July 27, 2002

EMERGENT STUPIDITY: Rand Simberg isn't enthusiastic about the prospects for intelligent action from the proposed Department of Homeland Security.

And here, via Rand's blog, is a FoxNews report that FBI headquarters knew for 20 years that agents in Boston were covering up for mobsters.

These guys aren't up to the war on terrorism, and they're never going to be. The war will be won abroad.

DELLWATCH: I won't say that this story explains my service problems with Dell, but . . . .

BILL QUICK notes a new angle in the Princeton / Yale hacking story.

HONOR KILLINGS in Pakistan, Egypt, etc. come in for a sturdy condemnation in the Washington Post.

Perhaps "human rights" groups can be persuaded to give this phenomenon the amount of attention they gave to Guantanamo.

MUSLIMPUNDIT ADIL FAROOQ is back after a long absence, with a lengthy post on jihadism.


When the New York Times ran a front-page report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan ("Flaws in U.S. Air War Left Hundreds of Civilians Dead"), bloggers descended on the article like ants on a picnic. . . .

Hundreds of civilians dead? Don't that many civilians perish in nearly every war? Stuart Buck at asked:

"Has there ever been another war in history where civilian casualties were so few that journalists could track down virtually all of them individually?"

On his site, the Politburo, blogger Michael Moynihan noted that the Times's source for the toll of 812 dead was Marla Ruzicka, identified as a field worker in Afghanistan for Global Exchange, "an American organization." What the Times didn't say, Moynihan wrote, is that Global Exchange is a far-left group opposing globalization and the U.S. military. . . .

Keep an eye on bloggers. The main arena for media criticism is not going to be books, columns, or panel discussions, and it certainly won't be journalism schools. It will be the Internet.

Yep. More and more, you see bloggers' opinions explicitly mentioned in opeds -- and beyond that, you see major media (as Leo points out) quietly backtracking in future coverage after bloggers expose their errors.

OLD MINDSETS AND NEW RULES: Tony Adragna says that despite the allegedly sweeping civil service changes in the bill, it'll be business as usual at the Department of Homeland Security.

I hope that the whole idea craters amid partisan bickering. That won't be a failure. It'll be the system working.

MORE AND MORE "DJS" are really spinning MP3s. Richie Hawtin ("Plastikman") is now using Final Scratch exclusively, I've heard.

A few audiophile-poseurs will complain about the sound quality, but really most club systems (which tend to emphasize volume, not quality) won't let you hear the difference anyway. In most clubs in Europe (and in a smaller, but surprisingly large, number of clubs in the States), the sound systems aren't even stereo.

SPEAKING "HISPANISH" -- Juan Non-Volokh finds the Bushism of the week in a surprising place.


MORE ON CONGRESSMAN-FOR-HIRE Howard Berman's entertainment-industry money, from Justin Bollinger.

STEFAN SHARKANSKY writes about group-related fetishes. And scroll down for Akbar and Jeff's terrorism hut. Akbar and Jeff, however, have left the trade.

JOHN HILER AT MICROCONTENT NEWS has a nicely measured response to the Arab News assault on James Taranto.

I hope Salon's Eric Boehlert reads it.

UPDATE: "John R. Bradley," who wrote the Arab News piece, swears that he's a real person. The response: "I liked you better when I thought you were fictional." Other commenters compare Bradley to Lord Haw-Haw and Lillian Hellman.

HERE'S THE BLOGATHON PARTICIPANTS PAGE. It's alphabetized and searchable.

I'VE BEEN NOTING THAT THE FINANCIAL-SCANDAL ANGLE won't work for the Democrats because they're just as corrupt as Republicans. Now Armed Liberal is disgusted to find an example of what I'm talking about: a $447,000 "debt-consolidation loan" on "highly favorable" terms to Rep. James Moran (D-VA) from MBNA, coincidental with his support for the dreadful bankruptcy bill that -- hey, imagine that! -- benefits MBNA more than just about anyone else.

I bet we don't read about this in Doonesbury, though.

BLOGATHON! I don't need to blog today, because blogathon participants like Meryl Yourish and Laurence Simon are posting every 30 minutes all day long.

Is there a post somewhere with links to all the blogathon participants? If someone will send it to me, I'll link it.

Happy blogathoning.

July 26, 2002

ATHENA RUNNER is a mom. Well, actually she already was a mom, but now she's, um, a mom again? A mom moreso? Anyway, a bouncing baby boy was born, and everyone is doing fine.

THE CONTINUING EMBARRASSMENT THAT IS "HOMELAND SECURITY" MAY COST BUSH HIS BASE, if this post by Kim du Toit is any indication. While du Toit himself is a statistical outlier in many ways, I think the sentiments in this post are growing more and more common among gun rights folks and cranky conservatives in general.

UPDATE: And then there's what Homeland Security is doing for the women's vote. . . .

KEN LAYNE REVEALS SOMETHING EMBARRASSING about Rep. Howard Berman, who wants Hollywood to hack your computer.


JUST GOT HOME from the Knoxville Bloggers' bash. Over a dozen showed up, which was a big increase from last time, when there were three of us.

NOW THAT HE'S BEEN CONVICTED AND EXPELLED, Jim Traficant has become an "independent."

UPDATE: Reader Bill Herbert emails:

Traficant IS running for reelection as an independent.

Plus, he recently stated that he "fears for the nation" if the Dems retake the house.

Well, that's news to me. The Washington Post is calling him a Democrat. And I think his reelection bid can probably be ignored.

WILLIAM SAFIRE WRITES on the etymology of the word "blog" and credits Bill Quick with coining the term "Blogosphere."

ACCORDING TO THIS REPORT, Arab countries are shocked, shocked to find that Yasser Arafat has been embezzling aid money, and are cutting him off.

I'm not sure I believe this. It could be evidence of a successful U.S. diplomatic effort to isolate him, or it could just be posturing by the Arab governments.

THE NEW YORK SUN IS NOW ONLINE with articles, etc.

Maybe now that that's done, they'll get around to paying me for the piece I wrote for their first issue. . . .

OKAY, THIS IS TOO BIZARRE: Over on Romenesko's letters page, Eric Boehlert of Salon writes:

Arab News nailed what has become the Wall Street Journal's bizarre daily log, "Best of the Web."

Okay. Follow the link and you'll read this:

What Sharon is doing on the ground, Taranto is doing in cyberspace.

They are a kind of twin evil. Sharon orders the crushing of civilians in their houses in Jenin in response to Palestinian suicide attacks. Taranto later provides a link to an Amnesty International report criticizing Palestinian suicide bombers.

Got that? Bulldozing houses is the same as posting links to Amnesty International reports!

Also -- as Josh Trevino points out -- the author of the Arab News piece claims to have authored a book that doesn't exist.

This is Salon's idea of "nailing" someone? That explains a lot, actually.

UPDATE: I wonder if Salon shares the Arab News' view of the peace process?

TRUCKIN' - Reader (and truck driver) Gerald Dearing takes up my challenge on the hours-of-service regulations:

I have to disagree about the Hours of Service regs being too inflexible. Seventy hours in eight days is a lot of driving time. When I hit seventy, I'm spent. The hard and fast rule is: no more than ten hours without eight hours off duty. Other than that, you can do pretty much what you want. Up to sixteen driving hours in a twenty four hour day. And even the eight hour break can be split into two segments of "sleeper berth time" (as opposed to standard "off duty time"). Notice that nowhere do the regs say that the driver must actually sleep.

Reform as proposed would make the rules more rigid, more complex, and more hostile to the driver. To the point of mandating a non-paid non-productive day of down time while on the road. If I have to be down, I'd rather be home!

Sleep experts criticize the ten-on-eight-off cycle as disruptive to circadian rhythms, but no workable cure has been proposed (that I've seen).

There is, of course, the argument that the number of hours a driver can work should be increased. The regs were written at a time when there were no freeways, no power steering, no cab suspension, no comforts such as air conditioning or brakes. Driving is much less taxing now than in the "good ole days". But I doubt any politico will seriously push that idea.

The biggest problem is Shippers and Receivers who demand the impossible, carriers desperate to please the customer, and drivers who will actually violate the regs when pushed.

Example: One recent load I had was from New Orleans to Denver for an 8 am delivery appointment. 1233 miles in 49 hours; achievable. Trailer was to be preloaded and ready for pickup at the Shipper by 8 am. Not only was it not ready, the product had not even been pulled or staged. It was 11 pm before I was ready to roll. Now the delivery expectation was legally unachievable.

