.

UPDATE: Reader William Wyatt adds this point:

A refinement on den Beste's observation that serves to prove his point: it
is not testosterone alone, but heterosexual testosterone, that is the big
enemy. As a more general proposition, when a columnist who is not a
heterosexual male "writes about sex or expresses interest in it, it's
refreshing, liberating, a sign of the times. When a [heterosexual] man
writes about sex, he's a pervert." Dan Savage illustrates the point.

Yes, it's the baleful influence of Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin at work. Those two have poisoned the well for twenty years.

A LASER-POWERED PAPER PLANE doesn't sound like much. But this research could lead to dirt-cheap space launch. The energy cost to put a person in orbit is considerably less than flying one across the Atlantic -- the problem has been that we use energy so inefficiently when launching things into orbit. Laser launch would largely eliminate ordinary rockets (you'd actually still need a small one for a circularization burn) and would make large-scale space activity practical. This is a small step in that direction. (U.S. labs have done similar stuff already, though not with anything winged).

Plus it's kind of cool.

FRESHLY RETURNED FROM FRANCE, Sasha Volokh reports on where the pro-Le Pen sentiment comes from. It doesn't sound like racism to me.

STEVEN DEN BESTE has a great essay about military pilots. Then, just to flaunt his superior essay-blogging skills, he has another great essay above it, about civilian pilots.

JUST SENT OFF MY FOXNEWS COLUMN, which is about the Department of Homeland Security. The more I think about it, the less impressed with it I am. But you'll have to wait until Wednesday night to find out why.

A STORY ON COLLEGE-PAPER SEX COLUMNS that doesn't mention Rachael Klein? Hard to imagine, but I'm afraid it's true -- though it does mention the column.

Question: Why is this a preserve of female writers?

ATTENTION, MICKEY KAUS! David Hogberg has done a study on welfare reform concluding that the drop in caseloads was caused by reform and not by changes in the economy. There's more. Read it! Er, and anyone else out there interested in welfare reform can read it too.

AL QAEDA ARRESTS IN MOROCCO: A cell planning suicide attacks on U.S. warships, reportedly. Maybe we're getting some useful intelligence.

ISRAEL IS TELLING THE EU to butt out. My prediction that Israel might start supporting separatist groups in Europe is looking less farfetched.

CRAIG BIGGERSTAFF IS NOT A BLOGGER. His page just looks like a blog, honest!

CHARLES JOHNSON REPORTS that the E.U. is cutting off funding to the Palestinian Authority in light of a lawsuit from a terror victim.

THE UNITED STATES is the most-admired country according to a poll of educated young Muslims. Japan was number two. Egypt and Britain were numbers three and four. Bizarre? Yes. But here's a similar BBC story on Arabs' love-hate relationship with the United States. (Thanks to reader Martin Pratt).

DIANA HSIEH reports from the Hayman wildfire where she's awaiting evacuation orders at this very moment. But still blogging! And N.Z. Bear has maps.

DAWN OLSEN interviews John Scalzi. Trollage and breasts are discussed, along with asteroids and comets.


"Any 'tools of civil disobedience' Mr. Omar?"

"Nope, just Semtex and smallpox."

"Okay, well, drive safely, eh?"

THE SUPREME COURT HAS denied certiorari in the Emerson case, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to arms. For more on the Emerson case, you can read this piece that Dave Kopel and I wrote last fall, or this piece by Michael Barone, who wrote: "It will now be very hard–I would say impossible–for any intellectually honest judge to rule that the Second Amendment means nothing." I think that's about right.

FLYOVER COUNTRY IS "DIRTY BOMB CENTRAL" today, with scads of links to information on the subject. It's your one-stop center for dirty-bomb news!

SMALLPOX UPDATE: Reader Jack Bell sends this:

You forgot another possible explanation for a smallpox outbreak: Some Al Queda operative screwed up while preparing a bio-weapon and it got loose. In fact I would say that, other than there being no outbreak at all, this is the simplest explanation being as we know they are hiding out in Pakistan at this time and we know they are interested in such things and do not care about worldwide condemnation of their actions (as opposed to the Pakistani government, which does care).

