July 06, 2002

WILLIAM J. BROAD reports in The New York Times that the federal government is planning mass smallpox vaccinations. This seems like a good idea to me, far superior to the lame vaccinate-just-a-few plan floated a couple of months back. It suggests that either (1) there's clearer thinking at the top all of a sudden; or (2) the risk of a smallpox attack now seems higher than it did. The former is good news; the latter is not so good.

NEW TROUBLE IN ALGERIA. It's not getting a lot of press play, though I did see it covered on CNN the other day.

VEGARD VALBERG has figured out the problem where U.S. / European disputes over things like Kyoto and the ICC are concerned. He also has some helpful advice for Americans.

WAS 1776 A MISTAKE? Jim Bennett asks the question, and tries to answer it.

U.S. TO AL QAEDA: You coulda been somebody. You coulda been a contender. Instead of a bum, which is what you are.. That miserable shooting at LAX was the best you could pull off for July 4th? Jeez, in America Junior High students can do better than that!

Perhaps Americans have been making too much of these guys. If we had done something like the 9/11 attacks, there would have been a bunch of follow-ons already in place, timed and targeted to create maximum disruption, and part of an overall strategy. And, like Americans, we would have been embarrassed to make big threats and not deliver on them.

We've forgotten the long and well-established Arab tradition of impotent blowhardism. Maybe that's all they're about.

Oops. Too bad guys. The six-pack of whupass is already out of the fridge.

STILL MORE ON WEBLOGS: Rebecca Blood's new book on weblogs showed up while I was gone. It looks very good. I'll have more to report after I've, you know, actually read it.

MORE ON WEBLOGS: The Economist has a pretty good weblog article, which unfortunately isn't available on their website. Here's the conclusion, featuring my soundbite:

For all the costly and failed efforts by media companies to create and charge for online material, blogging suggests that the web works best as a link to other people - and a way of finding and raiding their content. As InstaPundit's Glenn Reynolds says, "the threat to big media is not to its pocketbook but to its self-importance."

If you read German, there's also an article in the Neue Zurcher Zeitung, which I found out about courtesy of Swiss InstaPundit reader Catrine Sutter.

CONGRATULATIONS to the Ipse Dixit caption contest, which is now one year old. That's 62 in Blog Years!

OKAY, I KNOW I'M LATE TO THIS -- but what's all this FBI ducking-and-covering on the motives of the LAX shooter? This excerpt from the New York Times story illustrates the absurdity nicely:

At present, Mr. Garcia said, officials are exploring three possible motives. The first is that it may have been a hate crime, although investigators said they had yet to find evidence that Mr. Hadayet held any animus toward Israelis.

But a former driver for Mr. Hadayet, Abdul Zahab, 36, said in an interview this afternoon that he often heard his boss express virulent anti-Israeli sentiments.

"He had hate for Israel, for sure," said Mr. Zahab, who was born in Syria and worked a month for Mr. Hadayet about two years ago. "He told me that the Israelis tried to destroy the Egyptian nation and the Egyptian population by sending prostitutes with AIDS to Egypt. He said that the two biggest drug dealers in New York are Israeli."

So the FBI "had yet to find any evidence" but the Times managed to do so by the unprecedented investigative technique of interviewing someone who knew him! Advantage: New York Times!

It's true, of course, that just because an Egyptian guy who says he hates Israel and America shoots up an El Al terminal, that doesn't prove that it's a hate crime, or terrorism. Even though it comes after threats against U.S. interests by Arafat's organization, and even though, frankly, only an idiot wouldn't put hate crime or terrorism at the top of the list.

And I'm not sure that's a valid distinction, anyway. Hadayet may or may not have links to organized groups. It's possible that we'll see the Louis Beam "leaderless resistance" approach applied to Arab terrorism. But it'll still be terrorism; just terrorism of a different kind.

The unwillingness of government spokesmen to apply Occam's Razor here, even with appropriate caveats, is embarrassing, and suggests that they still don't get it.

UPDATE: Reader Fritz Anderson says I'm too hard on the FBI:

It's a crime. Its nature obviously puts the FBI on inquiry. The inquiry is being made. But because the FBI is an agency of a government that is using "war on terrorism" as a euphemism for "war on jihadist islamism," it can't use the word "terrorism." Or, at least, it can't use it until it meets the requirements of what is now a term of art, and only then when security permits them to discuss it.

