SMARMILY TRYING TO CAPITALIZE ON THE VICTORY in Afghanistan, the EU has tried to call the peacekeeping forces that (some of) its members are sending a "European Army." The result was a slap-down from the Brits:

Mr Straw said that far from offering troops, most EU member states had offered only “moral support” to the proposed International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) for Afghanistan. . . .

Peter Hain, the Foreign Office Minister, told the BBC’s World at One that the EU rapid reaction force “is not even walking yet, let alone running and able to undertake an action like that”.

A Downing Street spokesman insisted: “It’s a United Nations-mandated international force which will have EU members. It will also have a range of other countries. Quite clearly it is not an EU force.”

Not surprisingly, the French and Belgians are behind this unsuccessful effort to claim credit for the work of others.

THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY: The New York Times now has its own blog. Well, kind of.

WHERE'S OSAMA? I'm wondering. "American Taliban" Johnny Walker was going on about a big attack on America Sunday the 16th. I don't believe he knew anything -- who'd trust him with any real secrets? But I wouldn't be surprised to find that the Al Qaeda grunts were told something like this to keep them fighting until Sunday the 16th. Problem is, once Sunday comes and nothing happens, their morale will probably drop.

So why keep them fighting, but just until Sunday? The most logical explanation is that it's to buy time for Osama and some other bigshots to escape. Isn't it? If I were Osama, I'd have bugged out a week or two ago, leaving behind the bulk of the Al Qaeda fighters as a distraction, and perhaps a few tape recordings of my voice for strategic deceptions via radio and satellite phone. Of course, I don't think like Osama.


Just before the Afghanistan war started, our newspapers carried articles about warnings from Russian military people, among others, about getting
involved in a war there. A lot of the stuff from the anti-American crowd was, and is irrelevant, and we could have predicted what their rhetoric would be whether we had won or lost. But the reactions from the Russians I would be interested in, and we haven't heard anything.

What is their take on our startling victory? What lessons have they learned from our military strategy and tactics? Are they chagrined, are they angry? Do they feel they have been shown up, or are they scared to think about what it'll take to challenge us. While I don't believe any Russia vs. the U.S. Repeat-of-the-Cold-War scenarios, surely their soldiers still would not take kindly to the notion that their old adversaries are now far more capable than them. Do they see our victory as a humiliation because of their past failure? Do they feel they could do better now than they did then, and why? Do they
feel they are doing better in Chechnya?

What little I know suggests that the Russians are spinning this at home as final victory in Afghanistan, with a little help from the Americans.

PERK-O-RAMA: I don't get many perks for doing InstaPundit. (Okay, I get some donations through the Amazon/PayPal buttons, but those are donations, not perks.) Perks are things you get for free -- sort of like swag, but different.

Anyhow, I do get a PDF version of the next week's Weekly Standard by email every week, in living color, which is pretty cool. As longtime InstaPundit readers know, I'm kind of lukewarm on the Standard, but this issue seems particularly good. My favorite part of the magazine is the "Scrapbook" section, which -- like the mega-InstaPundit influence "Fact and Comment" by Malcolm Forbes way back when I was young and easily influenced -- is a sort of print weblog. This week's (er, next week's) makes this important point about the bin Laden video release:

[T]he tape was much more effective at strengthening the conventions of those who had already grasped bin Laden's depravity than at changing the minds of the deluded. This is unsurprising. If you are inclined to believe that the Mossad engineered the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, then you will find it easy to believe that the Mossad can cretate propaganda videos starring an Osama bin Laden lookalike. A number of people on this planet, after all, still believe the Apollo moon landings were filmed in Hollywood.

Nonetheless -- or, rather, for this very reason -- the release of the tape was a huge success for the U.S. government. It forced an exquisitely tortuous choice on the bin Laden sympathizers and America haters. They had to declare their party loyalty: sane or demented.

There's also a cool article on psychological war operations (unofficial unit name: the "bullshit bombers"), though it unaccountably fails to mention Psywar Update.

Psywar Update has been pretty quiet of late, since the war has entered a post-psywar phase. Except that as Afghanistan quiets down, a much longer and more psychological/propaganda -oriented phase will begin. Send any suggestions for new, longer-term strategic propaganda campaigns to [email protected] and I'll post the best.

SKLYAROV UPDATE: FYI, he's off the hook and going back to Russia. This may well be the result of a request from Putin, or at least a desire not to piss him off. I hope there's some Taliban-style justice in store for the U.S. Attorney and the Adobe corporate folks who were behind his arrest, but there won't be. As we've seen, if you're with the Justice Department, you can get away with murder. And the connection is actually a bit closer than that. Extra bonus points for those who know what the U.S. Attorney who authorized this prosecution is doing now. . . .

UPDATE: Reader Ted Frank writes: "Robert Mueller's head of the FBI. What do I win?" Fame everlasting, Mr. Frank! Fame everlasting! (Well, thanks to Google). Mueller's willingness to prosecute Sklyarov worries me, as does Ashcroft's willingness to hold back evidence of extremely serious FBI misconduct based on bogus "national security" concerns.

MATTHEW EDGAR reminds us that it's Bill of Rights Day. Exercise at least one constitutional right today!

TONY LEWIS'S COLUMN has its final appearance today. He bows out with a warning against Christian fundamentalism.

NIBBLING AWAY AT SADDAM: Turkey is taking a bigger role in taking over the oil production of Northern Iraq. Expect to see more Turkish interest in Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries, all of which have substantial Turkic populations and all of which want a countervailing regional power to set against the Russians.

FUNNY: In Egypt, a lot of people think the bin Laden video is a fraud. But everyone in Kabul believes it because they realize just what a pathetic-yet-bloodthirsty twit he is.

MARK STEYN ADDS THIS ESSAY to the many lampooning the appropriately self-loathing Robert Fisk, and Amnesty International's absurd claim that a good cop/bad cop routine used on American Taliban Johnny Walker might constitute torture.

These two stories usefully clarify the peculiar pathology of the antiwar left. On the one hand, we need international investigations if Americans are insufficiently decorous in their questioning. On the other, it's perfectly justifiable for disaffected Muslims to target Western civilians purely on the basis of their ethnic identity. On the one hand, we can't do anything right. On the other, they can't do anything wrong. The Fisk Doctrine, taken to its logical conclusion, absolves of responsibility not just the perpetrators of Sept. 11 but also Taliban supporters who attacked several of Mr. Fisk's fellow journalists in Afghanistan, all of whom, alas, died before being able to file a final column explaining why their murderers are blameless.
Steyn's best line, however, is the antiwar chant he assumes will be inspired by Amnesty's claim: "Hey, Hey, CIA/How many naughty words did you use today?"



I THINK IT WAS RAND SIMBERG who originally noted how useful burqas were for concealing, er, illegal technology. Turns out Afghan women were concealing GPS receivers and satellite phones and using them to direct the bombing. Woohoo! Lots of us bloggers recommended just this approach.

(Via Virginia Postrel).

INTERESTING STORY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES on American special forces' role in the capture of Kandahar.

A PANEL OF "EXPERTS" ASSESSES the bin Laden video in this Mark Steyn column. Very amusing -- especially the Robert Fisk part.

FROM THE HOIST-BY-THEIR-OWN-PETARD DEPT.: France has been ordered to end its ban on British beef by the EU. France admits that it's violating EU law, but says its sovereignty requires this action. Teehee.

ANOTHER ROBERT SCHEER TAKEDOWN on Spinsanity. Well worth reading.


IS ASHCROFT COVERING FOR CRIMINALS? The "Hub scandal" in Boston involves FBI agents' complicity in murder and other crime by informants. Now the Justice Department is refusing to release documents about this travesty, on bogus "national security" grounds. (Are they kidding? If the terrorists realize the crap that went on in that FBI office, they'll laugh themselves to death.) This has led a Howie Carr, columnist at the Boston Herald, to write:

I don't understand. Except in terms of the body count, what's the difference between an al-Qaeda savage on Tora Bora and a crooked G-man in Boston?

A badge, and that's about it.

They both kill Americans or help fiends who do. And when they're confronted, they run away and hide. The Arabs cower in caves, the retired FBI agents sun themselves in Florida.

Considering what we already know about the 30-year crime wave engineered by the Boston office of the FBI, how much worse stuff must there be in those files that we still don't know about?

See my point in the post immediately below, about having to be trustworthy if you want trust.

Bush and Ashcroft are asking us to trust the Justice Department and the FBI. But now they're busy giving us a reason not to. Do they think this will help the antiterrorism effort? It won't. By convincing people that it's still cover-for-fellow-agents business as usual at the FBI, they'll make a lot of people a lot more unhappy with their antiterror package.

READER KEVIN MICKEY wrote to say that while reliving Sunera Thobani's glory moments on InstaPundit in October, he ran across this post, which I had more or less forgotten:

A WARNING: A lot of aid money has flowed into various NYC charitable relief funds. This is the result of an outpouring of civic fellow-feeling. But -- if that money turns out to have been abused, to have funded lots of limo-rides, fancy offices, and junkets, or to just plain have been stolen -- the backlash will be just horrible. The Red Cross and other charities administering this money need to be on top of this, and need to restrain eveyone involved from such conduct, and to sack anyone who steps even a little bit over the line. There's a lot of, er, "grazing" that goes on within charitable organizations in normal times. But this money was raised on the basis of times not being normal. The backlash if it's misused will destroy any organization that is involved. And it should.
Mickey writes that I was ahead of O'Reilly, et al., but that's not really true. I was just issuing a warning. O'Reilly was reporting. Hey, maybe he reads InstaPundit! Apparently, some folks at the Red Cross should have -- though they ought to have been able to figure this out on their own.

Institutions want to be trusted, but they seem to have trouble recognizing that the best way to be trusted is to be trustworthy. This should be obvious (I wrote a book on it, in case it isn't) but the lesson just doesn't sink in. I guess that's because being trustworthy requires actual sacrifice, which nobody wants to make.

HAMBURGER UPDATE: Reader Michael Wells reports: "I am pleased to report that a McDonald's here in Sunnyvale, CA, has implemented the single-line approach. As far as I can tell, it's the only one, but who knows what the future may bring? They may finally be catching up to where everyone else was in the mid-'80s." Except, I hope, for those yellow "power" ties and matching suspenders.

