December 28, 2002

GOOD NEWS in Kenya.

BILL FRIST: Lackey of Eli Lilly? Or of Rosalynn Carter? I've been trying to get to the bottom of this pseudo-scandal (there's an earlier post here, with links to still earlier ones) and have found, via the magic of Westlaw, a long Senate floor speech by Frist in favor of the liability limits. Follow the link to read it -- it's posted over at InstaPundit EXTRA! because it's just too damned long to post here. Frist, as you'll see, is quoting "Every Child By Two," the Rosalynn Carter - Betty Bumpers campaign for vaccination, in support of the language, and in debunking a New York Times article on thimerosal that misquoted important sources. (He quotes the sources, too, who say that the Times was woefully deficient in fact-checking.)

Also, any readers familiar with the history of this, please let me know if I'm right about the timeline here. I believe that Armey put the language in the bill originally (er, because he said so, on CNN) and that the bill passed the House, with that language in it, and then went to the Senate, where the actual question was over an attempt by Joe Lieberman to take the House language out.

Am I right about this? Because if I am, then what Bill Keller and Eleanor Clift are accusing Frist of -- putting the language in the bill -- is not only contradicted by Dick Armey's statement, but was also impossible because the Senate action was about removing language that was already there, not about putting the language in in the first place. I don't swear that I'm right about this, as the history is awfully complex, but that's how it looks.

But at the very least, claims that Frist was acting secretly in support of the language are contradicted by the speech -- on the Senate floor -- supporting the language. And claims that this was some sort of sleazy corporate bailout would seem to be contradicted by the words from the Rosalynn Carter - Betty Bumpers Campaign. Unless the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has gotten really, really vast.

Here's a link to an oped by Carter and Bumpers denouncing what they call "Internet scare campaigns" about vaccines. And here is a link to a newsletter at the Carter / Bumpers campaign page that says the language originated in the House, and is intended to keep trial lawyers from end-running laws already in existence:

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) was enacted by Congress as a no-fault alternative to the tort system for resolving claims resulting from adverse reactions to mandated childhood vaccines. Claimants have the option to file vaccine injury lawsuits against physicians who administer vaccines and vaccine manufacturers only after their claim is adjudicated under the VICP and the judgment is rejected by the claimants. Recent lawsuits have gone directly to the tort system by claiming that thimerosal was an additive to the vaccine and therefore not applicable to the VICP. If the Senate passes this bill, parents will be required to file thimerosal claims first through the VICP. The unfortunate consequence of this provision has been the inadvertent fueling of fears, by several Senators and the press, that vaccines cause autism.

Follow the link to read Frist's speech and I think you'll see that he's on the same page as the Carter-Bumpers Campaign. (The "several Senators" are opponents of the language, one of whom Frist quotes, and "the press" appears to refer to the New York Times' flawed account). Which I think makes this an even more pathetic -- if slightly more successful -- effort at pseudo-scandal than the pencil incident.

What penance will Bill Keller assign himself?

UPDATE: Talkleft emails a link to this story from the Washington Post dated December 20 that says Frist wrote the thimerosal provision. I'm confused, though, because the article doesn't mention Armey at all (again!) and the Tom Paine reward offer (re-weaseled to avoid crediting Dick Armey -- or paying the reward to me!) is still up, with no mention of Frist on the page. Nor is there any context about the purpose of the amendment, or who else supported it. But there must be a pony here somewhere, right?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Nora Cannon emails in response to the Post story:

Yuck: "Frist wrote a provision, enacted into law, that restricted the ability of plaintiffs to sue the company for injuries resulting from Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines against childhood diseases. The Lilly provision was quietly woven into the legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security."

Some technical truth to that as worded, but intentionally misleading. Frist wrote a free standing bill; here's a column he wrote on it: Link

Here is the summary from Thomas:

Sponsor: Sen Frist, Bill(introduced 3/21/2002)
Latest Major Action: 3/21/2002 Referred to Senate committee.
Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Title: A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to improve immunization rates by increasing the distribution of vaccines and improving and clarifying the vaccine injury compensation program, and for other purposes. (search bill number here: )

The particular provision is:

Section 2133(5) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 300aa-33(5)) is amended by adding at the end the following: `For purposes of the preceding sentence, an adulterant or contaminant shall not include any component or ingredient listed in a vaccine's product license application or product label.'.

And that, of course, addresses the concern pointed out by the Carter - Bumpers campaign above -- that trial lawyers were using the "adulterant" claim regarding thimerosal to end-run existing law.

All evidence seems to indicate that this is a bogus issue from top to bottom. TomPaine.Com should be ashamed for trying to make so much of it (not to mention for welshing on their prize award, which would have put me that much closer to a 350Z!) and Bill Keller and Eleanor Clift should be ashamed of being suckered this way.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Tom Dahlgren writes: "Call me paranoid but doesn't it seem that, Bill Kellor and Eleanor Clift are all working from the same memo? Maybe a DNC memo? This whole non-event-event sure seems very Blumethal-esque." Hmm. Maybe someone will investigate that.

I emailed Bill Keller about this yesterday, but I haven't heard back. It is the weekend, though, a time when only unpaid bloggers answer their email.

COLBY COSH SAYS that Patty Murray and I are both wrong. Well, sort of. (My response: "Fwee Muwway!")

He also points readers to the blog of Sarah Eve Kelly, which is indeed worth reading.

DROP BY MISSY'S and wish her happy birthday!

WELL, I CAN POST ABOUT war, disease, and cheap political tricks -- but what generates the most email? Barbecue! Here's one I can't argue with, though, from Ft. Collins, Colorado reader Gary Rosenlieb:

Well, you are correct that you can get into an honest, and sometimes violent, debate on who serves the best barbeque. I have never had the pleasure of eating at Ollie's, but for my money I think you have one of the best in the country right there in Knoxville in the form of Calhoun's. I have had occasion to travel through there on business about twice a year, and I always make it a point to stop at Calhoun's for a full slab of ribs.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner, it doesn't matter. Always bring back two or three bottles of their sauce too.