A dispatcher will tell the driver "you need to be there on time, we can't upset this account". An experienced driver will say "the load gets there when I get there. The service failure is due to the Shipper, not us". If he wants to dispute it further, every company has a Safety Department. And the DOT loves these disputes (thousands of $$$$ in fines!).

Unfortunately, our industry has a high turnover of a small percentage of drivers. "Six week wonders." (It's a tough life.) There are always those with less experience who give in the the pressure or think that their job is in jeopardy. These drivers (and some cowboys) will actually run the load. And give the rest of us a bad name. Given time, they learn that no carrier dares take action against a driver who refuses to run on legitimate grounds. And a driver with a good safety record can find employment with just a phone call.

The time a driver spends waiting for loading or unloading is off duty time, and doesn't count against the hours of service. But it is not pleasant time. There is no rest or sleep. A loading delay of eight hours can count as your break, leaving you dead tired. The customer, however,expects you to be able to drive the next ten hours (or more) nonstop.

This problem would go away if carriers would charge delay/detainage fee for customers who fail to load/unload trucks in a timely manner. Say, within four hours of the appointment.. But carriers are loath to charge these fees, for fear the customers would switch to the competition. So this needs to be universal. I hate to call for Government action, but unless an industry wide resolve is reached... Maybe with pressure from PATT, etc...

This can happen without codification. Proctor & Gamble is a leader in this aspect. For their shipments, they require that the consignee complete unloading within two hours of the trucks delivery appointment, or the customer is charged higher rates on subsequent shipments. On the flip side, it was an expediter for P&G that screwed up my Denver load so badly.

Of course, there are truckers who would disagree with me. That's the great thing about truckers. Go to any truckstop and you can get an argument on any side of any issue. Some guys will argue both sides simultaneously. Anything to be contrary. Hours of Service is a favorite gripe. But I doubt you'd get much support for the reforms as proposed.

More than you ever wanted to know about trucking.

I like trucks. I have fond memories of riding along with my dad and grandad when I was little: both drove gas tankers at various times. For my dad it was just a working-through-college thing. I've never driven anything bigger than a rental truck full of sound equipment, though.

WHAT'S (AND WHO'S) PATRIOTIC? Jonah Goldberg has some thoughts.

CHOMSKY MANSION UPDATE: Still nice, but as I suspected, not as nice as first reported. It turns out 36,000 square feet is the lot size, not the house size. Chomsky's house is, in fact, significantly smaller than Stately InstaPundit Manor. I lack a lake place, and multiple boats, though.

I don't know how relevant this is, anyway. My dad, who was a big '60s protester, got some grief from people when he bought a Mercedes a while back. His response was, "I remember protesting for civil rights, and against the Vietnam war, but I don't remember taking a position on German luxury automobiles." Of course, my dad has never been an anti-capitalist weenie like Chomsky, either.

IT'S STARTED: Here's a rant about Salon's new blogging initiative.

I think I'll wait a bit longer before offering my own critique.

PRINCETON'S HACKING EXCUSE (the old "we were just checking the security!") wins the Whopper of the Week award from Slate: "It is possible that this really was a security check. If so, however, it was a remarkably thorough one. And why should Princeton care whether Yale's computers are secure?"

Why, indeed?

STEPHEN F. HAYES reports that Bill Moyers poses a problem for PBS, sufficiently so that quite a few stations pulled his show during pledge week for fear of offending viewers.

IS MOUSSAOUI INNOCENT? Jonah Goldberg makes a persuasive case that he may be, at least with regard to planning the WTC attack itself.

MORE ON CONGRESS'S RAVING LUNACY, from Mike Connor at AlterNet. (Via The Hamster.)

MORE RIOTS IN ALGERIA. If these were in Israel or the West Bank they'd be getting a lot more attention -- even though vastly more Algerians than Israelis and Palestinians have died as part of Algeria's troubles.

Why is that? Antisemitism? Condescending racism toward Arabs? ("The wogs are always killing each other -- big deal.") Or both?

HOWARD KURTZ says that Robert Rubin will be coming in for scrutiny over Enron.

PRINCETON HACKS YALE: TAPPED has the story. How pathetic.

Of course, maybe they're just hoping for a job in Hollywood.

UPDATE: Here's the Slashdot thread on the subject, with a number of interesting observations.

MORE ON POLITICAL FERMENT IN IRAN: I don't know when the lid will blow off, but it's definitely building up pressure.

JOHN MCWHORTER writes that Jesse Jackson's failure as a leader is actually a good thing for black America.

ANOTHER OBSERVATION ON THE bipartisan nature of financial scandals.

JOE KATZMAN has a thoughtful post on Islam, assimilation, and multiculturalism, using as his jumping-off point Nick Denton's "Western Dhimmis" post, and Vegard Valberg's report that Norwegian multiculturalists are saying that Norwegian women are "asking" to be raped by immigrants by dressing provocatively.

July 25, 2002

DELLWATCH: Howard Owens explains why his last computer was a Dell, but his current computer is something else.

I'VE BLOGGED REPEATEDLY on the Secret Service's problems, but this takes the cake:

DETROIT –– A Secret Service agent has admitted he scrawled anti-Muslim statements on a prayer calendar during the home search of a man charged with smuggling bogus checks into the United States, authorities said Thursday.

Not only is that a sorry-ass thing to do in general, but the damage it does to relations with the American Muslim community -- who for everyone's sake had better be on the right side -- is just incalculable. This guy shouldn't just be fired. He should be prosecuted, and given the maximum sentence they can manage.

I keep saying that homeland security is a joke. But this isn't even funny.

MORE ON THE IRAQI OKLAHOMA CITY CONNECTION from Reid Stott. I know that amazing coincidences happen sometime without any actual connection. But this strains credulity, doesn't it?

MULTIPLE CHOMSKY RANTS in one convenient location.

UPDATE: Chris Fountain writes:

I'm no fan of Chomsky, but the blog you link to claims that the man owns a
36,000 sq. foot home in Cambridge. That's possible, I suppose, but even here
in Greenwich, I don't believe our largest MacMansion exceeds, say, 25,000
sq. feet. The (presumably) false claim, coming at the beginning of the blog,
sort of undemines the effect of the whole rant.

Yeah, that's kinda big even for a celebrity socialist.

WHILE ERIC ALTERMAN has been bravely defending the Israeli attack on Hamas leader Saleh Shehadeh (and if you don't think it was brave, you should see his hatemail), Jeff Goldstein is ambivalent. I think both are good things, since they indicate people are thinking.

RICHARD COHEN, APPARENTLY, remains insufficiently scourged. But Charles Austin is doing his best to remedy that.

COLD FURY HAS A POST on cars and trucks. He knows what he's talking about.

Maybe next he'll weigh in on the hours-of-service regs, and how they don't make sense.

ANNATOPIA has another post on raves, this one on attending raves without doing drugs. Yes, it does happen.

THE WESTERN DHIMMIS: Nick Denton is sounding almost like Pim Fortuyn:

Let's turn the system around. In the West, it is the Muslims who are the dhimmis, the tolerated minority; they should be free to practice, so long as their Islam is a diluted Episcopalian version, expressed in a sabbath on Fridays, holidays at unusual times of the year, traditional names for children, and an annual parade through Brooklyn.

In other words, Western governments should make clear that the toleration of Muslim minorities is conditional. The West is a package deal: the prosperity that has attracted Muslim immigrants is a function of the Western tradition. Fundamentalist Islam is not, as the morally ambivalent would have it, as valid as any other system. Here's the Western dhimma: accept the supremacy of Western humanist values -- equal rights for women and sexual minorities, freedom of speech, and family law -- or leave.

Leave? Isn't that a bit harsh? Well, according to the Moroccan jurist al-Wansharisi, it is the duty of an orthodox Muslim to emigrate rather than remain under infidel rule. Bernard Lewis writes: "If the infidels were tolerant, this made the need to depart more rather than less urgent, since the danger of apostasy was correspondingly greater. Even Muslim tyranny, says al-Wansharisi, is better than Christian justice."

Nick's sounding more Warbloggerish than most Warbloggers. Kinda like Eric Alterman. I see this as a good thing.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING ARTICLE on The Nation's internal debate over 9/11 conspiracy theories.

MATT WELCH says the red/blue divide is back, in a column at TechCentralStation.

Gee, since I'm plugging a column at TCS, should I disclose that I write for 'em too? After all, otherwise you'd never know unless you (1) read this weblog, or (2) read TechCentralStation.

There's probably some idiot who'd say I should, or who at least would be prepared to argue that I should if it were politically useful to do so.