Well, that's true in a way. But a similar dynamic of euphemisms and terms of art prevailed during the Vietnam war, and the costs of allowing that bureaucratic imperative to rule were very high indeed.

JONATHAN ADLER takes on fair-weather federalists in the GOP, arguing in the National Review Online that a federal partial-birth abortion ban is beyond Congress's enumerated powers. I agree, and I'm glad to see Adler making this point.

If you only believe in limited government as applied to laws you dislike, you don't really believe in limited government at all. Adler deserves credit for reminding Republicans of this point. I think a lot more reminding is in order.

TRAFFIC: The American Prospect has released revised traffic figures, and Andrew Sullivan is giving them hell for it. For comparison's sake, InstaPundit's figure (which you can see for yourself by clicking on the Extreme Tracking icon at the bottom of this page -- a degree of transparency that commercial websites should consider providing) is 440,062 unique visitors for June.

MICKEY KAUS points up an appalling case of left-wing political violence -- seemingly sanctioned by "respectable" communists -- in Italy. He wonders if such violence could move to the United States.

To some degree it already has. I have friends on the Berkeley faculty, and I've heard stories of professors having their cars vandalized and being threatened with personal violence. As the authoritarian hard-left becomes more and more marginalized in America, it wouldn't be surprising if some of its more desperate members turned to violence. (Indeed, with things like the SFSU assaults -- and for that matter, the Unabomber -- it already has).

The targets, likely enough, will be moderate-left people rather than right-wing people. That's always been the tendency in such things. And in America, the right-wing faculty might be distressingly likely to shoot back.

Kaus's warning should be taken to heart by campus administrators who have traditionally gone easy on lesser offenses. By doing so, they've contributed to a climate of impunity on some campuses that is likely to breed worse offenses. They should stop, before it's too late.

I'M BAACK! The scuba trip to Grand Cayman was delightful, and I'm much refreshed. The reefs there took a bit of a pounding during last fall's hurricane, but the diving was still extraordinary. Did several wall dives (Orange Canyon, Trinity Cave, Tarpon Alley), a night dive at Turtle Reef, and a visit to what remains of the wreck of the Oro Verde, among other things. Judging by the crowds, the tourism industry is no longer suffering.

Security was much tighter in the Caymans than on previous visits -- especially on the return to the States, where they were handsearching not only carryon luggage but also checked bags. All in all, a swell trip.

The bad news: Stately InstaPundit Manor was struck by lightning in my absence, knocking out the upstairs air conditioner (the control board looks like somebody took a blowtorch to it) several TVs, and my DSL connection. The computer's OK, but the router and modem are dead, dead, dead. I'm on a backup dial connection (we take a lickin' and keep on bloggin' here at InstaPundit!) but I haven't even looked at email yet. I'll start -- but whether I'll read it, or just delete huge chunks unread, just depends on how much there is.

Regular blogging will resume shortly. Hope you had a good week!

July 01, 2002

I'M OFF. I'll see you this weekend. In the meantime, don't miss this Den Beste wrapup of reactions to last Monday's Bush speech on the mideast, and this post on Bush's rope-a-dope by Stephen Green. Have a great week!

June 30, 2002

VACATION: I may post a few items later tonight, but then I'm outta here. I'm scuba diving this week, and -- unless there's a U.S. invasion or a major terrorist attack sufficient to encourage me to find an Internet cafe on a tropical island -- I have no plans to post or check email before next weekend. If you send me email, it'll probably become part of a huge heap that won't be read when I return, so you probably shouldn't bother unless it's something really important. In fact, you definitely shouldn't bother unless it's something really important.

I thought about getting someone to serve as a Special Guest Blogger while I was gone or something, but I thought that would make InstaPundit seem too much like, you know, a job. Have a great week, celebrate the Fourth of July (er, and Canada Day for you hosers up North) appropriately, and I'll see you next weekend. In the meantime, check out the fine bloggers to the left -- and my TechCentralStation column should be up on Wednesday as usual.