ENOUGH SAID: Ken Layne's take on the bin-Laden-video-is-a-fake theorists:

Yeah, Hollywood made the bin Laden tape. Hollywood can make dinosaurs chase jeeps, make space critters come to life, build future cities in the clouds -- but when it comes to the War against Nutbags, all Hollywood can come up with is a dismal room full of coughing jackholes sitting on the floor? Good job, Hollywood/CIA!

OH, GOODY: Canada is planning to receive lots of Afghan refugees. I'm all for admitting legitimate refugees -- and open immigration -- but I have no confidence in Canada's immigration screening. Worse yet, I hear that Canadian officials have been trying to get the United States to drop the softwood lumber trade dispute in recognition of Canada's generous support for the war.

I understand that when this happened, the response from the United States was scorching: you expect to be paid for helping to fight international terrorism? Me, I would've just given them two words: Sunera Thobani. I'd say it should take at least a 40% duty just to make up for her.

UPDATE: A Canadian reader writes:

Sunera Thobani's views on terrorism are as marginal to the Canadian mainstream as they are to the U.S. We haven't exactly pulled our weight so far in the fight against bin Laden, but we -- and our lumber people -- shouldn't have to pay for her sins. She couldn't get a vote among them if she was handing out free booze wrapped in money. The softwood tarrif is being paid by Americans who buy new houses. It's protection of the profits of big west coast lumber companies at the expense of Canada and the U.S. home-buying public. Free trade should be free trade, without exemptions for various U.S. and Canadian squeaky wheels: U.S. lumber companies and Canadian news media owners who have the clout to get special protection.
Well, you won't hear a bad word for free trade on this here blog. But although Canadian lumbermen may not like Sunera Thobani, she has in fact enjoyed considerable support from the Canadian government over the years, and Hedy Fry was right there applauding at her speech. My comments on the 40% duty were tongue-in-cheek -- though not entirely, as I would have said just that if I were working for USTR, just to see what sort of commotion it caused in Ottawa. (This taste for mischief is sadly lacking at USTR. Too bad -- they'd do better if they had a bit of it.)

CATS & DOGS LIVING TOGETHER -- UNITED STATES DEFENDED IN ARAB PRESS! Yes, in this article in the Arab News gratitude is expressed for the United States' being the world's only superpower, with reference to how much worse the response would have been had, say, China occupied the United States' position.

I wonder, though, if the Arabic-language press is as supportive as the English-language Arab press. I don't know, but I doubt it.

A READER WRITES: "Best line from The Simpsons Sunday night: Lenny: 'I was shaking like
a French soldier.'"

I'd feel sorry for the French if they, well, if they deserved it.

ANDREW HOFER has an insightful treatment on the root causes of Winona Ryder's shoplifting. Hint: none of them involve Ms. Ryder's being a thrill-seeking, self-involved twit.

UPDATE: James Lileks has amusing insights on Ryder, too, along with a critique of the Osama video and the Arab reaction.

THE OSAMA VIDEO: Reader T.J. Buttrick offers these observations:

1) This man makes no sense. The conversation that takes place between him and another sheik after the footage of the helicopter made very little sense. Incomplete thoughts and non-sequiturs interspaced every couple sentences by "thanks be to Allah" only shows that he is not as intelligent as he is made out to be.

2) They addressed and tried to justify to themselves that the people in the WTC were not innocent. I think that their true Muslim beliefs, which they have repressed over the years, are starting to give them some feelings of guilt. If they really believed the victims to be non-innocents, why the constant references to Allah? By repeating the same mantra over and over again, it seems they are reinforcing the self-induced brainwashing that what they did was Allah's will.

3) The overall tone and production of the tape reminded me strikingly of a similar tape that was aired a few years ago. A group of teenagers videotaped themselves driving around town and shooting pedestrians and bicyclists with a paintball gun. All the while shrieking laughter and having a good old time. Bin Laden and his crew come off as no more sophisticated.

Forget chilling, the tape should be heartening and encouraging for Americans. We just found out that in reality, we are just dealing with another delusional sociopath. A real soldier doesnt laugh and brag about killing. It would actually surprise me now if Bin Laden takes the Hitler way out and shoots himself - he's too much of a coward. What should be chilling, and what we need to pay attention to, is the reaction in parts of the Arab world to this tape. There is no doubt now who executed 9/11, yet some still refuse to believe. These places are where we need to look next.

Yeah, the people who think this is a Hollywood fake should know better: Hollywood would have done a better job.

NICK GILLESPIE takes on Jonah Goldberg's assault on libertarians. Gillespie's main thesis: cultural conservatives are starting to attack libertarians because libertarianism is now their major political competitor.

I think Gillespie has the better of this one, not least because Jonah's long and well-known catalog of vices makes him an odd critic of libertarianism to begin with. What Jonah was criticizing was more a species of libertinism than libertarianism; I think it's important to keep the difference straight. Not that I, personally, have anything against libertinism.

THE LEARNING CURVE: Reader Thad MacArthur writes:

How about a new bumper sticker, a variation on an old anti-military left standby:

"It will be a great day when our public schools teach our children half as well as the Pentagon trains our soldiers."
I like this one. Anybody out there got a bumpersticker business? I should forward this link to Joanne Jacobs.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER SAYS that unilateralism can be a good thing, and that the United States can pull it off pretty much whenever it wants. Maybe so -- see the David Warren essay I mention below.

READER RICHARD RILEY writes, in response to my lengthy piece on the legal system, military tribunals, and the O.J. trial:

Regrettably for us lawyers, and citizens in general too, there is much truth in your lengthy post on problems with contemporary criminal justice and its media echo chamber. But with respect to the O.J. trial specifically, a large proportion of that circus was not systemic but instead can be blamed on one person: Hon. Lance Ito. Ito's ego and simple rank ineptitude in judgecraft are largely why that trial spun out of control, in my opinion. Look at the follow-on civil trial - MUCH more efficient, much less foolishness. Admittedly a fair amount of the O.J. phenomenon had shot its wad by the time of the civil trial, but still. While the O.J. episode was an unhappy scene and a cautionary tale, I would be hesitant to over-generalize from the wildly inept trial management of one judge. (Be that as it may, though, I acknowledge that too much of what you say is right on the money.)
Yeah, Ito did a lousy job. But his willingness to do such a lousy job rather than fearing ridicule and ostracism for his actions is itself, I think, a product of a deeper sickness in the system. We lawyers need to make a bigger deal about this, and get our own house in order.

DAVID WARREN has an interesting essay on what the U.S. military has learned since Vietnam, and why this learning -- and particularly increases in the quality of the training -- has placed it light-years ahead of European forces.

With the possible exception of compound interest, the learning curve is the most powerful phenomenon in the world. The U.S. military has done a very good job of learning from past mistakes, and even successes, in a way that few other institutions have. The results are dramatic. Will other institutions learn from that? One can only hope. This war has been as big a defeat for the reflexively anti-American left (and their counterparts on the right, but no one listens to them anyway) as Vietnam was for the U.S. military. The U.S. military took that seriously and worked hard to learn from its mistakes, and to institutionalize the learning process. One doubts that the New York Times oped page, et al., will do the same, Dropped Ball Awards notwithstanding.

ACADEMICS AND THE MEDIA definitely have an image problem. To my surprise, my FoxNews column on this subject has generated even more email than the one on guns. Normally, nothing generates more email than pieces on guns.

DENIAL AINT JUST A RIVER IN EGYPT: Apparently, it's the people in Egypt, too, or at least a lot of them.

INSTAPUNDIT'S ONE MILLIONTH VISIT happened yesterday, and I didn't even notice. What a maroon! Oh, well. I don't think I could have delivered the prize that Walter Shapiro suggested -- lunch with John Ashcroft to talk about civil liberties -- anyway. Yesterday also saw 24,383 visits, a new record.

When I started this thing I was hoping to get a few hundred a day, emphasizing quality rather than quantity. I'm getting quantity -- and, to judge from the many (many!) thoughtful emails I get, quality too.

ORANGE COMMUNITY COLLEGE still hasn't admitted that it was wrong in its suspension of Professor Kenneth Hearlson for racist comments he never made. Nor has it acted against his accusers. But they're trying to put it behind them, after a fashion.

He should sue.


SAMIZDATA'S PERRY DE HAVILLAND skewers Jonah Goldberg, and provides links to more skewering by Will Wilkinson.

OOPS! NOW WE NEED TO ATTACK TERRORISTS IN SOMALIA. Why? Because Kofi Annan is demanding that we refrain from doing so. Reason enough? Just look at the man's track record.

THIS PIECE BY ERIC COHEN AND WILLIAM KRISTOL draws an entirely unjustified parallel between Osama bin Laden's terrorism and cloning research. For shame. In its straining to draw clever parallels, it's reminiscent of the infamous "The Burka and the Bikini" piece arguing that Western women are just as oppressed by fashion as Afghan women are oppressed by the Taliban.

FOULING OUR OWN NEST: Despite overwhelming opposition from lawyers and the commentariat, and considerable sniping from our allies, support for the Administration’s plan to try accused foreign terrorists in front of military tribunals remains strong. So strong, in fact, that even members of Congress who have been critical of United States Attorney General John Ashcroft are now changing their tune, and even demanding to know why accused French-Moroccan terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui is being tried in a civilian court. Obviously, someone has been looking at the polls.

Critics of the tribunals tend to chalk this sentiment up to a thirst for vengeance. But there’s another lesson here: the extent to which the American legal system, in close and eager cooperation with the news media, has squandered its reputation for a mess of reportage.

It’s no coincidence that almost every time the subject of trying Osama bin Laden in civilian court has come up, the O.J. Simpson trial has been mentioned with horror. The O.J. trial gathered big ratings, and got a lot of airtime for a lot of talking heads, some of whom have gone on to bigger and better things. But these gains, though real enough for those who benefitted from them, came with a lot of collateral damage.

The O.J. trial, along with many other high-profile cases since, served to convince many Americans that the justice system was more about theatrics and race-baiting than justice, and that the American media were willing to go along for the ride regardless of charges of sensationalism or damage to the broader community. Some (though not that many, I think) will dispute the fairness of this belief, but fair or unfair there is no question that a large number of Americans think this way.