BOGUS ETHICS-CLAIM ALERT: Dave Kopel is under fire because the tagline at the end of his Rocky Mountain News media criticism column doesn't mention that he works for the Independence Institute, which receives tobacco money.

Ho hum. Paul Krugman's tagline doesn't mention that he got Enron money, and the media-ethics watchdogs haven't been too hot on that. And despite his truth-in-blogging campaign, Mickey Kaus still hasn't disclosed that he's really a Rhinoceros. In the interest of full disclosure, though, I should disclose the following:

(1) Although Kopel and I have never actually met, we've coauthored law-review articles and op-eds together (including one on the rave issue), thanks to the miracle of the Internet; and

(2) Though I included a tagline with my latest FoxNews column criticizing Joe Biden's dumb RAVE Act that disclosed this, Fox went with the usual one instead. It should have said:

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee and produces the techno band Mobius Dick.

Big whoop. These sorts of charges are what Peter Morgan and I called "Petty Blifil" in our book The Appearance of Impropriety: How the Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business and Society -- the use of trivial ethics charges as a means of discrediting someone whose real crime is disagreement with the maker of the charges. (The "Blifil" part is from Henry Fielding's novel Tom Jones, which has striking resonances for today's political environment).

Special bonus deepthink point: All the stuff disclosed above is discoverable in moments on Google. (Here, for example, is what you get when you search "Dave Kopel." Actually, I think you could find all that stuff out just by following links from this page.) Does the wide availability of Google reduce the obligation to affirmatively disclose potential conflicts of interest when anyone can find out about someone's affiliations, etc., with very little effort anyway?

UPDATE: I should also disclose -- in light of my oft-expressed hostility to the House of Saud -- that East Tennessee is poised to become a rival oil producer:

According to Pryor, the drillers encountered oil pressures at 2,500 feet underground that they would not normally expect to find at less than 10,000 feet. The well's flow rate was calculated at 12,000 barrels of oil in the first 24 hours with a flowing casing pressure of 1,750 pounds per square inch.

"This is a huge well for anywhere in the United States, but dwarfs anything ever discovered in Tennessee," Pryor said.

Oil. Black gold. Texas tea. I may go out on the back 40 and see if I can pull a Jed Clampett.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hesiod Theogeny emails that Douglas Adams was a Rhino, too! Hmm. With company like that, maybe I should be convert to Rhinism myself.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Hey, I was joking about the oil and conflicts of interest, but it turns out that one of my environmental-law colleagues, nationally known as a big green, owns some land very close to that well. "I'm sure there are environmentally friendly ways to extract the oil," he said. I think he was joking. . . .

OKAY, THIS IS THE LAST UPDATE, I PRACTICALLY PROMISE: Kaus is reporting on a deal between The American Prospect and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that sounds, well, a lot fishier than anything Kopel's been accused of. Will it make Romenesko?

WELL, MAYBE THIS WILL BE THE LAST: Here's a piece on the comprehensiveness of Google that supports my observation above.


ANNATOPIA HAS MORE on the dumb Biden/Hatch RAVE Act. It's a righteous Fisking.

DAVE WINER is blogging about Andrea See and sex.

ERIC OLSEN has the story behind the story on Steve Earle, complete with email from the reporter, who turns out be a musician himself. Interesting.

EUGENE VOLOKH reports trouble with Dell, too.

IT'S HARD TO HAVE A FAMINE in a fertile country like Zimbabwe. But Claudia Rosett says that Robert Mugabe is up to the task.

Maybe the United States should declare Mugabe our ally in the war on terrorism -- thus ensuring that the international human rights community will go into high gear condemning him.


FREETOWN, Sierra Leone –– Losing your job, quitting school, going broke and moving back home with your mother after living abroad for years would be tough on anyone.

It's even tougher when you're a former military dictator who once had the power to execute opponents at will.

Valentine Strasser became the world's youngest head of state when he seized power in 1992 at the age of 25. But the limelight didn't last – four years later, he was ousted in another coup.

"I'm basically living off my mother now. She's been very supportive," the 35-year-old said at a neighborhood bar on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital.

"It's been tough. I'm unemployed, but I'm coping."

I'll bet all the other ex-dictators make fun of him, too. Oh, well. At least he's not a TimeWarner/AOL shareholder.

UPDATE: My brother writes to disagree:

I don't think the Strasser story is embarrassing at all. Despite having been the world's youngest Head of State, he should be a role model for military rulers everywhere. Note... he clearly didn't steal huge sums of money and stash them in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands, he is not hugely reviled by the populace and bears little grudge for his ouster. His response to being out of power? 'Maybe I'll run for president someday, but right now I think I'll have a beer.' If more military rulers had such perspective the world would be a better place!

Good point, bro. (He's the smart one. I'm the cute one.)

THE L.A. EXAMINER is reporting more problems for California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon, including worries about whether he's rich enough. No one, however, is accusing Simon of being a large, horned mammal.

HAS ANYONE TRIED correlating stock-market movements with Blogger/Blogspot outages? If there's any match, we're in for a rough ride today.

I feel enormous gratitude toward Pyra and Ev Williams for kick-starting the Blogosphere, but I can't help but feel that the problems there are heading toward a tipping point. At the very least, I recommend getting off Blogspot (hosting isn't that expensive, unless you use a lot of bandwidth, like, er, me).

HOWARD KURTZ is imagining Martha Stewart in handcuffs. Take a cold shower, Howard.

MICKEY KAUS is denying charges that he's a rhinoceros. He suggests, however, that Paul Krugman is a cocoon-dweller. My six-year-old daughter informs me that this makes Krugman a moth, "because a butterfly comes from a chrysalis."

RAVING LUNACY: My FoxNews column is officially up. Follow the link in it for more background, or go here to read a brief by the ACLU and the Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund that I contributed to. We won.

UPDATE: Reader Brannon Denning writes:

One thing that occurred to me about the prosecutions is that this is a great way to make sure that cops have the opportunity to prosecute lots of white, upper-middle-class folks in their war on drugs to make it seem, you know, less racist (not that I believe it is) while not seeming to let up one whit on the "war on drugs." That probably explains the zeal with which the Dems are signing on.

Interesting. Though the promoters are often non-upper class, non-whites.

July 24, 2002

DAVE WINER explains the market rally.

SEKIMORI strikes again: I love the graphic on this newly-redesigned blog.

DELLWATCH: An hour on the phone, with two different people, and supposedly another technician is going to be dispatched.

Here's my question: don't these companies have computers? I mean, looking me up in a database and dispatching a technician should take 90 seconds, tops. Instead, I spend 20 minutes with one guy, who's tapping computer keys throughout, only to find that he can't actually do anything with my "case." He's the wrong "center" for me, whatever that means. What's more, his phone won't let him (he says) transfer me. I have to call another number and wait on hold all over again. Then the next person took 20 minutes tapping keys on her computer. "I had to transfer all the history," she said. I don't know what that means, but if it takes 20 minutes to transfer this history -- "we fucked up, send this guy a technician" -- then they must be using abacuses, not computers.

Note to auditors: all that money supposedly spent on information technology? Figure out where it really went.

Bonus Lileks-like moment of irony: The on-hold music was Chicago, singing "After all that we've been through, I will make it up to you, I promise you." Michael Dell should make it up to me.

BELLESILES UPDATE: The History News Network reports that the investigation is complete:

HNN has been told that that the independent panel appointed by Emory University to investigate Michael Bellesiles's Arming America has finished its report and submitted it.

The university told HNN that it will not have a comment "until the end of the summer."

Mr. Bellesiles has declined to comment.

The names of the panel members are secret. The university has indicated that it may never reveal their names even after the report is made public.

Now that's a real confidence-builder.


Funny, Kaus doesn't look Rhinish.

I'M GOING TO BE ON HUGH HEWITT'S RADIO SHOW in about 90 seconds, if it airs in your area.

Here's the link for live streaming.

JOE BIDEN'S RAVING LUNACY -- (and Orrin Hatch's) and why it means homeland security is a joke. My FoxNews column for tomorrow is up.

JONATHAN LAST says that Grover Norquist is overwrought and Neil Lewis of the New York Times is a bit gullible.

DELLWATCH: After being promised a callback from Dell within two hours last night (never happened), and a technician today (nope) I'm pretty down on Dell. But Dan Hartung emails that my experience is unusual:

Dell guy a no-show? THAT'S unusual, in my experience. Make sure you let them know -- they contract the service out and there will definitely be a consequence.