UPDATE: Oh, and don't miss the new NZ Bear site and reset your bookmarks accordingly. Yet another Sekimori effort to beautify the Blogosphere.

THE GUY who runs the Eleven Day Empire website (focusing on media criticism) has a pretty cool CafePress shop featuring Project Echelon merchandise (Motto: "We're listening.").


FLIT SAYS that the U.S. Air Force is trying to whitewash the actions of Major Harry Schmidt, who accidentally bombed allied forces, killing several Canadian soldiers. I haven't followed this as closely as Bruce, but the story that he makes out is pretty damning. I hope that some American media will look into this. Finding out what happened, and ensuring that people are held accountable, isn't bad for the war. It's good for the war. Bureaucratic ass-covering is bad for the war, and there seems to be plenty of it.

MORE ON BRAZIL: Nelson Ascher (who's Brazilian, even though he's in Paris at the moment) writes:

As a Brazilian it may be somewhat suspect for me to say this, but it is time for the Americans to think harder about Brazil. Among all Latin American countries it is the one where nostalgia for the old world is weaker, and it is doubtlessly difficult to miss Portugal's grandeur. While most Spanish Americans feel envy for and kind of admire Spain, we made of Portugal the target of our jokes, and they, the Portuguese, resent it deeply. If Brazil ever had a role model, after having been an operetta monarchy in the 19th century, it has been the USA, and up to some time ago the country's official name was Estados Unidos do Brasil/ United States of Brazil. Now it is called the Federative Republic of Brazil, though it is still far from being a true fedeation in American terms. The overwhelming majority of Brazil's population feel pretty close to the US, be it in its way of life, its aspirations or thoughts. There is, it is true, an intellectual elite that remains closer to Europe, but Americans have to take into consideration that for many years the Europeans have been doing their best to invite them over to their continent, publish their works, cover them with prizes etc. That is a job the US has not been doing well or at all, and consequently it has been losing points on the propaganda front. The battle for the hearts and souls of the Arabs and the Muslims in general is lost, and it is a waste of time to dwell on it. But I see no reason for the US to lose Latin America to the EU.

A lot of Americans seem to feel the same way.


THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR REPORTS that Jordan has foiled an Al Qaeda embassy-attack plot:

US diplomats in Amman were unavailable for comment. But informed sources said four of the men were understood to be planning attacks on the American and Israeli Embassies, and on leisure centers believed to be frequented by Americans recuperating during military exercises in the kingdom. A second six-man cell, says Duwaik, was supposedly planning to hit unnamed Israeli targets across the Jordanian border in the West Bank. He says the men are accused of belonging to a hitherto unknown group known as Al Ashara, or "The 10," and are now being held in Al-Juwaydah Prison, south of Amman.

And there's even more good news:

Jordanian officials say popular anger at perceived US support for Israel's onslaught against the Palestinians and America's active role in isolating Iraq has turned to helpless resignation.

The Den Beste Plan appears to be working.

UPDATE: And check this out: the EU President endorses Arafat's ouster.

MINE'S 187.5.

GRAY DAVIS UPDATE: Matthew Hoy offers a cautionary tale about the corruption generated by "emergency" powers that may have relevance beyond California.

THIS IS AN AMUSING STORY about a legal battle over ownership of a moon rock. But what's upsetting is that they're still so valuable. By now, it once seemed, they'd be about as valuable as pieces of the Berlin Wall: sentimentally important, but not rare.

ANDREA HARRIS WEIGHS IN on Stanley Hauerwas, in her usual circumspect way. Play nice, Andrea!

For some more, er, respectful responses, go here and here and here and follow the links.

WORLD CUP INSIGHT: Reader Jonathan Singer writes:

As the World Cup draws to a close, so does the latest round of pundits hectoring Americans to care more about soccer and insisting that we are missing all sorts of crucial information about the world by ignoring the sport. In that spirit, I'd like to share the insight the tournament gave me today.

As I was heading to work in Boston (having gotten up early to watch the game and cheer on Brazil), I got stuck in a traffic jam caused by dozens of Brazilians waving flags and Ronaldo jerseys, honking and cheering. Without exception, all the Americans were honking and cheering along with them. It occurred to me that everyone I'd spoken to who knew about the game was rooting for Brazil. It's pretty clear who we consider to be "us".

