September 21, 2002

OKAY, it's a nice day. I'm spending the rest of this break outdoors in the sunshine. You enjoy your day, too.

If I don't get back tonight, keep your eyes on this planned demonstration in London tomorrow, which some expect to be the biggest ever in Britain. Samizdata has more information.

BRAD WARDELL ARGUES that as the stakes go up, media bias is getting stronger.

VEGARD VALBERG has some thoughts on how the war might go. He wonders if America has the proper attitude for empire.

MASSACHUSSETTS LIBERTARIAN CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR CARLA HOWELL was invited to participate in a debate with the Democratic and Republican candidates. Now, Samizdata reports, the "media consortium" sponsoring the debate is talking about withdrawing the invitation.

That doesn't seem fair. Howell's initiative to end the Massachussetts income tax, a reader emails, is now polling around 40%. (That seems plausible, as the last time I heard about it I think the figure was 37%). Think that could be making people nervous?

AND RIGHTLY SO: Ann Salisbury emails this story:

Three Bay Area universities are being monitored for anti-Israel sentiment by a group in Philadelphia that launched a Web site this week.

The site, Campus Watch, plans to keep tabs on campus reaction to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict throughout the United States but has singled out 14 universities for particular scrutiny -- including UC Berkeley, San Francisco State University and Stanford University.

It is part of a backlash against perceived anti-Semitism on university campuses that gained strength this week when Harvard University President Lawrence Summers denounced as anti-Semitic a campaign that calls on schools to divest from Israel. The campaign started at UC Berkeley before taking root at campuses around the country.

"It's important people know what's going on in the Bay Area, especially at the University of California at Berkeley," said Chris Silver, who co-chairs the student-sponsored Israel Action Committee at UC Berkeley. "There's a lot of anti-Semitism that goes on here separate from the massive amount of anti-Israel sentiment that can be found in every department and in every classroom."

Pro-Palestinian activists say that it's unfair to call opposition to Israel anti-Semitic, but as Meryl Yourish noted, an awful lot of what's going on can't be called anything but anti-Jewish, entirely independent of the Israel issue.

UPDATE: Justin Katz has blogged some comments on Larry Summers' speech. And here's a link to the speech itself. Harvard is lucky to have Larry Summers as its President at this important moment in its history. He may yet save its soul from the corrosive forces of hatred and irrationalism, despite the best efforts of some of its students and faculty.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias thinks my praise of Larry Summers is unfair to Harvard, which just goes to show that you can't even say nice things about people without provoking complaint. Meanwhile Boston blogger Jay Fitzgerald says Summers was right to criticize the divestment crowd, "Here's hoping his courage proves inspiring to all the other academic wimps out there who aren't standing up to the campus clowns. All the comparisons of Israel/Bush to the Nazis and Hitler are sickening. The divestment crowd is up to its neck in this type of talk." Fitzgerald's permalinks aren't working (suprise; it's a blogspot site) but he also has quite a few responses to Summers' critics. Just scroll on. Meanwhile Jacob T. Levy offers some sensible caution regarding Campus Watch.

STEVEN CHAPMAN has some worthwhile historical observations on how Palestinians became "refugees." I've seen this before, but it gets less attention than it ought to.

EUROPEANS BACK ATTACKS ON IRAQ: Porphyrogenitus has a full report. There is one hitch, though.

"ALL PREPAREDNESS IS LOCAL:" Nice post on bioterror defense from Ross at The Bloviator. And scroll down for more on this subject.

Sigh. Just another of the many first-rate blogs out there that I don't visit often enough. I try, God knows, but there are so many. I encourage readers to do more than just follow my links. There are a lot over there on the left, but if you go to the pages I link to you'll find that those folks link to a lot of blogs that I don't, and a lot of them are great. I'm going to try to update my blogroll sometime soon, but no matter how big I make it it's not going to list all the blogs worth reading. There are just too many. This is a good thing, you understand, but . . . well, it's a true embarrassment of riches.

HOW CAN GRAY DAVIS WIN when even Skippy the Bush Kangaroo is putting him down bigtime? Er, by running against Bill Simon, I guess, though the latest report may help to overcome even that huge advantage: California is no longer the "fifth biggest economy in the world," having been overtaken by the ever-popular nation of France. Skippy isn't pleased. He got so upset, I thought he might actually use a capital letter or something.

HAS SAN FRANCISCO BECOME America's shrewish ex-wife? Joanne Jacobs has found someone who thinks so.


Two weeks before the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, a desperate FBI agent begged his superiors to launch an aggressive hunt for one of the men who would participate in the suicide hijackings, warning that "someday someone will die" because his request was denied, according to testimony before a congressional panel yesterday.

The New York special agent, testifying behind a screen to protect his identity, choked back tears as he described how he asked his Washington superiors on Aug. 29, 2001, to allow his office to join the search for Khalid Almihdhar, who would later help commandeer the aircraft that slammed into the Pentagon.

But lawyers in the FBI's National Security Law Unit refused. They said information obtained through intelligence channels -- that Almihdhar was an al Qaeda associate who had recently reentered the United States -- could not legally be used to launch a criminal investigation.

"Someday someone will die -- and [legal] wall or not -- the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain 'problems,' " the agent responded in a blistering e-mail to headquarters. "Let's hope the National Security Law Unit will stand behind their decisions then, especially since the biggest threat to us now, UBL [Osama bin Laden], is getting the most 'protection.' ". . .

On Sept. 11, after the World Trade Center was struck, the FBI agent and his colleagues received the passenger manifests from the four fatal flights. Yesterday he told the panel that he yelled angrily: "This is the same Almihdhar we've been talking about for three months!"

His supervisor, trying to reassure him and the others, answered back: "We did everything by the book."

It's time to fix these problems.

UPDATE: PowerLine says I'm wrong about this, and that the real story was bad laws, not FBI screwups. That, however, seems to be the Bureau's spin, not the truth. At least, this Senate report says that the FBI misunderstood the applicable law:

In the Moussaoui case, the report found, F.B.I. counterterrorism specialists and the bureau's lawyers were so ignorant of federal surveillance laws that they did not understand that they had ample evidence to press for a warrant to search the belongings of Mr. Moussaoui, a French national who was arrested weeks before the attacks after arousing the suspicion of instructors at a Minnesota flight school.

Instead, the report found, the F.B.I. supervisors and lawyers aggressively blocked the search warrant sought by desperate field agents in Minnesota who believed last August that they might have a terrorist on their hands who might use a commercial airplane as a weapon.

Of course, this could just be Congressional spin, but I doubt it.

PEOPLE IN NEED OF A CLUE: This bus driver felt threatened and responded, well, inappropriately:

A Prince George's County school bus driver who "felt threatened" by a disabled mother and her 8-pound puppy left a busload of special-needs children at a police station twice last week while he sought a restraining order against the woman.

Bus driver Lawrence Ware complained that Linda Stiggers Yancy of Riverdale Park stepped onto the special-needs bus to inquire about an incident in which her 14-year-old son, Gregory, had been bullied by another student on the bus.
Mrs. Yancy, who has spinal problems and walks with the assistance of a cane, was holding her papillon puppy, Joey, in her arms.

The bus driver's explanation: "I felt threatened."

That has the ring of one of those P.C. excuses: "I felt uncomfortable," or "I felt diminished and unappreciated," etc., etc. It's enough to make me wish for a return to an era when people were a bit less concerned with how they "felt."

Or at least to an era when a man would have been embarrassed to say he felt threatened by a disabled woman with an eight-pound dog.

RAIDS ON AL QAEDA in Yemen seem to be underway.

September 20, 2002

I DON'T KNOW HOW I MISSED THIS: Hundreds Show Up for Anti-Hussein Rally:

DETROIT-- About 500 Arab men marched around the McNamara Federal Building Wednesday to voice their anger at Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and to show their support for the United States.

The demonstrators, most of whom were of Iraqi descent, carried signs and banners denouncing Hussein, Local 4 reported. The marchers shouted "down, down Saddam," and "Saddam is a fascist," and made other derogatory remarks against the Iraqi leader.

Many in the group have family in Iraq and are calling for Hussein's ouster, Local 4 reported. The demonstrators favored U.S. military action against Iraq to put an end to the current regime, according to the station.

One of the participants told Local 4 that he and other demonstrators were worried about Hussein using chemical weapons against the Iraqi people.

(Via GreatestJeneration).

MATT WELCH says that Vaclav Havel is Tony Blair east:

with a sharper moral authority and a stronger taste for drink. Quietly, he has had more influence on American foreign policy this last decade than any politician between Bonn and Moscow.

Plus he's just a cool guy. Heck, he knows Matt Welch (er, sorta-kinda, secondhand), and that's enough to make you pretty damned cool. Oh, and scroll up on Welch's page for some information about our rather heavy-handed role (along with the EU) in the Slovakian elections next door.

A KIND WORD FOR AIR SECURITY: The Knoxville security was polite, efficient, and reasonably quick -- well, not really quick, but they've just switched over to being a TSA operation and they used me for training, which was fine as I got there early. (But Knoxville was always polite (it's the South), efficient (they were retired cops), and quick.) My flights were on time, not too crowded, and smooth. So no complaints.

Since I do complain about air security from time to time, I thought it only fair to mention that experience. We'll see how I do on the trip back.

HOW AL QAEDA IS LIKE THE KLAN: Interesting observation by James Durbin:

The Klan, primarily made up of poor whites, did not have the military power to do what it wanted, so it attempted through intimidation and terror to drive out what is saw as contaminants to their culture.

Can you think of another group of people that attempts to use terrorism to intimidate and drive out what they see as cultural contaminants?

They talk about the sexual depravity of their enemies. They point to God and claim this is their religious duty to destroy the enemy. They liken the enemy to monkeys and pigs. They claim to be protecting their women. They whip mobs into a frenzy with their rhetoric. They have wealthy leaders who recruit members from the poorest parts of society. They claim their enemies are subhuman, and have no compuction about killing them.

Can you think of a better comparison in history for Al Qaeda than the Ku Klux Klan?


UPDATE: This post by Damian Penny calls some of the parallel into question (the rich leaders / poor followers part). And it's true that Al Qaeda seems to have recruited from the middle and upper classes.

Damian is also continuing his one-man war on Salon with this "fact-checking" of Joe Conason.

"YOU KNOW," emails a reader, "when I get arrested and charged with joining an international terrorist conspiracy, that's what I'm going to tell the judge:"

BUFFALO, Sept.19 -- A lawyer for a Lackawanna man described his client today as a loyal American who went to Pakistan seeking religious training and through his own naivetР№ wound up spending a few weeks in an al Qaeda terror camp in Afghanistan.

I caught a couple of these lawyers on CNN in the airport earlier today, and I have to say they were mightily unconvincing. It sounded like a Saturday Night Live parody almost.

