December 21, 2002

DOES MAUREEN DOWD MEAN to call President Bush and Karl Rove "Butcher Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?" That seems rather nasty, and it's a rather insensitively loaded term in wartime, isn't it?

Speaking of insensitivity, note that although Dowd is careful to slip in that Bill Frist has been "scolded for racial insensitivity," she doesn't bother to say by whom, or for what. (A classic New York Times use of passive voice -- Bill Hobbs explains this canard.) But that's the folks at Old Media: presented with real "racial insensitivity" -- as in Trent Lott's case -- they don't even recognize it until someone else points it out. That's because they're too used to it as an invented item to even think about the real thing.

This is a lame effort, even by the standards of Maureen Dowd's recent work.

UPDATE: Reader Gerald Berke suggests that I have it backward, and that the "butcher" point is aimed at Rove, not Bush -- though he rather spoils it by then suggesting that nobody who's massing troops for war should mind being called a butcher. (Is there anyone more bloody-minded than an antiwar liberal? They all seem to think the goal of war is killing, rather than winning. But that's a topic for another post.) Berke's snippiness notwithstanding, he's probably right here -- at least, it's hard to imagine Dowd passing up an opportunity to call Bush a "kid," in the apparent hope that if she says it often enough people will suddenly confuse him with Dan Quayle. How much better this makes Dowd look is a matter of opinion.

UPDATE: Reader and movie critic Bob Patterson offers this explanation of what Dowd was about:

The new film "Gangs of New York" contains a character Bill "the Butcher" Cutting (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) and "the Butcher" is (according to the NY Times review) a "swaggering monster."

The film is a leading contender for Oscar consideration, but it is only being shown at theaters in Los Angeles and New York City.

Perhaps Ms. Dowd was overly anxious to display her command of the culture vulture hip/chic contemporary scene by making a comparison to this new film.

Folks who do not have ready access to this bit of cinema will not get the (possible) allusion.

[I, for one have issues with this "elitism" aspect of the Oscar season and will be writing a column about that in the near future. (On Friday, December 20, 2002 the USA Today newspaper listed the five leading contenders for Best Picture. Of the five, one "The Two Towers" had been out for about two days. Two, "Gangs of New York" and "Antwone Fisher" were coming out that day (at least in New York and L. A. as far as "Gangs" is concerned. The other two will be out in a few days. Is that elitism or what?)]

It would seem that Ms. Dowd is writing of/for/about/ and "to" an audience that is up on the latest "Oscar buzz."

Again from the New York Times review of "Gangs" New York is "a city full of tribes and war chiefs." "The Butcher has formed an alliance of convenience with Boss Tweed ([played by] Jim Broadbent), the kingpin of Tammany Hall and together they administer an empire of graft, extortion and larceny."

It seems likely that Ms. Dowd was hoping that her readers would connect her words with this latest installment of Oscar elitism. Now that you've been updated on all the latest inside "Oscar" information, don't you suddenly feel "groovy" or some such latest term for up to date and hip?

Yeah. Now Dowd's column seems really "boss." But an excessive effort to seem "hep" does seem to mark Dowd's work, so this explanation makes sense.

RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE UPDATE: Bill Hobbs is blogging from the Comcast kiosk at the mall near Nashville and reports that business seems slow there, too.

I have to say, that sort of on-the-scene reportage is kind of cool.

UPDATE: Reader Frank Martin writes:

I don't know where these malls are that are empty, but out here in northern California, our Mall ( roseville galleria ) has been closed twice this week by the fire marshalls due to overcrowding. ( not closed "per se", but they limited access at the doors to make sure that the crowds stayed limited to within the structures limit)

Today, the "best buy' had every register open, yet the lines extended past the back of the store. Link.

This is happening while we are in the midst of a series of very large storms.

Keep buying folks, the economy depends on you.

ANDREW SULLIVAN'S $80,000 PLEDGE WEEK has gotten a lot of other bloggers begging for cash. The Acidman is not amused:

Ever since ANDREW SULLIVAN conducted his "Pledge Week" and made damned near $80,000, bloggers everywhere have become panhandlers and squeegie-guys, telling their heart-rending stories of brokeness while pointing to their Pay Pal buttons and tip jars. When hookers do that on the street, they get arrested for the crime of "solicitation." And the hookers usually offer a more valuable commodity than most blogs do.

This is followed by a stirring tribute to amateurism in the blogosphere. (Uh, yeahhh, that's exactly what it is. . . .)

I'm all for amateurism. Despite numerous suggestions that I institute a pledge week of my own (my favorite involved a thermometer-like graphic with a 350Z at the top), I won't be emulating Andrew. I have a dayjob. It pays pretty well -- by normal standards, not compared to the obscene amounts of money I'd be making now if I had stayed at the bigshot law firm where I used to work. (And I know exactly how obscene because one of my friends there who stayed and made partner helpfully informs me of what I would be making had I done so. Thanks!) I appreciate the donations -- particularly because a nice note with money attached outweighs any number of nasty emails from people who aren't putting their money where their mouths are. (Message to hatemailers -- if you want me to take your hatemail seriously, attach it to a $100 Paypal donation! I promise, I'll read it.)

But this is a labor of love. It's free. And it'll stay that way.

THE "FISKIE AWARD" VOTING is fast-and-furious, with Michael Moore and Jimmy Carter neck-and-neck for first place, followed by such, er, worthies as Ted Rall, Noam Chomsky, the United Nations, and, of course, Jean Chretien. Vote now!

RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE SITREP: Reader (and merchant) Woody Emanuel emails:

I am in retail (classic clothing) and the Saturday before Christmas is traditionally THE busiest shopping day before Christmas. Having just closed for the day, I can report that it was perhaps the slowest Saturday before Xmas I have seen in well over a decade or more.

Well, I was just at the grocery store (bought paper towels; didn't need Saran wrap) and the parking lot at the big mall across the street was pretty full -- but definitely not as full as last year. Woody reports that his business has been slow since November; we'll see if that reflects the national situation or not soon enough.

UPDATE: SKBUBBA emails that I was there too early today:

We went to West Town today around 11:00 AM. Found easy parking, stores not too crowded. By the time we left around 6:30 it was totally jammed.

You literally couldn't even walk around in Williams Sonoma. Abercrombie and Fitch had lines four and five deep at every register.

Department stores weren't quite as crowded, but seemed to be doing brisk business and didn't seem to have enough people to handle it. They were discounting just about everything.

They were also sold out of a lot of popular stuff. (My favorite Polo shirts were in short supply, and there is not one Calphalon Commercial Non-Stick 10" omelet skillet in Knoxville except as part of a set. There may be one at Proffitts in Maryville because I returned it yesterday when I saw one $20 cheaper at Bed Bath and Beyond, but by the time I got back there today they were sold out. Moral of the story: bird in hand, etc.).

By the time we left the mall around 6:30 it took us 20 minutes just to get out of the parking lot and more were coming in.

Even Ruby Tuesday was SRO around 3:30 when we took a break. West Town Mall shopping tip: Ruby Tuesday has happy hour all day. Two people can get an appetizer and hammered for about $20 plus tip. After four hours of power shopping it is a welcome respite and good for getting your second wind.

So anyway, I think maybe you left before the masses arrived. It was chaotic by 4:00 or 5:00 PM.

Well, as someone whose salary is paid largely by the sales tax, I hope SKBubba's right. He's certainly right about Ruby's -- I had lunch there the other day and noted that, Gawker notwithstanding, "drunk shopping" seems to be more than just a New York thing.

TERRORISM IN LATIN AMERICA: Now this is upsetting.

HMMM. A lot of people will be making something out of this:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has delayed his January trip to Africa in part because of the Iraqi situation, and sources say he is ready to sign off on deploying 50,000 U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf early next month.

Of course, there are lots of things it could mean.

SPEAKING OF BLOGCRITICS, here's a story on BlogCritics' request for a DMCA exemption, featuring a photo of Eric Olsen.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING REALLY IMPORTANT: BlogCritics reports on when we can expect the next Harry Potter book.

THE DOGS THAT AREN'T BARKING: Interesting observation regarding the Iraq inspections, from OxBlog.

NASHVILLE BLOGGER and former Tennessean journalist Bill Hobbs writes that the New York Times is recycling lies about Bill Frist:

Frist would be holding a handful of pencils to distribute and didn't want to prick himself on one of the sharp points - but his innocuous comment was seized on by the anti-Frist reporters for the Memphis Commercial-Appeal and the Nashville Tennessean as "evidence" that Frist had been racially insensitive.

It was absurd then - a lie propagated by two newspapers that had already endorsed Frist's opponent, the incumbent Sen. Jim Sasser - and most everyone in the newsroom at The Tennessean, where I worked at the time, knew it and was embarrassed by the story. It is even more absurd now for the NYT to recycle it in an attempt to undercut Frist as he ascends to the post of Senate Majority Leader.

Perhaps the Times will issue a correction, in due course.


RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE SITREP: Frankly, the situation doesn't look that great. I was at the mall this morning and it seemed no busier than an ordinary Saturday -- not like the last Saturday before Christmas. Maybe people have already done their shopping, or maybe they're doing more of it online (I certainly did) but it certainly wasn't as busy as it usually is just before Christmas.

Or maybe, as Mike Straka observes, customers are staying away because of bad service. But I have to say, I've found the service to be better than usual this Christmas season. The Kaybee toys folks were passing out free cookies, the Williams-Sonoma people were doing superfast free giftwrap, and everyone in every store I visited was pleasant and helpful. Which, now that I think about it, may just be another sign that the Christmas season is going badly.

It'll be interesting to see if the stats match my impressions.


It's amazing to think that in the United States in the 21st century, you can get arrested for something you do in your bedroom with a willing adult partner. But 13 states still criminalize some types of sexual acts; in four of them, "deviate sexual intercourse" is prohibited only between people of the same sex. . . .

Many conservatives who oppose gay marriage, the inclusion of gays in the Boy Scouts, or school programs promoting gay acceptance argue that they are all for tolerance—just against the public recognition of homosexuality as equal in moral stature to the union of man and woman. Whatever one thinks of such a position, sodomy laws would seem to provide these conservatives with the perfect occasion to demonstrate the sincerity of their pro-tolerance stance. For the most part, however, conservative commentators have remained disappointingly silent on Lawrence v. Texas.

Conservatives have long said that they want to get the government off our backs. If that's a principled stance, they should certainly want to get it out of our beds.

Well, I certainly agree.

I'VE BEEN, WELL, NOT EXACTLY CRITICAL of the claims that the Bush Administration is politicizing government science, but quick to point out that this is a problem that's been around, well, forever. (Insert obligatory reference to CDC gun-violence studies here.) Nonetheless, I'm disturbed at this report that the CDC is no longer promoting condom use as a response to STDs, even though condoms are highly effective against AIDS. Sure, they're not perfect protection against everything. But then, seatbelts aren't perfect protection either, and they promote those.

The problem, of course, is that once the science is politicized and the public health community forfeits much of its public trust, well, the door's open. I'd like to see the public health establishment focus more on science and less on politics. But then, I wanted that five years ago, too.

UPDATE: Reader Dick Dalfiume emails that concern over the guidelines is overstated, and sends this link to the actual CDC page on the subject. I have to say that I agree with him that the story exaggerates the degree of the change.

DWIGHT MEREDITH has another post on Thimerosal. Ross at The Bloviator has a response. Both of these links go to their main pages because of the usual Blogger problems.

I don't really have much to add to what I said before, really. The Thimerosal/autism connection is, perhaps, not ruled out, but it's certainly not ruled in. As Dwight says:

The best scientific evidence to date neither proves nor disproves that thimerosal included in childhood vaccines causes autism. The causal relationship, if any, between thimerosal and autism remains an open question. It is a question we should answer though science and not through politics.

I certainly have no argument with that. But that being the case, it seems, ahem, premature for some people (not Dwight, who explicitly disclaims it) to claim that Eli Lilly caused autism and then paid off the GOP to protect it -- given that neither part of this statement is supported by, well, any actual evidence.

