MICKEY KAUS is now calling me the "all-powerful hit-king," which I guess means I've sent a lot of traffic to his site. BTW, I was being tongue-in-cheek when I said he "glossed over" his prediction about September 11, below, but he's expanded on his non-glossing-over now anyway. Since some people (well, two is "some") think I was too hard on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's military editorial below, I don't want anyone to think I'm picking on people today. To clarify: with Kaus, I was just being cute. With the Post-Gazette, I was being cute, but I also meant it.

No one, by the way, has suggested that I've been too hard on Cornel West.

WHO'S SLEEPING WITH WHO? The SexChart lists various goings-on among a bunch of geeks and hackers. The story about it is pretty amusing. The good news: these folks are getting more sex than you might have guessed.

BELLICOSE WOMEN UPDATE: "He was wearing a leather jacket, so I knew I couldn't have stabbed him in the back. It wouldn't have gone through. So I decided on the jugular instead." This is a woman interviewed by Norah Vincent, who was watching a suspicious-looking guy on the bus. Vincent continues:

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, my friend rode the bus Saturday, the same day Richard C. Reid--or whatever his real name is--allegedly tried to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami. It was diverted to Boston after watchful passengers and flight attendants tackled Reid and subdued him with belts, shoelaces, earphone wires and whatever else would hold a knot. Suddenly, with the flick of a match, "Airplane" turned into "Con Air" and a bunch of tourists on American Airlines turned into a Delta Force. With frequent fliers like these, who needs sky marshals?

Airport personnel may not be ready to anticipate the next wave of security breaches, willing to scrutinize every odd duck or able to thwart another terrorist strike, but we paranoid day-trippers and accidental tourists sure are. The nation is going die-hard with a vengeance. We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore.

Yes, the passengers are way ahead of the airlines on this one. And the politicians.

MAD COW? Dan Kennedy has an excellent piece on why this should get more attention, and why the Department of Agriculture is dropping the ball.

I tend to doubt the seriousness of the mad cow threat, but I could absolutely be wrong -- and there's no excuse for the regulators not to take it seriously.

SLASHDOT HAS A POLL GOING for "most prophetic science fiction writer." The big winner is George Orwell. Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke are second and third, respectively, while Heinlein is way back.

I'd put Heinlein at number one. His future history put us in the "Crazy Years" right now, and I'd say we're pretty much there. Asimov, on the other hand, was a swell writer but I can't think of many of his science fictional scenarios that have come true.

I WAS PICKING ON BELGIUM LAST WEEK, but today Natalija Radic really hit them where it hurts.

TOLDJA SO! I, and just about every warblogger on the planet, said that the end result of federalizing airline screeners would be the same no-hopers we've got now, with better pay and benefits. We were right. Too bad.

So much for the "federal employee equals more professional" argument.

MY WALL STREET JOURNAL PIECE FROM YESTERDAY is now available on their website for free. Cool.

UPDATE: Oh, I mentioned Samizdata.Com as an example of registering a domain name. But someone already has it, and there's room to doubt that the folks at the Samizdata we all love would want to be associated with 'em.

WE'RE WINNING THE WAR! IMPEACH BUSH! No kidding, that's (basically) the theme of this editorial, which says that victory in Afghanistan is proof that Bush was lying about problems with the military back during the campaign. Well, there's no pleasing some folks, I guess.

UPDATE: Some people think I'm being unfair here -- I've gotten a couple of emails to that effect. I just reread it, and I don't think I am.

THINGS ARE JUST GETTING WORSE IN ARGENTINA. For a lot of reasons, a lasting meltdown there is a bad idea. Who's in charge of this at the State Department?

Oh, right. Nobody.

STILL MORE ON CORNEL WEST & LARRY SUMMERS: A bigshot journalist reader who probably wants to remain anonymous writes:

A particular paragraph in that NYT piece on Cornel West illustrates the intellectual divide that separates the Northeastern liberals who write for the Times from many sensible Americans:

"Neil Rudenstine, Mr. Summers's predecessor, had laid the groundwork for creating the powerhouse department by hiring Dr. Gates away from Duke University in 1991. Among others Dr. Gates later hired or helped to hire were Dr. West; Dr. Appiah; the sociologist William Julius Wilson; and the legal scholar Lani Guinier." "Powerhouse department?" That blatant editorializing tells a lot. In reality, as you point out, the department is a joke. The only academic of any genuine accomplishment mentioned in that graf is William Julius Wilson. Laurence Summers is surely aware of this. (Summers has also sounded like a fairly level-headed fellow in the wake of 9/11, despite the maintaince of the politically correct policy on ROTC.)

The mere mention of Lani Guinier as contributing to "powerhouse" status for a department is laughable. The only "serious" work she churns out are screeching leftist tirades for The Nation and similar fringe
publications. Would the Times ever refer to a conservative-leaning academic department at any American university as a "powerhouse department"? Highly doubtful. It's sad that so much attention is being directed at such a laughable institution like that African Studies department instead of a department
that is making a real contribution to American life. I can think of several . . . . The Times piece does mention West's rap CD in passing, though. ("In recent years, Dr. West, a noted author, has recorded a rap CD and been an adviser on Bill Bradley's presidential campaign.")

Yes. They don't mention that Summers called it an embarrassment, and some of West's ideas stupid, as the Globe story reports.

SIX DAYS AFTER INSTAPUNDIT (er, and the Boston Globe), the New York Times is covering the Cornel West/Larry Summers flap. The Times neglects to mention West's lame rap CD, which the original Boston Globe story suggests was a major cause of bad relations between the two. It also doesn't mention West's embarrassingly pompous and illiterate website.

Instead, the Times story indicates that the real dispute was over grade inflation and affirmative action, which is perhaps evidence that Harvey Mansfield's campaign is bearing some fruit.

Whatever. The truth is, the Harvard faculty has built up a coterie of lame posers who contribute little to the intellectual life of the university and whose public posturing is an embarrassment. (Can you say "Dershowitz?") I hope that Summers will send West packing off to Princeton where -- together with Peter Singer -- he can drag down that institution's public standing, to Harvard's advantage. Then he needs to do some further housecleaning.