Yep. And their microbrewery doesn't suck, either. We're also fortunate to have a branch of Corky's, a Memphis operation here, as well as a local chain called Buddy's that's pretty good. It's a wonder I don't weigh 300 pounds. But as John Tower once said, I am a man of no small self-control.

FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS ASSISTED 9/11 HIJACKERS: That's what Senator Bob Graham reports, in a statement that I had missed. Excerpt:

I think there is very compelling evidence that at least some of the terrorists were assisted not just in financing -- although that was part of it -- by a sovereign foreign government and that we have been derelict in our duty to track that down.

The Memory Hole (link above) has more excerpts. Here's a link to the full transcript. Funny that the Democrats aren't all over this issue.

FOOLED! Bill Keller falls for the bogus "Eli Lilly Bandit" story in today's New York Times.

In the twilight of the Congressional session, some legislator anonymously arranged for a provision to be slipped into the Homeland Security bill protecting vaccine makers (mainly Eli Lilly) from lawsuits filed by the parents of autistic children. Hundreds of parents are pressing a claim that the mercury in a measles vaccine contributed to their children's disorder. For all I know, the suit may be baseless, but surely that's for a court to decide. This is a glaring example of legislative malfeasance. And strong evidence points to Dr. Frist as its author. He is cozy with Lilly and he drafted identical legislative language earlier. But he refuses to own up to it.

Penance, anyone?

Maybe Frist refuses to own up to it because, you know, Keller is wrong. Sorry, but there's no mystery here -- except maybe one manufactured by interest groups to fool the gullible. As I reported here, Dick Armey admits it was him. (This was no great scoop on my part, since Armey admitted it live on CNN! "ARMEY: I put it in.") And -- in the process of trying to weasel out of paying the promised reward -- TomPaine.Com, the spreader-in-chief of the "Eli Lilly Bandit" story, seems to have accepted that it was Armey too.

So why is Bill Keller repeating this already-exploded story of a "mystery?" Worse yet, despite Armey's public statement, now several weeks old, Keller suggests that the "anonymous" legislator was Bill Frist. If Keller knew that Armey had admitted this, surely his comments would reflect Armey's admission -- it's quite different to say "Dick Armey admits it, but I don't believe him" than to say what Keller says above. Since Keller makes no mention of it, I can only conclude that he somehow missed out on the story.

Obviously, he doesn't read enough blogs. Or, at least, enough InstaPundit!

What penance will Keller offer? I'd say an apology in his next column would be sufficient. And, perhaps, a promise to do better in the future, by diligently reading more weblogs. . . .

UPDATE: Eleanor Clift falls for it, too:

The liberal Web site offered a $10,000 reward for “the Eli Lilly bandit.”

The Lott imbroglio diverted attention from the mystery, but not for long. As reporters delved into the legislative background of the man who would replace Lott, the trail led to none other than Frist as the anonymous author. In retrospect, Frist should have been easy to finger. He had written similar language and tried to attach it to legislation once before, and he had praised the provision’s intent in congressional debate.

Once again, no mention whatsoever of Dick Armey's statement. Why is it that when another guy confesses, it gets the Central Park Five off the hook, but here nobody's paying attention? And lame efforts to claim that the "real question" isn't what TomPaine said it was at first, but what TomPaine says it is now, just illustrate what's going on here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Tom Healey writes:

In another paragraph, she cites's reward, but not does not mention that the site seems to have accepted that Rep. Armey was the bandit.

It's surprising that Clift accuses Frist so flatly. Based on the limited information she provides about Frist's history on the issue, he has been open about his support for the provision in the past. Why would that make him more likely to be anonymous about it now?

Also, is the very similar ending to Bill Keller's NYT column today a coincidence or more evidence that many of the big paper columnists read the same messages from the same e-flacks, consistent with Mickey Kaus's theory about Sidney Blumenthal and Lott's Thurmond speech?

Finally, Keller admits to knowing nothing about whether the rider was a good idea, but being concerned that this was an improper way to legislate. And although she says it was a 'blatant' payback from Frist to Lilly, Clift doesn't talk about the merits of the rider either. Somehow I doubt that either of them has ever hounded Democrats for anonymous riders based simply on 'open government' principles.

Yes, and -- as I said earlier -- this whole thing seems bogus to me. It's a demand to uncover a "secret" that was revealed on CNN, about a (common) legislative maneuver that was designed to protect a company from being groundlessly sued for doing something that, as far as I can tell, wasn't wrong.

UPDATE: It's looking even more bogus with further research.

GARY HART UPDATE: The Hart trial balloon floats skyward in The New Republic.

Just remember where you heard it first!

WHENEVER I SAY BAD THINGS ABOUT THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, and especially its police department, I get angry email accusing me of "D.C.-bashing," and saying that my impressions are out of date. Only I keep reading things like this:

The nexus between corruption and the vast areas of moral wasteland within the D.C. government is a topic that should come up next week when Mayor Anthony Williams delivers his second inaugural address.

It won't. . . .

The speech will have everything but a candid assessment of the District's dirty open secret: Despite Marion Barry's four-year official absence, a culture of corruption is still present in the city.

Calendar year 2002 saw a steady stream of high-profile scandals, including improper fundraising activities in the mayor's office, the Democratic primary petition fraud, the bankruptcy of Greater Southeast Community Hospital due to financial shenanigans by its owners, and now the unfolding story of the alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars in Washington Teachers' Union funds. A constant throughout all of these improprieties is, of course, Anthony Williams's association with most of the scandals' major actors.

All this within one year. Why? . . .

Because a pervasive climate of impunity prevails in the city. It thrives in a culture where explicit, measurable job performance standards don't exist, where favoritism and nepotism carry the day, and where sanctions and firings are reserved for people without connections. And when the person at the top of the government wins elections but, through years of actions and inaction, compromises and squanders his moral authority, what should you expect from the people at the bottom?