I don't know what to say about the call. They've always called me back, generally well before I expect it.

In my experience, the only company that's had better support was (defunct) Zenith laptops (and I worked on that support desk!).

Well, maybe their local contractor, BancTec, is just no good. Or maybe somebody died suddenly or something. But I'm pretty disappointed with Dell. I had better luck with my old eMachine.

MICKEY KAUS admits error as part of his new "trustworthy blogging" initiative. I credit Diane E.'s "SmarterKausfiles" initiative.

WARBLOGGER FFM CRITICIZED THE ISRAELIS, but warblogger Eric Alterman isn't having any of this pantywaist stuff:

I don’t know if killing the military chief of Hamas, together with his family, is an effective military measure-as surely someone will rise to replace him and it will make a lot more people angry, perhaps even angry enough to become suicide bombers. It may not bring Israel and the Palestinians any closer to peace or mutual security. But I don’t have a moral problem with it.

Hamas is clearly at war with Israel. Hamas feels empowered to strike Israeli civilians inside Israel proper and not just on the war zone of West Bank. Sheik Salah Shehada could have protected his family by keeping away from them. He didn’t and owing to his clear legitimacy as a military target, they are dead too.

So tough luck, fella.

War is hell.

John Podhoretz agrees.

UPDATE: Alterman is sounding even more warbloggerish in today's entry:

If you ask for war, you are asking to have your civilians slaughtered, unless you can keep the war on the other side’s turf. Well, Hamas asked. I have always believed that if Israel were to do the right thing — for itself as well as for the Palestinians — and uproot the settlements and turn the entire West Bank and Gaza (with minor modifications) to a demilitarized Palestinian state, it would probably require a Palestinian civil war to enforce the peace.

Hamas is an irredentist force that will not settle for half a loaf, one of many on both sides, unfortunately. They must be defeated militarily in, in order to do this, it is necessary to kill a great many innocent civilians. It’s an unpleasant fact of life to admit, but there it is.


UPDATE: Warblogger N.Z. Bear is chiding Alterman for excessive bloodthirstiness. Well, sort of. I see where The Bear is coming from, but I took Alterman to mean that, well, war is hell, and lots of bad stuff is going to happen once you start one. The legal analogy is estoppel, where certain conduct means you're not allowed to make certain arguments. Here, Hamas wanted a war, so while the IDF may be morally responsible for its actions, Hamas and its supporters won't be heard to complain about those actions.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Bear has responded. Note that I'm using a legal analogy, but I understand this is a moral issue. Meanwhile, The Idler has a piece on why Israel did it.

BEST OF THE WEB reminds us that the demonstration at the Saudi Embassy in Washington is tomorrow at 10 a.m. Details on their site.

SMALLPOX APOCALYPSE: Some disturbing stuff from Tom Holsinger at StrategyPage. He echoes my view that, bad as it would be for the U.S., a smallpox epidemic would hurt the rest of the world more. Unfortunately, that may not deter people in the grip of a psychotic death cult, as the Islamoterror crowd tends to be.

HEY, FBI -- DON'T YOU KNOW THERE'S A WAR ON? Apparently not:

Editor -- Al Qaeda has the upper hand in the war against terror because the security agencies responsible for protecting us act like a bunch of sissies.

Case in point: I was recently hired for an FBI counter-terrorism position based on my ability to speak several foreign languages, my thorough knowledge of Middle Eastern culture and my extensive travel abroad. Each FBI employee who interviewed me told me, "We're desperately in need of language skills."

I'm a blue-blooded American, 44 years old, who has taught college several years for the Department of Defense, and I was excited my skills would be helpful in the war against terror. Then came the FBI's lie detector test.

I admitted I'd smoked marijuana about 20 times when I was 18. I've never used drugs since. But within five minutes I was put out on the street.

I told the FBI agent who kicked me out that "I doubt very seriously that Bin Laden screened any of the hijackers for drug experimentation when they were kids." The FBI agent confided, "You wouldn't believe the number of super- qualified individuals we've turned away. Just last week we let go a highly qualified psychologist for the same reason. It's very frustrating."

Moral of the story: Don't hold your breath for the FBI to save you.

Message to the homeland security crowd: If the war is important enough to justify a new cabinet-level department, sweeping powers for law enforcement, and (you know it's coming) higher taxes, then it's important enough to get rid of these pantywaist just-say-no rules. If it's not important enough to get rid of those rules, then it's not a war, and you guys need to turn in your badges.

Homeland security remains a joke, and the people in charge remain unserious.

(Via email from Stefan Sharkansky, who also has the letter on his blog, I notice).

TALKLEFT has joined the Ninth Amendment discussion.

UPDATE: And Jeff Cooper has a response to my earlier post.

COMPUTER GEEKS AS FIREMEN? Well, sort of. Read this speech by Bruce Sterling on ubiquitous computing over on Winds of Change. Excerpt:

You don't want to wander into a Kazaa and Napster version of George Orwell. Ubiquitous computation, unlike information, does not "want to be free." This is not a technology of freedom. Ubiquitous computation wants to make you its slave. Try to remember that, for all our sakes, all right? This is not a water-cooler for gossip, like the Internet is. This is a hard-case, hard-times, hands-on, rather ruthless command-and-control system.

Actually, if we're going to have a version of 1984 I hope it's a Kazaa and Napster version, since it'll go broke before it actually does much. And in fact, that's more or less what Sterling says:

I rather doubt that the Orwellian version of ubicomp has much of a future. That's a scenario that I have dubbed "Terrorspace", which is ubicomp in the context of airports and nuclear power sites. If you've been in airports recently, I believe you are seeing a pretty apt, early version of Terrorspace. At any random moment, you can have your possessions rifled through by strangers. Your shoes are scanned, and various small but vital objects in your pockets can be confiscated by semi- educated security geeks. They're either pathetically under-trained for the job (in which case you certainly feel no safer), or else they are intelligent and capable people (in which case you pity them and wish they had some other job, for the sake of general human happiness and the GNP). Rather than making us any safer, Terrorspace airports serve as political indoctrination centers that humiliate our voting population on a broad scale. They are meant to inure us to ever-escalating levels of governmental clumsiness and general harm.

The difficulty with this Terrorspace approach is that airports and airlines are going broke. Airports are hemorrhaging money trying to maintain this terrorspace apparatus. It is likely to spread to the brittle power of nuclear power plants, nuclear waste dumps, bio-sites, chemical sites, liquid petroleum gas centers and so forth. That will hugely increase the overhead of all these dangerous industries.

That's a very considerable tax burden. So, though Terrorspace may serve as a full employment program for the loyal and slightly stupid, that's not going to pay off socially or economically in the long run.

Going broke is the fate of totalitarian societies generally; a computer-run one might just do it faster. Or not. Read the whole thing, which contains both hopeful and cautionary notes.

JUST HAD A GREAT MOMENT IN TEACHING: Nobody's around today, so I went to lunch on my own with a draft student paper to read. (I don't teach summer school, but I supervise students writing papers -- gratis, I might add, since I don't get paid to do any teaching in the summer.) But it's worth it when, as today, the first draft is so good. I bragged on the paper, and the student, to the waitress.

SALON-BRANDED WEBLOGS! N.Z. Bear thinks it's a good thing. So does Dave Winer.

There seem to be more than a few already. Still no Rachael Klein, though.

WILLIAM PIERCE, Nazi and author of The Turner Diaries, is dead. He will not be missed.

BEFORE I WENT ON VACATION, I asked if anyone could identify the source of my phrase "I have an axe to grind, and plenty of fury to turn the wheel." Not many people replied, but someone was desperate enough to consult Google Answers, which also came up dry. The source is Arthur Allen Leff's article, Economic Analysis of Law: Some Realism About Nominalism, in the Virginia Law Review. It's a pretty famous article within the law, so I thought someone would get it. The cite is 60 Va. L. Rev. 451, 456 (1974).

(Leff, by the way, was the best writer in legal scholarship during the second half of the 20th century, notwithstanding his tragically short career. His Memorandum from the Devil, and Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law, were tremendously funny pomposity-deflating pieces. Sadly, they're not on the Web, or on Lexis or Westlaw. Somebody should do something about that.)

UPDATE: This is a warning not to get too complacent about the omniscience of Google and other search engines, too. They cover a lot -- but "a lot" isn't the same as "everything," or even "everything that matters."

THE L.A. EXAMINER NOTES this report that the feds have arrested top Adelphia executives.

Going after cable company execs for fraud? Now there's a law-enforcement campaign that Americans can get behind.