When I was a law student at Yale, Bruce Ackerman went to Columbia. This was treated as a major loss by the other Yale faculty for reasons that remained opaque to the students, who considered Ackerman to be a caricature of the pompous, intellectually sloppy Yale Law professor. In fact, many students believed that sending Ackerman to Columbia was part of a subtle and nefarious Yale campaign to stop Columbia's upward reputational progress. Summers should regard West's loss the same way; sending West to Princeton should undermine its reputation nicely. Too bad Princeton doesn't have a law school: he could send Dershowitz there for a surely fatal double-whammy.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

You've noted that in the West article the NY Times recycled the Boston Globe article, with omissions (sticking to politically correct complaints by West). In fact, the BG article on West looks like it was almost completely written by him -- another example of journalism by press release. When reading it I was reminded of that Tom Wolfe phrase "mau-mauing the flakcatchers". The fact is, Appiah is not a philosopher of national rep (that's why he's hiding out in the Afro Studies field). Similarly with West. Can anybody name something he's written? Will anything he's written be read even 5 years from now?

Prefer the French spelling -- "poseur".

Again, as you pointed out in the Bellesiles article of the NY Times, they cited only the BG article. No surprise there. The NY Times OWNS the BG!
Well, "poseur" has a certain ring to it. But, frankly, "poser" seems in many ways to sound a more accurate note. And one wonders why the Times waits so long to recycle the Globe's stories on Harvard, given their close connection.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Dave Tepper writes that Princeton already had Cornel West:

We didn't want him.

He announced that he was leaving for Harvard right around the time that I graduated from Princeton in 1994. In the Latin Salutatorian Speech (given, of course, in Latin to perplex the parents attending), the
speechgiver put in his speech cheat sheet that the graduating students in the audience were supposed to groan when Cornel West's departure was mentioned. Few did.

Still, I'm sure that, I dunno, U.Penn. might be happy to have him.

Yeah. I suppose that the University of Tennessee might take him just for the notoriety (though since we already sent Richard Marius -- a real professor -- to Harvard some years back, we might ask for another professor to be named later just to even things up). However, the standard of Techno & Hip-Hop produced just at the UT Law School puts Cornel's lame rap efforts to shame, and that doesn't even allow for the rest of the University.

And no, I'm not kidding about that, either. One of my students is a former producer for Sony, and produced one hell of a hiphop album over the summer. West can't touch it. Sorry, it's not on the Web, but check out "Evolution" by these undergraduates, who might be singing about West (indeed, their lyrics aren't just better than his lyrics -- they're better than his scholarship). Worse, West sadly lacks the sense of humor of D.J. Moron, another UT undergrad who built a whole hilarious song around a preacher's anti-gay diatribe. I would call West's work sophomoric, but if you'll compare these tunes to his, I think you'll agree that he's thoroughly outclassed by actual sophomores.

Come to think of it. I don't think he'd really make it here. Maybe Penn would be better.

WHERE'S NOAM CHOMSKY WHEN YOU NEED HIM? Alex Knapp points to this story from the Christian Science Monitor about millions of Polish farmers forced off their land by EU regulations -- which are actually intended to put the farmers out of business, not simply doing it as a byproduct of, say, health concerns.

Why it's the destruction of an entire way of life, far worse than anything McDonald's ever did! The Polish farming culture is being destroyed. It's silent genocide pure and simple!

So where the hell is Chomsky on this one? Oh, right. It's not Americans doing it, so it doesn't count.

JASON SOON has an interesting piece on the split between the pro-Enlightenment left and the post-Modern left. As someone who once considered himself a leftist, it's the hostility toward the Enlightenment and its values that has overtaken the left that has caused me to think of myself, and them, differently.

You'll find far more support for Enlightenment values at your average gun show than at the meeting of most left political groups or academic organizations. And no, that's not hyperbole. It's plain fact.

BEWARE PUNDITS! FOR IN YOUR PRIDE, REALIZE THAT YOU TOO MAY BECOME LIKE HELEN THOMAS, who writes that George Bush should be sympathetic to John Walker because although Walker betrayed his country and sided with the murderers of thousands, Bush had a drunk-driving arrest once.

STEVEN DEN BESTE points out this post by Ryan Boren on the heavy dependence of the weblog community on Pyra/Blogger.

He's right. On the other hand, much of the weblog community wouldn't exist without the ease, portability, and incredible cheapness of Blogger and Blog*Spot. What I like about it (besides the cheapness, I mean) is the ease of access from any computer on the Web. I post from home. I post from the office. I post from my laptop. Once, just to do it, I posted from the Comcast cablemodem kiosk at the mall.

As far as I know, no other solution lets you do that easily. For me at least, with my, er, frequent posting, that's a very big feature.

But he's right that we should have backup plans, and I do. If Blogger/Blogspot ever dies, I'll redirect the InstaPundit.Com address to my backup site, and then set up something bigger. I do keep my archives locally (note: that's as simple as saving the page -- in Explorer -- Netscape's page-save isn't as complete). Some of you folks should consider registering your blog as a domain (e.g., Samizdata.Com, if that's available) so that you can do the same.

Some perspective is also in order. Den Beste is still at the mercy of his ISP and hosting company, and of local hardware failures that I could easily avoid by simply switching to my laptop. Virginia Postrel was knocked offline for days by a lousy Iomega external drive. So every approach has its vulnerabilities.

What's more upsetting is how many eggs are in the Blogger basket. That's why I'm encouraging people to buy off ads, and if you have any connections with George Soros, or any other foundation that might support an operation like this that brings free speech to the masses, point 'em at Ev. Something very special has been created here, and I'd like to keep it going.

MICKEY KAUS brags about predicting in July that the economy would start to recover when Window XP was released on October 25 -- which looks about right, datewise. Thanks, Bill! Kaus glosses over his, ahem, less successful prediction that the 9/11 attacks would be forgotten by Thanksgiving.


