AND NOW FOR THE REAL NEWS: Tony Adragna reports on the new KFC/A&W fastfood combination. There is a sad lack of "Papa Burgers." Dang.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY was supposed to promote creativity, not cement the economic position of existing industries against technologically inspired change. That's the thesis of Larry Lessig's new book, The Future of Ideas (pretentious title; good book). I have a review of it in tomorrow's Washington Post, if you're interested.

When I started InstaPundit, I thought that this was what I would be writing about most of the time. It hasn't worked out that way, but I cherish these occasional intrusions of normal life.


Why is it that it's okay for her to compare the Taliban to the Puritans, four days before Thanksgiving, but she and her ilk get their panties in a knot when W uses the word crusade?

I'm a descendant of those Puritans, who came here a mere 400 years ago. The Crusades were 900 years ago. Why isn't her remark more offensive to me and mine than W's was to Muslims, seeing as my wound is so much fresher?

I assume that Orrin's question is rhetorical, as we all know the answer. But Dowd's columns have become very useful windows into what the Bush Administration wants and fears politically. Dowd is totally in-the-tank with the Bush Administration. Her criticisms seem contrived and overly precious to those not in the know, but that's because she's recycling lines fed to her by the White House in order to covertly support Administration policy. When Bush was worried about the peace movement, Dowd was dispatched to criticize him for not being brutal enough. Now, as the Administration launches an assault on Islamic approaches to gender relations, Dowd is criticizing him for not doing enough along those lines:
But the Bushes love that royal family and its oil. What does it matter if Saudi women can drive, as long as American women can keep driving their S.U.V.'s?

Millions of Muslim women are still considered property. The first lady might think about extending her campaign beyond Afghanistan.

Oh, pleeeease don't make us do that, Maureen! Dowd's role in all this reminds me of the time FDR told some businessmen with whom he agreed to "start putting pressure on me."

Assignment for pundit-trackers: find out who in the White House is feeding these instructions to Dowd, and what their relationship is. Could make a good item for The New Republic -- or somewhere else. You don't even have to credit InstaPundit, as everyone who matters will know.

Am I serious about this? Keep reading Dowd's columns, and decide for yourself.

JOANNE JACOBS ATTENDED THE BIG GAME AND REPORTS ON THE "PEACE RALLY" that I mentioned yesterday. Sounds pretty lame:

All I saw was a dozen people with leaflets and signs. They had less energy than the guys hired to dispense free footballs as a promotion. Thousands of fans streamed by, ignoring the protesters and scooping up the little plastic footballs.
For an entirely amusing account, read the whole thing. But I'm guilty of the journalistic sin of "burying the lede:" The real news here is that someone is still doing dot-com promotion!

MOHAMMED ATEF'S DEATH, according to this account from the Sunday Times, was like something out of Tom Clancy.

Locking the cross-hairs of their weapon guidance systems on the hotel below, each of the three F-15s let loose a single GBU-15 “smart bomb”. Weighing 2,500lb each, these bombs are guided on to their targets by infrared cameras in their noses.

As the bombs slammed into the side of the hotel, the Predator completed the mission, launching its two Hellfire missiles at the vehicles in the car park. Almost everyone at the scene was incinerated, with close to 100 people killed.

It was many hours before American officials could know just how much they had achieved. Then, in panic and pandemonium, an Al-Qaeda operative breached the organisation’s strict security rules and revealed that a large number of the movement’s senior figures had been killed — including Mohammed Atef, the 57-year-old deputy to Bin Laden and the terrorist group’s senior military commander.

Clancy, in fact, has held up well through all of this, not least when -- in contrast to David McCullough's bleatings about freedom coming to an end -- he was a welcome breath of common sense on Sept. 11. It was bad, he said, but we would win, and without giving up our freedoms.

KEN LAYNE SAYS I "WALKED INTO A MINEFIELD" when I called a local talk-radio station to make fun of the people who were criticizing Harry Potter for "promoting witchcraft." (Witchcraft, well, isn't real, I pointed out -- which is too bad, as both Elizabeth Montgomery and Melissa Joan Hart suggest that if it were, the witches would all be major babes).

Yeah, some people didn't like it. But "walked into a minefield?" Puhleez. As the saying goes, the wolf doesn't fear the sheep, however numerous.

THE RHETORICAL QUESTION OF THE DAY: Jonathan Chait, from the article I cite below:

In other words, the anti-war policy endorsed by the left in the name of saving Afghans would, if followed, have resulted in the suffering and deaths of tens of thousands of Afghans. So now the anti-war activists and writers who opposed the bombing on humanitarian grounds need to ask themselves a question: Do they really care primarily about civilians in Afghanistan, or did they just take up the cause as an excuse to blame the United States?
Hmm. What do you think? I'm not hearing any apologies or retractions.

Noam Chomsky: call your office!

PLAYING THE WOMEN'S CARD: The U.S. is urging a major role for women in the new Afghan government.

SPEAKING OF CLUELESS: According to this report taken from an Arab newspaper, Osama bin Laden is using 10 lookalike decoys.

Apparently he's not familiar with the old Tennessee saying, "I'm gonna kill you, and everybody that looks like you." But I'm pretty sure that's a fair description of our strategy. And I wonder how long the lookalikes will keep it up, once they realize that.

UPDATE: Reader Mark Cenedella points out something I should have thought of, but didn't: what's the likelihood that Osama bin Laden can find ten 6'5" lookalikes willing to die for him in Afghanistan? Pretty damn low. Chalk this one up to propaganda.

I should have thought of that. But, heck, Mark did. InstaPundit: where I don't have to be smart, because my readers are!

EVEN THE FRENCH ARE EMBARRASSED BY THE FRENCH: Reader Dominique Petitmengin writes about the 60 troops: "...and we are going to send 8 attack 2 weeks....maybe. How great a nation we are!"

Yep. Attack planes, arriving about the time there'll be nothing left to attack. And the French government wonders why it isn't taken as seriously as it would like.

But, as Fredrik Norman's commenter says below, if you don't play, you don't get a say.

DOCTORS WITHOUT A CLUE -- OR A CONSCIENCE: Thanks to the fall of the Taliban, food aid is getting through wonderfully. But now Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is complaining about the international troops being deployed to Afghanistan on the ground that "a military presence could compromise the independent reputation of the agencies."

Two points. First, as I've said before, this makes clear that the Doctors are more concerned with their reputation among the thugocracies in which they generally operate than with the overall impact on the populations they're supposed to be serving. Second, it appears that they aren't thinking enough of their reputation in the countries that fund them. I've given them money in the past, but they won't see a dime from now on. And I doubt I'm the only one who feels this way.

UPDATE: I just ran across this piece by Jonathan Chait pointing out that the "mass starvation" predictions made last week have already proved unfounded. Think Noam Chomsky will take back his "silent genocide" remarks? (Think I'm seriously wondering about this?)

WOOHOO! BROADBAND'S BACK UP. Sadly, just in time for me to go grocery shopping. I leave you with this suggestion from Rand Simberg:

This JIR thing got me to thinking.

Obviously, someone who isn't intimate with a language has difficulty distinguishing serious from humorous documents, and it's also hard for someone not conversant with the technology to tell which guides are real and which are bogus. And of course, it doesn't hurt that these guys aren't the brightest bulbs on the string to begin with.

How about putting out a lot of spoof bomb and bioweapons-making guides on line, with lots of meta key words in them (we could even work with the major search engines to get them in there quickly)? They'd contain subtle errors that would render the devices useless, or, better yet, destructive to their attempted maker... We could even put them out in Arabic, but that might be a little too obvious.

Question for Rand: How do you know we haven't already done this? I have at least one piece of evidence to suggest that we have. . . . Which poses a problem for future bad guys, doesn't it?

INTERNET FOILS BIN LADEN? Well, think about it. First there's the whole "Evil Bert" thing, which was in fact a big psychological boost to the West -- and especially the United States -- when it came out. (As I said at the time, "Poor Osama: from face of terror to figure of fun in about 12 hours, courtesy of the Internet.") Now it seems that the Al Qaeda types were getting their nuclear research from internet gags too. And remember, this was a gang with access to Bond-villain levels of money and expertise, only to be frustrated in its goals by a bunch of wiseasses in the developed countries armed with nothing but modems and a sense of humor.

ANGLOS WINNING THE CULTURE WAR: That's what this comment on Fredrik Norman's website says:

But there is an important point in the war of ideas that has been mostly overlooked: the USA and UK, by openly confronting the moral bankruptcy of postmodern leftism and Wahhabi fundamentalism, are once again primed to advance their cultures throughout the world. Let all those who scribble diatribes in Le Monde about the proliferation of Anglo culture instead of French or Dutch or Scandinavian culture (or other of your choice) ask themselves why, in times like these when ideas matter in real-time, do these cultures choose to say little and do less. No one in years to come will remember or care what the bystanders said or thought.
Well, now, the French have sent 60 soldiers.

TALIBAN FALL FOR INTERNET GAG? According to this story, which I found on Rand Simberg's site, the "Atomic Bomb Plans" that were found in Kabul appear to be from a gag article from the Journal of Irreproducible Results. (Other articles in the series include how to make an antigravity device, and how to clone your neighbor's wife in a weekend using ordinary kitchen utensils.)

I can just see a half-assed al-Qaeda translator looking at the Journal of Irreproducible Results and exclaiming: "Aha -- a journal of things so secret that they are not allowed to be copied! This is what we're looking for!"

An economist friend was pointing out that these guys aren't so bright. His logic was that the 19 hijackers were surely the best they had -- and those guys kept flunking out of flight school! So, he figured, the other guys that are left must be pretty dumb. This appears to support his theory.

Either that, or Osama's got more of a sense of humor than we suspected.

UPDATE: Declan McCullagh has more on this -- all suggesting, though not proving, that the JIR theory is right. Very amusing. We need to get this on Al-Jazeera!

FIRING UP THE BELLICOSE WOMEN BRIGADE: That's what Laura Bush's radio address is about. This is a brilliant move.

First, it will help promote and maintain support among American women -- usually the first to criticize a war. Second, it is likely to help (along with the campaign that I suspect it's just the kickoff to) promote support for a campaign against Islamofascism around the world -- support from women in other Western countries primarily, and secondarily from women in Islamic countries. We should work hard, both openly and behind the scenes, to promote anti-Islamofascist sentiments among Muslim women.

That shouldn't be hard -- the Taliban certainly weren't popular among Afghan women. We need to ensure that lots of footage of liberated Afghans shaving beards and discarding burqas gets seen throughout the Islamic world. I understand that Al-Jazeera isn't reporting it, but that hardly ends the matter. In fact, by stressing that Al-Jazeera isn't reporting it, we can undermine their credibility with the very people we're trying to reach.

AS AL-JAZEERA GOES BIGTIME: Some thoughts on what it will look like, from Extreme Mortman. Excerpt:

"Larry, King of The Hashemite Kingdom, Live" --With special guest Queen Noor. And Tommy Lasorda.

"The O'Sama Factor" -- Terrorism's bombastic talk show host won't be bullied by guests. And he answers viewer e-mail. Caution: You're about to enter a no-fly zone.

"Crosshug" -- The humanitarian aid companion to "Crossfire."

"Novak, Hunt, Shields & Musharraf" -- Another concession to the Pakistanis.

Of course, Mortman offers the most horrifying end-of-war fact of all: "Geraldo Rivera returns."

RACIAL CONFUSION: I've made fun of those who have called this a "racist war," but P.J. O'Rourke (naturally) says it better:

Concern has been voiced that fear of terrorism could lead to renewed racial profiling. Never mind that the languages of the Taliban—Pashto and Dari—are part of the Indo-European linguistic family, and that if "Caucasian" has any meaning at all, Afghans have a better claim to it than Hungarians or Finns.
Indeed. What P.J. misses, of course, is that "racism" now has nothing to do with race. It's just a catch-all term for things that some people don't like, sort of like "fascism" used to be before its overuse became such a joke that even its enthusiasts mostly gave it up.

I also learned a new term, which I thought P.J. was making up. It's the argumentum ad misericordiam, in which an appeal to pity is used to mask illogic. I love this.

I'M AN IDIOT, CONT'D: I finally got my webmail interface opened, and reader Bill St. Clair has this:

28 ID cards/day/employee times 1 million employees is 28 million cards/day. This makes only 10 days for 280 million cards, and cuts your $50 billion cost to under $2 billion.
Yep. I don't know how I did that. (So far Bill's the only one to email about it, so he deserves mention, though I pointed this out earlier.)

