November 23, 2002

MARK STEYN IS ALL OVER THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION in a fashion that you'd think the Democrats would be emulating:

For over a year now, nothing has been asked of Muslims, at home or abroad: you can be equivocal about bin Laden and an apologist for suicide bombers, and still get a photo-op with Dubya; you can be a member of a regime whose state TV stations and government-owned newspapers call for Muslims to kill all Jews and Christians, and you'll still get to kick your shoes off with George and Laura at the Crawford ranch.

This is not just wrong but self-defeating. As long as Dubya and Colin Powell and the rest are willing to prance around doing a month-long Islamic minstrel-show routine for the amusement of the A-list Arabs, Muslims will rightly see it for what it is: a sign of profound cultural weakness. Healthy relationships require at least some token reciprocity.

This is Bush's Achilles' heel, but the Democrats are ideologically unable to exploit it. Otherwise they'd be making noise about everything from the stealthy evacuation of bin Laden's relatives just after 9/11 to this account of Saudi funding for the 9/11 attackers.

I'M BACK. The flights were fine. The conference was great -- my only complaint is that they didn't make it available via streaming audio or video. But if you follow the links below you can get some excellent blog coverage. And don't miss Jeff Jarvis's coverage -- start here and scroll up.

November 22, 2002

SPINSANITY says that Daschle was over the top, but that Limbaugh doesn't deserve a pass. You might want to read this too, though.

HEH. Now John Hiler is saying that bloggers are addicted to blogging and their readers are addicted to reading. Hmm. Is co-dependency the key to the blogosphere's success? He says businesses haven't figured this out.

I'M LISTENING TO A FASCINATING LEGAL DEBATE between Mickey Kaus and Yale Law Prof. Jack Balkin. Follow the links below to see some more detailed accounts.

THE BLOGOSPHERE: While people here at the conference are talking about weblogs' power to enforce transparency, here's an example of how that happens, courtesy of Wired News. Michael Moore is involved.

WELL, my speech is over, and I'm blogging on a laptop borrowed from Jeff Jarvis. (A slim and elegant one, natch.) I've looked a bit at the stuff other people blogged on my speech, and it's quite a strange experience: like looking at yourself in the mirror through a set of compound eyes, sort of. There's no "I never said that!" but there is some "I didn't mean it that way." Not too much, though. Now it's a very interesting panel on blogs and the law, and Donna Wentworth of Harvard is speaking at the moment, and quite well even though she said she was nervous. I'm not going to keep up a running commentary, though: other people are doing that sort of thing. Oh, and scroll up from here.

I'M BLOGGING FROM A TERMINAL in the recently renovated Yale Law School Library reading room, which is just gorgeous. When I was a student here, the place was a bit down at the heels. It's been seriously fixed up, and it's beautiful. We've been very nicely hosted, and the conference will begin in about an hour. Some people will actually be blogging from the conference, but I didn't bring a laptop this time. Now I wish I had. Blogging is likely to be limited as a result. I didn't bring the laptop because the hotel said it had in-room high speed access via a WebTV like interface. What it actually has is something that sucks like a bilge pump, and that won't even load many sites that are "too large." Including this one, and every other weblog I tried. It's absolutely the lamest computer experience I've ever had, bar none.

Anyway, Kitchen Cabinet will be blogging from the conference, and I'll ask them to post links to the other folks doing the same. (Or you can follow the links on the conference page and just see what shows up!)

The nanotechnology paper has been picked up on Slashdot, which has generated a (mostly) interesting discussion. There's also a story on CNET, though the headline gives the impression that the paper calls for a laissez-faire regime, which isn't really true. The story more correctly characterizes it as a call for "modest regulation, civilian research, and an emphasis on self-regulation." I have email that there's something about it in the National Journal, too, but there's no link.

Sorry that I won't be blogging much today, but you can visit the ever-expanding Volokh Conspiracy for a lot of interesting new posts on everything from the Pentagon's domestic spy project (Advice: "Concede no powers to your friends that you would not give to your enemies. If you are a Republican, the Law can be applied in the following form: give no powers of surveillance to the Bush administration that you would not be comfortable seeing in the hands of Hillary Clinton.") to voter turnout and the unfolding CUNY tenure battle. And follow the various other links to the left and below. If I can get to a computer later, I'll post more. We'll see.

November 21, 2002

WELL, I'M OFF TO THE YALE BLOG CONFERENCE. Posting will be intermittent at best. But Yale Law bloggers at The Kitchen Cabinet have promised to provide updates on the conference, and I imagine I'll get some time at a computer in somehow. In the meantime, visit the fine links at the left. And in particular, be sure to visit Arthur Silber's blog, where he's been running an interesting series of posts (here's the latest, with links to the earlier ones) on gay / straight interactions. And Sofia Sideshow has reports on dumb American actors, Apache helicopters that aren't there, and the alleged anti-American cast of Tolkien.

And Lileks is a must-read again today. Excerpt:

A conservative religious women’s organization and the NOW have finally found common ground - at least according to a radio show I heard in the car this afternoon. A spokeswoman from the former group was on, decrying a new assault on American values, and I was rather surprised to discover the object of her ire: The Victoria’s Secret TV special. . . .

Bothered by Victoria’s Secret, eh. These people need to roam around the Internet until they encounter the goatse.x picture somewhere in a message board. (I may have the name wrong, but you may have seen the picture - you don’t know if it’s about proctology or spelunking.) And I hear the critics sing: Oh, so you criticize them for criticizing the VS show, but you feel PERFECTLY free to criticize the suicide bomber painter, eh? Sure. They have every right to protest; I’m not telling them to shut up. I’m suggesting they stop thinking of Tyra Banks as one of the Four Horsepersons of the Apocalypse. More to the point, there’s a difference between getting alarmed over healthy, giggly women prancing around in bras and heels, and getting alarmed over paintings that romanticize the violent death of healthy giggly women, and anyone else in the immediate zone. If this distinction is unclear, I’m here to help:

To see the help that Lileks offers, and to read his views on the consensus anti-idiotarian position on sexuality, you'll have to follow the link and read the whole thing.

And, finally, Aziz Poonawalla has posted a condemnation of the latest Jerusalem bombing, supported by quotes from the Koran. I can only hope that his distinction between Jihad and Harabah gains more ground.

CRUSHING DISSENT? NOT WITHOUT A FIGHT: Samizdata is responding to the absurd British hate-speech prosecution I mentioned earlier with words of defiance.

THE NICE FOLKS AT TECHCENTRALSTATION have put up an excerpt of my Pacific Research Institute nanotechnology paper. If you don't want to wade through the whole thing, the excerpt captures the high points. And on the left margin, under "Articles By Issue," are some links to other, shorter, pieces of mine on nanotechnology related issues.

Sadly, I've been unable to get an advance copy of Crichton's new book. But I've ordered one from Amazon. I'll give you my thoughts, assuming I have any worth relating, after I read it.

THE NATION'S FIRST INTERNET-ONLY LAW SCHOOL is about to graduate its first class of JDs. I don't know what I think about this -- well, actually, I do. I think I learned more from my fellow students than from my professors when I was in law school, and I don't think that would have happened if it had been an Internet law school.

PRINCETON PROFESSOR JOHN FLEMING writes about the Tom Paulin brouhaha. "Brouhaha" is his word, but I wanted to use it, too. It always reminds me of Firesign theater.

N.Z. BEAR has links to anti-divestment organizations covering a variety of campuses.

SECURITY THROUGH OBSCURITY: There's a debate on between Steven Den Beste and Aziz Poonawalla on the virtues of secrecy and openness in security.

I'm too sleep-deprived and frazzled to weigh in on this at the moment, except to say that I hope the authorities will at least think about the issue, rather than just relying on secrecy out of habit.

TODAY IS DODD HARRIS'S SECOND BLOGIVERSARY! He's got a list of his top ten mistakes for the past year, and a lot of other stuff. And scroll down to read about how his right to dissent is under threat from naked Swedish nurses. No, really. Er, well, kind of.

WE SHOULD BE PLANNING FOR THE AFTERMATH of a terrorist nuclear strike, writes Brett Wagner of the Naval War College.

SPOONS IS RIGHT with this criticism of an item at Best of the Web.

WHY AM I UP SO LATE? YOU MAY ASK. ("I am asking." "And well you may!")

My wife gets back shortly -- she's been up in New York taping a TV show. I figured I'd stay up to greet her.

THE FBI IS FEELING THE HEAT about inadequate performance in counterterrorism. I'm still not convinced that it's up to the job without major -- and I mean major changes. Which will involve some heads rolling, something that has been conspicuously absent so far.

DEAN PETERS TELLS TOM DASCHLE TO PUT UP OR SHUT UP where his criticism of talk radio is concerned: produce the audio clips of out-of-bounds attacks, or admit it's all a political ploy. He's got some perspective on Daschle's own attacks on opponents, too.

I note two things. One, that when I posted a while back about how Democrats blamed talk radio for Oklahoma City and right wing violence generally, some lefty bloggers said this wasn't true. Well, Daschle's doing pretty much the same thing now. Any comments, given that the earlier denials suggested that such a tactic would have been out of bounds? Second, most mainstream media don't seem to be reproducing much of the actual shrill substance of Daschle's remarks. The only place I could find that was WorldNetDaily, which I take as a pretty good sign that both the mainstream media, and WorldNetDaily, know that Daschle's over-the-top remarks are more harmful to Democrats than to their targets.

