January 11, 2003

SURELY THIS violates the Geneva Convention.


He comes across, in any event, as someone who needs to belabor the obvious in order to drown out his own conscience. He is not an anti-Semite, at least not in the chilly way Eliot was. Paulin is something slightly less dangerous, because easier to spot. He's a thug.

Actually, it's probably too kind.

STEVEN CHAPMAN has a nice sum-up post on Britain's latest gun flap and the policy "summit" that it has inspired.

THE "PEACE" MOVEMENT -- still in disarray, as this report and these photos from the Los Angeles demonstration today, er, demonstrate.

So far, Jim Henley's sighting of reasonable antiwar activism seems an isolated incident.

UPDATE: Reader Bill McCabe emails:

As a further example of how stupid these guys are: Not only are they dumb
enough to associate the U.S. with the Nazis, they also manage to draw the
swastika backwards.

Well, since it's a digital photo, this can't come from a reversed negative!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Er, yes, I know that you can reverse a digital photo. But it takes a couple of mouse clicks -- it won't happen accidentally by dropping the negative.

There's more discussion on this photo and the protests here.

IS THERE A "secret war on condoms?"

UPDATE: Medpundit Sydney Smith says that claims of an anti-condom war are wildly overblown.

On the other hand, SKBubba emails:

I was flipping through the cable news channels night before last (there was a choice of Connie Chung, Phil Donohue, and Bill O'Reilly -- what a lineup, eh?).

For some morbid reason, I paused on Donohue for a second, and there was this shrill frizzy air head from some outfit called "Abstinence Until Marriage" or something who goes around to Houston (?) schools teaching abstinence and promoting virginity as the hip new thing.

She said they don't teach sex education because sex education is "sex invitation" (she said that about fifty times).

When asked about contraceptives, she said they weren't allowed to talk about that except to say that CONDOMS DON'T WORK. It says so right there on the package. "MAY PREVENT", the key word being "MAY". Condoms are dangerous, shouldn't be given away to kids, yada, yada. Abstinence is the best policy.

When asked about the fact that probably 50% of teenagers are sexually active and wasn't her message therefore a little late for them, she really didn't have a good response except that virginity is fashionable.

Guess we'll see a spike in teen pregnancy and HIV and other STDs in Houston pretty soon. Nice work.

Condoms don't work all the time, but then neither do seatbelts. But some people just don't belong behind the wheel, belted or not. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Brian Ellenberger emails:

I just wanted to give my perspective as one of those evil "right-wing" evangelical Christians the NY Times hates so much.

A) Evangelical Christians have no fundamental problems with condoms, unlike Catholics. See Reformation--Catholics vs. Protestants. I recommend Mr. Kristof rent Monty Python's Meaning of Life to get a basic understanding of the different views Catholics and Protestants have toward condoms.

B) Evangelical Christians DO have a problem with their kids getting liberal views forced down their throat. Liberals want to ban "Christmas Trees" because they are too Christian, but feel no qualms about forcing their beliefs on others. This battle isn't about condoms. It is about the culture war.

C) Anyone who isn't a virgin knows that completely avoiding any contact with bodily fluid during sex is pretty darn hard. Especially if you are going to half-way enjoy yourself. Think Naked-Gun full body condom for complete protection. Heck think foreplay. Sure the risk may be slight, but it still is a risk. And over time probability catches up with you. Not to mention simple human error. Maybe you get lazy after a while or you simply trust the person you are with too much. And your judgement isn't exactly 100% during sex *cough* raging-hormones *cough*, especially if you have already had a drink or two.

Waiting till marriage sure has advantages. :)

Well, I'm certainly glad that I didn't wait until marriage, especially as I didn't get married until age 33. . . .

IS KARL ROVE "GASLIGHTING" PAUL KRUGMAN? If so, it seems to be working. . . .


UPDATE: Reader Doug Jordan emails:

Having recently written you with moderate support for the DC police department, I have no hesitation in blowing the whistle on the DC Department of Motor Vehicles.

My contest to a traffic ticket was just denied. My offense: driving with an expired registration. Reason: even though it is UNDISPUTED that I renewed on time, and paid the fee on time (I have receipts), and it is UNDISPUTED that the district did not register the renewal or issue the stickers (they did both after the ticket was issued, under pressure from my Councilwoman, based on the earlier registration and payment), the adjudicator rules that it was nevertheless MY responsibility to have gotten the sticker.

How? By forgery? Lessee here, three-part process: 1) I register and pay fee; 2) DMV issues sticker; 3) I affix sticker. I did 1), and was prepared to do 3), but was prevented from doing so by non-occurrence of 2), which was kinda outside my control.

Oh, should I have stopped driving when the registration expired without DMV action? Acquiesce in revocation of driving privileges without due process? I think not.

My councilwoman's staff is frustrated and angry. But I have no recourse but to pay $100 ticket and appeal, which costs an extra $10, with little hope of seeing the money again. To add injury and insult to injury and insult, today's mail brought news that my license had been suspended for non-response to the ticket -- two days after receiving an adjudication predicated on my response!

Kafka on the Potomac. I called a Virginia real estate broker on Thursday. DC ineptitude, illustrated.

I once got a ticketed in D.C. for "driving through a flashing yellow light." I beat it in court (my novel defense: it's not against the law to drive through a flashing yellow light) but I shouldn't have had to.

Don McArthur is also unimpressed with the District's state of governance.

DOES THIS mean the war's about to start?

TRENT TELENKO has some observations on what we can learn about North Korea strategy from North Korean defectors.

MY LAW-SCHOOL schoolmate Eric Muller, now a law professor at North Carolina, emails:

I'm surprised to see no blogging today on the guilty plea in the Lackawanna NY case. I think the signficance of this plea is huge, if only because it so starkly distinguishes our situation today from that faced in 1941 after Pearl Harbor. The law reviews are filling up with pieces comparing the Bush administration's policies touching on race and ethnicity with the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. (David Cole's, Kevin Johnson's, and Frank Wu's recent pieces come most quickly to mind, but I've seen others.) But the condemnation of the internment always focuses, at least in part, on the irrationality of attributing pro-Japanese sentiment (and subversive action) to American citizens of Japanese ancestry. And we often hear that there was not a single documented incident of pro-Axis subversive activity by an American citizen of Japanese ancestry during the war. (As it happens, this is not quite true, but it's very close to true.)

With this guilty plea (and the alleged conduct of Hamdi and Padilla, I suppose), what was true in 1942 is now false: now we *do* have a documented instance of support for Osama bin Laden by *American citizens*, born in this country and of Arab ancestry. The citizen/alien line--so crucial to the wrongfulness of the Japanese American internment--has now been breached.

Naturally, this is not an argument for the internment of Arab Americans, or, for that matter, for *any* sort of programmatic action against anyone. But I think it ought to undermine the too-easy analogy to the internment that many scholars have been slinging at the administration for the last year or so.

(BTW, I'm spouting about this only because the internment is something I know a lot about. My book on the internment, Free to Die for their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II, came out from U of Chicago Press just after 9/11/01.)

I meant to post on that story yesterday, but the "plogging" video drove that thought (and most others) out of my head. . . . But this seems absolutely right to me. The wrongfulness in the World War Two internments, after all, wasn't that they happened, but that they were unjustified. Had significant numbers of American citizens of Japanese descent actually been working for the enemy, the internments would have been a regrettable necessity rather than an outrageous injustice.

Here's a link to the guilty-plea story.

UPDATE: Reader Douglas Landrum emails:

As a person who worked to support the redress legislation for the Japanese Internment, I think that Professor Muller is right on the mark.

I attended several JACL (Japanese America Citizen's League) meetings at the time of the redress legislation and observed a very different reaction by Japanese Americans from Muslims in the United States. Every JACL meeting commenced with the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge was not recited as an empty gesture either, the Japanese Americans made very clear their allegiance to the United States and their pride in fighting for the United States in every war from WWII on. I listened to Minoru Yasui tell his story about how hard he tried to join his reserve unit as a U.S. Army Reserve second lieutenant but was interned instead. See this link.

This is in stark contrast to many Muslims (not all) who howl about perceived civil rights violations and yet refuse to assimilate American values and culture, treat their wives and daughters as slaves and seek to supplant religious freedom with Islamic tyranny. Where are vocal Muslims denouncing Islamist terrorists and supporting America?

I would also observe that Norm Mineta's random gate searches of airline passengers is based on an overreaction to the injustice of the internment. The circumstances of 9/11 fully justify profiling of males of Arab descent and limiting gate searches to those meeting the profile of people who have actually acted as suicide bombers or suicide hijackers. The guilty plea in Lackawanna further supports the notion that we have fellow travelers in country that meet a specific profile - although Padilla does not meet the profile. Gate searches should be more focused to apprehend or deter the likely perpetrators. Gate searches of Arab men are a far cry from internment camps regardless of the howls of CAIR and lunatic civil liberties groups.

If we have one more big terrorist attack on the United States, we will see public demand for a crack down on Arabic men in the United States. At that time, I will be a voice for a measured and reasonable response to those living here.

I think I should add two points. First, there are American Muslims who are quite loyal -- the Lackawanna Six, after all, were turned in by members of the local Yemeni Muslim community. Other American Muslims have begun to question the role of Saudi money in Muslim institutions in the United States, and the drastic drop in giving to foreign charities by American Muslims who wonder where the money goes is also a good sign. Then there's this guy:

Syed Ali, 35, was working at the Amoco station on Ocean Ave. in Sheepshead Bay at about 4 a.m. when he sold $2 worth of fuel to the alleged would-be arsonist.

The Pakistani immigrant said he watched in disbelief as Sead Jakup, 22, took the canister across the street and began dousing the Young Israel of Kings Bay synagogue.

Ali quickly called 911, and cops arrived before Jakup, a Bosnian Muslim, could set the temple ablaze.

"Mr. Ali saved the shul [synagogue]," said Allen Popper, president of the synagogue. "He's a hero."

But Landrum is certainly right to indicate that the conspicuous shows of patriotism by the Japanese American community in World War II have not been matched by the Arab Muslim community in America. (Though there have been a number of barely-covered pro-war demonstrations by Iraqi-Americans).

Sadly, various taboos mean that this issue isn't getting the examination it deserves from journalists or political leaders. And those who favor extensive profiling should note the photos of Ali -- the hero -- and Jakup -- the alleged terrorist -- and think about which one of the two would be more likely to come in for close attention under most profiling proposals.

I HAVE A DREAM: I was dozing just now while my daughter was playing with her dolls. I dreamed I was in a Denny's-like restaurant where the menu items had a blogger theme. The Egg McMuffin equivalent was something called "The English Idiotarian," and featured a menu blurb stating that "Robert Fisk himself would be proud to order this hearty. . ." I wish I'd slept long enough to read the whole menu!

SEAN HACKBARTH tried an experiment, covering an accident on his blog and beating the AP by six hours. Scroll up for the results.

When we get widespread combined PDA/cellphone/digital cameras (already more-or-less available) this will really take off, I think. What I'd really like is an add-on to Movable Type that would allow you to email a post, with an attached photo, directly to your blog from one of those devices. I'll bet we'll see something like that within a year. With luck, even sooner.

RACINE RAVE UPDATE: Talkleft reports that a settlement may be in the works.

A PACK, not a herd.

JEFF JARVIS says that vlogging is the future. Victor Lams says that plogging is the future. I link -- you decide.

Historians and sociologists of the Blogosphere, take note.

January 10, 2003

PIM FORTUYN'S SUCCESSOR is likely to complicate Dutch politics further. Which they richly deserve.


I think they are using Pickering to prick the Lott bubble, to disarm and defuse the old Democratic civil rights/racial politics machine currently clanking back into action. That is, the Bushies expect to win on Pickering, not lose. The case that Lott had expressed unacceptable segregationist longings was strong, after all. The case against Pickering is weak. What better place for the Republicans to make a stand?

Of course, the Bush Administration should really be confusing its opponents by nominating "wedge" candidates who'll split the liberal coalition: pro-choice, pro-gun, tough-on-crime but strong-on-civil-liberties candidates like, say, Boston University law professor Randy Barnett.

And I have their ultimate Supreme Court pick -- but I'll save his name for later.

WHAT MAKES AMERICA GREAT? Orrin Judd thinks it's Christianity. John Ray begs to differ. And, whatever it is, Nick Denton thinks America deserves extra points in a degree-of-difficulty sense:

There's one argument that US cheerleaders should employ, but don't: it's a miracle that the US can even match Europe in productivity. Over the last three centuries, the US has taken the world's dropouts: losers in African tribal warfare, starving Chinese peasants, starving Irish peasants, and wastrel Brits. Sure, there were a few refugees and Nobel prizewinners in the mix, but the mass was overwhelmingly tired and huddled. With such dismal human capital, any kind of functioning economy is a miracle, and testament to the American way.

Well, we let you in, Nick. . . . Or, in Bill Murray's immortal words from Stripes:

We're all very different people. We're not Watusi, we're not Spartans, we're Americans! With a capital "A," huh? And you know what that means? Do you? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world!

It always comes back to Bill Murray, doesn't it?