So is Colbert King out of touch with the District, too? And what about this?

UPDATE: Nikita Demosthenes has some observations.

I'VE SUSPECTED THIS CONNECTION FOR SOME TIME, and StrategyPage offers support:

Thousands of Islamic terrorists have fled Algeria in the last five years, as the army and police gained the upper hand in its war against terrorism. Many of these men fled to Canada and Europe, where they have established al Qaeda cells.

Keep your eye on the Algerian connection. And on who's connected to the Algerians.

CATS AND DOGS, LIVING TOGETHER: Mickey Kaus is praising Paul Krugman -- for his humility!

IT DOESN'T GET MUCH MORE RED-AMERICA THAN THIS: Yesterday, my grandmother and I stopped for barbecue on the way (yes, it was a two-barbecue-stand week! Woohoo!). Here's a view of the lobby at what is, in my opinion, the best barbecue place in the greater Birmingham area -- though that is, naturally enough, a controversial opinion.

Interestingly, though, I've never heard anyone claim that Ollie's Barbecue -- integrated by order of the Supreme Court in the case of Katzenbach v. McClung -- is the best in town, though. In fact, it wouldn't make most people's top ten. I've eaten there, and while it doesn't suck (it's hard to get bad barbecue in Alabama) it's no great shakes. Obviously, whatever criteria were involved in choosing Ollie's for that case had nothing to do with barbecue excellence.

UPDATE: Law-professor (and commerce clause expert) Brannon Denning emails:

FYI, Ollie's closed down in 2000 or 2001. It had moved out to the 'burbs from its downtown location, and couldn't make a go of it. Ollie Sr. died some time ago, and Ollie Jr. had been running it since then. Folks from B'ham told me that while Ollie's never was as good as when Sr. was running it, it was still the place to get one's pies for Alabama tailgate parties. You just got the BBQ from elsewhere.

I don't know if you saw this, but here is a review of a book on the Katzenbach v. McClung and Heart of Atlanta Motel cases that I did for the Law Library Journal.

The book, by Richard Cortner, a political scientist, is quite good, particularly in its description of the personalities involved. I came away with a different picture of Ollie McClung than when I'd started. He was not, as I think many assumed, a sort of Alabama version of Lester Maddox. Though he'd have preferred not to serve blacks in his dining room, he didn't chase them out with a revolver as Maddox did at the Pickrick.

Maddox, happily, was not typical. The review provides some interesting background on how Ollie's wound up in the Supreme Court, and why things went as they did. I have always felt, though, that Gerry Gunther (and, with him, Justice Harlan) was right about the preferability of grounding the Civil Rights Act in the 14th Amendment rather than the commerce clause.

December 27, 2002

JAY MANIFOLD is comparing the Raelian cloning story to Cold Fusion.

SMALLPORX: Chuck Simmins is wondering where the money is really going in the smallpox-preparedness campaign. Investigative journalists: here's your tip!

UPDATE: Ross at The Bloviator doubts that Chuck's theory about pork is right, and has some observations about Israel's decision not to engage in mass smallpox vaccinations.

SKIPPY HAS FOUND THE MYSTERY POLL that TAPPED couldn't. (Apparently, no one actually reads Time anymore, something I've long suspected.) The poll shows Bush's approval rating at 55%, which Skippy calls "dismal."

I would call that an exaggeration. But if Bush's poll numbers are dropping, I think it's because the sitzkrieg has lasted too long. People have been pretty patient, but if you're going to be a War President, sooner or later people are going to ask where the war is. I think it's coming soon, and I think that if it goes well, Bush will go back up. If he blows it -- as his father did -- his numbers are likely to be truly dismal.

Lefty bloggers want to know why the Time poll is getting so little attention. I'd guess that it's because it seems out of line with other polls that show Bush much higher. Or it could just be a vast right-wing conspiracy. I report, you decide. . . .

BILL WHITTLE WRITES on the impossibility of American empire.


BILL QUICK IS FACT-CHECKING SOME PREDICTIONS FOR 2002. Hey, having people see if your predictions come to pass takes all the fun out of punditry!

ERIC ALTERMAN IS RIGHT about Creedence Clearwater Revival, but wrong about John Fogerty. But we'll get to that later.

Had a nice drive down with my grandmother. Thanks to a bad knee and a sprained ankle, she's not very mobile at the moment ("I got old all of a sudden at 85," she says. "Before that I could do anything.") But the drive down was very pleasant, and we had a lot of nice conversation. Because my parents were living the intinerant-graduate-student lifestyle when I was little, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents in the summer, and it's almost like a second home. I wish I could have stayed, but I had to come back today. My speed was aided by the relatively light traffic, and by the enormously high velocity of the traffic that was present. I used to think that 80 was fast. Now if you go 80, you'd better be in the right lane.

On the way back, I listened to some CDs, most notably the remastered Creedence Clearwater Revival box set, which is terrific. The remastering is good, though I have some quibbles with it -- but if you're not a sound engineer you probably won't have any complaints.

Still, listening to both the great original songs and the terrific covers ("Heard it Through the Grapevine" is great, "Good Golly Miss Molly" is the definitive version, and of course there's "Ooby Dooby," written by my University of Tennessee colleague Dick Penner) reminds me of why Alterman is right about Creedence but wrong about Fogerty. Alterman said a while back that Creedence's music was magic but that only Fogerty really counted. But if you listen to the albums you'll realize that Alterman's wrong about Fogerty.

True, John Fogerty was the genius of the band. The other members -- Doug "Cosmo" Clifford, Stu Cook, and Fogerty's brother Tom -- were just superbly talented musicians. But the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Listen to the way the rhythm guitar (Tom Fogerty), bass (Stu Cook) and drums (Doug Clifford) work together on "Walk on the Water," for example, and you'll realize why Creedence Clearwater was better than any of the bands Fogerty has put together since (even his occasional appearances backed by the Grateful Dead). These guys had played together for years, and they were all great -- not just individually, but even moreso as a group. You don't get that from session musicians, however talented.