Actually, I do know how I did it. Instead of writing the whole thing out on paper, I did my calculation step-by-step in the Windows calculator. That meant that I didn't notice the error; bet I would have if I had written the whole thing out. Let that be a lesson to -- well, me, anyway. Of course, in fine Internet tradition, I could just blame Bill Gates. . . . Oh, well. I don't promise not to make mistakes, only to point 'em out and correct 'em as soon as I notice.

STILL ON NARROWBAND. It sure makes me appreciate broadband.

BACK LATER: This slow connection is killing me, and my email, though nominally accessible, is so slow in webmail form that it's intolerable.

OBSCENE MORAL EQUIVALENCE: Matt Welch has an appalling item from Indymedia. Apparently unhappy with the bad press the Taliban are getting, the Indymedia folks are calling for investigations of the people killed at the Pentagon, to see if they can be cast as war criminals.

If anyone can cast them that way, it'll be the Indymedia folks. And to think I used to have a certain admiration for their spunk. Now I just think they're morally clueless, and addicted to their own self-righteousness.

MICKEY KAUS says that people think "The West Wing" sucks this season. Kaus wants to take up a collection to buy Aaron Sorkin drugs.

I don't think this is the answer. Given his comments about "blacklisting," Sorkin seems just as out of touch with reality as ever. But my sense of The West Wing is that it was always a wish-fulfillment vehicle for liberals who were disappointed with Clinton. Its viability came into question as soon as Bush won the election (it probably would have had problems under Gore, too, but perhaps less so). The whole premise and worldview has become obsolete, and it's hard to save a show with that problem, regardless of writing, or how many pharmaceutical assists the writers have.

Now maybe if the viewers took enough drugs. . . .

SPEAKING OF TIRED RACIALISM: This letter in the Washington Post takes the civil rights leadership to task for callousness toward black immigrants:

As a foreign-born black person who is not American but lives in this country, I find it ironic that in all the discussion about how the civil liberties of some immigrant groups should not become casualties in the war against terrorism and about the dangers of racial profiling of Arabs and others of Middle Eastern descent, all we hear from the leadership of black America is a deafening silence. Given the poor record of the civil rights movement on immigration reform, even as it pertains to immigrants who are unmistakably black, perhaps this silence is not surprising. Black American leaders need to speak up for all victims of discrimination and prejudice, regardless of color or nationality.
As someone who has Nigerians in his extended family, I can attest to the double standard here. Indeed, many African immigrants are told by American blacks that they're not real blacks at all, or real Americans either.

TIRED RACIALISM: That's the basis of this oped from The Guardian (natch) by Jonathan David Farley, an American professor at Oxford. He's attacking Chelsea Clinton for outrageous hyperpatriotism, while whinging about FBI abuses that occurred before I hit puberty.

It's not like InstaPundit has been a big defender of the FBI, but it's also not like the only thing that matters with regard to US policy is the body of abuses that took place back in the 1950s and 1960s. This fixation on events of the past is a hallmark of what I've called "loser politics." Not only is such politics a hallmark of losers, it creates losers because by fixating on such events people are left less able to deal with what's happening now. Plus -- like people who go on and on about the events that led up to their divorce -- they become tedious and tiresome and thus politically unappealing.

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES: My broadband connection is down. I'm using a backup dialup connection, but it's running very slow, so that's going to limit posting until things get back to normal. Also, I'm an idiot. There's a math error in my FoxNews piece that causes it to substantially overstate the cost of a national ID program. I don't know how I missed it, but so did everyone else who read it before it came out. Mea culpa.

The main, "garbage in, garbage out" point remains valid, however.


NATIONAL ID -- GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT: Here's my new FoxNews column. I'd rather spend the money on spies, special forces, or smart bombs.

WHY IT'S UNLIKELY that the Taliban will wage guerrilla war from the hills, courtesy of Steven Den Beste:

Most of the hard core of the Taliban that will escape and continue the struggle won't be Afghans. You'll still have a few religious zealots, but most of that force will be foreigners (Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks, Pakistanis), and they are roundly despised now by nearly everyone in Afghanistan. For all intents and purposes there is no Taliban any more; what will be escaping is al Qaeda. Most of the native Afghans, including Pashtuns, who were part of the Taliban military force have defected or deserted. The foreigners will get no support, and they will not be able to hide among villagers, especially if shaving and brightly-colored turbins come back into fashion, which already seems to be happening among the Afghans; these Taliban and al Qaeda men will be easy to pick out by their long beards and black or white turbins, not to mention their accents and lack of fluency in local languages. Afghans will have no trouble spotting Pakistanis and Chechens and Arabs in their midst.
The point about the Taliban collapsing and al Qaeda being what's left is important. This is why killing as many of them as possible is important: whoever is left is a potential terrorist threat -- they trained for that, in Afghanistan camps that won't be training any more.

THE UN SAYS IT'S WINNING THE BATTLE AGAINST FAMINE in Afghanistan. So much for Noam Chomsky's "Silent Genocide." Think he'll take it back?

Note to Stanford students who plan to protest the "STARVATION" of millions -- there's still time to change your plans and just get drunk after the game.

GETTING IT FROM BOTH SIDES: Harry Potter is not only getting hit by anti-witch types, but also by people who call themselves witches. There seems a notable lack of actual visible supernatural activity, though: no flying brooms, or anything exciting like that.

THE "WORLD WAR II AS REPORTED BY MODERN MEDIA" GAG SHOULD BE STALE BY NOW, but Rand Simberg's liberation of Paris sendup proves that there's life in that old gag yet.

YET ANOTHER PROBLEM WITH LARRY ELLISON'S OFFER: Even if the govenrment employees do their part perfectly, Oracle' s software might kill the whole National ID project. The Register blames Oracle software deficiencies for the financial problems of both Cisco and Marconi. Maybe it's no bargain, even for free.

STORY IDEA: For, you know, real reporters. We don't know the whole story yet, but the Special Forces seem to be doing enormously well. This contrasts with, for example, the Iranian hostage rescue disaster.

About ten years ago, the U.S. military started to get really interested in this stuff, and they appear to have succeeded in getting a lot better at it. Former JCS chairman Henry Shelton had a lot to do with this, but in such military reforms there's usually a Billy Mitchell-like guru behind it. I don't know who that is, but it would be an interesting story to find him and to report on how this idea got the backing of bigshots like Shelton and managed to come to fruition despite the usual interservice rivalry and dislike of "elite" forces.

THE BROTHERS AMAR (not to be confused with the Brothers Judd) take on Ashroft's plan to wiretap attorney-client conversations.

EMERGENCY LAWS ARE BEING RUSHED THROUGH PARLIAMENT -- to deal with terrorism? Oh, no. To ban human cloning. Oh, yeah, that's a real emergency.

I'm sorry, but as I said when InstaPundit was brand new, the arguments against cloning just don't wash intellectually. They're nothing more than rationalizations for some people's discomfort with the idea. I'm reproducing my earlier post below, since this issue will probably start heating up here, too.

MISSING IN ACTION -- ARGUMENTS AGAINST CLONING: It's hard to refute most of the arguments against cloning, because most of them aren't made. For example, you can read Leon Kass and Daniel Callahan's recent piece in The New Republic from one end to another without getting a morally coherent argument as to why cloning is bad. (Note to Kass: "Slippery Slope" arguments are well and good, but you must still establish that the bottom of the slope is a bad place.). Still, there are some common themes that are worth unpacking here:

1. Cloning doesn't work well enough. It's too dangerous and is likely to produce deformed babies. Deliberately producing a child that will suffer serious genetic problems is unspeakable. This is the best argument. But (1) it's not an argument against cloning, just an argument against cloning with poor technology -- if cloning worked perfectly every time, this argument wouldn't hold at all; and (2) we don't consider it "unspeakable" for people who are at risk of spreading hereditary disease to have children -- in fact, the Catholic Church, a major opponent of cloning, does not endorse birth control in order to prevent such an event. Nor are there laws against it -- and if there were, people would consider those laws to be "eugenics" laws, which are bad.

2. Cloning will work too well. It will produce so many successful clones that it will replace sexual reproduction, leading to a loss of genetic diversity. The inconsistency with the argument above is obvious. Also, it won't lead to a loss of diversity: at least, if everyone alive cloned him or herself once, we'd have exactly as much diversity as we have now. I suppose if someone produced six billion copies of Bill Gates we'd have a problem. But, really, how likely is that?

3. Cloning will produce soulless zombie tools of the corporate power structure. No, it won't. George Lucas aside, clones won't be any more soulless than identical twins. And they won't be zombies unless something else is done to make them that way -- like, perhaps, making them sit through "The Phantom Menace" a few hundred times.

4. Cloning is "playing God." What's that? Heart transplants were once "playing God." Now they're medicine. Ditto with In-Vitro Fertilization and, long ago, vaccination. "Playing God" is a synonym for "gives me the willies." (see below).

5. Cloning is against God's will. No, it isn't. So there. Seriously, this isn't really an argument, but an attempt to shut down argument. It's also dubious theology. Given Adam's creation by God "in his own image," Eve's creation by modification of a bit of Adam, and the command to go forth and multiply, it's as arguable that God likes cloning (and related biotechnology) as that God is against it. And that's if you care what Yahweh thinks. Lots of people, of course, don't.

6. Clones are unnatural. Tell it to an identical twin. Besides, smallpox is natural; smallpox vaccine is not. Why are "natural" things privileged?

7. Cloning gives me the willies. This is, I think, the core argument. Leon Kass thinks that the "revulsion" that we feel -- or at any rate, that he feels -- is a meaningful ethical guide. But many people felt revulsion, no less sincerely, at the thought of eating with black people, or of homosexuals, or of jews. And, of course, many of us have a different intuition than Kass, feeling no revulsion at all. Why are the gut feelings of Kass, a man who says we already live lives that are too long and too healthy, privileged?

There may be a persuasive and well-founded case against cloning, but it hasn't been made yet in the public sphere. And the prevalence of sloganeering and "mad scientist" references makes me doubt that cloning opponents have much more than you see above.


Bombs still rain down on Afghanistan. Student names are still being given over to the FBI by universities across the US. Virtually unchallenged and unquestioned, restriction after restriction is placed on our civil liberties and constitutional rights. Anti-arab and anti-moslem discrimination and racial profiling continues. Millions of innocent Afghani citizens await a bleak winter of US bombing, Northern Alliance and Taliban atrocities, and STARVATION.
This was mass-emailed to residents at various Stanford "houses" (dorms, essentially). It calls for a "massive protest" after the Big Game against Cal tomorrow. Its conflation of legitimate (if overstated) civil liberties concerns and absurd complaints about the "bleak winter" and starvation (relief supplies are flowing in, now that the Taliban have stopped stealing them) can only prove one thing: IT'S A COUP, AND THE FBI HAS AGENTS DOING EVERYTHING THEY CAN TO DISCREDIT THE OPPOSITION!!!!!

Or, alternatively, these guys are just idiots.

UPDATE: I have gotten hate mail (well, stiff correction-mail) from both Berkeleyites and Stanfordians for calling it the "big game" and have been told that I must call it the Big Game. OK. We just called our Harvard-Yale game "the game," since that said it all. But West Coast types have always been into hyperbole.

THE GREENS LOSE in Germany, where Gerhard Schroeder survived a confidence vote triggered by his decision to send 3900 troops to Afghanistan. Yet another sign that the anti-American left is on the run.

THE BEST PROPAGANDA IS VICTORY: More proof in this story about chastened Pakistanis returning across the border. Excerpt:

Pakistani holy warriors are deserting Taliban ranks and streaming home in large numbers, tribal leaders said Friday, while in the streets of Peshawar, portraits of Osama bin Laden go unsold.

Here where it counts, just across the Khyber Pass from the heartland of Afghanistan, the Taliban mystique is waning.

"It was shameful to us to see them run away from Kabul," said Syed Rais ul Hassan, a business executive who is a Pashtun like most of the Taliban. "Our way is to stay and fight."

Fazal Ullah, son of clan leader Maulana Sufi Mohammed, said a main force of 10,000 to 11,000 Pakistanis had been routed and at least half of them have come home over the past few days.

Ullah, reached by telephone in the autonomous tribal areas east of here, said he feared hundreds of those still missing may have been killed or captured.

One can only hope. Here's my favorite part:
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, when President Bush blamed bin Laden and the Taliban, tents went up by crowded markets to collect money and recorded Quranic chants fired up sentiments.