UPDATE: Reader Daniel Newhouse observes:

I do not have a complete view of America's changing demographics, but in current times there is a phenomena that foreigners refer to as the "brain drain." Because the economies of Europe (and India) are dysfunctional the best and brightest graduates from overseas attempt to come to the United States to go to graduate school or to get a job. Because our education system is dysfunctional we desperately need them. Thus is Western civilization kept going.

There's a kind of fearful symmetry in that, isn't there?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Nelson Ascher emails:

I strongly disagree with Denton. He's not considering the following: to take a plane today and go elsewhere in the planet is just trivial. A century ago, however, most people spent their whole lives in or around the village they (and their ancestors) were born. To move from their hometown to a big city was already a scary adventure.

Imagine, then, crossing the ocean, going to a place reputedly full of man-eating savages, having to learn another language without even knowing how to write one's own. Leaving Europe for America didn't take any less "cojones" in the 19th century than in Hernan Cortez's time, nor did it look less of a risky enterprise than exploring the "Dark Continent".

Most of those who left said farewell to their parents, families, communities forever. And usually they had indeed a less scary choice: staying where they were, allowing themselves to be enslaved, massacred, starved to death as countless generations had done before. Only those who had courage, motivation and initiative dared to leave their Polish "shtetl", Irish slum, Sicialian village for good. Even nowadays, ask anybody if he/she would easily abandon everything, every certitude and begin elsewhere, in some unimaginably strange place, from zero.

The migrants who went to the Americas, Australia, Israel were, in a Darwinian sense, those who didn't want to give up without a fight: and they were the exception.

I'm inclined to agree. That's one reason why I favor immigration even today. I think it should be just hard enough to produce the requisite sorting effect, and I think that immigrants must accept American values. But if they're willing to do that, I'm willing to take them, wherever they're from. In fact, I'm more than willing -- I'm eager.

But is it just me, or is the "brain drain" already having an effect on the rest of the world?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Matt Bower notes:

I agree with you and with Nelson Ascher on this front and, like you, I generally support immigration for that reason. But I also suspect that the factors that have made America great--lots of hard-headed, independent, courageous, determined, borderline anti-social people from all over the world--may also be among the reasons that it's a pretty violent place. I guess it's true that you've got to take the bad with the good.

True enough -- and well worth it. Though the currently skyrocketing crime rates in Britain suggest that there's more to it than that.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Sloboda emails:

As an aspiring immigrant, I'd say the brain drain has no effect on the rest of the world. One reason I'm here is because I know I'd make no difference to my home society if I stayed, whereas here I can make a difference. It's a question of staying home and wasting your life or coming here and making something of oneself.

Meanwhile, Howard Owens observes:

Freedom, capitalism -- pretty much no brainers to me. The human desire to control one's own destiny is as natural as breathing. You take your huddled masses and let them roam a large, diverse continent and decide for themselves how to make the best of it, they're going to figure it out, and they're going to do a damn good job of it.

America did indeed take in the people Europe no longer wanted, largely because Europe didn't know what to do with them. Often times Europe couldn't feed them, couldn't clothe them and couldn't educate them. Europe put them in a position of having nothing to lose in taking on a dangerous, difficult journey. It may take some courage to leave your ancestral home for the land of milk and honey, but it doesn't take a lot when all you have is stone soup.

America's immigrants were not the greatest raw material Europe had to offer, but those who survived the journey were those who were best suited to making the best of what America had to offer.

Yep. The guy -- obviously an immigrant, though I'm not sure from where -- who served me at Subway the other day was a good example. He wasn't doing the best job yet, but he was trying damned hard.

Meanwhile, on the subject of violence, another reader writes:

I want to take issue with Matt Bower's characterization of America as a violent place. It may be that we have a slightly higher level of daily violence, but we never explode into orgies of death like the Old World does. Have we forgotten WWII and Stalin so quickly? Far, far many more people have been killed in Europe in the past century than in the US.

Good point. We do retail; they do wholesale.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Another reader writes:

I agree that immigration acts a sorting mechanism, and that immigrants can bring new vigor to the country. But you make a critical distinction when you say that immigrants: "must accept American values". This is key.

An immigrant that accepts American values is an asset; one that does not is a danger. And today we seem to be actively fostering the danger.

One hundred years ago, during the last big immigration wave, we had a strong self-confident (call it chauvanistic, if you like) culture, where "Americanizing" immigrants was accepted as a matter of course. Today the government, academia, and the "civil-rights" lobby all combine to promote ethnic separatism, "multiculturalism" and "diversity".

I agree. I don't care if people keep harmless aspects of their native culture, so long as they buy into American ideals of freedom, etc. But I think it's entirely fair to insist on a degree of cultural assimilation where key American values are involved.

BRAD WARDELL weighs in on the let-South-Korea-hang side.

UPDATE: Tacitus has a lot of information and links on Korea, and on anti-Americanism in South Korea.

I predict that -- just as East Bloc intelligence services were behind a lot of the anti-nuclear protests in Europe in the 1980s, and slipping money into some politicians' pockets in the West as well -- North Korea has a hand in some of this. I also predict that -- again, as with Europe -- most of it will be covered up even after North Korea falls.


WINDS OF CHANGE is back up, and Joe Katzman has added some excellent co-bloggers.

DANG: I forgot to wish HappyFunPundit happy blogiversary yesterday. But it's Joanne Jacobs' blogiversary today!

UPDATE: And Laurence Simon's too!

RAMSEY CLARK on Jesus as a terrorist.

He's obviously an agent provocateur sent to discredit the antiwar left. Nobody could really be this stupid.

UPDATE: Michele responds.

PROF. PETER KIRSTEIN has apologized for his remarks about the U.S. military and baby killing. Those who are less advanced in their views than Prof. Kirstein, however, might profit from looking at this.

WHAT WOULD JESUS DRIVE? Who cares! Damian Penny answers the far-more-important question of what do bloggers drive?

IT'S A POETRY-FEST over at Tim Blair's.



WASHINGTON - Republicans said Friday they would reverse several favors to special interests in the Homeland Security law, including a much-criticized provision to limit lawsuits against vaccine makers.

House and Senate Republicans said they also would get rid of a loophole that would make it easier for companies that locate overseas to avoid paying taxes to compete for contracts in the new agency, and would revise language that gave one university, Texas A&M, special access to federal research money.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who supported the original vaccine provision and said he still hopes to take up the issue later this year in more comprehensive legislation, said he would include the special interest eliminations in a fiscal 2003 spending bill the Senate will take up this month.

Is this an example of the power of the (lefty part of the) blogosphere?

UPDATE: Reader Jeff Drummond thinks this will be good for the G.O.P.:

I think what is more amazing is that Frist will bring the issue forward for a vote despite the fact that it will likely result in the reversal of something he favors. Give me an example of a Democrat doing that. Here in Priscilla Owen's home state, I can give you a ton of examples of the opposite.

Could be.

WHY I LOVE KNOXVILLE, a continuing series: Got my hair cut. Shampoo, ten-minute scalp massage, haircut, rinse clean (more scalp massage), blow dry, complimentary glass of wine. $27. Take that, Christophe.

And it was not only good for my head, but for my heart.

LILEKS explains things for the benefit of Martin Scorsese. Somebody send Scorsese a copy. Best line: "Maybe directors like dictators because they understand the desire to have final cut."

BEHIND THE CURVE AS USUAL: Hamas is giving Saddam Hussein military advice:

JABALYA REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip (Reuters) - A leader of the militant Palestinian group Hamas urged Iraq on Friday to use suicide bombers to confront any U.S. military offensive.

"I call on Iraq to prepare an army of would-be martyrs and prepare tens of thousands of explosive belts," Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi told 3,000 Hamas supporters at a pro-Iraq rally in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip

"Blow yourselves up against the American army. Bomb them in Baghdad," said Rantissi, whose Islamic fundamentalist organization has carried out dozens of suicide attacks in Israel before and during a Palestinian uprising for statehood.

Of course, if this guy weren't so clueless, he'd know that Saddam has already made preparations for this sort of thing, without striking much fear into Americans' hearts.

IT'S NOT AN AERON: One more law school-related announcement: I found out yesterday that I've gotten a chair. I'm now the "Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law."

I don't think that InstaPundit was a factor.

A WHILE BACK, I posted on law schools that don't advertise conferences soon enough. So, in the spirit of advance notice, here's a link to the page announcing the University of Tennessee College of Law's program on the 200th anniversary of Marbury v. Madison, which will feature such bigshots as Bill Van Alstyne, Mark Tushnet, and William Nelson.

Marbury, for the non-lawyers out there, is the Supreme Court case generally regarded as establishing the principle of judicial review.


"No thanks. I already had a patch."

JUSTIN KATZ OFFERS A BASIC VLOGGING HOW-TO GUIDE. It's even easier than that if you use the Serious Magic program that Jeff Jarvis has used to make these video-blog items. I installed the program Wednesday, hooked it up to my camera, and produced a vlog in no time. No, I'm not posting it: the real issue, I quickly realized, is having decent lighting and a properly-hung V-screen if you want to do fancy backgrounds and effects like Jeff. (Oh, and the right cables).

One other tip -- an earphone. It's not necessary to have one of those, but if you've got other stuff with audio it's useful so you can hear what's going on.

There's no way this will replace blogging, because it's more work. But it's cool, and I think we'll see a lot more of it. I demonstrated Jeff's stuff to my Dean the other day and he was very excited about what we might be able to do with it at the law school. I think the applications are going to be very broad.


London, Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomsbury Publishing Plc said it hopes to publish ``Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,'' the fifth book of the series on the boy wizard, in July.

Mark your calendars.

JACK O'TOOLE raises interesting concerns regarding the Administration's tax plan.

TONY ADRAGNA says that the "leave South Korea hanging" approach, while satisfying, is a bad idea.

PAUL KRUGMAN is a bit overwrought here. He seems a shade defensive about the response to his Spiegel interview. But he's not comparing Bush to a dictator or anything -- just calling him "Glorious Leader" and pointing out his resemblance to Ferdinand Marcos.

By the way, why doesn't Krugman just get a blog, instead of posting these occasional items on his Princeton faculty website? Note to Paul: I'll set one up for you on Blogger, no problem. Give me a call.

UPDATE: Steve Verdon and Eugene Volokh agree that Krugman seems to have lost it here.

January 09, 2003

BRINK LINDSEY writes on heroism and the national interest, seen through the lens of Peter Green's The Greco-Persian Wars. I read that book last year, and recommend it.


I MEANT TO LINK TO THIS MICHAEL GOVE COLUMN on anti-Americanism earlier, but forgot. If you somehow missed it, go read it. Excerpt:

Which takes us to the myth of America the locust state, the predator on the poorest nations of the Earth. The truth, as the US writer Charles Krauthammer has pointed out, is that America’s influence for good in suffering states is directly measurable in three very different examples. After the Second World War three devastated nations were divided. In each case one part of a culturally unified nation fell under America’s political influence. And in each case — South Korea versus North, West Germany as against East, Taiwan as opposed to Communist China — the territory which took the American path enjoyed greater freedom and prosperity.

Why then do the myths of America the Hateful take such powerful hold? Because anti-Americanism provides a useful emotional function which goes beyond logic and reaches deep into the darker recesses of the European soul. In centuries past those on the Left who wished to personalise their hatred of capitalism, who sought to make it emotionally resonant by fastening an envious political passion on to a blameless scapegoat people, embraced anti-Semitism. It was the socialism of fools. Which is what anti-Americanism is now.

Of course, the overlap between anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism remains substantial.

CHINA VS. THE BLOGOSPHERE: I've gotten several emails to the effect that China is blocking all blogspot sites. Here's one post on the subject, and here's another. Apparently, since blogspot access is blocked, people in China with blogspot blogs can still post via Blogger (which isn't blocked) but can't see their own sites.

This gives you some idea of either (1) the unimpressive degree of Chinese technical competence; or (2) what the Chinese are actually afraid of.

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman has some thoughts.

MATT WELCH IS posting from France, where he's soaking up wine, cheese, and culture while soaking the French national health system.

THE CIVIC-REPUBLICAN CASE for a sort-of-flat income tax. The author, Captain Indignant, is not, however, a fan of the Administration's tax plan.

(Via The Kitchen Cabinet).

JIM HENLEY spots a hopeful sign for a non-stupid antiwar movement. But it's a small sign, at present.

CUSTOMER-OWNED NETWORKS AND ZAPMAIL: Clay Shirky has some interesting thoughts on the future of telephony.

I actually used ZapMail once. Yep. I was the one. . . .

I'M NOT A PROFESSIONAL JOURNALIST, OR EDITOR: But this, from the New York Times' current front page, was written by one:

Iraq Gave No New Evidence in Arms Report, Inspector Says
Hans Blix said today that Iraq's report was "devoid of any new evidence" that the country had no banned weapons.

No new evidence of no weapons. Got that?