Those Americans are now unmoved by lawyers’ complaints – even the justified ones – about the danger to civil liberties of military tribunals, or the hazards of government secrecy and press censorship. Convinced that lawyers don’t care about justice, and that the press cares more about sensationalism than defending freedom, they are entirely comfortable with a war in which accused foreign terrorists are tried in secret and in which the press has limited access to those trials, or to the battlefield. Despite their remaining distrust of government, they nonetheless trust it more than the institutions and people who are supposed to serve as government’s watchdogs.

For this, the legal profession and the press have only themselves to blame. Lawyers are quick to claim special status as officers of the court, and to associate themselves with great defenders of freedom in the past. But they are not so quick to accept the responsibilities that go with those special roles: to deal fairly, not just zealously, and to exercise self-restraint even when doing so would cost them an advantage at trial or a moment in the sun. The press is no better, examining the motes in others’ eyes under a microscope while ignoring the beams of bias, self-interest and sensationalism in its own.

For a long time both groups more or less got away with this. Then suddenly came the Schlitz Effect. Schlitz, as people older than me will remember, was once a major national brand. To save money, it gradually cut its quality in imperceptible steps – until one day people realized “hey, this beer tastes terrible!” and quit drinking it. Even a big ad campaign – one that translated basically as “we don’t taste like piss anymore” – was unable to bring people back.

Lawyers and the news media have been doing the same thing: discarding bits of their professional integrity here and there with no apparent effect, until, suddenly, they’ve crossed a tipping point and people just don’t respect them any more. Since – unlike Schlitz – they don’t have cases of unsold lousy beer piling up on loading docks, they’re still trying to deny it. But the consequences are just as severe.

For the rest of us they’re worse, of course. We can always buy another brand of inexpensive beer. But there’s no ready replacement for a respected – and respect-worthy – justice system and press. The press and the legal system do have important roles to play in a free society, and their loss of public respect, despite the schadenfreude it may produce among critics, is a serious blow. Nations in which people trust the government more than the institutions of civil society tend to do badly.

So what do we do? In the short run, we need to drive the criticism of the legal system and the media home – like any institution, and perhaps more than most, they are prone to blame their shortcomings on public perceptions, rather than admit that their problems are real. In the longer run, we need to look for ways, including more public criticism but going beyond that, to encourage those who exercise important public duties to show a greater sense of public responsibility. They’re certainly not slow to demand that sort of thing in others.

UPDATE: Reader Richard A. Heddleson wrotes:

The same moral bankruptcy evidenced by the attorneys and the press in your posting has infected every other leadership profession over the last forty years. Physicians have abandoned their responsibility for the health of the patient to psychiatrists and insurance companies and are now shocked that their remuneration is falling to that of highly skilled laborers. The mainstream protestant clergy has abandoned any commitment to anything while
their pews emptied, the "fringe" churches thrived and Jihad Johnnie Walker's mom turned to her own personal Buddhism. The Catholic priests are ashamed of Rome while their seminaries became deserted, leaving us with "staunch" Catholics like Jihad Johnnie Walker's dad. The public accountants
in both my personal experience and the evidence of every financial collapse are utterly craven and without integrity. As a member, I am sure you are in a better position than I to document the descent of academe.

The exceptions are the engineers and the military. The engineers, never really accepted as professionals, are the only ones who really build things people use. Given this tangible evidence of their
competence and the consequences of their lack thereof, all the other professions pounce upon them whenever they err. And doing so is particularly profitable for the plaintiffs' bar. So engineers, both by personal nature and social location tend not to stray far from the straight and narrow.

The military, people with personal natures not unlike engineers, had to deal with the perception of society that they had failed utterly in Vietnam. They spent the decades of the seventies and eighties in the most brutal and honest self examination and reconstruction. They are now the most integrated and successful profession in America.

No wonder the American people are happy to have the military try Mr. Moussaoui. They are the only profession in the country that has not abandoned its higher calling for material success, recognizing that material success flows from answering one's calling and not vice versa. This is one judgment the American people have in common with Mr. bin Laden; something the professions (especially in the blue states) might want to consider as a first step in initiating self examination before it is too late.

I admire the military. But it is not my desire to live in a country where the military is the most (only?) admired institution. I know what those look like.

That's why this stuff matters, and why, as Mr. Heddleson points out, the professions need to get their acts together.

PREDICTION: Here's what I think is going on with Israel, Arafat, and Hamas. I think that the Israeli attacks are doing a lot more than we're hearing. By the time this reaches the endstage (which won't be long), there won't be much of anything left with which to run a Palestinian government. At that point the Israelis will go in, do their best to roust Hamas and kill as many people as possible and then leave -- in favor of the Jordanians, who will take the West Bank and Gaza back with Israeli blessing, and who will look like good guys after the Israelis are done. (There may even be a stage-managed confrontation to establish the Jordanians' credentials). Then the efficient Jordanian secret police will roust Hamas, and related groups, further -- with no complaint from other Arab countries, and with no complaint from the United States. There may be pro forma protests from Europe, but those will be ignored.

What happens to Arafat? Best case: he "retires" to exile, perhaps in France. Possible, but complicated by doubts on all sides that his retirement would be genuine. Otherwise it's just a question of whether he's killed by Hamas, Israel, Jordan, or elements of his own outfit.

That's my prediction. Let's see how it shakes out.

Also, keep an eye on Algeria and Algerians.

UPDATE: Reader Martin Devon says that this prediction was made in Debka on December 10. I looked (I generally don't read Debka as I have doubts about its reliability) and there is a similar prediction. Debka, however, doesn't seem to allow for the possibility that Israel and Jordan are already in cahoots. But then, they wouldn't.

COMPARE THIS POST from October with this Mark Steyn column. Okay, it's not a novel, exactly, but the atmospherics couldn't be better if it were. Advantage: InstaPundit! (The Steyn column is great, by the way).

JONAH GOLDBERG BASHES LIBERTARIANISM, but it's a pretty cardboard version of libertarianism. There's a big difference between "do what you want, so long as you don't hurt others," and just "do what you want."

Goldberg does, however, hit on this important angle in the Walker affair:

First, George Bush refers to "the evildoers" at every turn, but insists on pronouncing it "the evil Dewars." And now the major news networks are constantly referring to John Walker, the American Taliban, as "Johnny Walker": "Is Johnny Walker un-American?" "Does Johnny Walker represent a viper in our midst?" etc.

Well, you can count me out of the "war on terrorism" if it becomes a proxy war on our most cherished brown liquors.

Sorry, Jonah, but I can't help thinking of the picture of Osama where he appeared to be holding a bottle of -- you got it -- Johnny Walker. Later analysis seemed to cast doubt on the scotch theory, but now I'm not so sure.

Good thing I'm a bourbon drinker. Like all real Americans. . . .

SILENCED ON CAMPUS: No, not antiwar speakers. Anti-affirmative-action speakers. At least, that's what Shiloh Bucher reports on her excellent DropScan site. (Be sure to check out the photos).

And doesn't "Shiloh Bucher" sound just like the name of a Neal Stephenson character? It doesn't get much cooler than that.

READER JIM LANCASTER IS DISCONSOLATE at the absence of Daily Cal sex columnist Rachael Klein from this week's Salon Sexwatch Update, and so he forwarded this link to Yale Daily News sex columnist Natalie Krinsky's equally-explicit column. Yep -- it's better than anything Salon's lame sex column has run. This only makes Salon look worse, as they're now being topped by not one, but two college papers.

Added bonus: Kitty MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin are surely grinding their teeth at columns by college-age women that treat sex as fun, rather than as pure male oppression. Woohoo -- dissing Salon and, er, irritating MacKinnon and Dworkin, all in one post! It's a good day.

I'VE BEEN TRYING TO FIND SOMETHING INTERESTING TO SAY about the Los Angeles JDL bombing bust, but I haven't been able to top Matt Welch's "WHAT THE HELL, NUTBAGS?" But Best of the Web has this shrewd observation:

Watch for the root-cause crowd to come forward with the usual explanations: The poverty and oppression under which L.A. Jews live makes this sort of thing understandable, if not inevitable; they did it as a protest against U.S. foreign policy; their alleged targets need to ask themselves: Why do they hate us? Yeah, we expect to hear this stuff any minute now.
Yep. I'm waiting, too.

BRIAN LINSE DISAGREES with me about Richard Cohen's column, but I don't think he follows my argument -- proof, I suppose, that either I was writing too fast, or he was reading too fast.

My argument was with Cohen's position that we shouldn't blame Walker's Marin lefty upbringing for his actions as an adult. But, I responded, lefties (like Cohen) are always blaming all sorts of ills on right-wing or suburban upbringings. Linse seems to think that I want to let the Columbine shooters off the hook because they were "kids." But I don't. I think that -- like Walker -- they're responsible for their actions (they weren't much younger than him -- he was 17 when he started his journey of idiocy, wasn't he?) But I think that Cohen is much, much quicker to make excuses for Walker's parents than he would be for the parents of some raised-in-the-NRA kid who shaved his head and went to Idaho. It's true, of course, that loonie-lefty parents usually don't raise terrorists, though other problems abound. But that's true of almost all social pathologies -- most expressions of racism don't lead to lynching, for example. The commentariat, however, seems to have a double standard on when and how they choose to emphasize this. I think that Cohen's is showing.

A lot of other commentators -- not necessarily lefties, or even just Democrats -- are being pretty squishy on Walker and pretty quick to let his parents off the hook. That's because lousy, idiotic globe-trotting kids are all-too-common among the children of the academic and media classes. Take it from me. This is my milieu.

"FASCISM IS ALWAYS DESCENDING ON THE UNITED STATES, BUT SOMEHOW IT ALWAYS SEEMS TO LAND ON EUROPE." I forget who said that. But it's a pretty good summary of this piece by James Morrow in Reason, which contrasts European complaints about American antiterror actions with what's happening in Europe itself. Perry DeHavilland has some thoughts on civil liberties in Britain over on Samizdata. The post I link to is the latest -- follow his links for earlier discussion.

Jacob Sullum, meanwhile points out problems with military tribunals without descending into Euro-chauvinist America-bashing. All are very much worth reading.

SALLY SATEL takes on the "public health" community in today's Wall Street Journal. There's no link because it's not up on the OpinionJournal site. That's too bad, because it's great. Is the public health community mobilizing to fight anthrax, smallpox, etc.? Nope. They're fighting against a "culture of violence" and the presence of too many European males in the public health field. Those are the problems that they consider important.

