THE NEW REPUBLIC HAS A POLL on the stupidest things said since 9/11. I voted for Sunera Thobani, but there are many worthy candidates. It's so hard to vote for just one. . . .
OKAY, I'M NOT A MARINE MYSELF, which I'm sure shocks you, but I've worked with quite a few Marines who are my friends. Someone emailed me that this is the Marine Corps' 226th birthday, which is a good enough occasion to recount a bumper sticker I saw a while back. It read: "What Would 'Chesty' Do?" At the moment, I think we have a pretty good idea.
"WHY ARE DEEP THINKERS SHALLOW ABOUT TYRANNY?" Good question. Certainly sucking-up to communism, fascism and other brutal isms has been a hallmark of much intellectual life for the last 100 years. Some interesting observations are provided, in this Eric Alterman interview of Mark Lilla, author of The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics.
One missing answer: today's intellectuals are the descendants of courtiers and clergy, who required brutal state authority -- and advanced skills in sucking up to it -- to survive. These habits of thought, transcending individuals or ideologies, or even institutions, remain in the trade, infecting people who have no idea where they came from or what function they originally served. They are an evolutionary remnant, doing harm despite the loss of its original reason for existence, a kind of intellectual sickle-cell syndrome.
That's my theory, anyway.
PICTURES: Okay, several of you think I look like John Grisham. That's a new one to me. I assure you, however, that whatever resemblance you see vanishes long before it reaches my wallet.
THE MUSIC PLAYS IN MAZAR-I-SHARIF: Somehow, I think that our propaganda war may be going better than folks watching American media think. Here's a bit from the Sunday Times report:
Early yesterday morning, the Northern Alliance proclaimed victory on Balkh radio, a station controlled until several hours earlier by the Taliban.
"Dear pious and Muslim compatriots, peace be with you," the announcer declared. "Mazar-i-Sharif and its surrounding areas have been completely cleared.
"You are now free of the noose of colonialism and ignorance. The gates of schools, enlightenment and education have now opened up for your future generations. You will no longer be in tents, seeking a piece of bread."
Shopkeepers in the city contacted by radio said that life on the streets was returning to normal. One woman, who gave her name only as Zamina, said she already felt safe to go out onto the streets for the first time in four years.
"I just wanted to cry when I saw the troops come in," she said. "I can't tell you about the hell we've been living under."
I love the radio broadcast. See, the Taliban are actually examples of Arab colonialism
, taking the people of Afghanistan away from their traditional, Sufi, ways to foreign Wahabism. As Henry Kissinger once said about something else, this is a very strong argument, and it has the added advantage of being true.
My favorite other item from the report: "Music was also being played again in the city for the first time in years." Get those endorphins flowing.
CAN'T SPELL: I'm looking at the (web) front page of the Washington Post, where the headline to this story currently reads: "Modern War Relies on Afghan Calvary." Yep, that's right. "Calvary."
Okay, it's bad enough that they get the military details wrong, think that Bentonite is some sort of exotic element obtainable only by secret labs (actually, it's in kitty litter), and think a four-week war is a "quagmire." But they can't even spell "cavalry?" I'm sure this will be fixed as soon as someone notices the flood of email from outraged spelling-bee alumni, but really now. This is military ignorance of the first order. Or maybe it's a sly reference to the Taliban's alleged practice of crucifixion? Somehow I doubt that.
REMEMBER: Don't trust those Web journalists - - they're not professionals like the people at the Post.
AID AND COMFORT: Noam Chomsky in Al Ahram accusing the United States of terrorism and "silent genocide." Yeah, we've heard this before; it's just an excerpt of his MIT speech from a couple of weeks back. But somehow it's especially odious here. This is the same line that was so thoroughly dissected in Spinsanity last week. Chomsky, like much of the left, is busily squandering what little credibility he had left.
WHY THE TALIBAN KEEP THEIR WOMEN COVERED: It's really an antidrug program:
Seeing a beautiful woman triggers a pleasure response in a man's brain similar to what a hungry person gets from eating or an addict gets from a fix, scientists say.
Researchers said the study, published Wednesday in the journal Neuron, shows that feminine beauty affects a man's brain at a very primal level, not on some higher, more intellectual plane.
"Beauty is working similar to a drug," said Dan Ariely of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, a co-author of the study.
Hmm. You get an endorphin rush from music, too. Hence "A pretty girl, is like a melodeee" -- which, recursively enough, is a song itself and hence, in a way, like a pretty girl. And, come to think of it, the Taliban have banned music. It's like they're trying to establish an endorphin monopoly, so people will only get off on religious highs. Okay, that's too heavy for me right now. I'm only left with one question: What's the "Sloan School of Management" doing studying stuff like this? Not that I'm complaining, it just doesn't sound like MBA-type stuff. I guess that's just a sign of the general coolness of MIT.
UPDATE: A lot of people seem to like my endorphin-monopoly theory as an explanation of religious violence and asceticism. I rather doubt that this is original with me -- I don't recall reading it anywhere, but it's so damned obvious that I probably have, or should have. This does explain why the religious fanatics hate us so much -- there's nothing a monopolist hates so much as competition.
WAR OPPORTUNISM ALERT: The group Wildlife Watch is equating hunting with terrorism.
Anne Muller of Wildlife Watch is aghast that being armed and disguised in camouflage is legally permitted in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Hunting "is just a wonderful opportunity for someone who would want to do a terrorist act," Muller said. "They don't have to report their whereabouts and can be lurking anywhere. They can lurk in groups."
Jeez. Either these people are dumb as rocks, or they think the rest of us are dumb as rocks. Or both.
QUOTED ON CLINTON: InstaPundit is quoted in the Washington Times on Bill Clinton's ill-considered remarks.
MORE ON THE MEDIA: I just read this Jonah Goldberg column, invoking leading news anchor Kent Brockman to make a similar point. Read it. He's right.
WAR AND THE MEDIA: The U.S. experience is unsettling. I posted something on this back on 9/24, but reader Chuck Watson suggests it's worth repeating now. I think he's right, and his email adds some useful background:
Some numbers from Jim Dunnigan and Al Nofi, two of the best military analysts in the business, on the ratio of reporters to front line troops in various 20th century conflicts:
Conflict Ratio Outcome (my opinions)
WWI 1:53684 win
WWII 1:8667 win
Korea 1:2667 stalemate
Vietnam 1:2800 quit, resulting in victory for the other side
Gulf 1:577 quit, resulting in a draw
I bet that this conflict is even lower than the gulf "war".
Having been in a few shooting situations myself during the so-called cold war (Lebanon, Chad, Central America), it seems that the less the public knows of the day to day operations, especially in indirect or low intensity conflicts, the better. We fought the Soviets in lots of places around the world. It may be coincidence, but the places we did best tended to be small actions in places that didn't get much if any attention. War is a messy business, and the "fog of war" is tough on experts, much less reporters who rarely cover military issues and don't know a JDAM from a JSTAR. So they tend to focus on the "human element" that they do understand and is the least pleasant aspect of war, or overcompensate on technical issues by going off on tangents and focusing on minutia at the expense of the big picture. Either way, that's hard on public opinion.
Yes. I must say that the good news is that lots of people, not just me and not just Chuck, have caught on to this phenomenon.
Also, the public knows more about war, at least in some highly influential segments, while the ignorance of so many of those reporting on it has become patently obvious even to many in the public who don't know much.
AN ISLAMIC REFORMATION? That's what this piece from Beliefnet suggests. Check out the "Six Tenets of Reformist Islam". I notice that Western Muslims are leading the way, as is appropriate.
If, as the article implies, this movement's take-off is a consequence of September 11, the irony will be rich, and well-deserved. Talk about blowback. . . .
FLAGS ARE NOT BANNED ON MY CAMPUS! The big flag has been flying from the law school Rare Book Library's balcony since shortly after September 11. If any foreign students have been offended, I haven't heard of it.
This photo shows the law building from the southeast corner -- everything you see is new and old parts of the same building.
MORTON KONDRACKE takes on media negativity in this piece in Roll Call. It's a winner. And naturally his piece leads off with the New York Times.
One of my colleagues said to me the other day that whenever he reads the Times it sounds like Taliban tanks are closing in on Washington, rather than our forces closing in on Kabul. He says it's gotten so infuriating that he reads the Washington Post instead now almost exclusively. Judging from the reports, he adds, they're covering different wars.
What has happened to the New York Times? They always had their biases and weird predilections, but over the past couple of years, and especially in the past couple of months, they've broken through to a new level of bias and ineptitude. Their oped pages, as Andrew Sullivan has noted, are increasingly sterile and one-sided, and their reporting -- once their strength above all others -- has deteriorated and become more and more biased and op-edish. The only part of their operation that seems to retain its former strength is the science and technology reporting, and I'm beginning to worry that it's inevitably doomed to go down with the rest of the ship.
It's very sad to see a once-great paper in such a steep decline.
CONFUSED GLOBALISM: I've read this essay in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung several times and I'm still not sure what the author is getting at. As a good cultural imperialist, I of course would love to see the western "principles of separation of power, pluralism and the rule of law" spread worldwide. But it's something of a non sequitur to say, as the author does, that those principles "can survive only if states, cultures and religions that have no influence on Western decisionmaking centers can in turn use those principles to assert their own sovereignty."
In fact, one thing that makes a mockery of those principles is the willingness of many in the West to listen to claims made in their guise from people who don't believe in them. When the heir to Hama blasts the United States for civilian casualties in Afghanistan, it's an attempt to use those principles to assert his own sovereignty -- but it is not, in any sense, an indication that those principles have been adopted, only incorporated in a cynical propaganda campaign premised on the West's own gullibility and lack of self-confidence.
We ensure the universality of those principles by demanding that everyone live by them, and by not allowing the specious claims of sovereignty made by hollow regimes to stand in the way. Such an approach, of course, would require the recognition that most regimes in the world -- and all regimes in the Arab (note: not the same as Islamic) world -- are fundamentally illegitimate. But, of course, they are. They may be allies of convenience at the moment, but we shouldn't delude ourselves that they share our commitment to principles like the rule of law. They certainly don't delude themselves in that fashion.
A PROPAGANDA IDEA: This is a good angle not only in Afghanistan, but elsewhere. The strand of Islam that is most opposed to Wahabbist fundamentalism is Sufism, which partakes of some almost Buddhist-like elements. Lots of Muslims are Sufis. The Saudis have been waging war -- more or less literally -- against Sufism for decades. Their proxies, the Taliban, have been very vigorous in this intra-Islamic religious persecution. Sufis, as might be expected, aren't too keen on that.
Afghanistan has a lot of Sufis, and it's covered with the tombs of Sufi "saints" (closed by the Taliban). We should play up the Sufism vs. Wahabism angle there. But we should play it up everywhere, through suitable proxies, as it's likely to pay huge dividends throughout much of the Islamic world. In Northern Nigeria, for example, the increase in violence is highly correlated with the rise of Saudi-funded front groups' war on Sufism there.
The Saudis, of course, will hate this. But I consider that a benefit.
YOU WOULD THINK THAT THE "TODAY'S MEDIA COVER WORLD WAR II" angle would be played-out by now, but Christopher Buckley proves that wrong with a very amusing -- and dead-on -- sendup.
It's funny that people in the media, who are hypersensitive to appearance issues where others are concerned, have such a tin ear with regard to how their coverage comes across. It's no surprise: I can't count the number of times over the past several years I've seen media panels on C-SPAN callin shows take phone calls from ordinary Americans bashing the media, then turn to one another and say "I think we're doing a good job," "Me too," "Yeah," in response.