When Kabul fell, the tents disappeared.

"The Taliban have gone, and those tents went with them," observed a banana vendor who uses the single name, Ashfaq.

Nearby, 18-year-old Taj Wali offered a discount on a T-shirt emblazoned with bin Laden's enigmatic smile and the words, "The Great Mujahid (warrior) of Islam. Jihad is our mission."

Wali had been selling at least a dozen a day, sometimes many more. Now, he said, he was lucky to unload two or three.

Yeah, and the people buying them are probably planning to sell them to American GIs as war souvenirs. Or maybe they'll show up on eBay.

Look, even when it's over in Afghanistan, it's not over. There's a big military and propaganda campaign still to come. But our position in both is now immeasurably stronger as a result of winning. This should be obvious, but it's not -- at least not to the talking heads, etc., who assume that people will only like us if we lose. Remember: people the world over like underdogs, but they hate losers.

This link was sent to me by winner Elizabeth King, who writes: "This article warms the cockles of my bellicose heart." Mine too.

MMMMMM! MEAT! I refer, of course, to Allison Alvarez's ongoing vegan-roommate-harassment campaign. We should put her in charge of psywar efforts against Islamofascists.

She has more on the Saudi protest idea, too.

THE SAUDIS ARE ALREADY FEELING THE PRESSURE, as Bjorn Staerk notes: Suddenly the Saudi-controlled Arab News is praising America and announcing the end of the Taliban. The best propaganda is victory. Or maybe they're just scared of Allison.

WITH ENEMIES LIKE THIS, WHO NEEDS FRIENDS? I said that the 9/11 attacks were a failure. Now a lot of people are saying the same thing:

This is then the paradoxical achievement of bin Laden and his network. They spent many years planning the attacks on New York and Washington in the belief that they would humiliate the United States, drive all aspects of American influence out of the Middle East and then trigger a global economic meltdown.

It is instead far more probable that the end result of their foul endeavours will be a vast reassertion of American power, the humiliation of radical Islam and a stronger economy than would have occurred if al-Qaeda had stayed in its caves. With enemies like this, who needs friends?

That's Tim Hames in The Times. Hey, here's a thought -- let's spread rumors that the Islamofascists actually work for the CIA, and that their goal is to get devout Muslims killed while strengthening U.S. hegemony. How else to explain the results? Er, besides sheer idiocy, I mean.

CSPI ON COKE: Virginia Postrel has some amusing items on the Center for Science in the Public Interest's war on soft drinks. Hey, where were these guys on anthrax?

THE TALIBAN ARE DEAD -- except as a label. This piece in Spinsanity chronicles the use of "Taliban" and "Mullah" as labels in partisan domestic politics. It's mostly by Dems against Republicans, but not exclusively so by any means.

I've been against this for a while. Back in August, Abraham Verghese compared Bush to the Taliban in an article on stem cell research. Here's what I wrote in response: "As anyone who has read InstaPundit (or who bothers to scroll down) knows, I wouldn't have imposed any of Bush's limits. But really: the Taliban? If Abraham Verghese, the author, ever actually encounters the Taliban or their handiwork, I trust he will appreciate the scope of his error."

My main fault, apparently, is overoptimism.

OLLIE NORTH: I keep getting email saying that Ollie North put the famed security system in place because of Osama bin Laden, and testified to that effect before Congress. I was skeptical: my boss at the time was General Counsel to the Tower Commission, which investigated Iran/Contra, and I didn't remember that despite having followed things rather closely. Turns out I was right to be skeptical: it's not true. You can see the Snopes debunking of it for yourself.

Maybe Ollie and Nancy Oden should do lunch.

THE LEFT AND TECHNOLOGY: Rand Simberg has some more extensive thoughts on an issue I raised below: the truly revolutionary nature of technology, and the envy that technologists inspire among faux-revolutionists. He's also kind enough to forgive me for my single-handed creation of global warming.

SAMIZDATA POINTS OUT THIS SPEECH BY PAUL WOLFOWITZ on the war, complete with excerpts from special-forces dispatches from within Afghanistan. My favorite line: the Taliban have become the Khmer Rouge of our time.

Another great Samizdata observation:

And so, it is interesting to note that the streets of Pakistan are surprisingly subdued. Far from 'Islam' rising up against the United States and its anti-Taliban friends in Afghanistan, city after city is filled with cheering throngs and America is saluted by the very people who lived through the bombing for contributing to the Taliban's misfortunes. Hundreds and possibly thousands of young Pakistanis are already dead, killed not as Islamic holy warriors but as hated foreigners by Afghans who have had it up to 'here' with the interference of its neighbours.

So as the Islamic politicians of Pakistan survey how in the matter of eight days the entire situation in Afghanistan has turned upside down, the families and friends of the dead Pakistani boys who listened and then marched to their deaths across the Khyber pass are going to start asking 'why?' When people start to figure out the answer, I don't think the forces of Islamo-fascism are going to like what happens next. It must be slowly dawning on the more secular forces in Pakistan that their Islamist political enemies are starting to look very exposed indeed.

As I suggested in October, I think that Musharraf had this figured out early on.

NANCY ODEN UPDATE: A letter in today's Star-Tribune recycles the long-debunked Nancy Oden story, calling it "woefully underreported." I guess, just like the Harry Potter=witchcraft folks, some people just gotta believe.

Another "woefully underreported" story: alien abductions. Fortunately, even though you may not be fortunate enough to be abducted by an alien, Alien Abductions Incorporated has the solution:

Why wonder if they're ever going to come for you? Why even invest the time, trouble, and expense involved in an actual abduction when the highly trained and professional staff at Alien Abductions Incorporated can provide you with personalized, realistic memories of the alien abduction that you have been waiting for your entire life?

When you choose an AAI Abduction Experience our doctors, hypnotists, and memory implant technicians work with you in pre-abduction orientation sessions to customize one of our hundreds of stock abductions to suit your personal taste.

The difference? My story is true -- there really is an Alien Abduction Institute website. Whereas Nancy Oden and her fellow faux-Greens are making up their own false memories.

BILL AYERS UPDATE: The unrepentant 1960s bomber-turned-professor had his book-signing in Evanston. Here's a report from the Daily Northwestern. Excerpt:

Ayers then fielded questions from the crowd, many of which led to spirited exchanges. One man equated Ayers to Osama bin Laden and said "it's horrifying to think you can be in here selling your books."

Ayers responded by accusing the government of creating its own terrorism through the Vietnam War.

"If you lived in south Afghanistan now and your government had terrorism as a policy, wouldn't you try to stop them? What was the right behavior at that time to resist the horror?" he asked the man.

Once again, this is an obscene moral equivalence that is -- and I mean this absolutely seriously, with no hyperbole -- no more than a species of holocaust denial. It's also utterly incoherent -- does Ayers mean that it's a moral imperative to bomb terrorists? That's what his example suggests. But I doubt he means it. He hasn't been out in the forefront of support for the war, after all.

Ayers is a disgrace to the academy, and to the left -- and the left's continued embrace of guys like him is why I no longer call myself a member of the left -- and why so few others do.


Kabul, Afghanistan - The Recording Industry Association of Afghanistan (RIAA) has begun a major crackdown on pirated music since the Taliban fell from power 2 days ago, and launched their own bid for control in the war torn city. Many cheered the fall of the Taliban, but the RIAA feels that if music can be listened to that copyrights will be violated. . . .

"It was much easier to control music piracy when the Taliban was in control. Now we fear that with their new found freedom the people of Kabul and in the rest of Afghanistan will turn to copyright violation to satisfy their musical needs," said RIAA President Ghulam Hotak.

Chillingly realistic. There's also a hilarious line about pirate MP3s "circulating on the Kabul computer." I love that -- computer, singular.

COMPARE this October 17 FoxNews column pronouncing the 9/11 attacks a failure with this (excellent) piece from NRO today saying the same thing. Advantage: InstaPundit!

LESSONS FROM THE VIRGINIA GOVERNOR'S RACE: Tennessee's Democratic candidate is positioning himself as a pro-gun, pro-business, low-tax Democrat.

HARRYPHOBIA: I'm listening to my local talk radio station, where some reality-challenged folks are attacking the Harry Potter books and movies as "promoting witchcraft." Earth to callers: witchcraft isn't real.

Of course, they do point up a strain of hypocrisy in other commentators who criticize violence in Roadrunner cartoons while saying about Potter "It's just a movie."

But then, I've always loved Roadrunner cartoons. And, you see, genius coyotes aren't real either. Nor, sadly, are those rocket-powered rollerskates. . . .

UPDATE: I called in and made this point. Callers are now denouncing me for announcing "pre-Tribulation" viewpoints. Oh, well.

NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT NOW -- UNLESS IT ACTUALLY HAPPENS! Below, I note the absence of cheering from prior advocates of nuclear disarmament, despite Bush having announced nuclear cuts that exceed the wildest dreams of the antinuke protesters of a few years back.

Reader Brian Hoffman responds with a link to this Star-Tribune editorial saying that these cuts are actually a bad thing because, well, actually it isn't quite clear why, but apparently it has something to do with their not being part of an arms-control "process." George Will has accused the left of supporting the arms-control and middle-east peace "processes" more than they actually support arms control or middle east peace. Looks like he's right.

REVERSE DISCRIMINATION: My University is being sued by an employee who claims it has a policy of promoting women and minorities over white males whenever possible.

It's true of course. That's exactly our policy, just like that of every other university I can think of. But there's an interesting twist here. I haven't read his complaint, but the story makes it sound like he's trying to bar them from even raising an affirmative-action defense by saying that their official policy is one of nondiscrimination.

I've often wondered about this. For example, the Association of American Law Schools states that it does not discriminate on the basis of race or gender, or allow its member schools to do so. And it says that right on the forms in which it accepts a hefty fee from people who want to be law professors for the privilege of participating in its recruiting fair.

But in fact, it does discriminate, and facilitate discrimination. It even has a feature that lets schools sort resumes (it's done via their website) so as to see only "minority" or "minority and women" candidates. (There's no "white males only" feature).

So why isn't this plain old fraud? Forget fancy Title VII stuff. They're taking your money under false pretenses. I wonder why nobody has sued them over this? Sure, it's not career-enhancing, but most candidates, especially white males, won't get hired anyway. I'm surprised that someone who hasn't been hired hasn't filed a suit. Who says America is litigation-happy?

UPDATE: A reader sends this link to the AALS's own data on hiring rates, indicating that minority candidates are half again as likely as nonminority candidates to get jobs.

WE'RE CRAZIER THAN THE TALIBAN: Remember that email? Well, it's true, by God! Just read the headline: "Bucks County judge convicts man of attacking Cookie Monster."

The defense? It's racism: '"When you look at the situation, what do you think people are going to think, a black man and a Cookie Monster?" he said.'

Uh, right. Now, if he'd gone after Bert it would have been a brave act of antiterrorism.

KEN LAYNE writes that he burst out laughing during the Bush/Putin schoolhouse press conference when he realized that "Our kids won't even know we're supposed to hate the Russians."

Funny -- we've got good relations with the Russians, and cuts that exceed the wildest dreams of the 1980s antinuclear movement, but we're not hearing any celebration from those folks.

If they lived in Afghanistan, instead of celebrating the Taliban's departure by flying kites, they'd be complaining that kites somehow affect the ozone layer.

FREE SPEECH ON CAMPUS This letter in the Post takes Emory University President William M. Chace to task for hypocrisy. Chace had written about the importance of controversial speech on campus; the letter writer points out that Emory's PC "speech code" prohibits just that.

Chace deserves the slap. Somebody should also ask him how the Bellesiles investigation is going.

THE TALIBAN'S REVENGE: Yeah, they're on the ropes. But they don't want us to enjoy our victory too much. With them gone, well, there's nothing to protect us from this. Ugh. Bear any burden, pay any price sure, but. . .

"NOW YOU'RE GETTIN' NASTY" Rand Simberg jumps on the scapegoat-Glenn bandwagon by emailing me that I'm also to blame for global warming and -- unforgivably -- Star Trek Voyager. That's just plain cruel.

JAMES LILEKS points out brilliantly what I've found so offensive about the antiwar movement. It's not really that they're upset by the war. They're upset that the United States might succeed at, well, anything. That's why, in spite of the visible delight that Afghans are showing at the fall of the Taliban, these guys are still at it:

It takes tremendous energy to maintain these hideous delusions. Chomsky must be exhausted. He must also be surprised every time he lands back in America and is not arrested; the nation he describes would surely clap him in chains and leave him in a basement to devolve to rat food and bones.