Jeez. I also learned that being a "public health" worker doesn't actually indicate any professional training, education, or licensing. Hmm. I've never been a big believer that such requirements do a lot to protect the public, but this isn't helping my case.

RICHARD COHEN, not satisfied with his Dropped Ball Award, reaches new heights of oped lameness in today's Washington Post. Shelby Steele, you see, was wrong to use American Taliban Johnny Walker as a springboard for discussing what's wrong with leftie parenting culture. Most people raised by reflexively anti-American loonies don't become treasonous Taliban fighters, he notes. This would be more believable if it weren't for all the things I've read in his columns, and others in mainstream oped journalism, about the dangers of the "gun culture," the horrors of the white-bread suburbia of Littleton, Colorado, and various other forms of stereotyping aimed at people who, well, aren't like Johnny Walker's parents. Sure, most people raised by anti-American lefties who are trained -- in Tim Blair's formulation -- to root against the home team even when the opposition is made up of orcs and goblins don't go on to become traitors. But so what? Most Klansmen don't ever lynch anyone, either, but we still hold them responsible for their ideas, and we still consider those ideas un-American.

UPDATE: Mea culpa. I said that Tim Blair made the "home team" remark, but I was actually remembering Joanne Jacobs writing about Blair's takedown of Chris Henning's dumb "Hobbits and Harry Potter are racist" piece. Got that? Here's what Joanne said: "First, he's [Henning's] been trained to oppose the home team in all circumstances, even if the other side is made up of vicious Orcs or vicious Dursleys." So there. InstaPundit: Sometimes wrong, but quick with a correction.

MATT WELCH compares my FoxNews column with one by John Balzar. I like what he has to say; Balzar may not.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has a lot of good new stuff up, including an excellent response to Charles Schumer's weasely and opportunistic "federalize everything" op-ed.

WHY ACADEMICS ARE IN TROUBLE: Here's my new FoxNews Column on why academics' views are at such variance with those of most Americans, and what academics should be doing about it.

FRANCE WILL OBJECT, as it does to all worthwhile things, if the United States seeks the death penalty for French citizen Zacarias Moussaoui. To which a reader responds: "Before they get too worked up about the sad fate of this piece of filth, they might try a moment's reflection on their own government's propensity for liquidating Algerians, Corsicans, and whale-watchers."


STEVEN DEN BESTE explains what European leaders don't understand about the United States.

PAT BUCHANAN had several readers spring to his defense. Their argument: he was right about Japan's reasons for attacking Pearl Harbor. Well, maybe -- but still, even if that were true, what kind of idiot writes a "Japan was right" piece for the Pearl Harbor anniversary? Well, now we know what kind: first class.

Meanwhile, reader Glen Hoffing writes: "Note that in the sixth paragraph of the Pat Buchanan column you hyperlinked to, he chronicles Japan's enemies, including 'a rising China to the east.' Apparently, geography is not his strong suit, either."

ANDREW HOFER nominates Arthur Schlesinger for the Dropped Ball Award Grand Prize. He makes a pretty compelling case.

A MUSLIM STUDENT, SOMEWHAT MORE BROADMINDED THAN MR. HEYDRICH, BELOW, writes about this State Department page on America and Islam:

There are those who say that the war in Afganistan is the war against Islam. Tell them to think once again.

I was surfing the web and came across this cool link

The link is about Islam in post 9/11 USA, and the steps taken by the fedral government to eliminate stereotyping Islam and improve the image of islam in US and aboard.

One picture that really catches me is the one in which American muslim marines are praying onboard the US warship.

Apparently, someone is doing their job.

A READER WHO EMAILS UNDER THE NAME "REINHARD HEYDRICH" and the email "[email protected]" (a fictitious domain, actually) is unhappy with this photo of President Bush with an Israeli flag in the background. Interestingly, the White House did seem to have today's memorial ceremony -- at which an Israeli representative attended but not, as far as I know, a Palestinian -- set up so that you saw an Israeli flag in the background no matter what the camera angle. They meant to send a message. I don't think that "Heydrich" was the intended recipient (are you also "Bill Gates," Reinhard?) but obviously it got through. And, uh, Reinhard? I'd keep a low profile. Remember what happened last time.

UPDATE: Please, no more emails telling me that Heydrich is the name of a nasty Nazi. I know who he was. He was killed by Czech resistance fighters in 1942. That's what I meant by "last time."

In the words of Indiana Jones: "Nazis. I hate these guys."

IS THAT EVIL BERT in the upper center of this picture? That's what David Elzemeyer asks via email. Personally, I think it looks more like Kermit. The plot thickens. . . .

DROPPED BALL AWARD -- HONORABLE (?) MENTION: How could I have forgotten Nicholas Von Hoffman, who on November 14 wrote:

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?

Er, duh! right back atcha there, Nick. Duh, duh, duh. Or should that be D'oh! instead?

CHARLES JOHNSON NOMINATES ROBERT SCHEER for a Dropped Ball Award. He's right, I guess, though I'm almost tempted to put Scheer in the "easy target" category with Chomsky, Sontag, et al.

WILL VEHRS has another edition of PunditWatch up. Admit it, this is as good as any Slate feature.

MASSIVE CIVILIAN CASUALTIES. REMEMBER THOSE? A lot of pundits and antiwar folks are hoping you don't, because the predictions have turned out to be pathetically wrong, just like the other predictions of doom I catalog below.

PEARL HARBOR WAS AMERICA'S FAULT -- FOR NOT BEING NICE ENOUGH TO THE JAPANESE! Who says that? Noam Chomsky? Susan Sontag? Michael Moore? Nope. It's their fellow-idiot, Pat Buchanan. Has he been tested for drugs? Lately?

NOW BUSH & ASHCROFT ARE UNDER ATTACK for not using military tribunals to try terrorists!

Defense Department officials say that they were not asked by the Justice Department whether Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person indicted so far in the terrorist attacks, should face a military tribunal rather than be tried in civilian courts.

"To the best of my knowledge there was not a discussion with the Justice Department,'' Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz told the Senate Armed Service Committee Wednesday.

Senate Democrats criticized the decision, saying Moussaoui was a perfect case for at least consideration for a military tribunal.

"It's hard to imagine that in a matter that fits the military tribunal order the way that Mr. Moussaoui's case apparently seems to fit it that you weren't consulted,'' said committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. "I'm kind of amazed you weren't consulted.''

"It's wrong not to have consulted with the Department of Defense, because we are at war,'' added Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. "Moussaoui is a war criminal. He was a solider [sic] who attacked American civilians.''

Jeez. You need a playbook to figure out what's controversial from day to day. I guess that internal Democratic polls are showing big support for military tribunals, even among Democrats.

CONGRESS AND THE ECONOMY: Reader Matthew Drachenberg forwards a hilarious item on the stimulus bill:

Washington, D.C. ( — Concerned over reports the economy could rebound on its own, both houses of Congress on Monday passed legislation that prohibits the economy from recovering until Congress can pass legislation to revitalize the economy.

"We have been fighting for two months to pass an emergency economic stimulus package, and now, when we're perhaps only two-to-four years away from agreement, we cannot allow some rogue economy to unilaterally decide to recover without our involvement," said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who co-sponsored the bill.

"Just imagine the anarchy," Reid continued. "Without oversight, what would this recovery look like? Who would receive the most benefits? Would this be a Republican recovery, or a Democratic recovery? It's chilling to consider that these questions would not have answers."

It just gets better from there.

DROPPED BALLS DOWNUNDER: In response to my "Dropped Ball Awards" for pundit miscalls (below), Tim Blair nominates Sydney Morning Herald writer Margo Kingston for the Australian award, noting that "Hell, Margo didn’t so much drop the ball as kick it out of play and refuse to retrieve it." He follows with a mind-boggling catalog of idiocy, errors, and subject-changing when proven wrong. Hmm. Does Kingston have our American field beat? Well, everything's big down in the Texas of the Southern Hemisphere. (And wouldn't Kingston hate that characterization?)

VENEZUELA UPDATE: Reader Tom Roberts writes:

BTW, the Hugo Chavez article in Samizdata was practically a seminal analysis. Perry de Havilland's theme will be seen in all the big pulp's over the next years, either in affirmation or in contention. This region is about to blow sky high with the Colombian situation inexorably going to hell. Perry de Havilland was ahead of you on this one, but this simply shows the fact that the weblog medium is a creative one, as opposed to the stilted mainline pubs and pulps who seem to be more interested in justifying their editorial staff salaries than getting to the meat of the news. Interesting phenomena in this sense is that the best part of the WSJ, asides from the comprehensive statistics, is the Taranto "Best of the Web Today" section, which is free to skim the cream as it sees fit. Good ideas defy proprietary controls and arbitrary boundaries.
I agree. The weblog medium is more like the "open source" mode of production. And in writing this stuff, email like the above makes me feel like I'm part of a "hive mind" on the web, rather than a solo author toiling away on his own. Which I like. I hope Roberts is wrong about the region, though. But he probably isn't.

A CANADIAN TEACHERS' UNION REGRETS bashing the United States by issuing a "one-sided" newsletter to members, called "Why the U.S. is Hated," that blames the United States for problems in the Middle East. Not everyone in the outfit apologizes, though. Doug Little, a history teacher and editor of the newsletter, is angry and will not publish a retraction.

The union's position may not sit well with Mr. Little, who stated in an e-mail to the CJC it was the editorial board's intention in selecting the story that it was to be one-sided. ''The debate should be: Are these facts in the paper untrue?... Don't ask us to be 'balanced' in our approach. That is not our orientation, so it will be a waste of your breath,'' Mr. Little wrote in the e-mail.

''We make no pretense of being 'objective.' We do not have a 'balanced' view of the Mike Harris regime ... we side with the oppressed and against the oppressor. We view America, and Israel as its agent, as the prime oppressor in this case in the middle east.''

Gee, I'd want this guy teaching my kids history. Perhaps Canada should look further into its educational establishment, but I doubt that it will.