And TomPaine.Com's rather slippery efforts to blow this up into a scandal reflect poorly on it, and on the left, which seems nowadays to be recycling black-helicopter theories from the nutty right willy-nilly. Next we'll be hearing that Bush has millions of Chinese troops stationed just across the border in Mexico, ready to support a coup in which he'll be installed as dictator.

PATRICK RUFFINI liked The Two Towers better than The Fellowship of the Ring. That puts him in the minority. Then again, he also calls the movie "Rumsfeldian," which is a description that probably didn't occur to anyone else.

PATTY MURRAY IS TAKING IT ON THE CHIN regarding her remarks about Osama's generosity:

Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., a potential Senate opponent in 2004, called Murray's comments "bizarre" and uninformed. "You have to wonder what country Sen. Murray has been living in since September 11th," he said.

Murray "seems to know more about Osama bin Laden's generosity and kindness than she does his hatred for America and his vow to destroy our country," Nethercutt said.

Nethercutt, who is also talked about as a possible candidate for governor, said he welcomed a chance to debate Murray on bin Laden and other topics.

"I'm sure Washington state voters would like to hear more of Sen. Murray's very strange view of America and the world," Nethercutt said.

I'll bet he does welcome the chance.

ERIN O'CONNOR has been all over the Boalt sexual harassment story. Here's the latest installment, which features this observation:

Interesting at Boalt how fast it has all moved past the guilt or innocence of a single faculty member (who was never actually charged with anything) to the collective guilt of the entire male faculty, none of whom have (presumably) done anything. Nevertheless, in true Stalinist fashion, this is going to be used as a pretext for punitive measures against them as a group, including the now-usual re-reducation and a de facto hiring and promotion freeze of male faculty. What's even worse is the supine way this is all being accepted as inevitable.

Stefan Sharkansky has been doing, er, Useful Work, too. Here's his latest post demonstrating how one-sided and agenda-driven the news coverage of this event has been. And scroll down on his page (and Erin's) for much, much more on this topic.

My advice to male faculty at Boalt -- go somewhere more civilized. You won't regret it.

THE NEW YORK TIMES HAS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE on the problems facing today's liberalism in an age of terrorism.

I have to say, though, that while today's liberalism may be inadequate to current events, I think that the more muscular liberalism of previous decades -- the kind favored by the anticommunist Cold War liberals, for example -- would have been up to the task. One of the problems facing liberalism is that it has made lefty academics and journalists into its party theoreticians, and they're not up to the job.

December 20, 2002

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH does a Bill Frist / Patty Murray comparison that seems, well, a bit cruel.

THE PAYPAL DONATIONS KEEP POURING IN: Thanks, folks. It's not Andrew-Sullivan-league, but it's much appreciated.

That people will voluntarily, and pretty much spontaneously, donate money to support something they can get for free says something profound, and probably positive, about human nature. I certainly feel positive about it!


Sen. Robert Byrd still is looking forward to his big screen debut.

Byrd said he is eagerly awaiting the Feb. 21 premiere of the Civil War movie "Gods and Generals," which will include his cameo as Confederate Gen. Paul J. Semmes.

Fitting, somehow.

ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS have held their own "alternative" Miss World pageant in northern Nigeria.

SORRY, GEORGE: But this isn't nearly as funny as this.


Until last October I worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. My job was fundraising. I wrote funding requests and financial reports for one donor: the European Union. My division was one of six that secured funding for ICRC activities. Each year our divisions tallied the total amount of donations coming from the various nations and organizations. We then produced a bar graph that listed the largest donors beginning with the most generous. And each year, first place in donations went to one nation: the United States. Indeed, in terms of the bar graph, American contributions towered above all others. Before working for the ICRC, I also worked for the United Nations. The case there was similar to the Red Cross. The US alone stood out ahead of all other donors.

Of course, Murray is correct to note that Osama bin Laden has used his vast family fortune (one he did absolutely nothing to earn) to win converts to his cause. By comparison, the money provided by the American government comes from taxpayers of various degrees of wealth, from American billionaires to the guy selling hot dogs on the street.

And Murray is also correct to point out that America did drop bombs on Afghanistan. But perhaps in her smug wisdom she might go further and ask another question. What were the results of bin Laden’s stewardship in comparison to those American bombs? Again I can refer to my work at the Red Cross. During my time with the ICRC I wrote funding requests and reports on Afghanistan both prior to September 11 and after. Prior to September 11, Afghanistan had experienced periods of sustained drought especially in Ghor province and Herat. This situation was complicated by an interminable civil war. After September 11 and the eventual attack on Afghanistan, I had the opportunity to talk with people who worked directly in Afghanistan. All told me about the incredible change in Afghanistan. Almost overnight, the country went from a land living in fear of the Taliban and al Qaeda operatives to one where children were playing in the streets, often kicking around soccer balls given them by American, British or French soldiers. And what about the activities of the Red Cross? Well, as my source in the field told me, the Red Cross now had access to areas previously prohibited by the Taliban. The humanitarian activities of the Red Cross were ultimately aided by those American bombs. . . .

Incidentally, my source in the field quipped, half jokingly half seriously, “I wish the US would invade a few more countries, it would make our job a hell of a lot easier.” He wasn’t an American by the way.

He may get his wish.

UPDATE: Here's Murray's response to her critics, which is just about as lame as Lott's. I don't think Michele is convinced.

MARK KLEIMAN says the current policy of vaccinating only health and emergency workers makes no sense. I think he's right. Also read the update to his post, with which I obviously agree, too.

HAS THE INVASION OF IRAQ ALREADY BEGUN? Donald Sensing has some interesting comments in response to the Tom Holsinger column from StrategyPage that I linked last night.

THE WASHINGTON POST REPORTS that Frist has it sewn up for the Majority Leader slot.

To all the other stuff people are writing about him, I'll only add that I ambushed him with a question about nanotechnology on a radio show a few years ago and he fielded it with ease, demonstrating considerable knowledge of both the technology and the policy issues. That impressed me.


If it's true that that Republican cross-over votes defeated Cynthia McKinney, then the GOP has shown that not only can it clean up its own bigots: it can also clean up the Democrats'!

Heh. You won't be hearing this line from Carville, I'll bet.

FRATERS LIBERTAS DOES A BIAS TEST on AP's description of Bill Frist. It comes back positive.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON is crediting the blogosphere with Lott's decision to step down.

HERE'S YOUR FINAL EXAM ON 20TH CENTURY RACIAL HISTORY: Bill Clinton would flunk, based on his recent statements.

DAVE KOPEL writes on Frist's Second Amendment voting record, which he characterizes as slightly weaker than Lott's.

WATCHING THE TALKING-HEAD SHOWS on Lott's resignation, I notice that the new Democratic theme is that the Republicans should "prove that they've left racism behind" by supporting appropriate legislation next year.

I agree. I think the Republicans should demonstrate that they're taking the country beyond the legacy of segregation by passing the "End to Racism and Segregation Act of 2003," which would provide that neither the federal government, nor the states, nor any entity receiving federal funds may take race into account in any manner in the making of hiring, firing, promotion, or benefits decisions.

What better way to show we've moved beyond racism than to put an end to official racism by statute?

UPDATE: Nick Gillespie offers a similar proposal.

JEFF JARVIS IS EXPERIMENTING with video blogging. Very interesting.

PIETER K EMAILS that although there are no clips from his CD available on Amazon, you can hear samples here on the Breakbeat Science page. My favorite cut is "Numina," but you should also check out "Stars from Aircraft." I actually like 'em all.

THE LOTT CONTRAST: Reader Tom Wright emails:

This may not be a widely held view but I think the Trent Lott episode is a huge plus for the Republican Party. It may gain them nothing at the polls but at least they have proved that they are capable of embarrassment and shame when on of their number demonstrates an unfitness for his office.

Tardy though it may have been, the disgust and outrage shown by Republicans over Sen. Lott's remarks contrasted with the Democrats' studied indifference to the past comments by Sen. Byrd or the vileness spewed by Rep. McKinney shows that while both parties may have bigots, at least the Republicans are ashamed or theirs.

Yes, I think that's how it will play. And I wonder, now, if more will be made of the Bonior/McDermott trip to Baghdad?

UPDATE: Eric Alterman sort of agrees:

Actually, this is the worst possible solution for the Democrats, who won’t have Trent Lott to kick around anymore as leader, but also won’t be getting a Democratic replacement in his seat.

I think that's right, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Virginia Postrel compares Trent Lott and Mary Landrieu. It's a comparision to which a lot of other members of the Senate are subject.

And Daniel Drezner congratulates Josh Marshall -- who I think really started the ball rolling -- and says this will be good for the Republicans in the long term.

NOW THAT TRENT LOTT has paid for his stupid remarks, perhaps Senator Patty Murray should be next:

"We've got to ask, why is this man (Osama bin Laden) so popular around the world?," said Murray, who faces re-election in 2004. "Why are people so supportive of him in many countries … that are riddled with poverty?

"He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that.

"How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"

Yeah, it's not as if she's ever voted on a foreign aid bill or anything. Actually, many of the roads in Afghanistan were built by Americans. I have an uncle who did that, and also trained Afghans in construction and equipment maintenance, back during the 1970s. Didn't seem to make much of a difference. But I guess I shouldn't expect Murray to know about that stuff -- she's only a Senator, after all.

UPDATE: Reader Brandon Bigelow writes:

Does Patty Murray read the federal budgets she's been voting on? The United States may not contribute a large amount of money to foreign aid as a percentage of GDP, but the amounts are significant in real dollars. Did she just miss the $2.4 billion we spent in the Middle East and North Africa in FY00, the $1.8 billion in FY01, or the estimated $1.7 billion in FY02? I am guessing Osama bin Laden, with all the hospital, orphanages, schoolhouses and shelters he built didn't come close. See for summaries of expenditures.

How much is enough for Patty Murray and her fellow travelers? Will people stop flying jets into the side of our buildings if only we give them $5 billion in foreign aid annually? Or could the conflict between the West and the Middle East be about a little bit more than total cash expenditures?

I honestly think that for some people -- and Murray is probably one -- it's hard to imagine that anything matters more than federal expenditures.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: What should have happened last week has happened today -- Trent Lott has stepped down as Majority Leader.

Bill Frist is the favorite to succeed him, which is a good deal for everyone involved except Frist -- and the Democrats, who would have rather kept Lott around. Lame efforts to tar all Republicans as Klansmen-in-disguise will continue for a while, but will peter out over the holidays with no effect. And they should, because it wasn't the Democrats who got Lott removed.

Unlike the Democrats with Clinton, the Republicans have purged themselves of someone who didn't belong in the office he held. The failure to do so cost the Democrats greatly. I think that the Republicans, meanwhile, will reap benefits from their action.

MASS ARRESTS? Bigwig writes:

Lets be generous with the numbers and assume that all the Muslims in SoCal are part of that 600,000. That means that out of the entire population, 0.16% of them are being held. For every 100,000 Muslims in Southern California, about 116 got arrested. That number is....shockingly low. For the year 2000, the average rate of arrests per 100,000 total population was 3,427.5

So, in reality, SoCal Muslims are exemplary citizens, or the INS is shockingly inept. I'll take both choices, thank you. What I do expect, frankly, is for Muslim spokesman to quote these numbers with pride, pointing out that the American Muslim community is among the most law-abiding in the nation.

Bigwig expects a lot. . . .

He's not that happy with the INS, either.

UPDATE: Chad Seltzer says Bigwig's math is based on erroneous assumptions.


Revelations of the brutal torture and murder of a teenager in eastern Germany blamed on neo-Nazis has sent shock-waves through the country.

Marius Schoeberl, who was 16, was killed apparently because he looked like a Jew.

His severely mutilated body was discovered in a farm silage pit in the remote village of Potzlow this summer.

Two brothers aged 17 and 23 and another 17-year-old from the village were recently found guilty of the murder.

The court was told that the boys were listening to neo-Nazi music, with its angry lyrics and furious sound, as well as drinking alcohol, before they set off into the night in search of a victim. . . .