Bell attaches a lengthy email, the gist of which is that we should watch for outbreaks of unusual diseases in obscure places, as indications that someone may be doing such research.

MORE ON NORTH KOREA. I wonder why the horrors there aren't getting more attention? Surely we're past the point where people won't report on government-created famines in communist countries -- Walter Duranty has been dead for a long time. Do people just not care?

JOE KATZMAN says that SFSU is playing very dirty in its effort to make the bad publicity over its complicity in anti-Semitic rioting go away.

IF THE SMALLPOX POST BELOW isn't enough to get you gloomy about Pakistan's future, Suman Palit thinks war is pretty likely, and soon.

On the other hand Eric Olsen offers good news.

SMALLPOX? Pakistan's The Dawn is reporting a smallpox outbreak, supposedly "rapidly spreading" in Swabi district (the upper left of this map).

This seems unlikely to me -- it's certainly not getting any other attention that I can find -- but worth keeping an eye on.

UPDATE: MedPundit Sydney Smith shares my skepticism about this story, but has some good arguments for going ahead with smallpox vaccinations in the U.S. anyway. I agree. And Jerry Pournelle has more information on smallpox vaccinations.

Also, several paranoid readers suggest that Pakistan is either (1) testing smallpox (doubtful -- you wouldn't release it into your own population, as it's too easy for it to get away; you'd do it the old fashioned way and test it on political prisoners); or (2) broadcasting a false cover story in case it releases smallpox in a war with India (sadly, not quite so doubtful).

TAPPED IS JOINING LOU DOBBS in declaring the war one against fanatical Islamists, not simply "terror."

So now Bush is not only to the left of Richard Cohen on guns in the cockpit, now he's to the left of The American Prospect on the war! Is this because of Karen Hughes' departure?

THE UNITED STATES has arrested an Al Qaeda terrorist who planned to detonate a dirty bomb in the United States, according to a statement from Attorney General John Ashcroft reported in The Washington Post just a few minutes ago.

These guys are out there, and they're still trying. As I've mentioned before, Al Qaeda isn't particularly bright by all evidence, but they're persistent and willing to learn from their mistakes. That's enough to be dangerous.

UPDATE: Kenneth Silber has a proposal for dealing with the problem of bombs smuggled in shipping containers.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Several readers join with TAPPED in questioning the Administration's timing here, given that this guy was actually arrested on May 8. Though there are legitimate reasons why they might have sat on the news (hoping, for example, to scoop up confederates before his arrest was known), this is also a legitimate question to raise.

TECHCENTRAL STATION now has a European edition. It looks pretty cool.

MICHAEL BARONE says Bush has an internal management problem:

Clearly some middle- and high-level officials have taken it on themselves to set up roadblocks on the road to Baghdad. The question is whether Bush and his top appointees will tear them down. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seems to have the intellect and temperament to push aside false claims of military incapacity and overstretch (claims nicely debunked by the Brookings Institution's Michael O'Hanlon, no Iraq hawk). On the other hand, one wonders whether George Tenet or someone nearly as high in intelligence ranks is behind the attempts to discredit the Czech reports of the Atta-Ani meeting. Neither Tenet nor Secretary of State Colin Powell seems inclined to overrule CIA and State officials who are resisting, sometimes on nitpicking grounds, cooperation with the INC. And has FBI Director Robert Mueller taken a hard look at the agents who are so convinced that the anthrax attack came from a domestic source that they airily dismiss serious evidence of a foreign source?

In other words, the George W. Bush who has made it plain in his State of the Union speech and at West Point that we must go to war with Iraq needs to take control of his own administration.

Yes. But is that the real George W. Bush? There's reason to doubt his ability or willingness to rein in underlings who sandbag him.

NY TIMES WEBLOG STORY REAX: There's an interesting thread over at Metafilter about today's NYT blog story. Most of the commenters seem to think that the Times was trying to gin up some conflict (I love the Seinfeld catfight reference). One poster asks: "Did a political weblog that existed prior to September 2001 automatically turn into a war blog on the 11th?" To which another says: "Let's ask Glenn Reynolds."