I HAVE ARRIVED: In the past couple of weeks I've been targeted (at the giveaway pundit -at -instapundit.com address) by more and more PR flaks. Just now I got a whopping 4.7MB PDF file containing all of next week's Weekly Standard (good thing I've got an exceptionally fast broadband connection here at InstaPundit Secret Headquarters). Perhaps my critical faculties have been dulled by the excitement of a free PDF file (complete with ads!) but I'm particularly happy with Frederick Kagan's article, entitled "Fear Not the Taliban: They're the ones who should fear us." He's right of course. Excerpt:
American strategy in the war against Afghanistan has been seriously hampered by the culture of fear that reigns in Washington. We are afraid of "nation-building." We are afraid that the coalition might collapse. We are afraid of Muslim reaction to military operations during Ramadan. We are afraid of inserting ground forces because we are afraid of taking casualties. We are afraid of the Afghan winter. Above all, we are afraid of failure.
Well, the "we" here is really certain bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, and certain members of the press who either share, or play upon, these fears. Most Americans outside
Washington don't seem so scared, but seem to agree with Kagan that "The truth is that, although the Afghans are tough, we are tough, too. We do not need to be afraid of confronting the Taliban."
We'll only lose this one if we decide to lose this one. And if we do lose this one, I want a refund of all my defense-related income taxes since 1991. Because they will obviously have been a waste.
WHY PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES ARE BETTER: An excellent column from the Daily Cal.
THERE'S SOME NEW STUFF UP ON PSYWARUPDATE.
OKAY THE PHOTO SHOULD WORK FOR EVERYONE NOW: It was a server problem. You can see it here on the "About Me" page. (Note: I haven't checked it with Opera but it works on Explorer now. If you use Opera or Konqueror and it doesn't work, let me know -- though I may tear my hair out if that's the case).
QUAGMIRE? Let's see, we've been on the warpath for just over a month, and our guys have just captured a major city. To Joel Achenbach, that somehow constitutes a quagmire. I don't get it.
Like Achenbach, I grew up in the Vietnam era, and indeed in the very middle of anti-War protests. But what reminds me of Vietnam isn't the war. And it certainly isn't the inability of people to explain why we're there. (What, I live in Knoxville, and Achenbach lives more or less within sight of the blasted Pentagon, and the purpose of the war isn't obvious to him?) It's the lame familiarity of the antiwar people.
The antiwar movement today is a mixture of geezers and posers: Geezers who want to reignite the excitement they felt during Vietnam, and posers who want to experience something that they think they missed.
What it was was a lot of posturing upper middle-class kids who didn't want to fight. When the draft was abolished, the antiwar movement collapsed like a burst balloon. The quotient of moral purpose to self-serving bullshit was about 1-to-3, and that's generous. Today, it's about 1 to 50. And that's generous, too. There could be a serious antiwar movement. But there isn't one.
And Achenbach's piece is more a stroll down memory lane, as relevant to today's problems as the Star Trek episodes he recalls.
THE MEANING OF "UPRISING" -- LESSONS FROM THE WARSAW GHETTO REVOLT: Dave Kopel and I have a column on this, in National Review Online Weekend.
NANCY ODEN IS NOW AN URBAN LEGEND: Well, not her personally. But the story being peddled about her political persecution, which is now debunked on Snopes2.com along with so many other unfounded tales on various subjects.
Ms. Oden may have been treated more severely or discourteously than the situation called for, or security personnel may have done their best to deal with an abrasive and uncooperative passenger -- or both. There's plenty of "He said, she said" here, but nothing to support the contention that out of all the activists taking commercial flights these days, Ms. Oden alone was deemed too politically dangerous for the government to allow her to travel.
That last rather punctures Ms. Oden's self-importance, doesn't it?
IN RESPONSE TO A SURPRISINGLY LARGE NUMBER OF EMAILS, there's now a photo on the About Me page. Why do you care what I look like?
DON'T CRY FOR ME, ARGENTINA: The Revolutionary Worker says that the detention of immigrants in the terrorism investigations is just like the "disappearing" of activists in Argentina under the military dictatorship.
Exactly like it, except that the people aren't being dropped from helicopters into the ocean, aren't being tortured (at least until Alan Dershowitz is Attorney General) and are being given lawyers, paid for in part by United Way donations when they aren't paid for by the Saudi government.
Other than that, it's just like what went on in Argentina. Obviously, the Revolutionary Worker is now controlled by the same forces that are using their control of Nancy Oden to discredit the antiwar movement. And it's certainly working.
TRAFFIC BROKE THE HALF-MILLION MARK THIS MORNING: I just couldn't post on it because Blogger was down. Wow, it must be time for the IPO -- wait, dammit, that's 1999-style thinking. Shoot. Oh well, that's me: two years late and a billion dollars short.
PRISONS ARE MONITORING PHONE CALLS between terror suspects and their attorneys. Or at least, they will do so if there's a "reasonable suspicion" that the calls are really being used to further terrorist missions.
Hey -- if you have a "reasonable suspicion" that a terrorist's lawyer is a coconspirator, arrest the lawyer. Otherwise, don't tap privileged calls.
UPDATE: Talking about this, Steven Den Beste says that every administration has its heroes and its bums and it's becoming clear that Ashcroft is one of the bums. A bit harsh, perhaps, but Ashcroft has so far been both overbearing and ineffectual -- a trademark of the Department of Justice that far predates his tenure, it's true, but one that he so far hasn't managed to overcome.
SORRY for the long period of no posts. Blogger was down.
READER PETER MCGIVERNY sends two quotes that he thinks we should pay attention to:
"The proper strategy consists in inflicting as telling blows as possible on the enemy's army, and then causing the inhabitants so much suffering that they must long for peace, and force the government to demand it. The people must be left with nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war.'
--Philip Sheridan to Otto von Bismarck, 1870
"War is upon us, none can deny it. It is not the choice of the Government of the United States, but of a
faction; the Government was forced to accept the issue, or to submit to a degradation fatal and disgraceful to all the inhabitants. In accepting war, it should be 'pure and simple' as applied to belligerents. I would keep it so, till all traces of the war are effaced; til those who appealed to it are sick and tired of it, and come to the emblem of our nation, and sue for peace. I would not coax them, or even meet them half-way, but make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it."
--Williiam Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs.
Notably, the problem to which these quotes were addressed has not come up again, and the part of the country that suffered on it is now perhaps the most patriotic section of America. Coincidence?
JUDGING BY THIS INTERVIEW, Ralph Begleiter is better off at the University of Delaware than at CNN. Or at least, we're better off with him at the University of Delaware. Just about every quote is an excercise in unfounded doubt-sowing, moral equivalence, and general reflexive negativity.
On the other hand, a history professor explains why people think the Begleiter brand of journalism is unhelpful:
Raymond Wolters, a university history professor, said the American people have been willing to sustain long conflicts in the face of large casualties in the past, as in World War II. . . . A key factor that makes today's conflict fundamentally different than World War II is the realm of the modern news media, Wolters said.
"There was no criticism of the government during World War II, despite many casualties and many battles going wrong," he said. "If the media had been there to take pictures of every dead body and analyze every military strategy, public support wouldn't have been the same."
Hmm. So why, exactly, should we think favorably of today's media if they would have caused us to lose World War Two?
Let me be clear: it's not factual reporting that I'm against. (Heck, we're getting so little of that anyway that it wouldn't matter if I were against it). It's the faux-neutrality that always means taking an anti-American slant. It's the parade of monumentally ignorant questions at press conferences. It's the willingness to suck up to enemy regimes in the name of "access" while complaining that our own military doesn't provide enough access to people who view it as a mark of honor to threat them as quasi-adversaries. And most of all, it's the superficial, narcissistic, impatient, hysterical tone of the coverage. A helicopter crashed! A seaman fell overboard! A drone has gone down! None of these things are news in the course of a a war, but everything is relentlessly hyped in Chandra Levy fashion.
I keep saying that politicians who want the respect accorded to wartime leaders need to act like wartime leaders. And journalists who want the respect accorded to wartime journalists need to act the part too. In both groups, there are an awful lot who aren't making the transition successfully. They should be cut, ruthlessly, in favor of those who can. With the politicians, we have to wait for elections. With journalists, the assignment editors and producers need to be making the cuts now.
PORN-O-RAMA: No, I haven't decided to shift InstaPundit to a more profitable subject matter. But for some reason there's a lot about porn lately. There's this Willam F. Buckley piece, which is on the cover of the magazine edition of National Review. (Note to WFB: Esquire is a strange subject for an article on the pornification of America -- it was always something of a girlie mag, and it's not very pornish now.) Nick Gillespie has a more positive take on the subject in Reason.
It's certainly true that attitudes have shifted -- but I wonder if it isn't because mainstream society has moved toward the values of porn, rather than porn entering mainstream society. People like sex. They always have. People with the money and leisure to focus on sexual enjoyment have tended, throughout history, to do so. And more people have money and leisure than ever before in human history.
I think that being at war with the Taliban will give this trend a boost -- now it's not just fun, it's a patriotic statement! This may upset some of our social conservatives, but a country that renamed sauerkraut "liberty cabbage" in World War I is unlikely to embrace anything resembling its foes' values in wartime.
SCOTT SHUGER is pretty critical of Sy Hersh's coverage of Afghan special ops. Worth reading.
FLAGS ARE OFFENSIVE, BUT PENISES ARE NOT: Okay, I have nothing against penises -- I'm rather attached to mine -- but it is odd that the Boulder Public Library won't allow flags because they might offend foreigners, but will allow a penis-based art exhibit, in spite of the fact that some people are offended.
All this concern with offensiveness is entirely a double standard. It's considered good to offend middle-class white Americans: that's how you know you're doing art, right? Everybody knows this is a double standard. So why even pretend to take it seriously?
When I worked with a facial recognition team at _______ many years ago (early '90s). Simple fashion accessories couldn't fool it (I was part of that test); it was, in fact, one of the requirements that most disguises could be penetrated; the prototypes I was familiar with were doing that with more than a little success. The ability the system demonstrated was somewhat amazing, especially the real-time recognition from a live video camera.
Later, this project was "cancelled;" I heard it actually moved over into the black world.
If you use this please keep me and the company anonymous.
Interesting. Of course, you still have to know what you're looking for. To do that, you have to have excellent intelligence. We don't have that. You can't find what you're looking for if you don't know what you're looking for.
JOANNE JACOBS is doubtful about the prospects of the Edison Project for saving Philadelphia's dysfunctional school system. She should be. Edison is a Chris Whittle project, and we in Knoxville know all about Chris Whittle's projects. (The incredibly beautiful and luxurious quadrangle that once housed Whittle Publishing is now -- since Whittle Publishing's demise -- an incredibly beautiful and luxurious federal courthouse, the envy of judges around the nation for its in-chambers fireplaces, high ceilings, genuine oriental rugs, etc.). Whittle is a great salesman, but his track record isn't very good.
It's true, of course, that Philly's schools are so bad that it might justify trying anything. But perhaps someone should take a deep look at why the schools are so bad.
A CORRECTION: William Ewing writes:
As you are probably aware, I have been called to task for writing that "O-4" equals Captain, Lieutenant, etc. The correction rightly stated that "O-3" is the proper grade designation and that O-4 is for a Major and Lieutenant Commander. I cannot understand why I made the error. Perhaps I unconsciously wished to give the WW II correspondents a much deserved promotion. Mea culpa.
BUSH'S SPEECH: A reader writes:
Main point is that he made this statement which really bugged me. It was to the effect that, "Since September 11th your government has aquired *new responsibilities towards homeland security*" (asterisks obviously mine).