Next they should go after the Dell Computer folks who promised me on-site service. I waited around all day yesterday for a technician who was a no-show, and didn't call. Dell then promised to fix it for me and to call back within two hours. They didn't.

Dude, I'm gettin' screwed. Shoulda done it myself, but I paid for the damn warranty.

FFM is criticizing Israel over the bombing attack that killed a Hamas leader.

UNFOGGING THE FUTURE: My TechCentralStation column is up. I praise the federal government.

THE DANGERS OF DECONSTRUCTION. All of a sudden, I've got a craving for tacos.

CHRISTIAN PACIFIST UPDATE: I don't know why anyone cares who the new Archbishop of Canterbury is, but his views appear rather Hauerwasian:

Dr Williams, who was arrested in the 1980s during a CND demonstration, has described the conflict in Afghanistan as "embarrassing" and "morally tainted", and said that the proposed war against Iraq would be "illegal and immoral".

Actually, that's unfair to Hauerwas. Williams sounds more like a Caldicottian. (Via The Corner).

JASON RYLANDER has very handsomely revised and extended his remarks on Congressional pay raises in light of the fact that I had said the exact opposite of the view he attributed to me. He also addresses Jeff Hauser's claim that it's not a raise, but a COLA. I don't buy that either. I got a three percent raise this year, which was basically a COLA, but it was called a "raise." Everyone (not just conservative Congress-bashers, of which Hauser too seems to think I am one) has been calling this a pay raise.

My own feeling is that it violates the spirit, and probably the letter, of the 27th Amendment however you choose to characterize it.

BUSMAN'S HOLIDAY: In an update to my post on the Kyle Still / Jeff Cooper debate on the Ninth Amendment, I actually uploaded and linked a couple of my law review articles on the subject. I then posted so much stuff that most people won't scroll down far enough to notice. So I'm mentioning it here. It's not often I let the dayjob reach so far into InstaPundit, so I hate to waste it.


A preliminary orbit suggests that 2002 NT7 is on an impact course with Earth and could strike the planet on 1 February, 2019 - although the uncertainties are large.

Astronomers have given the object a rating on the so-called Palermo technical scale of threat of 0.06, making NT7 the first object to be given a positive value.

From its brightness, astronomers estimate it is about two kilometres wide, large enough to cause continent-wide devastation on Earth.

Although astronomers say the object definitely merits attention, they expect more observations to show it is not on an Earth-intersecting trajectory.

I sure hope not. Think what that threat would do to the stock market.

CHRIS MATTHEWS has malaria. No, really. Maybe this will be Jonah Goldberg's next excuse for missing his deadline.

CHOMSKY-MOCKERY hits a new high point in this cartoon. It's all a CIA plot, of course.

CONGRESSIONAL PAY: Reader Bill Wyatt offers a suggestion:

On your comments concerning Congressional pay, I agree that Congressmen and Senators are not on average overpaid (though there are plainly exceptions; Cynthia McKinney springs to mind). But, their compensation (and that of all elected officials) should be governed by the same rules that apply to the self-employed: quarterly estimated tax payments instead of withholding, inclusion in the social security system and payment of the "self-employment tax", tax-free retirement plan contributions limited in the same way that HR-10 and 401(k) contributions are limited, no deduction for individual payment of health insurance premiums, etc. Any new burdens on the earnings of the self-employed should automatically apply to elected officials. To effect the change in treatment I would even support increasing their nominal pay by the amounts currently contributed to their pension and medical benefits programs (or their actuarial equivalents, since I'm sure that, like social security, these are simply "pay as you go" schemes).

Assuming rationality on the part of those who generally prefer power to money (or who at least prefer power to work as a means of getting money), this might align the interests of the governing class a bit more closely with those of the most dynamic segment of the private economy. Or at least spread the miseries of our current system a bit more widely.

Of course, if you really want change, just make every American, not just members of Congress, jump through all the hoops that afflict the self-employed. We'd have a revolution in under a year.

JAMES MORROW ASKS: If sanctions are starving Iraqi babies, how come Saddam Hussein is threatening to boycott Aussie wheat?

JACEONLINE isn't very happy with The Motley Fool today.

AN AMERICAN MUSLIM WHO IS ALLEGED TO BE AN AL QAEDA member was arrested in Denver. The story mentions that another man, a Jordanian-born American, was arrested with a rather large cargo of forged checks, and is suspected of being an Al Qaeda trainee. Here's more on that case, from the Washington Post.

It's probably a mistake to make too much of these: Like a lot of the "militia" busts post-Oklahoma City, these may well turn out to be less significant than they appear. The Arab-American and American Islamic communities had better hope so, as this sort of thing is certainly dreadful PR. Groups like CAIR certainly aren't helping things with their posturing.

UPDATE: Matthew Hoy says it's not racist to be suspicious of Arab men in light of recent events. He's talking about foreign nationals wanting visas, not Arab-Americans.

GRAY DAVIS / SFSU UPDATE: Meryl Yourish reports that Gray Davis has ordered California universities to address hatred and antisemitism. Hey, if he keeps doing stuff like that he might get reelected.


July 23, 2002


JOANNE JACOBS has a piece on problems with economics education. I wonder what Brad De Long thinks.


According to the New York Times, the American bombing campaign in Afghanistan has created a “Legacy of Misery” for the inhabitants of the country (see image below). You heard that right; the Americans, not the Taliban, have, by insolently supplanting a misogynistic, thuggish theocracy with a nascent democracy, created a “legacy of misery.” Rather than the typically somnolent quotes from Global Exchange about unaffectionate military tactics, the NYT editors present a slide show of wounded children.

It never stops.

ROBERT MUSIL says that Robert Rubin faces serious risk under the False Statements Act for statements he made denying or obfuscating his involvement with certain Enron-related events.

If so, this is probably a testament to the excessive reach of the False Statements Act, though that excessive reach is absolutely a matter of legislative intent -- and if he were nailed on this, Rubin wouldn't be the first to suffer from that excessive reach.

Those seriously interested in this should read Peter W. Morgan's The Undefined Crime of Lying to Congress: Ethics Reform and the Rule of Law, 86 Nw. U. L. Rev. 177 (1992), which explains the way in which the False Statements Act (which applies to statements made to any federal official, not just Congress) has been used and abused.

UPDATE: Mark Levin says Rubin has other problems though.

KYLE STILL AND JEFF COOPER have an interesting debate going concerning the Ninth Amendment. I'm a big Ninth Amendment fan. I don't agree with Cooper, though, that the Ninth Amendment poses a problem for strict constructionists. It only poses a problem for intellectually dishonest strict constructionists of the Robert Bork variety. I spelled this out at (no doubt excessive) length in a 1990 law review article entitled Sex, Lies and Jurisprudence: Robert Bork, Griswold, and the Philosophy of Original Understanding, which unfortunately isn't available on the web.

The gist was that if you believe in following the Framers' intentions, and if the Framers clearly believed in unenumerated rights, then you can't dismiss the Ninth Amendment as a mere "inkblot," as Bork did in his confirmation hearings. If you've got access to a law library, the cite is 24 Ga. L. Rev. 1045 (1990).

UPDATE: I've uploaded an HTML version. It's a bit on the lengthy side. On the same topic, but much shorter, is this piece, entitled Penumbral Reasoning on the Right, that appeared in the Penn law review in 1992. Should you fail to slog through the first piece, please understand that it is not an argument that original understanding is bad as a means of interpretation, only that (1) it won't do what Bork claims; and (2) won't produce the results he wants. Indeed, in the Sex piece I demonstrate that the very sources cited by Bork in criticizing Griswold v. Connecticut turn out to actually support the reasoning of the majority, rather than Bork's critique. (It's difficult to believe that Bork actually read Joseph Story very closely, in light of what Story says as compared to what Bork says, despite Bork's repeated invocation of Story as a key source of understanding regarding the Framers' intent.) If you don't read the whole thing, you can find the nub of the argument at page 1081 (*1081).

So there. More law-review stuff than I usually put on InstaPundit, but occasionally the day job intrudes.

JOHN HUGHES ASKS who will lead an Arab Renaissance. The bigger question is whether enough Arabs will want one.

"WHAT I LEARNED IN A MONTH AWAY FROM BLOGGING" -- at The Spoons Experience. Very interesting perspective.

FORGET THE PATRIOT ACT, or TIPS: Eugene Volokh has found a bigger threat to civil liberties.

HOWARD BASHMAN has an example of why church/state separation isn't such a bad idea. Funny, though: lots of University folks don't mind blending the two, so long as the church in question isn't Christian.