Admittedly, Brazil is one of the hemisphere's more likable and attractive countries. But it seems to me the EU would be a little concerned to know how much more our attention is focused south (and west) instead of east. It's a new millennium, and there's nobody Belgium can indict that will change that.

Yeah, I was rooting for Brazil, too, but I hadn't really thought about it that way. I think he's right.

DO YOU THINK GARY COLEMAN KNOWS that they're using his name for a gruesome antiabortion site?

YET ANOTHER FIRE started by a government employee who's supposed to be stopping them. This is getting ridiculous. I think an investigation is in order.

As The Talking Dog puts it: "Throw this in with the arrest in Colorado, and you begin to think that the West would be perfectly safe from these massive fires if it weren't for these damned firefighters!"

HERE, QUEER AND ARMED: Deroy Murdock reports on the Pink Pistols: apparently, they're in the Gay Pride Parade!

DR. MICHAEL S. BROWN SAYS the Violence Policy Center is suffering a major decline.

UPDATE: Susanna Cornett says their numbers are dishonest.

AL QAEDA MAY BE DOWN, but this report says that other Islamic terror groups are still turning up in America.

JIM BENNETT has some observations on current business scandals:

One of the principal critiques of alternative theories of the state is that by trying to do many things for which it is not suited, government inevitably neglects the basic tasks for which it is suited.

Indeed, it is worth noting that Enron, WorldCom, and a number of the other firms most noted for massive fraud operated in highly regulated market areas. Regulation, as opposed to enforcement of laws against fraud and misrepresentation, increases the hazard of fraud and misrepresentation, by raising the stakes for political manipulation. Increased disclosure requirements, beyond a reasonable level, actually aid fraud by hiding the significant data in a sea of irrelevant information.

The entrepreneurial market economy is a remarkably self-correcting system, provided that the system is protected against simple fraud. The problem has not been the concept of the watchman state, but the distraction of the watchman.

LOTS OF VENEZUELA NEWS, MOST OF IT DEPRESSING, AT EL SUR. It should be a regular stop if you're interested in South American news.

CHRISTIAN BLOGGER DAVID ROSS has a long post on Stanley Hauerwas's antiwar sentiments. And scroll up and follow links for an ongoing discussion he's having with Telford Work. For that matter, go to Telford Work's page and scroll down for lots of interesting stuff.

Why am I paying so much attention to this? It's not as if theology is my usual schtick -- in fact, I tend to avoid it as my father's bailiwick. But the previous antiwar movement came out of this kind of Christianity -- and much of America's antiwar left, even the anti-Christian part, is still motivated by these memes even if it doesn't understand the source. I think it's important to challenge and discuss these ideas early on; I'm happy that those more qualified, and interested, than I am are now deep in discussion.

RECORD COMPANIES FOUND GUILTY OF ILLEGAL PRICE-FIXING! Who'd have thought that these companies, who have been so morally rigorous with regard to copying, would engage in illegal activities for their own profit at the same time? Er, besides everyone, that is.

VERY INTERESTING STORY on Afghan prisoner interrogations, via Gary Farber.

FRANCE'S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES is taking a pounding in the Washington Post's Letters to the Editor column today. He's been alienating people a lot lately. I thought it was Americans who were supposed to be alienating everyone with their insensitivity.

OKAY, THIS IS PRETTY LAME even by Maureen Dowd's recent standards.

I LIKE THIS BIT from the New York Times story on Bush's colonoscopy:

In Mr. Bush's case, Dr. Tubb performed a neurological examination, including testing his knowledge of the day and time. In such an examination, doctors also typically ask patients who is the president of the United States, but White House physicians leave that one out.

And I don't want to go all Katie Couric on you, but if you've been putting this off, you should go ahead and get it done. It's not just diagnostic: it's preventive, as removing the polyps prevents cancer. Having seen more than one person close to me die of cancer, I promise you -- having somebody look up your butt is a small price to pay for avoiding it.

NOW I UNDERSTAND: It was all Ken Layne's fault. I should have known.