They called him 'un-German', 'a pest' and 'a Jew'. They dragged him to a deserted farmhouse, tortured and killed him - and then they went home to sleep.

The story paints this as a problem of the "extreme right," but given the rise of antisemitism in polite European society, I think that's a bit misleading.

WEAPONS OF MASS ANNOYANCE: An article in Wired News argues that cyberterrorism is a distinctly overrated threat.

Yeah, most computer-related stuff doesn't work well enough for terrorism to register anyway. Kind of like threatening to cause traffic jams in L.A.

MICKEY KAUS writes on why -- and how -- Lott must go:

Lott, in his flailing, destructive attempt at self-preservation, didn't quite equate opposition to race preferences with racism. But he did equate support of race preferences with opposition to racism. That's why, as someone who thinks race preferences do far more harm than good, I worry that it's not quite enough for the Republican Senate to simply vote Lott out of his leadership positon with "a brief statement explaining what they did and why they did it." A brief statement would have sufficed if Lott's only sin were his Thurmond tribute. But his subsequent compensatory embrace of preferences needs to be repudiated also, in memorably strong terms. The most reliable way for that to be done is for President Bush to do it himself.

Yep. I understand why Bush has been reluctant to tread on the Senate's toes. But it's time for him to provide some adult supervision.

December 19, 2002

I WAS GOING TO BLOG on the immigration-related arrests of Arab men in California, but I haven't had time to give it the treatment it deserves. Eugene Volokh has some thoughts, though.

In brief, my observations are: (1) This is hardly the Japanese-American internment revisited. First, they're not citizens, or even legal residents as best I can tell. And there are only a few hundred to perhaps a thousand of them. (2) These guys are all charged with being in violation of some immigration rule or another -- in short, they've been arrested because they're believed to be breaking the law. You may think it's a stupid law, and a bad idea to arrest people for breaking it -- as some might think with regard to arresting someone for having a shotgun with a barrel 1/4" shorter than the legal minimum, and yes, such arrests do happen. But it hardly represents a fascistic breakdown in the rule of law. At least, if such a breakdown has occurred, it occurred when complicated and often contradictory laws were passed and then not generally enforced, not when these guys were arrested. (3) Inviting people to show up voluntarily for fingerprinting and then arresting a bunch of them seems to me to be a strategy that only works once. If the Feds knew that, then do they have some unstated reason for cracking down on illegal immigrants from Middle Eastern countries in these places and at this time? Possibly. This may be yet another small sign of coming war, and a preemption effort aimed at catching terrorist sleepers. (The other possibility, of course, is that the Feds are idiots, and that's one never to be discounted, especially where the INS is concerned.)

Beyond that, I don't know enough to have a clear opinion. More later, perhaps.

TOM HOLSINGER WRITES: "America's conquest of Iraq will be a gradual process, not an event, and has probably begun." Very interesting column.

READER PAUL STINCHFIELD sends another hate crime story.

HOLY SH*T: Andrew Sullivan raised nearly $80,000 in his "pledge week" campaign. And I was happy with a few hits to the paypal button!

Well, this should prove that it's possible for someone to make a living at blogging, anyway.

RANDY PAUL has been emailing me for months with constructive criticism. Now he's got his own blog focusing (mostly) on Latin America.

I'VE BEEN READING TONY PIERCE'S BOOK, which came in the mail today. I got copy 49/125, and it's autographed, so my retirement is taken care of. I figure it'll fetch a cool million quatlus at Sotheby's by the time I'm ready to quit my day job and travel the galaxy.

I also popped Pieter K's CD in the car today and listened to most of it. It's quite cool -- vaguely like Thievery Corporation, but somehow both funkier and more cerebral, even though that sounds like a contradiction. I like it very much. Between the two, it was an all-blogger-entertainment day.

I like the CD player, too. The old CD player died -- the Passat's cupholder is perilously close to the dash, and a bad pothole splashed my daughter's Sprite into the tape-player opening, which produced irreversible death. That was, in a way, a good thing. I replaced the original -- which had the changer in the back -- with a new one that still has the changer but also has a slot in the dash. The rear-mounted CD changer is one of those things that sounds like a good idea, but that leaves you listening to the same CDs over and over.

Anyway, I had planned to finish grading papers from my National Security Law seminar this afternoon, and I still have a couple to go, and it's all Tony's fault. Bloggers are good at occupying your spare moments even when you're offline, apparently.


But it's also more damning evidence of Washington's tin ear. People can and will disagree on all sorts of things, but something like this Trent Lott outrage pretty much puts everybody on the same page, from Atrios to Andrew Sullivan, Krugman to Kaus. Yet Lott is still in power. (He'll probably be gone by the weekend, but it should've happened last week. Or 22 years ago.)

There's much, much more.

MAX POWER HAS MOVED to -- adjust your bookmarks accordingly.


THIS STORY suggests that claims the FBI was trying too hard not to offend the Saudis before September 11th are well-founded. I'd like to disbelieve this story, but sadly it's all too believable. Excerpts:

In a dramatic interview with ABCNEWS, FBI special agents and partners Robert Wright and John Vincent say they were called off criminal investigations of suspected terrorists tied to the deadly bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. U.S. officials say al Qaeda was responsible for the embassy attacks and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

"September the 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit. No doubt about that. Absolutely no doubt about that," Wright said. "You can't know the things I know and not go public."

In the mid-1990s, with growing terrorism in the Middle East, the two Chicago-based agents were assigned to track a connection to Chicago, a suspected terrorist cell that would later lead them to a link with Osama bin Laden. Wright says that when he pressed for authorization to open a criminal investigation into the money trail, his supervisor stopped him.

"Do you know what his response was? 'I think it's just better to let sleeping dogs lie,'" said Wright. "Those dogs weren't sleeping. They were training. They were getting ready."

The FBI says its handling of the matter was appropriate at the time.

Then there's this:

Perhaps most astounding of the many mistakes, according to Flessner and an affidavit filed by Wright, is how an FBI agent named Gamal Abdel-Hafiz seriously damaged the investigation. Wright says Abdel-Hafiz, who is Muslim, refused to secretly record one of al-Kadi's suspected associates, who was also Muslim. Wright says Abdel-Hafiz told him, Vincent and other agents that "a Muslim doesn't record another Muslim."

"He wouldn't have any problems interviewing or recording somebody who wasn't a Muslim, but he could never record another Muslim," said Vincent.

Wright said he "was floored" by Abdel-Hafiz's refusal and immediately called the FBI headquarters. Their reaction surprised him even more: "The supervisor from headquarters says, 'Well, you have to understand where he's coming from, Bob.' I said no, no, no, no, no. I understand where I'm coming from," said Wright. "We both took the same damn oath to defend this country against all enemies foreign and domestic, and he just said no? No way in hell."

Far from being reprimanded, Abdel-Hafiz was promoted to one of the FBI's most important anti-terrorism posts, the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia, to handle investigations for the FBI in that Muslim country.

The FBI just isn't up to the war on terrorism. I'd like to think that this culture of political ass-covering and political correctness is a thing of the past, but I doubt it, considering that no heads have rolled for these failures.

And what does Abdel-Hafiz think the law-enforcement agencies in Muslim countries do? This guy should be fired if the story is true.

MICKEY KAUS PSYCHOANALYZES JAMES CARVILLE and also notes: "There's something offensive (and retro) in Lott acting as if African-Americans, as opposed to all Americans, were the people harmed by his remarks."

MEMO TO JONAH GOLDBERG: I am, by pretty much any reasonable standard, a former liberal. Heck, I was president of Students For Choice on my undergraduate campus, and was at one point a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party. Nor am I, by any reasonable definition, a conservative today -- well, I might be one of those "Stephen Green" conservatives who support gay marriage, drug legalization, cloning research and the elimination of excise taxes on alcohol (actually, I made that last one up, but I imagine Stephen would be willing to add it to the platform). But I don't think many more traditional conservatives would count that.

Mostly, I'm a proud member of the anti-idiotarian party -- which is growing by leaps and bounds, as best I can tell. And which, judging by the likes of Sean Penn and Trent Lott, won't lack for targets anytime soon.

TRENT LOTT IS IN SO MUCH TROUBLE that Christian bloggers are emailing me links to parody websites making fun of him.

NORAH VINCENT, still smarting from a bogus accusation of plagiarism a while back, thinks that the Australian High Court decision in the Gutnick case will bring some discipline to "blowhard bloggers." Actually, though, I think she has it exactly backward. The more likely result of widespread transnational regulation of the Internet will be to limit the blogosphere to people who are judgment proof, or successfully anonymous, neither of which is likely to cut down on the number of bogus accusations. (Here's a link to my piece in The Australian on what the case is likely to mean.)

The Washington Post, meanwhile, has a pretty good feature on legal issues relating to bloggers. I encourage people to read it.

ELI LILLY UPDATE: Ellen Miller of TomPaine.Com emails:

It's easy for Dick Armey to say he did it -- he's a lame duck with no accountability. And in a way, he did ALLOW it to happen. But what is looking for is THE PERSON WHO *ASKED* ARMEY to ALLOW it to happen. THAT is the person we want to finger. Keep searching...

Dang. So much for the 350Z this week, I guess. But, the above remarks notwithstanding, I think that my work here is finished. And I now definitely regard this as a phony issue.

UPDATE: Speaking of phony, reader John Norton points out this from the TomPaine.Com website:

Democracy requires accountability, so is offering a $10,000 reward to the first person who proves the identity of the Eli Lilly Bandit -- the >>member of Congress responsible for inserting the company's special provision<<. Mail submissions to PO Box 53303, Washington, D.C. 20009. The complete terms and conditions of this offer are posted at

(His emphasis). He adds:

Sounds like you are in for that Z Car.

Flood the Zone!!!!

Yep, TomPaine seems to have a Carbolic Smoke Ball problem -- though the Z-car routine is a joke, especially as I promised the reader who emailed me the CNN link that I'd see the reward money went to him in the unlikely event that they paid up. Which seems to be just as unlikely as I figured -- and at any rate, I didn't communicate by mail, as their terms-and-conditions seem to require. Had I been serious about claiming the reward, I would have done so.

Still, they were awfully quick to change the terms here, weren't they? Another "broken dot-com promise?"


NOW ANN COULTER is calling for Trent Lott to step down, saying that his unseemly praise of a Senate relic is entirely unacceptable.

DICKENS WROTE ABOUT A SCROOGE'S REDEMPTION. James Lileks, on the other hand, subjects a scrooge to a savage and altogether merciless Fisking.

I never did like Dickens all that much.

UPDATE: Reader Roy Jacobsen emails with a point that several people made:

Actually, couldn't you say that the three ghosts in Dicken's story
delivered a Fisking to Scrooge? Didn't they go back through his life
and show him point by point how he erred? Thus, you could say that it
was Fisking that led to Scrooge's repentance and redemption.

Yes, the golden cloak of redemption often comes after the Iron Fisk of Truth.

THIMEROSAL UPDATE: Dr. Manhattan has a lengthy thimerosal-related roundup. Bottom line, supported by considerable evidence, is that the dangers of thimerosal are unsupported, and that there were dangers to removing it.

The whole Thimerosal flap seems overstated. The claims that it causes autism are, at best, dubious. And the claim that the lawsuit-blocking language was "mysteriously" added to the bill seems bogus given that, as I have pointed out already (where's my reward money? I need a 350Z! I mean I really need one! Or maybe a Porsche. . . .) Dick Armey admitted on CNN two weeks ago that "I put it in."

So what we have is a conspiracy theory about something allegedly secret that was actually admitted on CNN, being done to immunize a drugmaker from lawsuits based on its doing something for which there is no compelling evidence -- or even much persuasive evidence -- of danger or negligence. Isn't that basically the story here? Or am I missing something?

DANIEL DREZNER WRITES ON bad economics. Oh, and Paul Krugman.

MICKEY KAUS (whose "Gearbox" automotive blog is now a regular feature at Slate) writes about our trip to test drive the 350Z. Don't miss what he says about the GTO.