PROFESSOR PETER KIRSTEIN, who apparently found out about InstaPundit via the Chicago Tribune article earlier this week, sent me an email responding to a post I had on his situation when the story broke last fall. (Here is a later one; and here is another). We corresponded, and I offered to publish his email, which is set out below. He didn't demand that I do so -- I offered. I think it's always good to bring out the other side of the story. So here it is below, followed by some comments:

Dear Sir,

In your November 6, 2002 posting, you carelessly quoted me incorrectly in my e-mail to Air Force Academy Cadet Robert Kurpiel that in part may have led to your characterization of it as “barely literate.” It certainly was hastily written and overly personal for which I apologized and was quickly accepted by the cadet himself, his parents (see Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 6, 2002) and the Air Force Academy Assembly.

“No war, no air force cowards who bomb countries with AAA, without possibility of retaliation.” Actually I used the word “without” prior to AAA that was an effort to indicate the indiscriminate nature of high-altitude bombing and the lack of significant military assets on the part of those whom we engage in combat. We wage war on the weak and the helpless in large measure due to cultural and ideological bias that is not conducive to diplomatic means in resolving international disputes. This is my opinion and I have the right to express it.

You make another error in your careless and unsubstantiated fulminations against me. You state “that the identification of people like Kirstein with the Democratic Party…” I would be curious if you could produce one document of my many writings and public utterances where I make such a partisan claim. I believe the major political parties are indistinguishable from each other in most areas of public policy that is why I voted for Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate in the last so-called presidential election in the United States.

With regard to another person’s critique of my antiwar activism when I was a graduate student, I would only say this. Buffoonery comes in many forms. I don’t believe the Vietnam antiwar movement, which may have shortened the war and saved the deaths of many precious Americans, who were not able to escape the draft, was particularly humorous or symptomatic of a lack of determination and seriousness. It was an epochal event that was a defining moment in American history that represented a high tide of student idealism and commitment to peace and conflict resolution. I stand by my role as a university-student leader in that era.

My posting was cut-and-pasted from Neal Boortz's page, to which it was linked -- given the extent to which that email circulated the Internet, I suppose a typo from somewhere would be no surprise. As for the identification of Democrats with Mr. Kirstein, I was referring to the Democratic Party's general identification with anti-war protesters by others -- especially in the wake of things like the Bonior/McDermott trip to Baghdad -- not Mr. Kirstein's self-identification with the Democratic Party. The Democrats will, however, no doubt appreciate this clarification. Kirstein promises to speak out against the war in a number of fora, and I'll do my best to keep you updated on his activities.

I dispute the characterization of Saddam Hussein as "weak and helpless,"and I think that "indiscriminate high-altitude bombing" is a shibboleth left over from, well, the days when we actually engaged in indiscriminate high-altitude bombing. But I certainly don't want to engage in excessive filtering-out of antiwar opinions, and I thought readers would find this item instructive.

HOLLYWOOD AND MASS MURDER: Ed Driscoll suggests a connection.

IS THE UNITED STATES THE GREATEST THREAT TO WORLD PEACE? That's what this poll from Time Europe asks. It's being stuffed by folks from Muslim websites. You might want to go vote yourself.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

They are obviously screwing around with the numbers. I've watched them climb, and fall, for the last 30 minutes.

I thought I'd screw with them, so I wrote a java program that flooded the site with votes. (For Iraq, of course! Anything to piss off the Islamakazis!) It looked like it was working, and then the Iraq numbers started dropping again.

But the votes for the U.S. just keep rolling in....

Nah. Nothing to see here. Keep moving along....

Heh. I wonder if CAIR is involved somehow.

OKAY, it's not Nick-blogging. It's Disney-blogging. Or Milne-blogging. Steven Den Beste compares Europe to Rabbit, and America to Tigger. Debouncing efforts have been spectacularly unsuccessful.

KARL ROVE PLAYS 'EM LIKE A VIOLIN, AGAIN: Remember all the hoopla about how hard David Frum's new book was on the Administration? How the White House was issuing dark warnings about Frum's public statements deviating from the Administration line? How the press ate that up? Cracks in the formerly solid facade. . . dissonance in the well-tuned orchestra . . . at last, leaks!

Er, only now the book's out, and according to Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times, "Mr. Frum sides in this book with the hawks in the administration, repeatedly dissing Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, while pressing for a strong-armed reorientation of American foreign policy."

Then we find out that:

Mr. Frum holds up a sunny vision of a post-Saddam Hussein future in which Iraq becomes "a reliable American ally," Iranians are "emboldened to rise against the mullahs," the Saudis and other Arab states modernize, and "new prosperity" is brought "to us all, by securing the world's largest pool of oil."

The horror! The White House must be shaking in its boots over that one. And there's this bit of political dynamite:

Mr. Frum claims that President Bush and John F. Kennedy "owed their connections with the public above all to the power of their words."

Can you say "setup?" I knew that you could.

EUGENE VOLOKH HAS MORE ON THE CRUSHING OF DISSENT in America. Does the First Amendment mean nothing anymore?

And while Volokh is no Michael Barone, now Michael Barone is showing up on Volokh's page. The man's on a march of conquest through the blogosphere!

I'M MOSTLY AGAINST PRE-EMPTIVE LAW ENFORCEMENT, but I might make an exception where these ought-to-be-illegal puns are concerned.

KRISPY KREME AND SOUTHERN NOSTALGIA: Some interesting reflections from an expatriate Southerner.

"EVERY CITY IS POMPEII" -- Lileks on urban nostalgia.

SPEAKING OF THE POST BELOW, ABOUT ATTENTION, I keep meaning to post something on the latest Lomborg flap, but people keep emailing me information. It's all great information, but most of it needs me to read, follow links, and digest it -- and with classes starting today I just don't have the time, or more accurately the mental energy needed to focus my attention on it right now. I'll try to get something together later. In the meantime, Nick Schulz has a piece saying it's bogus.

One key problem with the Bellesiles parallels that some people are trying to draw: Bellesiles' critics made very clear statements charging Bellesiles with making up data and presented very clear evidence of what he had done wrong. Lomborg, on the other hand, has as far as I know been charged with nothing of the sort -- no surprise, as he drew on data already published by the UN, etc. Instead, as I understand it, he's charged with being "one-sided" in his analysis. Hardly the same thing. Indeed, comparing the Danish panel report on Lomborg with either of the two items linked above illustrates just how far apart the two cases are.

UPDATE: A reader suggests that I should add a link to Lomborg's rebuttal of the critical article in Scientific American that seems to be the source of many of the panel's complaints.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's The Economist's take on it:

Why, in the first place, is a panel with a name such as this investigating complaints against a book which makes no claim to be a scientific treatise? “The Skeptical Environmentalist” is explicitly not concerned with conducting scientific research. Rather, it measures the “litany” of environmental alarm that is constantly fed to the public against a range of largely uncontested data about the state of the planet. The litany comes off very badly from the comparison. The environmental movement was right to find the book a severe embarrassment. But since the book was not conducting scientific research, what business is it of a panel concerned with scientific dishonesty?

One might expect to find the answer to this question in the arguments and data supporting the ruling—but there aren't any. The material assembled by the panel consists almost entirely of a synopsis of four articles published by Scientific American last year. (We criticised those articles and the editorial that ran with them in our issue of February 2nd 2002.) The panel seems to regard these pieces as disinterested science, rather than counter-advocacy from committed environmentalists. Incredibly, the complaints of these self-interested parties are blandly accepted at face value. Mr Lomborg's line-by-line replies to the criticisms (see are not reported. On its own behalf, the panel offers not one instance of inaccuracy or distortion in Mr Lomborg's book: not its job, it says. On this basis it finds Mr Lomborg guilty of dishonesty.

The Economist calls the panel's report "incompetent and shameful." Meanwhile Brian Erst notes this story and calls attention to the concluding paragraphs:

Most of the book's contentions contradict the conclusions of a host of prominent scientists, who were astonished the book had even been published.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the daily Politiken he was considering an investigation of Lomborg's institute, the Copenhagen-based European Environmental Agency.

Erst comments:

Apparently, anything that questions the beliefs of "prominent scientists" is now not just wrong-headed or misguided, but so beyond the pale that all mention of such dissenting viewpoints must be silenced. Write a book indicating that the September 11th attacks were an American/Israeli conspiracy and you're at the top of the French bestsellers list and invited to speak all over the world. Write a book questioning the scope but not the fact of environmental degradation and you better go hide in a cave. I'm surprised the aggrieved scientists haven't issued a fatwa...

Oh wait - who needs the fatwa? Rasmussen is already on the case.

There's modern Europe for you. Write anti-American slander? Rake in the millions. Run a terrorist breeding ground like the Finsbury Park mosque? Walk free on the streets of London while planning the wholesale slaughter of thousands of Algerians. Hurt the feelings of some climatologists? Go to jail.

I rather doubt that Lomborg faces jail, but the point holds. As the Bellesiles case surely demonstrates, those who charge fraud should be expected to produce evidence, and lots of it. If the two cases taken together prove anything, it seems, it's that the standards of proof are much higher when the target supports bien-pensant opinion than when otherwise.

READER YUVAL LEVIN emails about my TechCentralStation column from yesterday:

The concept of the scarcity of time is a very helpful way to explain some of the dynamics of the web. I write to suggest a very similar but possibly more precise way to put the matter.

Could it be that the way to frame the problem is not so much around the scarcity of time, but the scarcity of attention? We have always been short on time: the day is too short, the semester is too short, our lives are too short. But in a certain sense what is different about the web, as a medium of communication, is that it offers an enormous array of new voices clamoring for our attention. The trouble with these voices is that so many of them are so damned interesting and have such useful things to say that we feel compelled to listen, and so we must divide our (finite) attention among an ever-growing number of sources of ideas, which makes our attention very scarce (and, incidentally, therefore very valuable.)

This may be more helpful than speaking in terms of time, because individual units of time do not become less useful to us the more they are divided--a minute is still a minute, it's just a question of whether we spend it doing something valuable or not, and that's largely up to us. But attention can be "measured" not only in terms of quantity (like time) but also in terms of
intensity, and in both cases it begins to lose its value the more it is divided. If, in order to keep informed, even just on matters relating to my work, I have to check 15 web sites every morning, the amount and (importantly) the level of attention I can pay to each declines, and this makes my ability to benefit from each decline as well. In turn, this also affects our attention span, since we become accustomed to giving only small amounts of attention to each source, if only because there are so many. This is of course very closely related to the scarcity of time, but it might illuminate more of the character of the problem.

In cyberspace, almost everything is fantastically abundant, but human attention is terribly scarce. And in the age of the Internet and constant omnipresent communication in general, human attention is terribly scarce. One very significant result of this is that the value, and therefore the price, of attention goes up dramatically. This has serious consequences--consider for instance the fact that political campaign funds are spent almost entirely on purchasing human attention, through ads and the like. This seems to suggest that rather than bringing down the price of politics, and alleviating the "money problem" (a name I detest, since it isn't really a problem) in politics, as some people have suggested, the information age is actually likely to make more expensive the commodity which all that money goes to buy, and therefore to make more money necessary.

I think this is right. One of the reasons people used to pay so much attention to politics was that it offered cheap entertainment at a time when entertainment was scarce. Now entertainment is plentiful, and much of it is more entertaining than politics.

TIM BLAIR: Poet Laureate.


Fifteen people have been killed by suspected Islamic militants in various parts of Algeria.

One of the attacks took place in a mountainous area where the radical Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) is active.

The Algerian Government says the group has links with the Al-Qaeda network.

What's really pathetic is, they're not even especially good at preaching, or combat.

LAST NIGHT there was a Cosby show rerun on Nickelodeon. Theo defies his parents, and they leave him with nowhere to live in order to teach him that actions have consequences, and forgiveness isn't to be taken for granted.

This morning Howard Kurtz is writing about the surprising degree of support, even among conservatives, for the idea of hanging South Korea out to dry. I wonder if there's a parallel to be drawn here? [You just drew it! -- Ed. Go away! That's Kaus's schtick. And Drezner's!]

I haven't written much on Korea, because I don't know enough about what's going on to have a very strong opinion about what ought to be done. On the one hand, North Korea is probably the worst place on the planet now. I suspect that the reason why some South Korean politicians want to prop it up is that when it comes out just how bad things have been there, which looks to be Pol-Pot-bad -- and that they've known a lot more than they've let on while cozying up to and propping up the North -- they'll be seen as collaborators in horror. (And some, quite possibly, may turn out to be real collaborators, on the take from the North, and might be worried that that will come out).

On the other hand, North Korea is mostly inward-looking, and I don't think it's a big, direct threat. And, long-term, there's a lot to be gained by reminding our triangulating allies that American love, and American forgiveness, are not to be taken for granted either. That's a lesson we keep ramming home to the Germans. And the Koreans need to learn it too.

We live in a world where most of our allies are Theo Huxtables: self-centered, unrealistic, and overconfident in their assorted schemes because they know Heathcliff will always bail them out in the end. But this isn't a situation comedy.

[You're not going to start doing a lot of these Nickelodeon-themed posts, are you? -- Ed. Coming next: why France is like Angelica, and the United States is like Tommy Pickles! (sigh) "Write what you know!" --Ed.]

MORE VIDEO: The Nashville Tennessean has a story and streaming patrol-car video of the Cookeville dog-killing incident. (Via Bill Hobbs).