Could these guys be as innocent as they say? Sure. My reactions may be as much a reaction to their lawyers' performance as to the evidence. But the story's pretty implausible and, really, just how naive did you have to be, even before 9/11, to think that this was going to be just religious training? Implausibly naive, I think. And the rest of the story isn't a lot better:

For instance, prosecutors noted that Mosed, who is nearly indigent, spent $89,000 at a Canadian casino. But Abdel Shafal, a cousin, said that a wide circle of family and friends in Lackawanna use the same cards so they can earn free meals and points at the casino.

Sorry -- I'm just not buying this.

UPDATE: A couple of readers say the casino theory isn't as dumb as I suggest. Here's what one sent:

My only comment is that it is remotely possible that Mosed and his extended family did spend that much money in casinos if they were sharing the cards. I'm assuming that the cards in reference are the frequent user cards given out by various casinos. They work by issuing free meals or rooms for every x number of dollars spent at the casino. I have been on gambling trips with my friends where we used other peoples cards and the casino was not too picky about whose card was being used. After all the money is still being spent in that one casino. Also it is not clear to me how you launder money by spending it in a casino. Were they going to say that whatever money they had left over was winnings? Any large amounts won in a casino are usually recorded by the casino for tax puposes when playing the slots. Explaining that your money was won playing cards or Roulette doesn't seem like a great way of laundering money since there is no false paper trail.

Neither casinos nor money-laundering are areas of special expertise (I don't gamble; it' just doesn't seem like fun to me). But okay, if you say so. Another reader explains that immigrant communities often have a variety of non-standard financial transactions going on without any evildoing being involved. That I believe -- and I wouldn't think much of arresting someone just because of the casino thing. But when it's the casino thing in combination with all these other things, well, at some point it just gets hard to believe.

But, as I say, they could be innocent. If they are, though (or from their perspective, even if they're not), they need more convincing lawyers.

UPDATE: Stephen Green sets it to music.

THE "REPUBLICAN GUARD" may not be loyal, says this report. Interesting. Well, I wouldn't be. . . .

THE YALE LAW JOURNAL (well, actually its Managing Editor) emailed to say that they're going to start putting articles on the web because of the tremendous response to James Lindgren's article on Michael Bellesiles' Arming America. I think that's great.

I'm sure that most law review articles won't get nearly so much attention -- Lindgren's piece has been downloaded almost 91,000 times off this server, and I'm sure it's gotten a lot of downloads elsewhere now that it's up on several other sites. Lindgren had a timely and thorough analysis on a very controversial subject. But I do think that there's a lot more interest by laypeople in legal scholarship generally than most of us in the academy realize. My review of Clay Conrad's book on jury nullification, for example, has only been downloaded 3211 times. But that's still about the same as the Yale Law Journal's dead-tree circulation.

I hope that other schools and journals will follow Yale's lead. Law Reviews are supposed to be, in part, a public service and the Web allows them to reach far more people than previously, and at very little cost.

BILL QUICK HAS SOME PUNGENT ADVICE for AIDS activists. Well, some of them, anyway.

I'M ENSCONCED IN A HOTEL ROOM which happily has highspeed internet access. (Of course, I'm thinking: "No wireless?"). Except I'm not actually "ensconced," since I won't be here all that much. Posting will be light for the next couple of days, but I won't be entirely absent.

September 19, 2002

OKAY, I'M GOING TO BED. POSTING WILL RESUME WHENEVER I get the chance. In the meantime, read this suggestion for a statue commemorating the United Nations.

THIS PROBABLY ISN'T MY LAST POST, BUT IT MIGHT BE, depending on how much other work I get done tonight. I'm off to a conference tomorrow. I plan to log in remotely, but that'll depend on, well, being able to.

"TUMBLING WOMAN," SAYS C.D. HARRIS, is "pretty damned good art."

SASHA CASTEL has a new URL and a new blog design. Drop by with a casserole or a pie to help her get settled in.

CHARLES MURTAUGH has some observations on contemporary philosophy.

STEVEN DEN BESTE has responded to his critics. I haven't kept up on this debate, though I've gotten a lot of email about it (including some from Hesiod Theogeny who seems to be into it with everyone today.)

UPDATE: Nick Denton says that Den Beste and Tom Friedman are on the same page.

I'VE USED ABOUT 60GB of bandwidth so far this month. That's especially high since Stacy Tabb designed this page to be extra-lean that way. Good thing I've got an unlimited-bandwidth setup.

DAHLIA LITHWICK says that there has been free speech everywhere since 9/11 -- except on campuses. This conclusion is great:

Free speech does not encompass the right to fire, suspend, or riot your way into a universe in which everyone agrees with your views, even if you have legitimate grievances. The courts are well aware of this, but it seems that universities, both here and in Canada, are not. On campus, you may "speak" freely—with fists, chairs, and broken glass—so long as you are a member of an aggrieved minority with delicate sensibilities and a narrative of oppression.

This leaves the state to take on a new role in protecting free speech. The state must be responsible for busting up the monopoly that has taken over the marketplace of ideas: a monopoly of suffering, political correctness, and sympathy without limits. In the firing cases, the state will be represented by the courts, which will reinstate faculty fired for no reason other than unpopular views. And in the campus protest cases, the state must acknowledge that people who use force to suppress the opinions of others are not performing some sacred protected speech act. They are committing assault, not merely on other humans and on the basic promise of free speech, but on democracy itself.


JEFF COOPER has a good post on judicial appointments, arguing that character and intellect are more important than ideology. I think he's right.

I haven't posted much on the confirmation battles because, well, I guess I've just given up on the process. About ten years ago I had a piece in the Southern California Law Review suggesting that the Senate put together a list of presumed-acceptable candidates from whom the President could select a nominee who would then go straight to the floor for a fast-track style up/down vote. I thought that this would give the "advice" part of "advice and consent" some content, and it would be self-policing, since if the Senate picked lousy nominees the President could still proceed in the traditional way, but with the credentials of the Senate's list providing a standard for comparison. Meanwhile, if the President ignored the list for partisan purposes, the Senate would have a basis for calling his nominees bad.

I thought it was clever, and workable. And maybe it was, then. But now I think the process has become so political that no "structural reform" is likely to work. Even an approach like the one sketched above needs some goodwill to function, and I don't think there's any to be had. Yeah, that's depressing, but that's how I see it right now.

FRED PRUITT'S RANTBURG continues to serve up all sorts of news about the war that's hard to find anywhere else. It should be a daily stop.

ALTERNATE HISTORY: The IndePundit looks at a past that might have been.

BRUCE HILL'S "WARNOW" is gone, but Silent Running has taken its place.

KATE MALCOLM AT KITCHEN CABINET has me confused. Perhaps that's not too difficult, but her post starts out by saying that the treatment of Muslims after 9/11 reminds her of the Korematsu case, only to list examples of racist propaganda about Japanese-Americans (from such places as Time and Life) that have no parallel today. Reading her post should, in fact, serve as a valuable corrective to hysteria on the subject.

SHELF LIFE: I just went to the Yahoo! account that gets the reader-response mail from my FoxNews columns, and to my surprise there was a bunch of mail responding to this column on the dumb Biden/Hatch "RAVE Act" from back in July. In fact there was more mail on that one than on the column for today. It seems to be circulating on the dance/rave/techno mailing lists.

I hope people are writing their Senators, and not just me.

UPDATE: Reader Evan Benoit writes:

Saw your post about your column on the RAVE act getting a lot of mail. It's probably because Buzz, Washington DC's best rave night, was forced to close today. It was one of the best nights on the east coast, had been going on for years. Closed after a police/military investigation, etc.

Here's the link to the press release, which he was kind enough to send.

LYNNE KIESLING has a long post on the just-released California blackout study. She's rather critical.

ONE OF THE COOL THINGS ABOUT BLOGGER is that you can be a homeless guy and still have a blog.

UPDATE: Bo Cowgill was skeptical, and checked it out. Here's what he found.

STEPHEN GORDON writes that it's time to start thinking about a successor organization to the UN, as he thinks the UN is going the way of the League of Nations.

PAUL WRIGHT ASKS what happens if the weapons inspectors, by some miracle, actually find something?

His rather chilling answer suggests that either (1) the powers-that-be have no real expectation that this will come to pass; or (2) they haven't thought about this hard enough. I'm guessing it's (1).

JOANNE JACOBS looks at what some people in the military think of the war.

I'M GLAD TO SEE THAT ARI FLEISCHER is standing up to German bullying and racism. If I were a European, I'd worry about a German government that is so hostile to Jews, and seems so anxious to make Hitler look better.

UPDATE: A reader points out this directory of embassies, from which it's easy to find the contact information for, say, Germany.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus points out an editorial in the Telegraph that accuses Schroder, et al. of giving in to isolationism and unilateralism while displaying "open contempt" for the UN.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: German reader Torsten Sewing writes that Safire's report of anti-semitic comments is wrong:

The meeting in Hamburg, 27 August, was the 24. Young Leaders Conference, organised by Atlantic Bridge. There is *no* record of this anti-semitic remark by former defence secretary Scharping.

Additionally, you might want to consider that Germany is in the height of an election campaign, and with press being present at the mentioned meeting, this would have been reported in detail.

He doesn't send any links, and I haven't independently verified this. Does anyone have more information?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another reader, who doesn't want his name used, says he was one of the Americans at the meeting and that Safire's report is accurate. I can't confirm that, either. Presumably if it's false we'll hear a denial from Scharping. I looked for one earlier today and couldn't find anything.

SUSANNA CORNETT has the solution to Florida's election problems. Sadly, I think this might actually be the way to go. . . .

THE HUMAN FLAG: Here are some cool pictures from Australia.

CONCORDIA UPDATE: Canadian reader Nathan McLeod sends this:

The Concordia University embarrassment continues.

The Board of Governors today announced a cooling off period until December. Until then they are banning any kind of information being displayed in the main hall of the university. I assume this might be the student union building. They are also putting off making a decision on their policy regarding free speech.

Does the BOG's not understand what happened on September 9th? Thugs upset about the idea of Netanyahu speaking threatened and intimidated those seeking to hear him speak. They broke windows and damaged property to disrupt free speech.

People supporting the Palestinians do not believe in a free exchange of ideas. They believe in intimidation and violence.

What grade school children inherently understand, the concept of free speech, will supposedly take the Board of Governors a few months to think about. Their abdication of responsibility is an embarrassment.

Although if Canadian society is willing to tolerate thugs intimidating free speech it is understandable how they tolerate being ruled by Prime Minister Chretien with his blame the victim philosophy when referring to the murder of 3,000 innocent men, woman and children.

George Bush said it is up to all nations to decide if they are with or against terrorism. In small and large ways my country is failing the test.