There is nothing that dismays the Chomskyites more than American success, regardless of the consequence to the people on whose behalf the protesters protest. Better a thousand Kuwaiti women be shipped off to Republican Guard rape camps than the U.S. keep Saddam's hands off the world's economic jugular. Better the Taliban dig its claws into the neck of a nation than the U.S. actually be seen as a liberator. Better that evil triumph, as long as flawed men don't act.

This hostility to American success also explains why the same kinds of people were so viscerally hostile to the space program. As Norman Mailer famously observed, it showed them up. They were blathering on about changing the world, while a bunch of flat-topped nerds with slide rules actually went and did it. Naturally, the left has never forgiven them.


INSTASCAPEGOAT! That's right. First it was Ken Layne blaming me for his headcold. Now it's Joanne Jacobs blaming me for insomnia:

Of course, the support for has been terrible for me. I was up at 3 a.m. the other night posting. Like Ken Layne, I blame the hyperblogger Glenn Reynolds. -- 11/15
Sure, blame me for everything. Headcolds. Insomnia. Smog! My shoulders are broad enough to carry the load (in the worlds of Gomez Addams: "At least, as long as I'm wearing this suit!")

Besides, I kind of like being called a "hyperblogger."

MORE ON ASHCROFT: Dahlia Lithwick writes in Slate about the new attorney-client eavesdropping policy. She quotes me, using one of those sports metaphors I'm always throwing around.

FEAR -- OR DISGUST? Mark Steyn's take on why people don't want to fly seems right to me. As I've said here before, airlines seem to be the only business that takes positive pleasure in making customers unhappy. And -- as many readers have said in emails -- their staff all too often take the same attitude of contempt for the people to whom they owe their jobs.

If there is a climate of fear, it is largely confined to the TV networks and those who appear on them: politicians and celebrities — two groups so unnaturally sealed off from the world by their vast entourages that the sudden piercing of the perimeter by a few powdered envelopes has utterly confounded them. . . .

Contrast this behaviour with the folks at Rockaway Beach, just a few miles from Liza’s midtown pad but another world. As soon as they saw the plane come down, the residents grabbed fire extinguishers and hoses and rushed towards the blazing buildings. We are all firemen now; we all want to be not like Whitney or Liza but like Michael Moran, a Rockaway member of the FDNY who lost his brother, a Battalion chief, on 11 September but stood on stage at the New York benefit concert and declared, ‘Osama, you can kiss my royal Irish ass!’ . . .

But that’s missing the point. If you fly every single day of your life, by the end of the first week it already feels like 26,000 years. What the airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration and Norm Mineta, the wretched figure who serves as transportation secretary, don’t seem to realise is that, as far as Mr and Mrs America are concerned, the issue isn’t the fear of flying but the crappiness of flying. This was true well before Mohammad Atta booked his first pilot’s lesson. . . .

The sooner the current lousy carriers go out of business, the sooner the FAA will be forced to change its ways, the sooner we’ll get some new companies that give serious thought to winning patrons back with decent food, perky stewardesses and efficient service. The American people aren’t afraid of flying, but, if airlines aren’t yet afraid of the American people, they ought to be.

Absolutely right. Print it out and send a copy to your Congressman. I'm sending one to mine, who fortuitously enough chairs the aviation subcommittee.

ASHCROFT IS TAKING A BEATING from not just William Safire, but from Brock Meeks and Richard Cohen. That's part of his role as Designated Heavy, of course, but it's also a result of his unwillingness to take responsibility (not so much on his own part -- he wasn't there long enough -- but institutionally) for the FBI and INS dropped balls that led to 9/11. In particular, for his unwillingness to make heads roll.

We're past the initial-crisis phase now, and stability is less important than accountability. You can't convince the bureaucracy you're serious unless some bureaucrats pay the price for their screwups. And tough talk about terrorists rings hollow when you're afraid to take on a bunch of GS-14s.

READER MOIRA BREEN sends this rather odd story from The Times. It's rather odd because although the headline reads: "Muslims in Britain come under attack" most of the actual attacking seems to by by Muslims rather than of Muslims. The beaten-Vicar story that I report below appears, along with this gem:

On the same night in Leeds, a gang of Muslim youths vandalised vehicles and threatened white residents. They chanted "Get out of Afghanistan" and ordered drivers to say "Osama Bin Laden rules". Some who refused had their cars pelted with bricks and fireworks thrown through their windows.
Isn't The Times carrying political correctness a bit far? And since when is "Muslim" an antonym for "white"? Er, except among those who keep claiming that this is a "racist war."

THIS IS GREAT: Best of the Web compares Mullah Omar's latest threats to the Black Knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail. After being (literally) dis-armed and dis-legged, he screams "I'll bite your legs off!"

FAILING THE TEST: Deroy Murdock hits the nail on the head:

Neither Ground Zero's smoky ruins nor the gaping hole in the Pentagon has bolstered the gravitas of America's political class. Despite the War on Terror's vicious enemies and grave risks of further attacks at home and abroad, too many public officials lately have grown pettier and more myopic rather than nobler and more visionary.
Murdock gives a lot of damning examples. This, if you ask me, is the death knell for the "September 11 means Americans will want big government" line of argument. Our politicians haven't passed the test. They can't handle the responsibility of running the government we have.


An Anglican vicar was pelted with stones and racially abused when he prevented up to 60 Asian youths from burning down his Victorian church in Bradford.

The rear window of the Rev. Tony Tooby's car was shattered by a stone as he fled the gang, some wearing masks. "Get the white bastard," the youths chanted.

This apparently stemmed from Muslim asians' dislike of the war in Afghanistan. Authorities called it an "isolated incident," even though there have in fact been many similar occurrences.

I presume that we'll be hearing all about this from the people who have been complaining about racism and the war. Right?

THE RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE deserves a unit citation! Congratulations! We'll save this economy yet.

INIGO THOMAS (who still owes me a "kill fee" from George) has some interesting insights on Mullah Omar and "moderation." My take: To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, a moderate Taliban is one who has run out of bullets.

"TALIBAN FLEES! OPERATION GERALDO SUCCESSFUL!" That's the latest headline from Uthant.Com. It just gets better from there. One more line: 'An Air Force spokesman recently admitted, "We were all pretty surprised at how much easier it was to kill the Taliban once we actually started trying to kill the Taliban."'

The Onion had better watch out.

IS THAT YOU, BILL? I got a reader email from Bill Gates yesterday. Yeah, with a address. The headers looked a bit fishy, though, and a friend of mine at MS agrees. Doesn't really matter, of course -- it was just an email.

Er, but if the real Bill Gates is reading this, and wants to establish his authenticity, he should feel free. One way, of course, would be via an implausibly large contribution to the Amazon Honors account. . . . The button's over there on the left, Bill.

NORAH VINCENT needs to increase her medication. What a depressing, pointless column. I like Norah, who was an editor on my last book, and I've enjoyed following her writing career. But this one isn't worthy of her. It's almost, ugh, Dowd-like.

SCALIA WEIGHS IN AGAINST A NATIONAL ID CARD: Not on constitutional grounds, but as a matter of policy.

JONATHAN TURLEY joins William Safire in attacking the military-tribunal order. Safire's column is more persuasive, though. Turley's argument that this policy is a propaganda defeat in dealing with the Arab world is, I think, just silly. The military tribunal issue is a question of our principles, not theirs, and fine-tuning our polices to please people who still believe that the Mossad bombed the WTC and somehow warned 4000 Jews to escape is ridiculous.

THE NEW REPUBLIC'S "IDIOCY WATCH" POLL results are in. My candidate, Sunera Thobani, came in third. I won't spoil it for you by telling you who won -- but the competition was stiff all around.

GREAT COLUMN BY KIMBERLY STRASSEL on why the gun control movement's latest shameless efforts to cash in on the 9/11 attacks aren't working.

AND I WON'T CALL THEM "JOURNALISTS:" According to this report:

The BBC World Service has taken a policy decision not to describe the attacks on the US as "terrorism".

Mark Damazer, the BBC's deputy director of news, said the service would lose its reputation for impartiality around the world if it were seen to use such a subjective term.

Uh, Mark -- your reputation just took a bigger hit than that.

"YOU STUPID LOSERS:" Ken Layne's, er, epitaph for Mullah Omar, in response to the Mullah's latest rant. He's right. Do your worst guys -- but you're still finished, and so, sooner than you think, is everything you believe in.

WAR IS ABOUT KILLING THE ENEMY, which should tell us what to do with these guys. Gee, Arab al-Qaeda fighters, surrounded and cut off. Like Andrew Hofer I just don't feel too sorry for these guys. In fact, I think it's important for the long-term success of our project that we kill a whole lot of these guys who came from around the world to fight for the Taliban/al Qaeda complex. This won't "create martyrs," but rather demonstrate the futility of this sort of martyrdom. We should allow just a few to escape, to carry back word of Taliban incompetence and American lethality.

ANDREW SULLIVAN has more "Von Hoffman Award" nominees. My favorite is the Agence France Press piece in which they dug up an elderly North Vietnamese general to pronounce the U.S. effort certainly doomed.

OKAY, I WAS UNIMPRESSED WITH THE WHOLE MILITARY-TRIBUNAL idea when Doug Kmiec first floated it (Here's the link to what I said then.) But Bill Safire is more than unimpressed: he's in full-bore outrage mode. This makes me think two things. First, maybe I should be more worried. Second, if the Administration is getting this reaction from a rock-ribbed Republican, then those high poll numbers may not last, and it needs to rethink this. Quote from Safire:

Proponents of Bush's kangaroo court say: Don't you soft-on-terror, due-process types know there's a war on? Have you forgotten our 5,000 civilian dead? In an emergency like this, aren't extraordinary security measures needed to save citizens' lives? If we step on a few toes, we can apologize to the civil libertarians later.

Those are the arguments of the phony-tough. At a time when even liberals are debating the ethics of torture of suspects — weighing the distaste for barbarism against the need to save innocent lives — it's time for conservative iconoclasts and card-carrying hard-liners to stand up for American values.

Read the whole column, and think about it. Hard.

A NEW RECORD: 22,983 yesterday. I'm still amazed that people besides my mother read this stuff.


BAD NEWS FOR GEPHARDT: While 90% of American adults have heard of Harry Potter, only 79% have heard of Dick Gephardt. The good news? Harry's too young to run for President in '04.

A NEW TRAFFIC RECORD: It's at 21,223 for the day so far, which is already well past the previous record of 20,920. Where is everybody coming from?

HMM. NOTED FOR ITS defeatism and snideness, the New York Times' ad revenues plunged in October. Meanwhile FoxNews bested the far-more-negative CNN in ratings last week.

And, in a Gallup poll taken November 8-11, approve/disapprove rates look like this:

George W. Bush 89% approve, 8% disapprove
News Media 43% approve, 54% disapprove

Even Tom Ridge got a 60/14, blowing the news media out of the water. Is there a lesson here?

UPDATE: I got those stats in an email, but here's a link. Bush's peak of support has lasted longer than peaks for other presidents in similar circumstances (to the extent that there are similar circumstances). Make of that what you will.

ANDREW SULLIVAN ANNOUNCES THE "VON HOFFMAN AWARDS" -- this not-very-coveted prize is for outrageously wrong predictions of defeat. Some are dated as late as November 12. Remember these folks, so you can, ah, apply the proper discount factor to their predictions of events in the future.

BIN LADEN'S PROPAGANDA VIDEOTAPES: According to this story he's mass producing them and distributing them throughout the third world. Naturally we should get copies, alter them a bit with digital processing, and then recirculate them. Perhaps they should contain threats against Mecca, favorable comments about the Mossad, and occasional pauses to munch crisp, tasty bacon and swill scotch?


Now the Taliban is disintegrating. Why? Because the crisis of confidence Osama Bin Laden sought to foment in the West has taken hold in Afghanistan instead. The Taliban's aura of invincibility has burst like a stock bubble. Everyone, including the Taliban, is selling. . . .

Morale matters. The army that loses self-confidence and the confidence of its people loses the war. Slobodan Milosevic used that weapon against us in Kosovo. Bin Laden and the Taliban tried the same thing in Afghanistan. In Kosovo, we refused to buckle, and the Serbs gave way. The same is now happening in Afghanistan. "I'm not a psychiatrist," U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shrugged yesterday when asked about the enemy's flight. Maybe not, but the Taliban is definitely getting shrunk.