"CUT THEIR PAY AND SEND THEM HOME:" I was all set to write a snarky item about Lamar Alexander's proposal (back when running for President) to limit Congress by cutting their pay and sending them home, and how his tune had changed now that he was running for Senate. But when I checked (yeah, I do that) I found that he's still saying it. (Scroll down to Plain Talk commentary 6, or click here to hear it in WMA, or here for RealAudio). I just hadn't heard that ad. (They mostly seem to be running the gun commercials here).

Advantage: Alexander.

A FEW DAYS AGO, I wrote that there was no program for the Mac that compares with Sonic Foundry's Acid. Todd Fletcher wrote me to say that Ableton Live fills that bill. Cool. I'll have to check it out.

I've lost the email, but I did save the link, and I was reminded when I read this interesting piece in Wired about what the spread of computer-based music tools is doing to the industry. It's very much like weblogging. Guess that's why I do both, though I've been slacking on the music front.

UPDATE: Eric Olsen has more about computer-based music.

PUBLIC DEFENDERS ARE discovering the Second Amendment in the wake of the Justice Department's change in position. Though the story has the predictable New York Times slant, it's pretty interesting.

It's possible, as the Times story implies, that Ashcroft is dumb enough that he thought the change in position wouldn't create any new litigation. It's more likely that he's smart enough to have found a way to turn a big liberal constituency group, public defenders and criminal-defense lawyers, into supporters of the Second Amendment.

UPDATE: Jeralyn Merritt at Talkleft says I'm wrong about Ashcroft. Well, sort of.

OOPS. Jason Rylander is all over me for saying that Congress is overpaid. Only what I said was: "Personally, I don't think that members of Congress are overpaid. But I think that their sleaze in pursuing pay raises is a small, and clearly visible, example of their sleaze in pursuing lots of other ends."

See, I don't think they're overpaid. Just over-sleazy. There's a difference.

UPDATE: Rand Simberg has his own Congressional pay increase proposal. Not only does he think they're underpaid, he thinks they're overworked, and proposes to solve both problems.

PETER MAAS has an interesting post on why Al Qaeda has failed. (Via Nick Denton.)

TED TURNER LAND-GRAB UPDATE: WyethWire says it's not the first time.

FLIT continues to cover the Kandahar bombing incident, which killed 4 Canadian soldiers, like white on rice.

KEN LAYNE has the last word on Steve Earle.

YOU KNOW IT'S A SLOW NEWS SEASON when people are arguing about who Mike Barnicle's cousins are.

CONSPIRACY THEORY UPDATE: Here's an interesting exchange over a conspiracy-debunking piece by The Nation's David Corn.

I know some people on the right who have been hoping that The Nation would give a lot of play to the conspiracists, thus discrediting itself. They don't seem to be following the script, though, as these wise words from Corn demonstrate:

Lots of crazy schemes in the cold war were drafted and-- thankfully--not implemented, such as a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union. And, yes, in the past decades, the CIA and its clandestine cousins have engaged in horrendous actions--some of which I have chronicled in Blond Ghost and the pages of The Nation. Yet none of this proves anything about September 11. I return to a simple point: Let doubters pursue questions, nothing is wrong with that. In fact, it's healthy. But allegations of this variety demand proof. Skeptics are not free of responsibility.

Totalitarian? Jean Santerre accuses me of that. This e-mailer is in desperate need of perspective. Stalin was a totalitarian. I, on the other hand, am concerned that conspiracy theorizing distracts people from the actual malfeasance, mistakes and misdeeds of the US government and the intelligence community. My criterion is rather basic, and I am sorry it has eluded Santerre: One should assert what one can prove as accurate and truthful.

UDPATE: This L.A. Weekly piece on Euro-conspiracists is worth reading, too.

CAN IT GET ANY STUPIDER? The MPAA, and its reliable shill Sen. Fritz Hollings (D -Disney), are now trying to make it impossible for you to record movies from TV.

I think we should teach 'em a lesson by reducing the copyright term on movies to 5 years.

BILL QUICK says that Howard Kurtz is right to say that Bush has been Clintonized -- but Quick says that it's bad news for the Democrats:

It's just that what "Clintonization" really means is that the majority of people simply don't trust either the motives or the good intentions of those who oppose the President. This infuriated the right during the last administration, and it infuriates the left under this one.

CONGRESSIONAL PAY RAISE: Howard Fienberg emails this bit from Leno last night:

Jay Leno: "Is this unbelievable? Congress just voted to give themselves a pay raise. Another pay raise. This is their fourth pay raise in four years. Anybody here had a pay raise every year? No. And yesterday, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, he defended the congressional pay raise. He said Congress works hard. And all of that hard work has certainly paid off, huh? Yeah. Let's recognize a job well done. We are at war. Terrorists all over the place. Wall Street's collapsing. People are out of work. Retirement funds are gone. Imagine if they hadn't goofed off. Oh, my God.

"On one hand, Congress does need this pay raise, you know, since those Enron checks dried up. You know, those are gone now, so they don't have that coming in anymore.

"I got a better idea. Instead of a salary, let's put Congress on commission. They don't get paid unless they do something right."

You tell 'em, Jay. Personally, I don't think that members of Congress are overpaid. But I think that their sleaze in pursuing pay raises is a small, and clearly visible, example of their sleaze in pursuing lots of other ends. All too often, the goal is to make sure the public doesn't know what's going on until it's too late.

THE AMERICAN PROSPECT is debunking the Afghan-oil-pipeline conspiracy theories in a masterful piece.

One item: the sinister Unocal pipeline? Unocal doesn't want it. It's only the countries that it would have traversed that want it. (Some imperialism, huh?)

Will this change any minds? Those that are open to reason, perhaps. But I don't think there are many of those in the "this is all about oil" crowd.

THE ONLY PAIN AT THE DENTIST'S was to my wallet. I'm always a bit disconcerted to be praised for flossing daily, though. I thought everyone did. Apparently not. Ick.

OFF TO THE DENTIST: No posts until later this morning. Meanwhile go visit Dawson, who has a lot of interesting stuff today. So does Martin Devon. And if you're tired of dissing Steve Earle, go over to Samizdata where they're happily dissing Bono instead.

July 22, 2002

WHY PEOPLE AREN'T AS DUMB AS POLITICIANS THINK: Read this first-hand reporting by Megan McArdle.

UPDATE: Maybe this explains it. And the Blogosphere, too!

CALLING 1997: Bruce Hill has a telephone conversation with his former self, who wasn't expecting things to work out quite this way.

A VICIOUS CYCLE OF LEGISLATION: Here's a paper by Tim Lynch on responses to terrorism that's worth reading.


COLLIN MAY ASKS "WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE" over Spanish unilateralism that will presumably inflame the entire Muslim world.


MATT WELCH IS DEFENDING STEVE EARLE, noting that "Earle frequently writes songs from the points of view of -- wait for it -- other people. Including people he doesn’t necessarily agree with." Well, yes. I do that, too. (Marc Weisblott replies to Welch by comparing Steve Earle to Ice Cube and Tom Arnold).

But the reason I'm not buying Welch's defense (which National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru echoes) is that the comments by Earle in stories on the subject suggest that he's deliberately trying to provoke people.

If you decide to knock down a hornet's nest to stir up some excitement, you can't complain when you're stung. But hey, at least he got Welch to come out of seclusion and blog a little.

What will really sting, though, are comments like this one from the story linked above:

But Martha Bayles, author of "Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music" and a literature professor at Claremont McKenna College in California, said Earle's apparent identification with Lindh reflected "a psychological need to repeat the good old days of the radical 60s, just like Mom and Dad."

"Never mind whether the cause makes any sense -- the point is to march in the streets and get on TV. It sounds as if Earle is singing to this crowd," Bayles said.


UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus says Welch is wrong. Going back to the story I quoted above, I note that some people who have actually heard the Earle song seem to interpret it the way that talk radio has:

A smattering of like-minded New Yorkers who heard an advance copy of the Lindh song said they were enthusiastic.

"Steve Earle is standing up against the new patriotism, the 'You're with us or you're against us' mentality," said Joan Hirsch, manager of Revolution Bookstore, which stocks anti-war pamphlets and leftist literature.

"(The song) speaks of the U.S. demonization of anyone who would go against the traditional American way," Hirsch said. "It's important for people to come to the defense of artists who are speaking out."