ER, DON'T TAKE THE ITEM BELOW to rule out military action. Michael Rubin is absolutely right that in places like Yemen, Somalia, the Sudan, etc., it's a waste of time trying to "engage" so-called governments that don't control their own territory anyway. I believe that we're going to pursue the "low-hanging fruit" strategy of going after terrorist operations in these countries (in fact, I think we have people there doing that already) before pursuing Iraq.

THE SPIRIT OF THE TALIBAN LIVES ON -- IN INDIA. That's the point of this article forwarded by Andrea See. This is why the followup campaign will be as important as, if less dramatic than, the war in Afghanistan. We need a propaganda/diplomatic/law enforcement/intelligence campaign that will make this stuff dry up and wither away. Which it will, given a chance. Who wants to lead a "joyless" life in one of these lousy places? Not nearly as many as are currently doing it.



THE DROPPED BALL AWARDS: Presented in memory of September 11, to the pundits and political figures who got it wrongest in the past three months.

RICHARD COHEN, Washington Post, 11/6/01: "Whatever the case, this war appears to be behind schedule. The administration, of course, will not say so. But this administration is already operating from a credibility deficit. . . . At the Pentagon, the briefings more and more resemble the ones conducted daily during the Vietnam War."

JACOB HEILBRUNN, Los Angeles Times, 11/4/01:

A young and inexperienced president from a dynasty surrounds himself with experts. Early in his presidency, he announces a global crusade on behalf of freedom. No price, he announces, is too high to pay. Step by step, he becomes progressively embroiled in a war in a small country mired in civil war and located near a vital industrial region.

Sound familiar? This was the situation confronting John F. Kennedy in Vietnam. It is also the one that George W. Bush faces in Afghanistan. So far, his administration has bungled the challenge. Despite Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's claim that critics are looking for "instant gratification," the war effort is in deep trouble. The United States is not headed into a quagmire; it's already in one. The U.S. is not losing the first round against the Taliban; it has already lost it. Soon, a new credibility gap will emerge as the Pentagon attempts to massage the news.

ARTHUR SCHLESINGER, The Independent, 11/2/01:

In Vietnam the U.S. dropped more explosives than in the Second World War but still couldn't stop the Viet Cong. . . . Meanwhile the popular expectation of a knockout blow against the Taliban has been cruelly disappointed. Remember the optimistic remarks a couple of weeks back about the way American bombs were eviscerating the enemy? This has given way to sombre comment about the Taliban's dogged resistance. Evidently our leaders gambled on the supposition that the unpopularity of the regime would bring about the Taliban's rapid collapse. And they also seem to have assumed that it would not be too difficult to put together a post-Taliban government. This was a series of misjudgments. . . . Vietnam should have reminded our generals that bombing has only a limited impact on decentralized, underdeveloped, rural societies. . . . All of this raises questions about the competence of our national leadership.

R.W. APPLE, The New York Times, 10/31/01:

Like an unwelcome specter from an unhappy past, the ominous word "quagmire" has begun to haunt conversations among government officials and students of foreign policy, both here and abroad. . . . Today, for example, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld disclosed for the first time that American military forces are operating in Northern Afghanistan, providing liaison to "a limited number of the various opposition elements." Their role sounds suspiciously like that of the advisers sent to Vietnam in the early 1960s.

COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS, 10/28/01 (to Donald Rumsfeld): "The perception is that this war the last three weeks is not going very well."

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, CNN LATE EDITION, 10/28/01: "We're going to have to put troops on the ground. We're going to have to put them in force. It's going to take a very big effort. It won't be accomplished through air power alone."

MAUREEN DOWD, The New York Times, 10/28/01:

As Rudyard Kipling's Kim reports back to his British spymasters, from the mountainous moonscape of Afghanistan, "Certain things are not known to those who eat with forks."

President Bush has been lured through the high-altitude maze to the minotaur's lair, or as it's known in the novel "Flashman," "the catastrophe of Afghanistan." Now, like the British and Russians before him, he is facing the most brutish, corrupt, wily and patient warriors in the world, nicknamed dukhi, or ghosts, by flayed Russian soldiers who saw them melt away.

SEN. JOE BIDEN: Los Angeles Times (news story), 10/26/01:

On Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-Del.) warned that unless the air attacks end "sooner rather than later," the U.S. risks appearing to be a "high-tech bully. Every moment it goes on, it makes the aftermath problems more severe," he said.

DANIEL SCHORR, NPR, 10/27/01: "Well, I don't know how long this was supposed to take, but it's certainly going a lot worse than was expected. . . . This is a war in trouble."

Plenty of room at the top in the punditry profession, folks. Plenty of room. If Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld, et al., had been this wrong, the press would be raking them over the coals and repeating these statements over and over. Think you'll hear these screwups repeated much?

JEFF JARVIS SURVIVED THE BLACK CLOUD on 9/11, and has some moving reflections on what it means to have survived, and to be a "former pacifist."

I JUST RAN ACROSS this oped in the Los Angeles Times. I think it's supposed to be humorous, and I think it's supposed to be a jab at Bush. But I'm not sure about either. Especially the first.

HUGO CHAVEZ A FASCIST? That's the point of this post on Samizdata and it's meant not pejoratively (though fascism is, I imagine most will agree, a bad thing) but descriptively. Is he right? You decide.

NEEDING A CLUE: An antiviolence group has issued a dirty dozen violent toys list. Apparently, missile-firing toys, etc., encourage violence.

As our missiles rain down on Osama bin Laden and his cronies -- fired, no doubt, by servicemen and pilots who spent their childhood playing with politically incorrect toys -- this seems like an even stupider than usual campaign. The campaigners, however, are no doubt oblivious to its stupidity. Which is part of the problem.

UPDATE: As reader Robert Spencer notes, you'd think those antiviolence crusaders would be more worried about this, which is a lot worse than robots that fire foam-rubber missiles.

READER BRIAN HOFFMAN has this trenchant observation:

This sentence appears in the NY Times' editorial about the Bin Laden tapes:
If some of his extended denunciations of the United States in the late 1990's had received more attention, the nation might have taken terrorist threats more seriously.
Remarkable. Who was stopping the Times from reporting Islamist threats in the late 1990s? Why on earth is the New York Times complaining about the amount of attention given to Bin Laden in the last decade? This isn't some Indymedia small fry talking about underreported news, it's the NEW YORK TIMES, for Christ's sake!

Really, I'm speechless. I would take Welch and Layne in 10 seconds over the NYT.

Very well put. Imagine the New York Times editorial board meetings, with long rants from Gail Collins about how the media are ignoring the important news, and if only someone would do something! Oh, well: the Times editorial pages are an excellent source of comic relief, and a reminder to the 337,000+ Blogger.Com subscribers that the "big leagues" of political commentary aren't all that big, except in circulation.

ANNE APPLEBAUM has an excellent plan for holding the new Afghan government together:

True, we cannot put an end to the factional and inter-ethnic squabbling that have condemned Afghans to war and poverty for two decades. We cannot wave a magic wand and grant Karzai political experience and legitimacy either. We can, however, control the flow of aid money, as the Afghans know. From now on, the equation should be a simple one: You don't cooperate with Karzai's interim government -- you don't get food or new roads for your region.
Yes, the leaders need to know this -- and just as importantly, so do the followers. Afghans have a tradition of not following leaders they think will leave them worse off, and we can take advantage of that.

Of course, the aid groups will scream bloody murder about "using aid as a political weapon," but keeping them out will actually help prevent the disintegration of Afghanistan, since their "escort fees" and other forms of protection simply amount to a warlord-subsidy program anyway. And keeping them out -- and away from the TV cameras -- will also be a well-earned payback for their nonsupport of the war effort.

They were trying to curry favor with the thuggish dictators they usually do business with. But they need to realize that there are risks to that approach.

ANDREW SULLIVAN says that Tim Noah, Jacob Weisberg, etc. owe him an apology for piling on him when he warned some time ago of a fifth column on the decadent East and West coasts. To be fair, one traitor (so far) does not make a "column."

But there seems no doubt that anti-American sentiment in America is largely centered around a few places -- from Marin County to Hampshire and Amherst Colleges -- that are pretty damn close to the coasts. And if such behavior is not, legally, treasonable it's pretty damned lousy. Hey, in Australia, anti-Americanism is hate speech!

THIS DOESN'T MAKE ME FEEL BETTER ABOUT AIRPORT SECURITY: The security guards at supersecret Area 51 are on strike. I guess the federal government really knows how to handle this security stuff better than the airlines, huh?

At least no one -- except, I suppose, a few space aliens -- will miss his/her flight because of this strike.

SPACE: THE ANTITERRORIST FRONTIER? Well, James Oberg argues in Space News that there's an important propaganda role for space against Islamist extremism:

Islamist extremists recognize the cultural threat from the powerful impact of space flight on the world public and even on ordinary people in Muslim nations. In Pakistan they have acted to deflect the threat by declaring "kaffir" (non-believer) the entire idea that humans have traveled to the moon, proclaiming that such voyages are forbidden by the Koran.

One Lebanese mullah who claimed that Allah would never allow mortal men to touch the purity of the celestial moon was mocked by critics who laughed that Apollo astronauts had not merely touched the moon, they had left human waste on it -- a claim so outrageous to the mullah that he declared that people saying such "lies" should be killed.

Modernist and moderate Muslims the world over have never had any problem with the concept of humans walking on the moon, since Mohammed himself denounced pagan moon worshippers. . . .

Oberg goes on to note that Western radio broadcasts should point out when the International Space Station -- which is very impressive to see overhead, as I can attest -- is visible from Islamic countries. He also notes:
There is a place for modernist Islamic societies on this new frontier, and history has proven this even as most of the world remains ignorant about it.

Actual Islamic space travelers include a Saudia Arabian businessman who flew on a space shuttle in 1985 as a representative of his communications satellite company, which had booked a launching of one of its payloads, and an Afghan pilot who was taken on a Soviet space flight as a propaganda show but whose sharp eyes caught a potentially fatal flaw during the return to Earth, and thereby saved the lives of the entire crew.

Oberg says that these -- and several other Islamic astronauts he mentions -- should be enlisted as ambassadors of modernity. He also suggests that we fly female space travelers from progressive Muslim nations. Unfortunately, the piece isn't on the web, but it's in the issue of Space News (an trade paper) dated 12/3/2001, at page 19.