That's the difference between the all-star team and a real team, too. Let those artists who are thinking of splitting up their bands and going solo beware.

I'M NOT GOING SKIING like Jeff from Alphecca, but I will be offline for most of the day. I'm driving my grandmother (who at 88 is too old to drive herself such distances, she says) home to Birmingham and then returning. The bad news: 10 hours in the car, minimum. The good news: I get to catch up with her on the way down, and catch up with some CDs I've been wanting to listen to on the way back.

THERE'S AN INTERESTING INTRA-LEFT BLOG DEBATE on civil rights going on. Here's the latest installment in TAPPED.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Geitner Simmons is refereeing another blog debate on affirmative action.

THE HART JUGGERNAUT ROLLS ON, with Democrat Bill Peschel saying that he'd (reluctantly) vote for Bush over many Democratic candidates because of the war on terror, but that he would support Hart, whose national security credentials are stronger than those of most Democratic candidates. And, as I have said before, after Clinton, the Donna Rice thing seems almost quaint by comparison.

I think that it's easy to underestimate how much of Bush's support comes from people like Bill. If Bush wimps out like his father (not likely, pace the repeated worries of Bill Quick) he's doomed. One reason why I don't hold with Quick's theory is that I think Bush knows this very well. Americans either want to wage war with an eye toward winning, or they want to cut their losses and get out of the game. As long as Bush looks serious about winning, he's in a very strong position. If he stops looking serious, he's toast.

JULIUS CAESAR ONCE SAID: "Beware the politicians and talking heads who bang the drums of Caesarism. I'm Caesar, and believe me, George W. Bush is no Caesar."

Well, okay, he never actually said that -- though he gets quoted for a lot of things he never said. . . . Sam Tanenhaus does say it, though.

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION is already lining up its candidates for an expected Supreme Court vacancy. Let's hope they're vetting candidates a bit more closely than they vetted Henry Kissinger before naming him to head the 9/11 investigative committee.

Sadly, there's no mention in this article of Eugene Volokh's obvious fitness for the Court. An oversight, no doubt.


December 26, 2002

IS THERE A PATTY MURRAY WHITEWASH? Best of the Web says so. A reader suggests that's not really the case:

1. She starts out as something of a media darling (remember the "Mom in Tennis Shoes"/"Year of the Woman" stuff from the 1992 campaign). I think the mainstream media will be very reluctant to go after her with as much intensity as they went after Lott. (Even recognizing they were late to that party.)

2. I really don't see her as an idiotarian in the mold of Fisk, Chomsky, McDermott, Bonior, etc., She's just a regular, garden-variety idiot. In other words, she says things like "Bin Laden is popular because he builds daycares" because she's dumb, not because she has a political philosophy that sees the US as the prime source of evil in the world.

As result of #2, I think negative coverage of these remarks and others like them have a good chance of seeming ungentlemanly and/or downright cruel. Again, I believe the mainstream media will be inclined to back off in those circumstances.

I sincerely hope I'm wrong about this. Murray certainly has no business being a US Senator. I just don't see her getting the full media treatment as Lott eventually did. I also agree that since McDermott and Bonior got a pass, there's not the slightest chance she'll ever get pushed out by her own party.

Yeah. In a way, there's actually something to what Murray said -- though given her line about Osama building day-care centers this probably falls into the broken-clock-is-right-twice-a-day category. But one thing I hear from people who've spent a lot of time in countries where there's a substantial Islamic population is that the Saudi money is there year in and year out. The U.S. may come in and do things for a few years, but we get distracted and our interest dries up. The Saudis' interest doesn't. They build mosques, they build schools, they provide a lot of medium-influential folks with a secure livelihood and some money to spread around that lets them build up local patronage webs of their own.

We could learn from that. Not only should we work to formulate a reputation for steadfastness instead of flightiness (which we'll have to do, over time, by actually being steadfast instead of flighty) but we should also seek to make the Saudi money less reliable by interdicting it -- either at the source, or somewhere along the line.

I don't really think that this was what Patty Murray had in mind, though.

NOTE: If you want me to blog about something, an email is sufficient. A link with the email is nice. Sending me an email that's copied to lots of other people, and claiming that if I don't immediately jump on your story it's proof of my intellectual dishonesty, is a poor approach. Especially when you don't have a link to the original story, and when I can't find the story when I go to the websites that ought to have it, and can't confirm it anywhere else.

Just a bit of advice.

JUSTIN KATZ has a VIDEO BLOG ENTRY saying that I'm too optimistic about the future of video blogging. Heh. Maybe -- but the number of video bloggers has doubled in a week. Project that one forward a couple of years and, well, my IPO is next week, and -- oops, wrong psychology! It's not 1997 anymore.

HERE'S A CLAIM that a human clone has been born. True? Who knows?

YOU HEAR A LOT ABOUT "CAT BLOGS," but I'm not sure I've ever actually linked to one before. So here. Great domain.

CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES is at Ravenwood this week. Check it out.

GAME THEORY AND SADDAM HUSSEIN: An analysis that doesn't suggest he'll be nice, even if he's rational.


Four more alleged Islamic militants have been arrested near Paris, on suspicion of planning a series of terror attacks. The arrests were made on Tuesday in the northern suburb of Romainville, the authorities say.

Last week, four other people of North African origin were detained the nearby suburb of La Courneuve.

During last week's raids, police say they found bomb-making equipment.

Police say the four men arrested in Romainville are of Algerian origin, and that one is the brother of Mourad Ben Chelali, a French national being held at the US base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The French news agency AFP quotes unnamed officials as saying the same explosive substance was found during both raids.