INTERACTIVE VLOGGING: Justin Katz is raising the bar!

MICKEY KAUS is calling Weekly Standard editor Chris Caldwell a filthy communist. Well, kind of. Sort of. In a way.

OCCAM'S TOOTHBRUSH has moved off of blogspot. Reset your bookmarks!

January 08, 2003

I HAVEN'T WRITTEN ABOUT THIS WHOLE STORY because, well, it's just too pathetic for words, and about all I have to say is "this is just too pathetic for words." The Cookeville / Putnam County law enforcement apparatus has not enjoyed a good reputation, though they are largely notorious for speed traps.

For a biased and not guaranteed-to-be-accurate (but sure to be interesting) view from a website dedicated to that area's politics and law enforcement, go to the Putnam Pit, a website so famous that I think Matt Welch nearly wrote a story about it for some big national publication.


Soldiers from the Golani Brigade's elite Egoz unit shot dead one armed infiltrator and captured another along the Syrian border in the southern Golan Heights Wednesday afternoon.

During the fight, Syrian troops shot at the soldiers the first such incident of its kind in nearly 20 years. There were no casualties and the soldiers did not return fire.

According to security sources, the gunman and his accomplice apparently came from Syrian territory, ruling out the possibility they had infiltrated from Jordan.

Following interrogation of the captured infiltrator, it transpired that they were Syrian soldiers dressed in civilian clothes. It is still not clear what they were doing, although it is thought they might have been on a reconnaissance mission and were surprised by the IDF presence. Syria charged that Israel had violated cease-fire terms.

"Hey, no fair! You shot our armed infiltrators!" How sadly typical. But you have to wonder why Syria might try something like this just now. And you also have to wonder if part of the reason for the delay in invading Iraq is that the operation may wind up as a twofer.

HERE'S A BLOG THAT'S BEING USED TO PROMOTE AN INDEPENDENT FILM that's shooting here in Tennessee. There's even a copy of the script in PDF.

BERKELEY SPEECH-SUPPRESSION UPDATE: The Mayor has entered a guilty plea to charges of stealing massive quantities of the Daily Californian:

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates pleaded guilty today to a petty theft infraction and was fined $100 for trashing 1,000 copies of the University of California, Berkeley campus newspaper that endorsed his opponent. . . .

Wednesday's plea ends an embarrassing episode for the newly elected mayor. Bates, a former Alameda County supervisor who served 20 years in the state Assembly, became enraged when the Daily Californian endorsed former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean. So he threw away copies of the free newspapers in the trash.

It's ended. But not forgotten.


I'm just writing an article about this boycott issue and a question occurred to me; maybe you'd know the answer or you'd know someone who does: The scientific cooperation accords in question were established by treaties between the EU and Israel shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords. Would unilaterally abrogating these treaties not constitute some kind of breach of international law? How big a deal is it, legally speaking, to tear up an international scientific cooperation agreement? I mean, a treaty is a treaty, right?

I don't know the legal status of those agreements -- though I feel sure that the United States would be criticized for "unilateralism" and "contempt for international law" if we broke them somehow. I do know, though, that UNESCO is criticizing this effort, which surely puts it beyond the pale.

YESTERDAY, I POSTED ABOUT THE TITLE of a Washington Monthly article: "License to Kill: How the GOP helped John Allen Muhammad Get a Sniper Rifle." I pointed out that the Bushmaster in question is what is more commonly called an assault weapon and appears to have morphed into a "sniper rifle" in response to the political needs of gun-control groups, and noted that blaming the GOP seemed rather over the top.

In response (at least, their email implied it was in response) the Washington Monthly has now made the entire text available online, so you can read it and make up your own mind. There's nothing in there addressing the "sniper rifle" question, and the article certainly seems to blame the gun -- and the Republicans -- more than it blames, say, the actual shooter. This overwrought paragraph should illustrate what I mean:

One such gun was a .223-caliber semiautomatic Bushmaster XM15 rifle, which Bull's Eye received from the manufacturer on July 2 of last year. On Sept. 21, a bullet from that gun blew through the back of a liquor store manager in Montgomery, Ala. (she died in the emergency room soon after). Two days later, another bullet burrowed through the head of a beauty store manager in Baton Rouge, La., who died instantly. Between Oct. 2-3, bullets from the gun ripped through the bodies of six people in Montgomery County, Md., killing all of them. Over the next three weeks, the gun claimed seven more victims--including a bus driver, a female FBI analyst, and a 13-year-old schoolboy--killing four of them. Finally, on Oct. 24, law enforcement authorities found the Bushmaster in the back seat of a blue Chevy Caprice occupied by John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo.

Note that the gun and bullets are apparently responsible for the deaths, not Muhammad and Malvo, who in this report merely occupied a Chevrolet Caprice -- an offense against automotive taste, perhaps, but no more.

The gist of the complaint is that, because of politics, the ATF lacks enforcement power. I don't know if this is true -- that's more Dave Kopel's department, and I'm no Dave Kopel. (Nor, as we've established, am I Michael Barone). I only know a couple of gun dealers, but my impression is that they take the ATF and its regulations seriously. That's hardly a statistically valid sample, though.

Read it and make up your own mind.

UPDATE: I'm not Dave Kopel -- but Dave Kopel is, and he emails as follows:

The important thing that the Wash. Monthly leaves out from its description of why Congress limited BATF's enforcement powers was BATF's egregious abuse of civil liberties under FOPA. Some of the details are in "No More Wacos," and also in my Oklahoma City Law Review article, which is available at

The short version is that a Congressional investigation officially concluded that seventy-five percent(!!) of BATF prosecutions were constitutionally improper. Agencies like IRS have had their powers curtailed for an abuse rate far below that. It's true that DEA has a lot of powers that BATF doesn't, but that doesn't mean that the DEA model is right. There's been plenty of abuse by DEA, too, but DEA doesn't have a powerful watchdog.

The figure about a high percentage of crime guns traced to about 1% of FFLs is less impressive than it sounds. There are a lot of FFLs which are very low volume dealers, selling a few dozen guns a year, as an adjunct to a small business, or as a weekend activity. In major metro areas, the small number of major gun stores will account for a very large percentage of guns sold. Those large stores which sell to customers who live in poor neighborhoods are going to show up in traces quite frequently, no matter how scrupulously the dealers obey the law; some of the customers of that dealer are going to have their guns stolen, and those guns will turn into crime guns. That happens a lot more to a dealer in central Detroit than to a dealer on the Upper Peninsula, but it doesn't prove that BATF needs new powers to use against the Detroit store.

The claim that dishonest gun dealers are immune from inspections 364 days a year is nonsense. The one-per-year limit applies only to random investigations involving no probable cause or suspicion. There is no limit on the number of audits which may be conducted pursuant to a genuine criminal investigation.

The fundamental thing wrong with the article is that he complains that the sniper shootings were caused by the Republicans/NRA because BATF didn't shut down Bulls Eye. (Of course there's the absurd presumption that the killers would not have been able to obtain a gun from another store, or from somewhere else.) But if Bulls Eye is in fact guilty of everything that the author charges, then BATF had full power to have Bulls Eye's FFL revoked. Once again, we have a case where the existing law wasn't enforced, and the gun prohibition groups then turn around and claim that more laws are needed.

Hypothesizing that BATF failed in this case, perhaps the solution isn't to demand more powers for a failed (supposedly) agency which egregiously abused greater powers when it had them. Instead, we need to begin thinking about whether a federal agency should be the main licensing agency for retail businesses. States are competent to license doctors and liquor stores -- why can't they be the ones to license firearms dealers? Federal licensing is a relic of a 1938 federal law, and like a lot of economic regulation from that era, is obsolete, and never worked very well to begin with. How about retaining existing restrictions on interstate gun sales, turning the licensing of firearms dealers over to the states (some states license dealers already, which is duplicative), and sending the BATF out to conduct criminal investigations of terrorists attempting to obtain guns. Of course these criminal investigations could legimately include investigations of stores suspected of selling to criminals.

So there you are. I like this business where I mention people and a few hours later have email from them answering my questions. I wonder if Britney Spears is really -- no, never mind. Let's not go there.

UPDATE: Reader David Lonborg (not Britney Spears) writes:

OK, I read the WM piece. And you're right, it's pretty horrendous. Maybe Mr. Kendall ought to consider the possibility that an awful lot of us find the idea of more "felony record-keeping charges" a lot scarier than the occasional armed nut.


ONE MORE UPDATE: Kendall replies:

I appreciate the interest you and Mr. Kopel have taken in the story I wrote in The Washington Monthly. Let me address your main criticisms.

First, while aficionados may object to using the term "sniper rifle," the Bushmaster was mounted with a scope and a bipod, and was capable (as we've seen) of murdering people from several hundred yards away. It has been referred to as a sniper rifle by the nation's leading newspapers, wire services, and television stations.

Second, the article clearly does not argue that Republicans and the NRA "caused" the killings, as Mr. Kopel says; I argue that restrictions on ATF's ability to crack down on wayward gun dealers made it far easier for the snipers to get their weapon. Mr. Kopel states that ATF had full power to revoke the license of the store in question, Bull's Eye Shooter Supply. While that's technically true, and I say in the piece that ATF should have done more, Kopel is dodging the central point: that the best way to enforce better compliance from stores like Bull's Eye is with penalties short of shutting them down--fines, temporary suspensions, etc. These more modest penalties are precisely the ones that the NRA and GOP made sure that ATF didn't have. This paralyzes ATF by putting them in the position of either putting a store owner out of business
completely, a rather draconian move, or doing nothing at all.

Kopel argues that there were ATF abuses before the 1986 restrictions were added, but the way to solve abuses is by disciplining the abusers, not robbing an agency of the tools it needs to do its job. If some police officers misuse their firearms, we don't respond by stripping the police force of its weapons.

Kopel says our statement that ATF can only audit a dealer once a year is nonsense, arguing that there is no limit on the number of audits than can be conducted in a criminal investigation. But we're talking about civil audits, not criminal ones. And ATF can only conduct a civil audit on a dealer once a year. If ATF had more flexibility in its ability to audit stores, the bureau could do more to prevent guns from hitting the streets, instead of having to wait until they've been used in crimes.

Kopel also takes issue with the data that show a high percentage of crime guns are traced to about 1 percent of FFLs, arguing that many FFLs in the remaining 99 percent are low volume dealers and located in more rural areas. So what? The point of the article is that ATF is restricted in its ability to discipline stores within that 1 percent, regardless of their volume or where they're located. Of course stores near high crime areas will have more crime guns traced back to them.

Some of those stores are doing nothing wrong. Others, through sloppy procedures, or out-and-out law breaking, are creating a menace to their communities. The gun store where the sniper suspects got their gun may be one of them. Our argument is that ATF is hamstrung in its ability to pursue precisely these bad actors.

This is more in answer to Kopel's point than to mine -- and in particular doesn't really answer my point about the blame-the-gun character of the language that I excerpted, which pervades the article. Nor -- given the generally ignorant and biased treatment of firearms in the mass media -- does the fact that newspapers called it a "sniper rifle" make it correct. Monthly magazines of ideas, like the Washington Monthly, are supposed to take the time to get things like that right in a way that daily papers can't.

What's disturbing about the efforts to call the Bushmaster a "sniper rifle" is that they dovetail so neatly with the latest campaign by advocacy groups. When journalists use the latest buzzphrase from anti-gun groups under circumstances where it really doesn't fit, it suggests that they're in the tank with those groups, or that they are sufficiently ignorant about the subject matter that they swallow the groups' points whole. And here, as near as I can tell, is their strategy:

"Saturday Night Specials" (cheap handguns) = Bad, must be banned

"Military Style Handguns" (expensive handguns) = Bad, must be banned

"Assault Weapons" (inaccurate, short-range rifles) = Bad, must be banned

"Sniper Rifles" (accurate, long-range rifles) = Bad, must be banned

As I said in my original post pointing this out, I think I'm starting to see a pattern here. And when an article seems to fit too neatly with that pattern, then I do tend to find it less credible.

FINAL UPDATE: Kopel replies to Kendall:

1. Mark Twain is reported to have said, "If a hundred people call a cow a dog, it's still a cow." The Bushmaster isn't a "sniper rifle," and no-one who knows anything about firearms would say that it is. There are thousands of guns which use scopes and bipods and which can kill from hundreds of yards. Only a small fraction of these guns are "sniper rifles." A cow has four legs and two eyes, and lives in multi-animal social groups, but the fact that a cow and a dog share some attributes which are also shared by many other animals doesn't mean that you can call a cow a dog. Even if the Associated Press calls a cow a dog, the fact that daily news outlets make a mistake doesn't justify the mistake being copied by a monthly magazine article that is supposed to be based on in-depth research.

2. BATF's abuse rate of 75% -- according to the findings of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution -- wasn't the result of a few bad agents. Such an abuse rate can only be the result of a pervasively flawed institutional culture. I don't think it's plausible to claim that an extraordinarily high abuse rate doesn't justify restricting an agency's powers. You can go back all the way to the Statute of Westminister promulgated by King Edward I (restricting sheriffs' powers which had been misused) up to the recent Congressional reforms of the Internal Revenue Service (which never had an abuse rate of 75% in its criminal prosecutions) to see lawmakers restricting powers which have been abused.