NEWSFLASH: Online journalism is protected under the First Amendment. My professional opinion as a constitutional lawyer: well, duh. But given that, as far as I can tell, Vanessa Leggett is still in jail, I suppose that things like this are not to be taken for granted.

THE BOSTON GLOBE'S THOMAS OLIPHANT IS A RACIST: He must be. Why just read what he has to say about Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, an Asian-American whom he stereotypes as a "conservative activist." Everyone knows that when you attack a government official who is also a member of a minority group, the only motivation can be racism, right? We certainly heard that during the Clinton years.

Sorry, guess I need another wheelbarrow full of bills to make that one stick. Of course, now other people can write (in classic New York Times passive-voice fashion), "Globe columnist Tom Oliphant, whom has been called a racist for his attacks on Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh. . . ."

HISPANICS FROZEN OUT OF MEDIA COVERAGE says the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. And they have a study to prove it! Of course, the survey, which finds less coverage of hispanics last year, omitted any coverage of the Elian Gonzalez matter, since that was an "anomaly." Puhleez. Even the Washington Post is holding its nose at this one. Coming soon: coverage of space exploration fell in July, 1969 according to a study that omitted reports of the Apollo 11 moon landing, since that was an "anomaly."

Sorry guys. Your wheelbarrow wasn't big enough.

THREE MONTHS: It's been three months since 9/11, as anyone with a calendar or a newspaper knows. I'm at a loss on how to mark it properly. I went back and read some posts from that day, though, and I think it's fair to say that we've done better in the past three months than just about anyone would have thought on September 11. Oh, I do plan to mark the occasion another way: I've done a major NEXIS search, and I intend to post a roundup of the dumbest war-related punditry (eschewing easy targets like Noam Chomsky and Susan Sontag) sometime this evening. It should prove edifying.

THE END OF RACISM: Earlier I pointed out how overclaiming is reducing international law to nothing more than a slogan. For an example of how that can happen to the nth degree, consider what has happened to the word "racism," whose use to describe a war against white people (the Taliban) has simply demonstrated that "racist" is now merely a synonym for whatever the Left dislikes. Jay Nordlinger makes this point beautifully today:

The Left has done many rotten things to us in the past 30 years or so, but one of the rottenest is the destruction of the concept of racism, and the words that go with it. They have rendered this concept, and these words, meaningless — even snort-worthy. Even a race-neutral policy, such as that adopted in California, is tarred as “racist.” So, when the charge of racism is made, who can take it seriously? Which is a shame, because racism is — or should be — a very serious charge.
Too much outrage chasing too little substance leads to outrage-inflation, which devalues the moral currency of outrage in consequence. Right now, claims of racism have reached the Weimar stage -- it takes the equivalent of a wheelbarrow full of trillion-mark notes to make any sort of impression, and by tomorrow even that will be worthless.

IT'S A "WITCH HUNT" TO FIND PEOPLE WHO LEAK STORIES TO THE PRESS, according to this item. Ashcroft at DoJ? Rumsfeld at the Pentagon? Norton at Interior? Nope. Hearst Media:

Hearst likes to go on witch hunts to find employees who talk to the press. I can't understand how a media company, especially one that owns some big and important daily newspapers, can be so repressive, paranoid and just plain petty. They seem to have problems comprehending the First Amendment.
Now, strictly speaking, of course, the First Amendment doesn't stand in the way of witch-hunts at media organizations (everyone at Gannett's management just breathed a sigh of relief). But when newspapers act this way, it does leave them with diminished moral capital when they complain about anti-leak measures elsewhere.

EUROPEANS DON'T WANT THE EURO, according to this poll. Hey, they don't want a ban on capital punishment, either. And they're not nearly as enthusiastic about gun control or America-bashing as their elites.

But hey, who cares? It's not like they get to vote on this stuff.

ANDREA SEE, who I like a lot, has an unaccountable admiration for Noam Chomsky. (Okay, it's not completely unaccountable -- she lives in Singapore, the one place in the world where Chomsky's views on government and democracy may actually hold true). She even links to this AlterNet article on how Chomsky is ignored by the media. The only problem with this claim is that it isn't actually the case, as Matt Welch conclusively demonstrates. My question about Chomsky is this: if he knows so much about how the world works, why are his admirers almost exclusively under 25? And my note for Chomsky's admirers: debunking isn't the same as suppression.

LAST WEEK I SUGGESTED THAT ASHCROFT was trying to intimidate Leahy, et al. because he had intelligence data supporting the detentions, had shared it with them, and didn't like them attacking him anyway on the assumption that he couldn't respond because the information was secret. John Podhoretz says that this is what was going on, more or less.

Of course, this may or may not turn out to be true. One suggestion that it is, though, is how quickly Leahy backed down once Ashcroft went after him. I wouldn't have done that in Leahy's place. Unless, perhaps, I had something to feel guilty about.

SALON SEXWATCH UPDATE: Nope. Still no sex. The Daily Cal is on hiatus for Christmas break, so there's no opportunity for a Rachael Klein comparison. But, honestly, I think she's still ahead.

UPDATE: Dang. Scooped again by Ken Layne. Well, except that the story here -- no sex in Salon -- is of the "sun rises in east" variety. Layne's treatment is highly amusing. I may turn this over to him, before the effect on my libido of reading all those Salon columns becomes serious.

INTERESTING AND OPTIMISTIC op-ed on gun rights in the Wall Street Journal.


VENEZUELA IS PARALYZED, according to this report, by a general strike protesting Hugo Chavez and his policies. I give all the credit to Allison Alvarez. Tremble, tyrants. Tremble.


THAT WAS ONLY 18 POSTS TODAY. But I didn't want to disappoint Matt Welch, so here's one more.

VERY NICE COLUMN ON hate speech and unintended consequences by Tim Blair in The Australian.

ANNA QUINDLEN: PURITAN! That's the thesis of this editorial from the Omaha World-Herald, and it's pretty convincing. Hey, Anna: if they're calling you a Puritan in Omaha, it's a pretty good sign you need to lighten up.

MICKEY KAUS REPORTS that Kausfiles has had

33,000 visits from 14,282 distinct visitors last week. Thank you. ... How many millions of dollars of Bill Moyers' money does Bob Kuttner pay in direct mail costs to get his 50,000 (claimed) American Prospect subscribers again?
I don't know. But InstaPundit has had 112,952 visits last week -- though I don't know how many distinct visitors because I don't track those -- without spending a dime of Bill Moyers' money. Of course, comparing my visits to Mickey's is probably like comparing the number served at McDonald's with the number served at Lion d' Or. Or something like that.

Of course, I did have a surprisingly good hamburger at McDonald's the other day.

A LITTLE "NUKIE" IS JUST WHAT WE NEED: At least, that's what this article by Damien Cave in Salon and this article by Gregg Easterbrook in The New Republic say. Cave is writing about nuclear power. Easterbrook is writing about using subterranean nuclear blasts to collapse Osama's caves. Both are in leftish journals that suddenly seem to like nukes more.

Both make some strong arguments, though I think Cave has the stronger position. Nuclear power has risks and problems, but compared to the environmental horrors involved in burning coal, they're really minimal. Global warming or nuclear power? You choose.

A SIDE EFFECT OF CIPRO IS "abnormal dread or fear." Everyone in the government and the East Coast media is taking Cipro. Now they're worrying a bit too much about what to do if the entire government is wiped out by terrorists. Coincidence? Hey, I report, you decide. (Or is that slogan already taken?)

Look, it's fine to have a clear line of succession. Er, and we do. It was considered good enough to deal with the prospect of Global Thermonuclear War, so it's probably good enough to deal with terrorism.

Besides, not to burst the bubbles of the Washington crowd, but if, at a stroke, we lost the President, the Vice President, the Cabinet, and both houses of Congress, the government would keep going. The military would keep fighting. And the states, which run most everything that really matters for day-to-day life even now, would hardly be affected. No offense guys, but you're not that indispensable. Which is good.

In a tyranny, there is no government without the tyrant. In a democratic but centralized, overbureacratized government like, say France, the loss of the head would cause the body to die -- or at least to twitch wildly for a while. But in a federal republic like the United States, there's no single part you can kill that will bring down the whole. That's one of our strengths. Let's keep that in mind and not get too carried away. At least, let's set this aside until the Cipro wears off.

UPDATE: Reader Michael Wells sends this wonderful link to SatireWire. "In a haunting Senate hearing today on risk assessment and emergency readiness, officials from dozens of government agencies conceded the United States is "grossly unprepared" to deal with thousands of highly unlikely threats, including falling chunks of the Moon should it explode into pieces, or the simultaneous spontaneous combustion of every person east of the Mississippi." And don't forget vampires or poisonous housecats.

DISSING INTERNATIONAL LAW: Critics of America's conduct of the Afghan War have consistently invoked international law in support of their criticism. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson claimed that attacks on the Taliban were permissible under international law only if they harmed absolutely no civilians, damaged no civilian property, and did nothing to impede relief efforts.

Amnesty International has claimed that the joint Northern Alliance/U.S. suppression of the prisoner-of-war revolt that killed 40 Northern Alliance guards and one American intelligence agent may have been a "massacre" that violates international law. It has also claimed that CIA agent Mike Spann's purely-verbal "grilling" of American Taliban John Walker Lindh may have constituted "torture" in violation of international law.

Domestic critics, meanwhile, argue that profiling of foreign men from mideastern countries is discrimination according to "nationality" and constitutes a violation of international law.

I'm not a working lawyer in the field – but then neither, really, are any of the critics. Indeed, the major body of such expertise on the international law of war worldwide resides within the United States armed forces, not among the commentators. However, unlike most of those opining on the subject, I did at least take a course on "The Law of War" from Eugene V. Rostow when I was at Yale Law School, and one on International Human Rights Law from well-known human rights litigator Mike Posner, and I can say with confidence that the nearly all the claims being made by various "human rights" groups in the name of international law are not merely doubtful, but positively bogus. (Indeed, were they true that would for the most part be a damning indictment of international law, not of the United States' behavior).

They are also positively destructive, and indicate just how out-of-touch such groups are. In ordinary times, when the stakes are low and no one is paying much attention, claims that international law somehow commands the result that these groups want may often work. But now people are paying attention, and the absurdity of many of the claims being made in the name of international law is obvious.