My take: Limbaugh, et al., have been trying for months to provoke Daschle into saying something stupid. And they've succeeded.

UPDATE: Bryan Preston says that Daschle is partying like it's 1995.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dr. Manhattan emails:

I agree that Daschle's remarks were outrageous and counterproductive. One note, though - when he referred to "threats against people in public life," my guess is he was thinking about the anthrax letter he received - he's probably still convinced that it came from an American right-wing nutcase, even though there seems to be no more evidence for that than for any other scenario.

Interesting point. I'm not sure whether that makes it better or not (does he really think that Rush Limbaugh is somehow responsible for those?), but it does provide some useful perspective.

ANOTHER UPDATE: So does this, though.

November 20, 2002

ROBOTS DOING HEART SURGERY: Well, this is the 21st Century, you know.


"I urged people to go on the march and I urged that the rural minority be given the same legal protection as other minorities. All I said was that the rural minority should have the same rights as blacks, Muslims and gays." . . .

Gloucestershire police confirmed that they had arrested Mr Page on suspicion of violating Section 18 (1) of the Public Order Act, referring to stirring up racial hatred.

Hmm. This kind of thing is why I don't approve of "hate speech" laws.

TIM CAVANAGH writes about the umbrage industry. Seems to be a growth sector, though it doesn't seem to produce much value.

SPACE-BASED POWER and other environmental proposals are the subject of a new study. And here's a surprisingly positive story on space elevators using -- of course -- carbon nanotubes for strength.

WELL, THE NANOTECH PAPER HAS GOTTEN SOME PRESS. Here's an article by Candace Stuart from SmallTimes that also mentions Vicki Colvin of Rice University.

And here's a UPI story by Scott Burnell with a somewhat different slant.

UPDATE: By the way, I haven't read it but Glenn Fishbine has a guidebook for investors relating to nanotechnology and micromachines.

READER DON MCGREGOR HAS THESE THOUGHTS ON HOMELAND SECURITY, in response to my TechCentralStation column today:

One of the major problems is detecting and responding to terrorist acts or planning quickly.

Suppose some retired guys volunteer to keep an eye out for suspicious people at the local airport. The TSA issues them cell phones or walkie-talkies. They hang out with their friends playing checkers and keep an eye out for unattended bags, suspicious characters, etc. You could do the same thing at the local mall, which would have the added advantage of deterring some petty crime. They don't even have to have scheduled hours, since this would be in addition to the regular security measures.

One of the more moronic things the feds have done is crack down on train spotters, the guys who hang out and catalog trains and engines. It would have been far better to ask them to report anyone who looked suspicious. Since they already know most of the people and what they do, they'd have an excellent chance of spotting anything out of the ordinary.

Excellent points.

SAW THE NEW HARRY POTTER MOVIE. It was pretty good, though I agree with whoever said that John Cleese was wasted. My daughter liked it, too. The crowd at the theater was quite small, though, even for a weeknight. And I have to say, the previews reminded me why I don't go to many movies. "Kangaroo Jack?" Jeez.


The offending article called The World at Their Feet questioned why some Muslim groups condemn the pageant, which is being held on December 8 in the capital, Abuja, on the grounds it promotes sexual promiscuity and indecency.

“The Muslims thought it was immoral to bring ninety-two women to Nigeria and ask them to revel in vanity. What would Muhammad think?

“In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from among them,” wrote the article’s author, Isioma Daniel.

Muslims ought to be more offended at the idiotic things their co-religionists do in Muhammad's name.

WENDY MCELROY notes the gap between reproductive rights and reproductive responsibilities:

The idea of responsibilities without rights is taken to such absurd lengths that even men who do not father children are held responsible for them. Consider the case of Morgan Wise, as chronicled by journalist Cathy Young. Blood tests proved that only one of "his" four children were actually his, yet the court ordered Wise to continue all child support payments and prohibited him from contact with the children. His role in that family is now the biological equivalent of an ATM machine. Wise's case is unfortunately hardly unique.

TAPPED still has its panties in a wad over the Martha Burk fertility-control "satire" issue, which McElroy also mentions. But I repeat: a non-lefty white male wouldn't be allowed to claim "satire" as a defense for writing something similar about fertility control in women -- any more than he would be allowed to claim "Halloween" as a defense for appearing in blackface.

UPDATE: TAPPED has another post on this, and -- even after a long and cordial series of emails with Armed Liberal, who shares TAPPED's view -- all I can say is "you guys just don't get it." It's not about Martha Burk. It never was about Martha Burk. (Though if you think that calling Burk's piece "satire" changes the face of feminism you're showing your ignorance. There are other writings by academic feminists calling for the elimination of men and similar absurdities in dead earnest, though at nearly midnight I'm not going to run them down. But as a guy who once edited Catharine MacKinnon, I know a bit about this stuff). It's all about a double standard. Your "admit you were wrong about the satire" point is (1) utterly inconsistent with my original post; and (2) a conscious or unconscious effort to dodge the real issue, a double standard about speech that everyone knows exists, but that the left dare not admit -- because its whole existence depends on both the double standard, and not admitting it.

ONE MORE UPDATE: (A mere 7 hours later -- I need help) Armed Liberal emails:

I'm sure we're both toasted on this; I certainly agree that we're just looking at the same data and seeing a different pattern.

I'll leave you with two final thoughts... of my touchstones is that ultimately the people worth arguing with - which is a way of working together to build something - have an untimate regard for and respect for others. I don't think Hillary Clinton has an iota of it. Nor do I think that John Ashcroft or Michael Eisner do. Part of what I'm trying to sell here is the notion that you can argue with people, and even oppose people and do it with some measure of mutual honor. (I probably did a bad job on this with McElroy today)

The other is that this is important because the thing we're both fighting (and I think we're both fighting on the same side, if in a different way) against is a system - think 'Brazil' - that is ultimately about draining people of their self-repect and of their regard for others and for anything except brute power. So we have to fight it on different and better terms.

I agree with every word of this, but -- to prove his first point about seeing things in different terms -- I don't see these concerns as implicated at all in my treatment of the subject. It's been quite odd to receive angry emails from people I respect and just not see why, exactly, they're so angry over this issue -- and why they don't seem to get why I'm unhappy at all, either.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Barry Deutsch has been emailing me challenging whether academic feminists have really called for the "elimination of men." I have a pretty strong memory of reading suggestions that women abort male babies and pursue research into parthenogenesis as a way of ridding the world of patriarchy. But it's been quite a while since I spent much time on that literature. In short order, I was able to find references (such as one in Mary Ann Warren's "Gendercide") to the idea that women should stop having male babies so as to eliminate patriarchy. Deutsch says this isn't enough for him, but I'm not inclined to spend hours in the library to make him happy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, Brian Carnell seems to have the goods, though I wonder if Deutsch will find a way to claim that this doesn't count either.

DO WE HAVE AN ETHICAL DUTY TO LIVE IN POVERTY? Herschel Elliott and Richard Lamm say we do. Ron Bailey says they're wrong.

Of course, nanotechnology is likely to allow us to save the planet while growing rich. My prediction is that this will make some environmentalists hate it even more.

CAMPUS FREE SPEECH: Eugene Volokh has updates on the Harvard and Stanford situations. I agree that Stanford Dean Kathleen Sullivan is absolutely right here. And on-the-scene reporting via Volokh portrays Harvard Professor Randall Kennedy in a better light than some of the press accounts have.

MY PAPER ON NANOTECHNOLOGY is now available from the Pacific Research Institute. You want nano, I got nano.

JAMES KOPP has confessed to killing abortion doctor Bernard Slepian. Another terrorist identified -- but was he really a "lone gunman" or does he have connections to sympathizers and supporters as yet unidentified? I'd guess the latter.


BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's Ministry of Information suspended publication Wednesday of a newspaper owned by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's eldest son, accusing it of breaching publication laws.

"The paper was ordered shut down for 30 days for violating the regulations," an Iraqi official said on condition of anonymity. He declined to give further details.

Reader Zachary Barbera, who sent the link, wonders what it means. Beats me, though it's hard to see how it can reflect anything good for Saddam.


Seattle terrorism suspect James Ujaama envisioned a perfect Islamic state, where believers could live separately from Christians and Jews, attend military training camps, and where homosexuality and pornography would be outlawed.

The place: Afghanistan.

"There are many Muslims who have forgotten that the Jews and Christians are our enemies," Ujaama says in a 2-Р…-hour video obtained by The Seattle Times, small portions of which were recently revealed on the Internet.

The video, shot sometime before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, gives the first public glimpse into Ujaama's beliefs as told in his own words, and tells of at least one of his trips to Afghanistan. It also provides a look at his association with Abu Hamza, whom federal prosecutors in the United States have targeted for indictment on terrorism charges.

Very interesting.


A Harris County grand jury today will begin considering whether police handling of a mass arrest -- which already has led to lawsuits against the city of Houston and the suspension of 13 police supervisors -- also deserves criminal indictments.

Public outcry was swift and furious after more than 270 people were arrested Aug. 18 in a Kmart parking lot in the 8400 block of Westheimer on the west side. Many who were caught in the roundup said they were customers at the Kmart or a nearby Sonic drive-in restaurant.