3. "the article clearly does not argue that Republicans and the NRA "caused" the killings, as Mr. Kopel says". That's parsing words awfully closely for a story with the headline "License to Kill: How the GOP helped John Allen Muhammed get a sniper rifle."

4. "Kopel is dodging the central point: that the best way to enforce better compliance from stores like Bull's Eye is with penalties short of shutting them down--fines, temporary suspensions, etc. These more modest penalties are precisely the ones that the NRA and GOP made sure that ATF didn't have. This paralyzes ATF by putting them in the position of either putting a store owner out of business completely, a rather draconian move, or doing nothing at all."

Absolutely wrong. 18 U.S.C. section 924 provides the penalties for violating the Gun Control Act, and it repeatedly says that violators "shall be fined." The author's error on this point suggests an inference that the author did not do his own research on some of the fundamental facts of the story -- such as checking firearms dictionaries for the definition of "sniper rifle," or checking the U.S. Code to read the law regarding penalties for firearms dealers who violate the GCA; rather, it seems possible that the author may have relied on a gun prohibition group for his facts in the story, and not gone far enough to verify those facts independently.

The article states that "ATF needed powers to encourage compliance: the ability to levy fines." It's misleading to the readers not to inform them that BATF already has the ability to seek fines -- after proving a violation in a court of law. An argument could be made that BATF needs the power to impose fines unilaterally, without having to prove a case in court. The article is loaded with nasty aspersions on Republicans, Ronald Reagan, and the NRA for successfully restricting BATF's powers in 1986, and for opposing new powers since then. It is misleading to offer this harsh attack without at least explaining that the restrictions were a reaction to what many people (including the UNANIMOUS Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution) found to be outrageous and pervasive abuse of power by BATF.

5. "Some of those stores are doing nothing wrong. Others, through sloppy procedures, or out-and-out law breaking, are creating a menace to their communities. The gun store where the sniper suspects got their gun may be one of them. Our argument is that ATF is hamstrung in its ability to pursue precisely these bad actors."

"Sloppy procedures" regarding the federally-required gun sales forms are a federal crime, and accordingly, the one-audit-per-year limit on BATF's random, suspicionless audits is irrelevant. BATF can conduct as many criminal audits as it wants for stores which violate record-keeping laws. BATF can seek fines against these stores (rather than revoking their FFL), if BATF can prove a violation in a court of law. As to whether BATF should have sought a fine against Bulls Eye for losing some its inventory, it might be fair to note that the FBI and BATF themselves have, in recent years, lost vast quantities of guns.

6. The article provides a one-sided recitation of the gun prohibition lobby's theory of why BATF isn't more effective: it's all the fault of the wicked NRA, and BATF just needs more power. An article more in keeping with the Washington Monthly's historic skepticism of bureaucracy might have included the perspective of some critics within BATF, such as National Association of Treasury Agents, who could have explained that enforcement problems are often the result of BATF's very serious management problems rather than always being the NRA's fault.

So there you have it. A dialogue that many people will no doubt find interesting.

OKAY, ONE MORE BUT THIS IS REALLY THE LAST UPDATE: Many, many readers sent emails along the lines of this one by Eric Bainter:

Mr. Kendall's reply to you on the "Sniper Rifle" article contains the following statements:

"Kopel argues that there were ATF abuses before the 1986 restrictions were added, but the way to solve abuses is by disciplining the abusers, not robbing an agency of the tools it needs to do its job. If some police officers misuse their firearms, we don't respond by stripping the police force of its weapons."

S'pose this logic applies to citizens as well? If a pair of wackos abuses a 'regular" rifle/"sniper rifle"/gun to kill people, the answer is to discipline the abusers, not to take away the hundreds/thousands of guns that the rest of the citizenry owns...

Yep. But this undercuts the entire philosophy of the gun-control movement.

I LIED ABOUT THAT BEING THE LAST UPDATE: Brent Kendall has emailed and asks me to post this reply to Kopel. As I am nothing if not generous about such things, here it is:

Kopel repeatedly insists on talking about what a court of law can do as a way of avoiding a discussion about what ATF can and can't do -- which is the clear
subject of our piece.

Regardless of Kopel's word twisting, it remains a fact: ATF cannot levy fines. The bureau's agents and inspectors cannot walk into a store and write a gun
dealer a ticket for record-keeping problems. When Kopel says that ATF "has the power to seek fines -- after proving a violation in a court of law," he is
attempting to sidetrack readers by entering into a discussion about the judicial process. This is a completely separate track from the subject in question:
ATF's civil, regulatory authority. This is the same exact tactic he uses in his misleading comments about ATF's audit authority -- he talks about "genuine
criminal investigations" when we're talking about routine regulatory powers. And reiterating from my previous post: in its regulatory duties, ATF is limited
to one audit per year.

Kopel's insistence in talking about the courts drips with irony, because there's one thing he isn't telling you. The 1986 law that watered down ATF's powers
reduced all record-keeping violations to misdemeanor offenses, making it extremely difficult for ATF to take dealers to court. As I say in the piece, federal
prosecutors, already burdened with more felony cases than they can litigate, usually don't accept misdemeanor referrals. This is one more example of the
chutzpah of the gun lobby -- demanding ATF prove its case in court after crippling its ability to go to court.

Well, it's "crippled" only because prosecutors don't think it's worth the time. As somebody who had to make political threats to get someone prosecuted for attempted vehicular homicide, I find that easy to believe, but it seems a bit beside the point. If Kopel responds, I'll post it here, too. After that, I'm telling them to set up a chatboard. . . .


1. I did state that Mr. Kendall's article (and some parts of his follow-up replies) were quite wrong factually. That doesn't mean that Mr. Kendall had a conscious intent to deceive. Like many journalists for very high-quality publications, Mr. Kendall may have made the mistake of relying too heavily on anti-gun lobbies for his facts and story frame, with insufficient independent verification.

2. In this final reply, Mr. Kendall at last raises an issue which is, at best, implied in his original article. While BATF can seek fines in a court of law, BATF can't impose them unilaterally. As I said in my second reply, "An argument could be made that BATF needs the power to impose fines unilaterally, without having to prove a case in court." The original Kendall article never tells readers that FFLs can be fined under existing law. There's a good article to be written about what BATF, at least arguably, needs the power to impose fines by its own fiat, rather than having to prove a case in court -- but that wasn't the article that the Washington Monthly published.

3. Mr. Kendall refers to Kopel's "misleading comments about ATF's audit authority -- he talks about 'genuine criminal investigations' when we're talking about routine regulatory powers. And reiterating from my previous post: in its regulatory duties, ATF is limited to one audit per year." Kendall had originally written that rogue dealers are immune from audits 364 days a year. BATF don't need a regulatory audit to investigate such dealers; criminals audits provide more than sufficient power. Mr. Kendall didn't tell the readers that BATF can perform an unlimited number of audits when there is genuine criminal suspicion. There might be a good article to be written about why unlimited criminal audit powers don't suffice for audits of criminally-suspect FFLs, but that article wasn't the article that was published.

4. "Kopel's insistence in talking about the courts drips with irony, because there's one thing he isn't telling you. The 1986 law that watered down ATF's powers reduced all record-keeping violations to misdemeanor offenses, making it extremely difficult for ATF to take dealers to court. As I say in the piece, federal prosecutors, already burdened with more felony cases than they can litigate, usually don't accept misdemeanor referrals. This is one more example of the chutzpah of the gun lobby -- demanding ATF prove its case in court after crippling its ability to go to court." Intentionally supplying guns to criminals is still a major federal felony. Paperwork violations that aren't based on an intent to harm are not, in my view at least, appropriately classified as federal felonies. I realize that federal laws in other fields make minor paperwork errors into felonies, but I'd suggest that those laws ought to be changed too. If overburdened U.S. Attorneys won't take legitimate misdemeanor referrals from BATF, perhaps the solution isn't to change paperwork errors into felonies. Instead, how about relieving the federal prosecutors of the vast amount of other federal cases that have little to do with genuine federal interests, but which instead are based, as Glenn and I have argued elsewhere, on misuse of the interstate commerce power to create laws having no real connection to interstate commerce. (See ) And as I suggested in my first reply, how about getting BATF out of the licensing business, and letting states take care of the issue -- as they do with liquor stores, doctors, and most other forms of business licensing? State prosecutors tend to be quite willing to accept misdemeanor referrals. Readers who would like the details of the 1986 reforms of BATF powers may enjoy reading David Hardy's enormous law review article on the subject:
The Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986 would serve as a useful template for the reform of many other federal criminal law enforcement agencies, including the DEA.

Mr. Kendall and I are doomed to disagree on the issue of whether (as he suggests)the BATF should have powers like the DEA, or whether (as I believe) DEA and other federal agencies ought to have to abide by the same due process protections that apply to the BATF. As a magazine journalist, he's entitled to his opinion; where I think his article fell short, journalistically, was in not informing readers about some of the important factual issues (which we've discussed in these exchanges) which a well-informed reader ought to know in order to make up her own mind. A writer has only so much space to tell a story, so it's always a judgment call about what facts to include. I'd suggest that if readers re-examine Mr. Kendall's article, many readers will conclude that the article would have been much more solid if it had included some of the facts which we've discussed in these Instapundit exchanges.

One more thing:

The Washington Monthly stated "ATF has no power to temporarily suspend a dealer's license, or impose a fine."

In fact, 18 U.S. Code section 922(t) states that if a firearms dealer transfers a firearm without complying with the National Instant Check System, then BATF may, through administrative action, "after notice and opportunity for a hearing, suspend for not more than 6 months or revoke any license issued to the licensee under section 923, and may impose on the licensee a civil fine of not more than $5,000." See: link.

And now this really is over. If there's more guys, you'll have to, er, take it outside.

OKAY, this letter from Ed Koch rings slightly false to me. But then, it's a letter from a politician, so it might do that even if it's genuine. . . . Does anybody know the score?

I should say that I don't disagree with the sentiments, I just wonder about its authenticity. And I'd hate to pull a Streisand here. . . .

UPDATE: Hey, maybe it's real!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Boris Schlossberg emails that he heard Koch say this on Bloomberg radio.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, if it's fake, it's in a lot of places.

And Michael Barone, who points out that he is not Britney Spears, emails to say that the piece sounds just like many Koch pieces that he's read. So I guess I was wrong to be suspicious -- it was the praise for Falwell and Robertson that made me wonder.

CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES is up at Eleven Day Empire this week. Don't miss it!

MY DAUGHTER, whose computer is in my study, is playing "Arthur's Second Grade." It's fun to watch how thoroughly she's into it.

A WHILE BACK I noted a stupid censorship effort at Harvard Business School. Now Thor Halvorssen of FIRE emails that Dean Kim Clark of the Harvard Business School has apologized in writing.

That's good. Better still, of course, would be not doing this sort of thing in the first place. But maybe they'll learn, eventually.

MICKEY KAUS is slamming the Congressional Republicans for being pigs at the trough.

MORE DIET-BLOGGING! With, ahem, topless photos!

TRIUMPH OF THE BLOGS: I (sort of) already blogged this story, but I missed this angle.

HERE ARE SOME PICTURES from the San Francisco area bloggers' bash, courtesy of Stefan Sharkansky. And here are some observations on the greater diversity of the blogosphere as compared to traditional media. The two, um, reinforce each other. . . .

JEFF JARVIS has more on vlogging, -- including an Italian vlog. It's a global phenomenon now!

EUGENE VOLOKH has blogged a very interesting summary of the Hamdi decision.

BUSY with hardware / software installation. Result: Hardware and software work fine, but I need more cables.

I always need more cables.

In the meantime, go here for more on the Los Alamos scandals, something I've been meaning to write about. But now I don't have to!

UPDATE: Reader John Dellapa emails:

You hit the nail on the head with the cable comment.

While Bill Gates and Mike Dell get all the attention, the guys laughing all the way to the bank are at Belkin.

Ain't it the truth. I've got a whole cabinet full of cables, and I always seem to need something else.

JOHN BROCKMAN asks experts to tell the President what's important in science. You can read the answers, from people like Stephen Pinker, Freeman Dyson, David Gelernter, Ian Wilmut, Jaron Lanier, Ray Kurzweil, and many, many more.

MISSY IS diet-blogging now. More fiber!

HERE'S MORE on the Orwellian tactics used against drinkers in Northern Virginia.

Sorry, but this is inexcusable, and some of the examples make clear that this is really just an in terrorem effort, not serious law enforcement. I hope a bunch of people sue. Could it be another Houston in the making? We'll see.

UPDATE: And here's the latest from Houston: paying outside lawyers big bucks to expunge the records.

Well, I imagine there are some Enron lawyers down there with good document-expunging expertise. . . .

KOS'S POLITICAL STATE REPORT seems to be going great guns. I just wish this thing had been around during the runup to the elections.

Oh, wait -- this is America in the 21st century. It's always the runup to an election!

COLBY COSH IS charmingly irritable about everything from nasty e-mail to dumb car names. Though I think the Pontiac would sell. Mickey Kaus, call your office!