DON'T BE SHY ABOUT IT: The New Republic reports on Canadian ineptitude and hypocrisy regarding Hezbollah:

"It is important," Graham lectured his critics, "not to label [elected officials], doctors, and teachers as terrorists." The foreign minister and others in the Chretien government argued that the social wing of Hezbollah was independent of its "military" wing, and so a request that Canadian banks freeze the assets of Hezbollah's "external security apparatus" was sufficient to suppress any terror threat posed by the group on Canadian soil.

Then, just as the debate over the distinction reached a fever pitch in the Canadian media and government--Revenue Minister Elinor Caplan argued for the ban--Nasrallah resolved it decisively. Last Wednesday, stories circulated that Hezbollah's Al Manar television station had broadcast footage of Nasrallah encouraging the worldwide export of suicide bombings. "Don't be shy about it," he told followers. The terrifying quote appeared to eliminate any distinction between terrorist and non-terrorist activities, since Nasrallah sits atop the entire Hezbollah apparatus and not just the military wing. Which meant that suddenly Ottawa found itself insisting on a distinction that even Hezbollah itself was disavowing.

But, but, but they don't like Americans and Jews! So how could they be terrorists?

To be fair, the non-idiotic part of the Canadian political structure (that is, the part residing largely outside the Chretien government) was horrified by this policy all along.


Finally I realized who Trent Lott reminds me of. Remember the knight in Mony Python's "Holy Grail" who gets both arms and then both legs cut off by a fellow combatant, but still refuses to give in. "It's only a flesh-wound!" he keeps bragging as blood gushes out from his arm and leg stumps. Only this time, we can't cut to the next scene.

Yes. I was reminded of Lott's BET appearance by some of Gollum's pleading-and-groveling scenes in The Two Towers, too.

December 18, 2002

SO HOW DOES A GUY GO ABOUT COLLECTING this "Eli Lilly Bandit" reward, anyway?

A HATE CRIME HOAX AT OLE MISS: Michelle Malkin has the scoop.

JUST SAW THE TWO TOWERS. I don't want to spoil it, so I won't be too specific. Basic take: (1) Lots more liberties taken with the plot than in the first movie -- and while I understand some of them, others mystify me as to their purpose. (2) Big themes, present in the book but much more present in the movie, are temptation and despair -- and the temptation of despair. (3) Best actor: Gollum, in his dialogues with himself.

Worst part of the movie: the many commercials beforehand (people booed, and one guy shouted "I came here to see a movie!" to general applause) and the trailers for other movies, pretty much all of which looked absolutely dreadful. A couple of lame horror films, a Jim Carrey movie (the trailer for that one was good -- but since all the good stuff from his movies is in the trailers, the movie probably isn't) and I forget most of the rest.

Overall, where the first movie got a 9.0 -9.5, I'd give this one about an 8. To be fair, the second part of any trilogy is the hardest to carry off -- both in movies and in the books themselves -- but I felt that Jackson's hand was too heavy on this one. Still a great job overall, but not as good as the first.

And yeah, Viggo Mortensen's occasional off-camera antiwar blather notwithstanding, the inevitability of war, and the importance of having the will to resist evil despite the burdens and the horror is a repeated theme, twined in and around the despair and temptation points I mention above. Indeed, one speech in which Aragorn explains to Theoden that this isn't just the usual raiding, but an effort to stamp out his civilization, seems especially on point.

ANGLOSPHERE, EUROSPHERE, TURKOSPHERE: Jim Bennett writes that the EU is getting itself in trouble. Personally, I like the idea of bringing Turkey into NAFTA. And maybe Eastern Europe, too. And Britain. . . .


ANY DAY NOW, the Democrats may come to regret deeply the moment the Trent Lott disturbance caught media fire. It is now a great mess for the Republican party, but one that has the potential to turn into a great opportunity, and one the party should eagerly seize. It is a chance for the GOP to clean up its act and its household, haul tons of old rubbish out of the attic, and banish some shopworn old ghosts. Having begun by delighting the Democrats by seeming to highlight the links they believed existed between racism and the conservative agenda, the furor may end by finally snapping those links, along with a number of sinister theories. And that will be all to the good.

Myth number one has always been that the Republican moderates were the much-put-upon noble soul of the party, while conservatives were the dark, ugly fringe. So who were the people who jumped on Lott first? Andrew Sullivan, David Frum, and George Will, among others. Social conservatives (such as the Family Research Council) roared for his ouster. In no time at all, the entire machinery of the vast right-wing media monster--the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, the New York Post, National Review, and the American Prowler (the online arm of the American Spectator); all the people on whom Al Gore and Tom Daschle blame the woes of the country--had locked Trent in the parlor with a pistol beside him, and urged him to do the right thing. Charles Krauthammer spoke for all of them when he wrote in the Washington Post on December 12: "Trent Lott must resign as majority leader . . . The point is not just what King and his followers did for African Americans, but what they did--by validating America's original promise of freedom and legal equality--for the rest of America. How can Lott, speaking of 'all these problems over all these years,' not see this?" Indeed.

The mistake was not giving him the traditional bottle of whiskey with the pistol, I guess. He's still in the parlor yelling to be let out.


The leader of an Islamic militant group, his wife, and five employees of Texas computer firm were indicted on charges of trafficking with terrorist states Libya and Syria, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Wednesday.

"We will sue the financiers of terror as aggressively as we pursue the thugs who do their dirty work," Ashcroft said at a news conference at the Justice Department.

Hey, does this mean they'll be joining the 9/11 lawsuit against the Saudis? I'm not holding my breath on that one.

SEVERAL LEFTY BLOGGERS HAVE EMAILED and asked me to link to this TomPaine.Com reward offer regarding the Thimerosal/vaccine issue. I'm happy to oblige.

I don't know a lot about this issue, and I'm all for legislative transparency (I even support Brannon Denning's "Truth-in-Legislation Amendment" proposal). But on the merits -- the Thimerosal issue itself -- I think this is probably bogus.

Regarding the Thimerosal suits, MedPundit Sydney Smith writes: "The litigation of thimerosal truly is one of those abuses of the legal system that makes tort reform necessary. (Here's the article from the Lancet on mercury levels in vaccinated children the editorial mentions.)"

And Derek Lowe has a series of posts on this (scroll down from this link) and he thinks it's bogus, too. What I notice is that this is another case of something that I used to see on wacky right-wing websites now being picked up by the left. That doesn't by itself guarantee that there's nothing to it, but it adds to my doubts.

The merits of the Thimerosal / autism connection, of course, are in a sense independent of the question of whether stuff should wind up in legislation without leaving fingerprints. I don't think that it should. But there have been all sorts of legislative shenanigans like that -- Tom Foley's clock-stopping to secure the passage of the assault-weapons ban, for example -- and I think it's fair to say that, while they're bad, they're not abuses that are engaged in exclusively, or even overwhelmingly, by a single party.

My guess, in fact, is that a Truth-in-Legislation regime would tend to disfavor all sorts of big-government initiatives, which liberals usually like. But I could be wrong about that.

UPDATE: Okay, where's my reward?

CARVILLE: I understand. But did the White House put it in?

ARMEY: There were members of the White House that wanted it. Well, you know, you really have to say it was my bill, I wrote it, I put it in. . . .

CARLSON: I'm just curious, and I don't want to spend the whole show on it. How did it get in there? Was it like the immaculate conception? Or you put it in or you dropped it in?

ARMEY: I put it in.

You guys can just PayPal me the money -- the link's on the left.

THE APPEARANCE OF MORALITY: Collin May writes about Canada's peculiar version of moral superiority.

TRENT LOTT'S ENDORSEMENT OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION wasn't an abandonment of his racist past, of course. It was just an endorsement of racism in a different guise. Shelby Steele points out the double standard:

No doubt the abuses of racism once made the democratic imagination a centerpiece of black American culture. The rhetoric of Martin Luther King was about nothing else. But the race-focused reforms that became entrenched after the 1960s have made the black imagination more self-referential. Now we imagine ourselves more than others, although depressingly seldom as conservatives. Universities across the country provide "ethnic theme dorms" to spare the young the stresses of developing a democratic imagination. And how many million blacks have a fellow-traveling affection for Louis Farrakhan, who is as ardently opposed to interracial dating as anyone at Bob Jones University?

Today America supports a racialist value system for minorities while demanding a democratic expansion of the white imagination. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus can embrace "blackness" and demand government preferences exclusively for their race. Remove the double standard and Trent Lott looks perfectly innocent by comparison.

But not so innocent that he should remain Majority Leader.

UPDATE: As Michelle Boardman writes: "Lott has insulted anyone who wants unbigoted political representation by implicitly arguing that an endorsement of affirmative action demonstrates his purity."

This oped by Abigail Thernstrom, meanwhile, notes that:

After an era of liberal leadership, the typical black or Hispanic student graduates from high school today with junior high skills, according to the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress.

If Mr. Lott cedes civil rights issues to the Democrats, how can Republicans in Congress join the majority of black parents who want vouchers so that their children can escape public schools that have become graveyards for hope?

For years, Republicans have run in terror from most controversial race-related issues. But it was not always so. More than 80 percent of Republicans in Congress voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Congressional Republicans can recapture the moral high ground — but not if their Senate leaders are unable to stand up to groups that are often at odds with the interests and even the views of their own minority constituents.

Lott has sold out everyone -- from his own party to black schoolchildren who are ill-served by pork-obsessed interest groups -- to save his skin. And he hasn't abandoned racism, but has endorsed it out of opportunism and cowardice. That's why he has to go.

NOW IT'S JOHN KERRY who's getting flak for racist remarks:

``There can never be an appearance of racism or bigotry in any high position of leadership,'' he declared.

Funny, but that's pretty much what prominent Italian-Americans were saying about Kerry the morning he tried to come off as droll on the Don Imus show, quipping, ``The Iraqi army is in such bad shape, even the Italians could kick their butts.''

State auditor Joe DeNucci led the angry backlash, charging, ``He wouldn't have the guts to say that about Jews or blacks,'' prompting a Kerry spokeswoman to suggest DeNucci cool his jets, that the senator was obviously being facetious.

Of course, that's the same thing his office said following another appearance on the Imus show when, attempting to belittle Bill Weld's work ethic, Kerry described the former GOP governor as ``a guy who takes more vacations than people on welfare.''

Of course, if we got rid of every member of Congress who said stupid things, we wouldn't have any left. Hmm. . . .

THE BLOVIATOR has lots of smallpox information (he didn't especially care for my take on vaccination) and notes, the federal government's site for all things smallpox-related.

Never thought we'd see that, did you?

THE NEW DENTON / KOTTKE / SPIERS site Gawker.Com is up, and it's already given me my restaurant pick for my next trip to NYC. Who can resist The Red Meat Club?

Plus, we learn that "drunk shopping" is both profitable and fun -- though not for the same people at the same time.

What's not to love?

UPDATE: Oops. Should have followed the link. Red Meat Club isn't a restaurant, but an Internet meat-sales outfit. Even better -- I don't have to go to New York at all!

RACINE RAVE UPDATE: Peter Karas reports that prosecutors in Racine are growing ever-more-desperate to avoid a trial of all those they arrested in a mass raid earlier this fall. They've reduced the charge again, but almost no one is agreeing to a plea bargain.

After what happened in Houston, they should be nervous. The ACLU is suing, and this could be expensive for Racine. And it should be.

Speaking of Techno (well, really D&B), I just got a CD in the mail from DJ/producer/former blogger Pieter K -- it's called Everything All The Time. I met Pieter at the UCLA weblog panel last year, but I didn't realize he was such a big deal. But the Amazon page for the CD lists impressive reviews from URB and Mixer, which makes him a big deal indeed. I'd hoped there would be streaming audio, but there's not. Sorry.

POSTWATCH has loads of stuff about Bryant Gumbel, Martha Burk, and Burning Tree. You know, stuff that's really important. Turns out Bob Schieffer belongs to Burning Tree. Another Burning Tree member: "evil Hollywood lobbyist Jack Valenti."