I don't like to say "I told you so" -- oh, who am I kidding, I love it -- but I did, in my FoxNews column almost a month ago:
[Bin Laden's plot has] failed more fundamentally because the U.S. did not react the way that Usama bin Laden's followers expected. Having apparently watched the Denzel Washington movie The Siege — a film that depicted mass hysteria incited by Islamic terrorist attacks in New York — one too many times, bin Laden's men overestimated the likelihood that the U.S. would panic and overreact. They also learned the wrong lesson from previous cases when a few casualties caused the U.S. to withdraw from foreign commitments; hitting Americans on American soil isn't the same thing.
Advantage: InstaPundit. Not that this was any great feat of prognostication: I just had to have more faith in Americans than bin Laden -- or certain media types -- did.

TRAFFIC: Yesterday broke 20,000 again, and came within a few of beating the previous day's record. Today looks promising so far.

WOLF BLITZER AWARD: Wolf, you may recall, wonders if it's okay to shoot enemy soldiers who are running away. Yes, it is. Now the Guardian, or at least its headline writer, gets hot and bothered over a "massacre" of Pakistani Taliban sympathizers who confronted the Northern Alliance -- but as Iain Murray points out, a lost battle (in which the Pakistanis shot the negotiators who were trying to get them to surrender!) does not constitute a war crime

THIS IS GREAT: I usually try not to post things I've seen on Andrew Sullivan's site, on the theory that most of you probably read him, too. But this piece by Christopher Hitchens is so good that I don't want to take a chance on your missing it.

ANNE APPLEBAUM has an excellent analysis of the fall of Kabul:

The rapidity of their retreat tells us something about the relationship of the Taliban to the Afghan people: When it came down to it, very, very few Afghans were willing to defend the Taliban's regime. Other than the Pakistanis and Arabs, most of the Taliban's support appears to have melted away.

But the speed of the fall also tells us a great deal about the relationship between the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida. Or perhaps "relationship" is the wrong word: When it came down to it, the Taliban refused to give Bin Laden away, even though it meant they were utterly routed. Indeed, it now looks as if they didn't give him up because they couldn't give him up. The Taliban were not just completely sustained and supported by Bin Laden, the Taliban and al-Qaida had become, effectively, the same organization. Without al-Qaida, the Taliban could not have held on to power at all.

Yep. They were lackeys of Arab colonialists.

But Applebaum is absolutely right to say that "we have by no means 'won' this strange war." We've won the first round, which is essential, and which will strengthen our further efforts (many of them nonmilitary) by making clear that (1) we're serious; (2) Allah isn't fighting on the side of our enemies; (3) people who cross us don't prosper but wind up deposed and even lynched by their own allegedly loving subjects. But the real war -- the often covert, sometimes diplomatic, frequently ideological war -- is just starting.

FOOD AND RELIEF SUPPLIES ARE GETTING THROUGH now that the Taliban are out of the way in many parts of Afghanistan.

Think Noam Chomsky will admit that his "silent genocide" remarks were stupid, and that he's been spouting off about things he doesn't understand?


For once, I am in agreement with those who say that this international crisis means that we have to examine our own attitudes to other cultures and nations. You bet we do. We ought to look at those jubilant men and women in Kabul who are at last able to enjoy the most basic human freedoms and pleasures, and ask ourselves how we could ever have imagined that they were so utterly unlike ourselves. . . .

While some of our opinion formers were wittering about the dangers of allowing American imperialism to triumph over a sincere, if eccentric, religious faith, the people of Kabul were praying for release. The Arab "street", as we have come to call it, may shriek proudly for the cameras about American aggression while they ceremonially burn the American flag, but in Kabul they were waiting to be liberated. Those bombers flying overhead were their deliverance from a form of life which, in any Western country, would constitute cruel and inhuman treatment under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Columnist Jim Bennett, who sent me this link, adds: "As for Maureen Dowd, would she have written the story of the liberation of Paris as one primarily of the rather plentiful summary justice handed out to collaborators? Actually, that was featured in a lot of reportage at that time. With great approval."

ALLISON ALVAREZ discusses the pros and cons of demonstrating at the Saudi Embassy. I think she makes it sound too hard, though. All you really need to make a demonstration worthwhile is (1) somebody who doesn't want bad publicity; and (2) the prospect that your demonstration will get them some. The Saudis are flooding major papers with huge, expensive ads about how great they are, which suggests that condition (1) is met. And, thanks to those ads, it's just about certain that (2) has been met too. So all you need now is anywhere from two to a dozen people and you're good to go. It's not like this stuff is rocket science -- look at who usually does it.

YOU WANT PROOF? This seems superfluous since Osama has basically admitted that he did it. But here's Tony Blair's extensive case against bin Laden and al Qaeda.

OKAY, IT'S A DUMB ARTICLE but anything vaguely pro-hunting or pro-gun in Salon is worth noticing.

WHAT DO PAT ROBERTSON, JESSE JACKSON & OSAMA BIN LADEN have in common? It's dirty diamonds from Sierra Leone. Read this column and prepare to be disgusted.

THE QUESTION THAT'S NEVER ASKED: Joanne Jacobs raises it:

In Taloquan, Afghan defectors from the Taliban shot and burned foreign Taliban fighters, locals told David Rennie. Before the battle, Northern Alliance troops said they'd accept the surrender of Afghan Taliban soldiers. But not foreigners.

Perhaps the Arab and Pakistani jihadi should ask themselves: Why do they hate us?

Oh, I think it's pretty easy to figure out. Seriously, though, the Taliban were -- as the anti-war, anti-West left never seemed to comprehend -- a foreign-supported, foreign-dominated force. They were Arab colonialists, as our propaganda brilliantly underscored.

This is a major theme we should be working. Islam is supposed to have just one culture, the culture of Islam. But -- as non-Arab Muslims have been complaining for centuries -- somehow Islamic culture seems to equal "Arab" culture, and somehow Arabs seem to wind up as the bigshots more than their numbers justify, something that has only gotten more pronounced in the oil-money era. There's a lot of resentment there. Since fundamentalist, anti-American, Islamofascism is an Arab creation that's Arab-funded and Arab-propagated, this angle seems like it has some promise at neutralizing its appeal in the wider Islamic world.

D'OH! Nicholas von Hoffman sounds a quagmire theme in the New York Observer:

As it is, the fear grows that he and the people around him are increasingly fogged-out and disoriented by the unconventional struggle of people who don’t fight by the rules taught at the Army War College.

The war in Afghanistan, the one he should never have declared, has run into trouble. Just a few weeks into it and it’s obvious that the United States is fighting blind. The enemy is unknown, and the enemy’s country is terra incognita. We have virtually no one we can trust who can speak the languages of the people involved. With all our firepower and our technical assets and our spy satellites, it looks like we don’t know if we’re coming or going. . . .

We are mapless, we are lost, and we are distracted by gusts of wishful thinking. That our high command could believe the Afghani peasantry or even the Taliban would change sides after a few weeks of bombing! This is fantasizing in high places. In the history of aerial bombardment, can you think of a single instance of the bombed embracing the bombers? Bombing always unites the bombees against the bombers, and—duh!—guess what the reaction has been in Afghanistan?

I'll make it easy for you, Nick: we're coming, the Taliban are going. And the "Afghani" people, known to those who have a clue as "Afghans," seem mostly pretty damned happy about it.

Okay, maybe this is a cheap shot. He wrote this before the Taliban collapsed. But it's obvious that he hasn't done more than listen to a few NPR stories and recycle the same stale Vietnam-era bromides about "unconventional warfare." But, see, the Army War College has spent nearly thirty years learning from Vietnam and numerous other conflicts since then. It's obvious that the American left, on the other hand, has learned nothing.

Just keep this in mind the next time they start bloviating.

AIRLINE SECURITY gets two treatments in The New Republic: a smart one and a not-so-smart one. The not-so-smart one is a notebook item that blames Argenbright security for a "dereliction of duty" that led to thousands of deaths. They may wind up retracting this statement, which is flat-out libelous. Argenbright is, in fact, a bunch of idiots. But the boxcutters carried on board the hijacked flights didn't violate the federal airline safety rules in effect at the time, so it's utterly wrong -- as TNR's editors should know -- to blame Argenbright for letting them on. The industry statements that TNR derides are, in fact, all factually true, and the editors should be ashamed of themselves for their cheap posturing.

Gregg Easterbrook, on the other hand, gets it exactly right: it's not a question of whether screening is done by federal employees, but whether the standards are good ones, and whether they're strictly enforced. Yep. It's worth noting that industrial security is often better than that at military bases. And the people who actually dropped the ball with the hijackers weren't at Argenbright, but at the FBI, CIA, and INS. That keeps getting glossed over. If we were treating Argenbright like those agencies, we'd be doubling the value of its contracts while not firing any of its management. That's what's happening at the FBI, CIA and INS, and it's a disgrace.

Of course, airport security at the moment remains a complete joke: intrusive so that passengers will think they're being protected, but basically ineffective. The question is, will it get better if it's run by the federal government? Not unless they're willing to hold people accountable -- and the experience with the agencies that dropped the ball on the 9/11 hijackers doesn't bode well for that.

"ALL NEGATIVE, ALL THE TIME" -- That's the title of this dead-on parody by Michael Kelly in today's Washington Post. I listened to NPR this morning as I was taking my car to the shop, and, well, the shoe fit. Victory, it seems, is an even worse problem than defeat.

EVERYTHING IS MY FAULT, according to Ken Layne, including his head cold. Be good, Ken, or I'll visit you with a plague of hangnails.

MICHAEL LEDEEN JUST GETS SMARTER: Read his call for America to do what it does best: wage revolution. Quote:

Even more important--and this is a weapon that is greatly underestimated by many of our intellectuals and diplomats--we are an awesome revolutionary force. Creative destruction is our middle name. We tear down the old order every day, in business and science, literature, art and cinema, politics and the law. Our present enemies hate this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions and shames them for their inability to keep pace. . . .

There is every reason to believe we will succeed in revolutionizing the Middle East, for we have always excelled at destroying tyrannies.

Tremble, House of Saud. Tremble. It will take more than yesterday's expensive ad spread in the Post to save you.

MAUREEN DOWD JUST GETS DUMBER, as today's column illustrates:

Our new friends in Afghanistan celebrated taking Kabul. They played some music. They flew a kite. They put a woman newscaster on the radio. They killed some people just because it felt good. We give the Northern Alliance an air force and they embarrass us with savage force.
Funny, just a few days ago Dowd was mocking Bush for not being brutal enough. More importantly, Dowd (again) shows her complete ignorance of matters military. When conquering armies enter cities, people usually get shot. By the standards of such things, this wasn't bad at all. Dowd would know that, if she knew anything, which she doesn't.

As Andrew Sullivan predicted earlier today, the chattering classes have already made a smooth transition from condemning the war as a "quagmire" to complaining that it's too violent. Their real complaint has nothing to do with the war per se; it's that people aren't listening to them anymore. But the remainder of Dowd's snide-but-incoherent column explains why.

MILITARY TRIBUNALS WILL TRY NONCITIZENS ONLY: News accounts yesterday didn't make this clear, but the Executive Order on military tribunals applies only to non-citizens. Thanks to Michelle Malkin for emailing this link.

SORRY to get off to a late start this morning -- I actually wrote these at 3:30 this morning (this is not a happy time in the Reynolds household, and I happened to be awakened and have trouble getting back to sleep) but Blogger has been down all morning. I could have posted at 3:30 but I get so much flak for allegedly not sleeping -- really, I do, I'm no Caterina Fake-style insomniac -- that I didn't. Mistake.


WITH AL-JAZEERA TV's facilities bombed out, I hope that all the footage of jubilant Afghans flying kites, shaving beards, etc. is making it to the Islamic world somehow. Maybe CNN will make its footage available to Al-Jazeera. Seeing people happy about the Taliban being overthrown is great PR for our side.

Fundamentalist regimes: the strongest argument against fundamentalism. I'll bet that the Iranians don't want this footage shown domestically. It might give people ideas.

AFGHANISTAN AND VIEQUES: Some cogent thoughts about military readiness.

THE ULTIMATE HUMILIATION FOR OSAMA: Not only are they on the run, not only are men gleefully shaving their beards and women gleefully shaving their legs throughout Afghanistan while listening to Western music, but now this. Ooh, twist that knife.