Also, Martin Devon has a post with links to streaming video of the anti-Jewish riot at Concordia that shut down Netanyahu's speech.

HERE'S THE LATEST NEWS from the Security Council:

(2002-09-19) -- The United Nations Security Council today approved a resolution calling for Iraq to play 'hide and seek' with U.N. weapons inspectors.

"First, our weapons inspectors will cover their eyes," said Secretary General Koffi Anan. "Then they will begin Mississippi, two Mississippi, and so on. When they get to six billion Mississippi, they will formally declare 'Ready or not, here we come!'...and in they go to see how many weapons of mass destruction they can find."

A motion to make the inspectors "count to infinity plus infinity" was narrowly defeated by the council.

Well, thank goodness for that.

A READER SENDS THIS STORY about another artist who thinks the 9/11 attacks were "wonderful." Ugh.

I'm saying, step away from blame. How are we to act if we act only according to blame? So many of us just think and squeal, think and squeal. This act is done and you can't fault the execution of the act. It was perfect, extraordinarily clever.

There's "think and squeal." And then there's just "squeal."

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll has some thoughts.

JUSTIN WEITZ has been blogging about the German Elections. Here's part one. Scroll up for the next installment. He promises a prediction on Friday.

UPDATE: Stefan Sharkansky is covering these too.

THE AMOUNT OF PR SPAM I'M GETTING continues to climb. I just got an item touting Tom Friedman's website. But there's no blog!

THE CASE FOR SPACE COWBOYS: My FoxNews column suggests that fears of a "Wild West" approach to developing outer space are misconceived.

SPINSANITY is still on the NEA story. (This update was a "Salon Premium" item, but is now free at SpinSanity).

STEVEN DEN BESTE has an essay on what to do about fanatical Islam. Hesiod Theogeny emails that he thinks Den Beste has "lost it," sending me to this thread at Eschaton, and the accompanying comments. I'm not sure that the comments (which contain quite a few saying that Hesiod is misunderstanding Den Beste, or the underlying problem) make Hesiod's case as plainly as he believes, but you can decide for yourself. And Eric S. Raymond weighs in with his own thoughts.

GEITNER SIMMONS SUGGESTS that rap stars are the modern embodiment of the old Southern aristocracy.


MIKE SILVERMAN HAS A CATALOG of all the dumb Saddam-portraiture that Iraqis are forced to endure. I like the last one best.

LET THE FISKING BEGIN: John Scalzi has posted a 14,000 word article by Ted Rall arguing that the war in Afghanistan is really about oil. (You might want to start with this debunking from those arch-warmongers at The American Prospect.)

Meanwhile, speaking of Afghanistan, Bill Quick delivers an auto-Fisking of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. by simply repeating what Schlesinger said a year ago.

UPDATE: On the "War for Oil" front, reader Merv Benson writes:

If the US was really going to war for oil why would we waste our time and money on Afghanistan and Iraq. Mexico and Venezuela are much closer and do
not have any of those nasty WMD. The petro-war theory is paranoia for the petrophobes. The same can be said for the War against Islam crowd. If it were really a war against Islam (as opposed to a war against militant Islamist and secular WMD builders) there are much better targets that would be much easier to hit.

Yes, but this requires thinking.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Brian Carnell "fact-checks" Rall.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING ARTICLE on GlobalSecurity.Org, which is functioning almost as a public intelligence agency:

"We're doing a better job explaining the (American) government's case (for military action) than the government is," added John Pike,'s director.

His five-person group, founded in December 2000 and operating out of a basement in the Washington suburbs, has a "pathetic" budget of only a few hundred thousand dollars. The money comes mostly from charitable groups with an interest in preventing nuclear proliferation, like the Scherman and Colombe foundations.

With such meager resources, Pike noted, his group wouldn't be able to produce a "smoking gun image" definitively showing the state of Saddam's nuclear program.

But, he said, GlobalSecurity can show that "facilities known to be previously associated with weapons of mass destruction have been rebuilt and are currently active."

Shouldn't somebody be troubled that John Pike is doing a better job of making the government's case than the government is?

September 18, 2002

THIS REPORT SAYS THAT WATER HAS BEEN FOUND in the atmospheres of planets orbiting distant stars. There's a big universe out there. Let's go.

HEATHER HAVRILESKY has sound advice for the world's freakazoids. In other words, still the same at the domain that dare not speak its name.

LUNAR UPDATE: This Boston Globe story by Larry Hanlon gets it right:

Of more concern than China to many space enthusiasts, however, are some questions raised by TransOrbital's license itself: How is it that the United States has the power to license lunar exploration? Has the country claimed ownership of the moon?

Neither is the case, says Laurie, who reports that TransOrbital's application took two years to clear hurdles lined up by the US Department of State, Department of Defense, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ''Whenever you're sending anything up into space it gets strict reviews,'' he says. The scrutiny that led to TransOrbital's nine-year license was more a matter of proving that Trailblazer posed no military, security, or other threats - the same as for any Earth-orbiting communications satellite, says Laurie.

As for getting permission specifically to photograph the Earth sailing over the moonscape, that came from NOAA, the agency that oversees the National Weather Service. The NOAA review was a lot like that undergone by any weather satellite, although Trans-

Orbital's ''was a novel application,'' says Tim Stryker of NOAA's Satellite & Data Services Division. ''[But] that's our regulatory responsibility - looking at imaging of the Earth.''

The matter of the moon's ownership is not new. Two years before Apollo 11 set down Neil Armstrong on the Sea of Tranquility, the United Nations had adopted the Outer Space Treaty to address the matter. The treaty states that ''... outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation. ...'' The United States signed the treaty, and NASA worried a bit over the placing of a US flag on the moon, but in the end, no one took the flag hoisting as a ''claim'' on lunar resources.

As for how all this will affect lunar science, most researchers are just glad to see more interest in the moon. ''I wish them a lot of luck,'' says Spudis, the planetary scientist. The more data from the moon the better, he says, even if it is proprietary in nature. ''If these guys [TransOrbital] want to send a spacecraft to the moon - they own [the data]. That's the whole point of making a private venture.'' All he and other scientists want is more data on long-neglected Luna.

That's a lot better reporting than Democrats.Com -- which is no suprise. Advantage: Globe!

TUMBLING WOMAN UPDATE: The sculpture at Rockefeller Center has been covered up, reports a reader of Susanna Cornett's. And Stacy Tabb ("she's not just a webgoddess -- she's a blogger, too!") has a poll running in which "it's art" is way ahead.

DEMOCRATS.COM appears to be low-hanging fruit for the snarky blogger. Which would describe Floyd McWilliams pretty well, judging by his dissection of an article on telephone polls.

RACHEL LUCAS posts a ferocious fundraiser-Fisking in response to a letter from the Brady Campaign that says gun control is the answer to terrorism. Boy did they write the wrong woman.


One of the favorite tactics of peace activists is to accuse so-called "hawks" of being bloodthirsty and lusting for revenge. I think they know better. If it were true there would be no point in saying it because the obvious response would be something like "so what?" But they know that almost no one actually wants war so they use this accusation in an attempt to make their opponents feel guilty.

Well said.

BLOGJOURNALISM: More actual reporting from In Arguendo.

SHH! DON'T TELL ANYONE, but tomorrow's FoxNews column is up tonight. It's about space and euro-critics.

MATT LABASH explores health and lifestyle tips for porn stars. Sounds like a feature fit for the Oxygen Network. . . . Well, maybe not.

CATHY SEIPP says that the Oxygen Network is getting better. It would pretty much have to be, wouldn't it?

IT'S NICE TO BE QUOTED, but I still don't get the all-little-letters thing.

DICK GEPHARDT HAS EMAILED ME (er, well, Dick Gephardt's office has emailed me, er well, okay, actually it's someone in Dick Gephardt's office) a link to this Flash commercial on prescription drugs.

No offense -- and entirely aside from content -- I just think it's kind of, well, lame. Compare it to this one from FlashBunny, for example. To be fair, it's longer. But it's longer because it's full of facts and arguments. It also has graphics, not just words on a page. And it uses sound better (though only at the end). Maybe the Dems need a new contractor for this stuff.

UPDATE: A reader asks: "The URL is .gov. Are we paying for this? Isn't that illegal, and ironic considering the ruckus the dems raised over that minor state dept. link." Beats me. I'll email 'em.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And here's the reply:

Thanks for posting the link. We truly appreciate it. I produced the spot which is intended to inform visitors to the site. As a government employee working on government time, the answer to the question is yes it was paid for with taxpayer money. While the Flash format is something new, the function of it is really no different from a number of other efforts by both Democrats and Republicans to inform the public about our efforts on Capitol Hill. From press releases to PowerPoint presentations to websites, House members use a number of different tools to inform the public and their constituents. That is the purpose of this Flash movie.

So there you have it.

A LOW BLOW: I was just talking with the lovely international-law specialist whose office is next to mine. She was talking about the U.N. and seemed surprised that I wasn't very concerned with its doings. "The U.N. is just the world's biggest faculty meeting," I explained.

"Oh, that's awfully harsh," she replied. "The U.N. has been called a lot of things, but that --"

MY EARLIER POST ON FLIGHT 93 CONSPIRACY THEORIES generated a lot of mail. There were several points made:

1. The seismic evidence I referred to only demonstrates that the aircraft hit the ground more or less in one piece, not that it wasn't shot down.

This is true. And the Korean Air Lines 747 that was shot down by the Soviets did stay in one piece. BUT -- it was a 747, a much bigger plane with four engines.

2. The government acts like it's hiding something.

There's some truth to this. However, the government often acts that way when it has nothing to hide. It's been refusing to release the final minutes of the voice recordings from the Challenger and I know what's in them. Nothing especially incriminating.

3. People saw a military plane.

I've seen reports of that, but most accounts suggest it was a business plane in the neighborhood that air controllers asked to take a look.

4. There was a story about a passenger who reported an explosion and white smoke via his cellphone just before the crash.

Yes, there was. I linked it here on September 11, as well as here earlier this week. I emailed Dennis Roddy, the reporter who originally filed that story, and here's what he said in response:

Never cleared that one up, except that he heard some kind of noise and saw a puff of smoke, but the phone went dead just then and by that point the plane was upsidedown, which could have meant any number of things, including smoke, and noise.

Interestingly, depending on the nature of the roll, you can actually turn a plane upside down and not lose gravity. We dug and dug all we could and the best we could verify was:

1. There was an order to shoot the plane down.

2. Pilots got within 14 minutes of the point at which they were ready to take them down.

3. The government adamantly denies any shootdown and nobody has come forth with any eyewitnesses who saw it being shot or burning, and this includes many witnesses who watched it roar up Route 30 before veering off, tipping and disappearing behind the treeline before it hit the ground.