Um....as I remember it, that is the PRIMARY JOB OF A GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE FOR THE COMMON DEFENSE! Hell, the phrase "provide for the common defense" is in the Preamble to the freakin' Constitution! And I'm pretty sure that's old timey talk for Homeland Security.
Yeah, there's a certain unwillingness on the part of various officials to admit that they dropped the ball on their single biggest responsibility. But they did.
RAPID RESPONSE: Rich Baldwin writes: "How can you consider face recognition technology a threat to freedom, when absolutely anyone can fight back with simple fashion accessories?" The link, of course, is to noseandglasses.com. Yeah, like the feds will let them stay in business.
When noseandglasses are outlawed, only outlaws will have noseandglasses.
THE SAUDIS: Trying to restrict oil output without cutting their own production, according to this piece by Lynne Kiesling. It's not working, thanks to Russia, Mexico, and Norway. Thanks folks!
THERE ARE A LOT OF INTERESTING ITEMS here at the Independent Gay Forum site, particularly the one on Islam and homosexuality. Also interesting is this section on crime and self-defense. Since I get bellicose gay email as well as bellicose-women email, this wasn't such a huge surprise to me, but it probably is to some people.
JAMES LILEKS has some interesting reflections, including this on unrepentant Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers. Here's a book blurb by Studs Terkel, with Lileks' comments:
"A deeply moving elegy to all those young dreamers who tried to live decently in an indecent world. Ayers provides a tribute to those better angels of ourselves." That's Studs Terkel, proving that the gravel in his voice has trickled down from a larger reservoir above. If Studs regards Ayers' plot to bomb a dance hall as a decent act of a better angel, one wonders what Studs thinks the really fabulous angels are capable of doing.
"FACE RECOGNITION" TECHNOLOGY: It won't make us safe, but it's a threat to freedom. That's what this paper from the Independence Institute says, and it's right.
For face recognition technology to be useful, you'd have to know who you're looking for. We weren't even looking for the 9/11 terrorists. If we had been, we probably could have found them. But the intelligence, law enforcement, and immigration authorities were asleep at the switch.
We probably don't know the faces of the next batch of terrorists either. You can't "recognize" what you don't know to look for.
I JUST CAN'T BRING MYSELF TO CARE MUCH about the NYC Mayoral race, but fortunately Mickey Kaus can, and he has some good things to say about all the sour grapes. Did politicians used to complain so loudly after losing? I don't think they did. But then, the culture was less sympathetic to sore losers, and whining in general. Which seems like a good thing to me.
LARRY ELLISON -- LOSER: It must have seemed sure-fire: cash in on 9/11 by offering to set up a National ID Card. Oracle would give away the software (upgrades and accessories not included), and soon the whole country would be running on their platform. And it would look patriotic!
But to their credit, the Administration isnt' biting. My favorite quote, from cyberspace defense adviser Richard Clarke: "Everyone I've talked to doesn't think it's a good idea."
Or, you might say, nobody doesn't dislike national ID.
TRAFFIC: InstaPundit is at 492,514 total. Probably won't break a half million tonight, but tomorrow for sure. Over 350,000 of those are in the past month.
Actually, given that the counter was down for most of a week, the half-million mark is already toast. Woohoo!
LOTS OF COOL STUFF AT VIRGINIA POSTREL'S SITE. Check it out.
NOT SATISFIED WITH COLLECTING SATELLITE DISHES, Iranian authorities also want to control people's Internet access. They're afraid of Western influences. Or maybe hidden messages?
WE KEEP HEARING ABOUT STEGANOGRAPHY (or "hidden messages") on the Internet. But this story from Wired reports on a study that didn't find any. That, as the study's author is careful to point out, doesn't prove that such things don't exist. But it does suggest that some media accoutns on the topic were, to say the least, a bit sensational.
LAW SCHOOLS BLOCKING MILITARY RECRUITERS are wrong, says Professor Marci Hamilton in this column from Findlaw. Worth reading, especially if you're not familiar with this world.
WYNTON MARSALIS is a cool guy, based on his behavior when he was here in Knoxville last week.
NOT ACTING LIKE WARTIME LEADERS: Another example, from Roll Call.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ CALLS FOR LEGALIZED TORTURE. Well, more or less.
I disagree. I think that -- in the ticking-nuclear-bomb scenario that people love -- authorities would torture anyway. And it's better that it be outside the legal system than authorized within it.
As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote, emergency powers tend to kindle emergencies.
CLINTON & TINY PENIS JOKES: Okay, I've been flooded with email about Bill Clinton's Blame-America remarks (as if Osama was inspired by Native American issues) and by the South Park episode on bin Laden last night. But Blogger was down for several hours and in the intermim, other people have addressed these just fine. On Clinton see this piece by Kevin Cherry. On South Park (which I didn't see), read this piece by Matt Welch.
Michelle Malkin emailed to suggest comparing Clinton's remarks to these made at the Black Panther press conference last week:
We're dealing with a nation I would call the number one oppressor in the history on the planet Earth, the number one spreader of terror on the planet Earth. And this nation has the audacity, the gall, the unmitigated gall, to charge someone else, other individuals, with terror. Our whole history as a people in America has been a history of terror and oppression. If we look at the situation from the founding of this country to the present time it has been a history of terror, oppression, and injustice -- and still is.
Funny, when Clinton was President, he said that when people criticized the government we should "raise our fist and shout them down." Oh, yeah, that was when he
was President. America has retrospectively become a lot more unjust in the several months since, I guess.
UPDATE: A few readers have emailed me to say that they don't think Clinton is talking about consequences of September 11. Well, his talk was supposed to be about the world after September 11, and he's saying (as Michelle Malkin points out) things that sound exactly like what we hear from the "America had it coming" folks. If he didn't mean to say anything of the sort, then he showed such appalling judgment in speaking as he did that it calls into question whether it's appropriate for him to be speaking in public as an ex-President right now.
OVERCONSONANTED: Reader Stephen Karlson writes: "N-I-T-S-C-H-K-E. Serious enough for the Hall of Fame." He adds: "A counterexample can be a disproof." All I can say is, "A touch! I do confess it!"
HOLOCAUST DENIAL COMES TO KNOXVILLE in the form of a "teach in" on the war scheduled for November 14th. I received an email flyer for this event, and thought little of it until I opened the PDF attachment containing the poster for the event. There, side by side, were pictures of the WTC collapsing and of the burning Red Cross warehouse in Kabul that was accidentally hit by a bomb. They were quite explicitly presented as equivalent events.
To equate a deliberate attack that killed 5000 people (and was meant to kill far more) with an accidental attack that killed no one is a grotesque moral obtuseness that borders on the obscene. It is, quite literally, a species of holocaust denial.
People who are unable to tell the difference are unlikely to have anything to teach the rest of us, and have no business taking moral stands. They should be learning, not teaching. (Maybe in elementary school: In the flyer, "Afghanistan" is misspelled). Here is a link to the website of one of the organizations sponsoring it, though the site doesn't have any information on the event at the moment.
The treatment of the World Trade Center attack in this poster is grotesque, insensitive, and beyond belief. Or it would be, if I hadn't seen similar things from the so-called "peace" movement already. Of course, as a believer in free speech, I think they have the right to speak on campus, just as Nazis or other hate groups would have the right to speak on campus. And I mean it exactly that way.
READER GLEN HOFFING WRITES: "While I generally agree with you on your opinion of Cornel West, I sympathize with his inability to spell Nietzsche. No serious person should have a name with five consecutive consonants in it." True enough. Were his website possessed of a bit less self-regard, I might agree. Speaking of which, here's an email from a journalist reader who has spent a good deal of time around West:
I saw quite a bit of Cornel when I was covering the Nader
campaign. Somewhere I have a half-dozen tapes of his rambling speeches; whenever we were in the same small room together, I gravitated over toward Patti Smith & her funny junkie-guitar player -- they exuded far *less* rock-star self-regard than he did, and I frankly wasn't as conversant with his work as I was with, say, Tom Tomorrow, or Jello Biafra (both frequent Nader-rally speakers). . . .
Here's my banal observation-from-a-liberal today: it is striking, when you hadn't been paying close attention to it previously, how completely disconnected the "progressives" are from the working class they claim to represent. [Y]ou see it in the resume of the Cornell Wests, in the repulsive statements of that Green gal, and elsewhere. Cornel was a very interesting member of Ralph's entourage-support group, in that he was about the only black person there. Ralph could be speaking in a predominantly black neighborhood in St. Louis, and his crowd would still be 90% white (or more). The only times when I would put the black audience at higher than 10% was in Oakland, and Washington D.C., and still then I would estimate it as something like 11%. The Greens had little or no credibility among non-whites who weren't Native American (Ralph ran with a Native American VP candidate, and has an impressively long history & empathy with native cultures). Part of this was lefty realpolitik --blacks, like Latinos, feminist organizations and most labor, understood very well that they had Access to Power under Clinton, and that they presumably wouldn't under Bush. But another part was and is, the Green movement looked like some upper-middle-class hobby run by collegiate whites and their marginalized academic gurus.
It's true. I saw this kind of thing in my childhood days. The contrast between the guys in the lefty movements who talked
about truck drivers, and my Uncle Larry, who actually drove a truck, was striking.
SOME GOOD EXAMPLES of the propaganda leaflets being dropped on Afghanistan.
"A CRACK SUICIDE SQUAD FROM THE TALIBAN PEOPLE'S FRONT:" Monty Python was obviously the model for this war. Reader Fred Pruitt writes:
The Frontier Post reports the Taliban are organizing suicide squads, "ready to lay down their lives in the war against the US." Interesting concept; the US Army has formations (called infantry) that are trained to kill the enemy, but we're obviously behind in having no units trained to kill themselves. Which brings up a further question: When they go through Suicide Troop School, do they flunk the course if they survive the final exam?
Not being a military expert myself (well, I know more than Bruce Ackerman
, but that hardly constitutes expertise) I can't offer an opinion. But I did notice this:
The source shied away from disclosing the marks on the on the vehicles of the fidaiyan, but said they are highly respected and given full protocol by the ‘common Taliban.’ They are allowed to enter sensitive installations riding their vehicles without being stopped and searched.
I therefore recommend that our special forces concentrate on developing crack faux
suicide squads, who will take advantage of their status to enter "sensitive installations" (assuming the Taliban have any left) and then help the inhabitants realize their goal of self-immolation posthaste. Perhaps we should call them "homicide squads." Or maybe just "soldiers."
READER CHAD BROWN suggests that Cornel West might not have misspelled "Nietzsche," but rather meant legendary Green Bay Packers middle linebacker Ray Nitschke, best known for his performances in the 1967 "Ice Bowl" and in Super Bowl I.
I feel sure that Brown is wrong about this, though I like the idea. And, as Brown (a Badger State resident, of course) says:
One does not have to be an Ivy Leaguer to speculate on the truly awesome destruction that would result if Nitschke caught OBL in the backfield. As the aforementioned link reveals, however, he was nicer to noncombatants than a Globemaster full of peanut butter sandwiches.
An informal poll of the patrons at Saucey's Packer Pub indicates that such a metaphor is very appropriate at a time of both national crises and heated competition for the NFC Central. Though this group was admittedly unfamiliar with Professor West's scholarship, they overwhelmingly agreed that any reference to the Mr. Nitschke in this context was "okeyfine, you betcha".
There you have it. Well, Cornel does say that he's a champion of "ordinary people." But I doubt he had the folks at Saucey's in mind when he said that, and I suspect his Jag would look out of place in the parking lot.
The definition of a leftist academic, after all, is someone who acts in the name of the working people, though he can't stand them.