SALON SEXWATCH UPDATE: I wrote about this last week. But there's still no sex in Salon's new sex column. None. Zilch. Nada. It's all about online dating, and getting people to say "I love you." That's not a sex column. That's a relationship column. (Why do I read it? It's almost the only thing left on Salon that isn't part of their crappy new "premium" service -- as in, "you pay a premium just to get what used to be free." Which would be a good racy topic for a sex column -- if Salon had one, that is.)

Meanwhile, the Daily Californian's sex columnist, Rachael Klein, is delivering the goods with a piece on "angles and exercises." Salon should be embarrassed to be upstaged each week by a college student's column. And -- despite the complaints registered below -- the Daily Cal is also free: no bogus "Daily Cal Premium" scam running there.

Will "Salon Sexwatch" be a regular feature here? Doubtful. Although since I read them and the Daily Cal daily, and they run the columns on the same day, it's hard to miss. Maybe I'll quit once Salon's column actually talks about, you know, sex. Hmm. In that case, this feature could be running for quite a while. Well, hell, it looks like I won't have the Taliban to kick around much longer.

CONTEST WINNERS! I got quite a few responses to yesterday's "extra credit" assignment: write lyrics to "If I Were a Taliban," to the tune of "If I Were a Rich Man." And not all of them were too dirty to post! The winners are at the newly created InstaPundit EXTRA! page, which will be the home for such occasional weirdnesses from now on.

TAKE THIS TALIBAN! I wish it were on Al-Jazeera, but I'll bet the satellite info is well-known throughout the Islamic world.

KANDAHAR UPDATE: So far nothing to confirm the item I posted at 5:03. But this AP story says that Kandahar is in "chaos," the Taliban are nowhere to be seen, and an armed force of anti-Taliban Pashtuns is now moving on the city. So something's definitely happening, though at the moment the fog of war hasn't lifted enough to tell what it is.

BUSH HAS SIGNED AN EXECUTIVE ORDER providing for military trials of accused terrorists. I don't have a big problem with this as applied to non-Americans; I think it's unconstitutional as applied to American citizens or legal resident aliens.

THE BIG LOSERS SO FAR ARE THE MEDIA. Andrew Sullivan has a superb take on this, and a prediction that will probably be true:

In this war, the pundits and editorialists and cable news executives have been knocked down a few pegs in the social hierarchy. They have much less power than they had before September 11. And so, even though their minds tell them that they are glad we are winning, their self-interest perpetuates a kind of gloom not felt by anyone else. Of course, their (our?) social and political disempowerment is a very encouraging development of this war, and may well intensify. But in response, the media gloom may also intensify. My prediction: the media elites will get even angrier about this and will soon step up initiatives to throw doubt on the war, undermine it, and generally disparage it. Ignore them.
Some years ago, in an interview in the Chicago Tribune, I compared the media to a hysterical child. To get the attention of a distant mother, the child gets louder. The mother responds by withdrawing, causing the child to get louder still. That seems to be the dynamic, with the media in the child role. But isn't it time for the child to grow up, get its own apartment, start dating, learn to cook . . . .?

THIS JUST IN: A report that the Northern Alliance has captured the Taliban home base of Kandahar. Can this be true? Yes, it can. Is it? We'll see. Another report that I got via email says that the Taliban ambassador and the entire staff have abandoned the Taliban embassy in Islamabad for parts unknown. The emailer wondered if that was a bad sign (clearing the blast area?) but this latest report suggests that they deemed it unwise to rely on diplomatic immunity now that their country has ceased to exist. Of course, there's always the paranoid scenario: they've got nukes hidden in basements in Kabul, Kandahar, Islamabad, etc. and will set them off once they're clear. This seems unlikely to me, and more likely to hurt their cause than to help it (they could hardly blame it on the U.S. now, and they'd be killing lots of Muslims). Of course, they are kooks. But, no matter how paranoid you are, they're certainly not the immovable object we were hearing about, oh, day before yesterday.

BELLESILES UPDATE: Last week, I said that Michael Bellesiles hadn't answered his critics. Today, the Boston Globe agrees:

In his OAH article, Bellesiles concedes that he should have used larger samples of probate data for better accuracy. He says nothing about the Rhode Island probate data. And as for the San Francisco records, he writes that ''I completely forget in which of several California archives I read what I recall to be twelve probate records ... with San Francisco as the stated location.''

On the discrepancies between his Web site and the Vermont Colonial records, Bellesiles quotes the inventories as they now appear on his site ( After the Globe story appeared Sept. 11, his site was revised, and the words ''broken'' and ''old'' were removed. At the time, Bellesiles told the Globe he could not imagine where those words had come from, and suggested they had been planted on his site by hackers. In the OAH article, Bellesiles writes, ''I certainly did not seek to mislead anyone.''

In a statement Friday, the interim dean of the Emory faculty of arts and sciences, Robert A. Paul, wrote, ''I commend Michael for beginning this process of engaging his critics in his article. ... This is the first step in a long process as we see it; a process of careful and thoughtful scholarly debate. There will be other steps, such as the debate in the William and Mary Quarterly later this academic year and other academic judgments on the matter, that will inform any further action or decisions we will make.''

And in fact, it's worse than the Globe story suggests. Here's an extract from an email on a list devoted to constitutional scholars interested in firearms law:
I now find that not only does Bellesiles misquote old documents, and his critics, but even himself.

His OAH Notes article admits an "error" on p. 230: "In discussing the Militia Act of 1792, I quote the 1803 amendment to this act that 'every citizen so enrolled, shall be constantly provided with arms, accoutrements, and ammunition.' The quotation and its citation are both correct."

Except that isn't what he said on p. 230. This quote above does not appear on p. 230 of his book. What he quoted was
"every citizen so enrolled, shall ... be constantly provided with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt,
two spare flints" which is a conflation of the Militia Act of 1792 and the Militia Act of 1803. Bellesiles cites the Militia
Act of 1792 in both _U.S. Statutes_ 1:271-74 and _Debates and Proceedings in the Congress_ 3:1392-95 -- and both agree with each other, and disagree with his "quote." Furthermore, Bellesiles does not cite the Militia Act of 1803, so his
claim that the quote and the citation are correct is wrong as well. In in doubt, you can see the actual images of both these
statutes on my web page, at the bottom of link1, and you can see what Bellesiles ACTUALLY said on p. 230 -- not his imagined version of p. 230 -- at slide 3 in link2.

I haven't checked this myself -- but the person posting this, Clayton Cramer, has been right about Bellesiles from day one. This is just one of many criticisms of Bellesiles' work that are still appearing, and it seems clear that -- as I said earlier -- his response just isn't making this problem go away. In fact, the more he temporizes, the worse it gets. I suspect that Emory's probe into this will be pretty serious, and the consequences are likely to be unfavorable for his career.

LOOT, SHOOT & SCOOT: The Taliban may have been engaging in some ethnic cleansing over the weekend before their retreat, reports the BBC.

Of course, this won't change the minds of the "moral equivalence" crowd.

TUCKLOG WRITES: "Bush to expand Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Instapundit speaks, Washington listens." Well, I doubt they were listening to me. But I'm glad they're expanding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It makes sense for a whole lot of reasons. BTW, I think my earlier post was wrong about the SPR's max capacity as currently configured -- but there's no reason it couldn't be expanded fourfold if we wanted.

ANTIWAR STUPIDITY UPDATE: A Berkeley reader sends this:

The first thing you learn at Berkeley is not to trust anything the Daily Cal reports. Case in point: the 'amazingly successful' Anti-War conference:

Actually, the conference was apparently a disaster. The International Socialists, who are hated by most Leftists, apparently tried to hijack conference leadership, leading to a walkout by about a fifth of the participants.

Here's accounts by participants:

Oops, but the Daily Cal didn't report on this! In fact, the account reads like a press release... Could it be because Yalda Ashfar, the writer, is also a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, a prominent anti-war group? Nah... that would be a conflict of interest.

Note: Berkeley's records show there's only one Yalda Ashfar that's a student. Plus Yahoo Groups records show that a Yalda Ashfar is a member of SJP. I guess that's proof.
Well, it's not beyond a reasonable doubt, but I'd say it means that the Cal has some explaining to do on this one. I must say, though, that while I can't vouch for the accuracy of the Daily Cal's reporting, I've been reading its columnists and enjoying them.

I encourage you to click on the links. These accounts read like things I remember. Or like Monty Python: "Who do we hate more than the Romans? -- The Popular Front for the Liberation of Judea!" "Who's that?" "Him!" The antiwar movement isn't much of a threat based on these accounts. The war will be over, Osama will be dead, and Afghanistan will be a constitutional monarchy with universal suffrage and free enterprise before they get their committee structure straightened out.

BERKELEY CENSORWATCH UPDATE: Berkeley lefties are trying to muzzle Mayor Shirley Dean:

Berkeley may be the home of free speech, but apparently not when it comes to outspoken Mayor Shirley Dean.

Tomorrow, the deeply divided City Council is being asked to consider a motion to "formally ask"' the mayor to "remove any mention" from her Web site of the threat of a "Berkeley boycott" that followed the council's recent resolution calling for a speedy end to the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan. . . .

To which Dean replies: Nonsense.

"Apparently, free speech only applies if you belong to acceptable groups," Dean said. "The only mention I have of the boycott on my Web site is my asking people not to do it."

But what really galls Dean is the idea that somehow she's the one being blamed for the post anti-bombing resolution woes. "I've been all over the media saying, 'Don't put Berkeley business in the middle of all this,' " Dean said. "The council members are just trying to blame me for their own actions."

Yep, that's the Berkeley way: do something stupid and irresponsible, then try to escape responsibility by censoring critics.


As the United States escalates bombings in Afghanistan, student anti-war activists from several Western states met at UC Berkeley over the weekend in the first step to create a unified national student movement. . . .

"Finally, Berkeley has lived up to its reputation," said As'ad Abu Khalil, an author and professor at California State University Stanislaus, at the conference's opening plenary. "You either have to be with bin Laden or with the U.S. Where do I stand because I'm against both? We all should be against both."

"We should all be against both." Moral equivalence, the last refuge of scoundrels. It's really a sign of -- at the most charitable -- complete moral incompetence. And it's not the first such sign from the antiwar movement, which in fact seems unable to stand for anything else.

Meanwhile serious people like Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel are supporting the war. Here's what Mandela said:

I also want to say that one of the reasons for coming here is to be able to express my support for the President for his action in Afghanistan. The United States of America lost 5,000 people, innocent people, and it is quite correct for the President to ensure that the terrorists, those masterminds, as well as those who have executed the action and survived, are to be punished heavily.

And it would be disastrous if the President gave in to the call that the army must now withdraw, before he has actually flushed out the terrorists. That would be disaster. They will claim that they have defeated the United States of America, and they will continue doing the same thing. So I support him to continue until those terrorists have been tracked down.

Here's a quote from Havel:
It is now time for me, as one of the many Heads of States throughout the world, to express my absolute support for this operation. Preparations have been underway for a long time and have been well thought out. This is not an attack on Afghanistan or on Islam, neither is it an attack on any one nation or any one religion. It is protecting the values of civilization which connect many religions, cultures and countries, just as they connect the entire world. If we want the pleasure of certain freedoms, if we want to make use of certain benefits which are offered by the age we are living in, if we want to take pleasure in living dignified lives, it is necessary that we must then be prepared to protect those values and rights - even militarily.

In my opinion, now is the time for calm perseverance, without reason for alarm. At the same time, I believe that it is necessary for all of us to know that there are moments when our freedoms will require certain sacrifices.

Since I don't agree with Professor Khalil's posture of moral equivalence, I guess I'll have to keep siding with those well-known right-wing warmongers, Mandela and Havel.

HEY THE HINT WORKED: Rand Simberg now has a full report on the XCOR EZ-Rocket and why it's important. Read it, if you care about minor things like the future of humanity.

PERSPECTIVE: Here's a great story on the fall of Kabul, with historical perspective:

The quick collapse of Kabul has become a recurring theme in Afghanistan's long, strange war. Time and again, the rival factions have waged fierce battles for years in remote mountains and isolated villages - only to see the capital change hands with barely a shot fired.

"The Taliban had wanted to make a tactical retreat from the north, but they didn't want to give up Kabul," said Ahmed Rashid, author of the best-selling book, "Taliban."

"It turned into a pell-mell rout because the Taliban completely underestimated the impact of the U.S. bombing and the speed of the advance by the northern alliance," he said.