So far, I haven't seen any reports of Steve Earle saying he was just getting into a character's head, and not taking a political position. But perhaps he'll write a sympathetic song about the thoughts and dreams of Tom DeLay next, and prove me wrong.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Norwegian blogger Vegard Valberg writes that Earle needs to dress up his anti-Americanism with more artistic pretension, the way the Europeans do. The Blogger Formerly Known as Sarge is also typically pithy:

Billy Joel accepted the Brass Booby on Earle's behalf at his home in Zurich, Switzerland, where he has been living in exile since his deportation in 1989 following the release of "We Didn't Start the Fire". Although no hard figures exist, the National Association of Deported Has-Beens reports 236 musicians were deported last year for crappy political songs no one ever heard of.

Earle will also be in the running later this year in the "Best Use of a Gimmick That Never Works in Order to Jump Start a Dead Career" category. We wish him luck.

He's a contender.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Eric Olsen weighs in on Matt Welch's side, more or less, with a long and detailed post.

I agree with Eric that I don't necessarily care what Earle "really thinks." Sure, you can write for a character who isn't you (I've never been an alcoholic who got drunk every day on Everclear, but I wrote a song called "Waves of Grain" about one). But when you write a song that you advertise as a "statement," then, well, people are going to call you on the statement you make. My guess is that Earle means it as a poke in the eye at people he doesn't like more than as a statement of actual sympathy for the Taliban, who'd be hurling him from the tops of buildings pretty damn quick if they could. But it's no great shock if the pokees poke back, is it?

It's not like anyone's censoring his song. It won't get any less airplay than it would have anyway, which is to say next to none. It'll probably get more. As for the criticism, well, he seems to welcome it. So what's the beef?

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Henley has the wrapup. He thinks I'm wrong.

Thought experiment: Just after the Jasper, Texas incident, Lee Greenwood releases a song sympathetically looking inside the mind of a guy who lynches some black people. Same analysis?

WE KEEP HEARING ABOUT HOW JOHN ASHCROFT IS THREATENING CIVIL LIBERTY, but here's another case of censorship by a University against someone it doesn't like. American University should be ashamed.

FIRST IT'S THE SAUL ZAENTZ / SAURON CONNECTION, now Dave Trowbridge has spotted Saruman in the Middle East.

HOUSTON MOON ROCK THEFT STING: This is pretty interesting. I was on Larry King talking about space property rights and moon rocks some years ago when a woman caller said that J. Paul Getty had had a moon rock in his house, which she had seen as a visitor. That, I later determined, was probably one of many plaster-of-paris fake moon rocks used for astronaut training and later given out as gifts.

This, however, involved an effort to steal the real thing. But the real tragedy is that moon rocks are still rare and valuable. If things had gone as they should have, they'd now be common enough not to tempt thieves.

BAD BLOOD: InstaPundit has been on the New York blood story since August 15, with updates both before and after 9/11. Now Douglass Starr has a lengthy piece in The New Republic on how things were mishandled by the Red Cross.

MOIRA REDMOND WONDERS why moviehouses are full of dysfunctional mothering lately.

Obviously, it's a subtle plot by Richard Bennett.


As Daniel Taylor has already demonstrated, hospitals are woefully behind the times. We need a T1 beside every bed, to facilitate blogging by indisposed bloggers.

CHARLES OLIVER has several posts saying that people are being too hard on Steve Earle. Read the lyrics and see what you think.

I'm not convinced. And I think Oliver's comparison with Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" is just plain wrong. The character in Cash's song knows he's done something evil, and that he's paying for it, not being rewarded in Heaven.

JOHN FOGERTY WAS RIGHT, writes Eugene Volokh: Saul Zaentz really is the devil, or at least a near replica.

SAUDI CONSPIRATORS CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF VISA EXPRESS, but this British 9/11 widow faces deportation even though her children are American.

The INS: It's everything you don't want it to be.

MOUSSAOUI'S SAUDI FORMER ROOMMATE has pled guilty to charges of lying about his association with Moussaoui:

Al-Attas, born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Yemeni parents, was Moussaoui's friend and, briefly, his roommate in Norman, where Moussaoui had come to enroll at the nearby Airman Flight School.

Al-Attas, told U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey that he lied to investigators in Minnesota on Aug. 18 and in Oklahoma on Sept. 11, especially about Moussaoui, whom he knew by an alias, Shaqil.

"When the agents asked if I (also) knew his real name, I lied and said I did not," he said.

Al-Attas admitted he also lied about their plans to go to New York City in late August, 2001; knowledge of Moussaoui's desire to participate in jihad; a planned trip to Pakistan to speak to religious scholars and "others who believe that our religion favors participation in jihad."

He said he also tried to prevent law enforcement authorities from learning about some of Moussaoui's classmates at an Oklahoma flight school.

Interesting. I wonder what he's telling investigators now.

LINDH MAY DO ONLY TWELVE YEARS because of a screwup in calculating his sentence under federal guidelines, reports TalkLeft.


CHRIS BERTRAM disses a Guardian columnist who says that not much has changed in Britain and America since 1977.

Yep. I'm typing this on an Altair 8080 in Electric Pencil. I'll upload it to my BBS (new 1200 baud modem! it's blazing fast!) where dozens of people will see it. Then I'm putting on my white suit and going dancing to the sounds of Evelyn Champagne King.

Where do they get these guys?

IN LIGHT OF MY EARLIER POST ON THE POSSE COMITATUS ACT and the use of the military for law enforcement, you might want to check out this book chapter by Dave Kopel on the deadly fruit of military participation in the Drug War.

UPDATE: If you're too lazy, er busy, to read the whole chapter, Kopel has a nice post on this over at The Corner that neatly summarizes his point of view.

STEVE EARLE, YOU IDIOT: Porphyrogenitus writes:

If Anyone Still Thinks that no one on the Left identifies with every enemy of America, they ought to check out this story on singer-songwriter Steve Earle, and his new ode to Johnny bin Walker, Osama, and the Taliban, glorifying them as Christ-like figures.

It gets worse, as you'll see if you follow the link and read the quotes from Earle. Earle's a great musician and a great producer (listen to his work with Ray Kennedy on the V-Roy's albums Just Add Ice and All About Town). But he's basically a failure as a human being, with serious drug, booze and money problems. This looks to me like a pathetic bid for attention.

But, on the upside, all those Islamofascists probably hate being portrayed as "Christ-like."

UPDATE: Hey, maybe Webb Wilder will write a song in response.

JUDGING BY HER PIECE IN LAST WEEK'S New Yorker, Katha Pollitt needs to read Down Olsen's blog.

STEVEN CHAPMAN, who along with Jim Henley is filling the intelligent-critic-of-the-war niche that has been left so spectacularly vacant by the "Eric A. Blair" crowd, has an interesting debate going on about the importance of capturing Osama bin Laden.

I'm all for cutting off the snake's head. But personally, I've long been skeptical that Osama is at the root of all this. I think he's a tool. I think the Saudis are behind it, running a cold (and sometimes hot) war against us with cooperation from various other governments and groups in the region. I think this has been going on for a long time, and that considerable effort will be needed to shut it down.

IAIN MURRAY explores the argument that both strict gun laws and strict drug laws create more crime. He finds it to be half right.

DAVID JANES says that Microsoft's Palladium program will fail because no one but Microsoft wants it.

The Palladium will fail as a PC technology, for the simple reason that it offers little to anyone. To the end user, there is seemingly no benefit and many potential downsides with this new technology. For businesses, Microsoft’s dismal record at producing reliable and secure software means they would be best advised to stick with what they have for system security. For governments, the issue is even more clear cut: Palladium without a back door offers a world of unmonitorable data and Palladium with a back door means foreign governments have to worry about their citizen’s data being secretly read by the US.

Microsoft Bob, meet Palladium; Palladium meet Bob.

I hope he's right.

UPDATE: Dan Gillmor is less sanguine.

KEN LAYNE has identified some celebrity bloggers that I was, ahem, previously unaware of.

ERIC S. RAYMOND writes about trying to quiet a computer. My old computer sounded like a Harrier taking off. My Dell is so quiet it's hard to tell it's on. That's how I "quieted" my computer. Eric's approach is a bit more hands-on.

When recording music into the old computer, I threw a comforter over it, which worked pretty well when coupled with pointing the microphone so as to pick up as little as possible. One thing that Eric touches on that is absolutely right is that volume is only part of the issue: the pitch of the noise is also important. Best: "white noise" from rushing air. Worse: multiple discordant pitches from different cooling fans, drives, etc. The intrusiveness (in recording) and fatigue level (in just working) from different kinds of noise varies much more than the volume.