"Alleged militants?" Aren't they alleged terrorists?

UPDATE: A reader writes:

The various news articles in English were virtually identical so I went digging and found the original AFP release in French. This makes it clear why the difficulties. The articles are all nearly verbatim translations of the French news release.

The French statement identified the four men arrested as "islamists". They did not say militants, terrorists, etc. They used a word that has more meaning in current French usage than it does in English. But it spans more than terrorist in French usage. It includes advocates, sympathizers and supporters as well as active terrorists.

This leads to the newspaper translators facing the issue of how best to translate this. Militant is a reasonable English translation of what the French sources said.

The French sources may simply be being cautious about criminal accusations. It is fairly trivial to prove that these people are militants. They may have some evidenciary problems proving that they are terrorists. This is like being careful to distinguish between a murderer and a person who attempted murder. They may end up convicting them of illegal weapons possession rather than terrorism simply because they were caught before they did anything.

My French is weak enough that I can't say -- it's a tossup whether I can do a better job than Google. (Actually, Google has the edge). But there you are, for what it's worth.

NEXT YEAR IN ORBIT: Rand Simberg offers a summary of the year in space, and some advice for next year. This piece is a must-read for space enthusiasts, and especially for NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, and those people in Congress and the White House who deal with him.

RADLEY BALKO names his civil rights man of the year. And I have to say, he's found someone who is inspiring millions.

THE GARY HART JUGGERNAUT just keeps rolling on!

UPDATE: Here's more evidence!

ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE: NOT ALWAYS WRONG! At least, suggestions here that Christmas shopping seemed light are echoed by this story declaring that the Christmas shopping season was the "worst holiday season in 30 years."

On the other hand, a closer reading of the story indicates that what's "worst" is the increase in sales. That's right, sales were bigger than last year, just not by as much as usual:

In a weekly report on Tuesday, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishiand UBS Warburg forecast holiday sales in November and December would be up an anemic 1.5 percent over last year, the smallest gain since the banks began tracking weekly sales in 1970.

That makes the headline and the lede, which are pretty alarmist, seem less so. (It's a Reuters story). But things may be bad. Walmart is reporting weak sales growth consistent with the story quoted above, and an actual drop in sales at Sam's Club. Meanwhile, I was at Target this morning and the aisles were clogged (literally!) with deeply discounted clearance merchandise, but not with shoppers. I was in and out in a trice, but this suggest to me that (1) they didn't sell all that stuff before Christmas; and (2) they still aren't selling it now. This -- plus the fact that everyone we know seems to have a lot of stuff, and complain more about lack of closet spacee than about lack of possessions -- suggests to me that consumers are bought-out. There just isn't new stuff to buy that people want enough to spend the money.

Am I right? We'll know soon.

UPDATE: Bill Hobbs offers this perspective:

Let's get this straight: 1999 was the best year in history for retailers. But then came 2000 and it was 4 percent better. And then came 2001 and it was 2.3 percent better than 2000. And this year is expected to be one percent better than 2001. So 2002 is now the best year in history for retailers - despite the sluggish economy.

Yet, the retail industry is poor-mouthing it like sales were down. They weren't. Sales were up.

Good point. And so is this one on Internet sales taxes.

UPDATE: Here's more bad news, suggesting that sales may actually be down from last year when all is said and done.

IT'S ALWAYS ABOUT TAXES: Donald Luskin is fact-checking Paul Krugman.

BEST OF THE WEB says that there's a Patty Murray whitewash going on:

Murray's comments are helping feed enemy propaganda. Taliban Online, a pro-jihadi Web site, excerpts a WorldNetDaily report on Murray's comments. "Pak Taliban," who posted the article to the Taliban site, appends his own commentary: "The rest of the story trie's [sic] to put down Osama with the same old rubbish and a thought, is this why the Kuffar [disbelievers] in Afghanistan are trying to set bases of the so called reconstruction phase, thinking if they look like helping the Afghan's [sic] that they might start to like them or something? No doubt the Russians did the same thing. What would please us is when you pack and go."

In Murray's home state, the Seattle Times published a disdainful Christmas Eve editorial titled "Those Silly Attacks on Patty Murray." But the Vancouver Columbian, the paper that broke the story, rightly blasts Murray. "She . . . had every obligation as a U.S. senator and high-level representative of this country and this state to present the United States in a far more accurate light. That she didn't is something voters can consider when she is up for re-election."

Given that there was no discipline where Bonior and McDermott were concerned, I doubt much will come of this. But the Democrats' silence will, whether fairly or not, continue to fuel doubts about the Democrats' patriotism, just as the Republicans' failure to remove Trent Lott has continued to fuel doubts about the GOP's commitment to racial equality and -- oh, wait. . . .

MORE VIDEO-BLOGGING: Jeff Jarvis is at it again. This is pretty cool.

UPDATE: Here's a direct link that should work.

BLOGS AND TRENT LOTT: The Boston Globe has a good story, giving the blogosphere credit for keeping the story alive, but also avoiding too much blogospheric triumphalism. I think the concluding observation by Walter Shapiro is especially on-point. I also think that Atrios deserves more credit than he gets here, and in some other stories, but I guess when you're anonymous that goes with the territory.

IT WAS A GREAT CHRISTMAS HERE. Not that much happened at Stately InstaPundit Manor. We often have a multi-family Christmas here, but we didn't do that this year. We had Christmas Eve at my ex-stepmother's house (my dad was there -- the two of them are like poster-children for the benefits of divorce, getting along better than they ever did when they were married). That's the InstaDad over on the right.

My daughter opened presents here in the morning -- the digital cameral was her favorite, followed by Cameron the Bratz Boy, who is supposed to be a boyfriend for the Bratz girls, but whose "passion for fashion" and overly-accessorized look makes me wonder if there's any future in that. Then to my wife's sister's, then to my mom's.