This seems to me to put the shootdown/coverup conspiracy theory as thoroughly to bed as such things can be put to bed.

What's missing from the analysis is, in my mind, any motivation. Assume the worst: that the passengers had gotten control of the plane, but that it had been shot down anyway because the fighter pilot(s) didn't get the word in time. Is that really something to cover up?

Now I can spin a better conspiracy theory than that, because I'm an imaginative guy: it was shot down by an experimental military plane that happened to be in the area and that looked like a business jet, and that used some sort of laser or EMF weapon that left the plane intact but out of commission and crashing. And the government's covering it up because they don't want to reveal the existence of the weapon.

Great conspiracy theory, except for the total lack of evidence supporting it. (Hey, maybe they used one of Dennis Kucinich's space-based mind control beams!). Occam's razor suggests that we might as well stick with the simpler, and far more likely to be true, likelihood that the plane crashed as a result of the struggle.

A couple of readers said they were surprised to see me abandon my usual skepticism. I haven't. It's just that I'm skeptical of conspiracy theories, too. You want to convince me? Show me some evidence.

UPDATE: John Hawkins posts a photo I hadn't seen before.

NON-BLOGGERS probably won't care about this inside-the-blogosphere stuff, but Dawn Olsen has posted a very handsome apology on her page.


THE ENRON SCANDAL seems to have reached its final phase.

ARI KNOWS ROPE-A-DOPE: Alert reader Chadwick Brown sends this link.

CLAYTON CRAMER has an interesting bit of history that he thinks will annoy Jesse Jackson.

AS A BIG FAN of Keith Laumer's "Bolo" stories, I find this report interesting. We've still got a long way to go, though, and I'm not sure that even a Bolo Mark XXXIV would be much use in the current conflict.

BRAD DELONG LINKS to a story about stacked scientific panels at HHS. He's right that that's a bad thing. He's wrong, however, to suggest that it's a new thing.

UPDATE: An email from a reader reminds me that I should probably add a link to this post, which points out that NAS gun study panel member Steven Levitt denies that he's anti-gun. You might also want to read this post, this post, and this post for more background. As I suggest in the last post, the NAS panel might turn out to do a fair job, but the inclusion of people like Ben Civiletti -- whose only real credential is as an antigun politician -- makes its posture of scientific detachment dubious.

ANOTHER UPDATE: DeLong's giving me hell for the NRO piece, but rather rudely doesn't link back to this post, which is almost surely where he found it since it's over a year old. That also means that his readers won't know about the updates, above.

Oh, and Mark Kleiman also doesn't link to the post, but does link to the NRO article. Also, he has a rather mean crack about a broken link which suggests to me that he hasn't noticed that the article is over a year old.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kleiman did think that the article was new; he's corrected this and some other errors. Meanwhile Dave Kopel emails that he met the head of the NAS study at an Institute of Medicine conference, and that he (the study head) promised the study would be fair, but said he could understand how the membership and funding source could have caused us to think otherwise. Dave notes that there's a Heisenberg issue here -- was it always going to be fair, or did the criticism it got from us, and from others, encourage them to look more seriously at their approach? I guess we'll never know for sure.

Kleiman and DeLong seem to think that we shouldn't have criticized Levitt, since he's really smart and they think he's fair-minded. Levitt, however, wasn't the point of the piece, and at any rate charges of bias in someone making up a federal study committee that's likely to influence national policy are certainly of public interest. As a former official in the Clinton Administration, surely DeLong isn't arguing that only people's buddies are entitled to discuss questions of whether they might be biased or not. He should know better than that.

I should also note that my various writings about the Kass Council indicate that I'm an equal-opportunity critic where federal study committees are involved.


Many of them allowed that the old inspection regime was ineffectual. Several suggested that inspections be backed by a force of 50,000 troops so they could push their way in wherever and whenever they wanted, without obstruction. But one letter from Iraq later and virtually all of them have dropped that - it appears that those among the "warbloggers" who thought that this option that they claimed to favor was simply a rhetorical device, not sincerely believed, but simply an excuse to object to more serious methods, were right all along. They have now taken, once again, to repeating Tarik Aziz's line.

This is a bit of an overstatement, I think, but it's true enough in places.

UPDATE: The IndePundit has some comments, too.

JOSH CHAFETZ has a new slogan for American diplomacy.

WENDY MCELROY reveals the political maneuverings designed to undercut a commission in New Hampshire aimed at gender issues. (Via Quare, whose proper name is still wrong on my blogroll, dammit. I've lost control of that thing.)

BRINK LINDSEY has a long post that argues the futility of weapons inspections.

UPDATE: Here's a response from -- a domain name that, in retrospect, I'm surprised nobody snagged sooner.

MOMMABEAR POINTS OUT this very interesting piece by Janet Daley about English sentiments and English media. Excerpt:

What was shocking was the extent to which people seemed resigned to feeling utterly alienated by the BBC's coverage of events. What became clear was that the Question Time episode was simply a new low for what they had come to regard as a little more than a cosy, self-indulgent corporate conspiracy against the views of ordinary people.

They had learnt to expect that the experts who would be allowed airtime would all subscribe to the official received wisdom. (Which was, at the time, that the warmonger George Bush would rush into an ignorant, insane "over-reaction" and thus destabilise the world. The American policy proved, in the event, to be carefully planned, strategically cautious and remarkably successful, but no one at the BBC seemed to be embarrassed: they just went on to attack the speculative next stage of American foreign policy.)

Over and again, the letters assured me that "the BBC has nothing to do with us": I should not mistake the national broadcasting service for the nation. The letters came from all over the country and many of them were scathing of the metropolitan circles that I inhabited.

Britain was full of decent people who were not fooled. The obnoxious chatterers to whom I was referring were "a tiny minority" - which is statistically true enough.

So why, you ask, don't I just ignore them? Because I can't, dear reader. And neither can you. Whether you like it or not, they claim to speak for you. Unlike the diffident people who took the time to write to me, they speak with a loud voice and they invariably see to it that they are heard by those they wish to influence.

Nice piece.

JOANNE JACOBS is skeptical of Iraq's prospects for democracy, and of Tom Friedman's ability to divine public sentiment via call-in shows.

Hey, Tom: public sentiment on call-in shows that I've been on (even NPR's Talk of the Nation) has uniformly been heavily opposed to gun control. Better tell Howell Raines.

HERE'S AN INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT RITTER, the likes of which you probably haven't seen before. (Via Susanna Cornett).

SUSANNA CORNETT doesn't like the "tumbling woman" sculpture. Me, I'm not sure what I think. On the one hand, I can see how it would seem like exploitation.

On the other hand, many of us were blasting the TV networks for refusing to broadcast footage of people jumping from the WTC towers, because we didn't want the reality swept under the rug. If you want people to remember, well, art is a way of remembering.

UPDATE: There's an interesting debate going on in her comments section.

ERIC OLSEN, who has pretty much abandoned his original blog for BlogCritics, is seeing it pay off: he has the cover story in Salon, (er, well, it would be the cover story, if Salon had a cover, anyway. . . .).

CHINA'S NEXT MOVE? My TechCentralStation column is up.


The Iraqis apparently have their own definition of "without conditions," which is, "with conditions." For starters, there's the delay: a 10-day delay just for the meeting on the arrangements, never mind the inspections themselves. More important, the Iraqis' letter leaves wiggle room for conditions . . . .

As the Japanese and the would-be Confederate States can testify, the U.S. government traditionally takes the idea of "unconditional" a bit more literally than the United Nations seems to.

And rightly so.

UPDATE: Geitner Simmons and Donald Sensing have additional observations, and some interesting background. And Jennie Taliaferro has some polling data and remarks, "FASTER, PLEASE."

THOSE UNILATERALISTS in the anti-war movement are at it again:

To rapturous applause, Mr Foot told activists: "Whatever the UN says, we are against war with Iraq."

Those sorts of attitudes are an obvious threat to the international system, and I think this "go it alone" approach is appalling and uncivilized. . . .


September 17, 2002

SADDAM'S NOT STALLING to prevent a war. At least, not successfully. Because the war's already underway.

UPDATE: And here's a report that he's having domestic political problems, though, well -- you'll see.


"People were talking retaliation," said Ron Walters, the director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland, of last week's CBC events in Washington. "They were saying [presidential hopeful] Sen. Joe Lieberman is dead in the water, and so on and so forth."

Well, that's a constructive approach.

SHOULD THE INDEPUNDIT DECLARE VICTORY? Or is the apparent submission just a delaying tactic?Weigh in in his comments section.

A.C. DOUGLAS has some advice for Colin Powell.

IT'S NOT JUST DENNIS KUCINICH who's into space kookery. Check out this item from Democrats.Com on the private TransOrbital moon mission (no permalinks, you'll have to scroll):

Like all the other international laws, Bush is now ignoring those pertaining to space. As America is distracted by 9/11 remembrances and warnings of new threats, His Heinous has turned the moon over to a private, for-profit corporation called TransOrbital that has a far-reaching, frigthening agenda for the corporate domination of space. All TransOrbital had to do was promise not to contaminate and pollute the moon - yeah, right. That's what the oil companies say about ANWR. There was no Congressional vote - not even any consultation. Bush simply acted as if the moon were his to give away. The TransOrbital venture could be disastrous for the globe - no scientist today could predict yet how adding mass to the moon via human infrastructure or removing mass, via mining, will impact the delicate gravitational interplay between Earth and its only satellite. The moon belongs to all the people of the Earth - not to George. W. Bush or his friends at TransOrbital.

(Emphasis added). Actually, pretty much any scientist could tell you that nothing TransOrbital does could make the slightest difference in the "gravitational interplay" between the Earth and its "only satellite." (Er, only satellite except for this one, and this one).

The Moon's mass is .07 x 1024 kg. The Earth is approximately 81 times more massive. By contrast, TransOrbital is talking about payloads in the hundreds (102) of kilograms at most. Can these people do math? Do they have any idea what they're talking about?

Why am I wasting my time asking such obvious questions?

Democrats.Com is a parody site, right? Well, yes, whether intentionally or not.

And boy, it didn't take long for this prediction to come true, did it?

UPDATE: Faisal Jawdat emails that it's even worse than I make it out above:

If I recall correctly, the strongest gravitational influence on the moon is not the earth, it's the sun. The earth and the moon share more or less the same orbit around the sun, passing each other as they go.

Contrast to the moons of other planets in the solar system where the strongest gravitational influence is the local planet.

It's been a long time since I studied this stuff, but that sounds right. (And Faisal's a tech guy). Is there an astronomer in the house? Somebody page Jay Manifold!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Mike Doffing points out:

The moon gets unpredicatable amounts of mass added to it all the time. (Hint: they're called craters.) Moreover, the influx rate does vary significantly (think meteor showers).