City officials later dropped all trespassing and curfew charges resulting from the arrests.

The city still faces millions of dollars in potential damages from the incident, however. To date, two lawsuits and 89 claims for damages have been filed by people caught up in the raid, said Robert Cambrice, a senior assistant city attorney. . . .

The grand jury probe may take two to three weeks, Rosenthal estimated. He declined to say whether his office is recommending any charges.

"I have not seen all the evidence," he said, "but from what I've seen, I would not be surprised if a grand jury indicted some people."

Hmm. Maybe the police in Racine, Wisconsin, where something similar happened, should be worried.

TODAY IS REBECCA BLOOD'S BIRTHDAY! And there's not any mention of it on her blog. I think she's too busy packing.

OLD MEDIA TO BLOGOSPHERE: "THANKS!" The Asia Times sent a note of appreciation to Little Green Footballs for helping to expose that it had been hoaxed. Pretty classy of Asia Times.

SOMEBODY TELL FISK AND CHOMSKY ABOUT THIS SITE -- QUICK! Except that they've seen, and believed, a thousand like it.

(Via Porphyrogenitus).

THE PRESS REPORTS ON BUSH'S PRAGUE SPEECH this morning seem to be focusing on what he said about Saddam. I caught most of it, and what struck me wasn't that part -- nothing new there, really -- but rather the repeated subtle digs at Germany. "U-boats couldn't keep us apart," said Bush, going on to talk about the "young Americans" whose "well-tended graves" littered the Continent, and their successors stationed "from the Balkans to Bavaria." (Interesting pairing). There was more, and none of it was there by accident.

UPDATE: And it's not just Bush who's dissing Schroeder.

ANOTHER UPDATE: There's a transcript up, now. The interesting stuff is mostly toward the end.

THE UNITED STATES WON'T SUPPORT A BAN on "hate speech" on the Internet.

Want to bet that the Bush Administration won't get much credit for this move from the people who claim it's "stifling dissent"?

HARLAN ELLISON, the new Hans Blix logo, Michael Jackson, and a beachball in an inappropriate place: James Lileks is chock-full of tasty pundit goodness today. With a hazelnut note, and a hint of chicory.

GENUINE FEISTY-TEXAS-WOMAN RACHEL LUCAS delivers a sound Fisking to faux-feisty-Texas-woman Molly Ivins. Excerpt:

First of all, Molly, if he's alive, he's just alive. Not "back." Unless they cryogenically froze him and have now revived him.

Hmm. Did anyone think of looking for Osama here?

UPDATE: Kirk Larsen says he has Osama spotted.

A PACK, NOT A HERD: My TechCentralStation column for today offers some thoughts on what you can do, given that everyone is on the front lines in today's war.

UPDATE: Tom Holsinger writes that the Bush Administration's "conspicuous homeland security failures" may lead to vigilantism if there is another major attack. Then, worrisomely, Mark Riebling warns that the Bush Administration's conspicuous homeland security failures are likely to lead to another major attack. To the extent is true, I think that my homeland security recommendations (which were inspired by Jim Henley) would tend to mitigate those problems, both by helping to prevent another major attack and by providing some structure to the popular response. That may be even more important in light of Brink Lindsey's points on terrorism and trust.

BELLESILES UPDATE: Based on this story from The Chicago Tribune, it sounds like Michael Bellesiles has lost touch with reality:

But Bellesiles' situation is unique: He was charged not with plagiarism, but with making up his sources and the data backing his assertion that gun ownership was rare on the early American frontier. Also, while the others confessed and apologized, he steadfastly maintains his scholarship is sound.

"I was absolutely shocked!" he said of the committee's report. "Obviously, they were very angry at me."

He was sitting in a coffee shop across town from Emory. Since resigning his professorship last month, Bellesiles has avoided the university's Atlanta campus. He doesn't want to present former colleagues with the embarrassing choice of either lowering their eyes or saying hello to a pariah, he explained. He has also avoided the media.

Bellesiles said he decided to resign after hearing rumblings the university planned to demote him in rank.

"That would have been an affront to my honor," said Bellesiles, 48.

Then there's this: "By his account, it is not he but the members of Emory's investigative committee who were the poor historians. He says he wrote a book with 1,347 footnotes and the panel found fault with material in five of them."

The truth, of course, is that Bellesiles' work is riddled with problems and fakery. As the article points out, people aren't buying his story:

In retrospect, even some of his supporters wonder why they weren't more critical of his thesis that Americans living on the frontier in the 1800s could have survived without guns while facing armed Native Americans. Could they have found meat by simply trapping wild animals rather than hunting with guns? . . .

Since then, the circle of his supporters has shrunk dramatically. Jack Rakove, a Stanford University professor who was on Bellesiles' side, said "Arming America" remains on the reading list for his classes, though for a new reason.

"It's clear now that his scholarship is less than acceptable," Rakove said. "There are cautionary lessons for historians here."

Yes. But Bellesiles, quite obviously, hasn't learned them.

UPDATE: A reader emails: "Also the Tribune repeats the claim that criticisms of his book drove Bellesiles to move out of Atlanta. In fact, Bellesiles moved BEFORE the book came out, telling friends and colleagues at the time that it was because he couldn't find any Atlanta schools he liked." I believe that there has also been some doubt cast on the veracity of the death-threat stories. But at this point, I suppose there's cause to doubt the veracity of pretty much anything Bellesiles says.

MERDE IN FRANCE is campaigning to make sure that Jose Bove doesn't get a pardon. There's a link you can follow if you'd like to help.

THE KENNEDY MYTH: David Frum says that it's stronger than the truth, because it's more appealing than the truth.

FREEMAN DYSON'S ESSAY on J.D. Bernal's The World, The Flesh and The Devil is posted in full on Impearl. I had never read this.

HELL, CAESAR: Here's an article repeating the same dumb fake Caesar quote that was shown to be false ages ago. (And was obviously false anyway). And it's a pro-war article, too (well, sort of), which just proves that once these bogus items get into circulation they're awfully hard to get rid of.

FREE SPEECH AT HARVARD: Erin O'Connor has more, including this quote from Alan Dershowitz:

These are people with extraordinarily thin skins who want to be treated as adults but insist that Mommy, Daddy, and the dean come to their rescue instead of debating in the market of free ideas.

Sounds about right to me.

STEFAN SHARKANSKY was the victim of a hate crime in Berkeley while covering a speech there. But it appears the perpetrator, who is now in jail on felony charges, got the worst of it. Here's Stefan's conclusion:

The biggest lesson that came out of this episode for me was the nature of the demonstrators. It was clear from their puerile signs and vapid slogans, their hostile attitudes, the yelling, the disruption, the theft and destruction of my camera, the various multi-cultis who have no connection to the conflict, not even by ties of ethnicity. Few, if any of them know anything or really care about Palestinians. They simply require something to hate and to attack, and Israel just happens to be the fashionable target du jour. Which is why "Berlin Campus" (from decades past) was so interesting a slip.

One piece of good news: "I was impressed with the cool professionalism of both the Berkeley city police as well as the campus police." Read the whole thing.

HAS HARVARD FLIP-FLOPPED on the Tom Paulin invitation? That's what The Crimson is reporting:

Concerned about the message it was sending on free speech, the English department yesterday renewed the invitation it cancelled just one week ago to Tom Paulin, an award-winning Irish poet who has expressed violently anti-Israeli views.

Next, in another stirring endorsement of free speech, Harvard will be inviting Randall Terry and Neal Horsley to lecture on abortion.

UPDATE: Reader Andy Freeman writes:

It's not surprising that Harvard's English department has changed their mind about the invitation. Recall what they wrote when they cancelled it: "The English Department sincerely regret the widespread consternation that has arisen as a result of this invitation, which had been originally decided on last winter solely on the basis of Mr. Paulin's lifetime accomplishments as a poet."

They didn't cancel because they felt that that invitation was a mistake. They cancelled because they were getting criticized.

I don't see any reason to believe that they're interested in free speech or intellectual inquiry. They're just jumping for praise.

I don't think they'll get much of that.

November 19, 2002

MORE ON THE BROOKLYN COLLEGE TENURE FIASCO: I haven't followed it closely enough to have an opinion -- er, except perhaps that it's pretty obviously some sort of a fiasco. Here's a Harvard Crimson article, and Eugene Volokh has more. I think this is likely to get a lot more press shortly.

My sentiments, such as they are, are along the lines of Volokh's. I think that "collegiality" is important, but we normally look at that at hiring time, and it would take an awfully major failure of collegiality -- something nearly actionable -- to be the deal-breaker on a tenure case, especially where, as here, the candidate is otherwise very strong, and apparently there's widespread agreement that he's a strong scholar. The whole affair seems quite odd, and I can't help but feel that there's more to the story than we've heard so far.

UPDATE: Edward Barrera reports rumors that Nat Hentoff will have a column on this.

GEITNER SIMMONS on The Wizard of Oz and L. Frank Baum.

AN INTERESTING COLLOQUY ON ANGRY WHITE MALES AND FEMALES between Kevin Drum and Charles Murtaugh. Looks like they're reinventing anti-idiotarianism.

SALON has a new ad program that's well, innovative.