I don't think designers of computers -- or other noisy products -- give this much thought, but they should. Noise is a qualitative matter as much as a quantitative one.

Natch, one of Eric's commenters says "get a Mac!" Problem is, lots of music software that I use -- especially the superb Sonic Foundry Acid Pro -- isn't available for the Mac. And there's just nothing comparable to Acid.

THE MARKET is so far failing to live up (down?) to the hyped fears that were all over cable this weekend.

As we wait to see what happens later, consider this question: How much current investor fear is based on accounting issues, and how much is based on the likelihood that Congress will do something stupid?

LARRY KLAYMAN: How things have changed. He used to be regarded as a Republican tool. Now he's respectably bipartisan, and complaining that he's being shut out by FoxNews.

STOCK CRASHES AND RUMORS OF WAR? Don't worry, be happy! Salon delivers its Summer sex issue!

JOANNE JACOBS joins the many who think that Harper's magazine is out of touch.

It's been that way for a while, actually, but (1) it's gotten worse; and (2) The Atlantic has gotten much better, providing a damaging contrast.

AMERICAN BASES IN SAUDI ARABIA: What to do? Dr. Weevil looks at the situation.

REPUBLIC AND EMPIRE: Many classical writers thought it natural and unavoidable for republics to evolve into empires. Americans (including this one) have never wanted to see their nation become an empire. Science Fiction writer Jerry Pournelle has been meditating on this subject for years (he was predicting a U.S. / Russian "codominium" back in the 1970s) and now has a page on his site pulling together links and observations.

AL QAEDA AND IRAN: There seems to be a connection.

July 21, 2002

THESE PROPOSALS for giving the military law-enforcement powers are a dreadful idea. Soldiers make lousy police. After a while acting as police, they make lousy soldiers, too. That the idea comes from the unimpressive Tom Ridge doesn't make it any more, er, impressive.

The home front in the war on terrorism has been a pathetic morass of dumb PR moves, incompetence, and vaguely Orwellian proposals. This is another example, combining elements of all three. (And, of course, there's this one, too.)

We'd better win this war on the ground in Iraq -- and Saudi Arabia -- because it's not going to be won at home. Nobody ever won by playing defense. And our homeland defense team looks to be junior-varsity, at best.

UPDATE: This story from the Washington Times makes it sound more like a Biden initiative. He's behind the dumb and dangerous RAVE Act too. Biden's turned into a civil-liberties menace. Good thing Dick Armey's standing up for civil liberties.

KEN LAYNE: Fashion guru to the stars.

ANDREA SEE had some words of wisdom on the economy back on 9/3 that alarmist journalists and pundits should remember now:

Anyone with half a brain (and did a basic class in economics) would know economies move in cycles. We've had the high point, now it's time for the low. Sucks as it does, it really needs to happen.

The same guys who hyped the upturn are now tut-tutting as they hype the downturn. Me, I'm meeting with my broker this week. When the blood runs in the streets, buy.

And, by the way, it's not as if financial fraud is an American innovation, you know, despite what the New York Times suggests.

A GROUP OF EUROPEAN ACADEMICS, including two Nobel laureates, is organizing opposition to the anti-Israel academic boycott.


UPDATE: Now it's official.

ANDREW SULLIVAN writes in the New York Sun that Howell Raines is playing poll politics.

It's nice to see the Sun running pieces like this.

I HAVE A NEW BLOGCHILD: It's AgendaBender, a gay-issues group blog, one of whose authors says he was forced to start his own blog by my limited posting while on vacation.

Ve haff vays to make you blog. . . . Bwahahaha!


TED TURNER GULLAH LAND-GRAB UPDATE: Democratic weblogger WyethWire has more information on Ted Turner's efforts to wrest a parcel of land on St. Helena Island, S.C. away from a group of descendants of slaves who want to keep the land from being developed. (If the second, permalink, doesn't work -- as has been all too common with Blogger sites lately -- follow the first link and scroll if needed). He has links to maps and all sorts of other information. Excerpt:

And to add insult to injury, the island that Ted Turner wants to turn into his own playground is home to the Penn Center, where Dr. Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference planned the March on Washington.

I'm quite surprised at how little attention this story has gotten beyond these reports in local papers. Is it because of some sort of professional courtesy among media barons?

BOY, the Royal Marines are looking a lot better these days.

UPDATE: Robert Pupkin emails that the Royal Marines don't have a monopoly on attractive female soldiers, and sends this link as proof.

"GREAT MAXWELL'S DEMONS!" Here's some interesting stuff about the Second Law of Thermodynamics at small scales, with implications for nanotechnology.

Me, I want a Maxwellian air-conditioning system.

LEFTIES FOR SCHOOL CHOICE: Katie Allison Granju joins this growing club. She also promises to resume regular blogging.

MY LINK TO Stuart Buck's revived webpage was bad -- I was exhausted when I posted it last night. It's fixed, but here it is again in case you missed it. Buck had an interesting blog going early last fall, but was forced off the Web by officious types at the D.C. Circuit, where he was clerking. Since he's Blogger-powered, I'm not even going to try to link to the individual post, but he makes an excellent point in what is his top item at the moment:

The New York Times' prominent treatment of an article on civilian casualties in Afghanistan makes me want to ask: Has there ever been another war in history where civilian casualties were so few that journalists could track down virtually all of them individually?

Buck notes that, paradoxically, this individual treatment may make civilian casualties actually seem greater than if the people involved were subsumed in a huge faceless mass.

One hopes that journalists and pundits will bear Buck's point in mind as they do their jobs -- because if they don't, it's possible that politicians and the military will bear it in mind as they do their jobs.

UPDATE: Bill Herbert has more on this, and also notes that the Taliban were using civilians as shields, something that more recent reports tend to leave out.

DICK ARMEY: DEFENDER OF FREEDOM. Jay Caruso emails this link to a story that I had missed, saying that Dick Armey won't allow the TIPS program, or a national ID card, to pass.

That's great news. But what will we do when he's gone?

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE INTERNET IF WORLDCOM GOES DOWN? According to this Slashdot post nothing good. There's also an interesting thread on unauditable voting machines. Jeez.

NOT EVERYTHING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DOES IS DUMB: Check out this NSF/DOC report on the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science. (Warning: huge PDF file; dialup users should follow this link only if you've got some time). Based on a quick look, it's uneven -- but they're focusing on the right things, and they've got some very interesting things to say.

WATCHING THE WATCHERS: Brad Templeton is taking David Brin seriously in his response to the TIPS program. This is a must-follow link.

I haven't weighed in on this one, because I'm still not clear on what TIPS will actually be like. It sounds to me like the crimewatch program my town has, in which bus drivers, etc., are supposed to watch for crime and report it. As near as I can tell, that program involved putting some stickers on buses and making drivers sit through a videotape informing them that when guys in ski masks run out of a liquor store, there's probably a robbery in progress. The program then disappeared except for the stickers and -- no doubt -- some bureaucrat allegedly tasked with "overseeing" it.

I don't think it will be much use against terrorism. Our current domestic-security apparatus has shown itself utterly unable to cut through the data fog -- it can't even process tips from freakin' FBI agents! who think they've spotted a terrorist, as the Moussaoui case demonstrated. It can't possibly handle the vast quantity of low quality data produced by a million active participants, and there's no indication that anyone is addressing that issue, making the whole thing basically an exercise in PR.

My first inclination is that TIPS is disturbing as much because it indicates that the bureaucracy is still out of touch with reality and pursuing make-work pseudo solutions as because of any threat to civil liberties.

The solution to the terrorism issue is to cut off the snake's head -- which I think is in Saudi Arabia, not America. Everything else is just windowdressing and bureaucratic empire-building.

I warned about this on September 11. To some degree, of course, such empire-building is inevitable. But the danger of bureaucracy-as-usual is greater here than in past wars. That's because the absence of an obvious battle front means that (1) bureaucrats are less constrained; but (2) public support is harder to maintain. That means that the folks at the top will have to keep the bureaucracy on a short leash, or political support for the war will evaporate, and Bush will be a one-termer.

The last war in which bureaucratic imperatives took precedence over winning the war was Vietnam. That doesn't seem to be happening in the military struggle, but it seems to be well on the way to taking place on the home front.

This would be a campaign issue for the Democrats -- except that, as Joe Biden's dumb RAVE Act demonstrates -- they're no better at standing up to bureaucratic attacks on civil liberties than the Republicans.

UPDATE: Don't miss this chillingly realistic example of the TIPS system in action.