Then there's the earth, which, as you point out, is much larger and therefore attracts even more stuff. It is now known (only proven fairly rececntly) that all of our water comes from space -- the early earth was too hot to retain it. How much do the oceans weigh?

I don't know if they can do math. They certainly can't do astronomy.

I think the "no scientist can say what the long-term effects will be" is just a reflexive rhetorical trope now, and hence doesn't require asking any actual scientist anything, or even listening to what they say if you do. This really does read like a parody, but the site, alas, is serious. Well, as serious as it's capable of being, anyway. With some people the difference is pretty arbitrary.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jay Manifold replies:

Truly bizarre. Strictly speaking, of course, the statement ("... no scientist today could predict ...") is literally correct, but only because any effect would be so small. Some carriers of anti-commercial memes will stop at nothing, and of course the math involved (see link) is way over the heads of a goodly portion of the electorate.

Faisal Jawdat is correct. Applying F ~ mM/r^2, and setting the Moon's pull on Earth at 1, the Sun's pull on Earth works out to about 174. By contrast, Jupiter's pull on Earth is (on average) 0.006. I could do the rest of the Solar System, but it's late.

Mike Doffing is also correct: "More than 100 tonnes of inter-planetary dust enters the earth's atmosphere each day." (link)

Democrats.Com: Your #1 source for bizarre misinformation! Well, one of them, anyway. There are so many . . . .

LAST UPDATE: Jim Bennett emails these comments:

But of course Congress did vote on it, in 1984, when they (including the Democrat-controled House, which originated the bill) passed the Commercial Space Launch Act. I recall the extensive discussions with the staff of the bill's originator, Rep. (now Sen.) Danny Akaka, D-Hawaii, and it was quite clear that they were giving authorization to the DOT to approve all non-crewed missions including lunar. I testified at the dammned hearings! It's also a fact that any mission includes a review for compliance with all US international treaty obligations.

So in addition to being mathematically and scientifically illiterate and innumerate, these people also seem to know nothing about legislation, regulatory procedures, or international law.

He's right, of course. I was sufficiently distracted by the other idiocies that I forgot to point this out. Maybe we should just introduce those guys to Buzz Aldrin for a course of instruction in the realities of space exploration and development.

PETA IS IN DANGER OF LOSING ITS TAX EXEMPTION over too-close relations with eco-terrorists. Seems fair to me.

(Via The Hammer).



NEW Jersey voters already concerned about Sen. Robert Torricelli's low ethical threshold now learn that he's been a paid shill for a group the government identifies as a terrorist organization.

Called on this by his Republican opponent, Douglas Forrester, in a debate Thursday, Torricelli said the group had been pulled from the State Department's global terror list and given a clean bill of health. Not true.

(Via Orrin Judd).

ASPARAGIRL POINTS OUT a website dedicated to monitoring and harassing Islamoterrorists on the Web. Buy why are these guys watching them -- and who are they working for?

VOLOKH IS ON A ROLL -- Now he's fact-checking John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University who's switched from anti-tobacco to anti-McDonald's litigation, but who seems to be accuracy-challenged.

MIKE ZORN is deconstructing Buzz Aldrin punch-ee Bart Sibrel. It's not a pretty sight.


AIMEE DEEP is soliciting artists for Madster's new FairPlay music-distribution system. In the interests of full disclosure, I may participate, once the details -- which are still unclear -- are settled. But since giving music away has been my philosophy from day one, I'm receptive.

CHRETIEN UPDATE: Apparently he's not having much success at dining out on his anti-American reputation.

(Via Shiloh Bucher).

"REGULATE GUNS" = "BAN HANDGUNS NOW:" Eugene Volokh has been looking further into the website I mentioned the other day. (And here's an earlier post of his on the same topic.)

Hmm. If advocacy groups were held to the same truth-in-advertising standards as businesses, I think a lot of them would be in trouble.

UPDATE: Now Volokh has even more, with a quote from the VPC's Tom Diaz that makes clear that "regulating" handguns really does mean banning handguns to the VPC. I guess those "paranoid" gun-rights activists aren't so out of touch with reality after all.

DANIEL PIPES CONTRASTS Concordia University and Colorado College, and their respective speakers' reception. Excerpt:

These two parallel yet contrasting episodes point to several conclusions:

* Both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict are seeking to shift the terms of the debate. The pro-Israel side wants to delegitimize speakers who effectively call for the destruction of the Jewish state. The anti-Israel side wants to block speakers sympathetic to Israel.

* Both incidents point to profound problems in the university, and why Abigail Thernstrom calls it "an island of repression in a sea of freedom." In Colorado, the administration made the morally idiotic choice of honoring an apologist for terrorism. At Concordia, a weak-kneed response let thugs inhibit free speech.

* The incidents also point to the differing faces of pro- and anti-Israel activism, with the former acceptably political and the latter crudely violent. The first resembles the restrained actions of the Israeli armed forces. The second represents a North American face of the suicide bombings.

Or, in the most elemental terms, we see here the contrast between the civilized nature of Israel and its friends versus the raw barbarism of Israel's enemies.

Indeed. We've seen the same thing demonstrated at San Francisco State University. Where, it appears, a victim is being made a scapegoat.

BERKELEY HAS ENDORSED Rep. Dennis Kucinich's (D-Mars) "Space Preservation Act" -- which among other things bans space-based "mind control" devices. Just put tinfoil in your hats, folks. That'll block the beams. Soon you'll be thinking more clearly. . . . yeah, more clearly than ever before. . . .

(Via Red Square Albany).

CHRETIEN UPDATE: Tom Nichols of the U.S. Naval War College writes:

To be sure, Americans are used to hearing this kind of bloviation from European intellectuals, but Canada was once a country that could boast common sense among its many virtues. In fairness, Chretien's foolishness has drawn fire from some Canadian politicians on the right, including former prime minister Brian Mulroney, who called his successor's comments "false, shocking and morally specious," and "dangerous intellectual nonsense." Canada's National Post was even more blunt, asking: "did Jean Chretien have to choose the subject of Sept. 11 as an opportunity to make a Royal Canadian ass of himself?" Still, too many Canadians are drawn to Chretien's attempts at neo-appeasement, indulging in a reflexive anti-Americanism that takes as an article of faith that the downtrodden of the world hate the United States because they have every reason to. . . .

Given Chretien's inane comments prior to the meeting, Bush can hardly be faulted for not trying to lay out a case to his Canadian colleague. Indeed, given the lack of substance in their meeting and the clear Canadian aversion to shouldering the burden of the fight against terror — an aversion, by the way, that does not seem to be shared by the brave and able men and women of the Canadian armed forces — September 2002 might well be the date affixed by future historians to Canada's last days as a world power.

Yes, it's hard to take statements like Chretien's -- or the government that issues them -- seriously.

MICKEY KAUS says the blogosphere rules when it comes to coverage of the Bob Greene, er, affair. But even the Blogosphere isn't perfect:

Still there's one last level of artifice, even in the blogosphere: Why do men -- like Scalzi here, or Warren Beatty in Shampoo (or whoever wrote Warren Beatty's lines in Shampoo) -- have to explain their desire to have sex with attractive women in terms of a struggle against mortality ("middle-age-death-denying" in Scalzi's words)? You mean they wouldn't have sex with young girls if they were in good shape and knew they were going to live to be 300? They didn't want to have sex with young girls when they were young themselves? It's sex! Millions of years of evolution have designed men to want it and enjoy it.. It's stupid to try to explain this urge in some highfalutin' literary or spiritual way -- and revealing that even relatively no-BS men like Scalzi (or Nick Hornby in High Fidelity, to name another) feel that they have to.

It's sexism, Mickey -- they're afraid of the Sisterhood and its patriarch/rake dichotomy where male sexuality is concerned.

UPDATE: TAPPED is unashamedly defending Greene's sexuality. Oh, and Eugene Volokh, who's on a roll today, has some observations too.

CATHY YOUNG WRITES about post-9/11 feminism:

Maybe the real gender-related message to be gleaned from Sept. 11 is this: However much we would like to see women's liberation as a natural right, it is the achievement of a complex, advanced civilization. Recent events remind us that this civilization is fragile and that its enemies are hostile to freedom for anyone—but especially women. Feminists, perhaps more than anyone else, should realize that the West is worth defending. Perhaps if they did realize it, they wouldn't be so irrelevant.


AGAINST ANONYMITY: Declan McCullagh has news on the White House's cybersecurity plan.

THE END TIMES ARE AT HAND: Margo Kingston is linking to Tim Blair.

SPECIALTY BLOGGING: Paul Mansour writes that he has a weblog "for the express
purpose of regular, weekly fiskings of New York Times architectural critic Herbert Mushchamp. I was disappointed that Muschamp's Think Big article in Sept 8th's Sunday New York Times Mag did not get much attention in the blogosphere -- so I took matters into my own hands."

Well, that's the spirit of the Blogosphere.

200 MISSING NUKES? That's what Pravda reports.

UPDATE: ABC News is on top of this one.

AN A.P. REPORTER has been sacked for apparently quoting nonexistent experts in stories over a period of years.

UPDATE: Clayton Cramer weighs in with the inevitable comparison to Emory's dithering over Michael Bellesiles.

THERE'S GOING TO BE A TEACH-IN TONIGHT at George Washington University regarding the war. Er, except that it's sponsored by "Americans for Victory Over Terrorism," and the guests are distinctly non-Chomskian.

WHO'S THE BIGGER ENEMY OF CIVIL LIBERTIES? John Ashcroft? Or Nick Kristof? Well, Stephen Green has his own opinion, which for the moment he's allowed to express:

“Congress shall make no law…” except, of course, to suit the tastes of Nicholas Kristof.

Nick Kristof holds a powerful position at one of the world’s most powerful newspapers. His voice will never be silenced. But yours might be someday, if Kristof gets his wish.

Given the fuss people made regarding Ari Fleischer's innocuous remark about people needing to watch what they say in time of war, no doubt this out-and-out call for censorship will be widely denounced by civil libertarians and the mainstream media. Right?

Or will this exercise of "Jackboot Liberalism" get a pass?

UPDATE: A reader writes:

Is Kristof unaware of the books on munitions handling and operation, security infiltration techniques, and silent killing methods that have been available for decades from any Army surplus store? I wonder if he would like to shut down the presses that educate our own military...

I also know from firsthand experience that the semi-underground 'cookbooks' he is so worried about are, and always have been:

a) easily available
b) DANGEROUS (primarily to the user)

My guess is that the majority of malefactors who follow such guides will end up killing only themselves. That such an op-ed would pop up now is nothing short of ignorant hysteria (or less charitably, a calculated power ploy). Enemies of the United States have always been around. So have how-to guides for aspiring criminals. But the only thing that ever blew up was my mother's kitchen.