GREGORY HLATKY writes about the racism of Hollywood "progressives" -- though, to be fair, I'm not sure how much of this is racism, and how much is just contempt for non-Hollywood America. If that's any better. . . .


BIG SANDY, Texas – In a terror scene reminiscent of Sept. 11, an armed man threatening to kill Americans aboard an Amtrak train had to be subdued by passengers.

"All Americans will die!" suspect Gerardo Bedia was quoted as shouting, along with a host of obscenities before being overpowered by fellow travelers Sunday.

According to Big Sandy police, the man spoke English, Spanish and "some kind of Middle Eastern language."

Chief Ronnie Norman said the weapon – a black, all-plastic polymer folding knife – is typically used to defeat metal detectors, the Longview News-Journal reported.

"It could have been a lot worse," Norman told the paper. "The passengers did a fantastic job of restraining him."

Henry Hanks wonders why this story isn't getting more attention. Beats me -- I just looked for the would-be killer's name on the AP search engine and found nothing.

UPDATE: Here's another report, courtesy of reader Chris Lawrence.

CANADA'S GUN REGISTRY: Not only an expensive failure, but social and political poison:

We now know that the government's gun-control policy is a fiscal and administrative debacle. Its costs rival those of core services like national defence. And it doesn't work. What is less well known is that the policy wasn't designed to control guns. . . .

Which is precisely why it appealed to those putting together the Liberal Red Book for the pivotal 1993 election. If the object of the policy exercise was to appear to be "tougher" on guns than Kim Campbell, they had to find a policy that would provoke legitimate gun-owners to outrage. Nothing would better convince the Liberals' urban constituency that Jean ChrР№tien and Allan Rock were taking a tough line on guns than the spectacle of angry old men spouting fury on Parliament Hill.

The supreme irony of the gun registry battle is that the policy was selected because it would goad people who knew something about guns to public outrage. That is, it had a purely political purpose in the special context of a hard-fought election. The fact that it was bad policy was crucial to the specific political effect it was supposed to deliver.

And so we saw demonstrations by middle-aged firearm owners, family men whose first reflex was to respect the laws of the land. This group's political alienation is a far greater loss than the $200-million that have been wasted so far. The creation of this new criminal class -- the ultimate triumph of negative political alchemy -- may be the worst, and most enduring product of the gun registry culture war.

Personally, I think that anything that inspires large numbers of Canadians to engage in civil disobedience can't be all bad. But Canada's gun registry was an example of the kind of cynicism that inspires most gun-control efforts in America, too. And the results here would be far, far worse.

UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Gewirtz emails:

One reason why Bill Clinton was such a bad president is that, to a much greater degree than other recent presidents, he treated political opponents and their constituents as class enemies. His cynical alienation of gun owners and small-business people will take years to undo, even if the federal govt shows unprecedented goodwill, which it hasn't. The Canadian left has done the same thing, but worse. These kinds of political tactics don't work in the long run, as is now becoming obvious. Bush Jr., for all his flaws and triangulations, appears to understand this, which accounts for much of his political success in Texas and as president.

I think that's right.

THE JOYS AND HAZARDS OF interviewing bloggers. Interesting piece.

TRF is all over draft proponents in a multi-post Fisk-a-thon. Fisk-a-rama? Fiskfest? Well, anyway, he's against it.

THE ALGERIAN CONNECTION: I've been suggesting one for quite a while. Now an article by Jake Tapper in The Weekly Standard (yes, you read that right) explains the Algerian connection to terrorism in general, while this article in the Daily Mirror suggests that the alleged ricin terrorists arrested in London yesterday had -- drum roll, please -- an Algerian connection.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting link, courtesy of the indispensable Sophie Brenner, purveyor of many interesting links.

MR. BLACKWELL is pointing out the worst-dressed celebrities, but Web Pages That Suck is pretty hard on Mr. Blackwell.

RADLEY BALKO explains how you can make 20 bucks at the expense of Big Music.

ROUTING AROUND IDIOTS: My TechCentralStation column is up.

January 07, 2003


MICKEY KAUS BLOGS from the L.A. Auto Show. Maybe I can pick up a Maybach for cheap!

CHEMBLOGGER DEREK LOWE has a lengthy post on ricin.

DIET-BLOGGING, CONT'D: Jeez, if you want email, forget politics. Write about dieting, and especially the Atkins diet.

Reader Joe Zengerle sends a link to this story in The New Republic, and adds: "Aerobics and weights are good -- but don't forget the essential third leg of stretching, or your stool will fall down (is there a better metaphor?)." Uh, I hope there is. But he's right about the importance of stretching. I neglected it for a while this summer, and I'm still trying to get all the limberness back.

Reader Mark Martino sent a link to the site of bodybuilding lawyer Clarence Bass. Uh, I don't look like that. But I have more hair.

Reader Mark Brittingham, who has a Ph.D. in (I think) exercise physiology, writes:

I run a software company that provides health and fitness assessment software to clubs, universities, wellness centers and hospitals around the world. . . .

Regarding BMI - you are quite correct. Bodyfat assessment is far superior to BMI in assessing body composition for individuals. BMI is widely used in population studies since the great majority of people simply aren't as "hypertrophic" (extra-muscular) as you are: they simply have too much bodyfat. So BMI provides an easily obtained proxy for "real" body composition measures like %bodyfat.

"Extra-muscular" -- I like the sound of that!

On the Atkins diet, Oliver Willis writes:

I was skeptical of the Atkins diet. No longer.

But I think the last word on the subject comes from Doonesbury.

Some things never change.

COULD THE JOHN EDWARDS JUGGERNAUT have just become unstoppable? No wonder Tom Daschle has bowed out. He can see the handwriting on the wall, now that Edwards has locked up the most important base of support in the Democratic Party.

OKAY, I'M NO MICHAEL BARONE, but a 43% re-elect number doesn't seem especially strong. Am I wrong here?

UPDATE: Michael Barone emails: "you're no Michael Barone." Well, I said that. . . . He adds:

On the 43% reelect number:

As I recall, when Peter Hart (my boss 1974-81) started using the reelect question, we all assumed that an incumbent with an under 50% reelect was in some trouble. That seemed to be right then.

But in the last few cycles I've noticed that almost no one gets a 50% reelect--and these have been strong incumbent cycles, starting in 1996. Lots of incumbents who get 43% reelect go on to win quite nicely.

What I think is going on here is that only strong partisans say either "reelect" or "elect someone else." Thus Bush scores pretty well on this Ipsos-Reid poll, because 43% reelect is a lot better than 29% elect someone else.

I think Bush--unless his numbers go sharply down, which of course could happen--is headed for reelection with something like 54%-56% of the vote. I think the strong cultural divisions in the country mean that over 40% are going to find themselves on one side or the other, no matter how well they think the incumbent has performed. So numbers like Johnson's 61% in 1964, Nixon's 61% in 1972 and Reagan's 59% in 1984 (notice: it's just a little bit smaller) are just not in the cards for 2004. I think the 43%-29% in Ipsos-Reid translates to something like 55% for Bush, 40% for the Democrat and 4% for Nader-- a number that could go up or down depending on how lefty the Democrat is.

That would be a nice electoral college victory for Bush, but he still wouldn't carry California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont and probably Illinois--151 electoral votes. So his electoral vote count would not be much better than Clinton's in 1996, when the popular vote was 49%-41%, and most of the Perot voters were anti-Clinton.

Thanks. I feel like Woody Allen when he pulled in Marshall McLuhan from off-camera to settle an argument!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jay Caruso, (who, I should point out, isn't Michael Barone either) has some thoughts.

COLBY COSH POINTS TO ethnic cleansing in Lebanon. Where was Robert Fisk while this was going on?

UPDATE: Damian Penny posts the not-so-startling answer to this question, just in case you didn't know already.

THIS POST from earlier today about "prank calls to dictators" has produced a few emails from people outraged that I would call Hugo Chavez a dictator. Oh, the humanity! Hesiod Theogeny emails:

Does this mean we can now call Dubyah a "Dictator?"


Thanks for breaking the ice, Glenn!

Sadly, Hesiod is behind the curve as usual. (I emailed back "What do you mean 'now?'"). After all Spinsanity was chiding assorted lefties like Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, and the ubiquitous Michael Moore for doing just that, months ago.

Anyway, we've already been over all this -- Hesiod must have been playing hooky that day. Here's an earlier post pointing out that, yes indeedy, you can be elected and still be a dictator. Am I the only one besides Dr. Weevil who studied this stuff?

UPDATE: Tim Cavanaugh doesn't feel sorry for Chavez.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Randy Paul, sadly, may have the last word on Venezuela: "At the end of the day it doesn't seem like there will be any winners here."

CHRIS MOONEY is unimpressed with Bill Frist's medical positions.

I'M GOING TO FOLLOW UP THE DIET-AND-EXERCISE POST later tonight. But I can assure you that this proposal by Rand Simberg isn't likely to become reality.

MICHAEL MOORE IS STILL A JERK -- and he's rude to the help, too. I've noticed in academia, too, that it's often the loud lefties who are rudest to the secretaries and copy-room people.

Meanwhile, Rachel Lucas offers a psychological analysis.

UPDATE: Nelson Ascher emails:

According to you:

"I've noticed in academia, too, that it's often the loud lefties who are rudest to the secretaries and copy-room people."

Well, I've noticed something similar in my country too. . . . The trouble with the lefties everywhere is that, just as they believe that anti-semitism is strictly a rightist thing, and thus they may hate the Jews without being suspected of it (after all, they're just anti-Zionists, right?), in the same way, because being a leftist vaccinates anyone against any kind of social bias, they feel free to despise the poor with a light conscience.

Yes. And many academics seem to feel that since their work is noble, by necessity they must be noble, too, without any need to actually act in a noble fashion. It's not so.

A READER EMAILS (and I hope he doesn't have any inside knowledge) that I should link again to this column on what individual citizens can do to prepare for terrorist attacks. Okay. Hope nobody needs it, though.


NEW YORK - Publication has been halted on a disputed book about the history of guns in the United States.

Questions about Michael Bellesiles' "Arming America" had already led Columbia University to rescind the prestigious Bancroft Prize for history.

When Columbia made the announcement last month, publisher Alfred A. Knopf said the book would remain in print. But Jane Garrett, Bellesiles' editor, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the publisher would no longer sell it.

"We are in the process of ending our contractual arrangement with Michael for `Arming America,'" Garrett said. . . .

According to Garrett, the book has sold about 8,000 copies in hardcover and about 16,000 in paperback.

Bellesiles spent 10 years working on "Arming America," published by Knopf in 2000. The book challenges the idea that the United States has always been a gun-oriented culture and that well-armed militias were essential to the Revolutionary War.

"Arming America" was praised in both The New York Times and The New York Review of Books and won the Bancroft Prize, presented to works of "exceptional merit and distinction in the fields of American history and biography."

The Bancroft Prize has been revoked, of course. No word on what, if anything, the New York Times and the New York Review of Books plan to do.

Thanks to reader Adam Bonin for the headsup.

UPDATE: Brian Erst emails:

The thing that really stood out to me in your item about Knopf ending publication of "Arming America" were the total sales figures. I'm not sure what the normal market is for "serious" history books, but you'd think one that was as highly touted and controversial as this one would have sold more than 24,000 copies (8K in hardcover, 16K in paper). About the only (totally unfair)comparison I could quickly come up with was David McCullough's popular history of John Adams, which sold 1.5 million hardcover copies in 2001 alone.

To me, this would indicate that except for the most die-hard gun buffs and history nuts, the vast majority of the people who have any opinion at all on this subject (including myself) are probably only familiar with the discussion surrounding the book, and not the book itself. I suppose this is true of many things, but it really struck me this time. Far more people have read James Lindgren's Yale Law Journal article (100K+ just via links from your site) than have purchased the original book. Fascinating.

Actually, 24K in sales is pretty good for what's called an "academic trade" book, where 15,000 copies is considered a strong seller. (People don't realize how atypical those million-copy books are). Interesting point about the Lindgren piece, though. The count on that one (just checked for the first time in a while) stands at 119,593 -- meaning that (given that it's available elsewhere, too) something over five times as many people have read Lindgren as have bought Arming America.

VLOG TRAFFIC UPDATE: Here's what Don McArthur reports about the Vlog Noir video of his that I linked last night:

The Instapundit linked to my little digital video on 06 Jan 2003 at 20:20. I just checked my logs, and the file has been requested 3,591 times since then. Go Red Hat and Apache.

I had trouble reaching him, and so did Jeff Jarvis, so I imagine that the numbers would have been even higher if everyone who tried could have gotten through. In an email, Don said that the bottleneck appeared to be his Linksys router. I don't think they're made with quite that kind of traffic in mind.

Still, it's definitely another milestone in vlogging. Historians and sociologists of the blogosphere, take note!