UTHANT.COM's take on the Microsoft settlement:
Microsoft won its epic battle with the Federal Government on Monday, leaving the Second Law of Thermodynamics as the software company's only remaining competitor for eventual universal dominance. Meanwhile, Gravity has entered merger talks with AOL Time Warner.
We also learn that Bill Gates could have saved himself a lot of trouble by following several earlier suggestions from uthant.com -- which I'll leave for you to read there.
KNOWING WHAT'S CENSORSHIP -- AND WHAT ISN'T: Here's Aaron McGruder, who does the "Boondocks" comic strip, on CNN Monday:
MCGRUDER: I was removed temporarily removed from the "New York Daily News," but, you know, that is something that has happened to me in a variety of papers for a variety of different reasons. So I am not too bent out of shape over that. That's -- that's their choice. They can run what they want to run and not run it. And you know, it's up to them.
CHEN: You are not bothered by that? You don't wonder about your free speech to appear where you would normally appear?
MCGRUDER: It -- you know, it -- it ultimately is decision made by a private company to run or not run a strip.
CHEN: It's business.
MCGRUDER: So that is not exactly a Bill of Rights issue.
He gets it. Which is more than I can say for some other people who have been screaming "censorship" simply because people disagree with them.
YAHOO! CAN IGNORE FRENCH COURT an American court has ruled.
In an important Internet policy case, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that Yahoo! Inc. does not have to comply with a French order that it keep users in France from seeing Nazi-related content on the Web site.
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled that the First Amendment protects content generated in the United States by American companies from being regulated by authorities in countries that have more restrictive laws on freedom of expression.
Whew! That means my "Baywatch" fan sites are safe from the Taliban religious police.
MANUFACTURE-A-MARTYR: Rob Morse peddles the bogus Oden story in the SF Gate today. He even changes her quote, as reader William Quick pointed out:
"These people know who I was and what I looked like," she said. "One National Guard guy grabbed my arm and started yelling pro-war stuff at me. I said 'Don't touch me. I don't have to listen to your mindless guff.' "
"Mindless guff?" Do people really talk like that? Oden didn't, at least not in the original account
He grabbed my left arm, he started yelling in my face, 'Don't you know what happened? Sep. 11, don't you know thousands of people died?' I said, 'You can't do that.' He went to grab my arm, and I said, 'Don't touch me.' I saw an older airline guy shake his head, 'No,' and he backed off.
No "mindless guff" there. And, really, does that phrase fit with the rest of her style? Either Morse has altered the quote, or Oden has started embellishing. This whole thing has rung completely false from day one, and you'd think Morse would at least mention that the Bangor News
doesn't support her story. Doesn't the man have Google? NEXIS? Did he check this story anywhere?
When you're desperate to have victims to point to, you have to work with what you've got. But you can see why the real Greens are anxious to disavow her. My own theory is that Oden is really working for the FBI, and this whole thing is just a clever plot to discredit the antiwar people by causing them to cry "wolf" in obviously bogus ways.
Seems to be working.
PUNDITWATCH has its "print pundit edition" up and running. Cool.
I FEEL BAD. Well, not really. I just feel as if I should feel bad for mocking my own profession. I just noticed that I've picked on professors Cornel West, Bruce Ackerman and Michael Bellesiles, all in close proximity.
Well, actually they should feel bad. In different ways, they're all symptoms of what's wrong with the academic world. And if fellow academics don't criticize them for that, well, then why should we be listened to when we criticize non-academics?
KEN LAYNE POINTS OUT something that I had noticed a few days ago. Maureen Dowd is mocking Bush (she can't help it) but what's significant is what she's mocking him for: she's mocking him for not making war brutally enough.
BRUCE ACKERMAN'S OPED ON THE WAR, which I mentioned yesterday has drawn hostile letters today. Here's my favorite excerpt:
To use Bruce Ackerman's reasoning about the war on terrorism (Op-Ed, Nov. 6), imagine that after Pearl Harbor someone had written: "We should be seriously engaged in antifascist efforts at home, but we should satisfy ourselves with limited victories abroad. There are millions of fascist sympathizers in the world, and there is nothing we can do to change this in the short run.
"We should figure out clever ways to declare victory at the first decent opportunity and remove our troops. Lengthy military engagement will simply increase the number and tenacity of fascists. The administration should not be preparing to take the war to other fascist states."
Fortunately, President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not pursue this course. We may hope that President Bush is no more likely to follow Mr. Ackerman's advice on fighting terrorism.
Oh, I think we can count on that.
PROFILES IN DISLOYALTY: Andrew Sullivan notes this profile from the Boston Globe of a third-generation American Muslim of Pakistani descent who is fighting for the Taliban and has no qualms about killing American soldiers:
- He grew up in New York, he says, listening to Whitney Houston, riding the roller coasters at Great Adventure, and, until recently, working as a Java programmer at a dot-com company in midtown Manhattan.
But sometime after Sept. 11, Mohammad Junaid says, he decided to leave his $70,000-a-year job and join the Taliban's holy war against the United States in hopes that he can someday help establish a new state based on Islamic law.
Junaid, 26, who says he's the grandson of Pakistani immigrants, has a teddy-bear face and a ready smile. He can't help grinning when he thinks about the New York Yankees' come-from-behind victories last week in the World Series, which, he said, he followed with great interest as he awaited a call from Mullah Mohammed Omar to cross the border and join in the Taliban's battle.
But his loyalties, he says, are clear; if he runs into an American soldier in Afghanistan, even a fellow New Yorker from his old high school in the Bronx, he will not hesitate to shoot him. ''No problem,'' he says, ''because why is he there? To negotiate? Or to kill Muslims?''
If I read too many more stories like this, I'm going to think that my September 11 warnings about "hysterical overreaction"
against American Muslims were mistaken. It's not hysterical overreaction if a significant number really do feel this way. The Muslim community should take note, and inform the authorities of people like this -- who really are, without exaggeration, traitors in our midst.
WHY LIES MATTER: This cartoon from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer makes Nancy Oden out to be some sort of victim/hero, when --as we've seen -- even her fellow Greens regard her as something rather less than that. It's dated today, meaning that the cartoonist certainly had a chance to know the truth, and either didn't bother, or didn't care.
Hey -- nobody's been more criticial of airport security idiocy than me. But recycling lies to build a case against it is a bad idea.
READER JEFF KING WRITES:
I've enjoyed your web site, especially following the long strange journey of Michael Bellesiles chronicled there. His "defense" to which you linked, however, simply beggars belief. Yes, it's a shame the inevitable net wackos abused him so, but that's hardly the source of his current troubles. No serious critic is defending obscene e-mails and death threats as legitimate discourse. Bellesiles' spending so much time discussing such threats seemed like a bizarre waste of effort, until at least I saw his attempts to answer more detailed criticism. I wouldn't trust this guy to drive a school bus, much less teach.
In his discussion of his probate errors, Bellesiles' shows that he's both unable to read what others write (perhaps explaining his difficulty with the probate records) and to keep his stories straight. In answering the Boston Globe, Bellesiles claims the paper only found three errors with his reports of the Vermont probate inventories. What the paper actually said is "six of many similar examples" and the proceeds to list, yes that's right, six examples. How Bellesiles missed half the examples is beyond me. Maybe the
same way he missed so many guns. As a fellow liberal arts major, I'm sympathetic to those with a poor grasp of higher math, but first grade arithmetic? His snide comment about not answering "innuendo" regarding the other similar errors is really crass. What was the Globe supposed to do, turn over its entire front section to list all of his errors? Then he claims to have made only one error regarding where he reviewed records, while Melissa Seekora records a litany of ever changing locations he claimed held the records, with three for the infamous pre-1906 San Francisco records. For this last group of records, Bellesiles now adds a fourth, the Genealogical Society of Utah. Since the first three archives denied having the relevant records, it will be interesting to see what the GSU has to say.
As for not even deigning to respond to Lindgren and Heather (the most detailed critique of his use of probate records and math), that alone should damn him in the eyes of Emory.
Since I believe in trying to say a least one nice thing about someone, Bellesiles did get a nice picture posted with the article (if it's really him). Oh well, I did try.
It's him. He and I were part of a symposium at Stanford Law School last April. Several people did show up and hand out flyers describing problems with his work. They were quiet and polite. If that's the "harassment" he's complaining of, it's not much. As I mention below, his claim of website hacking is also extremely dubious.
READER PAUL MAZYCK WRITES: "On his webpage, Cornel West misspells Nietzsche as Nietzche. Oh, well. I guess if you are one of 22 University professors at Harvard and "one of the most sought after lecturers in the country," in addition to being a "mainstay in the media," you don't need to know how to spell." Yeah, there are some grammatical errors as well. I just dismissed all that. He's a Harvard man after all. We Yalies expect such things.
CORNEL WEST RAPS: No, really. I'm sitting here listening to a track from his new album. Sample lyric: "No other people in the modern world have had such unprecedented levels of unregulated violence against them." (Tell it to the Cambodians, and the Jews, Cornel; see if they agree). There's a lot about "sick American barbarity" and "the whirlwind of white supremacy," too. Well, I'm the last one to say that professors shouldn't dabble in music. But I think he's hit the wrong phase in the national mood for this stuff. His timing may not be quite as bad as this hiphop outfit's, but it's close.
The stuff on his website is precious, too.
Dr. West's passionate oratory and deep grasp of a multitude of subject matter (from hiphop culture to a treatment on Nihilism and Nietzche) has rendered him one of the most sought after lecturers in the country.
His presence is a mainstay in the American media. So much so that he has virtually become a household word. His dedication to enhancing the lives of ordinary people and people of color is in the tradition of the freedom fighters of the past.
Yeah, as soon as I listened to his CD, I thought of Martin Luther King
, and of Mordecai Anielewicz
and the other heroes from "Uprising." I wonder what it's like to live one's life as a Tom Wolfe character, and not even know it?
MICHAEL BELLESILES ANSWERS HIS CRITICS: Well, no he doesn't. Simply compare the statement I link to with this criticism from Northwestern University Law Professor James Lindgren or with this article by Melissa Seckora.
Bellesiles' explanations -- such as they are -- simply don't wash. He hasn't met the criticisms. He hasn't exonerated himself. He's barely even responded. (And he continues to claim that some of the problems stem from his website being "hacked," which, as this post indicates is not very credible at all.) I don't believe that this is going to be enough to lay this matter to rest, and I doubt that it will persuade Emory University not to begin the formal investigation that it has threatened. As I said last month, Bellesiles is in trouble. He needed to produce a detailed explanation and defense. Instead, he's produced a mushy and self-serving piece that dodges the main questions while posturing as a victim. I don't think it will work.
A READER WRITES:
Thought you'd appreciate this from Bill Moyers in The Nation:
"Contrary to right-wing denigration of government, however, today's heroes are public servants. The 20-year-old dot-com instant millionaires .... have all been exposed for what they are--barnacles on the hull of the great ship of state. "
So the guys on United Flight 93 were barnacles.
Excellent point. Virginia Postrel
made this point a while back: Despite big-government fans' denigration of the people who have built our prosperity, the heroes of Flight 93 were tech executives. (The FBI and CIA guys who dropped the ball, on the other hand, were government employees). Maybe Bill Moyers should apologize. But he won't.
Just file this away and remember it the next time somebody holds him up as a model of fairness in journalism.
TRAFFIC: InstaPundit is approaching the half-million mark. Actually, it's already probably past it, since Bravenet's servers were down for much of the past week -- not only failing to tell me about hits, but not even recording them. In the past month alone there have been well over 300,000. I'm very pleased that so many people like to read my assorted thoughts.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ IS DEFENDING ASHCROFT'S DECISION to try to block implementation of Oregon's assisted suicide law by using federal control over doctors' prescription powers. I'm queasy about assisted suicide -- not because of the religious beliefs that animate, say, Catholic opposition, but because I don't trust doctors that much, and I trust HMOs less. BUT while she may have a point on policy grounds, Lopez doesn't address the big objection to what Ashcroft has done: he's used federal regulatory powers aimed at something else entirely in order to overturn the democratic processes of a state.