The fact that he equates his ability to purchase these poorly written books with his ability to make the substances they claim displays a deep ignorance of applied science at even the Chem 101 level. Which is, admittedly, not his area of expertise. But for a publisher, his apparent belief that the information today wasn't availble less than a decade ago (for Aum Shinrikyo) is remarkably naive.

Indeed. Kristof seems a bit on the gullible side. I wonder who's been feeding him this stuff.

BLOGOSPHERE UPDATE: Eric Alterman has finished his Ph.D. (history, Stanford) as of Friday. The dissertation: "Two Lies: The Consequences of Presidential Deception." (The lies are Yalta and the Cuban Missile Crisis.) Apparently he's going to add two more lies -- Tonkin and Iran/Contra -- and turn it into a book. (Will the publisher put a blurb on the cover: "Improved -- now with more lies!"? Er, maybe not, but that has a suitably Kausian sound to it.)

I wonder if he'll be posting more than once a day now that the dissertation is done. I haven't asked, but I'll bet the real barrier is MSNBC's set-up. It seems that Big Media websites don't allow posting with the convenience of programs like MT or Blogger, with the exception of NRO, which has just incorporated Blogger into its setup. I wonder why more places don't do something like that.

OUR FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE: I haven't read the book in question, but this review makes Timothy Ferris's Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space, and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril sound pretty cool. And it's certainly true that amateur astronomers (whose operations are in some ways as sophisticated as the professionals') are the ones most likely to spot some dangers, such as an asteroid or comet aimed at Earth.

If Ferris makes one point, he makes it again and again: Don't overlook "the backyard stargazer who searches with a telescope for previously undiscovered asteroids and comets."

These thought adventurers gazing up at the night sky from backyards all over the world are "simultaneously engaged in two missions -- a study of our origins and a reconnaissance that just might bear on our survival."

There have even been some efforts to harness these amateurs in a more organized fashion, via prizes for discovering earth-crossing asteroids. As individuals get richer, and as technology extends their capabilities, informal groups of interested amateurs are likely to become the main means of addressing some important problems. In fact, as this example makes clear, they already have.

CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER: Rachel Lucas can't find anything to rant about. What has this person done with the real Rachel Lucas?

FLIGHT 93 CONSPIRACY THEORIES -- which involve the idea that the plane was shot down, but that it's being covered up -- make a lot of the timing discrepancy between the seismic record of the crash and when the voice recorder data end. But the seismic data are also inconsistent with the shoot-down theory according to this item in Discover magazine:

Based on the amount of seismic energy, Wallace could estimate how the plane came down: "The UA flight produced a significant signal, consistent with a fully-loaded jet that was intact, or nearly intact, on impact." That finding disputes rumors that the hijacked jet was shot down, he says, because a missile or other explosion would have broken the craft into smaller pieces that would have caused less seismic disturbance. The Pan Am crash over Lockerbie, Scotland, which blew apart in midair, produced only a faint signal, even though the crash occurred close to an array of ground-motion sensors. David McCormack, a seismologist at Natural Resources Canada who studied the Lockerbie crash, agrees with Wallace's interpretation. "To detect a signal even marginally, the aircraft would have to be intact," he says.

I've found the shoot-down / coverup theory rather flimsy anyway. I don't see how to put the pieces together in a way that makes sense. Why would the government lie about shooting down the plane? They were getting flak, readers may recall, for not shooting down the others.


I'm embarassed for my party right now, and nothing I see in the Democratic response to Iraq gives me hope for a Democratic political renaissance. As I see it, the Democrats have two choices: Start making some principled arguments to the American people showing why Bush is wrong on Iraq, or start convincing us liberals why, in this case, our usual skepticism about military action is wrong. That is the choice Messrs. Daschle, Gephardt, Kerry, Kerrey, Clinton, Biden, Dean, Edwards, and other prominent Democrats face.

This sounds a lot like what Indepundit Scott Koenig is saying in his Daschle Dawdle Watch, and I agree with both of them. There's a case to be made against war -- maybe even an intelligent one as opposed to the of-course-America-is-wrong line we're getting from the usual Chomskian suspects. And we'd be better off if someone were making it clearly and responsibly. (Robert Wright has been doing a much better job than Daschle, et al.) But making that case requires taking a position that someone might hold against you later, as opposed to carping from the sidelines and hoping to capitalize if it all goes wrong. Those who lack the backbone to take a position at a time like this aren't qualified to hold office.

UPDATE: Athena Runner has a similar take. Oh, and I should link this editorial from The New Republic:

The Democrats' evasions come in several forms. The first, and most naked, is the contention that the Iraq debate should wait until after the November elections. This is what Senator Ted Kennedy meant when he argued last week that "we can't let it [Iraq] replace the domestic agenda," and it is what Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe meant when he declared hopefully that "people are going to vote on the kitchen-table issues we've talked about for eighteen months." But if the Democrats succeed, if they make this fall's election a referendum on prescription drugs and pension reform, they will have done the voters a disservice. Elections should be about the most urgent issues facing the country; and compared with war with Iraq, the Democrats' litany of poll-tested standbys is frankly trivial.

When this last sentence was quoted to Tom Daschle on This Week he replied by pretending to misunderstand -- disingenuously, I think -- and saying that he agreed with The New Republic that important issues like prescription drugs were suffering because of too much focus on the war. That's not the point of the piece, Tom.

September 16, 2002

MOIRA BREEN is looking for a primer on nation-building.

LAST MONTH I mentioned the claim by Carl Bogus that Joyce Malcolm's historical research on guns was "discredited." I suggested that Bogus was, ahem, engaging in wishful thinking. Now Dave Kopel says that rather more strongly.

CHRETIEN UPDATE: Mark Steyn is dissing him and the horse he rode in on:

M. ChrР№tien, whatever his efficacy as a small-time largesse-dispensing ward-heeler, has never troubled himself to form anything approaching a political philosophy. So, ask him what's to blame for September 11th, and he falls back on that old standby -- "global poverty," the growing "inequality" between rich and poor.

Let's spell it out: There's no such thing. The story of the last 30 years is the emergence of "a new world middle class," as Professor Xavier Sala-i-Martin calls them in his study The World Distribution Of Income. This class is made up of some 2.5 billion people in the developing world, whose standards of living now approach those of the West. That's to say, roughly half the people in the developing world are doing pretty well economically. As Virginia Postrel wrote in The New York Times recently, taking the world's population as a whole, in 1998 "the largest number of people earned about $8,000 -- a standard of living equivalent to Portugal's."

Why hasn't the Middle East shared in this economic growth? Because they're failed states run by kleptocrats who govern by clan and corruption and whose starting point is to exclude half the population -- the women -- from the economic life of the country. If M. ChrР№tien wants to give Paul Wells's salary to President Mubarak, that's up to him but it will have zero effect on either poverty or terrorism. . . .

The Islamists have no rational demands, and no conceivable changes to U.S. policy will deflect them. M. ChrР№tien says he formulated his theory --American arrogance plus Osama's poverty equals global terrorism -- on the evening of September 11th. And what's heartening is that in the last 12 months nothing in the torrent of evidence has stirred our grand buffoon from his complacency.

There's more.


For leftists like me who had long considered Chomsky as our own beacon of moral clarity, it is hard to say which development is more catastrophic: the fact that Chomsky-bashing has become a major political pastime, or the fact that Chomsky has become so very difficult to defend. Chomsky's response to the war in Afghanistan offered a repellent mix of hysteria and hauteur. . . .

The antiwar left once knew well that its anti-imperialism was in fact a form of patriotism - until it lost its bearings in Kosovo and Kabul, insisting beyond all reason that those military campaigns were imperialist wars for oil or regional power. And why does that matter? Because in the agora of public opinion, the antiwar left never claimed to speak to pragmatic concerns or political contingencies: for the antiwar left, the moral ground was the only ground there was. So when the antiwar left finds itself on shaky moral ground, it simply collapses.

I wonder what happened to the left such that it became capable of horror at the thought of removing a (quite literally) fascist dictator.

UPDATE: Alex Bensky writes:

Thanks; I'm still unimpressed.

Berube reminds me of the leftists and outright commies who decided after the Czech invasion of 1968 that maybe the Soviets weren't leading the way to the radiant future. All I could think of then was, "Where the hell have they

This is the Noam Chomsky who defended the Cambodian massacres, wrote a forward to a holocaust denier's book, and has readily and vigorously defended some of the worst assaults on human rights imaginable. He's been doing this at least since American Power and the New Mandarins (which was taken apart in Robert James Maddox's curiously ignored The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War). Five minutes on the internet would lay out a sorry litany of Chomsky's nastiness.

And now Michael Berube decides that maybe Chomsky isn't the best the left has
to offer? Where the hell has he been?

In a parallel universe, the same one where people argue, as they do, that Chomsky's defense of the Khmer Rouge is "misinterpreted." But maybe it's because I'm a teacher that I feel hope when I see the light begin to dawn in anyone, however benighted.

THE REAL REASON why Hussein is inviting arms inspectors in:

"Frankly, I just want to know if these bombs are going to work," said Hussein. "Our scientists don't have enough experience and Iraqis don't exactly have a reputation for craftsmanship. Who better to judge whether these armaments are functional than the best weapons inspectors in the world?"

This almost makes sense.

MUSICIANS ARE REVOLTING against record labels.

"The record companies are like cartels, like countries, for God's sake," singer/songwriter Tom Waits says. "It's a nightmare to be trapped in one."

Like countries? North Korea is a country. . . .

SHILOH BUCHER IS BACK BLOGGING, and she's dissing the French. But of course.

WHAT THE HELL is wrong with Blogspot now? Some sites work fine. Some won't open at all -- they seem to hang waiting for the ad to load. And every once in a while it takes me to a different site than the one I entered.

INCONSTANT MOON: Jay Manifold thinks he's got the Iraq attack plans all scoped out.

KOFI ANNAN DELIVERS peace in our time. And there's a reason why you should be worried.

UPDATE: Steven DenBeste has an analysis.

GARY MILHOLLIN says that inspections won't work as long as Saddam Hussein is in power. (Here's a direct link to the op-ed.)

NOW GREG BEATO has taken up the cudgel in Bob Greene's defense, while simultaneously offering some legal/journalistic advice to Rod Dreher. And Eugene Volokh thinks the Trib is overhasty, too, while Orrin Judd thinks it's hypocritical. With all these defenders, I'm starting to wonder if Greene wasn't a bit hasty resigning. I'll bet he's wondering too.

Hmm. Old thinking: resign fast to nip a scandal in the bud. Possible new thinking: let the word get out and see if people start defending you.

UPDATE: Count Dale Amon among those who think that Greene got, er, screwed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Max Power weighs in, too.