TO SAVE SOUTH AFRICA, treat black people like human beings says this article. Here's what the author means:

The fundamental moral difference between a human and an animal is that the human can be blamed when he does wrong. When a dog behaves badly, we blame the human owner for not bringing it up properly. In Africa, when blacks behave badly, we blame the colonialists (or the imperialists or apartheid or globalisation or something) for not bringing them up properly. When panic-stricken policemen of the apartheid regime shot dead 69 black people at Sharpeville in 1960, the world rose up in outrage. When the minority Tutsi regime in Burundi set about the cold-blooded slaughter of more than 100,000 Hutus in 1972, there was utter silence. This is because the killers at Sharpeville were whites and so morally culpable, while in Burundi they were black and so not morally culpable. In both cases nobody cared a row of beans about the black victims.
Yes, this is the leftish double standard I was talking about below.

THE U.N.'S REPUTATION IS SO BAD even Australia is telling it to take a hike.

EUROTRASH is a blog entirely about the conversion to the Euro. They're soliciting interesting stories.


One factor you don't mention in your article on chain bookstores:

Way too many old-fashioned independent bookstores have owners or employees who allow their politics (usually left) to dictate what they sell. The nearest good bookstore to where I live carries a huge number of political and literary journals such as the New Socialist Review and others I've never heard of, but if I want a copy of Commentary, National Review, the New Criterion, or The American Spectator, I have to go to a Barnes & Noble much further away. Maybe the closer bookstore, a wonderful place in just about every other way, doesn't carry those titles because no one else but me would ever buy them -- it is in an upscale university neighborhood -- but somehow I doubt it.

Chains like B&N carry whatever sells, as determined by an unprejudiced computer. Their clerks may sneer at those who buy my favorite journals, but they still sell them. Actually, in my experience, B&N clerks don't sneer, though my taste in journals has attracted disgusted expressions, and even a few rude remarks, from clerks at independent bookstores in several states. Once or twice I've felt that they were trying to make me feel as if I were buying one of the kinkier varieties of hard-core porn. So there's something to be said for a crass pursuit of profits. It tends to protect the rights of despised minorities, like Republicans and (I suppose) fans of kinky porn.

I got a lot of letters along these lines.

THE RINGLEADERS of the group that stormed the Channel tunnel are Iraqis and an Iraqi Kurd. This is interesting. Does it mean that the group was largely Arab? The story doesn't say, but it sounds likely. Is there more going on here than just refugees looking for a better life? I'd be interested in knowing more than I've seen in press reports.

Incidentally, this story has the International Red Cross denying other reports that the IRC knew of the planned assault and didn't inform authorities.

JUDGING BY THIS COLUMN, I think that Ted Rall has father issues. And no, I'm not talking about God The Father, either. Explains a lot.

I'VE PUT MY WALL STREET JOURNAL PIECE from this morning up at "Other Writings." Click here for the link. (You may or may not need to scroll down depending on your browser).

STEVEN DEN BESTE says that I'm wrong about the Euro-ID chip destroying the anonymity of cash. But according to the story I linked to from EE Times, the ID chips in the large-denomination Euro notes can be both read and written to:

In theory, an RFID tag's ability to read and write information to a bank note could make it very difficult, for example, for kidnappers to ask for "unmarked" bills. Further, a tag would give governments and law enforcement agencies a means to literally "follow the money" in illegal transactions.

"The RFID allows money to carry its own history," by recording information about where it has been, said Paul Saffo, director of Institute for the Future (Menlo Park, Calif.).

This, it seems to me, really does destroy the anonymity of cash. It also makes tax evasion much harder, which is a big deal in Europe (even bigger than in America, I mean). The question is, while Europe can make Europeans take the Euro, it can't make others do so. And how many people outside of Europe will want money that can be tagged by European governments?

WHY ROBERT FISK CAN'T SPEAK CLEARLY, as explained by Ken Layne. Hint: from what I hear, there should still be room.

JUST A FEW WEEKS AGO, THE RED CROSS WAS BURNING SURPLUS BLOOD. Now there's a shortage. Yeah, I know, it doesn't keep that long. But still. The Red Cross's overhyping of blood drives on 9/11 was defensible, as I wrote earlier, but it makes things tougher when you issue emergency calls so soon afterward.

WE'RE ALL JESUS NOW: Reader David Cohen offers this commentary on Molly Ivins:

One especially nice tactic of those who, like Molly Ivins, have been pessimists about the war right along is to redefine what constitutes victory, so that they can later show that the war was a failure. Their only problem was that they were so pessimistic that we kept winning as fast as they could redefine.

Now Ivins seems to have stumbled across the ultimate definition, and to have outdone Stephanie Salter in one shot. Apparently, the US must now become Jesus, because we won't have won the war unless we feed the Afghan hungry, heal the Afghan sick, make the Afghan halt walk again, bring peace and justice to the Afghan government and establish the true brotherhood of man in the middle-east. If we don't accomplish all these things, you know, the war will be a failure -- just like Molly told us it would be from day one.

Just to review: Al Quaida operatives hijacked our planes, flew them into our buildings and killed our people. We told the Taliban to hand over the AQ leadership, and it refused. That's why we're in Afghanistan, not for the good of the Afghan people and the administration has done a wonderful job of keeping the Northern Alliance, the Bonn conference and the new government at arm's length.

The only problem is that the Taliban having crumbled so easily, the cost in civilian and US military lives having been so low, and the benefits for the Afghan people having been so high, it does seem churlish, in the Christmas season, not to spend a few weeks bombing Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Riyadh and Tehran.

Oh, not Tehran. They like us there.

EUROPEANS (and some europhile academics and bureaucrats) NEED TO DO SOME SOUL-SEARCHING: This piece by Victor Davis Hanson should worry European leaders. Americans are often told that we should worry about what people in Pakistan think about us. But surely Europeans should worry more about what Americans think about them.

Perhaps Le Monde and The Guardian should run introspective "Why do they hate us?" pieces. And no, I'm not kidding about this. Hostility toward America carries a price now, and Europe is in a fragile state.

UPDATE: Reader Felix Kasza writes:

As an Austrian-born person now living in Luxembourg, I fail to see the issues that you apparently perceive, at least as far as liberties in Europe are concerned. Greater Europe is certainly the most liberal Socialist Soviet Republic that ever was. Just ask the Politburo in Brussels!
Well, there you have it. But I'm going to forward the inevitable hatemail from Martin Pratt on to you, Felix.