RANGE OF INTERESTS: Well, changing the PayPal button to let people pick the amount clearly unlocked untapped demand. It used to just take donations in the amount of $2.50 -- somehow I set it up that way and never got around to changing it. (This site, unlike, say, Andrew Sullivan's or Bill Quick's, isn't set up to be revenue-maximizing). But I got several emails close together asking me to change it to let the user choose the amount, and lo-and-behold, people responded with donations ranging from $75.00 to one cent. Yes, one cent. As an economist would say, it's a diverse mix of preferences.

JACK BALKIN HAS SOME SUGGESTED LESSONS from the Trent Lott affair. I'm not sure I agree with all of his legislative suggestions, but it's an interesting perspective.

Meanwhile, here's a suggested lesson of my own. It's clear that people knew for a long time that Lott had, to put it charitably, issues: issues of racism, and issues of the tin-eared, foot-in-mouth sort. Put those together, and he was a disaster waiting to happen. Some people even said that before the elections. Yet somehow he would up as Majority Leader anyway.

Pick the wrong people for important jobs, and you have problems every time. That's a lesson worth remembering.

WOULD I EVEN NOTICE BIOLOGICAL WARFARE? My sinus infection is clearing up as the antibiotics kick in. (My daughter's sick and on 'em, too -- my wife's at the doctor's even as I write). Meanwhile, having had two colds in the past month, I've got another one coming on. And I hear there's a nasty stomach bug going around.


IS THERE A CONNECTION BETWEEN THESE ARRESTS IN LONDON (and Edinburgh) and the arrest of three Algerians in Paris yesterday on terrorism charges? So far, it's not clear. But I'm guessing that there is. Some of the French papers were reporting a London connection for the Algerians (in French, which is why I didn't link the stories).

EUGENE VOLOKH, WHO EXCELS AT POLL-DEBUNKING, is at it again. Looking at a Los Angeles Times poll that was touted as showing opposition to war, Volokh notes that that's not really true. Volokh also finds a gender gap, but it's not the one some people would expect:

If no evidence of weapons of mass destruction were found, men would oppose the war 55-37, but women would be evenly split (45-43 in favor, but the gap is statistically insignificant). Surely runs against the conventional wisdom of belligerent men / peaceful women. On the other hand, on many other questions, women seem less supportive of Bush's foreign policy, and more pessimistic about the outcome of a possible war; what's more, on Q 63, which asks "Suppose President George W. Bush decides to order U.S. troops into a ground attack against Iraqi forces. Would you support or oppose that decision?," men say "support" by 64-33, and women only by 52-37. Mighty odd -- does this mix of data carry some deep hidden insight, is this a reflection of the possibility that many voters' views are rather ill-formed and may thus yield seemingly inconsistent results, or is there an error in the polltakers' reporting of the data?

This Washington Post poll story has an interesting bellicose-woman quote:

"We need to get Saddam Hussein out of power, even if it means using nuclear weapons, particularly if they attack us with dirty weapons," said Rebecca Wingo, 35, a trucking dispatcher who lives in Johnstown, Ohio. "When you're dealing with people like him, the only thing they understand is brute force."

I can't find a gender breakdown, but the poll in question does indicate considerable support for using nuclear weapons under the right circumstances. And there's this:

Democrats hold more modest advantages over the GOP on domestic issues such as health care, education, Social Security and prescription drugs, issues that only a third or fewer Americans now rate as top priorities for Bush and Congress.

The Republican Party, by 44 to 41 percent, continues to be viewed by the public as the party best able to deal with the country's biggest problems.

Bush's overall job approval rating stood at 66 percent. Even larger percentages of Americans said they approved of the way the president is handling the anti-terrorism campaign (79 percent), while two-thirds approved of the way he is dealing with homeland security concerns. Nearly six in 10 -- 58 percent -- approved of the way he is handling the confrontation with Iraq.

So far, it appears, the Lott affair isn't doing irreparable damage. All the more reason for the Republicans to get rid of him quick.

SMALLPOX MARTYRS, AMERICAN STYLE: My TechCentralStation column, on the moral case for wide-scale smallpox vaccinations in spite of the risks, is up.

THE FACE of the anti-war movement.

(Via Damian Penny.)

UPDATE: This says it well:

But what is the antiwar movement actually saying?

Most of the new antiwar groups express an entirely personal opposition to war, one based more on moral revulsion than effective political opposition. Protesters voice a personal distaste for violent conflict, rather than organizing a collective stand against it. And when opposing war is about making pompous moral statements about me, myself, and I, you can count me out. . . .

Protesting wars today seems to be a way to cleanse one's private conscience rather than effecting public change - a case of opting out instead of getting stuck in and having the hard arguments. Going on an antiwar demonstration has become a way to declare your whiter-than-white credentials, and demonstrating to onlookers that you have cleared your own conscience.

Has it really come to this - where being antiwar is more about saving ourselves than anyone else? If so, then it's not in my name.

Indeed. David Corn has a different criticism:

The October 26 protest--one of the more prominent antiwar actions so far--had been organized by International ANSWER, a group dominated by the Workers World Party, a small revolutionary-socialist outfit with a fancy for North Korea's Kim Jong-Il and the goal of abolishing private property. So it was no surprise that the antiwar message--which, according to polls, resonates with at least one-third of Americans--was accessorized with the demands of the fringe far-left. Nor was it a shocker that many speakers did not adopt a give-inspections-a-chance position. The WWP, which hails world leaders that stand against US hegemony (such as Slobodan Milosevic), opposes weapons inspections in Iraq and has assumed the task of trying to steer the antiwar movement away from endorsing them. ANSWER eschews criticism of Saddam Hussein.

Corn notes that there are efforts to put together an anti-war movement that's (1) not stupidly solipsistic; and (2) not just anti-Americanism disguised as opposition to war. Good luck.

December 17, 2002

MY TRANSLATION: "I'm holding out for a better deal."

Lott's going out like a bum. People won't forget this.


BRUSSELS, Belgium - (AP) -- The European Union awarded Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya its top human rights prize Tuesday and pledged to support his efforts to bring democracy to his home country.

The 2002 Sakharov Award honored his human rights activism, which dates back to the 1960s when he was condemned to forced labor by the regime of President Fidel Castro.

Despite fearing for the safety of his family back home, Paya traveled to Strasbourg, France, to receive the award at the headquarters of the European Parliament.

''The day before I left, they broke down my door, they have threatened me and my family with death. I was afraid, but you don't get paralyzed by fear, you go on,'' he said.

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, however, was making nice with Castro recently:

"To Alcalde Willie Brown," the bearded one wrote on a crisp C-note suitable for framing, at a party at the presidential palace thrown for a state- sponsored agricultural delegation.

There weren't a lot of hayseeds in this group. In addition to Brown, the delegation included Gov. Gray Davis' appointment secretary, Michael Yamaki; top Davis aide Susan Kennedy; and millionaire lobbyist/developer/fund-raiser Darius Anderson.

The one face that really caught our attention, however, was former Central Valley Rep.-turned-lobbyist and businessman Tony Coelho.

That's admirable.

UPDATE: Then there's this.

THE COUNTRYSIDE IS REVOLTING in England. Reports here, here and here.

MICKEY KAUS IS DOING SOME AUTOMOTIVE JOURNALISM AGAIN. About time! I actually like the way the Z3 looks, though. But I haven't seen a Z4 in the flesh, and most cars look good in the promo pix.

GUNS, FREEDOM, AND THE SECOND AMENDMENT: Rachel Lucas has a post that's worth reading.

MICHAEL BARONE WRITES that the war on terrorism is not just a war on evil people, but on evil ideas. And Saudi money seems to be behind both:

Our officials haven't wanted to acknowledge this, but evidence is coming out anyway. Newsweek reported November 22 that Princess Haifa, the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the United States, was sending money regularly to the Jordanian wife of a Saudi man who was signing it over to the wife of one of the two Saudis who befriended and supported two of the September 11 hijackers. U.S. News reported last week that government sources said FBI higher-ups seemed reluctant to follow up an agent's lead indicating that the money trail to the hijackers could be traced back to the Saudi Embassy.

Complex web. Princess Haifa's money, if it reached the hijackers, was only a tiny part of the flow of Saudi money to fund terrorism and propagate totalitarian Wahhabi Islam. Through phony "charities," huge sums are sent to terrorists–$1 million to $2 million a month for al Qaeda, according to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police report. Some of the money flows have been cut off by U.S. authorities. But sometimes the Saudis have refused to cooperate: In September they refused to freeze the funds of Wael Hamza Julaidan, of the Saudis' World Muslim League. Why? Former Rand analyst Alex Alexiev writes, "Any genuine help by Riyadh in untangling the complex web financing extremism will inevitably implicate both the Saudi government and countless prominent Saudis."

Kind of like those German weapons sales to Iraq. You know, some people say that we have to be careful not to be too assertive or the world will turn against us. I'm beginning to wonder if that didn't happen long before September 11.

UPDATE: Patrick Ruffini notes:

[T]he Cold War was unique in that nobody lost it. In the end, everybody won. The scope of human liberty was expanded, and the former Eastern Bloc is now happily ensconced in the West — moreso, it seems, than France.

The notion that everybody can win from a sustained ideological struggle should profoundly alter our calculations about waging such a war in the Middle East. When applied to the current situation, it is a transformative assumption to count the people of Iraq as winners under regime change — but this also happens to be the truest and likeliest outcome of military action.

Well, some of the apparatchiks lost. But overall, the point is valid, and it's likely to be valid for Iraq, too. As even the Iraqis seem to realize.

LOTT WILL BE GONE BY THE WEEKEND, according to U.S. News. Of course, he should have been gone by last weekend.


Seems to me that "[t]he Internet commentator Atrios" is becoming quite the influential figure in liberal journalism circles. Isn't it going to be embarrassing if it turns out that he is Bob Shrum after all? Or even worse, some annoying college student?

If you read Kausfiles today, you might wonder if Atrios is really Sid Blumenthal, but I'm still going with Shrum.

More seriously, I wonder if Krugman knows who Atrios is? Citing an anonymous Internet commentator on the Times oped page is a bit unusual. (Maybe Atrios is Krugman! Reynolds' Assignment Desk says "find out who --" oh, hell, never mind.)

But though I think Atrios' anonymity is a barrier to his/her influence, it's obviously not that big a barrier. (S)he was posting a lot of solid stuff on Lott, and, ultimately, that's what matters. Which is the beauty of the blogosphere.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: This passage from the New York Times article on black Republicans makes me think that Kaus is giving Blumenthal too much credit:

"It was like a rifle going off," said Peter N. Kirsanow, the only black Republican on the United States Commission on Civil Rights, who was at home reading a book and watching C-Span when Mr. Lott's comments stopped him cold.

Angry and shaken, Mr. Kirsanow called another Republican on the commission and said plainly, "Something has to be done."

Armstrong Williams, a conservative black columnist who was in the room when Mr. Lott made his comments, had a similar visceral reaction. "It was like being cut with a chain saw," he said.

The next day, Mr. Williams called Mr. Lott's office, expressing his outrage with a terse warning: "There's a storm brewing."

He then called Harold E. Doley Jr., president of Doley Securities, a prominent Republican donor and the only black now with a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, to take his pulse on the Lott situation.

Mr. Doley's response was firm and quick: "Lott has to go."

Bloggers (and Blumenthal's emails) may have sped this along, but it was going to come out. Lott could have stopped it with a prompt, forthright statement no later than the following Saturday. But he ducked and covered, and -- as is often the case when people duck and cover -- he purchased ruin for himself and trouble for his party. As I wrote earlier, Lott laid the foundation for his own ruin, and then stood aside so that others could build on it.


BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The uncle of one of the six western New York men accused of belonging to an al-Qaida terror cell was arrested by federal agents Tuesday after raids on buildings in Buffalo and suburban Lackawanna.

A published report had said the man being sought would be charged with illegally sending $3 million to Yemen.

Mohammed Albanna, a leader in the area's Yemeni community, was arrested by Customs and Drug Enforcement Administration agents in the doorway of his Buffalo store, the Queen City Cigarettes and Candy Co.

Asked if he was guilty of anything, Albanna said: ``Not at all.'' He said he would issue a statement later.