The case for federal regulation of doctors' prescriptions has always been extremely dubious. Is it really a regulation of "interstate commerce?" When they regulate this stuff, it's not about the movement of drugs across state lines. It's about the movement of drugs from outside a person's body to inside a person's body. That's just not interstate commerce. Or, if it is, then everything is interstate commerce and conservatism is, basically, an aesthetic position not a constitutional one. I don't believe that, and I don't think Ashcroft does. Or at least, he certainly doesn't say that he does.
I'm deeply offended when people who call themselves conservatives drop their support for federalism and limited government whenever it's an issue that they happen to care about a lot. That's Bill Kristol conservatism, which isn't conservatism at all. It's just right-wing big-government politics. No less -- and no more.
HISPANICS ELECT BLOOMBERG: I'm hearing that it was the Hispanic vote that put Bloomberg over the top. I suspect that this is a trend that will benefit Republicans, so long as Sharptonism makes noise in the Democratic party.
THE CULT OF THE WARRIOR we keep hearing that the Afghans are "warriors" as if that's an advantage. But the Roman legions used to say that soldiers could always beat warriors, because of their superior discipline. And they were right. It wasn't until the Roman legions became Gothized -- because Romans lost interest in soldiering -- that Rome fell.
MICHAEL KELLY says that the war has split the Left and put an end to the anti-globalization movement as any sort of serious force. He's right.
There are, however, two sides to the anti-globalization movement: the stupid side and the non-stupid side. The stupid side is the opposition to free trade, free markets, and the spread of Western culture and technology to poor countries -- which is, ironically enough, a recipe for maintaining Western hegemony and third-world poverty and nastiness. (As Brink Lindsey notes, none of the Islamic countries supporting terrorism is a member of the WTO, and it's not a coincidence).
The non-stupid side is the opposition to the growth of monopolistic and oligopolistic corporate power, and to the willingness of governments to endorse protectionist legislation (the DMCA, the Disney-inspired copyright law extensions, various regulatory provisions that prevent competition, etc., etc.). These two sides have existed in some tension (and not just because one is stupid and one isn't). But the second one is truly in the spirit of free trade and free markets.
If corrupt politicians and businesses have their way, the world economy will look like that in the Middle East -- bloated crooks greasing the palms of corrupt officials at the expense of the populace. The Western world is rich enough that it can get away with this kind of thing for a long time (think Sweden, or pre-Thatcher Britain) but there are still big costs.
As the "traditional" anti-globalization movement implodes into a handful of angry, anti-American, anti-Enlightenment idiots, I hope that its more sensible components -- the ones that might actually, you know, help people in poor countries -- will gain more influence, and not be tarred with the same brush as their sometime allies.
PACIFISTS -- NOT JUST DUMB, BUT EVIL? That's the point made by a Polish journalist that Matt Welch quotes. Hmm. If all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, can you be a good man if you are devoted to doing nothing?
And don't try to squeeze out of this by talking about nonviolent alternatives. Where they exist, they're usually superior. But you don't actually see pacifists pursuing them much -- just talking about them in war. Where, for example, were the pacifists protesting outside all the Iraqi embassies throughout the '90s to pressure Saddam into stopping his biowar research? Where are the pacifists who should be protesting outside Saudi embassies, demanding an end to the export of Islamofascism and misogyny?
Oh, right. They're busy protesting American actions. As usual.
ROBERT SAMUELSON WARNS about the press's danger: of becoming "accomplices of terror" and "merchants of fear." He's right.
BUSH AND THE GOP HAVE PAID A PRICE for his remaining "above politics." Both the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races might well have gone the other way had he campaigned for the Republicans there. Bloomberg's win in NYC isn't much of a consolation prize, especially as he's only notionally a Republican anyway.
On the other hand, it's worth noting that Warner won in Virginia only by being loudly pro-gun and making nice to the NRA. Many more such victories and the Democrats -- in their current form -- will be undone.
NANOTECHNOLOGY, TERRORISM AND THE DARK SIDE: All addressed, more or less, in this article.
KEN LAYNE ON THE GOOD NEWS NOBODY'S TALKING ABOUT. Read it. And notice this idiotic quote from Ralph Nader, just below: "The ground and soil are ripe for a revolt by the American people." Ralph, it's not 1968 anymore. You, and the rest of the Rip Van Left, need to figure that out and think about coming up with something constructive to say.
Except that, now that you've shot your credibility so thoroughly, I kind of hope someone else says it instead.
OKAY, I'VE GIVEN IT A CHANCE: But Salon's new sex column suffers from a curious defect: it doesn't actually contain any sex! It's about, you know, relationships. For that, we used to have "Mr. Blue." Considering how Salon somehow manages to work sex into everything else, I guess there's something fitting in this, but still. . . (Then again, what do you expect from an outfit that charges you for what used to be free, and calls it "premium.") Now, the Daily Cal has a sex column that actually is about sex. Somebody tell the Salon folks about this. Heck, maybe they should stage a raid -- I'll bet even Salon could outbid the Daily Cal.
BELLICOSE WOMEN EXPLAINED: In this cartoon worthy of PsyWar Update.
THE SAUDIS: NOT OUR FRIENDS: That's the gist of this column in the Washington Times. But now they're starting to try to mend fences.
It's not -- quite -- too late for that. But they'll have to show a degree of nimbleness and flexibility that they haven't shown in the past. Otherwise they'll wind up where so many other corrupt monarchies have wound up.
JAMES LILEKS WRITES:
[At] My local newspaper column I've been getting letters from women who want to turn the Taliban into bone-flecked meat paste, and I finally came up with a name for them, a la Brokaw:
The Greatest Estrogeneration.
something to freeze a Taliban's marrow!
JOHN ASHCROFT IS USING FEDERAL POWER OVER DOCTORS TO BLOCK OREGON'S ASSISTED-SUICIDE LAW: To me, this is a good argument against giving the federal government this kind of power. What, they're regulating interstate commerce here? Who are they kidding?
I'VE SOLVED A MAJOR MYSTERY: I've always wondered why Andrea See likes Noam Chomsky, given her smartness and what I consider to be his obvious deficiencies. Then today, in a blinding flash of insight, I realized something: what Chomsky says about the United States is vicious, nasty propaganda. But to someone experienced with the government of Singapore, much of Chomsky's more general worldview probably resonates quite well.
ANOTHER PARODY (BUT JUST BARELY):
Los Angeles - Calling them promoters of soul stealing the RIAA filed suit today against the mirror manufacturing industry seeking damages of more than $12 billion. "These soul pirates must be stopped," said RIAA President and CEO Hilary Rosen, "The only purpose of their product is to steal the soul of our musicians, only the RIAA has that right."
The lawsuit was a hot topic on internet message boards. One poster on the Napster board wrote, "They can't stop us, it's too late, if they ban mirrors we'll use spoons, ban spoons we'll use tin foil, ban tin foil we'll use shiny black CD covers. It's not the middle ages anymore, the technology is moving too quickly for them to keep up."
The members of Metallica, who have banned mirrors and shiny objects at their Summer Sanitarium tour, feel this is a worse threat than Napster. Lars Ulrich said, "I just learned about this soul stealing technology from our managers. Stealing our music is one thing, stealing our souls is quite another. Being soulless has its advantages, but as an artist I want to have control over what happens to my soul."
Other artists such as Michael Bolton and Celine Dion aren't as worried, saying they have been producing music without a soul for years now.
AS I'VE MENTIONED BEFORE, NATIONAL IRANIAN TV is a thorn in the side of the mullahs. If you want to help with the war on terrorism, you might want to give them a donation, as Darren Kaplan suggests. Unfortunately, their website is a bit shy on ways to donate -- they don't even have an Amazon Honors button like I do. But if you go the "subscribe" page, there's contact information that will at least let you send a check.
MATT WELCH SAYS "Dismantling the House of Saud’s power is a bipartisan matter of self-defense."
OKAY, THIS IS A PARODY. I HOPE.
Washington DC - The RIAA is lobbying for vendors of CD-RW drives to conduct background checks and require a 3 day waiting period before the drive can be sold.
The extensive background check would include cross referencing credit card numbers with local merchants sales logs looking for purchases of dual-cassette decks between the years of 1980 and 1987. It would also include checking for installation of file sharing software, knowledge of the Internet, and the ability to hum. Any of which would bar the purchaser from receiving his drive.
KEN LAYNE SAYS WOMEN ARE THE KEY:
[A] security guard was just attacked at a power plant in West Virginia, by two "dark-skinned men wearing dark clothing," jabbering in a foreign language. The female guard took a hit, and she slugged one of them in the jaw. The intruders ran back to the boat and took off down the river. . . . One punch in the teeth and the terrorists run like rats. After all, they are scared to death of women.
THE BUTTERWORTH/EWING DEBATE, mentioned in Best of the Web today, continues:
I am grateful to William Ewing for clarifying the status of reporters in the military - though I think he is being a little too strict over calling our use of "join" a "blatant error." (If we had written "enlist," then yes).
I relied on the comments of Brigadier General Thomas Jefferson Davis, chief, public relations division, as reprinted in Peter Braestrup's "Battle Lines."
The General said of reporters:"we take them in, make them subject to the articles of war, put them in a uniform, and can execute them if necessary."
My mistake was to assume that Articles of War was similar to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to which American reporters WERE subject to during part of the Korean War.
As I am in the initial stages of writing a book on this subject with Dr. Lichter. I welcome all the detail I can get, and I regret the error. However, neither of Mr. Ewings observations really alters the meaning of our piece.
MORE ON THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN THE POLITICANS & PRESS AND THE PUBLIC: Thomas Bray writes:
But it's not clear that the public is quite as worried as the politicians and press are. Last week, after a flight to San Francisco, my wife and I arrived to TV monitors blaring news that Gov. Gray Davis had ordered extra security on the city's major bridges. By the time we checked into the hotel, the local news was interviewing people who drive across those bridges.
"My message to Osama is: Come and get me," a man shouted as he pulled his sport-utility vehicle into a tollbooth at the Golden Gate Bridge. One woman, asked what she planned to do, thought about it for a moment and then offered up an all-American answer: "Drive faster, I guess." Traffic on the bridges continued at close to normal levels.
The Taliban may be dogged, but Americans can be pretty dogged too.
LOTS OF PEOPLE have been emailing me about this piece by Victor Davis Hanson. It's great.
ERROR CORRECTION: Reader Michael Lopez writes:
Dear Professor Reynolds,
I can't believe I'm about to engage in such an act of geekicity, geekaprophy, geekitude, and all around geekness, but here I go.
Slip. The word is Slip.
The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.
OK, I did it. Now I'm going to go back to my ex parte application for a turnover order.
You know, I think you're right. The error has been corrected. Damn, I only saw that move 8 or 9 times -- but that was a while ago.
(Note how quickly we fix things here at InstaPundit, compared to, say, The New York Times.) And I would call it "geekalicious," but I reserve that term for Andrea See.
Just wanted to let you know that I have seen that same joke about why Nigerians can't be the victims of terrorist attacks from my Puerto Rican friends and my Argentinian girlfriend. Kinda reminds me of being surprised when I found out all you gringos had stolen our dumb-dominican jokes and converted them to dumb-blonde jokes (which happen to be the same dumb-Puerto Rican jokes they tell in NYC).