The Ivins "third way" piece is a classic failure of high school essay writing. Pick a subject, write the intro, make some points, and ensure that your conclusion has something to do with your preceding paragraphs. Instead Ivin's subject, Dostum, gets lost in the wilderness halfway through and up pops the Palestinians in his place. Where did they come from in the middle of Afghanistan? It just couldn't get any worse. Well maybe in the Guardian....
Yeah, I noticed the same thing. But, honestly, levelling that sort of criticism at Ivins is so easy it hardly seems worth the trouble.

Nicholas von Hoffman may be famously wrong -- but at least the man can write. Ivins's chief value seems to be that she's from Texas. That wore thin back during the first Bush's presidency.

BILL CLINTON'S CAMPAIGN TO REDEEM HIS LEGACY draws this response from Ross Baker. Well, Richard Cohen is obviously in the tank, but otherwise it seems to be going nowhere.

THE SALVATION OF FLIGHT 63 IS THE LEGACY OF FLIGHT 93, according to this piece from OpinionJournal. I agree. The spirit of resistance that Flight 93 stands for is the best protection against terrorists.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL IS OBJECTING to the CIA's latest interrogation technique, according to this report.

This time, I've got to agree with them. There have to be some standards of decency and compassion.

ARABS VS. ISRAEL -- Reader Dave Dilatush writes:

On this continually-recurring topic, I note that the argument is always that it is our Mideast policy that is to blame for Arab hatred of America- specifically, that our policy is "unbalanced" in favor of Israel.

To me, the issue is simple: it is not our Mideast policy that is unbalanced; it is the Arab world's Mideast policy that is unbalanced. Agitating for the destruction of the state of Israel and for the wholesale slaughter of Jews is not balanced. I'm puzzled why the argument is not more often framed this way; are people missing the obvious?

I think there are two reasons. One is racism against Arabs: people who think, basically, that you can't expect any more from a bunch of wogs. (Many leftish academics and journalists think this way, though it's camouflaged in a lot of stuff that sounds multicultural and tolerant until you work through it). The other is racism against Jews, by people who basically agree with the Arabs. Many leftish academics and journalists -- especially in Europe -- think this way, too. And, of course, it's entirely possible and not even contradictory to hold both views at the same time.

DANIEL PIPES AND JONATHAN SCHANZER take on arguments against invading Iraq. Their big question: what consequence is worse than a nuclear-armed Saddam?

What indeed? Except maybe a smallpox-armed Saddam.

Scenarios involving dead Saddams, on the other hand, all seem fairly appealing. As for what the Arab countries think -- the main thing they think is that we appease enemies and betray friends. Let's prove them wrong.

By the way: who are our Arab friends, exactly?

DON'T GET YOUR HOPES UP, MOLLY: Molly Ivins writes wistfully about a way we could still lose in Afghanistan.

ANOTHER REASON WHY THE EURO WON'T RIVAL THE DOLLAR as a world currency: According to this article from the EE Times, the EU plans to embed Radio Frequency ID devices in large bills by 2005. This will let them spot counterfeits, but it will also make it easy to track the movement of currency -- which may well eliminate the anonymity that is a major benefit of cash. (I'll leave it to others to place this within the context of Europe's steady move toward a science-fictional police state).

But who outside Europe wants money that Europeans can trace? Which means that the dollar's niche is likely secure despite the hopes of the French.

SAMIZDATA SEXWATCH: THE HACK ATTACK caused me to miss this excellent 12/25 post by Natalija Radic. Hey, she should write for Salon, too.

PAKISTAN AND INDIA: The United States needs to -- and no doubt is trying to -- shut down this confrontation. Both of these nations are our friends, and we don't want them fighting.

But what if that fails? It seems clear that our alliance isn't really with Pakistan, much of which (especially at the ISI) is actually hostile to us. It's with Musharraf and his reformist efforts. We need to make that clear, too. If Musharraf can't control the ISI, he doesn't really control Pakistan. If he doesn't control Pakistan, then -- if the choice is between India or the ISI -- we should support India. (As an intermediate step, of course, we should consider helping Musharraf cement his control, with bayonets if necessary, though that's a risky proposition in a lot of ways).

Our (quiet, behind-the-scenes) line should be: Pakistan must be cleaned up. Preferably by Musharraf. But if not by him, then by any means necessary.

GERALDO IS A LIAR, according to a persuasive post by Joanne Jacobs.

SPEAKING OF MICKEY KAUS, he references bin Laden's latest statement about Israel as proof that U.S. relations with Israel promote terrorism.

Well, maybe. Or it could be that bin Laden, now that he's desperate, is playing the Israel card. But let's assume that Kaus is right, and that terrorism against the United States is designed to get us to drop support of Israel. It certainly doesn't follow from such a state of events that we should do so. In fact, dropping our support of Israel would simply play into the contemptuous belief held by most Arabs, that the United States betrays its friends and appeases its enemies -- and it would encourage more terrorism by people who want us to change our position in other areas.

Perhaps the proper U.S. response to each act of terror would be to send Israel a dozen H-bombs, with a photo op announcing that these are courtesy of bin Laden.

UPDATE: A reader offers this explanation for Osama's sudden prominent invocation of Israel: " My bet is that Osama has figured out that the American and European leftie press are the only constituencies he has out here, and came up with an excuse he knew they'd accept uncritically."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Damian Penny notices the suspicious similarity between bin Laden's latest and the writings of antiwar, anti-West journalists like Fisk & Pilger. That would seem to support the position of the reader just above.

SLATE SEXWATCH: Okay, the "Dear Prudence" column has never pretended to be about sex. But with an article headlined Cunnilingus in the New York Times the folks at Slate are certainly moving toward Salon-like levels of titillation. (And heck, even the article, which is actually about Pompeiian frescoes, offers more sex than Salon's lame sex column.)

EUROPE IS OFTEN HELD UP AS A MODEL FOR ANTITERROR POLICIES but this article hardly makes them look like supermen.