Completely underestimated the bombing. Kind of like the New York Times did.

VIRGINIA POSTREL'S SITE has a great quote from Nelson Mandela, who's offering full-bore support for the war. This must be giving some people heartburn. But not me!

ONE MORE: I can't help it. This morning there was a lot of great stuff in my inbox. Lori Burgess writes:

The Northern Alliance is taking over Afghanistan!! Ho-hum from the network news.

A plane has crashed in the Rockaways! Let's sit and interview the community about its losses.

I haven't seen any reporter in the neighborhoods where the Dominican immigrants were living.

I can't remember when I've been so aggravated at the out-of-touch news people!!! They are reporting what's important to THEM alone.

Why no mention of the fact that the No. Alliance are moving forward only after our weeks of bombing and
because of the presence of our Special Forces on the ground with them?

I can't wait to someday read the real story of the Afghan liberation.

I think they're embarrassed to make too much of the successes in Afghanistan, since just two days ago they were still talking "quagmire." But that's not an excuse.

THE AIRLINES ARE COMMITTING SUICIDE: That's what Bill Quick writes, and I agree:

Lots of wailing and moaning on the news channels about the crash in airline riderhood. The general consensus is that flyers are reluctant because of a sense of fear, and many commentators are making much of a safety comparison between cars and planes.

I doubt it. If any are like me, we are simply no longer interested in tolerating the discomforts of flying. It was bad enough before 9/11. Now it is intolerable. I have flown once since WTC, on what used to be a relatively simple shuttle between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It was a nightmare. You can rest assured that I will fly again only as a last resort, until the attitude that flying is a precious privilege for which "customers" will endure any discomfort finally ends.

I was in a semi-boycott of air travel long before 9/11. I used to love to fly, but the airlines have been making it steadily less pleasant for two decades and now it's an ordeal that causes anyone with sense to look for alternatives.

Their response to 9/11 should have been to make flying more appealing, responding to decreased ridership with more legroom, offering more and better food, making a visible effort to improve baggage-handling (to make it more palatable to check bags instead of carrying them on), and doing their best to minimize delays. And acting grateful for people's business. Instead, they're confiscating nail clippers, ending meal service, and generating multiple lines of great length. And they're often surly.

Screw these guys. Let 'em go under. The startup airlines that will follow will surely be better.

BUGS BUNNY RULES: Reader Shawn LeVasseur writes:

Bugs Bunny may or may not be running the war against the Taliban but...

I woke up this morning to reports of the U.S. recommending to the Northern Alliance not to try and take Kabul until a new government is set up and ready to rule. The day ends with news of the Taliban abandoning Kabul...

Is this some "Br'er Rabbit" strategy?

US: "No, we're not ready to take Kabul"

Taliban: "HA! We'll show you! We will surrender Kabul to you just to spite you"

Elmer Fudd was a tougher foe.

Be Seeing You

As long as we're Br'er Rabbit and not Br'er Fox. A few people are worrying that this is a trap. A feigned retreat can be just that (it was a favorite tactic of the Huns and Mongols, who hailed from Central Asia) -- but a feigned retreat that gives up half your country would be stretching the point, I think. More likely, the back-the-winner dynamic that has always reigned in Afghanistan is taking hold now that it's obvious that we're serious.

TRAFFIC: 20,920 visits yesterday, blowing way past the previous record of 18,543. Woohoo!


EXTRA CREDIT PROJECT: Words to If I Were a Taliban, to the tune of If I Were a Rich Man.

JOHN LOTT IS BICOASTAL (not that there's anything wrong with that...). He had an oped with Jim Glassman in the L.A. Times today on the Florida recount, and I just noticed this one in the New York Post on Israeli tips for homeland security.


American Airlines Airbus A300 explodes and crashes in Bell Harbor, Queens, jew York City! Let us pray it struck a nice jewish community! The New World Order boys need another incident to keep the flagwaving 9-11 momentum going. What new sweeping laws will "they" pass after this incident? Stay tuned brethren, for you ain't seen nothing yet!
Sorry, no link. I got this via email. But it's standard stuff for these guys, who also applauded the 9/11 attacks.

A NEW TRAFFIC RECORD: 18,645 today so far, and the night is young. Thanks!

LATEST WAR WORRY: We're winning too fast! No, really: I surfed the cable chat shows this evening and this seemed to be the new concern. Hey, what happened to the "quagmire" fears from way back on, er, Saturday?

THE CULTURE WARS HAVE COOLED OFF, according to the New York Times.

LEON KASS is taken down several pegs in this piece by Chris Mooney from The American Prospect that I have just (a month after it came out) managed to read. (Hey, I was busy with other topics a month ago). As long-time InstaPundit readers will know, Leon Kass, chair of President Bush's bioethics committee, is someone I don't think much of. This is a man who has moral problems with dissecting cadavers for Chrissake, and he's going to be advising the President on stem cells and cloning?

Kass and his proposed commission were big items, but have kind of fallen off the radar screen since September 11. I wonder what they've been doing? I think I'll see what I can find out.

ISAAC ASIMOV IS OFF THE HOOK: At least, Ken Layne makes a strong case that bin Laden was inspired by SMERSH and SPECTRE, and James Bond generally, as opposed to Foundation. No, really. If I were an editor at a cool magazine, I'd pay him to write a long article on the subject -- or better still, if I were a bigshot at CNN I'd pay him to produce a story with a lot of excerpts from Bond films, especially The Living Daylights. But since I'm just here, well, I'm plugging him with a link.

RAND SIMBERG EMAILS ME some, er, off-color jokes about the Boulder penis theft story. But that's not imporant right now. He also sends this account of the XCOR rollout, which he attended:

BTW, I went up to the rollout and flight demo of XCOR Aerospace's EZ-Rocket
today. Pretty neat. These guys are making things happen, and quickly. I expect them to have something that can get out of the atmosphere routinely within two years. There was a nice piece in today's LA Times about them.
I hope that Rand will have a lengthier account up on his "Transterrestrial Musings" page soon. Hint, hint.

THE TOURIST GUY has been tentatively identified as a 41-year-old Brazilian named José Roberto Penteado. He's been offered a Volkswagen commercial.

Life is just plain weird.

IT'S A BIG COUNTRY: Virginia Postrel points out that this is a big country, and it's virtually impossible to get around without air travel:

The northeastern pundits can talk glibly about more trains as a solution, but those of us who can't reach our loved ones or our business meetings in a few hours of ground travel have a different perspective.
She's absolutely right.

SAW RALPH NADER TODAY, when he dropped by the UT Law School to talk. He looked pretty good, with an exceptionally deep-and-even tan worthy of a successful stockbroker, but he looked, and sounded, well, old. He told a lot of stories about how Harvard Law School in the 1950s only cared about business, and how landlord-tenant law was all from the side of landlords, because that was who HLS students represented.

Well, that may have been true; I can't say since it was well before I was born. I'm sure that far more HLS students represent tenants nowdays than landlords, because Legal Aid is a lot cooler than run-of-the-mill real estate work. HLS folks who want to make money don't represent ordinary landlords -- if they represent a landlord, it's somebody like Disney or Trammel Crow, and it's not against a widow or an orphan, but another big corporation.

I had a couple of questions that I wanted to ask, but I had to leave after just a few minutes, to take my very ill father-in-law home from the doctor. A mathematician and a very nice man, he's having a tough time now. I wonder if Ralph would support the medical research that will now be too late to save his life, or simply regard it as another evil undertaking by big pharmaceutical companies. Sadly, I know what Leon Kass would say.


I am so *f**king* tired of hearing that the ninnies in the media and the pussies in the stock market profess to be "worried" about how the American public will react to events such as this morning's airplane crash.

Don't they get it? Nobody - *except them* - is panicking over this. The average American is reacting with the usual calm; regretting the loss of life, and understanding that this might be another act of war against them. So it goes. But nobody "out here" is wetting themselves in terror, and all the hysteria I can see is confined to the airwaves and the financial markets. The headline at says, "Consumer Jitters Could Worsen," but it should read, "Market Sissies' Jitters Worsen Right On Cue."

Osama must be laughing his cave-squatting ass off today.


SOME INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS on plane crashes by Dale Amon on Samizdata. He says it was either sabotage before takeoff, a missile, or a malfunction -- most likely the last.

EL DILDO BANDITO: READER TONY APUZZO sends this story on the apprehension of the thief who stole the ceramic-severed-penis art from the Boulder Public Library and substituted a flag (which the library had found too "offensive" to display). The perpetrator had left a note signed "El Dildo Bandito."

Rowan was cooperative in handing the art over to police, and the work was not damaged, city spokeswoman Jennifer Bray said. However, he could still be arrested and charged with theft, she said.

The work is part of the "Art Triumphs Over Domestic Violence" exhibit that opened Oct. 19. The display features ceramic penises hanging from knitted cozies clothes-pinned to a cord strung between a wall and a column. One end of the cord is tied as a noose.

"The artist expressed her anger about rape by bashing all males," Rowan said. "Our children shouldn't have to witness that, especially in a time when our young men and women are overseas fighting terrorism to protect our freedom."

Rowan was also angered by the library's recent decision not to hang the large flag in the lobby. After calls and protests, a smaller flag was placed on a pole in the entrance.

An amusing distraction from today's less pleasant news.

HERE'S A LIST OF AIRBUS CRASHES, referred to me by an aircraft mechanic for the Air Force who calls himself John Stryker . No obvious pattern here, but that proves little given the small sample size.

THE FLORIDA MEDIA RECOUNT: I was being facetious in my comments below, which a few emailers missed. What I think is ironic is that it's being presented as the unofficial recount confirming the results of the official projections -- a nice inversion of the usual routine. I really don't care much about this, and refer people who do to Mickey Kaus and Josh Marshall for more. Or you can read this oped by John Lott and Jim Glassman for a somewhat different take. The Willie McCovey reference below, BTW, is to Willie McCovey's crucial line drive in the 1962 World Series, which went more or less straight into second baseman Bobby Richardson's glove. I don't know this firsthand, as I was busy learning to walk, talk, and eat at the time; my original awareness came from a "Peanuts" cartoon in which Charlie Brown keeps asking why Willie McCovey couldn't have hit the ball just three feet higher. But I like to use the occasional sports reference, in order to give the false impression that I am a regular guy.

A WARBLOG by a proud member of the Brigade of Bellicose Women.

PLANE CRASHES: Most likely outcome is it's not terrorism (planes crash on takeoff without terrorism on a fairly regular basis), though nobody knows anything at the moment. However, remember that 1993 WTC bomber Ramszi Yousef wanted a spectacular 11-plane bombing campaign on Pacific flights, and there has been a lot of documented experimentation by Islamic terrorist groups with highly concealable nitrocellulose (guncotton) and TATP bombs. If it's terrorism, we'll probably see several more crashes in short order. But I doubt it -- the explosion was too early for a timer, which would normally be set for midflight to avoid problems with delays (an hour had passed since the scheduled departure, but still . . .). And it was probably too early in the flight for a barometric detonator. And why target a plane that's likely to be full of Dominicans and Haitians, not Americans? Speculation about missiles, while not impossible, seems dubious. Most likely suspects: mechanical failure or pilot error.

Of course, the panicked overreaction will do as much good to the terrorists' cause as real terrorism. Take it away, CNN.

One nice item: local residents in the neighborhood where the plane crashed quickly banded together with hoses and fire extinguishers. Now they're helping firefighters with hoses, etc. Would this have happened before 9/11? I don't know, but it seems more fitting -- and more expectable -- now.

READER CHARLENE WEIDNER WRITES: "[T]he people who stole the penises in Boulder weren't dickheads - they were guerilla deconstructionist art critics!" Uh, yeahhh. That's the ticket!

Actually, the underreported story of the year is the extent to which right- and libertarian-leaning groups are picking up on tactics of civil disobedience traditionally used by the left. I expect we'll see more things like this. I'm okay on it, so long as it's basically harmless and shows a sense of humor.

RECOMMENDED READING: Here are some things I've read lately that are worth passing on:

Jack McCall's Pogiebait's War, the story of a very typical bunch of Marines in World War II's Pacific Theater. Well, being sent to a swamp for R&R may not have been typical. One of them was the author's father, and the book is in part the story of how learning about his father's wartime experiences helped him understand his relationship with his father, and his father's death. Also full of interesting vignettes, like one on the appalling treatment of gay soldiers that I mentioned earlier.