Javier A. Gonzalez
There's a deep sociological point here, I'm sure, but I'm not a deep sociologist.
MORE DOMESTIC TERRORISM:
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Environmental radicals have claimed responsibility for at least five acts of sabotage over the past two months, showing they are not going to let the nation's terrorism scare stand in their way.
Since Sept. 11, they've set fire to a maintenance building at a primate research facility in New Mexico, released minks from an Iowa fur farm twice within a week and firebombed a federal corral for wild horses in Nevada.
The current spree started on Sept. 8, when militants torched a McDonald's restaurant in Tucson, Ariz. Four of the five actions have been claimed by the Animal Liberation Front and one by its sister organization, the Earth Liberation Front.
David Barbarash, a spokesman for the ELF and ALF, offers this moral-equivalence take: "The Sept. 11 attacks were horrific acts, but we also have to remember that the atrocities against the earth continue unabated."
UPDATE: According to this article from the Rocky Mountain News sent to me by reader Tim Craley, his predecessor is refusing a subpoena to testify before Congress, saying that Congress is the real terrorist organization.
YALE LAW PROFESSOR BRUCE ACKERMAN has a typically gasbaggish opinion article in the New York Times on how to win the war. Well, sort of. (Tip: Any article including the phrase "I do not mean to minimize the attacks of Sept. 11" will do just that.)
The best thing about Ackerman's column was the reply it generated from another law professor on a law professors' email list I frequent: "I would actually be interested in hearing Ackerman's views on modern endodontics, a subject of great importance to all and on which his knowledge is equally as deep."
BELLICOSE WOMEN have been discovered by the Monitor. Advantage: InstaPundit! Their polling data certainly square with my email.
AN AMUSING EMAIL is circulating among the Nigerian expat community (some of whom are members of my family). It's entitled "Why Terrorist Cannot Attack Nigeria." Here are some excerpts:
1. There are no tall buildings downtown for the terrorists to fly into. (the military already burned down most buildings which could be attacked)
2. At 8:45 a.m. no-one is really working. Those that have arrived at work have left for breakfast. Unless the terrorists would plan to bomb the individuals selling sandwiches or the lines of people getting food from their cars or those doing other errands. . . .
4. Only a fool would plan a co-coordinated timed attack using Nigerian Airways. Most of the planes never fly on time and the ones that have not crashed need repairs. . . .
8. The hijackers' rental car would probably also have gotten stolen days before the planned hijacking. However, even if the hijackers had succeeded in hijacking a Nigerian Airways flight to Amsterdam, and pulled out their knives, the passengers would have laughed and pulled out their own: a) Bigger knives b) Guns d) all of the above. Once the plane was recaptured from the hijackers, there would have been no problem in getting the plane back to its destination, even if the pilots had been killed. On most flights from Nigeria to Amsterdam, there are at least 3 drug smugglers on board with pilot licenses, who could fly the plane back to safety.
So dear friends please come to Nigeria......terrorists won't bother you there.
Time to book me a flight to Lagos -- where it's safe!
MORE AMERICAN THAN THE NEW YORK TIMES: Orianna Fallaci defended the United States and attacked terrorism. In a development I had missed (I don't actually read everything), the Times' Melinda Henneberger replied by calling her a "provocateur." Today, Isabella Rossellini defends Fallaci with these words: "Instead of thanking Ms. Fallaci for defending and praising America, you chose to insult her. As an Italian who has become an American citizen, I felt profoundly embarrassed and ashamed by it."
I knew the editors of the Times were out of touch with Americans. I didn't realize they were out of touch with Italians, too.
THESE AFGHANS don't seem exactly overjoyed at Osama's presence, or that of the Taliban. Hmm. I wonder if this is why the Taliban are having to import "fighters" from overseas. Because they're afraid to arm too many Afghans?
As I've said before, I think we should encourage the flow of Taliban supporters to Afghanistan from around the world. Then we should kill as many as possible, and rely on the Taliban to demoralize and disappoint the rest. I think they'll do their part. And we should do ours.
AHEAD OF THE PACK: Patrick Ruffini has a lengthy pre-mortem on the Schundler campaign. Pre-mortem? Well, the polls have barely opened. One visualizes Schundler in a cart, shouting (in the appropriate Monty Python accent) "I'm not dead yet!" while Patrick replies "Oh, shut up -- you're not fooling anyone!" If Schundler somehow pulls of an upset, well, Ruffini loses but I doubt he'll mind. If the expected happens, well, he's got everyone beat.
INSTAPUNDIT: DRUG FREE SINCE, WELL, THE CARTER ADMINISTRATION AT LEAST: Some people apparently think I post a lot. Matt Welch sends this excerpt from an email he received:
Was cleaning out my groaning in-box, and noticed this specific reference to your vices, from a DJ in Minneapolis:
Must be instapundit...speaking of 24-7-365...how does the sublime Mr Reynolds do this? Is his methampethamine of SUCH extraordinary quality? Is it possible that the laboratory in Knoxville might send me some?
Sorry, it's just Barney's Java Kalisat. Oh, and of course, I have the strength of ten men, because my heart is pure. Don't forget that part, either.
Still, to have one's stamina admired by a DJ from Minneapolis is quite an accomplishment. Maybe I'll put it on this year's "Faculty Activities Report." Think my Dean will be impressed?
MICHAEL BARONE'S LATEST COLUMN IS A WINNER: He's been on a hot streak lately. Excerpt:
"You ladies can go into the kitchen and get a carving knife. You can each take a dead German with you." Those were Winston Churchill's instructions to Pamela Harriman, then his 20-year-old daughter-in-law, in June 1940, when she was living at 10 Downing Street and asked what she should do if, as seemed likely in those terrible weeks, German troops landed in England and reached the streets of London. Churchill was the head of government of the mightiest empire in the world, but he knew that a time might come when citizens must fight on their own. Many Americans have come to the same conclusion, starting with the heroes on United Flight 93. . . .
So we must all if the attack falls on us. The home front cannot be perfectly protected by public officials, and experts cannot perfectly prepare us for new threats. A proud, determined citizenry must also do its part. The tone too often heard in the media is one of moaning, grousing, a yearning for absolute assurance that nothing bad will happen. But that assurance can- not be given.
Read the whole thing. It rocks.
A REDESIGN THAT DOESN'T SUCK! I just got the new Reason, and their redesign is a lot better than Slate's. For one thing, the pages don't disappear when you try to turn them, opening it to one article doesn't have you reading another one, and when you try to write a letter to the editor, your computer doesn't crash. . . . Also unlike Slate, the redesigned Reason isn't butt-ugly. In fact, it's quite handsome and somehow reeks of thoughtfulness and credibility (I think it's the font). I expect that they'll get around their current desire to keep graphics and text separated, which is an interesting design quirk but probably won't last.
Other people seem to like the redesign -- and the magazine -- too. Howie Kurtz praised both in the Post yesterday, and the Village Voice features both an article on the redesign and an interview with main redesigner Louis Rossetto.
The Voice suddenly seems to appreciate libertarians again, after mostly bashing them in recent years. Funny how people's attitudes have shifted.
WHAT IS DAVID GERGEN SMOKING? I just heard him on CNN suggesting that President Bush should do "national town hall meetings" on the war. No, really.
That didn't even work for the Clinton health care package (hmm... was Gergen advising Clinton then? I don't think so, but I'm not sure -- it's all so hazy now). And somehow, it just doesn't seem like a war-leader kind of thing to do. Nope, not at all. It sounds like something from this John Leo parody.
AURORA BOREALIS IN KNOXVILLE: My local news is reporting it. I stepped outside and couldn't see anything, but I get a lot of skyglow where I am. Must be quite a magnetic storm to produce that.
JUST FINISHED WATCHING UPRISING, the NBC miniseries (is two episodes a miniseries? a mini-minseries?) on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Dave Kopel and I will be writing a piece on it for National Review Online, so I won't give too much away. But this would have been notable even before 9/11 for its positive treatment of armed self-defense, and its use of guns as an icon of freedom. Somehow, it's more strking now.
TRANSLATION: "WE WANT OUR MTV!:"
Iranian police have confiscated more than 1,000 satellite dishes in two days as part of an apparent crackdown to bar access to several U.S.-based channels run by Iranian opposition groups. An unidentified Tehran police source said the dishes had been confiscated Thursday and Friday, the state-owned daily Iran reported on Saturday. Some 150,000 illegal dishes were expected to be confiscated. In 1995, the then hard-line parliament banned satellite dishes in an effort to purge Iran of Western influences, but the ban wasn’t strictly enforced and rooftops and balconies were soon littered with dishes. Security officials refused to say why the latest crackdown was launched, but the Farsi-language Iran newspaper said the crackdown was directed at recent street violence in Iran. The violence has apparently been flamed by footage of soccer fans shown throwing stones at shop windows and banks after recent matches involving Iran. Such images have been beamed into Iran from several U.S.-based channels run by Iranian dissidents. The Farsi-language television programs also feature popular Iranian music singers frowned on by local authorities. “I don’t think this measure is a proper way of confronting the dishes. I think its consequences will be more negative than positive,” reformist lawmaker Sohrab Bohluli Qashqaie told The Associated Press. Residents hide their dishes with tarpaulins, or try to disguise them to resemble air conditioning units or water coolers. Hearing of the latest crackdown, some owners have been bringing their dishes inside. The reformist daily newspaper Nowruz, close to the Islamic Iran Participation Front, called the crackdown an “act which has been proved fruitless time and again.” The front is the largest pro- reform party in Iran.
I'm loving this.
"The more you tighten your grip," said Princess Leia, "the more star systems will slip through your fingers."
ROOT CAUSES: Reader Bo Cowgill writes:
I'm surprised that nobody has written anything about this: Airlines and airports won't invest anything in insuring the integrity of checked luggage. If the airlines offered insurence on the luggage that you checked (that is non-carry-on luggage), then there would be much less of a need to bring items into the passanger area of the plane. People are forgetting that one of the primary reasons that passangers want luggage inside the flight is to keep there valuables from being crushed or stolen. If this priority were taken care of, then airlines could enforce a policy by which
only entertainment and personal maintenence items could be brought aboard the plane. That means much less to be searched through. Do you see where the lack of insurance and trust with delicate or precious items creates a loophole through which dangerous items can be brought inside the cabin?
Absolutely. Airline baggage-handling has been a joke forever, yet airlines don't want people carrying their luggage onboard. Who wouldn't
prefer to check bags if there was a reasonable chance of getting them quickly and safely at the other end?
A READER SAYS THAT THE REASON THE LOS ANGELES TIMES PIECE I CITE BELOW SURPRISED ME is that it's not true.
There are two blatant errors concerning correspondents during WW II:
1. Reporters DID NOT "join" the military. They were assigned by their parent media outlets to the military correspondent pool and were sent to where the military wanted(?) them. When possible, they were sent where the outlet requested. They did wear khaki type uniforms with arched shoulder patches with "Correspondent" embroidered on them, but no military rank insignia. In most cases, though, as civilians they DID, for the most part, carry a simulated rank of O-4 (Captain for the Army, Army Air Corps and Marine Corps, Senior Lieutenant for the Navy [two silver bars commonly known as "railroad tracks"]) for housing and eating accommodations.
2. The correspondents WERE subject to provisions concerning civilians in the ARTICLES OF WAR (i.e. Treason, etc.) which were administered by the military. Any infractions would be referred to the Federal Court system for prosecution. The military DOES NOT court martial civilians for any infraction, including treason. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) did not come into being until the establishment of the Department of Defense (DOD) in 1947.