My own feeling is that law-enforcement, etc., though of real value, is not the most important angle. The most important defense is a good offense aimed at the countries that sponsor terrorists, or give them hiding places.

The article also, in passing, supports the Mickey Kaus welfare-promotes-terrorism theory.

MARK STEYN COMPARES ANTISEMITISM AND ANTIAMERICANISM in this amusingly biting column. It's all great, but here's my favorite passage:

This is perfectly understandable: a certain type of Englishman looks at an Arab and sees a desert version of his most cherished self-delusions. Where Jews are modern, urban and scientific, Arabs are feudal, rural and romantic. Jews wear homburgs; Arabs wear flowing robes and head-dresses. Jews are famously ‘in trade’; Arabs are just as famously hopeless at economic creativity: they have oil, but require foreigners to extract it and refine it. A backward culture that loves dressing up and places no value on professional activity will always appeal to a segment of the English elite. . . .

In the Middle East, two cultures jostle side by side: one channels its citizens’ energy into economic fulfilment, the other into pathetic victim fantasies. The sides the United States and the European Union have chosen to align themselves with say as much about themselves and their own psychological health as they do about Palestine.

And it just gets better. Don't miss it.

I HAVE A PIECE IN TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL on chain bookstores and third places. Unfortunately, it's not available online unless you're a subscriber; if you are, or if you get the Journal in its dead-tree form, it's on the editorial page. If not, I'll try to post it over in "other writings" later today.

THINGS ARE GOING INEXORABLY -- OR AT LEAST NOT VERY DAMN EXORABLY -- TO HELL in South America. Here's an interesting article on Colombia from the seemingly always-prescient Parameters. And here's another article on how the Drug War has made things worse. Forwarded by reader Tom Roberts.



INDIA VS. PAKISTAN: some military analysis here.

BTW, HERE'S THE LINK to the TechCentralStation column I mention below.

MADE IT BACK IN ONE PIECE. Lovely conversation with grandmother on way down. Lovely music from Crystal Method, Thievery Corporation, Underworld, etc. on way back up. And boy was the gas cheap!

More later.

DON'T EXPECT ANY MORE POSTINGS until late today. As I mentioned last night when Blogger finally came back on, I'll be making the roundtrip drive to Birmingham, about 500 miles, as I take my 87-year-old grandmother home. (She still drives, but not long distances). So I'll be out of touch for most of the day. I'll try to put something up tonight, but it'll be kind of late.

In the meanwhile, check out the swell folks on the left under "recommended," and -- if you just can't get enough of my blather -- my next TechCentralStation column should be up later today.

GEORGE WILL SAYS WE SHOULD LEARN FROM GEN. WILLIAM T. SHERMAN and focus on exterminating the core of our enemies. Yep. Magnanimity toward a defeated foe is fine. But it comes after the enemy is defeated, and not a moment sooner.

Also check out this lengthy and interesting piece by Gabriel Schoenfeld in OpinionJournal. Reading about all the issues makes me think that the Sherman approach has a lot to offer.

OSAMA DOESN'T LOOK SO GOOD in the photo accompanying this article on his most recent videotape release. In fact, he looks kind of like a Claymation figure. (Hmm. . . you never see him and Gumby photographed together.) Without proof of the date, I don't think it means much.

But following the Ironclad Rule of Television (people don't remember what you say, just how you look), the release of this video is not a plus for Osama. He looks bad. He doesn't look like a winner.

CORNEL WEST UPDATE: Some people wrote to say that I shouldn't be so hard on Cornel West for the typos, grammatical errors, and outrageously pompous self-congratulation on his website, since it appears to have been done by somebody else. Well, maybe. But it's under his name, and it's been up for months without the typos being fixed. Meanwhile he's been touring around the country giving rap performances (no, really). Sorry, but you're responsible for what goes out under your name. I found those typos in about 90 seconds. He could have done the same. That he didn't suggests that he simply doesn't care, or that he feels he's above that sort of thing, or that he can't tell the difference. (Ordinarily I'd discount the last possibility, but since his colleague Alan Dershowitz thinks Lingua Franca is a French magazine I guess anything's possible at Harvard). Whatever the reason, it's his responsibility, and he looks bad.

SHOEBOMBER UPDATE: Here's a more complete story of what happened. The passengers deserve a medal. As I said before, now that passengers are the main line of defense against terrorists, you'd think that the airlines would show more gratitude. Maybe the passengers should file a salvage claim against the airline!

Meanwhile French security officials are responding defensively and trying to shift some of the blame to the airlines. I have the solution, however: French security screeners should all be made employees of the United States government, thus ensuring their professionalism!


BLOGGER IS BACK! Unfortunately, it's time for me to go to bed now. I'm driving my 87-year-old grandmother home tomorrow, so I won't be around much then, either; maybe something early or late, but there'll be a 500-mile round trip in between.

In the meantime, go to Virginia Postrel's site, and see the item in which Alan Dershowitz reveals that he thinks Lingua Franca is a French magazine. Then go visit Cornel West's website and note all the grammatical and spelling errors, something I pointed out earlier. Then reflect that both of these men are Harvard professors -- and, in fact, regarded as faculty "stars."

I think that Harvard President Larry Summers has a lot of housecleaning to do.

You should also note that Rand Simberg's post on the wounded media is terrific -- several people have suggested that it should be named the Best Blog Post of 2001, and I think they're right.

See you later!

I JUST RAN ACROSS THIS COOL COLUMN BY MATT WELCH on conformity, dissent, and aesthetics. Since Matt is currently partying it up -- er, doing journalistic research -- in Europe, it's worth checking out.

THIS STORY ON MILITARY TRIBUNALS is interesting, but here's the throwaway line that explains the whole problem, and the reason why criticisms aren't gathering much political force within the United States:

The administration's supporters say that no matter what rules the United States adopts in deciding how to try terrorists and their allies, the niceties of international law would be unlikely to limit abusive treatment of any Americans captured by some enemy nations.
Does anyone doubt that this is true?

Personally, I think that there's a good reason to have the reputation for treating prisoners well: it encourages people to surrender. (Even among the Nazis, many fathers advised their sons to surrender to the first Americans they saw).