Then we watched Monty Python on DVD, followed by some (also on a DVD collection) episodes of "Are You Being Served?" It was an all-British-humor evening, though to make it more multicultural we drank Japanese and German beer.

And if you don't know about the Bratz, well, it just means that you're in the wrong demographic. Relax, you're not missing much.

LILY MALCOLM, who reports that she had a great Christmas, points out this article in the New York Times on low fertility rates in Europe, quoting an expert who says that current trends are "unsustainable, from a cultural and even psychological point of view."

Back when I was practicing law, one of my clients -- the president of the American subsidiary of a European company, a Pole who had lived through World War Two under circumstances that would make a good thriller/tearjerker movie -- said that he thought Europe was suffering massive psychological trauma from the world wars, and that it would take a century for it to recover, if it ever did.

That seemed overly pessimistic at the time, but it seems more and more accurate as time goes by.


December 25, 2002

I GOT A LOT OF COOL PRESENTS, but in a few minutes I'm going to enjoy what may be the coolest of them: the complete Monty Python DVD collection. (I think there are 14 disks -- something like that, anyway.) Beer will be involved.

Merry Christmas!

CHRISTMAS SACRIFICES WEARING A UNIFORM: Austin Bay writes on servicepeoples' Christmases:

There are many people who will say -- with callous accuracy -- that for servicemen and servicewomen hard duty is their job. They signed up to go whenever and wherever they are sent.

That's true. But consider the persistent demands we have made on service members and their families over the last 13 years, the baker's dozen since the end of the Cold War.

Christmas 1989: Operation Just Cause in Panama. Christmas 1990: Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Shield, prelude to Operation Desert Storm. Christmas 1992: Somalia is on the horizon. Christmas 1993: Somalia, again, and new worries about North Korea. Christmas 1994: The pace of air and naval deployments to the Balkans increases. USAF, Marine and Army reservists reinforce regulars in Panama and Guantanamo to work the Cuban migrant camps. Troops deploy to Kuwait, responding to saber-rattling by Saddam. U.S. troops are also assigned to Macedonia.

Christmas 1995: the Bosnia occupation, which was to last a year but still remains an American duty post. In the background, the Navy continues to enforce the U.N. embargo against Iraq and patrol the Persian Gulf. Fall 1998, the Hurricane Mitch relief operation in Central America, with U.S. forces playing a major role in the relief and recovery effort. Spring 1999, the Kosovo War, which by Christmas 1999 becomes occupation duty. Fall 2001, Afghanistan, the duty station in December 2002 for the 82nd Airborne Division. December 2002, uncertainty on the Korean DMZ as the ramp up for action against Saddam continues.

This list, though incomplete, makes the point.

Indeed it does.

KAUS IS TRYING TO INTRODUCE THE TERM "FRISTING" to describe hair-trigger unsubstantiated charges of racism.

It's looking like we might have a white Christmas here after all, as the snow is coming down fast and furious. My daughter loves her new digital camera, so maybe I'll post some of her pics. More later!

CHRISTMAS BLOGGING: Virginia Postrel has new stuff up. Observations on traffic, PayPal, and more.


December 24, 2002

FLOOD THE ZONE! Mickey Kaus points out that an anti-Frist quote reported by David Firestone in the New York Times actually came from fomer Rep. Harold Ford, Sr., not his son, current Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. Kaus adds: "Inspires confidence in Firestone's deep understanding of Tennessee politics, doesn't it?"

Forget Firestone. If you want the scoop on Tennessee politics, check out bloggers Frank Cagle and Bill Hobbs. As Firestone should have.

This Frist piece by Ron Brownstein is Hobbs-approved.

JIM BENNETT puts the Lott affair in global context.

IT'S A CHRISTMAS ROUNDUP at Best of the Web.

PATTY MURRAY'S REMARKS ON BIN LADEN are reportedly causing a "groundswell of anger" on talk radio and the Internet, while being ignored by major media.

I wonder why? Of course, the Trent Lott story started out that way, too.

HELPING AFRICA WITHOUT BENEFIT CONCERTS: My FoxNews Column, which usually runs on Thursdays, is up now.

I ALWAYS APPRECIATE THE PEOPLE who work on holidays. I just ran out to pick up a missing ingredient for the green bean casserole I'm making tomorrow (Christmas isn't at our house this year, so I'm not doing the usual turkey-and-lamb routine). The store was packed, and it reminded me of one Christmas several years ago where I had to run out and get something on Christmas Day. The quickie-mart cashier was very surprised when I thanked her for being there -- apparently, nobody does that much. But to everybody who's working today, or who will be working tomorrow: thanks for keeping the world going while the rest of us celebrate.

ALSO NON-P.C.: Lily Malcolm of the Kitchen Cabinet is spending her holidays baking. When I was at Yale Law School, most women there wouldn't have admitted to knowing how to bake, even in the unlikely event that they did.

THE NON-P.C. JOE STRUMMER is recalled by Mickey Kaus and by Jim Robbins, who notes:

[I]n November 2001, Strummer came out strongly against the 9/11 terrorists, stating: "I think you have to grow up and realize that we're facing religious fanatics who would kill everyone in the world who doesn't do what they say. The more time you give them the more bombs they'll get."

Should this really be a surprise? I mean "Punks for Peace" is just a silly idea.

THE INTREPID TIM BLAIR is already blogging on Christmas! It's a date-line thing.


Two men wearing belts laden with explosives were arrested Tuesday in southwest Moscow, Russian news agencies reported.

How long before someone tries it here?

UPDATE: Actually, that would be better than most of the predicted attacks mentioned in this Washington Post story.

I commend to you the Joe Strummer advice listed above.

THE YEAR IN WEBLOGS -- and what's coming in 2003. My TechCentralStation column is up.

December 23, 2002

SEGREGATION IS DISGRACED, but when will this ideology of brutality and degradation meet the same fate? Not quite yet, apparently.

FLOOD THE ZONE! Sullivan may be off partying, but Mickey Kaus has yet another post on sharpened pencils. George Costanza plays a role.