The life of luxury of Fidel Castro has been revealed in home videotapes smuggled out of Cuba by a former girlfriend of one of his sons.

The videos, which show the communist leader preparing for a sumptuous banquet and lounging on leather sofas in his villa in Havana, give the first peek into the residence which most Cubans have never seen. . . .

The Castro regime has not commented on the tapes but Univision is convinced of their authenticity.

"It can't be a fake," said a spokesman for the Los Angeles-based channel. "There are too many recognisable people."

Why is it that when businesspeople live in luxury while the masses live in poverty it's a huge injustice, but when people who control governments do the same nobody comments?

DARPA IS WORKING ON A "SELF-AWARE COMPUTER" -- well, sort of. I think you could meet these specs without self-awareness, but it would be pretty strong AI:

The "cognitive system" DARPA envisions would reason in a variety of ways, learn from experience and adapt to surprises. It would be aware of its behavior and explain itself. It would be able to anticipate different scenarios and predict and plan for novel futures.


UPDATE: Reader Peter Murray writes:

In cognitive science and philosophy, the term of art for an entity which appears to have consciousness, but in fact lacks it, is a zombie. The philosopher David Chalmers (link) is known for his work on consciousness from a cognitive science perspective. What DARPA is actually building, then, would seem to be a zombie AI: One which appears conscious, but in fact lacks consciousness.

The fact that we in the 21st century can seriously discuss "zombie AI" means that life in the future is far stranger than we thought it would be, circa 1950.

Yes. Though there's an alarming shortage of flying cars.

PERIODICALLY, SOME OLD-MEDIA TYPE assaults the blogosphere for being full of unedited stuff that could damage people's reputations unfairly. Paul Musgrave, writing in the Hoosier Review, thinks he's found such an example.

The only problem is that Musgrave commits all the sins he purports to denounce. He doesn't interview any of the people he criticizes, he tells only one side of the story, and -- though I have nothing to do with the story at all -- he drags me in at the end. (Maybe I'm one of the "rabid Zionists" he's denouncing?)

That's most likely a troll. So I'm not including a link. But it hardly adds to Musgrave's credibility, or the Hoosier Review's.

UPDATE: Okay, I've corresponded with Paul Musgrave. He says it wasn't a troll, and that the email I got from someone else at the Hoosier Review steering me to the piece was unrelated. And he's agreed that tying me to the story was unfair, so he's taken the reference out. He also says that he did, in fact, try to contact the people he criticized but received no response. Here's the link. For what it's worth, several people pointed me toward the story he writes about, but I didn't post on it because it just didn't seem like as big a deal as people were trying to make out of it. That's one reason why I was so offended to be dragged into it anyway.

LAST UPDATE: Here's IsraPundit's response, via email:

In terms of the article on Hoosier Review concerning a post I made:

1) I am not sure how you got pulled into this. I did not do it. . . .

2) Sabry's phone numbers were displayed on his page so I did not think that it was such a big deal to put them up. I took them down the next day or so though at the suggestion of atlantic blog. I guess the item had already been picked up.

What do you think the proper thing to do was?

3) I do not believe I flamed Sabry. I am not 100% sure what the term means but I did not insult him. I did not refer to him as being anti-Semitic, only tasteless and much of my email was factual.

4) For all the author of the article complains about my methods or those of the blogosphere in contrast to the great ethics of 'real' journalism, you think he would have sent Israpundit or the Zionblogster an email. Both addresses are on the israpundit page.

5) The fact that Sabry removed the page after reviewing school policy would seem to indicate that I was correct in substance (perhaps not method).

6) I was also corresponding with a member of the board of trustees who after consulting a lawyer said that this was protected by free speech. I was going to send a reply but now I think the issue is dead. I do not think the university had
to allow him to have this up on their system, but you are the law professor.

Zion Blogster

So there you are. As for the old media versus blogs in terms of harming people's reputations, as my counterexample I'll just offer Garrison Keillor's unfounded accusations about Norm Coleman as a counterexample. It's true that some publications won't pick them up. But plenty of others did.

I HEARD NEAL BOORTZ talking about how much he loves gadgets today. Somebody tell him about Gizmodo, Nick Denton's gadget-related blog.

Here's more about Gizmodo.


CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL LOCKYER has shot himself in the foot by commissioning a study on ballistic "fingerprinting" that says it won't work -- and then deciding not to release it, at least not yet:

Lockyer, a gun-control advocate who supports what could ultimately be a large and costly federal database of the unique markings guns leave on bullets and shell casings after being fired, has emboldened database opponents by commissioning a staff report that concluded such a program probably wouldn't work.

The development comes at a key moment -- as the federal government contemplates a national ballistic fingerprinting mandate. California and several other states, meanwhile, are considering their own programs. And the issue is being debated with renewed urgency in the wake of the sniper shootings in the Washington, D.C., area.

Lockyer's report, which was supposed to be presented to the Legislature by June 2001, was quietly circulated to the National Rifle Association, forensic experts and other groups interested in the issue, but has yet to be released publicly or to lawmakers.

"It needed peer review," Lockyer said in an interview last week.

No word on whether he had Michael Bellesiles on the job. . . . Here's more:

According to those who have seen the report, researchers working on Tulleners' report tested thousands of rounds of ammunition fired from nearly 800 handguns used by the California Highway Patrol. The researchers concluded that accurate matches were made only 62 percent of the time when the shells all came from the same manufacturer. The rate dropped to 38 percent when casings from different manufacturers were examined.

Jeez, even 99% accuracy would be too low, given the large number of guns that would be involved.

DAVID HOGBERG has a contest involving household products.

TAPPED HAS NOW JOINED IN PRAISING BROWN UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT RUTH SIMMONS for her bold free-speech stance. Having already praised her, I certainly won't complain.

But it is a bit troubling that we're excited and happy when university presidents endorse free speech, isn't it?


BARELY a week after the Zimbabwean police shot dead an American citizen in Mutare, the United States embassy in Harare yesterday revealed that so-called war veterans had beaten up their staff in Melfort going about their normal diplomatic work.

The US government immediately expressed concern over the incident and urged the authorities in Harare to identify and arrest the perpetrators.

Somehow I doubt that this will happen.

HERE'S ANOTHER ARTICLE ON WEBLOGS from the Sydney Morning Herald. It's actually an Agence France-Presse story.

I totally disagree with Rebecca Blood's quote at the end, in which she says that people only read weblogs they agree with. And I've got the email to prove her wrong. . . .

FRENCH LUDDITE, ANTI-CAPITALIST, AND PALESTINIAN SYMPATHIZER (why do those tend to go together?) Jose Bove has been sentenced to 14 months in prison for destroying genetically modified rice plants in an eco-terrorism incident.

FIRST DONAHUE, NOW STEPHANOPOULOS? This Week isn't doing very well under Stephanopoulos, according to this report from USA Today. Mitch Berg thinks the host slot should go to George Will.

UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT: The Stanford Daily says that Stanford Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan was wrong to deny the title of "Mentor" to terror-sympathizing (and, according to charges she currently faces, terror-assisting) attorney Lynne Stewart:

Stanford’s professors have a range of political views, and the University rightfully allows them to express their views. Stanford even has professors who support the possible war in Iraq, which can be argued endorses the “use of directed violence to achieve social change.” Would Sullivan deny those professors from teaching because of their political beliefs?

("deny those professors from teaching"? This is an elite school's newspaper?) Eugene Volokh has already addressed this issue here and here:

People have a constitutional right to support violence against American institutions and American people (just like they have a constitutional right to support the moral propriety of, say, violence against abortion clinics and abortion providers). But Stanford ought not be honoring them, or appointing them as mentors to law students, who will soon be officers of the court, pledged to nonviolent solutions to supposed domestic problems.

As Volokh points out, there's a pretty significant distinction between "right to speak" and "right to mentor." I wonder if the Stanford Daily will encourage the Law School to bring in some lawyers who support the murder of abortionists, or the reinstitution of slavery for black people, as evidence of its support for free speech? Or maybe they'll even support allowing military recruiters on campus, as evidence of support for a "right to recruit?"

WHAT TO DO ABOUT A KILLER ASTEROID: Apparently, the "nuke it!" approach is losing favor.

BRINK LINDSEY writes that the barbarians are back:

We face, now and for the foreseeable future, the threat of a new barbarism. The new barbarians, like those of old, consist of groups in which every member is a potential warrior. Like their predecessors, the new barbarians rely on their ability to outmaneuver their civilized adversaries, to concentrate deadly force at vulnerable spots. But unlike the old steppe nomads, the new barbarians seek neither booty nor conquest. Our new barbarian adversaries pursue a strategy of pure and perfect nihilism: They seek destruction for destruction's sake. Their strategy, in other words, is terrorism.

Well, we're hardly weak in this battle. Civilized societies have always won against barbarians ever since the industrial revolution made making things a greater source of power than breaking them.

Civilized societies have found it harder, though, to beat the barbarians without killing all, or nearly all, of them. Were it really to become all-out war of the sort that Osama and his ilk want, the likely result would be genocide -- unavoidable, and provoked, perhaps, but genocide nonetheless, akin to what Rome did to Carthage, or to what Americans did to American Indians. That's what happens when two societies can't live together, and the weaker one won't stop fighting -- especially when the weaker one targets the civilians and children of the stronger. This is why I think it's important to pursue a vigorous military strategy now. Because if we don't, the military strategy we'll have to follow in five or ten years will be light-years beyond "vigorous."