I SUSPECT THAT AL JAZEERA REPORTER YOSRI FOUDA is being made an example of. Fouda refused to cooperate with U.S. intelligence, so (according to a Bloomberg report that someone emailed me, and that doesn't seem to be on the Web) they tapped his phone and captured Ramzi Binalshibh anyway. Now Fouda is in bad odor with, well, a lot of people.

I imagine that, had he cooperated, his name would have been left out of the reports. I also think that this is bad for Al Jazeera in general. Notice how many people who have given interviews to Al Jazeera have either (1) disappeared without a trace; (2) been killed; or (3) been captured?

You'd almost think that Al Jazeera was a stalking-horse for the CIA.

JAMES LILEKS WRITES ON THE GRINCH AND THE WAR OF THE WORLDS as competing foreign-policy metaphors. Which one is right?

Both, some of the time. The key is to figure out which story you're in.

TOM MAGUIRE RESPONDS regarding an "October Surprise."

JESSE JACKSON isn't getting the respect he used to get. Especially when Carey Gage is involved. In addition, Scott Ott is helping Jackson with plans to celebrate America's 40th anniversary.

"ALL THE YALE THAT'S FIT TO BLOG" isn't much of a slogan, but there's actually some stuff here that might be of interest to non-Yalies.

JOHN SCALZI IS DEFENDING COLUMNIST BOB GREENE: Well, against the charge presented, anyway:

Be all that as it may, I do have to wonder what the problem is here. Greene's sleeping with a teenage woman is gross to think about, but they were both of legal age, and even if she was just barely so, "just barely so," counts as legal. So far as I know, Greene applied no coercion other than his not-especially-dazzling celebrity, and as everyone knows, if a great many celebrities didn't do that (especially the not-especially-dazzling ones, and especially ones, like Greene, who have a face for radio) they wouldn't get any action at all; they're just as lumpy and furtive as the rest of us. . . .

I think Greene should have been cut as a columnist years ago, not because he's morally tainted, but because he's a boring columnist. He stopped being interesting and started being filler long before he did his questionable after-school activities. From a purely utilitarian point of view, there's no downside to Greene hightailing it out of town, excepting that there will be the painfully rationalized mea culpa six months down the road as part of Greene's inevitable comeback (America loves a reformed sinner).

But based on what we know now, this isn't the way Greene should go out.

Address all feedback to Scalzi.

THE NATION now has weblogs. Well, sort of. As TAPPED points out, they don't seem to have any links in them. Hey, guys: linkage is what makes a weblog interesting and useful. Otherwise it's just an oped in pixels.

Maybe The Nation just needs to teach its staff how to make a link in HTML. It's not rocket science.

UPDATE: Oliver Willis emails to note that the Nation weblogs have permalinks -- if you click on "more" it takes you to what appears to be a unique page. Yeah, but what I meant was links to other pages. The ones I looked at were entirely link-free. They need to read what Henry Copeland says.

EVERY MAN'S WISH COMES TRUE: Orchid had a dream about me.

It's a sign that one of us needs to blog less, probably. Then again, based on past posts I think Orchid spends more time dreaming about Asparagirl and Condi Rice. But those are, er, different sorts of dreams.

LIBEL.COM -- Rod Dreher offers some legal advice for bloggers.

From the facts stated in Dreher's article, the suit in question doesn't sound very strong, but I'm sure that there's more to it than I'm aware of. Anyway, it's the general subject that interests me, not the particulars of one case.

There's been some discussion of this in the blogosphere, and the article and the items it links to are must-reads. Some webloggers are a bit quick on the draw with accusations of plagiarism, etc. -- which particularly when aimed at a professional journalist are serious in the extreme, and likely to fetch a strong response -- and need to remember that publishing on a weblog is no different from publishing elsewhere: you shouldn't make accusations unless you're reasonably sure they're true, and could back it up if challenged. You're not required to be right about everything, but some degree of responsibility and care is required, just as with Big Media. (And webloggers who publish things that turn out to be false should publish a correction swiftly once they learn of the error -- whether or not anyone threatens a libel action).

And Big Media organizations have lawyers already on salary or retainer to deal with such things. Most bloggers don't, and defending a libel suit, even if you win, is expensive and stressful. You can get insurance to cover the expense, but the stress will be there regardless.

More importantly, it's not that hard to avoid libeling people. Just try to get things right -- and be quick to correct errors that are pointed out. On the latter point, webloggers have Big Media beat hollow.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has some related observations.

SCIENCE AND ISLAM: James Rummel has a reply to my Star Trek post below.

MORE ON THE TRAIN DERAILMENT: I didn't say much about this yesterday beyond this post because, well, I thought it was mostly a local story and no one would care. (Post-9/11, I'm somewhat desensitized to such things.) I was wrong, apparently. First it's a lot bigger than I realized yesterday afternoon -- one local TV station says 30,000 people were evacuated, which seems high to me, but if you add the mandatory-evacuation and the voluntary-evacuation areas together there may be that many people involved. Other accounts say "several thousand people," which seems closer. And it's gotten a lot more attention nationally.

The derailment is a mystery -- the track is straight through that section, and there's not obvious reason why it should happen. One eyewitness said the train was braking when the lead engine abruptly stopped and the rest of the train telescoped into it. (The train crew seems to be okay). This suggests track problems. There's nothing in any news reports about terrorism or sabotage, but people are speculating darkly, of course -- though it's not as if trains don't derail all the time in the absence of sabotage. (Here's a link to the Knoxville News-Sentinel's coverage, which has links to other information and streaming video.) And sulfuric acid is nasty stuff, but if I were a saboteur, I'd target a train carrying something worse.

Local talk-radio host Hallerin Hill is doing a terrific job (as he did on 9/11/2001) of putting together and relaying information on his program. I think that disaster-recovery and terrorism plans should take account of the important role that talk radio can play in relaying information and educating people; as callers have raised questions, he's gotten the answers together very rapidly and has done a better job than the regular news broadcasts. I also notice that a lot of people who were evacuated actually evacuated themselves -- I heard a couple of callers say that they checked the location of the wreck in relation to their own house "on the Internet" (probably via Mapquest) and then decided to leave on their own.

We learned on 9/11 that distributed information and communications play an important role in dealing with attacks or disasters. It's important to take that into account when planning. People can self-organize if they have the information and means.

You can smell it as a faint acridity, and I notice that my eyes are a bit bloodshot, as are a lot of other people's, but they are reporting that the air quality is a lot better now and some people will be able to get back to their homes today, while others will have to wait until tomorrow. In general it's being taken in stride, and the local authorities, at first glance at least, seem to have been quick and efficient in their response, and I saw one representative saying that the incident is "good practice" for the terrorism-response teams. I guess after 9/11 this sort of thing seems a lot less shocking to everyone.

UPDATE: Fellow Knox-blogger SKBubba has more. I like his dig at MSNBC for its utterly erroneous statement that the derailment occurred in a "rural area." I guess Tennessee = rural to those guys, population density notwithstanding.

SOMETHING EVEN WEIRDER THAN USUAL is going on with Blogger/Blogspot. Sometimes when I follow a link I get some code but no page, and just now I tried to go to Atios (and the link in my address window was to Atrios) but wound up at UggaBugga instead.

ANDREA SEE has gone 100 days without smoking. I'd buy her a drink, but (1) she's in Singapore; and (2) judging by her weblog entries for the weekend, she's had quite enough already.

IRAQ WILL HAVE THE BOMB BY CHRISTMAS? Maybe. I'm sure Saddam would like to find one under his tree -- or leave one under ours. But I think this story's appearance at this particular moment is more informative as evidence of when the administration is planning to take military action than as evidence of exactly when Saddam will achieve his lifelong dream.

EVIDENCE OF A SADDAM / BIN LADEN CONNECTION may be coming out a bit sooner than Gerhard Schroder had allowed for. I don't think it'll matter much with the German elections so close, but Papa Scott is right to say "Germany can forget about a permanent UN Security Council seat for a while."

Then again, the value of those may have been inflated, like so much else, in the 1990s.

PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS ASKING why there are no Arabs in Star Trek. (Dr. Bashir is apparently a Punjabi.) This may explain it. The Vulcans must be one of the Lost Tribes.

UPDATE: A reader points out that Prince Abdullah of Jordan had a cameo in an episode of Voyager. I'll bite down sarcastic remarks about Voyager not counting and admit that he's right.

MICKEY KAUS HAS DISCOVERED "blindered Upper West Side rubes" and "creeping Zabarsism" at the Times. Say it ain't so, Mickey!

I was more of a Balducci's guy myself.

STEPHEN GREEN has discovered the peace movement's newest manifestation: "Masturbate for Peace."

Of course, some of us think that's been pretty much the slogan all along. In a related development, Green also answers Rep. Ron Paul's questons about the war.

UPDATE: This item by Eric S. Raymond suggests it's nothing new. So that's what all those Che posters were about. . . .

September 15, 2002

THE PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS is reportedly running a story on Flight 93 tomorrow that points to some timing discrepancies in the cockpit voice recorder data. You can read an advance posting here. I'm rather skeptical of the various conspiracy theories that have been swirling around the Net of late, but there have been some unaccounted-for details.

Thanks to Stuart Buck for emailing the link.

UPDATE: The story is online now.

READER ROBERT PATTERSON SENDS this story of tourists mistaken for terrorists that's worth a read.

THIS HEADLINE makes it sound like a bad thing.

WILLIAM BURTON (whose permalinks aren't working) has a message for the world:

Hi, World, how's it going? Been a while. I know our current leader doesn't call you much, but we really do like you. In fact, we're a lot like you. Really. We've got Hindus, and Muslims, and Christians, and Jews, and people who believe in Body Thetans and the healing power of crystals. We've got Irish Buddhists, Japanese Baptists, and Jewish atheists who are trying to find a nice Jewish boy to settle down with. We've even got women who make a living travelling all over the place telling other women to stay home. All sorts of crazy shit. You'd love it over here. I know we told a lot of you to stay home, but you know we didn't mean it. Ya'll do most of the work around here anyway, except the stuff that involves typing (and that ain't really work).

I know that some of the stuff we've been doing hasn't been explained real well, so I thought I'd take a shot. Listen to me real good, now. We, the United States of America, don't want to kill you or anyone else, nor do we want to piss you or anyone else off (well, maybe France). We'd prefer that everyone just keep sending us their smartest students and hardest workers while buying our soft drinks and watching our action movies. However, we are going to defend ourselves against attack and take steps to keep ourselves from being attacked. We also reserve the right to stick up for people who are getting slaughtered for no good reason at all. Don't expect any different. Ever.