Several men in a passing car shouted abuse at police as Albanna was put in a patrol car and driven off.

Albanna is the uncle of Shafal Mosed, 24, one of the so-called Lackawanna Six, the Yemeni-American men indicted in October on federal charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Interesting. We also learn this:

The warehouse where Mohamed Albanna was arrested today has been in the news before... and has a connection to a member of Lackawanna's Muslim community. Carol Kaplan reports.

The telephone number of the Clinton Street warehouse being searched this morning traces to Mohamed Albanna. And if that name is familiar, it should be.

Mr. Albanna is vice-president of the American Muslim council -- and related to three members of the alleged Lackawanna terror cell.

Mr. Albanna -- and his Queen City Candy Company -- have a history of being in the news.

A search of Channel 2 news archives shows he was arrested on arson charges for allegedly torching his warehouse exactly 10 years ago this month. Losses were put at over a million dollars.

Albanna was acquitted -- ironically, his alibi at the time is another name we’re familiar with -- his nephew, Jaber Elbaneh. Jaber is believed to be one of the missing Lackawanna co-conspirators currently at large in Yemen.

I think there's more to this story.


Let me be clear. I do think that Trent Lott is a bigot. In a perfect world, he’d have been ousted in the late 1990s when revelations surfaced about his unseemly involvement with the neo-Confederate Council of Conservative Citizens.

But Trent Lott serves in the U.S. Senate, an exclusive club where the collegial atmosphere causes otherwise smart people to give one another benefits of doubts to a fault. And so it’s taken yet another ugly public dustup for the incestuous Beltway media/politico/pundit circle to finally sit up and take notice of Trent Lott’s uglier, prejudiced inclinations (I’m still waiting for them to take notice of Sen. Robert Byrd’s).

There's more.

LIBERAL OVERRREACH ALERT: Tom Maguire notes that Spike Lee called Trent Lott a "card-carrying Klansman."

BY POPULAR DEMAND (well, by the demand of quite a few people who emailed, anyway) the PayPal donation button now allows you to make donations in any amount you choose. It's the button on the left that says "Make a Donation" -- it doesn't say PayPal anymore.

THE SANTA BLOG is, well, it's, uh, er, -- oh hell, it defies description. Just go read it.


NOT GUILTY in the Elcomsoft/ Sklyarov case.


Iraq’s declaration of its weapons programs contains explosive news for Germany, a Berlin paper has reported. The dossier is said to detail covert arms deals between German defense firms and Iraq.

Just as the heated debates within the German government over the role of German troops and equipment in a possible war against Iraq seem to be cooling down, another potential bombshell threatens to reignite the fires.

On Tuesday, the Berlin-based left-wing paper, Tageszeitung reported that aspects of the 12,000-page Iraqi report on Iraq's weapons programs, submitted to the U.N last week, could prove highly embarrassing for Germany.

The newspaper - believed to be the first to have access to the top-secret dossier - has written that the Iraqi declaration contains the names of 80 German firms, research laboratories and people, who are said to have helped Iraq develop its weapons program.

The most contentious piece of news for Germany is that the report names it as the number one supplier of weapons supplies to Iraq. German firms are supposed to easily outnumber the firms from other countries who have been exporting to Iraq. . . .

Another real fear is that Schrцder’s image as a staunch pacifist might now be sullied if it emerges that Germany has all along been helping the very leader who it has been unwilling to topple, to stockpile his weapons.

Gee, do you think?

UPDATE: Reader John Schuchard emails:

Hmm... It's too bad they could'nt have sold them any food or medicine to help all those many thousands of dying Iraqi children. That was the fault of the US and our mean old embargo, wasn't it? One would think with all the carping we heard about it, that would be the Sophisticated rationale for breaking the embargo. (And what happened to all those dying kids anyway? Did they evaporate?)

And here I thought WE were the Profit-Driven War Machine that undermines diplomacy... Well have no fear, for I'm sure The Guardian will explain it all tomorrow about how it's STILL our fault.

Yes, there are still some certainties in life.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Eric Bainter writes:

Seems to me that selling weapons and otherwise breaking the embargo against Iraq, and then loudly opposing the US's plan to thump Saddam (didn't they even threaten to deny use of bases at one point?) doesn't make Germany a pacifist - more like an enemy.

Yeah. There are real pacifists of course. But there are also a lot of people who call themselves pacifists but who are actually just rooting for the other side.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Apparently, there were some U.S. firms involved, too, though the information is sketchy. I'll bet they're not pretending to be pacifists, though. Which isn't a reason not to go after them.


Three alleged Islamic radicals arrested by French counterintelligence agents had possession of unidentified chemicals they were planning to use in an attack, according to judicial officials and media reports Tuesday.

The men, reportedly Algerians, were taken into custody on Monday in suburban Paris. They also had $5,000 in cash, a computer and Islamic propaganda documents, judicial officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The officials did not disclose the identity of the suspects but said it was believed they had spent time in training camps in Afghanistan and Chechnya.

Glad they caught 'em.

RACKED BY BLOGGER PROBLEMS AT THE OLD SITE, Letter From Gotham is now at this new URL.

(THE LAST?) BELLESILES UPDATE: Melissa Seckora has a report on the revocation of Michael Bellesiles' Bancroft Prize, and debunks claims of the Bancroft Committtee that it couldn't have known of the problems with Bellesiles' work when the prize was awarded. There were plenty of warning signs, Seckora notes, but the Bancroft committee ignored them.

Meanwhile, Prof. Jerome Sternstein writes on Bellesiles' publisher Knopf over at the History News Network. Why, he asks, isn't Knopf admitting the problems with Bellesiles' book?

Last Spring, when I spoke to a representative of Knopf at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Washington, D.C., he said that a new edition of Arming America was in the works and they were only awaiting the report promised by Emory University before they went ahead with it. But since the issuance of the Emory Report and Columbia's announcement revoking the Bancroft Prize, little has been heard from Knopf other than a statement that despite Columbia's decision, the Vintage paperback edition of Arming America, "which already includes corrections, will remain in print."

Sternstein says the "corrections" are mostly bogus and don't address Bellesiles' major problems. If a big corporation in any other business sold such a flawed product without disclosing its problems, it would be sued out of existence. Sternstein concludes:

If Knopf continues to stand "behind" Arming America and fails to confront the fact that it is not simply a slightly flawed book that can be tinkered with and fixed with a few "corrections" here and there but it is rather a deeply dishonest book, one that is racked by invented, falsified, and grossly distorted renderings of the historical record, then Knopf will be doing itself and its great publishing tradition a monumental disservice. More importantly, however, by keeping Arming America in print and not recalling it Knopf will be doing an even greater disservice to the reading public. It will be saying to those who care about history that even America's leading publisher is more concerned with profits than integrity, and is more interested in selling deceitful, though politically correct books than works of enduring merit. The editors at Knopf need to rethink their position, just as Emory University and Columbia University reconsidered their positions.

He's right.

MORE PROOF THAT PAUL KRUGMAN READS BLOGS, and a feather in Atrios' cap:

The Internet commentator Atrios, who played a key role in bringing Mr. Lott's past to light, now urges us to look into the secretive Council for National Policy. This blandly named organization was founded by Tim LaHaye, co-author of the apocalyptic "Left Behind" novels, and is in effect a fundamentalist pressure group. As of 1998 the organization's membership contained many leading Congressional figures in the Republican Party, though none of the party's neoconservative intellectuals.

I would have thought, though, that "fundamentalists" -- even though their agenda differs from mine, or from Paul Krugman's -- have as much right to form "pressure groups" as anyone else. Does Krugman disagree? It appears that he does. Or am I wrong here?

UPDATE: Rand Simberg emails to note another fundamentalist pressure group with a troubling degree of influence over some members of Congress -- several members of Congress, he says, actually belong to the group and one runs under its banner. Meanwhile Tom Maguire emails that Atrios' weekend mention of the topic is called (with a nod to Mickey Kaus) "Assignment Desk." Krugman's not just reading weblogs -- he's getting his marching orders from them! All power to the blogosphere!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Marc Ambinder of The Note wrote this article on the CNP last year. Turns out that "the council doesn't really control the world." Of course not. Everyone knows that the world is controlled by The Power Of The Blogosphere.

HEALTHBLOGGER THE BLOVIATOR writes about suggestions that the White House would like to see Bill Frist as Majority Leader:

Frist truly embodies the "compassionate conservative" philosophy, going the last five years to Africa as a medical missionary to work with AIDS patients. He, along with Doug Badger at the White House, Tom Scully (head of Medicare and Medicaid), and Mark McClellan (head of the Food and Drug Administration) would form the core of the White House's policy team to develop a prescription drug benefit for seniors and overhaul the whole Medicare system. I don't support the largely market-based tack the White House has taken with prescription drug coverage and Medicare reform; however, on first blush, it sounds like in Frist they have a good person in mind to lead the Republican charge on these issues.

Ross is mostly interested in health issues, and hence evaluates Frist largely on that basis. But given that that's where most of Frist's record is to be found, it's a worthwhile assessment.

DANIEL DREZNER OFFERS A running translation of Lott's B.E.T. appearance. Meanwhile, Nick Gillespie offers a link to streaming video of the appearance, and observes "As humorous as it was to see a self-styled conservative chalk up his character failings to root causes (the 'wicked' society in which he was raised), it was sobering to see a politician so at sea that he resembled Ted Kennedy at Chappaquidick."

UPDATE: A reader emails:

From the coverage I saw on CNN, Lott's performance last night brought to mind the line Shakespeare gave to Julius Caesar:

"Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once."

Someone make a note: In looking for a new Majority Leader, put "character" and "courage" on the list (along with "intelligence" and "judgment").


THE REPORT ON PIM FORTUYN'S ASSASSINATION IS OUT, and Michiel Visser is on the story.

UNDER THE RADAR: Radley Balko reports that "longtime drug warrior Dan Burton made some stunning comments. In a hearing entitled 'America's Heroin Crisis, Colombian Heroin and How We Can Improve Plan Colombia,' Burton stopped just a hair short of advocating the decriminalization of drugs."

Balko's got video.

MORE DOUBTS on the authenticity of the bin Laden tape.

I'm kind of skeptical of this analysis, though. . . .

READER WILL WARREN is fact-checking Trent Lott:

In Lott's BET appearance, when he was discussing his born-again commitment to affirmative action, he told a factual whopper that I haven't seen anybody pick up on yet.

The Lott quote: "Again, you can get into arguments about timetables and quotas. Here's what I think, though: I think you've got to have an aggressive effort in America to make everybody have a chance. Harvard has a program where one in three of their students are alumni children. That, you know, we need to balance this out more, and I think that we should encourage minorities to have an opportunity across the board."

One in three? 33% of Harvard students are "legacies"?! How we still groan under the yoke of unjust inherited privilege!

Problem: not true. Not even close. According to the Boston Globe, children of alumni actually make up "about 10%" of each Harvard entering class.

Apparently the Senate Republican leader, having suddenly joined the enthusiasts for racial preferences, has immediately adopted their common practice of greatly exaggerating the institutional obstacles faced by black Americans today.

But perhaps Harvard is an exception; perhaps Mr. Lott need only find another college that fits his "one in three" notion. To get a broader picture of the boot heel of oppression under which those not born to academic privilege now suffer of the unjust class system in which some blacks don't "have a chance," in the Republican leader's words, Googling for "the class of" and "children of alumni" or "alumni children" reveals the following percentages of alumni children in recent freshman classes of other institutions:

Princeton: 12.4%; 11.6% (different years)
Yale: 13.4%
U. of Penn.: 10%
Brown: 7%; "about 10%" (different years)
Columbia: 6%
Cornell: 13%
U. of Chicago: "just over 5 percent"
Bucknell: 5.6%
Boston College: 12.1%
Holy Cross: 10.7%
Wake Forest: "about 8%"
Johns Hopkins: 12.4%
Notre Dame: 23%; 22% (different years)
Ithaca College: 1.8%
U. of Virginia: 12.6%
U. of Rochester: 5.4%
Amherst: 10%
Middlebury: 5%
Colby: 4%
Villanova: 7%

I am just stunned by the injustice of it all. Do we really want to live in a world in which only 9 out of 10 students at our most elite colleges are not the children of alumni? In which, even at less selective colleges, only 95 to 98 out of 100 students are not "legacies"? Praise the Lord that the Senate Republican leader has seen the light!