ONLY THE TITLE TO THIS ARTICLE IS ONLINE: But I think that's all we need to realize that it's probably dumb. Here's what's on the Washington Monthly's website:

License to Kill
How the GOP helped John Allen Muhammad get a sniper rifle.
by Brent Kendall

How do we know it's dumb from this tiny amount of information? Let me count the ways. First, the Bushmaster rifle that John Allen Muhammad used isn't a sniper rifle. It's what is more commonly called an "assault rifle," a term of art that means it's a civilian rifle, like many other civilian rifles, only with military look. At least, that's what anti-gun people used to call guns like that, during the previous phase of their PR campaign. But, now that there's a sniper, guns they don't like have mysteriously morphed into "sniper rifles," even though -- as was exhaustively pointed out during the attacks -- no self-respecting sniper would use a gun like this, and Muhammad wasn't a sniper anyway.

Second, notice the blood libel: "how the GOP helped" John Muhammad get the gun. Riiiight.

I suppose I could be wrong here. The article could be sensitive, nuanced, and technically accurate, rather than simply recycled PR poop from the Violence Policy Center and the Brady Campaign. But I rather doubt it, and certainly the folks at the Washington Monthly have gone out of their way to make it look as if it's the latter.

UPDATE: Heck, here's a quote from the Washington Post article linked above. Don't people at the Washington Monthly read the Post? Don't they realize that other people do, too?

His choice of weapon reveals something as well. It's notable that he hasn't selected a firearm or a cartridge that's linked to sniping as it's practiced professionally. The police have described the recovered fragments as being from a ".223 bullet," a particular vagueness that suggests they know a lot more than they're letting on or a lot less. In any event, the .223 family of cartridges -- it could also include a target round like the .222, a varmint round like the .22-250 or a specialized pistol round like the .221 Fireball -- aren't part of authentic sniper practice or the more informal "sniper culture" that surrounds this most disturbing but necessary of jobs. Most government and police snipers use a .308 Winchester rifle because it is far more lethal (its muzzle-energy, which measures force in pounds by mathematical formula, is around 2,300 pounds, while the .223's is around 1,200; in most states the .223 -- or any .22 centerfire -- is illegal for deer hunting because it wounds without killing too frequently.) The .223, as a combat round, has proved disappointing; one merely has to read "Black Hawk Down" or the specialized gun press to sample the discontent with its performance in Mogadishu or Afghanistan.

So why the misleading title? Could it be because it's consistent with the current agendas of anti-gun advocacy groups? I think that just might be the case.

DID BASEBALL BLOGGERS SCOOP BIG MEDIA on the Hall of Fame? Not exactly, but this is certainly proof that it's hard to hide anything from the blogosphere.

OOPS! I'm not really sure how much to blame the FBI for this one. Better safe than sorry, I guess, but if this happens too often the real warnings won't get listened to.

I seem to recall bloggers having doubts about this story from day one. Kathy Kinsley wrote, not exactly presciently but certainly skeptically, "It will probably turn out that these guys wanted to go gamble in Las Vegas or something." Weren't some other people skeptical of this one, too?

UPDATE: Suman Palit was skeptical, though not sympathetic. . . .

PARIS CORRESPONDENT CLAIRE BERLINSKI REPORTS on the Israeli boycott effort's inglorious end:

The debate on the motion to recommend the rupture of the European Union's scientific cooperation agreements with Israel was scheduled to take place at the University of Paris VII this afternoon, but when I called to find out how the issue had been resolved, I was told that the president of the university, BenoРѕt Eurin, had declared the motion to be incompatible with the University's charter.

The university issued a press release a few moments ago (Link): The communiquР№ begins by mentioning that the university will be taking its obligation to remove asbestos from its buildings before January 2005 very, very seriously. As an afterthought, the University's board of directors observe that judgments on the suspension of scientific exchanges with Israeli universities are outside the institution's realm of competence, and, in compliance with Article 3 of the January 26,1984 Law on Higher Education, the board was in favor of reinforcing Paris VII's scientific cooperation agreements with all the universities of the world. The motion was passed with 39 in favor, six against, and an abstention. (Readers will be relieved to know that the asbestos resolution was adopted with 41 votes and four abstentions: a principled stand of which the French Academy can be proud.)

It's a very French solution to the problem of how best to deal with nitwits, and reminiscent of the Oriana Fallaci case, in which the French courts declined to take a stand on the essential problem -- whether the French courts should be in the business of banning books -- and instead dismissed the suit against Fallaci on purely procedural grounds. These procedural evasions get the job done, I suppose, but without much glory. Not a bad description of France political life in general, really.

Incidentally, when I called this morning to ask whether I might be permitted to watch the proceedings, I was told, categorically, that the debate was closed to the public. When I asked why, I was told by the secretary to the president that it was because the whole business was "just too disgusting."

No argument there. And, you know, I'm getting some pretty good reporting out of the Paris Bureau this week. Especially considering what I pay them. . . .

On the other hand, they get the same salary that I do!

NOW THIS is my kind of deal. Kind of like the old days of the Web, isn't it?

WILL TYSSE NOTICES something in a CNN story on the London ricin arrests that's missing from the BBC story I link below:

U.S. officials said in August that the Islamic extremist group Ansar al-Islam had tested ricin along with other chemical and biological agents in northern Iraq, territory controlled by Kurds, not Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The group is allegedly linked to al-Qaeda.

United Nations weapons inspectors who left Iraq in 1998 listed ricin among the poisons they believed Saddam produced and later failed to account for, The Associated Press reported.

You don't say.

UPDATE: Here's a bit of skepticism on the ricin issue -- though as I mentioned below it would be interesting to know what these guys planned to do with it. Did they work in the food or beverage industry? Could they have been planning Bulgarian-style assassinations? I presume that -- if it's not a false alarm -- we'll know eventually.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on Iraq and ricin:

Intelligence sources told ABCNEWS there is evidence the terrorists tested ricin in water, as a powder and as an aerosol. They used it to kill donkeys, chickens and at one point allegedly exposed a man in an Iraqi market.

They then followed him home and watched him die several days later, sources said.

That sort of delay could have terrorist applications, I would imagine.

NATIONAL ID: Mostly dead here, but alive -- and creepy -- in Britain.

ADVICE TO YOUNG -- AND NOT-SO-YOUNG PROFESSORS: When I was just starting out, an older colleague advised me to save everything -- clippings of newspaper articles mentioning me, thank-you notes from undergraduate classes that I guest-lectured to, letters from people who liked my scholarship, etc. Thank goodness I did, because putting together your tenure "file" (usually several fat binders) is a lot easier when you have all that stuff in one place.

And then keep the file! I just needed a copy of something from 1989, and though I'm sure I have other copies somewhere, it was easy to just pull the tenure binder off the shelf and make a copy. No digging necessary.


Anti-terrorist police have arrested seven people after discovering traces of the highly toxic poison, ricin, in London.

In the early hours of 5 January, six men of north African origin and one woman were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 at premises in North and East London by officers from the Metropolitan Police Anti -Terrorist Branch. . . .

Ricin, which comes from the castor bean, is considered a likely biowarfare or bioterrorist agent and is on the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention's "B" list of agents - considered a moderate threat.

It is relatively easy to manufacture in small amounts but would be considered an unusual agent to use for a mass attack as it must be ingested or injected to take effect.

Remember, though, that the Al Qaeda training manuals encourage people to infiltrate the food and beverage industries. If this is real -- and not, say, a false-positive brought on by organic laxatives -- it's something to take quite seriously.

HIGH-TECH IRANIANS: Pejman Yousefzadeh reports.

HOORAY FOR KNOXVILLE musician Sarah Lewis, who just won a prestigious national songwriting award. I don't know her, but my youngest brother's band has played with hers, and he says they're good.


CLAYTON CRAMER has an article on History News Network summing up the Bellesiles affair. Excerpt:

Michael A. Bellesiles’s Bancroft Prize for Arming America has been revoked—the first time that a Bancroft Prize has ever been taken away from an author.[1] He has also resigned from Emory University after a blistering criticism by a blue-ribbon panel.[2] Is this embarrassing moment for the history profession a fluke, or indicative of deeper problems?

I fear that it isn’t a fluke. Arming America reveals that there are some very serious problems in the history professorate, and they are not confined to just one history professor’s demonstration of hubris. . . .

Read the whole thing.


Jon Lech Johansen, also known as DVD Jon, has been acquitted of charges over his development and distribution of DeCSS, a program that can be used to break the digital copy-protection mechanism of DVDs, his attorney said Tuesday.

The court found that Johansen was entitled to access information on a DVD that he had purchased, and was therefore entitled to use his program to break the code, attorney Halvor Manshaus said Tuesday.

Amazingly sensible. Jack Valenti must be furious.

UPDATE: Reader Jacob Corre sends this link to a gallery of descramblers presented in various ways. Including a guy singing.

NOT A HATCHET JOB: Today's Chicago Tribune has an InstaPundit profile. Here's the key passage, though:

This is a point that Reynolds makes repeatedly: "I get more attention than I deserve. Some bloggers deserve more than they get. I'm happy to have it. Nobody becomes a law professor without a big ego. But, I encourage you to scroll down on my Web site and look at some of the other Weblogs."

In addition, says Reynolds, the huge amount of e-mail he gets "tells you how many smart people there are out there and how many of them are in jobs that are not traditionally thought of as `intellectual' jobs where smart people go. Truck drivers and insurance salesmen and mechanics. You know. People! They're smart as hell."

They are. And while I'm happy for the attention, there are a lot of interesting profiles of other bloggers waiting to be written. If you're a journalist, and you want to write on blogs, check out the links. Or email me and I'll give you some suggestions.

ASSIMILATED TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: Cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson has a blog.

(Via Electrolite -- who, I'm happy to say, is blogging more these days.)

GYM BLOGGING: I'm off to a late start today because I've tried to return to my habit -- which InstaPundit has interfered with -- of going straight to the gym after dropping my daughter off at school.

That got me thinking about the dieting debate involving Megan McArdle and Jim Henley -- as well as about John Ellis's diet-blogging. Here are a few personal observations, which may or may not be worth anything.

First, the Body Mass Index seems worthless to me. Case in point: me. I'm 6' 3" tall. When I first started working out again over ten years ago, I weighed 194, which, according to the Body Mass Index calculator gave me a BMI of 24.2, which is healthy. Now, after many years of aerobic exercise and weight training, I weigh 210. That gives me an unhealthy BMI of 26.2 today. But when I started working out, my bodyfat was, if I recall correctly, 23.7%. Now it's between 15 & 16%. My resting heart rate, always low, is lower than it was. My cholesterol is 150. I look better. And despite being at the computer a lot, I have fewer aches and pains than I had then. So am I really less healthy as the result of adding a good deal of muscle and losing a good deal of fat? I don't think so.

Second, weight training is really important. Diet is important -- you really can't get in shape without paying attention to what you eat. But for me there's nothing like muscle-building exercise to bring down body fat. Old-fashioned free squats are the single best thing: if I do them regularly, I get in better shape overall, and in particular the computer-related low-back pain disappears. If I stop for a while I can really tell the difference, in bodyfat and in how I feel. I don't use a lot of weight -- never more than bodyweight, and usually a good deal less. They even seem to help my knees feel better (as long as I'm careful to observe strict form). Other big compound exercises (curls, clean-and-press, etc.) have similar effects -- old-fashioned, but effective. Aerobic/cardio work is important too (if I slack on that, I can see my cholesterol go up, and in particular my "good" HDL go down), but people seem naturally to pay more attention to aerobic exercise for some reason. Don't neglect the weight training, too. This goes double for women, who need the bone strength it builds, and some of whom seem to worry about building too much muscle. Don't worry -- you won't. And muscles on women are sexy, anyway.

I've long been an Atkins skeptic, and I've never done the Atkins diet. I do notice, though, that the more carbs I eat the hungrier I get. Protein and fat seem to satisfy me on fewer calories. Fortunately, I'd rather eat them anyway, and I'd rather have a small serving of protein than a big one of carbs. (My wife, like most women, feels differently.)

Anyway, for me it all goes back to a series of Bloom County cartoons in which Opus kept looking for gimmicks, oblivious to Milo's advice of "eat less and exercise more." "That can't be it!" exclaimed Opus. It can, and it is. At least in my experience.

PRANK CALLS TO DICTATORS, via Henry Hanks. Back in my law school days, we drunkenly placed a collect call to the Kremlin from "Raoul Wallenberg." They didn't accept the charges.

This is much better.

January 06, 2003

BLOGGING THE POLITICAL CONVENTIONS: Ken Layne did it in 2000! I guess that's why we worship him. Well, that and the spiffily-groomed beard.

HERE'S A LIST OF CONTACT INFORMATION FOR D.C. MEDIA FOLKS, courtesy of a lefty outfit called "take back the media." I haven't checked it, but I assume it's accurate. I'd save the page, or print it out, not just bookmark it, just in case the folks at the Washington Black Book raise a fuss. . . .

FOXHOLE CONVERSION IN THE DRUG WAR: Reason interviews three drug warriors who now think the war on drugs is a mistake. Vietnam comparisons are made -- and rightly so. Excerpt:

Reason: From the perspective of the working police officer, how has the War on Drugs changed over the years?

McNamara: It has become the priority of police agencies. It’s bizarre. We make 700,000 arrests for marijuana a year. The public is not terrified of marijuana. People are terrified of molesters, school shootings, and people stalking women and children. The police are not putting the resources into those crimes where they could be effective if they gave them top priority.