UPDATE: A lawyer reader emails:

"The new barbarians, like those of old, consist of groups in which every member is a potential warrior."

It seems to me that a part of the defense against these "barbarians" is to make every (or least most) members of our society a potential warrior by expanding concealed carry rights and allowing people to carry guns as a matter of course. I say this as a person who cannot be considered a gun nut. I am not a hunter, I've never been an NRA member and I have only minimal experience with guns. For a long time I supported gun control, but no longer. Now I am seriously considering purchasing a gun and getting trained to use it properly.

Why would I do this? Consider it my part in the war on terror. In this war, unlike any other, we are all on the front lines. Terrorists have attacked civilians and have announced that attacks on civilians are part of their strategy. Since the terrorists can pick the time and place of attack, the police cannot help us. They can't be everywhere and can't respond quickly enough. The only solution is to prepare our citizenry to fight back. We are all soldiers now.

Times have certainly changed when you hear talk like this from bigshot lawyers at big, stuffy law firms. But this guy must be a mind-reader, because my TechCentralStation column for tomorrow has more along these lines.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ken Summers writes:

I have to take issue with use of the term "genocide". Genocide implies murder because it is the destruction of a group based on their group identity. Destruction of a group because they refuse to quit fighting should be termed "group suicide", or simply as self-defense.

I had a discussion with ArmedLiberal over the use of the term for the Hiroshima and Nagaski bombings. He applied it to the bombings, recognizing that they were necessary. My biew, though, is that calling such bombings (or destruction of a group that refuses to quit fighting) is akin to using the term "justifiable murder".

Well, okay.

ANOTHER IVY LEAGUE PRESIDENT DEFENDS FREE SPEECH! This time it's President Ruth Simmons, of Brown University:

“By entering this university,” she told students, “each of you has also become a guardian of free expression.” Although they might read or hear things profoundly uncomfortable to them, students must realize that this freedom is “the nectar of our republic and the basis of university life.” Its protection, she said, “is one of the most difficult things that we do. But it’s this same freedom that protects us when we are powerless.”

True, she said, “brigands” may be adept at using these freedoms “for their nefarious purposes,” but this must be fought through debate and the presentation of information. Simmons recounted an incident from her own student years, when a South African woman in one of her classes stood to defend apartheid. “I regret not engaging this woman for her assertions,” she said, “rather than dismissing her as racist.”

Referring to the Van Wickle Gates, Simmons issued a warning: “If you’ve come to this place for comfort, I urge you to rise, walk through yonder gate, and don’t look back.” For the rest, she concluded, “Welcome to this quarrelsome enterprise that we call a university. Enjoy.”

(Emphasis added.) I'm very happy to see statements like this, and hope that the presidents of other universities will follow suit. I do believe that we're seeing a genuine trend here, and it's big news.

THE WALKER COMMISSION is urging the U.S. to do more in space:

But the report still warns that unless aerospace companies can boost their commercial profits, their role as defence contractors could be imperilled. The response, the commission said, should be to develop new military programmes, overhaul commercial barriers such as antiquated export control rules, and create a White House policy council to ensure these receive high priority.

The commission notes that Europe has already developed plans to establish its leadership in civil aviation and commercial satellite technologies by 2020 through close co-operation between government and industry.

The most controversial recommendations are likely to be those involving space travel, which has largely disappeared from the US agenda since the end of the moon launches in the 1970s and the unmanned Voyager missions that ended in the 1980s.

Mr Walker said the "US has to boldly pioneer new frontiers" in space, and that the first step is government-backed research into new propulsion technologies that could allow spacecraft to travel through the solar system in weeks or months rather than years.

Well, I've got one suggestion . . . .

UPDATE: Here's a much more in-depth treatment from Leonard David at Space.Com.

GARRISON KEILLOR'S EMBITTERED RANTS have apparently made some people at Minnesota Public Radio uncomfortable.

OXBLOG has an anti-divestment letter that will be presented to the Yale administration. They'd like you to sign, if you went to Yale. There's also a link to an online anti-divestment petition that you can sign even if you didn't go to Yale.

DANIEL FORBES says that the Drug Czar is lying. Say it ain't so!

I wonder about the propriety of Drug Czar John Walters interfering in state elections anyway:

One reason for the ballot-box failure may have been the full-throttle, anti-marijuana campaign tour by White House Drug Czar John P. Walters. Walters, whose official title is director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, inveighed against the demon weed in campaign swings through Ohio, Arizona, and Nevada (twice). At the heart of Walters' sermon: "It is not your father's marijuana." Today's users, he claims, confront pot that's up to 30 times stronger than what aging baby boomers smoked.

Forbes says that this isn't true, and it looks like an outright lie. What's more, what's an appointed bureaucrat doing going around trying to influence state elections?

The problem is, the Drug Czar's job is entirely political, and entirely bogus -- which probably makes telling lies in political campaigns seem like a natural extension of the Czar's ordinary duties. And heck, it probably is. But, as with the public health lies discussed below, it's yet another reason for the public to distrust the government, one that will come back to bite us when trust is really needed. These sorts of lies aren't just cute politics-as-usual. They're destructive as hell.

Extra blogger bonus -- the piece cites, and links to, Mark Kleiman.

POLITICAL SCIENCE: MedPundit Sydney Smith writes in TechCentralStation that -- from The Lancet to the American Public Health Association -- it's getting more common for physicians and scientists to distort results in service of a political agenda. She's absolutely right. It seems to me that the CDC's junk science in favor of gun control -- which has spread that disease throughout the Public Health community -- was the opening wedge for a lot of slanted research. The result is that people don't trust them as much as they used to, which is causing a lot of trouble where important issues like vaccination are concerned.

Heck, these guys can't even talk straight on the Atkins diet.

JAMES SWAN WRITES that a number of states are amending their constitutions to protect the right to hunt.

Tennessee had a proposal for such a right a few years back, and they asked me to testify on it. But the proposed language was so weak (it basically said that hunting was good, but could be regulated as the legislature saw fit) that I didn't really have anything to say, and declined. Swan's article quotes some language from a standard amendment that's somewhat stronger, but not much.

I understand the motivation behind these things, and I'm not actually opposed to the idea. But if you want to create a right, it needs to be a right. And recognize that if you do, that right will have costs, like perhaps making wildlife-management (which most hunters support) more difficult. If you leave enough leeway for management, you leave enough leeway for abuse of management powers, and for judicial interpretation of the "right" into nothingness. That's very hard to avoid.


Much more mendaciously, Moore has apparently altered footage of an ad run by the Bush/Quayle campaign in 1988 to implicate Bush in the Willie Horton scandal. Making a point about the use of racial symbols to scare the American public, he shows the Bush/Quayle ad called "Revolving Doors," which attacked Michael Dukakis for a Massachusetts prison furlough program by showing prisoners entering and exiting a prison (the original ad can be seen here [Real Player video]). Superimposed over the footage of the prisoners is the text "Willie Horton released. Then kills again." This caption is displayed as if it is part of the original ad. However, existing footage, media reports and the recollections of several high-level people involved in the campaign indicate that the "Revolving Doors" ad did not explicitly mention Horton, unlike the notorious ad run by the National Security Political Action Committee (which had close ties to Bush media advisor Roger Ailes). In addition, the caption is incorrect -- Horton did not kill anyone while on prison furlough (he raped a woman).

Although he uses statistics much less frequently in "Bowling for Columbine" than in Stupid White Men, Moore still manages to present at least one figure inaccurately. During a stylized overview of US foreign policy, he claims that the U.S. gave $245 million in aid to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001. The Taliban aid tale is a favorite of Moore's that he has repeated in numerous media appearances over the past year. Contrary to his claim, the aid did not go to the Taliban -- it actually consisted of food and food security programs administered by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations to relieve an impending famine.

To me, though, this was the most damning part: "Beyond the satire and the fabrications, just what is Moore's argument? It's often hard to tell."


Last night, the proposed code set off such a furious debate at an extraordinary campus ''town meeting'' that some committee members and the law school dean said afterward that they were deeply uneasy with the idea.

They should be. I think that Harvard should consider adopting this statement from the University of Chicago:

"The ideas of different members of the University community will frequently conflict and we do not attempt to shield people from ideas that they may find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even offensive. Nor, as a general rule, does the University intervene to enforce social standards of civility." . . .

In other words, the University permits partisan, even hostile statements against groups or states, but not violence or physical intimidation of individuals. And while we do not enforce speech or civility codes, we have long prided ourselves on the kind of respectful environment that encourages all to offer their views. We see this kind of civility not as a requirement, but as a virtue, and therefore worth pursuing. In short, while we sometimes treat ideas here rather roughly, we strive to treat others with the civility we would like to receive ourselves.

It's okay for students to be made uncomfortable in class, and they should learn how to deal with opinions that they find unpleasant or offensive without asking for Big Brother to step in. If they can't deal with that, then they don't belong in law school.

UPDATE: Boston blogger Jay Fitzgerald writes: "Harvard is starting to get hurt by all these embarrassments." I think that's right. What's interesting is that these kinds of PC initiatives are usually started by administrators who want to avoid divisiveness and bad publicity -- yet they tend to produce far more of both than a principled free-speech stance.