The likely result is that international law – and particularly international human rights law – will enjoy far less prestige in the future. If you believe, as I do, that having good law governing warfare and human rights is a good thing, then this loss of prestige is a bad thing. Governments will be less constrained in the future – even by actual, as opposed to imaginary law – because the watchdog groups will have blown their credibility

This is likely to be especially true in the United States. International law gets less respect in the legal academy than you might think, because of the (mostly unfair) suspicion on the part of many that it attracts second-raters lured by its air of importance and shortage of opportunities to be proven wrong. Among the American public, meanwhile, it is seen as the province of striped-pants types who care more about making things comfy for international bureaucracies and left-leaning politics than about the law or American interests. These attitudes are intensifying: on several law-professor email lists that I subscribe to, nonspecialists are expressing open disbelief that international law does what some antiwar people are claiming, along with the deeply felt sentiment that if it does, then it needs to be changed.

If you believe that the United States will come out of this war with a much broader and more assertive role in a world where it will be – even more than before – that world's only superpower, these attitudes have to matter. Their effect will be to ensure that there is not a strong constituency in the United States supporting the view of international law that many activist groups hold. Indeed, it's worse that that: there may be a strong constituency that believes that most international law is merely a confidence game designed to hobble American power in support of an anti-American agenda. That will be a very bad thing for international law if it happens. But it will also be the fault of the very people who will be complaining most loudly when it happens.

UPDATE: Two kind readers have suggested adding this link to a piece by Jeremy Rabkin, and this link to one by David Rivkin and Lee Casey -- both on what could be called the "imperial overstretch" of the NGO / international law movement.

AIRPORT SECURITY: STILL STUPID. James DeLong does some good explaining on why that is. Here's a brief excerpt:

The collective national psyche remains unchanged at a deeper level. We retain a view of public safety that divides the world into the citizenry, which is supposed to remain passive, and the professional protectors. If the protectors are unavailable, the ethos requires the citizenry to do nothing except be good victims, like the doomed passengers on three of the four hijacked planes. That societal protection would be enhanced by an armed and aggressively active citizenry — the ideal embodied in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and currently pursued in Israel, where carrying arms is encouraged — is anathema, not only to the protectors but to most of the citizenry, which doesn't want the responsibility. Before September 11, gun-control advocates were not muted by factual demonstrations that states permitting arms have lower crime rates, and they are not affected by factual argument now.

This point about attitudes toward public safety segues into a broader one about the relation between the government and the people. . . . For this political class, September 11 was both an opportunity and a threat. An opportunity because wars always tend to expand government power. A threat because September 11 was a spectacular and obvious failure of government to fulfill its most necessary and proper duty of providing for the common defense, a failure caused in large part because the government is so distracted doing things it cannot do well, such as trying to micromanage the economy and foster political correctness on every possible axis, that it cannot pay adequate attention to its proper functions.



What's with the chattering classes going all wobbly on the question of what should happen to John Walker? I saw This Week yesterday and though Geo. Will was channelling Eleanor Clift.

I know why, say, Paul Wolfowitz doesn't want to pass judgment on him and commit the administration one way or the other, but I can't for the life of me figure out why the pundits get all nervous about saying the word "treason." Sure the Framers thought it was serious business. Sure it's the only crime defined in the Constitution. So what? If he attacked Johnnie Spann while being interrogated after taken prisoner with a bunch of other Taliban fighters that were shooting at the Marines, then isn't that "making war on" the United States "or any of them"?

At the very least it seems that he could be charged with violating the Neutrality Act that kept earlier generations of similarly misguided idealists from joining up with the communists to fight facism in Spain (where most of them ended up getting shot by the NKVD).

Have you any ideas?
Two theories: (1) Johnnie Walker is really a CIA agent, too. Trying him for treason would put the government in a tough place; easier to downplay it, then announce that he was an unwilling "guest" of the Taliban or some such. The government doesn't have to tell the pundits, of course, as someone would surely blab. But they can simply downplay it, and trust the pundits to follow along. This is especially true in light of the next explanation, which has enough weight to stand on its own: (2) members of the punditocracy have a lot of screwed-up kids themselves (just offhand I can think of a couple of examples, and there are surely many more) and can't help but assume a degree of parental concern in a case like this. You pick: 1, 1 & 2, or just 2. Anyhow, those are my thoughts.

WHERE'S THE BEEF? I'm referring to complaints that dead CIA agent Mike Spann "grilled" American turncoat Johnnie Walker shortly before his death. Read the story -- we're not exactly talking brutality here. I mean, get a clue.

It's always the pro-war folks who are criticized for thinking that war is some sort of white-hat John Wayne Hollywood-inspired fantasy -- but it seems to be the anti-war people who bitch if it doesn't live up to that. War is hell. So? God knows that the complainers are willing to excuse almost any brutality as long as the hand that performs it isn't Western. Chomsky even defended the Khmer Rouge for God's sake, and he wasn't the only one. And I remember all the crap about how China in the Cultural Revolution was reminiscent of the underground society of early Christians in Rome. Jeez. Meanwhile Spann's remarks are somehow supposed to constitute a violation of the laws of war?

Such arguments only serve to delegitimize the laws of war. Is that what people want?

READ "AMERICAN TALIBAN" JOHNNIE WALKER'S EMAILS HERE: Okay, they're actually newsgroup postings. But still, people are making a big deal out of this deja-news-type stuff. I don't see anything enormous about them, other than to reveal a profoundly unserious doofus who seems to be trying on various identities.

Hmm. Self-hating, unserious, trying new identities: Eric Hoffer, call your office!

UPDATE: Reader Ron Graham writes:

Kind of tasteless don't you think?

Yeah, he predicted Walker but many of your readers won't make that
connection, won't have a clue who the late Eric Hoffer was and will think
'Eric Hoffer' is another nut, a la Walker.

Oh, my readers are smarter than that, I think. But in case anyone has slipped in from Indymedia, Eric Hoffer is/was the author of The True Believer, a book that explains a lot about the kind of people who join groups like the Taliban.

THE "IT'S ALL ABOUT OIL PIPELINES" CONSPIRACY THEORY is debunked by Seth Stevenson in Slate.

NICK GILLESPIE says that the 1990s weren't frivolous at all, except to those whose businesses and self-image thrive on misfortune:

Does anyone doubt that NBC’s Tom Brokaw, who has made millions by recounting from a penthouse the ordeals of the "greatest generation," [was] overjoyed when his assistant tested positive for anthrax? Or that Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and every other newshound who ever donned a safari jacket and filed reports from an overseas hotel bar weren’t sick with jealousy?

In such moments, I think of my deceased parents, who closed out their lives in the decade that now is being recast as beneath contempt. Both were born poor in the ’20s and were actual veterans of the Great Depression and World War II (by Brokaw’s lights, my father was triply blessed in that he actually got shot by the Germans during the war).

For my folks, the ’90s represented the great payoff, the long-delayed delivery of what they took to be the American Dream: a time when poverty had largely disappeared, people got along relatively well, and the news was filled mostly with tales of stock surges, celebrity scandals, and sexually penitent pols. . . .

Especially when conflict is necessary and justified, it’s worth remembering that war will always beat peace as a headline. And that, at our best, we fight wars for only one reason: to enjoy decades like the ’90s.

Yes. "Interesting times" are only good times for certain classes of people.

BOB BARTLEY explains why liberals' civil-liberties complaints aren't getting much traction. I think this piece goes nicely with the Peter Beinart piece from The New Republic that I mention below.

MSNBC: Lots of people are emailing me about anti-American bias in MSNBC's coverage of the war. Since I almost never watch MSNBC (it's dead-last among my cable-news choices, and I don't watch cable news nearly as much as I did in pre-Internet days), I can't really offer an opinion. But here's an example:

MSNBC interviewed Robert Fisk yesterday. He'd been beaten up, he said, by
refugees enraged at massive civilian casualties caused by U.S. bombing.

The interviewer seemed to know nothing about Fisk or his agenda(s), so he
failed to notice the amazing coincidence that a vicious anti-American
correspondent happened upon one of the rare pockets of anti-American feeling
over there.

Steve Antler
Chicago, IL

Boy, if the MSNBC folks would just surf the blogworld for 30 seconds they'd sure know.

UPDATE: Reader Brian Ernst writes with this counterexample:

Last night (Sunday, about 10:30 CST), I was watching MSNBC. The anchor (don't know who - who can keep track of the dozens of anonymous anchors these days?) is interviewing the hourly rent-a-pundit, going over the
typical woe-unto-us-for-winning meme that seems to be taking over the airwaves (Motto: "Winning is just like losing, only worse"). Anchor Man listens to Punditdroid pronounce how terrible it will be if Osama
either a) dies as a martyr or b) is captured as a martyr.

Next, comes the stunner. Anchor Man then asks if it wouldn't be better if we found Osama alive, killed
him, shaved his beard off and planted the rumor that his final words were "Allah be cursed for forsaking

Punditdroid's jaw dropped. All he could do is stammer "I'm not going anywhere near THAT," as visions of
Islamic hit squads danced in his head.

GREAT TV, and it was on MSNBC!

- Brian Erst

p.s. Soon after, they replayed the "interview" with Robert Fisk, and, to me, Anchor Man had a hard time
disguising his disgust..

So there you have it. I didn't see either of these, but perhaps there's a tug-of-war going on within the newsroom. Take it away, Jim Romenesko!

MUSIC -- THREAT, OR MENACE? That was the Taliban's attitude, and they're not the only ones, as this article makes clear.

One of the funniest things I've seen is a commercial run by the Alabama White Citizens' Council in the 1950s. It warned that Rock & Roll would lead to race-mixing, premarital sex, and the breakdown of decent society. They were right, of course. Thank God.


Our own Senate was supposed to play that role -- and did, back before the 17th Amendment turned every Senator in to a Presidential wannabe. Maybe it was a mistake.

UPDATE: Martin Pratt says the hereditary peers were all kicked out in '99. Oh, I thought they were just being allowed to die off. Now they're lifetime "life peers" instead. The 17th Amendment point still holds, though.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Several readers tell me that Martin is (partly) wrong. Iain Murray writes:

Not quite. There are 96 hereditary peers left, elected from amongst their own number. They will go if Blair has his way and, if memory serves me right, be replaced by 60% of the chamber appointed by the Government of the day. Can you say "rubber stamp"?
Well, such a body would likely be mostly a rubber stamp for the folks that appointed it. Over time, though, a body of life-tenured folks could be an interesting counterweight to the politics of the day, as our own judiciary demonstrates. But at least I wasn't as wrong as I thought.