You don't get to seize and forfeit a Ferrari when you bust someone who rapes little old ladies. Read the whole thing.

(Via TalkLeft).

HMM. THIS IS INTERESTING. Someone from the New York Times is looking for people to say bad things about me. I guess I've been picking on Howell Raines too much!

But there are no secrets in the blogosphere. Heh.

UPDATE: Reader Tom Larsen writes: "How's this sound?: 'Critics say that Mr. Reynolds has been ...'"

We'll see.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Just got off the phone with the reporter. I've agreed not to blog about the story for now, but he's promised that it's not a hatchet job. I think I trust him, and the last New York Times guy to promise that was a man of his word.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Yes, I know, it's not as good a picture as the one of Lil Kim below. I wasn't hired for my looks, which shouldn't come as any surprise.

THE LAST UPDATE TO THIS POST: But I can't resist linking to this parody by Ken Layne. What's great is that -- as the comments indicate -- it was realistic enough to fool people!

VLOGGING TAKES ANOTHER STEP: This one can only be called Vlog Noir. Frightening, and all too true.

It's by Don McArthur.


I was driving home at close to 6 PM from the Rue Des Ecoles to the Island of St Louis, when I was caught in a traffic jam due basically to police cars and vans and lots of policemen running around in riot gear. There had just been a protest in front of the nearby campus of Sorbonne 6, where immediately before Christmas, with half of its 60 or so counsellors absent, a resolution was voted that, in short, called for the EU to boycott Israeli academic institutions.It seems that though this protest wasn't violent (I couldn't reach it) there was another, somewhat angrier, taking place near it, organized by the Palestinians and their friends. All I know, is that half an hour later I went to the neighbourhood's pharmacy and there I found two young Arabs, a short one and a tall one, the second with a bleeding brow being taken care of by the pharmacist: if I understood him correctly, he was obviously "just passing by", though when he said this the pharmacist seemed to be kind of smiling...

It is important to note the conditions in which that Sorbonne resolution was voted, once it was the kind of administrative coup that people unsure of their backing use to perpetrate. A small but growing group of intellectuals, not all of them Jewish, began, as soon as they found it out, to articulate a reaction, and one of the first public results has been precisely today's protest. What's interesting however is that they (those against the boycott) managed to reach high ranking people in the government and their position was quickly endorsed by them. It seems those in the government were privately furious at what the guys in the Sorbonne had done, considering it moronic (une connerie). Their indignation is easy to understand: France wants to play a major role in world politics and, for the time being, its main arm is its diplomacy. In order to have any influence in the Middle East it has to prove it is an honest broker, a friend that understands both sides, have open channels with them and so on. If they accuse the US of not being sufficiently balanced, of taking sides, and then their universities (which, unlike the American ones, are under control of their strongly centralized government) begin boycotting Israel, then all pretense at neutrality vanishes, and instead of being a judge, France becomes a party to the conflict and, actually, the Arabs' hostage. It is no surprise, thus, that exactly today Le Monde published an editorial against the boycott. After seeing what Israel has just done to Tony Blair, they know they're not dealing with amateurs.

What did Sharon do to Blair? Well, he wouldn't receive Netanyahu, because he's just a Foreign Minister, but would be receiving Avraham Mitzna, the Labour candidate? Isn't he witholding spare parts for the Israeli airplanes? Well, then Blair can bid the conference he was preparing about the Middle East goodbye, because unfortunately the Palestinian participants won't be able to attend.

Blackmail can be a two-way street, right? What's really interesting, however, is that both in the US and in Europe the big story is not that there have been people trying to boycott Israel, but how this is simply not working and how strong, immediate and principled have usually been the reactions to it. As far as I can tell, everywhere, even in the UK, for every person who's backing the boycott there's a silent majority ten times larger that's against it. Now, that's amazing and should be front page news.
Nelson Ascher

Yes, it should be. And it is, here at InstaPundit! Oh, and "Paris Correspondent?" Well, he's in Paris, and he corresponds. . . .

UPDATE: Claire Berlinski emails, "I thought I was your Paris correspondent, Glenn!"

It's a big bureau over there.

JEEZ, MAYBE WE SHOULD JUST SKIP THE 2004 ELECTION. That's positively the most frightening, and likely to be accurate, prediction I've seen yet.

ALL I CAN SAY IS Buwahahahaha!

GOOD GRIEF: People seem to be paying more attention to my traffic than I am. I guess I should follow it more closely since each hit brings me big bucks.

What? Oh, never mind then.

PATRICK RUFFINI wants bloggers to cover the 2004 G.O.P. convention. I'm all for it.

THERE'S LOTS OF GOOD STUFF over at The Volokh Conspiracy today. But you knew that. . . .

DEFENSETECH is a new blog by Wired News reporter Noah Shachtman, focusing on -- you guessed it -- defense and technology. Check it out.

PBS'S MEDIA MATTERS has a video clip of their "Trip to the Blogosphere" program online. Check it out.

UPDATE: Reaction so far: (1) Megan McArdle is, indeed, a "babe" and they should have shown more of her (sorry -- guess you'll just have to watch the show); and (2) I look a bit like Max Headroom. T-t-t-thanks! I think.


PARIS - Vandals set fire Monday to the car of a Paris rabbi who was stabbed outside his synagogue over the weekend, news reports said, partially destroying the vehicle.

A neighbor alerted authorities after walking by the parking lot of Rabbi Gabriel Farhi's home and seeing his car set ablaze. . . .

Anti-Jewish violence increased in France after Israeli-Palestinian fighting broke out in September 2000 and has continued to mount since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.

France has both large Jewish and Muslim communities.

Yes, but the Jewish community has been largely peaceful. To his credit, Chirac has condemned the attacks. I hope his response will go beyond condemnation.

UPDATE: Maybe he should look into where the money from sales of "Mecca Cola" is going.

NEWMAN WAS RIGHT: THE MAIL NEVER STOPS. Returning to my office, the mailbox was full past bursting (er, well, to overflow, anyway). Various promotional materials for conferences I would never attend, which are happening next week -- mailed, presumably, just so I'll know that they happened. A bar-examiner request for a recommendation on a student. A bunch of books: Arianna Huffington's Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption are Undermining America (autographed!), Walter Olson's The Rule of Lawyers: How the New Litigation Elite Threatens America's Rule of Law (autographed, too!) (I wonder how the "litigation elite" and the forces of "corporate greed and political corruption" decide which parts of America each will ruin -- oh, wait, that's called the "two party system," isn't it?); Tom Donelson's Economics 101 and a report from the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights on how civil liberties have ceased to exist since September 11. Oh, and the latest edition of "Constitutional Law in a Nutshell" from West -- a student study aid, but they send them to professors for some reason. Also two checks from appreciative Insta-readers who wanted to donate but who eschew PayPal and Amazon -- hey, thanks! And several memoranda from the law school administration. . . uh, thanks for those, too. . . . And a Christmas card from a former student who is now a partner at Coudert Brothers, a big international law firm.

The semester's just starting, and my desk is already getting cluttered. Oh, wait -- that's a good thing!

GEITNER SIMMONS OBSERVES that "We’re merely living in a lull between the future terrorist earthquakes." This is probably right. He goes on to analyze Angelo Codevilla's "we're not doing enough" critique of the Bush Administration.

And scroll down for Geitner's take on a bizarre outbreak of neo-confederatism.

I don't get this. Oh, anyone who reads Confederates in the Attic (and everyone should) can grasp the way in which the Civil War can capture people's imagination. But wishing the South had won? Ridiculous. Anyone who wishes that should read Harry Turtledove's all-too-plausible alternate history novels (here's the first in the series) in which the South did win the Civil War, leaving the United States looking, well, like Europe. Ugh.


What convinced me was a really stupid commercial from MADD last year about alcohol and date rape. "Excuse me?" I thought. "What does date rape have to do with drunk driving?"

The answer is nothing -- but it's ironclad proof, if any is needed, that MADD has morphed from an anti-drunk-driving organization to an anti-alcohol organization. The pitch has gradually shifted from "don't drive drunk," (utterly correct and reasonable), to "don't drink and drive" (not really the same as "don't drive drunk," but perhaps within the zone of reason) to, essentially, "don't drink" -- which is fluorescent idiocy. I hope that more people will start pointing this out, particularly as the evidence -- long suppressed -- of the health benefits provided by alcohol gets more attention.

What's more, as Murray points out, most of the anti-alcohol claims being peddled in the media are, to put it bluntly, lies. Journalists need to start checking these claims, rather than mindlessly repeating them. The fact that claims come from a group that styles itself "non profit" doesn't make them trustworthy.

"WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION" was voted word of the year (word? isn't that a phrase?)

But "Blog" was voted "most likely to succeed."

Ya sure, ya betcha.

AIMEE DEEP, now out from under the injunction, is back to blogging!


UPDATE: Aziz Poonawalla emails: "the link you mentioned is from a pretty small organization. Most of those I've talked to think that the lil Kim photo is simply awesome."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a link to the full-length version of the photo -- even more awesome!

Meanwhile, reader Daniel Kotler writes:

I love the Lil Kim cover of Oneworld that you posted. Far from mocking Muslim women, the cover reminds me of the non-Jewish Danish King putting on the yellow star under Nazi occupation. The King wasn't mocking the Jews but expressing his solidarity with their plight. Likewise, this Lil Kim cover seems not so much a mockery of Muslim culture as an expression of solidarity with the women who are repressed in large parts of the Muslim world.

Yes, I'm sure that's what Aziz meant by "awesome."

EXPLOITING THE PALESTINIANS: Max Boot writes that everybody's doing it.

But the Palestinians keep falling for it.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT -- and in Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty!

Is nothing sacred these days? Besides, you know, bad stuff?

HOWARD KURTZ wonders why the Raelians' cloning claims are getting so much attention:

The cloniacs and their space-cadet spokeswoman, Brigitte Boisselier, brought zero evidence to the table, even though they knew their claim would be greeted with fierce skepticism. No picture of the baby. No names for the parents. No DNA samples, no medical records, no nothing. Just the promise of some evidence down the road, to be validated by a former ABC newsman who once did a series that took seriously claims for astrology, ESP and moving objects through thought. And even as television shows have rushed to interview Rael -- who insisted that CNN's Connie Chung call him "Your Holiness" -- the group keeps making excuses for why the promised DNA tests haven't materialized.

Why not just ignore these characters?

The truth is it's not so easy.

I've found it pretty easy. I don't believe 'em, which is why I haven't paid much attention despite getting a lot of email on the subject.

But my question is, given that the Raelians' claims have gotten so much press, why hasn't this equally well-founded claim gotten similar notice? I blame media bias!

HERE'S MORE on Saudi support for Al Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia has transferred $500 million to Al Qaida over the past decade, according to a report prepared for the United Nations.

The report asserts that the Saudi funds represent the most important source of financing for Al Qaida and that Riyad, pressured by leading officials, has failed to stop the flow of money to Al Qaida in wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 suicide attacks on New York and Washington.

Here's an understatement:

"One must question the real ability and willingness of the kingdom to exercise any control over the use of religious money in and outside of the country," the report said.

If the Saudi regime stays in power in Arabia, we won't be able to win this war. Does the Bush Administration realize that?

January 05, 2003

ERIN O'CONNOR REPORTS that the skeptical view of the Boalt Hall sexual-harassment case that has been championed by bloggers like, well, Erin O'Connor, is now breaking out into traditional media -- starting with the Los Angeles Times.

She also has some observations on media ethics.

I MAY POST A FEW ITEMS ON THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN LAW SCHOOLS CONFERENCE, but I won't match Brad DeLong for blurbs, especially this one:

"Well, we do have a strong system of faculty committee governance. But that isn't a blessing: it's a curse. You see, rule by faculty committees translates into rule by those who come to meetings and stay a long time. And thus it becomes rule by those who have nothing better to do--rule by those who place a very low valuation on their time. In most cases, those who place a very low valuation on their time are correct in doing so. It's thus a form of rule by the incompetent." "Your mission is to show up next year with a proper Greek-derived word for this."

I don't have a Greek-derived word, but I do have an observation: the same is true of condo- and neighborhood associations.

BILL QUICK SAYS I'M WRONG ABOUT TRIAL LAWYERS. But I think that he, and his commenters, are right about the past few weeks' news drought.


Since the Government's "total ban" five years ago, there are more and more guns being used by more and more criminals in more and more crimes. Now, in the wake of Birmingham's New Year bloodbath, there are calls for the total ban to be made even more total: if the gangs refuse to obey the existing laws, we'll just pass more laws for them not to obey. According to a UN survey from last month, England and Wales now have the highest crime rate of the world's 20 leading nations. One can query the methodology of the survey while still recognising the peculiar genius by which British crime policy has wound up with every indicator going haywire - draconian gun control plus vastly increased gun violence plus stratospheric property crime.

American gun-rights folks could have predicted this outcome. In fact, I believe they did.

MADE IT BACK ALIVE, despite snow, and an amazing number of wrecks on I-81, aggravated by the usual absurd rubberneckers.