IN MY INBOX: Two messages, side-by-side, with the subjects, "Don't be so hard on yourself," and "Stop being such a picky doofus."

Okay. Barbecue time.

IAIN MURRAY IS GUEST-BLOGGING at the Volokh Conspiracy, and has an interesting post (and, being Iain, a statistics-laden one) on differences and similarities between the United States and Britain. The results aren't what you'd expect. Excerpt:

The picture you'd get from these stats is of an America where the working man is less likely than his British counterpart to be out of work, better compensated, and less likely to be a victim of violence, while the American state as a whole is not much tougher on crime than Britain, spends little more proportionately on defense and finances its public spending much more by debt than by taxes. More right-wing? Not from these stats. Less committed to social justice? Hardly -- the American is much more likely to have a job, a good wage and to live free from the fear of crime (and to get decent, quick medical care).

Interesting stuff. Of course, I can't help noting that Sullivan's on vacation, the Volokh Horde is bringing in guest bloggers, and yet I, sniff, am here holding down the fort all alone. I'd feel sorry for myself if I werent' about to go out to an all-you-can-eat barbecue joint. There's just no room for self-pity when you're contemplating vast quantities of seasoned pork.

UPDATE: Kaus is still on the job! So is Justin Katz! And Charles Austin emails:

Mmm, vast quantities of seasoned pork. The best reason I've heard in weeks to fight against Islamic hegemony!

Yep. They'd probably also try to ban life-saving stuff like this. Those bastards!

OCCAM'S TOOTHBRUSH says that OxBlog is wrong about the VOA's broadcasts to Iran.

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON calls Bill Clinton a hypocrite for his remarks on Trent Lott and the Republicans: "Clinton rejected the crude, racial appeals of Trent Lott, Jesse Helms, and Strom Thurmond. But his Southern Strategy was jammed with enough racial code speak, and indifference to black voters to make him a poor choice to call the Republican's hypocrites on Lott."

BRITNEY VS. THE AYATOLLAHS: OxBlog looks at the rather confusing situation regarding the Voice of America's Iranian programming.

HOLIDAY BLOGGING SCHEDULE: Andrew Sullivan may be taking the week off, but I'll be blogging throughout, though at a reduced pace. (And with no $80K paycheck. . . .) And I'll have columns at TechCentralStation and FoxNews this week, too.

InstaPundit: Where we go Yule Loggin' and keep on bloggin'. Er, or something like that.

MICKEY KAUS VS. JOSH MARSHALL: Tom Maguire declares a winner.

JAY CARUSO points to this Wired News story on blogs and observes:

No offense to Glenn Reynolds, but it's high time that other blogs besides his (along with Andrew Sullivan) get mentioned in some news articles about blogs. He's in this one from Wired, but this time, he shares the spotlight with Meryl Yourish!

And some other people, but Jay's right. Note to any journalists thinking of writing a story on weblogs: check out the ones in the links to the left, as there's an interesting story in every one, and (unlike the story of InstaPundit) most of them haven't been covered. If the size of that list is too daunting, email me and I'll give you some suggestions.

Jay's also on target in dissing the professor of journalism who calls bloggers "navel-gazers." Has she actually read many blogs? It seems doubtful, based on her remarks.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting piece on weblogs from WNYC's "On the Media" program. It's streamable in RealAudio. And here's a story on blogs that doesn't even mention InstaPundit! Woohoo!

SARAH MCCARTHY WRITES THAT Michael Moore is phobic. Hmm. You think he'll call this "McCarthyism?"

CATHY YOUNG has some interesting observations on the Trent Lott aftermath.

My own prediction: Bush / Rice in 2004! Howard Owens agrees, more or less.

IT WASN'T JUST STROM: Howard Kurtz points out the rather sympathetic coverage that Thurmond's Dixiecrats got from the New York Times and the Washington Post back in the day. In Kurtz's words: "Let's just say that this was well before the media began to lead the charge on civil rights."

But I think that those papers have put their kind words for segregation behind them now, and we ought to praise them for that, just as we should forgive the Times its endorsement of the Sullivan Act as a remedy for "low-browed foreigners'" propensity for violence. Though, sadly, the Times hasn't entirely reversed its stance on this last.

JOE STRUMMER, of The Clash and The Mescaleros, has died.

MERRY CHRISTMAS. Here's a card from Andrea See. I plan to follow its advice, more or less.

Here are some more. (Links on upper right). I especially like this one, which has mega-geek appeal. Kind of like Andrea herself!

UPDATE: It seems that the ever-chic Andrea is part of a trend:

Throughout Asia, in fact, Western holidays have become chic, both for their commercial potential and because new generations think the act of decorating and celebrating is fun and different. Not only Christmas, but Valentine's Day, Father's Day and Mother's Day, Thanksgiving and Halloween, are finding a Pacific niche - where five years ago there was none. . . .

At a Beijing noodle shop bedecked with silver and gold plastic bells, cook Yin Li pauses over a beef stew when asked if all the decorations seem like a foreign cultural invasion. "Honestly, no," she says. "I like it. It makes everything feel more like a holiday."

Deck the halls.

MICKEY KAUS has analyzed the various claims of racial bias against Bill Frist, and finds them wanting.

COULD YOU GET INTO THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN under its affirmative action program? The Michigan Review offers an online calculator that graphically illustrates the impact of Michigan's differing standards according to race.

December 22, 2002

LAURENCE SIMON is deeply unimpressed with Time's "Person of the Year" picks.

AFTER A HIATUS OF SORTS, Gary Farber is back, and blogging up a storm. Who knew that marijuana legalization was a big electoral issue in Israel?

I'VE GOTTEN A LOT OF EMAIL about the WTC Baseball stadium idea. I wasn't really serious about it, but then it's hard to believe that people were serious about some of the other offerings. A lot of people seem to like the concept, to my surprise, though the idea of the "Manhattan Dodgers" seems to upset some folks. Hey, it's better than L.A., isn't it? Maybe not.