Uh, okay. Well, this was a political weblog before September 11 (click here to see what I was writing about the first week in September; click here and scroll up to see what I was writing on 9/11), and most people seem to regard it as a "warblog" now, so I guess the answer is "yes, Rory, it did." I'm not sure exactly how, but there are some more thoughts in this post. (Via Ken Layne).

MICKEY KAUS DOUBTS that liberal groups will actually benefit from the new campaign-finance laws, despite some widely publicized claims to that effect. I think Kaus is probably right here. Given the swiftness with which groups react to changes, I think that pretty much any advantage is likely to be short-lived. That's what all those high-priced lawyers are for, after all.


My favorite is still The Dean's Box, though. You write one poem like that, you've already had a good year.

WORDS TO LIVE BY: Here, entirely shorn of unnecessary context, is something posted by Dan Polsby to a law-professors' email list:

Hug your dog. (Laugh at a philosopher.)

I told you the context was unnecessary.

OPTIMISM: Jay Manifold sends us to this column by Miriam Pepper in the Kansas City Star that quotes a hundred-year-old editorial:

"The infant century has naturally encountered some of the ills that usually beset things of such tender age, but altogether his career must be considered as a peaceful though not uneventful one.

"It is probably early to predict, but let us speculate upon what he may accomplish when he arrives at maturer years.

"It is tolerably safe to say at the outset that his achievements in the holds of art, science, literature, discovery, invention, and in fact in all things that go to make life worth living, will be far greater than those of his predecessors.

"During his reign, all of the powers and forces of nature will be controlled and made subservient to the will of man ....

The column concludes: "Such optimism is startling to read today. It's passionate, hopeful and full of futuristic speculation. It's debatable, interesting, and most of all, fun to read. A hundred years later, editorials should strive to achieve some of those same goals."

What's interesting is that -- although some of the specific predictions are wide of the mark -- overall the Twentieth Century vastly exceeded expectations for technological progress and betterment of the human condition. Where it fell vastly short was in political progress, since it saw the birth of monstrous and murderous ideologies like communism and fascism far worse than anything experienced in the Nineteenth Century. And, as Brink Lindsey points out, not by accident did we also see a global retrenchment of free trade and free markets, which condemned many to unnecessary poverty in support of the power of the apparats. Lenin, Hitler, and their numerous apologists did far more harm than Nobel, Einstein and Oppenheimer.

Yet the political ideologues persist in criticizing science and technology, and in portraying them as the great dangers to humanity. I'm optimistic, though, because fewer people are listening to them.


June 09, 2002

CUT ON THE BIAS has moved here (off of Blogspot). Please adjust your links accordingly.

FOOLED BY THE HYPE: Yes, that would be me. The New York Times article about blogs is now online and David Gallagher is a man of his word: it's a well-done and fair piece, despite the rather, ahem, overstated hype (quoted below) that the Times sent out to its affiliates. I'd hoped that was the case.

By the way, the reason I'm holding the microphone in the picture is that when the photographer showed up I was doing some experiments with the soon-to-appear "Radio InstaPundit" service. No, really. It'll be NPR-style commentaries and monologues, and maybe even the occasional interview, streaming in MP3 and RealAudio. I had planned to have it up and running by tomorrow, but the audio hosting site that I'm using is undergoing a server upgrade and won't accept uploads at the moment. Stay, er, tuned.

AMERICA: Too rich? Or just right?

JOANNE JACOBS talks about grade inflation. We have blind grading, meaning that I just found out today (I wasn't in the office on Friday) who got what grades (the exams come with random ID numbers on them, and we turn in grades keyed to those numbers). It's always sad -- I don't like giving low grades, though I gave more than usual this time, as I used a new exam approach that was either harder, or less prone to encouraging my sympathies (the students thought it was harder). I'm sure that if each exam had a name on it I'd be inclined to go softer on the low end. Anonymous grading doesn't put an end to grade inflation, of course -- you still know that someone will be unhappy with a low grade even if you don't know who -- but it probably helps.