I haven't checked these data myself, but Warren's always been trustworthy.

"ANTI-BRONTEISM" is haunting America's workforce. Something must be done!

LOTT'S B.E.T. APPEARANCE seems mostly to have made him the butt of jokes. Kind of mean ones.

THE NEW YORK TIMES HAS A GOOD STORY on the Lott affair, and how it was kept alive from the right, not the left.

I've heard some folks say "I'd rather lose the Senate than keep it with Lott as Majority Leader." I think that's right, though I think Lott's purported threat to quit and let the Democrats take the Senate is hot air and bluster even if the reports are true. He won't go back to Mississippi -- they never do. And he won't be able to stay in Washington and make a living as a fat-cat lobbyist after (1) making racist remarks; and then (2) betraying his party. And he knows that.

This story in the Christian Science Monitor sort of agrees, though it goes out of its way to minimize the contributions of weblogs. Well, I agree with Kaus that we should avoid "blogger triumphalism" here. But the story quotes an "online media expert" as saying that NPR drove the story, which is just absurd.

SOUR BOB HAS A NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION that I'd like to echo. And he's dissing Dr. Phil something fierce, too.


Gun controls that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals -- as opposed to ordinary Americans -- wouldn't violate even a strong individual-right interpretation of the Second Amendment. The real barriers to gun control are political, and would largely vanish if Americans trusted the courts to protect their Second Amendment rights.


Moore is not interested in exploring complexity. He likes to find scapegoats - generally some mix of corporations, America, and "stupid white males" - and hammer them. To properly arouse anger at his scapegoats, he ignores nuance and subtlety, and misrepresents statistics. It is not enough to criticize the NRA - Moore needs to make Charlton Heston look like a racist. It is not enough to find out why other countries have a lower murder rate than the US - Moore needs to make the difference in murder rates sound 20 times as bad as it is. And God knows he can't admit that in other crime categories America is actually safer than other countries. Then people might actually take a balanced look at the US, instead of finding America despicable.

Moore is an extremely funny commentator, and he's a talented filmmaker. Often his observations about politics are bluntly true, and need saying. But he wastes his talent on hatchet jobs. An honest and thought-provoking documentary about violence in America would be extremely valuable. That Michael Moore is incapable of making such a movie is everyone's loss.

That Moore is the number-one lefty commentator of the moment is explanation enough for why the left has lost the moral high ground.

ANDREW SULLIVAN has it right:

I'm second to few in believing that Trent Lott should step down as SML. But that doesn't mean I like the racial politics of the current Democratic Party. In fact, the way some far-left Democrats use race is no less repulsive than the way some far-right Republicans do. The equation of opposition to affirmative action or hate-crime laws or any other number of leftist policies with racism strikes me as a massively cheap shot. (I was on WBUR last night and paleo-lib Jack Beatty went straight to that knee-jerk point. Grrrr.) And the blithe assumption of moral superiority is equally galling.

Galling, and unjustified. The Democrats lost the high ground on race when they became the party of quotas and racial spoils systems instead of equal opportunity. That was sometime back before I hit puberty.

UPDATE: Armed Liberal has some thoughts on the "high ground."

December 16, 2002

DAN HANSON HAS advice for celebrities touring Iraq.

IN THE EARLY STAGES OF THE LOTT AFFAIR, I seem to recall a bit of Canadian condescension about America's race problems. I guess that's over with.

YASSER ARAFAT seems to be behind in his paperwork. I know how it feels.

FLOOD THE ZONE! It's a cathartic Lott-a-Rama over at Unqualified Offerings. Just keep scrolling.

BEN STEIN has a pessimistic column. I think that things are much better than he makes them sound, though I agree with his main point.

UPDATE: Sasha Volokh has a thoughtful response.

A SHOCKING NEW REVELATION about Trent Lott. Well, after Bill Clinton I guess it's not entirely shocking.

UPDATE: I didn't see the BET appearance (Rugrats takes precedence around here) but Josh Marshall says that Trent Lott is "toast" and Rod Dreher says it's time for a "mercy killing."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Drudge says it's "step down or be pushed" for Lott.

ERIN O'CONNOR, who has stayed on top of the Boalt sexual harassment case, says that -- despite claims by one professor that the problem is the Berkeley law school's sexist culture -- the real problem is its alcoholic culture.

FUNDITRY has been keeping a list of people who want Trent Lott to step down. It's getting pretty long.

UPDATE -- EQUAL TIME: Phil Bowermaster has posted a list of Lott's supporters.

THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY has been discussing the question of whether there could be a Bellesiles in the legal-scholarship world. I think the answer is "yes and no."

No, I don't think that someone who engaged in Bellesiles' extensive pattern of fabrication and misquotation could get away with it in a typical law review. Law reviews check statements against footnotes to ensure that the sources cited in the footnotes actually say what the article claims they do. This isn't perfect -- nothing is -- but my experience is that it tends more often to be excruciatingly exact than sloppy. Bellesiles' fabricated probate records might not have been caught this way, as law review staffers wouldn't visit the archives, and might not have asked him to produce his summaries of data. But his many other misrepresentations would have turned up, and that probably would have led to him being asked to provide more support or have his article rejected.

Peer review doesn't do this. On the other hand, it's stronger on the subject of methodology. Law students don't generally know much about methodology, or statistics (though there's usually one person on a law review staff who knows something about the subject). Peer reviewers do, and they pay a lot of attention. But they don't generally check the data, so peer review is chiefly a protection against honest but inept work, not out-and-out fraud. A good academic fraud, after all, is meticulous on methodology, but then makes up the data to achieve the desired result.

When Bellesiles' problems first came under discussion, a number of historians on a constitutional-law email list I subscribe to dismissed legal scholars' critiques as meaningless because law journals aren't peer-reviewed. That was something of a non sequitur, of course. Their faith in peer-review also turned out to be just plain wrong. Peer review didn't stop Bellesiles. Law review cite-checking would have. That's hardly dispositive as to the relative value of legal or historical scholarship, but it does suggest that the genial contempt sometimes expressed toward legal scholarship by historians is a bit hubristic.

UPDATE: Clayton Cramer has some further observations on peer review, and links to a photocopy of a letter from a peer-reviewed journal that's worth reading.

TALKLEFT HAS A ROUNDUP of developments in the Racine, Wisconsin rave case.

FLOOD THE ZONE! Best of the Web has a lot of Lott news today. I've tried to write about other stuff, so if you want the latest on the machinations among Senate Republicans, hop on over there.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall, by the way, is really the blogger who broke this story, and what's interesting is that this transcript from CNN lists him as "JOSHUA MARSHALL, TALKINGPOINTSMEMO.COM" rather than in terms of his connection to The Washington Monthly.

HOW DARE WE IMPOSE FREEDOM ON THE IRAQIS WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT! I saw something along these lines on some antiwar blog earlier, but I forget where it was. However, even that rather dubious line of argument just got weaker as there's some evidence that it wouldn't be without their consent:

IN A REPORT released early this month, International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, found that most Iraqis interviewed support the idea of an invasion, as well as U.S. occupation during the transition to a post-Saddam government. Iraqis have had it with more than a decade of impoverishment, isolation and fear, says the study’s researcher who asked not to be named. “I found very few people who were against American intervention,” the researcher says. “People are depressed, exhausted. They can’t take it anymore.” Those against intervention, she says, enjoyed privileges under the regime, or they feared Americans would call for a rising against Saddam, then abandon it (as in the aftermath of the Kuwait war in 1991). But a young Baghdad architect summarizes the majority opinion: “We do not particularly want a U.S. military strike, but we do want a political change. We have nothing to lose, and it cannot be any worse than our current condition.”

Well, I don't know that it's possible to do any kind of scientific polling in a police state, but this is certainly at least as valuable as the usual stuff reported from Saddam's mouthpieces.

UPDATE: Reader Richard Wolf emails:

Do you think Sean Penn is bothering to speak to any of these people, or is he simply getting the Tour For The Useful Idiots?

In the words of a famous psychiatrist, what do you think?

WHAT THE DIXIECRATS BELIEVED: One of Lott's lamer defenses is that the Thurmond candidacy was about federalism and individual liberty. It's lame because, well, it's a lie. Here's what Dave Kopel has to say:

There were five major sections of the Dixiecrat platform, one of which denounced "proposed FBI powers," and featured frantic warnings that the Democrats and Republicans both wanted to impose a totalitarian police state. In the platform's final section, "New Policy," two of the eight platform items further condemned "the effort to establish nation-wide a police state in this republic." (The Smoking Gun has an online version of the final section; TSG's version is from a state convention, and differs in some small ways from the final section of the official platform.)

Now if Senators Thurmond and Lott had adhered to this particular language of the 1948 platform, things might indeed be better in this country. But to the contrary, the Dixiecrat concerns about a police state appear to have existed solely in the context [of] federal efforts to secure civil rights for black people.

Jim Henley, who also has a link to the Dixiecrat platform, observes:

It's dispiriting to see so much talk of constitutionalism and individual liberty and opposition to enlarging the federal police power - all things that mean a great deal to me - so...befouled by their inclusion in this document, one whose fourth through sixth points make it clear that all those principles meant to them was the power to bring the full weight of state and local police power down on black chests. It's a theme, the contamination of your beliefs by odious people who hold a version of them, that I've had occasion to consider this weekend at length.

One thing alone cheers me up: their patent insincerity about constitutionalism and individual liberty and federal police power. Reading this document, you can be pretty sure that a Thurmond Administration would have enthusiastically swung the power of the federal government toward preserving segregation. You can imagine Thurmond directing J. Edgar Hoover to deal with "outside agitators," resegregating the army and passing latter-day "fugitive slave" laws to force states outside the region to support southern efforts to retard or reverse civil rights. (Viz. the Dred Scott decision, which, taken to its logical conclusions, would essentially have re-instituted slavery in the antebellum North.)

Thurmond, et al., weren't friends of federalism or liberty. They were racists who posed as friends of federalism and liberty -- and by doing so, brought disregard on the very things they claimed to honor. Much as some other people have done in the name of "equality."

STEVE SAILER'S DISSING ME, over the Lott affair, though I have to say that his disrespect hasn't stopped him spamming me with emails in the past in the hopes of getting some attention.

I don't like Sailer's stuff, or his anti-immigration site for reasons that should be pretty obvious. I'm not surprised that he's sticking up for Lott. That he's doing so reflects badly on Sailer. And on Lott.

The good news is that, beyond the fringe, America seems to have outgrown this stuff.

UPDATE: In fairness to Sailer, I have to admit that he's dead-on in saying that fast typing is the secret to my success. Kids: stay in school, and take typing! Thanks, Mrs. Pack -- I owe it all to you.

ANOTHER UPDATE: In response to an email from a reader, no, I don't think that an opposition to illegal immigration is necessarily racist. And, in fact, legal immigrants are often notable for their hostility to illegal immigration -- having jumped through the hoops themselves, they naturally resent those who bypass the hoops entirely.

LIBERAL OVERREACH: Daniel Drezner, who was giving good advice to Republicans last week, now has some advice for the Democrats, who probably won't be smart enough to take it either.


I'M TEMPTED TO START AN ANGLICAN-CLERGY RISIBILITY WATCH, but this item convinces me that I don't have the time to do it justice:

A Church of England bishop has attacked "sentimental" Christmas card portrayals of the Nativity, saying that Jesus's family were asylum seekers and the three Wise Men were part of an assassination plot.

He means a "Jewish assassination plot," of course. Santa dead, the Three Wise Men assassins -- what's next from these guys? Mary Magdalen as a "transgressive performance artist?" Hell, that would make more sense.

UPDATE: William Sjostrom emails a link to a post that says I'm wrong to call this pronouncement "risible" and after reading it I think he's right. He also has a link to the original letter, which gives a bit more context than the Telegraph story, which seems to have given it as PC-ish a spin as possible.