UPDATE: Ack -- Alec Baldwin already suggested this! Well, I did say it was "dumb."

THANKS FOR HITTING THE PAYPAL BUTTON. I just used some of the money to order the video-blogging software that Jeff Jarvis is experimenting with, so stay tuned. But I just noticed a couple of contributions from fellow bloggers. I admit I've hit a few people's tipjars when they seemed hard up, but I'm not hard up -- and bloggers donating to bloggers seems like taking in each other's wash or something. So keep it, or give it to a Santa with a kettle, or something. (Or follow these suggestions.)

Also, here's a note for anyone seeking anonymity: Amazon doesn't tell me who donates. Paypal does.

WISHFUL THINKING at the New York Times. I think that Phillippe de Croy is right about this.

INNOCENTS ABROAD has multiple posts, mostly critical, of the New York Times' coverage of Frist's elevation.

EVERYBODY ELSE IS WEIGHING IN on the World Trade Center site plans. Jeff Jarvis even weighed in by videoblog. So here's my thought:

Build a baseball stadium. What's more American than a baseball park? And what's cooler than one right by Wall Street? That's double-barrelled Americanism. And it would help bring people to Lower Manhattan at night.

If only you could get the Dodgers to play there, it would be perfect.

Okay, it's a dumb idea -- but no dumber than a lot of ideas I've heard. And it would be cheaper, and you could get hot dogs there.

UPDATE: Baseball blogger David Pinto loves the idea.

Say, if every fantasy sports discussion board starts pushing this, it could happen.

PHIL CARTER HAS MORE ON SMALLPOX. I sure hope that I, and all the people who agree with me, are wrong about the threat here.

UPDATE: Reader Bill Rudersdorf forwards this link to a lengthy analysis of smallpox as a bioweapon, from 1999.

AL QAEDA IN EDINBURGH: Joel Rosenberg has a report from Ken MacLeod.

PUNDITWATCH is up! Trent Lott and Patty Murray are the big stories, but there's more.

I can't find a transcript yet, but I caught part of Wolf Blitzer's rather ingratiating interview with Saudi Prince al Faisal and was surprised to hear the Prince say that in the event of combat "the gods of war" will determine the outcome.

The "gods of war?" I thought there was, you know, supposed to be only one God, Allah, with Mohammed as his prophet. Isn't the Koran kind of hard on polytheists?

I also caught George Stephanopoulos grilling Howard Dean, and thought that Stephanopoulos did pretty well, while Dean was visibly waffling in response to some rather pointed questions.

UPDATE: Here's the transcript, and here's the key passage:

BLITZER: Relatively speaking. They refer to the liberation of Kuwait, which was done 40 days of air war, four days of a ground war. Kuwait was liberated with a relatively modest number of casualties.

S. AL-FAISAL: And that was because of the unanimity in the international community and the joining of the battle of so many countries in the world that affected even the Iraqi soldiers who were fighting the war.

BLITZER: So you don't believe that they can repeat that?

S. AL-FAISAL: Who knows? Once you start war, it's in the hand of the gods of war.

The "gods of war." Hmm. That doesn't sound very Wahhabist to me.

DR. MANHATTAN HAS more on Thimerosal.


The list includes:

* "Bowling for Columbine" director Michael Moore (No. 42), who "wears his dissident credentials not on his sleeve, but on his head and his waistline: his mesh baseball cap and fat body are now the leading brand-ID marker for political discontent among the narrow, incestuous ‘enlightened left’ demographic."


UPDATE: Here's the full list, courtesy of reader Damon Chetson. I went to the site and couldn't find it -- apparently they're having archive troubles.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Treacher blogged this first. And he's been amused to see it get more attention.

HERE'S A GOOD IDEA: President Bush's Message to the Iranian People seems to set the right tone. Excerpt:

For many years, the United States has helped bring news and cultural broadcasts for a few hours every day to the Iranian people via Radio Freedom. Yet the Iranian people tell us that more broadcasting is needed, because the unelected few who control the Iranian government continue to place severe restrictions on access to uncensored information. So we are now making our broadcast available to more Iranians by airing news and music and cultural programs nearly 24 hours a day, and we are pleased to continue Voice of America and VOA TV services to Iran.

The people of Iran want to build a freer, more prosperous country for their children, and live in a country that is a full partner in the international community. Iranians also deserve a free press to express themselves to help build an open, democratic and free society.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Iranian people, particularly the families of the many Iranians who are in prison today for daring to express their hopes and dreams for a better future. We continue to stand with the people of Iran in your quest for freedom, prosperity, honest and effective government, judicial due process and the rule of law. And we continue to call on the government of Iran to respect the will of its people and be accountable to them.

As I have said before, if Iran respects its international obligations and embraces freedom and tolerance, it will have no better friend than the United States of America.

I think that this supports the speculation around the Blogosphere that the Administration is pursuing a broader strategy than all the Iraq-chatter suggests. In fact, it may be that the Iraq-chatter is, in part, designed to keep people from noticing just how broad the strategy really is.

NOW IT'S MICHAEL BARONE crediting the blogosphere for Trent Lott's ouster. I do think that weblogs -- particularly Josh Marshall's -- played an important role in getting the story noticed. But I think that the anger of black Republicans, which started the instant Lott made his remarks, would have ensured that the issue broke through eventually.

IF HE'S SO SMART, WHY ISN'T AOL RICH? Jeff Jarvis writes:

Imagine if AOL had actually sent out some Warner Bros. songs or movie trailers on all those CD-roms over the years; people might have actually welcomed them instead of ridiculed them.

The answer is that Jarvis doesn't work for AOL. Nor, apparently, does anyone as smart as Jeff. They should hire him (at an appropriately huge salary, of course) to turn their business around with insights like this.