I AM SOMETHING OF AN ATKINS DIET SKEPTIC. But after listening to NPR in the car a few minutes ago, I can understand why Atkins boosters claim that the medical establishment and media are conspiring against them. The NPR story opened with a reference to this Duke study:

Westman studied 120 overweight volunteers, who were randomly assigned to the Atkins diet or the heart association's Step 1 diet, a widely used low-fat approach. On the Atkins diet, people limited their carbs to less than 20 grams a day, and 60 percent of their calories came from fat.

``It was high fat, off the scale,'' he said.

After six months, the people on the Atkins diet had lost 31 pounds, compared with 20 pounds on the AHA diet, and more people stuck with the Atkins regimen.

Total cholesterol fell slightly in both groups. However, those on the Atkins diet had an 11 percent increase in HDL, the good cholesterol, and a 49 percent drop in triglycerides. On the AHA diet, HDL was unchanged, and triglycerides dropped 22 percent. High triglycerides may raise the risk of heart disease.

Those are pretty impressive results, though I freely admit that one small study like this doesn't really prove anything. But NPR's story consisted of a couple of sentences on this study followed by a long interview with the President of the American Heart Association, who spent the whole time talking about the potential dangers of the Atkins diet and the superiority of the AHA diet without ever addresssing the study. How lame is that? You'd think that NPR would have at least had one of the people who conducted the study on, instead of a guy spinning against it.

I'm still just as skeptical of Atkins. But -- though I think this is just sloppiness, not bias -- this story reminds me of why I'm also skeptical of NPR.

UPDATE: While working out I saw Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN. In a similar amount of time he did a much better job. He noted that (1) the study was partly funded by the Atkins Foundation; and (2) many physicians are still skeptical, but also noted that other studies have shown similar results and talked about the findings of the Duke study. His discussion was much, much better than the NPR treatment. Advantage: CNN!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a more detailed story.

BELLESILES UPDATE: The Emory Wheel is reporting that Bellesiles may have his prizes revoked -- both the Bancroft Prize and another from the Organization of American Historians. But to me, the big story is at the end, where it is revealed that Garry Wills -- who wrote an absurdly favorable review of Arming America for the New York Times, part of which is excerpted at the beginning of James Lindgren's Yale Law Journal piece -- has changed his tune publicly:

Garry Wills, a Northwestern University (Ill.) historian who wrote a favorable review of the book in The New York Times, wrote in an e-mail that much of Bellesiles' work has been "discredited."

In his book A Necessary Evil, Wills cites Bellesiles' work to refute popular claims that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to bear arms.

In his e-mail, Wills wrote that he regrets having professionally associated himself with Bellesiles.

"I would not have included it if I had known what I now do, though my basic argument on the Second Amendment is not affected by it," Wills wrote.

Knopf Press, which published Arming America and is said to have plans to print a second edition, did not respond to repeated e-mails and phone calls.

I'm glad to see that Wills has the decency to admit this now. (Though the claim that his argument is "not affected" is a bit much.) Knopf, though, isn't showing much decency at all here. Coming soon: The Knopf guide to Piltdown Man!


More than 4,000 students came out to march today, the Iranian Student News Agency said, and student leaders said their demands went beyond Mr. Aghajari's release. They said they would press for the release of all political prisoners and for a guarantee of freedom of speech.

"We demand unconditional release of Mr. Aghajari but demand freedom of speech and opinion for everyone and forever," Abdullah Momeni, one of the speakers at the university today, said in a telephone interview afterward.

Mr. Momeni added that the students did not consider apostasy, the charge against Mr. Aghajari, a crime. He said the judiciary, which generally supports the hard-liners in the government, was acting like courts in the Middle Ages.

"Apostasy has no meaning in the world today, which favors freedom of speech and opinion," he said.


November 18, 2002

OUR EUROPEAN FRIENDS demonstrate their superior sophistication.

DEROY MURDOCK, writing in the National Review Online, says the Army was crazy to discharge Arab linguists just because they were gay.


The protest was held despite an order at the weekend by the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, that Mr Aghajari's sentence should be reviewed.

Some students said that the intervention did not go far enough in satisfying their demands.

"Our problem is not only the revision of the death sentence on Hashem Aghajari, but freedom of speech and freedom in general," student leader Abdollah Momeni told French news agency AFP.

Trouble is, the mullahs can't satisfy those demands without cutting their own throats. Which is okay with me, but I doubt that they feel the same way.

EUGENE VOLOKH offers what might be the last word on the University of Tennessee blackface incident. Fellow Knoxville blogger SKBubba emailed me last night, suggesting that I was too hard on the University Administration. They're trying to move the place up, he pointed out.

That's true, and I'm happy to help. (Heck, I spent a lot of hours trying to help the last UT President with fundraising, etc., but that's another story entirely). What bothered me about the initial reaction, though, was that it seemed to be instinctively punitive, when it should have been instinctively pedagogical. You don't teach courtesy by enforcing political correctness at the point of a gun. You teach it by, well, teaching. And by example.

As it worked out, President Shumaker wound up denouncing the behavior but making clear that it's protected by the First Amendment. That was the right thing to do. It just took them a little while to get there. But our Provost and President are new, and may not entirely have a feel for the place yet. One of the nice things about the University of Tennessee is that in the past it has managed to deal with these things without them blowing up into the kind of polarizing event that gets embarrassing national publicity.


This was one of the few large gatherings in the Bay Area where you could find mass support for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. These are people who know a thing or two about Hussein's branch of the axis of evil.

Indeed. (Via Stefan Sharkansky).


PORTLAND - Four forest activists charged with setting logging trucks on fire during last year's protests of the Eagle Creek timber sale were captured after one of them told a girlfriend about the act, according to arrest papers.

The girlfriend's father is a deputy state fire marshal. . . .

The government also has charged Sherman with the Easter 2001 firebombing of three cement trucks belonging to Portland's Ross Island Sand & Gravel. The Earth Liberation Front, a well-known eco-terrorist group, later claimed responsibility for the crime.

I didn't say they were smart domestic terrorists.

THERE'S AN ARTICLE ON WEBLOGS IN TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL. It's by Yochi Dreazen, but it's only in paper or subscriber-only on the web. It's part of their special Internet supplement. Regular blog readers won't find much that's new, but it's meant as an introduction to the genre, and it's a good one.

EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT MAC USERS SEEM TO LIKE 'EM A BIT TOO MUCH. I've always found it a touch, well, creepy. But this is ridiculous.

ASK HIM HOW IT FEELS TO BE A VERB: Robert Fisk will reportedly be on C-SPAN's Washington Journal tomorrow.

OKAY, I wasn't going to link to this photo of "Marin Women Naked for Peace." But then I got this reader comment:

Yeah. But the Taliban would've had 'em shot. And Saddam would've raped 'em.

True enough.


But it's not Quebec we're talking about here. It's four provinces west to Alberta, where the top issue on the agenda is not Francophone nationalism, but Kyoto. Or "Ki-ota," as it's pronounced in Canada's cowboy country. (As I said, they speak differently out that way.)

I have written previously about the curious post-colonial cringe that infects the intellectual and political classes of certain of Britain's former colonies of settlement. This cringe leads to a rejection of the most obvious interpretation of the cultural identity of the nations they inhabit -- that they are, for the most part, distinct nations, but ones that share a great deal in common with the cultures of other English-speaking nations.

One result of this peculiar political culture is a need to endorse the transnational progressive project of global governance through U.N. treaties. This has led Prime Minister Jean ChrР№tien to sign the Kyoto treaty on limitation of carbon monoxide production. Unlike many transnational progressive treaties, which merely erode the national cultures of signatories, Kyoto carries an immediate and significant price tag for Canadian industries, farms and, ultimately, consumers. Meanwhile, its benefits, if any, are problematic and widely debated.

Furthermore, the pain will be spread unevenly throughout Canada, and energy-producing Alberta with its wide-open Western pattern of population will suffer disproportionately. Normally, such a high-impact treaty would require substantial negotiation in Canada's more consensus-oriented political system. However, Canada has also developed a particularly unchecked executive power.

We might take 'em in as states. Then again, we might not. But I think Quebec should become part of France regardless. Each deserves the other.

UPDATE: Colby Cosh says that Bennett is absolutely right:

Despite the lack of a serious instrument for the expression of separatist values, separatist sentiment is virtually universal amongst people born and raised in Alberta. The class of federal-government beneficiaries here is small. Most Albertans are vaguely aware that Confederation, for us, is a huge financial ripoff, with outgoing net government transfers amounting to thousands of dollars a head every year. It is a mystery to us exactly what we get for our federal taxes nowadays. Sit down and try to work it out sometime if you're an Albertan, remembering that health, welfare, and education are provincially funded and administered. What, are they spending the money on our elite, powerfully equipped armed forces?

Asked outright "Stay or go?", most Albertans (real Albertans, not people who came over from Montreal at age 16) will tell you "Go", privately. It's not just the rural loonies, either: as a rule, the more you know about trying to run a business, the more likely you are to answer "Go". I have a lot of trouble making Easterners understand this. If any well-known leader decides to step up and give a voice to Alberta separatism, they will learn. And fast.