Yours very truly,
William Ewing, MSGT USAF (RET)
Ah, the "simulated rank" (I think the proper term is actually "assimilated rank") may be the confusion. It is assigned to let the military know how to treat civilians of different grades (one of my friends who is in the Senior Executive Service is very happy that he now counts as a General, since he spends a fair amount of time on military facilities, and general officers do a lot better -- as someone who once got that treatment at the Air Force Academy, I can only concur). But you don't get to give orders based on that; it's purely a courtesy thing. I've suggested that Master Sergeant Ewing write the Los Angeles Times.
THIS STORY FROM TIME says that the United States is moving toward a "slit-throat campaign" against the Taliban. They say that like it's a bad thing.
THE SECRET COURT established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is being expanded. It approves wiretaps, etc. where the government shows that the wiretapee is probably a foreign agent.
The court has approved thousands of warrants since it was established by Congress in 1978, and only once has turned down the government. . . .
There is a good reason for the strong government track record, said former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh.
``The reason they're never turned down is because they're so meticulously prepared,'' he said.
Hmm. There are some good lawyers in the government, but they're not that
good. Thousands approved and only one disapproved is a bad sign for someone. Either (1) they're actually being too cautious about what they send to the court; or (2) the court isn't doing its job; or (3) some combination of the two.
Watch this stuff closely. And consider donating to people, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who watch it closely for you. (You can also follow this link to the DoJ's "field guidance memo" on some of the antiterrorism act's provisions.)
CENSORSHIP ON CAMPUS!! CENSORSHIP ON CAMPUS!! OH, WAIT, JUST THE USUAL KIND: So let's get this straight. If people are simply criticized for opposing the war, however offensively they do so, that's censorship. But when a university threatens mass expulsions for "offensive speech" (in this case a performance in blackface) that's not censorship. In fact, the linked story from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel doesn't even use the word "censorship."
This, I submit, is why the complaints of "suppression" from antiwar activists are being laughed at. Campuses were turned into some of the least free zones for speech in America years ago, and remain so today.
Will we see mass expulsions of Muslim Student Association members if their group issues a statement endorsing bin Laden? Of course not. But it isn't clear why that's different, other than that the political atmosphere on campus favors one kind of speech more than another.
UPDATE: Virginia Postrel emails that she thinks the story is about expelling the fraternity as an institution, and not all of its members. The story's not entirely clear, but on rereading it I think she's right: it sounds like the sanctions are aimed at the fraternity, not the members. I guess that's a little bit better, but not much. It certainly doesn't change my point about double standards.
STRATEGIC PETROLEUM RESERVE UPDATE: The invaluable Lynne Kiesling forwards this table from DOE showing only a tiny increase in SPR holdings. Private stocks have risen somewhat, which is no doubt one thing holding down prices. But if we had, say, four times the amount in the SPR (i'm not sure, but I believe that's its max capacity) we'd have a stronger position -- not only in terms of inventory but, because of that inventory, politically as well.
Adding to the SPR would also send a signal that we're in this for the long haul and are prepared for all contingencies, including an interruption in Saudi/Persian Gulf oil. Which would also make such an interruption less likely, and probably promote cooperation in a lot of other ways, too.
FEDERALIZE AIRPORT SECURITY: But only if the security people can't unionize and can be fired immediately if they screw up.
Not willing to go that far? Then you're not serious about security -- you just want more federal employees.
THIS EXCELLENT PIECE by S. Robert Lichter and Trevor Butterworth from the Los Angeles Times explodes some myths about past war reporting. Here's one I didn't know about the war-reporting "glory days" of World War Two::
Perhaps even more surprising to today's independent-minded war correspondents, accreditation meant actually joining the military. Reporters wore uniforms, held the rank of captain and, in some cases, trained with the troops. They were also subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. At least in theory, this meant that they could be court-martialed and even executed for disobeying military orders.
On the other side, they point out that while Tet was in fact a military disaster for the Viet Cong, reporters by that point had become so jaded by military lies that they didn't report the truth, because they didn't believe it. Thus, the press misreported the biggest story of the war, which reflects poorly on both the reporters and their military handlers.
DOMESTIC ORIGINS OF ANTHRAX: I still don't buy it. At least, the timing, the proximity of the hijackers to the places where the envelopes were mailed, etc., suggest to me that domestic terrorists aren't the source.
It is possible, however, that domestic right-wing kooks of the Posse Comitatus variety are working with the Islamo-Fascists (with whom they share a good deal of worldview). The Posse sure was quick to cheer the attacks. My item on this (see link) was posted at 10:57. I don't know how long before that the Posse's webpage was updated, but they were awfully quick -- that was about an hour and a half after the second plane struck.
OREGON OFFICIALS ARE CONSIDERING CALLING FOR ARMED CITIZEN VOLUNTEERS to protect bridges, etc. Not such a bad idea: it gets you lots of manpower for a diffuse defense, and cheaply. Watching for people planting bombs on a bridge doesn't take much training; this would free up trained personnel for more challenging tasks.
NANCY ODEN UPDATE: I just received the following email from a colleague, who has closer ties to the Greens than I. It's from a Green activist who doesn't think much of Nancy Oden:
The following excerpted from an account from a Green activist who knows Nancy Oden personally as a result of prior involvement in GPUSA. Note that GPUSA is *not* the Green Party of the United States, to be officially recognized by the Federal Elections Committee as the party which nominated Ralph Nader for President in 44 states and has affiliated state parties in 33 states. GPUSA has affiliated state parties in 4 states, of which 2 are disaffiliating.
Nancy's latest heavy-handed rhetoric does not match up with what I've been reading in the Bangor news. She was not targeted at the airport because she was a leader of the G/GPUSA. She was targeted because she was rude to the security officers. Indeed, the FBI say they had no idea who she was. Other Green Party leaders have had no trouble whatsoever flying.
We risk delegitimizing ourselves by defending Nancy Oden's hysterical account of airport security. We'd also be causing more well-intentioned Green-Party-activist wannabes to go to G/GPUSA's web site and pay dues to G/GPUSA, not knowing that it is not the national Green Party that put together the convention in Denver and nominated Ralph Nader for president.
Boy, it just gets deeper with this woman. Still I think it's fair to write this off as a tacky attempt at publicity by someone who deserves none.
ANOTHER GUY WHO DEFIED THE U.S., Daniel Ortega, has conceded the election. Remember all the American apologists for the Sandinistas? The ones who said that everyone in Nicaragua loved them, that the contras were just thugs, that our efforts to unseat the Sandinistas were immoral and sure to fail, and probably draw us into a "quagmire"? Remember the Sandinista chic?
Several points here. First, we got rid of those guys (who had Soviet support, unlike the Taliban). We even did it without (direct) use of (many) American troops. Second, we did it even though the war was unpopular with American "opinion leaders." Third, it turned out that the people of Nicaragua were actually a lot happier without the Sandinistas.
Fourth -- and this should upset the Islamo-fascists the most -- all that happened when the war against the Sandinistas wasn't all that popular in America. While the war against the Islamo-fascists is very popular.
CRUDE OIL PRICES ARE DOWN -- so are we filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve up? If not, why not?
THE IDLER has an excerpt from Yossef Bodansky's book on Osama bin Laden.
FREE SPEECH: Rand Simberg writes about Easterbrook's article:
This is not a new issue, either. Remember Mr. Rocker, who said all those politically-incorrect things in the magazine interview? I don't recall many of these born-again "civil libertarians" defending him then. Instead, they (correctly) pointed out that while he had a right to say whatever he wanted, he didn't have a right to play baseball for the Atlanta Braves, or to play baseball at all, for that matter. Of course, I also don't recall a lot of objections when the Braves organization wanted to force him into psychological "counseling" (aka reeducation camp).
Anyway, these people only think that speech shouldn't have consequences when it's *their* speech.
Interesting. Think what we'd hear if people who opposed the war insenstively were forced to undergo "patriotic sensitivity" training.
GREAT PIECE BY GREGG EASTERBROOK: Freedom of speech doesn't mean speech without any costs.
MODERATES VS. FANATICS: One of the interesting side effects of 9/11 is that it is actually isolating extremists, not only at home but also in the Islamic world. For example, reader Eric Mauro sends this story from the Christian Science Monitor that tells of the comeuppance of a radical:
If Indonesian authorities attempt to arrest him, Thalib threatens to spread his jihad to Indonesia's main island of Java.
Though only a small percentage of Indonesians share his views, Thalib has been able to cow local governments across the country. Last year, he had a follower in Maluku stoned to death for adultery, and he successfully defeated the murder charge by arguing that he had a right to apply sharia (Islamic law), Indonesian civil and criminal law notwithstanding.
But in late September, when he arrived on Lombok (a popular tourist island just east of Bali) to organize anti-American protests, Thalib was ever-so-politely run out of town.
"We told him, with all due respect, we cannot accept the use of violence - ever," says Hadi Faishal, who runs a development organization and is the son of a traditional Muslim leader on the island. "We also warned that if outsiders were brought in to cause a disturbance, we'd mobilize 10 times as many to stop them."
Most Muslims on Lombok, like most in the world, disagree with the militant Islam practiced by Thalib and his followers. But generally, these moderate Muslims have been quiet in the face of extremism, more focused on the daily grind of making ends meet than on who would confront the radical face of Islam.
Now that the stakes are higher, that may change.
EMAIL FROM A READER ON THE MICHAEL LEDEEN COLUMN:
Hear hear! The trick is, of course, timing. It is time to support the pro-Western majority in Iran. But the lesson here is that the best cure is to let people try being fundamentalists -- because then they get tired of it. Trying to squash them like bugs (see Algeria and Egypt, in particular) just makes them look like pious underdogs. Sadly, this means putting up with wacko fundamentalists for decades at a time. What to do? The Islamic world desperately needs a success story -- one that is based upon real political openness and economic development (the quasi-socialist states of the '50s and '60s certainly don't count). Perhaps Iran can give them that. And, nothing would undermine the legitimacy of radical Islam quite like a revolution rejected. On the other hand, we will still need a political and economic success story in the Arab/Sunni world, too.
On a completely different note, I was reading in the NYT that Christians in Nigeria are now wearing American flags as a symbol of their 'pro-Western allegiAnce.' Last year, I expressed my fear of a "religious cold war" in Africa. The more I think about it, the more terrified I am. Poor fucking Africa. Why is it that the folks who need the least trouble wind up with everybody else's problems, as well as their own?
I noticed myself (and meant to post on it, but never did) that when Nigerian President Obasanjo spoke at the White House Friday he stresssed that Nigeria, uniquely, is roughly half Muslim and half Christian. At the time I thought that this really wasn't a cheering note, given Nigerian political history. On the other hand, they're doing better now.
BIG INSIGHT: Most of the religious-strife problems in Nigeria come from -- you guessed it -- the Saudis, who have been subsidizing Nigerians to support their wacky -- and ugly -- Wahabbi brand of Sharia.
For all the talk about clashes of civilizations, this stuff usually seems to come back to the Saudis. To which I say: Hashemite Restoration! A nice, constitutional monarchy, gradually evolving into a Western-style democracy. After all, the Western democracies got their start that way, didn't they?
THERE'S A TERRIFIC STORY ON THE FRONT PAGE OF TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL about the demonstrations against the mullahs in Iran. (Sorry; no free link is available). The upshot: young Iranians are sick of the religious restrictions, view the mullahs as corrupt and heavyhanded, and want a Western-style society.
Interestingly, the Shah's son, Reza Pahlavi, has become an overnight hero there because of his broadcasts on NITV, an opposition satellite-based channel run out of Los Angeles. There's an inside story on that, too. It's worth the price of the issue just for these stories.