But it's hard to sell a non-reciprocal policy to the public. That's true in trade, and it's especially true with international law. The American public's perception of international law is increasingly that it's a bunch of one-sided rules set up by people who don't like the United States, in order to hobble the United States.

Professors of international law have all too often acted in ways that support this perception. Perhaps some of them should begin looking at how international law can be enforced in ways that make it more appealing to the American public. International law is not a brooding omnipresence in the sky, after all: it is ultimately no more than what powerful nations can be persuaded is in their interest. Too many people who think they support international law instead seem to be doing their best to make it unappealing to the very nations (well, nation, really) whose support is essential if it is to flourish.

These people are quick to talk about limits and political realities when nations like Iraq are under discussion. They should realize that there are limits, and political realities, where the United States is concerned, too. And those matter much, much more.

REFUGEES IN THE CHANNEL TUNNEL have been a big issue for quite some time, as this old InstaPundit post illustrates. But France has now been forced to shut down access entirely to block a mass-migration attempt by hundreds of refugees headed for Britain.

Question: why are these people so anxious to get out of France, and into Britain?

ANDREW SULLIVAN WAS RIGHT ABOUT FIFTH COLUMNS, says this OpinionJournal piece by Farrukh Dhondy. Dhondy says multiculturalism is to blame, by not stressing loyalty to country and by encouraging people to maintain their own "identity" rather than assimilate.

I think that assimilative pressures are going to go up over the next several years, and I don't think that's a bad thing. It's odd that the same people who oppose encouraging immigrants to assimilate to our culture would consider it racist for Americans to move elsewhere and refuse to adapt to the local culture.

SAMIZDATA has a couple of posts on the Blogger hack attacks. Perry de Havilland says hackers should be treated like horse thieves. (At last, a place where Perry agrees with Ashcroft). And Dale Amon explains the difference between ethical and unethical hacking.

THOUSANDS HAVE BEEN LOCKED OUT by having their password changed. So if you're a Blogger user and can't get in, use the "mail my password" feature.


MORE ON THE SHOE-BOMB TERRORIST: Here's what The Times is reporting:

THE man accused of smuggling bombs concealed in his shoes onto an American aircraft is a small-time British criminal who converted to Islam behind bars.

A possible link to Osama bin Laden emerged when The Times discovered that the alleged bomber, Richard Reid, 28, who was identified by British police from fingerprints sent by the FBI, was a worshipper at a London mosque also attended by one of the suspected conspirators of September 11.

The leader of Brixton Mosque in South London said that Mr Reid was incapable of acting alone and was probably on a test mission for a new terrorist technique when he apparently tried to detonate C4 plastic explosive packed into his shoes on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami last Saturday.

Note to the testers: this didn't work.

AS YOU CAN SEE BELOW, somebody hacked into Blogger. My firewall shows no intrusion, and my resident expert says that the breakin happened at Blogger. I sent an email to Ev to let him know there's a security problem. If you're a Blogger user, you may want to change your password, though I don't know whether that will help or not.

Note to the hacker: if Ashcroft had his way, what you just did would be prosecutable as terrorism and carry a 20-years-to-life sentence. I opposed that, and it didn't pass. Merry Christmas.

UPDATE: Other people appear to have been attacked, too; the Samizdata folks are locked out. That's not cool.

Hi. You have been successfully hacked. Bye. Merry Christmas. I could have been more evil you know...!

ANDREW SULLIVAN takes on the antisemitism of the European elites in a great Sunday Times column.

I actually find antisemitism useful. Show me an antisemite, and I'll show you someone who is against progress, freedom, and most other worthwhile things -- and who may be able to cover the other stuff up but who can't hide his/her hatred of the Jews. It's a useful marker for people who are highly likely to be across-the-board idiots or evildoers.

MERRY CHRISTMAS: Joanne Jacobs reports that the peace movement is fizzling, even in the Bay area, and that Osama bin Laden is lampooned as a fake and a fool on the Jordanian stage.

SALON sexwatch update. No sex in the sex advice column. In fact, no sex advice column today. That's actually an improvement.

CRONY WATCH! This is a great feature name, and Josh Marshall has a good example.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has still more about SUVs, with some insight into an aircraft-like model for regulating vehicles.

CHRISTMAS AT THE REYNOLDS HOUSE is an ongoing thing as a result of our various blended families. Last night was part one, with my father and (now divorced, but still friendly) stepmother. This morning we'll go to my wife's family's, then to my sister's this evening.

Sometimes we have everyone together in one place, and it goes fine; it's quite amazing how well former ex-wives of the same people, etc., get along. And, happily, my wife's family and my family get along very well in general. We like it.

Must go. There's a Mary Kate and Ashley something-or-other that needs parental assistance in assembly.

SUVS! SUVS! I've gotten so much email about SUV loving and hating that I can't even digest it all. I also got some emails about my wife's Mercedes coupe.

It's the cheap one: the C230 Kompressor sports coupe. It's only a couple of grand more than a loaded Toyota Celica, and it's a great car -- blessed with scads of power, ingot-like solidity, and a quickness in the steering that Mercedes is, ahem, not known for. If I were Toyota, I'd be worried. Did I mention it's (relatively) cheap?

The only thing saving Toyota is that you can't buy 'em. Well, you can -- but my wife ordered hers in August, and it didn't arrive until early December.


There was a lot of talk (weeks ago) about suspending the bombing in Afghanistan for Ramadan, to show how sensitive we are to other cultures. I haven't seen any commentators suggest halting military operations for Christmas, which would show how sensitive we are to, um, our own culture? Seems to me that this is just another sign of the disconnect between American culture and our intelligentisia.
Sensitivity to one's own culture is insensitivity to others, while sensitivity to other cultures is -- oh, hell, never mind. It's Christmas.

KEN LAYNE got a new laptop for Christmas, in spite of what he calls his "shameful lack of income." Hey, if Santa was good to you , visit his site and put something in the tip jar!

Layne also notes that bloggers are still producing interesting stuff while a certain (*cough* Salon! *cough*) $74 milllion website slumbers. Ayup.