HMM. Dave Winer and I (and some other folks, actually) were suspicious of a New York Times story on weblogs, since it seemed that they might be trying to hype a nonexistent feud between techies and political bloggers. Here's how the New York Times service is hyping the story to its affiliates, courtesy of an InstaPundit reader who works at a newspaper and who may not want his name used:

BLOG-PURISTS-PUNDITS (Undated) — In the latest version of the Net techies being outraged by the onslaught of the opportunists, purists in the Weblog or “blog” community are fighting with pundits who are using the diary-like blog format to publish political commentary. “Warbloggers” is the derisive term for the pundits, whom the purists accuse of turning the Web log medium into the text equivalent of talk radio. By David F. Gallagher.

Well, I'll have to wait and read the story to see if this is actually representative, but I have to say that Gallagher told me that it wasn't going to be this kind of a story. After hearing of Dave's concerns I went to the trouble to telephone him and specifically raise the issue, and he specifically denied that this was how the story was being cast. This item itself contains a howler -- since the term "warblog" appears to have been invented by Matt Welch, one of the punditloggers himself. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Dave Winer has posted on this too. I've emailed Gallagher, too, to see what he has to say. And Matt Welch points out that the Times has turned me and Dave -- who didn't really know each other very well -- into friends. Maybe it should start trying to gin up a war between Sharon and Arafat, instead of calling for peace. . . .

IBERO-BLOGGERS JOHN AND ANTONIO deconstruct charges of "Jingoism" with a bracing dose of historical literacy of the sort their critics generally lack. Read it.


UPDATE: Robin Roberts emails:

You linked to a news article on the Glenwood Springs fire in Colorado. Right now, I'm on the east side of the Denver metro area and the sky is just solid orange overcast. Not clouds, but smoke from the Hayman fire which is 55 miles south-southwest as the crow flies. Sitting here in my basement office smells strongly of smoke although the house is closed up tight.

Wrath of god indeed.

But at least no oceans boiling or cats and dogs living together.


EUROTOPIA: Jim Bennett has some thoughts.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE NEWS BUSINESS: A dialogue. I guess this is why blogging is so popular.

ERIC S. RAYMOND, who seems to be developing into an Den Beste - style essay-blogger, has some lengthy ruminations on why pornography is (usually) bad and what that means.

UPDATE: Here's a response to Raymond. Be sure to click on "comments" and read the observations of Jacqueline and Elizabeth, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A regular InstaPundit reader (and if I hadn't gotten thoughtful email from her before, I'd assume this was just a shameless effort at promoting her site, but I have) sends this email:

Suicidegirls is a website that depicts girls in various stages of undress, but also provides the girls with their own journals (blogs?).

Here is one of the girls' takes on dancing (stripping).

For the record, the girls either provide images of themselves or choose what sort of set they want to shoot and ask our photographer (one of the girls on the site - Missy) to shoot it for them.

I'm not saying we're the epitome of morality, but we try to present a kind of erotica where the models decide exactly how they are depicted and are given a forum to explain themselves and to present the other sides of their personality. We are often called blogger porn (on sites like metafilter and in various blogs) - but I'm not sure thatв„–s an accurate term, either way, I'm a loyal reader of your site, and thought I'd send you a link to mine.

"Blogger porn." Now there's a niche market. I can't help but feel, though, that with a name like "Suicidegirls" it's going to be hard to project a really positive image. But it's certainly free of the teased-blonde-hair phenomenon that Eric identifies.

JON GARTHWAITE points to this story on Islamic terrorists' use of the Web for secret yet in-plain-view communication and asks if they're using Blogger.

Well, if they're hosting on Blogspot, many lives may have been saved by the outages. . . .

OKAY, I've been interviewed a lot by journalists writing about the weblog phenomenon. Being interviewed is nice in that it concentrates your mind on things you might not think about otherwise. Anyway, I've combined some of the questions and answers and put them over at InstaPundit EXTRA! for the benefit of anyone who's interested.

BLOGSPOT IS DOWN. VERY DOWN. I don't know how long it will last (you can check Rand Simberg's blogspot-o-meter). I will note that my move off of blogspot didn't seem to improve its reliability, for those who thought that it was InstaPundit's bandwidth that was causing the problems.