Hmm. I'll take Alberta as a state, but only if Colby promises to come with it.

DOMESTIC TERRORISM UPDATE: James Morrow has the scoop.


Still, despite the endorsement the notion of an American empire has received from writers across the political spectrum, something is missing from the analysis. There is more to having an empire than simply the possession of great power. Empire presupposes the existence of a military establishment that is charged with the task of insuring, through the threat and use of force, that local and regional conflicts are settled by the application of imperial power. Understood that way, the imperial model does not match American foreign policy as it has actually developed since the end of the Cold War: Indeed, we fear empire rather than welcome it. . . .

For conservative defense intellectuals to achieve their imperial ambitions, their first order of business would have to be preparing the American public, and their own Republican base, for increased public expenditure. Alas for them, the president for whom they work has done exactly the opposite. No serious empire-builder would ever cut taxes as recklessly as President Bush has. Because of the enormous tax cut, the Bush administration has had little choice but to disappoint its allies in the Pentagon by reneging on its promise to throw open the government's checkbook.

I think this is largely right. Americans don't want an empire. We want to be left alone by those -- like the Wahabbist fanatics of Al Qaeda -- who are trying to build their own empires.

HOW TO LIVE FOREVER: Ray Kurzweil offers some advice in this Wired news interview. Hey, it's working for him so far!

TECHNOLOGY AND THE ATTACK ON IRAQ: This article from Technology Review says it won't look much like Desert Storm. Or even Afghanistan. Is warfare on Internet time, now?

Maybe not if this story by Noah Shachtman on the military's scientific brain-drain turns out to be right. As dependent as we are on technology, problems like this need attention.

"SAN FRANCISCO DEMOCRAT:" Gayblog Agenda Bender thinks Josh Marshall is silly to try to claim that's gay-baiting.

AMIR TAHERI writes on the French philosophy for dealing with Arab nations. What it lacks in effectiveness, it makes up in amorality. And it seems a bit, well, racist:

The French way is based on what is known in Paris as "France's Arab policy" (La politique Arabe de la France).

Devised by the late General De Gaulle in the early 1960s , this is based on three assumptions.

The first is that it is natural for Arabs to be ruled by a "strongman."

The second is that the Arab "strongman" has no particular principles apart from a keen desire to stay alive and in power.

The third is that, if handled intelligently, the Arab "strongman" could be useful to the West.

Kind of puts those criticisms of U.S. policy into perspective, doesn't it?

UPDATE: Reader Mostafa Sabet writes:

I for one welcome this, maybe it's a historical bias that I was born with (though my views on Israel prove to myself that I'm not blinded by this), but I have always felt that following the French leads to nothing but trouble. We should have learned this after Algeria and Vietnam. As far as I am concerned, one would be hard-pressed to find a more xenophobic, racist and cowardly state that deserves being marginalized more than the French. One of the unfortunate consequences of the Cold War is that the French have weapons of mass destruction. I have this bizzare, gut-feeling that our next "Great War" (in the pejorative sense) will involve the French as the enemy. . . .

I feel if we must disarm a regime, like Iraq, the only army or group that should use American armaments should be Americans and our close democratic allies, rather than internal dissenters. More often than not, these groups are just as thuggish as the regimes we seek to overthrow and given time we will need to remove them at a later date.

War with France? [Insert obligatory surrender joke of your choice here.] I rather doubt it, but you never know.

ARTHUR SILBER HAS MOVED HIS "LIGHT OF REASON" BLOG off of Blogspot. Check out the new site, especially the very cool photo that sits on top.

RADLEY BALKO is still mad at John J. Miller's New York Times oped from last week on how libertarians should stop costing Republicans elections and just vote for the GOP. Excerpt:

Oh my. Lemme see. Tom Davis, who chairs the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, ran so fast from Social Security privatization last election, he nearly pulled a hammy. Oops. Did I say "privatization?" Damn. I forgot. Tom Davis told us not to use that word any more. And now we learn that our fearless President has decided he won't even address Social Security until at least 2004. Mr. Miller, which party controls two Houses of Congress and the White House at the moment? Yes. I thought so. And so which party should we libertarians blame when Social Security is ignored in the 108th Congress?

There's much, much more.


NEVER in modern German history has a newly elected government got off to such a wretched start. With Germany now teetering on the brink of its second recession in just over a year, there is an increasing sense of helpless floundering at the top. Forget the “steady hand” on the tiller that Gerhard Schrцder promised when the economic going first began to get rough last year. This is now rudderless drift. And with a mutinous crew to boot. Small wonder many of the passengers are already wondering whether they chose the right captain on September 22nd. . . .

Many Germans feel cheated and betrayed. Support for Mr Schrцder's Social Democrats has plummeted. Less than two months after scraping back into power, they now trail the opposition Christian Democrats by 14 percentage points. Opposition leaders accuse the government of carrying out “the biggest electoral fraud in German history”. Two Germans in three do not believe that the government's cobbled-together austerity package will bring the promised boost to growth and jobs. Indeed many, including most economists and business leaders, expect it to have just the opposite effect. Tens of thousands of workers took to the Berlin streets this week to vent their anger, frustration and fears.

And it looks like Bush will be snubbing Schroder again in Prague this week, underscoring that Schroder's administration is doing just as badly in the field of foreign affairs.

DOCTORS WHO LIE FOR "PEACE:" Howard Feinberg points out the one-sided dishonesty of the Medact report:

The real problem lies not in the presented data, but in what is missing from them. Sanctions and war, hardship and heartache are all catalogued as if they were acts of nature or the effects of freakish chance. However, all of Medact's detailed situations, casualty figures, grisly war scenarios, and environmental and health impact estimates result from one cause, which does not get mentioned more than once or twice in the whole report.

Hint: Its name is Saddam.

INFORMATION WAR: Jim Dunnigan writes about what we're doing to unnerve the Iraqi leadership.

SO THE HOMELAND SECURITY BILL HAS BALLOONED FROM 35 TO 484 PAGES: And the addition appears to be largely pork. That's no real surprise, I guess, but while it may not be a surprise it is an illustration.

I'm happy that the Democrats are making an issue of this, even though I'm sure that their main objection is that it isn't their pork. That they chose to make their stand earlier on protecting public-employee unions rather than civil liberties shows where they stand, too. But the beauty of politics is that people often do the right thing for the wrong reason. (Perhaps more often than for the right reason). I hope this stinker dies in the lame-duck session, though that's probably too much to expect.

As I've written before, I think there has been too little accountability for the failures of homeland security pre- and post-9/11, and I'm not at all convinced that this bill will fix those problems. (How can it, when so little effort has gone into figuring out what the problems were?) The airline industry is strangling under security curbs, and passenger resistance to hassles (though it's doing its best to chase passengers away on its own). Law enforcement still seems fundamentally unserious about the problem. The whole thing seems to be more about the security of bureaucrats than of the nation. As proof, you need only look at the assignment of officials involved in prior law-enforcement scandals and coverups to homeland security duties. And there's not much evidence that the proposed DHS will do anything to promote the kind of citizen involvement that might actually do some good, despite the obvious need for a distributed approach to antiterrorism.

But here's one suggestion for any members of Congress who might read this. (Yes, that means you, Bob Barr). Since the Department of Homeland Security is so important that we're supposed to surrender various privacy rights, etc., to its extraordinary existence, how about some extraordinary discipline, too. Put in an amendment waiving sovereign immunity where the Department of Homeland Security is concerned. And not some grudging, half-hearted, no-jury-trial waiver as with the Federal Tort Claims Act. An absolute, no-holds-barred, you-can-sue-us-as-if-we-were-Exxon waiver of sovereign immunity. With the Trial Lawyers watching like hawks, the DHS won't be able to get away with much in the way of misconduct.

And I'll bet you can get some Democratic votes for that one, too.

November 17, 2002


UPDATE: Michiel Visser writes that it's not even close. (Permalinks not working, blah blah, scroll down, blah blah, Blogger sucks, blah, blah.) His comments:

As someone who went through Tel Aviv airport last Thursday, I have to debunk the myth. Although security is a notch up from your regular airport, I was actually disappointed. The screeners seem to consist of 20-somethings plucked from the Tel Aviv nightlife, and I saw many people who were late for their flights being ushered through a much less secure track. Also, things were so chaotic that it wouldn't be too difficult to smuggle something through if you're really determined.

This just reinforces my point that, overall, "security" isn't the best response to terrorists. Guards are sure to get bored and can't be the best. Terrorists only have to have one good day; guards have to be good all the time, which is impossible. The best defense against terrorists is to kill them first. The Israelis, contrary to popular belief, haven't really done that, because we haven't let 'em. We should start letting them, and we should do it ourselves. That will do more good than any number of searches or metal detectors, and with far less damage to civil liberties at home.

DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH: As the slow response -- and continued cases of denial -- with regard to the Bellesiles affair illustrate, things have gotten bad enough where academic standards are concerned that even Stanley Fish is sounding like a traditionalist:

One suspects, that is, that the reluctance to act is a principle, not a principle rooted in the right of everyone to a confront his or her accusers in a public hearing, but a principle rooted in something like class prejudice. The idea is that, generally speaking, people like us -- people who have degrees and publications and who while away the time by reading French or German poetry in the original -- are "naturally" responsible; and even if we occasionally seem to be slighting the job, our reasons, were they plumbed and brought to the surface, would turn out to be good and even noble. We might now and then fail to live up to the letter of our mundane obligations, but even in doing so we would no doubt be hearkening to the higher imperative of the spirit.