MORE FROM MICHAEL LEDEEN ON Islamic fundamentalism's loss of legitimacy in Iran:
In short, we have it on highly credible authority that the Great Satan is making a comeback in Iran. You should be skeptical when your allies tell you how popular you are, but you can always believe an enemy. Especially when said enemy is showing signs of losing the will to crush his opponents. A few days ago, the leader of the democracy movement of Iranian university students was released from jail after being held for more than two years. He promptly gave a radio interview to a pro-democracy station based in Los Angeles, in which he reiterated his conviction that time was running out on the regime.
The lesson we must learn from these brave Iranian freedom fighters is that Islamic radicalism does not work, and the most devastating weapon we can employ against it is the people of the Middle East. The mullahcracy may or may not fall in the near future, but it is clear to anyone who cares to look — including the Islamic tyrants in Tehran — that it does not work. After 22 years of ceaseless indoctrination, the Iranian people hate radical Islam. They want to be free of it. So when people talk to you about an inevitable "clash of civilizations," remember that there are many clashes, and the one that is taking place within Islamic civilization is gong badly for the radicals.
It follows that we should challenge the Middle East tyrants, secure in the knowledge that our values are truly universal, and the people who today groan under despotism will join with us to achieve democracy and freedom tomorrow. President Bush, tear down those walls!
I hope that the right people are reading Ledeen's stuff.
ANDREA SEE reports that Singapore is getting seriously into this whole "homeland security" thing. (Like they weren't before?) This illustrates something important: the United States' response here is going to set the tone worldwide, and if we act too heavy-handed it's going to be interpreted by people who are already too heavy-handed as a free pass for all sorts of abuses.
This is a reason for the United States not only to observe civil liberties, but also to do so conspicuously. This is not only the right thing to do in general -- it's probably also helpful in terms of moral leadership for the whole antiterrorist campaign.
MICKEY KAUS says that Rudy Giuliani should be in charge of homeland defense instead of Tom Ridge, and also offers a credible explanation of why he isn't.
Of course, it's also possible that Rudy would just rather be in New York right now.
WELL, IT WAS AN EXCITING WORLD SERIES and in a way I'm glad the Yankees lost. (And not just because I'm a Red Sox fan). The Yankees got a lot of extra affection based on sentiment. But you don't get the Series based on sentiment; you get it based on wins.
Remember this lesson for the wider world: sentiment is nice, but there's no substitute for victory.
EVEN A BROKEN CLOCK, as my grandmother says, is right twice a day. And so, inevitably, Marshall Wittman's Bullmoose hits the nail on the head today, talking about how everyone has his/her hand in the till on the terrorism response legislation. There's a massive sellout to special interests underway, and in the new spirit of bipartisanship nobody's complaining -- they're just all cashing in.
Why doesn't the GOP offer corporate naming rights to the party like is done for sports arenas? One month for a large soft money donation it could be the MCI-GOP. The next month it could be the AT&T-GOP. You get the idea.
The Democrats are no day at the beach either. With the rare exceptions of voices like Joe Lieberman, the Democrats are enthusiastic for the expansion of every government agency with the exception of the Defense Department. At this moment, is it possible to imagine that either party would ask their respective unions or corporate constituencies to sacrifice for the war effort?
What is truly puzzling is the role of the White House. The Administration was indifferent when the Senate unanimously passed the airline security bill. Then, DeLay cracked his whip and the President invested political capital in the House bill. The Moose continues to hope that the President reconsiders his relationship with the money right. A new center-right coalition is his for the asking, but he must build an alliance based on the flag, not the dollar.
You tell 'em, Marshall.
THIS WHOLE HASHEMITE-RESTORATION THING is starting to bug the Saudis. Crown Prince Abdullah has "lashed out" at criticism of Saudi Arabia in the American press.
Okay, Abdullah. Since you've established the principle that governments are responsible for what's in their press, when are you going to do something about the foul anti-American and anti-Semitic stuff that runs in the Saudi press? You wanna take a little responsibility here?
I mean, it's not as if press freedom stands in your way here. There's none of that in Saudi Arabia. Maybe it's time for that to change.
UPDATE: I just saw Matt Welch's page this morning, where he has a lot to say on this issue. He also says the first question Ari Fleischer should be asked today is: "Did Bush apologize to the Saudis for American media coverage?"
WHY AM I UNAFRAID TO FLY? Because it's safer than taking the bus. Sheesh.
DETENTIONS BY LAW ENFORCEMENT are said to exceed anything since World War Two -- though that's a fairly meaningless comparison when you think about it. The difference between this and the Japanese American internment (aside from this one being less than 1% the size) is that these detentions are all on charges, through process of law, not simply wholesale roundups featuring everyone of a particular ethnicity.
Worth keeping an eye on, though, to ensure that they stay that way.
MORE BELLICOSE WOMEN: One of literally hundreds like it I've gotten in response to this weekend's FoxNews column:
Well prior to September 11, 2001 I was beginning to go with gun control. NO WAY ANYMORE! I went last week and bought a Dan Wesson 357 mag. and soon I plan to buy a legal semi-automatic rifle. If trouble gets closer to home, I am not going out quietly. I may be a female but I know how to shoot a weapon. The gun control, fearful crowd, can go tremble in a hole somewhere. Safety yes, locked up, yes, responsible handling of weapons, yes, out of the reach of children, yes. But real close to momma. Dale the female, Pennsylvania, USA - God Bless America and her soldiers.
HERE COMES PUNDITWATCH, a service of the steadily-cooler Tony Adragna/Will Vehrs collaboration. I have missed Slate's "Pundit Central" since it stopped, and I'm happy to have this replacement. Especially since I watch those shows at the gym, usually listening to the audio on a Walkman while doing squats, which doesn't improve my comprehension.
However, I disagree with Will that Fareed Zakaria's best line on "This Week" was the one about the Afghan caves mattering more than the Arab street. I liked the line just before it -- that the best propaganda tool is victory.
IRAN'S MULLAHS continue to play a dangerous game, opening new discussions with the Taliban while taking a less friendly stance toward the Northern Alliance. This seems likely to backfire, but they seem to be getting desperate.
More MTV! Who gives a damn if Linda Ellerbee is worried that it will offend the Taliban?
LINDA ELLERBEE IS ON NICKELODEON AGAIN, showing far more sensitivity to Muslim hatred of the West, and of Jews, than she would ever show to Southern Baptists' views on the roles of women. Why is Nickelodeon doing this? Do our kids need thinly-veiled defenses of antisemitism?
GUN CONTROL AND CHURCHES: In my Fox News column this weekend I mention the role that some protestant denominations have played in promoting gun control, which has gotten me a little (2-3 messages) hate email. Here's an illustrative quote from an article by Don Kates in the Public Interest Law Review some years back:
Reverend Brockway's views are representative of the anti-gun movement and influential within it. Indeed, the most senior of the national gun control organizations, the National Coalition to Ban Handguns (NCBH) was created by the Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church in 1976 when gun lobby complaints to the Internal Revenue Service threatened the Church's tax exemption. (NCBH has recently changed its name to Coalition Against Gun Violence to facilitate its current emphasis on banning rifles and shotguns as well as handguns.)
Reverend Brockway's language concedes that a woman may shoot a rapist if she knows with certainty that he will kill her. Yet, another NCBH affiliate, the Presbyterian Church USA, disagrees. Its official position is that a victim may not take an attacker's life under any circumstance, even if she knows he will kill her. Testifying before a congressional gun control hearing a few years ago, a church representative stated: "The General Assembly [of the Presbyterian Church USA] has declared in the context of handgun control and in many other contexts, that it is opposed to 'the killing of anyone, anywhere, for any reason.'" The representative claimed that the Presbyterian position is moderate because it seeks to ban only handguns and not hunting guns. Rifles and shotguns are not condemned because the church sees them as owned, as he put it, "by sports people." However, when it comes to handguns, the Presbyterian Church USA makes no distinction between murderers and victims who lawfully defend themselves and categorically condemns handguns as "weapons of death ... that are designed only for killing." In the church's view, "There is no other reason to own a handgun (that we have envisioned, at least) than to kill someone with it."
Of course, religious groups are free to bring their religious views to the public sphere -- but the extent to which the gun control movement has been animated by such views has been dowplayed in the gun control arena, while it has received plenty of attention in the abortion arena.
WHY OSAMA KEEPS HIS HEAD COVERED: A slightly raunchy explanation.
DECLAN MCCULLAGH has more on Nancy Oden including a link to this story in the Bangor News that says the reason she was denied boarding is that she wouldn't do the security screening. Well, duh. That's more probable than hatred of the Green Party on the part of Maine National Guardsmen who -- no doubt to her chagrin -- probably had never heard of it, or her, anyway. And it's more probable even than her presence on a watch list due to the ecoterrorist activities I mentioned earlier.
Sounds like publicity-seeking behavior here. It's working, too, though it may disprove the adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity.
MALL REPORT: More on the good side of recessions. Prices are slashed to the bone -- I mean really slashed.
FREDRIK NORMAN has more on Iranian mullahs trying to shore up their position by playing the anti-American card. The response, apparently, is something along the lines of "I want my MTV!"
MICKEY KAUS brings back his "Assignment Desk" feature for 9/11 followup stories. I like it.
I didn't like the Qwest ad that slid across the page, briefly blocking the text. It sucked like a bilge pump. If this is somebody's idea of an effective ad, well, it sucked. Like a bilge pump. Slate's become reader-unfriendly enough without stuff like that. What, somebody thinks that'll make me want to buy something from Qwest? I don't even remember what they were selling -- just that the ad, well, sucked. Like a bilge pump. A big one.
BRITISH MUSLIMS BACK BIN LADEN: That's what this poll of 1170 British Muslims says, anyway. This echoes a smaller and less reliable -- but apparently more or less correct -- poll that I cited last week. This is no surprise, really, as British Muslims have never been encouraged to assimilate -- and, in fact, have in recent years been actively encouraged to "maintain their cultural identity" rather than doing so.
As Jim Bennett says, "Democracy, Immigration, Multiculturalism: pick any two."
NANCY ODEN UPDATE: Turns out there's good reason for Nancy Oden to be suspected of terrorist links -- ecoterrorist links, that is. See this item from the Bangor Daily News, pointed out to me by reader Paul Zrimsek. Oden denied any linkage with the ecoterrorism in question, but in a very bin Ladenesque "I didn't do it but I approve" kind of way.
Given that ecoterrorism is, in fact, the most prevalent and widespread form of domestic terrorism, and has continued since 9/11, her presence on a watch list doesn't seem especially unreasonable in light of heightened security concerns and fears (though probably wrong) that the anthrax mailings were masterminded by domestic groups, and her presence on such a list is likely to be on that basis, and unlikely to have anything to do with the Green Party's positions on Afghanistan.
ACADEMICS ARE ROLLING OUT NEW COURSES in response to September 11. Read these descriptions. My favorite course name: "Understanding the Unthinkable and Incomprehensible." Boy, and I was just wondering if I should offer "National Security Law" in the spring.
GREAT COLUMN BY GEORGE WILL ON terrorism and the Second Amendment.
IRAN'S FURTHER CRUMBLE: According to this story from the Iran Press Service, elements within the Iranian government are planning to provide covert support to Al Qaeda, because they fear any rapprochement with the United States
This is more evidence that the current regime in Iran is in danger of coming apart. Given the unpopularity of Wahabbism with most religious Iranians (yeah, to a lot of Americans it's hard to tell the difference, but they don't have any trouble telling the difference) this sort of thing is terrible internal PR for the regime, and it also indicates a stronger-than-usual cross-purpose in their foreign policy.
Good news for the United States: if the current regime collapses, stuff like this will just help us look better with the new one.
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