MEDIA CASUALTIES: Rand Simberg drops in on the media's casualties of war to see how they're recovering from their wounds. Not a pretty picture.

RICHARD COHEN delivers a smoldering bag of poop to the nation's front door this Christmas. He begins with a straightforward description of how Clinton dropped the ball on terrorism in general, and bin Laden in particular, because he was preoccupied with the Lewinsky scandals. But then, at the end, he says this preoccupation was all the fault of . . . the Republicans!

Yeah, it couldn't be Clinton's fault for not keeping his pants zipped. I'd stomp on this one more, but, well, you know.


MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, and to all a good night.

SUV UPDATES: Reader Ed Bush asks about the Passat wagon. Yeah, it's really that great. And one of my lawyer friends -- who's a partner at a big firm now and makes several times as much as I do -- has one and loves it, too. He says it compares well to his Mercedes station wagon (I think it's an E320), which he says is better, but nowhere near twice as good for more than twice the money. (I've driven the Mercedes and I disagree -- I think the driving is trucklike, while the Passat is sportscarlike. And the seats in every Mercedes except my wife's coupe hurt my back.) Another reader has this observation:

Re the SUV question, when I needed to buy a car a year ago I thought about what I needed it to do. If it weren't for driveability, I would've gotten an Explorer or the like. But my commute was [ :-( ] on twisty roads in the hills, so I got a Subaru Forester. All-wheel drive, SUV-like cargo capacity, sporty handling, great ground clearance -- and it doesn't block everyone else's line of sight.
Reader Janis Gore, on the other hand, takes exception and says she loves her cloth-seat Chevy Tahoe for lengthy drives in the Louisiana outback. And reader Martin Morehouse reports that:
I own a big Bronco, which most would call an SUV. I call it a truck. It drives like a truck, carries more people than my old Toyota pickup, and hauls junk to the dump for me, so it must be a truck. It has rubber floor mats and steel doors. People who call them SUV's delude themselves =
that fancy upholstery and a stereo system on a 4x4 chassis will make them masters of both the highway and the wilderness. I don't think my Bronco had ever been off the road until I bought it.
Reader Randall Parker, meanwhile, offers this economic analysis:
1) Parked on the street near stop streets they make it harder for people at stop streets to see if any cars are coming.

2) They decrease the view ahead of people who are following them on a highway or other road.

3) In an accident with an SUV people in other vehicles fare much worse than they would with regular cars. Only the largest SUVs make the SUV occupants safer. With the smaller ones the increased chance of rolling makes them more dangerous. The bigger SUVs can roll too but in accidents where they don't roll the occupants do better than they would otherwise.

The way I see it is that SUVs fit the classical definition an activity or product that generates costs that are not born by their owners. So it is logical for free marketeers to oppose them. You should not defend them just because the lefties hate them.

Well, I wasn't exactly defending them. I just want to know why people hate them.

Minivans, for example, block vision as effectively as SUVs, but no one seems to complain about that. Big pickups park and handle as badly. And idiot drivers, sadly, abound in all vehicles. But there seems to be something about SUVs that transcends the specifics.

EUROPE IS MERELY A GEOGRAPHICAL EXPRESSION, Jim Bennett writes, and the Euro-alchemists are busy turning gold into lead.

MORE ON KWANZAA: A reader forwards this column by Tony Snow on the origins of Kwanzaa. Hallmarkcardia, apparently, would be an improvement, and nearly as authentic, at least to judge by this piece. This much shorter item by Cecil Adams confirms Snow's story.

ANTHRAX FROM SAUDI ARABIA? That's what Edward Jay Epstein says. I would have discounted this a couple of months ago, but evidence of Saudi perfidy -- and the Bush administration's willingness to cover up same -- is making me listen with an open mind.

Which in itself should be a worrisome thing for both Saudis and the Administration.

REMEMBER THE HORRIBLE "AFGHAN WINTER?" Looks like it's a bigger problem for them than for us.

But it's really dreadful. It's comparable to the winters in Interstate-10-straddling New Mexico! How will our troops survive?

TONY ADRAGNA has an interview with Santa on his "From Left Field" site.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has picked up on the SUV discussion. She also thanks everyone for the Xmas tip-jar deposits, which reminds me that I should do the same. Thanks! And Merry Christmas (or insert other politically correct sentiments if desired).

My house, like Michael Kelly's, celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah. We don't do Kwanzaa, for the reasons given by Uthant.Com. There are Africans in my extended family, but they don't celebrate Kwanzaa either, and indeed have never heard of it until coming to America, which seems confirm my theory that Kwanzaa probably originated in the quaint African country of Hallmarkcardia.

Of course, it may be a holiday somewhere in Africa, which is a unified place culturally only in the minds of people who don't know much about Africa. It's huge, it's diverse, and Africans don't talk much about "African customs" unless they're doing so for non-African ears. Most "Africanism" in America is the equivalent of mixing bagpipes, wooden shoes, a dirndl and a viking helmet and calling it a "traditional European costume."

But hey, all this stuff is made up -- I mean, it's not like the Christmas Tree has anything to do with Christ or anything, and modern Jewish ritual, even among the Orthodox, would be unrecognizable to the old Priests of the Temple -- so whatever your holiday, enjoy it.

HEY, the Pentagon/Public Schools T-Shirts, etc., are selling surprisingly well -- I just checked the sales report page. Too bad I don't make any money off them. Oh, well: wear 'em with pride.

POST-HIJACKING THOUGHTS: "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." - George Orwell

But we are all of us "rough men," now.

SUV THOUGHT EXPERIMENT RESULTS: Reader Luke Pingel's reply seems to sum up a lot of responses that I got:

YES. I would still hate SUVs, no matter the mileage. Unlike the eco-freaks, I don't care what kind of mileage SUVs get. My reasons for hating them are twofold:

1. I used to own one. Even though it was top-of-the-line Toyota 4-door 4-Runner, it was slow, unwieldy, and positively the worst handling automobile I've ever driven. I love driving, but this thing made even the easiest drive dreadful. Unless I lived in Montana, I would never buy another one...and probably not even then. I'd buy an F-350 Supercrew truck and get an AWD Mercedes wagon. No sense having one Franken-car that's good at nothing, when you can have two cars that excel at their appointed tasks.