True enough, though one would expect to hear this from some curmudgeonly right-winger, not from Stanley Fish. Or maybe his new enthusiasm for academic discipline is just a consequence of his having been a dean for a while. . . .

Think I'm exaggerating about Bellesiles? Read this statement by Columbia University historian Ken Jackson (scroll down) who says, in essence, that the Bancroft Prize shouldn't be revoked, because even its wrongful award is now just a part of history and thus shouldn't be changed.

(In a probably unrelated development, Emory President William Chace is stepping down.)

UPDATE: Here, by the way, is something I wrote about academics and accountability last year.

THIS CUNY TENURE DENIAL is creating a stink, since it seems to be based on political views, and perhaps gender. There's a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education, too, but it's subscriber-only.

CULTURAL INDICATOR? Watching "The Groove Squad" on TEENick, I notice that a bunch of peace-sign-painting hippies are . . . the bad guys! Hippies never used to be the bad guys. These are definitely bad. And treated as ugly and out of date, which may be worse.

HUGO CHAVEZ HAS USED TROOPS TO SEIZE CONTROL OF POLICE IN CARACAS. Hmm. If Bush and Ashcroft used troops to sieze control of the D.C. police, people would say it was a dictatorship being born. But I expect we'll hear the usual cavils if I characterize Chavez as a dictator. . . .

Not from Jorge Schmidt, though, who emails:

BBC report omits some important background: Chavez and his allies announced as early as January their intention to take control of the PM. They took a number of steps to that end, including conducting an inventory of the PM's arsenal, and manufacturing a phony hunger strike by a handful of pro-Chavez officers who invaded the PM's communications center. This "intervention" is an indispensable step for Chavez if he is to avoid ouster; local and municipal police departments have protected anti-Chavez demonstrators and leaders, and have sufficient firepower and traning to limit the effectiveness of the thuggish Bolivarian Circles. As Mayor Pena declared, "the Government is disarming the police and giving weapons to the violent [Bolivarian] circles." The timing of this step is also given by the opposition's decision to soon announce the date of a national strike of indefinite duration.

Stay tuned. This isn't getting the attention it deserves. El Sur has more, including results of a poll showing that most Venezuelans are unhappy with Chavez.


I told you guys you'd miss Rep. Bob Barr, the righty Rep. from Georgia who's still in office only because of the lame-duck session. Well, apparently he's leading the charge against John Poindexter's creepy Total Information Awareness strategy and the Cyber Security Enhancement Act.

There's more.

TIM BLAIR POINTS OUT, well, the sort of thing we've come to expect.

UPDATE: Damn Blogger! Follow the first link; it's currently at the top of his page.

AL QAEDA EXPOSED: Cyberwarrior "Johnathan Galt," who has been behind some anti-Al Qaeda hacking incidents, now has a page with video clips of Al Qaeda spokespeople and sympathizers telling who the enemy is. I can't vouch for the authenticity of all of these, but they sure look authentic, and they're consistent with other things we've heard from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers. Note the presence of American and British supporters.

(Via Samizdata).

MERDE IN FRANCE has a French print report (not online) that "when military actions start 'Baghdad's residents could take to the streets waving American flags that are being secretly manufactured in the city's bazars.'"

Interesting, if true. Wonder when we'll see this reported on Al Jazeera?

UT BLACKFACE UPDATE: Good news, bad news, and a surprise in this account from the Daily Beacon student newspaper. The good news is that, despite some early indications to the contrary, the University isn't planning any disciplinary action against the fraternity:

While stating that the university condemns the actions of the students involved, Shumaker stressed that the administration would have no authority to punish the offenders. He cited previous federal court rulings that found punishment for such actions to be in violation of the First Amendment.

The bad news is that it's still being used as an excuse for PC-style maneuvering, with non sequitur demands for a new department of African-American studies (I'm not against that, but I don't see the connection) and with this remark by President Shumaker:

We must have at UT an atmosphere that is free of violence and discrimination.

True enough, but there never was any violence, just some guys in makeup. If you didn't know better, you might think that Shumaker had just halted a lynching.

But now for the "surprise." Here's my favorite quote, from a student activist who obviously isn't fully indoctrinated with standard-issue political correctness:

Gray also pressed the president on the decision to not levy any punishment on those involved in the incident.

"The Second Amendment gives us the right to own a gun," she said. "If the university can prevent the student body from exercising that right while on campus, why can't it punish people who abuse their First Amendment rights?"

Heh. And a suggestion that the University lower its admission standards for black students so as to increase black enrollment (you know, what's usually called "affirmative action") appears to have been shouted down as racist. So even in the midst of a classic PC scandal, the edifice of political correctness is showing some prettty major cracks.


JEFF COOPER POINTS OUT another reason to be skeptical of the latest alleged bin Laden audiotape: someone who knows Osama pretty well says it isn't him.

The varous "leaks" from official sources saying that the tape is probably authentic are almost enough to make me endorse the conspiracy theories floated earlier, that the U.S. government has reasons to pretend that Osama is still alive even if it knows otherwise. After all, there was no obvious reason for the Administration to go public with those, and quite a few obvious reasons not to. Yet leaks like that don't happen by accident. Say, maybe Tom Daschle is actually part of the disinformation campaign! Poor Tom -- he's not a carping critic, but a misunderstood patriot.


Students who have staged Iran's biggest pro-reform protests for three years claimed a victory for freedom of speech Sunday as Iran's supreme leader ordered a review of the death sentence against a dissident academic.

The week-long student rallies and strikes in support of history lecturer Hashem Aghajari, condemned to hang for blasphemy, had raised political tension at a crucial stage in the power battle between Iran's reformists and hard-liners. . . .

Students greeted the news as a victory and said they would consider ending mass protests at campuses across the country.

Did Amnesty or Human Rights Watch come loudly to Aghajari's defense? If so, I missed it.

This earlier post by Allan Prather notes that Khomeini's grandson joined the protests.

UPDATE: William Sjostrom reports that he can't find anything from Amnesty. But Brian Jones emails this link to a Human Rights Watch denunciation of the Iranian execution order. Advantage: HRW!

ERIN O'CONNOR HAS SOME FURTHER CRITICISM of Germaine Greer's latest op-ed, previously addressed by William Sjostrom:

Okay, so the substitutions sometimes cede into nonsense. But that only makes the temper of Greer's "discourse" that much more clear: hers is a discourse of irrational blame and vitriolic hate, a discourse in which one group is described as wholly superior to another group whose inferiority is treated as natural and right, a discourse that quite literally does not make sense--except, insofar, as it participates in the deliberate nonlogic of demonization. And yet it is printed in one of the world's most respected papers, the product of one of the twentieth century's most influential feminists. Its place in that paper speaks to how profoundly respectable hatred of men has become in our enlightened culture, as well as to the role feminism has played in making such hatred a badge of liberal propriety.

The bit about men being malignant tissue says it all. As Greer calls men a cancer on an otherwise healthy female society, so Hitler said that "The Jews are a Cancer on the breast of Germany"; so radical Islamists call Jews a "cancer" on Palestine.

Strong stuff.

UPDATE: A couple of readers have expressed skepticism about the anti-male animus that this post, and some others I've put up over the last few days, indicate. (This message from reader Dan Hobby is typical: "Reading Glenn Sacks thoughts on this subject, one word comes to mind: pinhead.") All I can say to them is, tell it to Doris Lessing:

I find myself increasingly shocked at the unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men which is now so part of our culture that it is hardly even noticed," the 81-year-old Persian-born writer said yesterday.

"Great things have been achieved through feminism. We now have pretty much equality at least on the pay and opportunities front, though almost nothing has been done on child care, the real liberation.

"We have many wonderful, clever, powerful women everywhere, but what is happening to men? Why did this have to be at the cost of men?

"I was in a class of nine- and 10-year-olds, girls and boys, and this young woman was telling these kids that the reason for wars was the innately violent nature of men.

"You could see the little girls, fat with complacency and conceit while the little boys sat there crumpled, apologising for their existence, thinking this was going to be the pattern of their lives."

Lessing said the teacher tried to "catch my eye, thinking I would approve of this rubbish".

She added: "This kind of thing is happening in schools all over the place and no one says a thing.

"It has become a kind of religion that you can't criticise because then you become a traitor to the great cause, which I am not.

"It is time we began to ask who are these women who continually rubbish men. The most stupid, ill-educated and nasty woman can rubbish the nicest, kindest and most intelligent man and no one protests.

"Men seem to be so cowed that they can't fight back, and it is time they did."

You can disagree with this if you like -- though, frankly, I think doing so is a confession of utter blindness to reality -- but quit telling me that this is some creation of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. It's not, and you only diminish your credibility by pretending (or, more embarrassingly, actually believing) otherwise.

ANOTHER UPDATE: It's not new, either. Here's an interview on the subject from 1994, with Camille Paglia and Christina Hoff Sommers. And, for that matter, Betty Friedan wrote about "female chauvinist boors" in McCall's back in 1972, though I can't find a copy of that essay online. And still people seem inclined to pretend that the problem doesn't exist.