BOMBS MUST FALL ON IRAQ BEFORE SUNDOWN!! Why? Because Kofi Annan says we shouldn't bomb them! This reverse-policy routine would be funny, if it weren't so well-founded.

JAMES LILEKS DEMOLISHES the various defenders of American Taliban Johnnie Walker, especially one Glenn Sacks of the San Francisco Chronicle. A couple of excerpts follow, but the whole thing is a must-read:

“As a teenager, American Taliban fighter John Phillip Walker gave up a comfortable life in Marin County and traveled halfway around the world to put his life on the line for his religious convictions. How many of us are that courageous?”

Thousands. They’re called “missionaries.” But in the common variety, they’re ordinary people who believe it’s their calling to help people worship a particular incorporeal deity instead of rocks. You can say they’re misguided, or practicing cultural imperialism, but they generally don’t try to take over countries and flense heretics and infidels, as Mr. Walker’s friends were wont to do. As I’ve said before: replace “Taliban” with “Aryan Nation,” and much of the support would melt away. It’s OK to be a babbling fanatic for a religion as long as it’s not Christianity, because Christianity = the West. To a certain breed of Deep Thinker, the West is the font of all evil in the world; all other evils have arisen solely in reaction to the existence of the West. If John Walker had strapped TNT to his chest and blown up St. Peter’s, these people would dutifully note that the Pope refused to ordain women, and well, intolerance breeds intolerance, and the Crusades did anger a lot of people, so let’s call it a draw - and clap ol’ John on the back for standing up for something.

But Lileks is just warming up. Here's one more:
“Walker, if allowed to return to the United States and live freely, someday, no doubt, will cringe at his. Let's make sure he has the chance.”

Yes. Let him go. And let out the abortion clinic bombers, the bank robbers, and all the men who beat their girlfriends to death for lipping off, because they too need the chance to sit by the pool in Vegas in 2021 and cringe over their youthful mistakes while sucking down a screwdriver

Then, the coup de grace:
Here’s part of the problem: “Glenn J. Sacks is the only regularly published male columnist in the US who writes about gender issues from a perspective unapologetically sympathetic to men.”

Oh, God no, another Iron Fargin’ John. Look: no man who has any grasp on the actual truth of being a man uses a word like “gender” or goes around thrusting out his chest because he’s “unapologetically sympathetic to men.”

Believe it or not, even George Will was making namby-pamby noises about Walker on This Week yesterday. He should read Lileks. It'll stiffen his spine.


STEVE CHAPMAN says that government is a lot more serious now. Well, he's right that we're not seeing a lot of jiffy-pop gimmicks of the flag-burning-law variety. But I'm not sure that much of the antiterrorism bill, and the likely-to-be-disastrous federalization of airport screeners, don't fall into the same category.

THIS ESSAY BY JOSH LONDON on Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings makes a serious error: it assumes that The Lord of the Rings is a children's book. I suppose this is because, as London admits, he never read The Lord of the Rings.

JEREMY LOTT says that Canada is being absorbed as a result of the September 11 attacks, and the response thereto. Well, at least being forced to recognize how closely integrated its economy is with the United States'.

FAREED ZAKARIA makes a strong case for nation-building in Afghanistan. The key is the need for real security -- which means real troops from major countries, NOT worthless UN peacekeeping forces. (These troops need to be numerous, and willing to blow the crap out of anyone who causes trouble, too, though he doesn't say that. But experience indicates that weak peacekeeping forces are just hostages.) This is also a major blow to the UN's pretensions toward having its own military capability, though Zakaria doesn't say that either.

IRA RIFKIN says that President Bush shouldn't be embracing "missionaries who knowingly break the religious laws of Muslim nations." But why should we respect such laws? Such laws violate international norms, including Article 19 of the International Declaration of Human Rights, which says that people have the right to communicate ideas regardless of international borders. Religious ideas are ideas.

Why aren't all the people who are always complaining (often on much shakier grounds) about U.S. "violations" of international law pointing this out? By not doing so, they are drastically reducing the stature of international law, especially with the American public. And if the American public sees international law as no more than a contrivance of America-haters to hobble the United States, then international law will largely cease to be important.

PAY ATTENTION TO events in Algeria. This was, in many ways, the birthplace of Islamist violence, and has a lot of it there, where the government's writ doesn't run everywhere. There's also continuing Berber unrest. (Berbers aren't Arabs, and don't like Arabs a whole lot). The French have been paying a lot of attention to Algeria since 9/11, and doing some odd things that are best explained by having a lot of covert interest in play at the moment. So keep an eye out.

A BUNCH OF INTERESTING STUFF in The Idler, including an interview that suggests the growth of a Turkish/Pakistan concord, something that I've been suggesting is likely for a couple of months.

HOW'S THIS FOR A DUMB HEADLINE? "Terrorism experts warn of possible attacks on holidays, anniversary dates." Of course, the subhead should be "Attacks on other days also possible, as long as terrorists remain at large, experts note."

I HAVEN'T POSTED MUCH TODAY because of various family activities. Don't miss PunditWatch though. Will Vehrs is the man!

FISK UPDATE: I just saw this great post from Ken Layne, who rips Robert Fisk for a particularly egregious misstatement, to wit, that no one noticed that Northern Alliance leader Shah Massoud was assassinated just before the 9/11 attacks. Of course everyone noticed -- Layne even points out that it made the Los Angeles Times front page the morning of 9/11. He then adds this gem:

The story was certainly not "missed." I've often complained about the American media's failure in covering international news in the 1990s. But that story was well covered. Not hidden, Fisk.

It's 2001, and we can Fact Check your ass. And you, like many in the Hate America movement, are no longer able to dress your wretched "reporting" in fiction. We have computers. It is not difficult to Find You Out, dig?

We've got computers. (But we're not tapping phone lines. You know that that ain't allowed.) 21st Century warfare turns out to be marked, as much as anything, by the inability of people to spread outrageous lies undetected. This is a major loss of comparative advantage for the Fisks of the world.

EVERYONE KEEPS MAILING ME LINKS TO this story about Robert Fisk's well-deserved beating, and his agreement (though on the wrong grounds) that it was well-deserved. But, really, I can't improve on Andrew Sullivan's take: "Isn’t that exactly what the far left essentially meant in the wake of September 11: that the massacre was wrong but understandable? And doesn’t it suggest that the only moral difference between these intellectuals seduced by violence and the terrorists themselves is the will and capacity to actually translate beliefs into action?"

Certainly in terms of their absurdity, narcissism, and general unfounded hostility toward Western civilization they have a lot in common.

MILITARY TRIBUNALS, GET IN LINE: Osama is first going to have to face this feared tribunal on the all-important question. I'm predicting a bad Christmas for him, even if he can get Bert to testify as a character witness.

PAY RAISE QUESTION: Under the 27th Amendment, a congressional pay raise can't take effect until a congressional election has intervened -- so it shouldn't take effect until roughly a year from now. I haven't seen the bill, but I'd be interested in knowing if Congress is following this.

INTERESTING AND SAD PIECE BY ELIZABETH RUBIN in The New Republic, about how things go in Afghanistan. Best quote:

It's more expedient for them, politically and psychologically, to write a simpler story: The foreign terrorists created the Taliban, so get rid of the terrorists and the Taliban will disappear. Which also explains the longing among many here for UN forces, even for Americans, whom they distrust. As one 17-year-old computer fanatic who had studied in Pakistan told me, "What freedom will we lose if the Americans stay here? We don't have any freedom to lose. We lost it when the Russians came and maybe we're even sorry we won our freedom from the British, because we would have been powerful now like Hong Kong."
Powerful like Hong Kong. Right now, of course, he's right: Hong Kong matters more than Afghanistan in almost every way, becuase it has more educated people, and outward-looking economy, etc. But, on a more hopeful note, with more "computer fanatics," maybe one day Afghanistan will be different.

WE MUST HAVE OUR CONGRESSIONAL PAY RAISE -- OR THE TERRORISTS WILL HAVE WON! Reader Andy Davidson has this amusing observation:

You wrote in InstaPundit:

CONGRESS: Too busy for a lot of things, but never too busy to slip a Congressional pay-raise bill through. You know, these guys aren't acting like wartime leaders. They're acting like run-of-the-mill petty politicians. That's one reason that they haven't been able to wield much influence in countering the Bush Administration. Personally, I'd love to run a campaign against a member of Congress who took a pay raise during wartime. I think a lot of people are going to have the chance.

But we've been saying that one of the proper responses to the terrorist acts is to get back to our normal routines. And "acting like run-of-the-mill petty politicians" *is* their normal routine!

Very amusing.

ARE WE IN DANGER OF A jobless recovery? That's David Friedman's worry, and he fears it will produce a rerun of the divisive politics of the early-mid 1990s.

I'm not so sure. The "jobless recovery" took place because there was a lot of corporate flab to remove, and a lot of dumb government regulation to be streamlined. But now the problem is the bursting of a bubble because of misallocated investment -- not generalized flabbiness and overregulation. With less of a structural-flab problem, a jobless recovery seems less likely, at least to me.

WEATHER WONDERS: Why has it been so warm? Good question. all I can say is, whatever the reason, bring it on. In the early fall it was cooler than normal; then, at exactly the right moment, it became warmer than normal. We've had over three months of absolutely fine weather. I love it.

TENNESSEE LOST LAST NIGHT, OF COURSE: When some sportscaster interviewed coach Phil Fulmer and asked why, he gave this response: "We just didn't play that well." How refreshing.

ANOTHER OPED BASHING THE RED CROSS for raising money in the name of helping 9/11 survivors and then spending it on other things. But I'll repeat: the government does this all the time. Congress drafts a "stimulus" or "defense" bill and it turns out to be full of pork that has little to do with either purpose. We get "campaign finance reform" or "political ethics" bills that are about protecting incumbents. We have an "antiterrorism" bill whose real purpose is to grant longstanding wish-list items to law enforcement agencies in cases that are about tax-evasion or drug enforcement rather than terrorism.

When will those guys be hauled into hearing and forced to answer questions under oath about the reasons for those actions?

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