STANLEY FISH, PRO AND CON: Ben Domenech has the scoop.

MORE ON THE AL QAEDA-HAS-SHOT-ITS-WAD THEORY, FROM REID STOTT. I hope he's right, but I don't think we should let our guard down.

EUROHYPOCRISY: Andrew Stuttaford makes a point that some bloggers have made:

EU leaders are indignant at George Bush's suggestion that he would rather not work with a Palestine run by Arafat. This is, they claim, interfering in the Palestinians' right to choose their own leadership. Well, it's an argument, I suppose, but it's rather difficult to reconcile with the EU response to Austria's elections two years ago. These elections (which were, incidentally, infinitely more democratic than anything ever seen in the Palestinian Authority) led to the formation of a government that many EU politicians found unacceptably right-wing.

The EU's response?


Yeah, but Haider's worse than Arafat -- because he's critical of the EU. Arafat, on the other hand, loves the EU. And why shouldn't he? They're his chief financial backer.

RICHARD BROOKHISER has these observations on the war:

Osama bin Laden has imagination and charisma, if you find dream interpretation and Koranic midrash charismatic. But isn’t it likely that he and his network have profited from the help of a government—and not the dirt-poor kakistocrats of Khartoum and Kabul? Who is the obvious candidate, in terms of both resources and grudges? Our intelligence agents have dismissed the report that hijacker Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Prague, but the Czechs have not backed down from it. At home, we are looking for a rogue American scientist as the source of last fall’s anthrax letters. But then came the story that one of the 9/11 hijackers checked into a hospital emergency room with lesions that the attending physician now says were consistent with exposure to anthrax. If that is true, where then did Osama bin Laden get his stash? If Saddam Hussein had been living a monk’s life, he would still be a danger, because he’s manufacturing nukes and germs to incinerate and poison Israelis and whoever else displeases him. But his vows of peace may already have been broken.

Most Americans will celebrate the Fourth of July weekend as they always have—by relaxing, partying and watching fireworks. But this year, we should reflect that not celebrating is our right; that, in many parts of the world, putting on a bathing suit or even drinking beer is forbidden; that, if we hear a sermon over the weekend, it will be a sermon of our choosing; and that when we see the fireworks, they stand for all the explosions from Long Island to Hawaii to, yes, Germany, Japan and Afghanistan, when Americans fought for their rights and their indulgences, and exacted terrible vengeance on our enemies.

Indeed. Say, it occurs to me: Everyone is saying that America might be attacked on July 4 because of that date's importance. Has it occurred to anyone that we might launch an attack of our own then for the same reason?

RUSSIA IS DROPPING ITS SUPPORT FOR AN IRANIAN NUCLEAR REACTOR: This is partly because of U.S. pressure, but I have to think that the Russians, upon consideration, are less enthused about the notion of a nuclear-capable Iran than they might once have been.

THE BUTCHER OF BAHRAIN: God knows what people would be saying if this guy were an American. But he's not, so it's okay.

EUROWEENIE ANTISEMITISM ALERT: Survey says. . . one in three Europeans is antisemitic!

A new form of anti-Semitism has taken hold in Europe, fuelled by anti-Israeli sentiment, according to a survey which shows almost one in three Europeans now harbours some anti-Jewish feelings.

Attitudes towards Jews vary across the five countries surveyed with Belgians, Germans and the French "most likely to hold a prejudiced view of Jews". Denmark and the UK are said to be the least prejudiced. But attitudes in the UK show a worryingly high level of anti-Semitic sentiment. . . .

One in five Britons believes Jews have too much power in the business world. More than 10 per cent of those surveyed in the UK believed Jews are "more willing to use shady practices to get what they want".

One in 10 believes "Jews don't care what happens to anyone but their own kind" while one in three considers "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country".

Fiona Macaulay of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said: "These findings are shocking. If one was to substitute the word Jew for black there would be outrage."

And remember: the UK is where there's the least antisemitism. I shudder to think how the French are answering. I think, though, that this analysis has cause and effect backward: I don't think that antisemitism is fueled by anti-Israeli sentiment.

UPDATE: A reader sends this link to a poll on antisemitism in America. You'll note, however, that it's much stronger among recent immigrants.