Sorry. I guess I was primed for risibility by various other things that have come out lately, which kept me from giving the good Bishop the benefit of the doubt. I stand corrected. [Shouldn't you wait 8 years to post this correction? -- Ed. No, that's the old media way!]

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kathryn Jean Lopez has linked to Sjostrom, too. She says: "the Telegraph may have just been looking to make trouble (and I took the bait!)." Me, too.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader points out that the press release was revised today (see the upper left-hand corner), suggesting that just possibly the Telegraph wasn't spinning as hard as it seems. Anybody got a copy of the original version?

CRIME IS UP! CRIME IS DOWN! CRIME IS SIDEWAYS? Iain Murray comments on the new FBI crime figures. Excerpt:

The really interesting news is in the regional variation. Crime grew in the West by 6%, with violent crime up 2%, murder up almost 8%, property crime up 6%, burglary up 6% and auto theft up an amazing 15%. These numbers wiped out the continuing decreases in crime in the Northeast and Midwest and the static rate in the South. The West coast is facing a real crime problem that the rest of the country is not.

Interesting. I wonder what could account for that?

UPDATE: Reader John Roney emails:

CA's largest city, LA, has had a police force in disarray. Crime rates up. SF has the lowest rate of solving murders of any major city in the US. (Which was news to the police chief). Seattle had a PC police force that was not very effective, riots pushed out chief, new guy not much better. Oakland has had a record 100+ murders this year.

These are just the cities that I am familiar with. So it could be a case that a confluence of lousy police departments at some of the West's largest cities is throwing the average off.

Hmm. I wonder. It's not like all the big East Coast police forces are so great, but I suppose only DC counts as a true disaster.

UPDATE: Reader Ashby Beal deplores my prejudice against the District of Columbia and demands evidence that its police force is a disaster. Well, it was a disaster when I lived there. According to this 1997 article from The New Republic it was a disaster in 1997:

In the District of Columbia, where the violent crime rate is triple the national average, the fundamental processes of law enforcement have simply broken down. A properly functioning police system should clear homicide cases--that is, a suspect is arrested and indicted--at a rate of at least 75 percent. The homicide clearance rate in the District is at the moment hovering around the terrifyingly low level of 30 percent, which means that in 70 percent of killings, no one is ever indicted, much less convicted. No other major police department in America approaches this level of cataclysmic failure. Even the problem-plagued Los Angeles Police Department, which must cope with large-scale and chronic gang warfare, clears 54 percent of its homicides.

And the failure of the homicide branch is merely a part of the whole. With 663 officers per 100,000 residents, Washington has almost three times more cops than the national average. Despite this, its Metropolitan Police Department barely functions.

I haven't seen any evidence of improvement. Am I missing something?

UPDATE: D.C. Reader Doug Jordan emails:

Oh, BTW, the DC police force, while not exactly crack, is not a disaster at the moment. The homicide clearance rate is awful, but given the amount of intramural drug violence that goes into the statistics, that is going to be hard to fix. The current police chief is media-savvy and shakes things up on occasion. And the force could give lessons to some third world nations in riot control after the past couple of years of globalization demonstrations.


But the RIAA seems to be having a few problems with the facts itself.

Yesterday it issued a press release announcing a piracy bust in New York which unearthed 421 CD-R burners.

Only there weren't 421 burners, but "the equivalent of 421 burners."

In fact, there were just 156. How did the RIAA account for this discrepancy?

"There were only 156 actual burners, but some run at very high speeds: some as high as 40x. This is well above the average speed," was the official line yesterday.

I guess that means that I own 70 cars. That's because my car, with an alleged top speed of 140 miles per hour, is seventy times as fast as the first automobile, a steam-powered contraption that had a top speed of 2 miles per hour!

This is pathetic. The story also raises another question: why is the Secret Service -- supposedly busy fighting terror, etc. -- acting as hired thugs on behalf of the recording industry? Then again, the Secret Service isn't covering itself with glory there, either.


BETTER LATE THAN NEVER, I GUESS: From the corrections page in today's New York Times:

An article on Nov. 28, 1994, about the science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke and his home in Sri Lanka misstated the surname of a University of Tennessee law professor who nominated the writer that year for the Nobel Peace Prize, for his humanist approach to technology. The professor is Glenn Harlan Reynolds, not Roberts. A reader recently brought the error to The Times's attention.

Is this a record?

Thanks to reader Tucker Goodrich for noticing.

UPDATE: Reader Andy Freeman says this isn't even close to a record:

In 1919, Goddard wrote a scientific article, "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes," describing a high-altitude rocket; this ground-breaking article was published in a Smithsonian report. Misunderstanding the article completely, the New York Times newspaper ridiculed Goddard in a Jan. 13, 1920, editorial, stating that space travel was impossible, and that Goddard "seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools." They stated that rocket thrust would not work in a vacuum, apparently believing that Newton's Third Law (that every force has an equal and opposite reaction) was not valid in space. The NY Times did not print a retraction until 3 days before men landed on the moon (p. 43, July 17, 1969).

Oh, yeah. I had forgotten that one, even though it's mentioned in one of my books. Well, as I said, better late than never.

VINTAGE GADGETS MUSEUM: Gizmodo has an item on the first Sony Walkman. I saw one of these shortly before they went on sale -- I was working in a department store when they brought a demo around. I remember being blown away by the sound, and the concept of being able to wear a high-quality stereo. I still think that's cool.

HOWARD KURTZ WRITES about how Big Media nearly missed the Trent Lott story, and why:

By Monday, with the mainstream press still largely snoozing, Web writers were leading the charge. Andrew Sullivan: "Either they get rid of Lott as majority leader or they should come out formally as a party that regrets desegregation and civil rights for African-Americans." Joshua Micah Marshall: "The real question is why this incident is still being treated as no more than a minor embarrassment or a simple gaffe." National Review Online's David Frum: "What came out of his mouth was the most emphatic repudiation of desegregation to be heard from a national political figure since George Wallace's first presidential campaign." . . .

Now the press is digging into Lott's history of opposing civil rights measures -- a public record that was barely mentioned when he became majority leader six years ago. Time's Karen Tumulty wrote that Lott told her in the early 1980s that he had helped prevent blacks from integrating his Ole Miss fraternity. Tumulty says she didn't report it at the time because Lott was an obscure Mississippi congressman -- who was trying to needle her Los Angeles Times boss (and future CNN chairman) Tom Johnson for also opposing integration at his own fraternity chapter.

Read the whole thing.

MICKEY KAUS and John Ellis have thoughts on the 2004 primaries.

The big winner so far is Al Gore. He reminds me a bit of a student we had at the Law School some years ago, from a large family of prominent lawyers, who flunked out. His reaction: relief. "Now they'll quit pestering me to go into the family business, and I can do what I want," he said.

UPDATE: John Scalzi's comments on Gore are amusing:

Make no mistake, Gore would win the 2004 Democratic nomination, on the backs of hardcore Democrats who would pull the lever for him for the same reason legions of Star Wars geeks trudge joylessly to George Lucas' latest betrayal of their trust: Because that's what expected of them, and because if they didn't, they'd be admitting that former investment of time and energy was a complete waste. Meanwhile, the rest of pool of the potential Democratic voters, who are not glumly enthralled by Democratic Jedi mind tricks, will get a look at Gore's reheated visage and say: Screw this, let's go catch The Matrix. . . .

Anyway, Gore's better off where he is. Right now there's still a sizable chunk of people who feel vaguely that the man got screwed out of a job; better to ride that wave of disassociated pity to a posh sinecure on the lecture circuit and a kingmaker perch in Democratic politics, than lose unambiguously and stink up the room like the second coming of Mike Dukakis.

Scalzi has some good observations on Trent Lott, and Andrew Sullivan's "Pledge Week," too.

UH OH. Looks like another dropped ball.

December 15, 2002


White House aides were taken aback last week when Henry Kissinger, seeking to avoid further controversy about his consulting business, abruptly stepped down as chair of the independent commission to investigate the 9-11 terrorist attacks. But some administration sources say they may have only themselves to blame. Unlike other high-profile presidential appointments, NEWSWEEK has learned, Kissinger was never “vetted” for conflicts of interest by White House lawyers.

I served on a very low-profile White House advisory panel some years ago. I had to fill out rather a lot of conflict-of-interest paperwork, and what I did was the streamlined version that people who don't matter and aren't likely to have conflicts filled out. Nonetheless, I had to disclose where all my money comes from, who I owed money to, where I had lived over an extended period, etc., etc., etc. But Kissinger, well. . . . it's just absurd. The only excuse I can think of is that everyone knows that Kissinger is a walking, talking conflict of interest, so that there's no need for disclosure -- a view that, strangely, almost makes sense.

Still, this is another example of dreadful tone-deafness. If the Afghan War and the midterm elections showed that the White House can run a taut, effective operation, this (together with the fact that Trent Lott's problems continue to ramify) shows that "can" isn't the same as "always will."

I GOT A ROUGH-CUT VIDEO from the folks producing the PBS "Media Matters" program on weblogs, which will air in January. It's pretty cool, though the radical Max-Headroom-like lighting they used on me in one segment is not entirely flattering. Er, unless you're a really big Max Headroom fan.

But I have to say, the biggest surprise is what a babe Megan McArdle turns out to be. We taped on different days, and I didn't meet her, and I guess I've been foolish enough to let my mental picture be colored by her various self-deprecating remarks on her blog. Silly me. (Anil Dash looked better than the picture on his weblog, too, but somehow it wasn't as striking.)

I also think that Oliver Willis should have his own TV show. Soon.

TRANSPARENCY works both ways. Heh.

SO I'VE BEEN GONE and missed the chance to post much on how justice has caught up with Michael Bellesiles, but not yet with Trent Lott.

I think that there are parallels. Oh, not in the underlying offenses. But what puzzles many about the Bellesiles affair is that Bellesiles could have put paid to it early by simply admitting error. Instead, he kept issuing inconsistent statements and whining about persecution. Lott has done something similar. If he had issued Friday's apology (except perhaps for the self-justification and self-pity) a week earlier, the whole thing would have been over. But he didn't.

Everybody has a blind spot, or a tin ear, about something. When that happens, you hope that your friends will point it out. Bellesiles, instead, had a bunch of scholars who saw themselves as members of his team rally around. By the time their defenses (which weren't based on studying the issue) petered out, Bellesiles' opportunity to confess error had passed. I think something similar probably happened with Lott -- a bunch of his friends told him it was no big deal, and that he didn't need to worry. By the time he realized they were wrong, it was too late.

I don't know if it's true, but some people say that the Bush Administration treats internal critics as disloyal. If it is true, then the Administration needs to recognize that if you surround yourselves with people who tell you you're right, then they'd better be right, too. Because you're a lot less likely to realize that you're wrong until it's too late.

WELL, WE'RE BACK, though regular blogging won't resume until later. We went up to attend my brother's girlfriend's fiancee's graduation ceremony. She actually got her degree last summer (summa cum laude), and is already hard at work in a Master's Program in Robotics, but there was no summer graduation ceremony, so she donned cap and gown and marched with the graduates yesterday.

We then had a lovely dinner and watched a Nigerian movie, To Rise Again, on DVD. Nigeria's film industry is booming, and this production was pretty polished -- a rather odd mixture of Scarface, Sliding Doors, and It's a Wonderful Life. Like most Nigerian films, (even the far-less-polished Demon Boy of Lagos) it had a strong Christian theme. As I believe I posted a while back, Nigeria's film industry is taking over Africa, beating out the rival Ghanaians and even cutting into the Bollywood market share. That the industry is located in the South, and strongly Christian in its interests, is likely to have impacts throughout Africa, where there's something of a religious Cold War underway. But more on that kind of stuff later.

We're very proud of Victoria, who arrived in America at the age of 18 with nothing but a green card acquired via the State Department's lottery, a suitcase, and $150. She's accomplished quite a lot since, and we're looking forward to having her as part of the family.

More later.