UPDATE: Seems to be back up now.

MANUFACTURING DISSENT: Matt Welch delivers a sound Fisking to the lies of Noam Chomsky, Marc Herold, etc., in The National Post. Excerpt:

Like Chomsky's bogus prognosis, Herold's study turned out to be notable mostly for being so wildly off-base, yet so enduringly popular among anti-war circles. Within days of publication, an army of amateur online writers picked through Herold's math and discovered several instances of double-counting and heavy reliance on the Afghan Islamic Press, which got its data from the Taliban. Later, The Associated Press, Reuters and other organizations conducted their own inquiries into civilian deaths, arriving at numbers between 600 and 1,500.

In the real world of intellectual rigour and academic standards, such peer review might conceivably lead to recalculation and revision. In the fantasyland of the anti-U.S. Left, it does not even break the stride on the march to the printing press. For, despite being thoroughly discredited on arrival in 2001, Chomsky's "silent genocide" charge and Herold's 3,700-dead-Afghans howler have shown up, unaltered, in slim paperbacks that have been climbing the charts in 2002: Chomsky's best-selling pamphlet 9-11, and a City Lights Books offering titled September 11 and the U.S. War: Beyond the Curtain of Smoke.

If these books have their fingers on the pulse of the anti-U.S. Left, then it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the patient is in need of some serious attention.


IS ARAFAT MAKING A NUCLEAR THREAT HERE? That depends on what you mean by "disastrous explosion."

C-LOG writes: "This is precisely the problem FBI and CIA officials had pre-9/11. Should they have arrest Arafat because he threaten an explosion? or should they chalk his statement up to political rhetoric?" Well, that's where it's not like pre-9/11. Arrest him? Just kill him. I'm with Den Beste on this, I think. He's outlived any usefulness he might have -- except perhaps as a warning to whoever comes next about what happens if you make what even seem to be nuclear threats.

Yeah, the Vatican and the EU will complain. So what?

UPDATE: Reader Laurence Simon writes:

Not a serious threat at all, but extremely clever. He's just seeing that "Sum of All Fears" is a hit at the box office, the Bush Administration didn't think it was good timing of the release of the picture so it boosted the hype, so Arafat is trying to use the plot from "The Mouse That Roared" to his own advantage.

It's too bad that Peter Sellers is not with us anymore, because he could make one heck of an Arafat. And Ariel Sharon. And Yasser Rabbo. And George Bush. Heck, he could probably do Kofi Annan, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Simon has expanded on this theme over on his page.

VATICAN SUICIDE! Check out these comments on the American press's coverage of the Catholic sex scandals, from Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga. It's not the Church's fault for covering up thousands of instances of abuse, and leaving the perpetrators in a position to do it again. Oh, no. It's the press's fault for reporting it! Oh, and it's the Jews' fault, too, since they're just trying to get back at the Church for its pro-Palestinian position. I would say that we're seeing not just sympathy for Palestinians, but an adoption of Arafat-like attitudes toward the value of external scrutiny.

Moral authority? What frickin' moral authority? You wouldn't have to look far to find hookers and publicans with a better moral compass. Hmm. . . .

UPDATE: Here's more damning evidence.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Gregory Popcak writes that the Bishops are guilty of a mortal sin for covering the offenses up. And Kathy Shaidle of Relapsed Catholic spotted my reference above, emailing:

Matthew 21: 32

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him."

Just when we think the Curia can't get any dumber...


Yes, that was the reference. Some things don't change, apparently.

I've mostly stayed out of this whole matter, since it's being amply addressed over at The Corner, and by the many erudite Catholic bloggers -- and I have enough stuff to worry about as it is. But public statements like the one above -- and the Vatican's siding with Palestinians in the most atrocious ways -- suggest to me that the Church's lack of a moral compass has consequences that make it an issue for everyone. John Paul II came in with moral clarity. He's not going out the same way. And when a potential successor feels free to mouth off as the Cardinal does, above, then there's something deeply, deeply wrong, and it's going to have serious consequences for the Church. As it should.