If we have to defend ourselves, people are going to die. Some of those people won't deserve it. That's just the nature of warfare. It's real hard to sort the good guys from the bad guys when the bad guys are trying to keep from being sorted. So if we end up killing someone who didn't deserve it or stationing troops near someone's holy place, we're genuinely not trying to be insensitive. We're trying to do the best we can in an imperfect world. Believe me, we don't like it when innocent people die. It's not our nature.

You might mention to your leaders that you don't want to get caught in any crossfire, so they need to make sure they don't kill any Americans ('cause if they do kill any of us, there's sure to be crossfire). If they seem intent on killing Americans anyway, you might try shooting your leaders in the head with an AK-47 or throwing them in prison. I know the Rumanians are awfully glad they shot theirs, and the Serbians don't seem too upset that theirs are in jail. I know you don't always have that option, and you may be stuck with the scumbags you've got. If so, our condolences. But your beef is with them, not with us.

There's more.

RICH HAILEY reflects on America.

IT'S NOT JUST Florida. Maybe it just gets noticed there.

UPDATE: Oh, this hurts. Or maybe that's just my eyes burning from the sulfuric acid vapors.

WHIGGING OUT purports to find a Democrats/Al Qaeda connection based on the Buffalo Five all being registered Democrats. Seems a bit of a stretch to me. I think that his real point is more along these lines:

After Oklahoma City, Republicans were forced to dress in sackcloth and ashes and parade around as if people who wanted tax cuts and limited government helped load explosives into McVeigh's truck. While there was of course no connection between the GOP and McVeigh, the argument for the abovementioned Islamic/Democratic connection is far more compelling, and needs to be examined without fear of appearing conspiratorial.

He's right about the way McVeigh was used -- there's an interesting discussion of it in George Stephanopoulos' White House memoir, which reports that Dick Morris was behind it, and wanted to do even more.

After the Hilliard, McKinney, and McKinney defeats, though, I don't think many Democrats are going to be doing anything that might make them look close to Al Qaeda or radical Islam in general.

UPDATE: Oliver Willis emails to say that he's surprised I gave credence to the Democrats / Al Qaeda connection. Hmm. I thought I was debunking it. I don't even think that Whigging Out means it seriously. I saw him (I think it's a him) as using the opportunity to twit the Dems for how Dick Morris used McVeigh -- and there's nothing imaginary about that.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Whigging Out has posted a clarification.

IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ORWELLIAN, AND MAYBE RACIST when the United States talked about fingerprinting immigrants from Arab countries. But now Saudi Arabia wants to require visitors to wear radio ID tags.

COMBAT WEBLOGGING: Yep. This is a weblog from some U.S. soldiers in the 'stans.

MARTIN DEVON isn't a multiculturalist.

BLOGOSPHERE FAVORITE ROBERT FISK has a column mentioning Hanan Ashrawi's speech. Damian Penny responds.

UPDATE: Misha has some comments, too. Meanwhile Tim Blair points out what happens when you hire John Pilger.

JOSHUA TREVINO is claiming vindication.

SO FAR, WE'RE STILL ALIVE. Well, actually it's not bad, though you can smell the stuff in the air. We had a nice dinner down in the Old City, though. My daughter is eagerly chasing rumors that her school will be closed tomorrow.

JOHN WEIDNER SAYS that Sweden is on the road to extinction. Except for his Swedish relatives, of course.

TOM MAGUIRE has a post responding to my post below on the Central Park jogger case, and various other bloggers' commentary on it. And reader George Zachar sends this first-hand account:

Away from the suddenly nighmarish legal turn in the Central Park Jogger case, I want you to know there really was terror, in the pre-9/11 sense, in the park that night.

I was jogging up the west side of the reservoir just past 9:30 pm when an approaching runner began gesturing frantically for me to turn around.

As he passed me, he said there was a gang of kids attacking joggers at the northern end of the reservoir, and that he'd just barely escaped them. I, of course, turned south and ran to the nearest park exit.

When I saw the next morning's papers, I learned the man who'd warned me was a former track star whose speed had saved him. And that if I had left my apartment 10 minutes earlier, reaching the reservoir's apex before him, *I* would have been a victim, with no chance of eluding the wilding youths.

Just offering a local, non-legal perspective to the events of that night.

I may post more on this later. I've gotten some email charging me with being unfairly biased against prosecutors, and I'm trying to decide whether to respond with some anecdotes from my time working in a prosecutor's office or not.

UPDATE: Here's more on the subject, with the amusing title "Central Park Bloggers."

SMALLPOX UPDATE: The U.S. government appears to be planning a rolling vaccination program that will probably reach the general public eventually. I suspect that public pressure may move that timeline up.

I'M AT THE OFFICE, and my wife just called to say that a train wreck and chemical spill may cause an evacuation of our neighborhood. Jeez.

UPDATE: So far, it looks like we're in the clear. However, our plans for a birthday party tonight have been scrubbed. Dang.

ANOTHER UPDATE: They've expanded the evac. area. Still not quite to our house, but my wife and daughter are meeting me down here, and we're going out to dinner while they work on the cleanup. Here's the latest, for the two or three of you who may actually care.

N.Z. BEAR points out bias in an Associate Press story on antiwar protests by Angela Watercutter -- though, to be fair, the bias could have been injected by an editor. Wouldn't be the first time that happened.

UPDATE: Brian Carnell isn't very happy with UPI, either. And nobody likes Reuters. Hmm. I'm beginning to sense a more general problem. . . .


Q: "What's the quickest way to shut Noam Chomsky up?"

A: "Ask him a linguistics question."


Someone should try this.

ORRIN JUDD writes that Jonah Goldberg doesn't understand the Internet. Well, kind of.

KEN LAYNE'S WEIRD FILES SYNDICATED FEATURE is taking off! Encourage your paper to pick it up.


In the course of researching the state of liberty and security after 9/11, I've been especially struck by how restrained America's legal response appears when contrasted with that of our European allies. Although they weren't directly attacked, the countries of the European Union passed anti-terrorism measures during the past year that are far more sweeping than anything adopted in the United States. In October, France expanded the powers of the police to search private property without a warrant. Germany has engaged in religious profiling of suspected terrorists, a practice that was upheld in a court challenge. In Britain, which has become a kind of privacy dystopia, Parliament passed a sweeping anti-terrorism law in December that authorizes a central government authority to record and store all communications data generated by e-mail, Internet browsing or other electronic communications, and to make the data available to law enforcement without a court order. In May, the European Union authorized all of its members to pass similar laws requiring data retention.

The Bush administration has tried to emulate its European allies by expanding executive authority in similarly dramatic ways. It asserted that the president may designate citizens or aliens as enemy combatants and detain them indefinitely without judicial review. It claimed that the president may deport certain aliens based on secret hearings whose existence is withheld from the pressand the public. And it attempted to blur the legal lines that separate domestic law enforcement from foreign intelligence gathering, transforming the FBI into the equivalent of Britain's domestic security intelligence agency, MI5.

What distinguished America from Europe, however, is how quickly all three of these extreme positions met with opposition from the other two branches of government.

Jeffrey Rosen has been thinking deeply about these issues since well before 9/11/2001 and this piece is well worth reading -- as, I expect, his book on this subject will be.

SECOND-GENERATION ASTROTURF? RegulateGuns.Org is a website that argues that guns should be regulated as a consumer product. (By which they really mean guns should be regulated out of existence). The contact page indicates that it's related to the Consumer Federation of America, though it's not clear whether the site is actually part of CFA or if CFA is just a "supporter" of the site. But the WhoIs entry says that the domain name is registered to the Violence Policy Center.

I couldn't find any mention of a VPC connection, and entering "violence policy center" into the site's search engine produced no results, so apparently VPC isn't mentioned anywhere. And when I entered "" in the search window on the Consumer Federation of America site, I got no returns. I got the same non-result when I searched the Violence Policy Center's site.

So who's actually behind this?

UPDATE: FYI, courtesy of an alert reader, here's an article on what it would actually mean to treat guns like a common consumer product. Oh, and another reader points out that searching for "VPC" does bring up some links to the Violence Policy Center.

HERE'S A REPORT on the Florida non-terror inicident that's worth reading. Excerpt:

Friday's coverage was the source of a staggering amount of misinformation. Among the inaccurate reports:

• Several stations reported that a woman in Georgia told police three Middle Easterners were coming to Miami to blow something up. (That's not what she said.)

• Several also said cops spotted the men after they roared past a tollbooth on I-75. (One car rolled by at a normal rate of speed; the other stopped and paid the tolls for both.)

• The cops used explosives to detonate a suspicious knapsack found in one car. (They didn't.) Channel 7 reported that explosive ''triggers'' were found in one of the cars. (There were no ''triggers'' or anything else to do with explosives.)

• Channel 7 also reported that cops were searching for a third car. (They weren't.)

It was a wretched performance -- worse yet, a wretched performance that dragged on for eight hours, terrorizing South Florida and smearing the daylights out of three medical students who can be counted on to contribute heavily to the next edition of the travel guide What Sucks About South Florida.

''This is what is wrong with local news,'' said Bill Pohovey, news director at WPLG-ABC 10, one of the two stations that kept their perspective on the story and stuck with regular programming. (WLTV-Univision 23 was the other.) ``This is why viewers get disgusted with local news.''

My only quibble with Pohovey is the word local. The worst parody of journalism Friday was actually on CNN, where the high-paid-low-rated anchor Paula Zahn speculated, without a jot or tittle of evidence, that the three men were coming to Florida to blow up the Turkey Point nuclear reactor. Now you know why CNN promotes her sex appeal rather than her news judgment.

Sounds like what Reid Stott was saying. And mainline journalists say bloggers are sloppy?

YEAH, I KNOW: Not many posts so far today (though several updates to yesterday's stuff -- scroll down). I've spent a lot of family time and only got a little bit of time at the computer while my daughter was occupied playing Barbies. More later, though I have to finish up two columns for this week, which may limit posting somewhat. In the meantime, PunditWatch should be up later this afternoon.

KATHY KINSLEY writes about terms that have lost their meaning.

What I find amusing is that many people who complain constantly about "fascism" seem to have trouble recognizing it in an objectively fascist state like Iraq or Syria.

PAUL WRIGHT says that the antiwar movement is suffering from the generational imperialism of baby boomers mired in Vietnam-era thinking:

The old revolutionaries need to keep an image in mind before they put their hand up: Eisenhower. No-one could fault his ability at war, his patriotism or his intellect. So outflank him call him outdated, out of touch, a relic. But consider: his war was only 25 years out of date when JFK ordered the troops into Vietnam. Your war is older than that, and much more obsolete.

Actually, it was closer to 15 years -- but that only makes Wright's point stronger.

PERRY DEHAVILLAND says that Jacob Hornberger is morally obtuse.

AIMEE DEEP reports that both Osama bin Laden and Michael Eisner are finished.