Hampton Sides' Ghost Soldiers, another story from the Pacific in World War II. A daring rescue story that probably ought to be a movie.

Peter Green's The Greco Persian Wars, a well-told story of the wars that shaped civilization. My only complaint: it needs better maps.

James Dunnigan and Albert Nofi, Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War, a very interesting read and one that suggests that Vietnam/Afghanistan parallels are even more fatuous than they seem. Much of what people think they know about the Vietnam war (the average soldier was 19, it was a "black man's war," bombing didn't do any good) turns out to be false upon closer examination. Also recommended: How to Make War: A Comprehensive Guide for the Post-Cold War Era, and A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Briefings on Present and Potential Wars,. Both of these are a bit long in the tooth (they date from the early 1990s) but still very useful: if you read them, you'll know more than most of the talking heads at the networks. They're updated on Dunnigan's webpage, too.

All the links are to Amazon, because that's where I shop online for books and it lets you easily see the customer reviews, etc. (I don't get money for linking to 'em or anything). If you're one of those who hate Amazon, they're easy enough to find elsewhere.

SOME DICKHEADS STOLE THE PENISES in the Boulder Public Library, replacing them with a flag. Naturally, the library staff, rather than seeing this as a bold and transgressive expressive act (as they perhaps would have had the exchange gone the other way) is up in arms.

This is the first story I've read that explains the exhibit: severed penises hanging on a clothesline in memory of abuse victims. Gee, I can see why they were worried that the flag might have offended people.

Thanks to reader Leo Klein, who sent the link and the headline.


UNOFFICIAL RESULTS IN: Bush elected President!

IS THE GUARDIAN FOR REAL? I ask because they're recycling the Nancy Oden story -- which has been debunked here for something like a week (and was met with skepticism here when it first appeared because it didn't ring true), and on Snopes for days -- only they've called her "Nancy Ogden" throughout. People are always telling me that the British press recycles all sorts of crap without checking it, but this takes the cake.

IS IT ISAAC'S FAULT? Isaac Asimov is one of my favorite science fiction writers. He was also a gentle, nonviolent man, with whom I had a small amount of correspondence (he always answered his own mail, usually quite promptly). I'm sure he would be upset to hear that his Foundation trilogy served as an inspiration to terrorists. But it certainly inspired Japan's Aum Shinriyko cult, and there is now an email circulating on the Internet suggesting that bin Laden was inspired by Foundation as well. Al-Qaeda, supposedly, is in fact the translated title of the Arabic edition of Foundation.

Hmm. Is bin Laden that crazy? (Wait, what am I asking?) The parallels drawn in the email between Foundation and the relationship between the West and the Arab world seem rather forced. But that doesn't mean that they aren't compelling to someone who's a bit wacky. Charles Manson, after all, thought The Beatles were sending him messages in their music. . . .

Also, it should be remembered that -- in the later Foundation books -- it turned out that everyone concerned was being controlled by robots who had humanity's best interests at heart. I doubt a place for that exists in bin Laden's worldview.


UPDATE: It's spread some more!

JOSH MARSHALL has his intelligence report on how the Gore camp will respond to the media recount data that will be released tomorrow. Basically, it's an ass-covering operation designed to rebut the claim that they blew it by not wanting overvotes counted. This, I guess, is important at preserving the viability of some of the Gore operatives for future elections.

All I can say is, at this point, who else really cares? This is like wondering what would have happened if Willie McCovey had hit that ball just three feet higher. . . . No, this is like hearing a coach say "I told McCovey to hit that ball three feet higher!" Yawn.

PUNDITWATCH is up! See what happened on the Sunday talk shows without having to watch them!

VIGNETTES: These are some little items I wrote and never posted, in the week or so after 9/11. I just ran across the file on a floppy that was living in the laptop case. Here they are, for what they're worth:

Just after the 9/11 attacks, I was at the gym. There watching one of the many TVs was a trainer, a very nice Iranian guy who looks like he just walked off the pages of Muscle & Fitness. I still remember the look of absolute horror on his face.

I ate lunch a few days ago at a local Mexican restaurant. Real Mexican, not faux Mexican -- the owners and pretty much the entire staff are from Mexico, and pretty recently arrived. The front waiting area featured a huge American flag. "We live here now," said the hostess.

Speaking of immigrants, my brother's Nigerian girlfriend, who came here with a green card, rushed out to get a flag for her car. "This is my country too now," she said.

At the Starbucks in the law school's commons area, the cashier is an Arab woman of about 25 who wears a headscarf. I've watched people go up, one after another over several days, to reassure her that she should feel comfortable. You can see people still trying to make her comfortable. In the law school's main rotunda, someone placed an American flag. Unlike some other schools, no one took it down for fear of making foreign students feel "uncomfortable." I don't think anyone thought that it would. And so far as I know, it didn't.

A nice anniversary marker, I guess. I can't believe I never posted these.

ALLISON ALVAREZ took time out from her project of recovering from birthday celebrations to ask this interesting question:

It seems like there are at least 2 or 3 protests in front of the Mexican embassy each month. As far as I know, there have been none in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy. In all of the times I've walked past it (I can see its green flag from where I'm sitting), I haven't even seen one person holding a sign. With human rights violations that sound that they're about 10 times as bad as anything is in Mexico, I'm surprised that there isn't a movement to make more of this public.

It might be that the Saudi government is much more repressive than the Mexican one, thus making the possibility of the government actually caring about human rights abuses much less likely. But still, you'd think someone would be saying something. Opinions?

I'm not sure. I'd be interested to see even a few people marching out front with signs saying "Stop Exporting Terrorism" or "Wahabbism is Cultural Imperialism" or -- to get really radical -- "Let Women Drive!"

Think there are any students at GWU or Georgetown who would do something like that? And if not, why not? God knows, the Saudis deserve protest more than the Mexicans. The only explanation that I can think of is from law school: the professors who got attacked by the PC crowd were the squishy liberals for the most part. The true right-wing ones -- or the old curmudgeons -- never got hit. Once when some people complained to Quentin Johnstone (the most Kingsfieldian character left at Yale when I was there) about some trumped up issue or other, he looked at them for a long moment and then said: "Yeah, that might bother me -- if I cared what students thought." Then he called on them repeatedly for the next several classes. Needless to say, he wasn't much of a target.

The same thing may be true here: nobody thinks they can get any satisfaction out of the Saudis, so they don't even try. They know the Saudis don't care what we think. I wonder, though, just how true that is -- and even if it is, this might be a time when demonstrating that they don't care might make a difference.

THIS LETTER IN THE STAR TRIBUNE from a surgeon and, now, an end-stage cancer sufferer takes Attorney General John Ashcroft to task for his efforts to block Oregon's assisted-suicide law.

I'm quite uneasy about the assisted-suicide law. I have a family member with end-stage cancer whose doctors have seemed all too eager to write him off already, and who are also not medicating his pain properly. So my confidence in physicians in these matters isn't great.

But it's higher than my confidence in lawyers.

YOU KNOW YOU ARE A SUPERPOWER WHEN: Pretty good column by Sabitha Prabhu. Excerpt:

You know you are living in a superpower country fighting a war when there are no tightened belts, no shortages of food or other essentials, no long ration lines, and no black-marketeering.

Your leaders, on the other hand, urge you to go out and have the time of your life. Go to New York, take in a Broadway show, they tell us, go shopping, go buy a car, a yacht, something.

And you know you are in a mighty country devoted to trivia and pop culture when, against a backdrop of carnage, grief and anthrax, the Miss America show goes on and the Emmys are held. All those Versace creations, those Donna Karans, those Armani tuxes, it would seem, must simply not go to waste.

You know you are in a pluralistic society bent on protecting the rights of its minorities when every sub-sect of every ethnic group is mollified, appeased, catered, and pandered to. Persecution and harassment are one thing, but wounded feelings? Injured egos?

And my favorite observation:
[Y]ou know you are in a country with no dearth of money or leisure when the monthly amount spent on polls here is roughly the same as what Afghanistan spends in a month on groceries.
Wonderful perspective. Naturally, it doesn't come from a media professional.

ANOTHER BIG EVENT I MISSED LAST WEEK: Allison Alvarez's birthday!. And no, I didn't send her the steaks. I only know her through email and her weblog, and I'm not in the habit of sending meat to near-strangers. Though I enjoyed her tales of tormenting her vegan roommates with the sight of sirloin.

BOY HAVE THINGS CHANGED: In honor of InstaPundit's three month anniversary (see below) I want back and looked at the first week of postings. The good news is, it doesn't look bad. The bad news is, I guess my learning curve hasn't been that steep!

Life was simpler then, though. Or at least easier. It was a fool's paradise -- people were in fact putting the final touches on plans to kill thousands of us (actually, the plan was to kill tens of thousands of us). But heck -- a fool's paradise is still paradise to a fool.

STEVE CHAPMAN has a good column on nuclear terrorism. I think we need to be aware of the important phenomenon of the learning curve -- the most powerful force in the world except for compound interest.

Terrorists tried -- and often failed at -- bringing off things that led to the 9/11 attacks. They weren't particularly adept, but they learned from each failure. The security system, meanwhile, stayed still, convinced that it was being successful because it was foiling terrorists. The terrorists learned. The security system didn't.

If they learn, and we don't, then they will ultimately beat us and pull off something we thought was unthinkable. We have to learn from their mistakes, and ours, all along. Unfortunately, that means we need a lot of smart people in the security and antiterrorism worlds, worlds that, up to now at least, haven't attracted a whole lot of talent.

And confiscating nailclippers won't help.

GENDER PROFILING: It's going on in Louisiana, and it's supported by federal money:

BATON ROUGE -- State highway safety officials said they have received a $700,000 federal grant to help them crack down on two groups of chronic violators of the state's seat belt law: drivers and passengers of pick-up trucks, and all male drivers and passengers between 18 and 55. . . .

"We will be looking at all male drivers, especially those who drive pickup trucks who refuse to buckle up," Champagne said.

"Law enforcement is going to get serious now," he said. "We will be targeting male drivers, especially of pickup trucks from the Florida Parishes to the New Orleans area to the Houma and Thibodaux area. That's where 65 percent of the pickups in the state are."

Asked if the targeting of males and pickup drivers and passengers is profiling of a certain group, Champagne said, "Absolutely."

The lack of seat belt use "is a gender problem," Champagne said. "It is a male problem in all parts of the state. It is an 18-to-55 (year-olds) problem."

So we can't pay special attention to Saudi and Egyptian men in airports, because that's discrimination, but the federal government is funding this?

I hope the Louisiana chapter of the ACLU is paying attention.

JIM HOAGLAND SAYS that we're on a precipice with the Saudis. But in fact, it's the Saudis who are on the precipice, and his column suggests that -- almost too late -- they're starting to figure it out. My favorite part, though, was this language:

"This is a time for introspection, and we are willing to do that on our side," he [Prince Saud el-Faisal] said as we discussed bin Laden's Saudi origins. "But for there to be a total war against terrorism, the West will have to engage in some introspection as well, and examine external policies that contribute to a dynamic in the Middle East that leads toward catastrophe."
Yes, but the introspection is this: why do we continue to support corrupt regimes that encourage hatred of the United States and the West, and that export terrorist ideologies around the world with zeal? Why don't we ease them off the stage and see them replaced with regimes that are ideally freer and better to their people -- but, if that's impossible, that at least understand their place and don't cause trouble?

That is the "introspection" that is going on around the United States, and within a very large portion of the military and foreign policy establishment, right now. Somehow, I don't think it's what Prince Saud has in mind.

TODAY IS VETERANS' DAY, AND THE TWO-MONTH ANNIVERSARY OF SEPTEMBER 11. With the Taliban in retreat I think we're observing both dates appropriately. I hope we're doing a reprise of the "highway of death" thing from the Gulf War: retreating Taliban should be mercilessly attacked from the air. I presume that they are. If they're not, I'd like to know why.

IT'S A SIGN OF THE TIMES that I remembered the Marine Corps' birthday yesterday, and completely forgot the three month anniversary of InstaPundit earlier this week. And what a three months it's been. Over a half-million in traffic (somwhere around 10 times my most optimistic expectation when I started), and a surprisingly high degree of attention for something that one journalist called a "pure content play," (which I think was a polite way of saying that there was nothing else on the site to attract anyone). And over $1100 in donations from the Amazon and PayPal buttons, which will go toward a much-needed hardware upgrade as soon as I figure out exactly what to buy.

This is all so much more than I would have expected -- heck, it's more than I did expect.

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