2. SUVs make bad drivers worse. I'm a racing cyclist, which means I spend a lot of time on my bike on nice back-country roads in VA. I know from first hand, up-close experience that SUVs make people terrible drivers. They give otherwise poor drivers a false sense of safety....bordering on invincibility. Which, in turn, encourages these folks to: (a) drive like assholes, (b) ignore common road courtesies, (c) almost always tailgate regular cars (because they can see over them), and (d) drive so close to other cars that even with the "improved visibility" they could never hope to stop in time to avoid an accident. Even when the inevitable happens, and an SUV driver has to take evasive action, the SUV's exceedingly (and I might add, enormously under-reported) poor handling makes them not only susceptible to tipping, but enormously dangerous and unpredictable for other drivers.

As a car driver, you cannot see around an SUV, making traffic more dangerous for everyone. Then, when you leave a safe gap between your car and the SUV in front of you, some other person in an SUV inevitably drives right into the opening - see #2.

Even as a cyclist, I rarely have trouble with automobiles, but when I do, it's almost always with SUV drivers. Not cars, not trucks, SUVs. Bottles thrown at me, drivers intentionally swerving at me, middle fingers, cursing, yelling, drivers exiting vehicles to name it, I get it all from SUV tell me why that is...

And finally, SUVs are useless for doing things better suited for a real truck and a total pain in the ass for doing jobs a wagon or sedan would handle with aplomb. Try hauling anything dirty with an SUV. What do you get? Your luxury "car" gets trashed and dirty. Dog hair flies around in the cabin, dirt gets everywhere and you get a mess. If you had a truck with a cab your mess would stay in the back out of the cabin. Even dog hair stays out of the passenger area! Try loading groceries in an SUV: You either put the groceries in the mess your dog just made in the back of the SUV or in the back seat. In the "back" you have to either lift the entire back gate, which is heavy, or you have to open just the glass and lift your groceries over the rear gate, which sucks for short folks and women (generally.) Your other option is to stick them on the back seats where your groceries roll around all over the place. Instead, you could just put them in the trunk of your sedan/wagon, where they stay in the bags and don't get all messy. Simple.

Oh, one more thing, please notice that, even though I don't prefer minivans, at least they are good at what they are built for - moving people around. In fact, I'd even consider buying a Honda Odyssey... I never mentioned any eco-concerns or other fashionable reasons to hate SUVs. I dislike SUVs because they're terrible as cars, worse as trucks, and encourage already poor drivers to become worse drivers.
Well, that's a cogent argument, and it pretty much explains why I don't own an SUV. When I bought my current car, I test-drove a bunch of SUVs. My theory (and a reasonable one it was) was that most people who live like me seem to have 'em, so maybe they know something. But I didn't like any of them. I drove my VW Passat wagon (which rocks) right before I drove a $50,000 Mercedes M-Class sportute and there was no comparison: the VW was twice the car for half the money, and with more cargo capacity to boot. (It also has a sound system that's nearly as good as the monitor system in my recording studio, and it handles nearly as well as the racy sport coupe it replaced.)

On the other hand, this doesn't make me hate SUVs with the politically correct passion. It just makes me feel sorry for the people who drive them, kind of like I'd feel sorry for a guy wearing a leisure suit. I notice that most of my SUV-owning friends have switched back to a car with their next purchase. Their complaint: "It drove and handled like a truck, and it was hard to park." Well, yeah.

UPDATE: A reader notes, "If Cadillac's finally out with an SUV, the craze has finally peaked."

TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL (sorry, no link) has a wonderful story -- on the front page, no less! -- on commentators who got it wrong. Regular InstaPundit readers will recognize a lot of stars from the "Dropped Ball Awards," which is not exactly a coincidence, as I spoke to the reporter who compiled it. (I think, though, that he was originally inspired by Andrew Sullivan). But he's gone farther to find even more examples of getting it wrong.

I'm just delighted to see this get so much play. I hope that people will save copies and mail them to the folks in question the next time they take such a negative position on American undertakings.

Ken Layne had it right: this is the Internet, and "we can fact-check your ass!"

UPDATE: I just read the story a second time and what's even funnier are all the excuses the commentators offer. Maureen Dowd -- through a spokesman -- claims credit for the victory, saying that her negative columns encouraged the Administration to bomb more. (Hmm. This supports InstaPundit's "Dowd is a Bush-Administration shill" theory, really). But most of the commentators, especially Nicholas von Hoffman and Daniel Schorr, now freely admit that they didn't know the foggiest thing about Afghanistan when they issued their predictions. Of course, they didn't admit that at the time, or allow it to detract from their tone of preternatural certainty. But I'll certainly keep this in mind the next time they opine on, well, anything.

And I'm willing to play by the same rules: here's the link to what I posted the week of 9/11, or you can check any other week by clicking on "Archives" in the upper left. Yeah, there's some stuff I got wrong, but I don't think I'm in their league. And I won't claim that my mistakes won us the war, either.

BIN LADEN IN KASHMIR? Maybe. If so, he's playing into our hands, as it gives us an excuse to clean out a bunch of eminently cleanoutable types, and even Pakistan won't be in much of a position to complain.

DIRTY BOMBS: Physicist Russell Leslie, who spends his days working on nuclear safeguards, says that if it was really Uranium 238 in those tunnels, then Osama got scammed. (I wondered about this, but it's been a sufficiently long time since I studied this stuff that I couldn't remember just how radioactive U-238 was, beyond knowing that it's nonfissionable). Here's what he says:

While Al Qaeda would be be able to frighten the credulous media morons by blowing up a quantity of U-238 it wouldn't make it as a "dirty" radiological weapon. It would cause very little harm. U-238 is as close to being non-radioactive as it is possible for a radioactive substance to be. It is actually more of a chemical hazard than a radiation hazard (it wrecks your kidneys like most heavy metals).

Con-men really do sell depleted uranium (which is what U-238 is also called) to terrorist wanna-bees - in
Vietnam there is a thriving market in the depleted uranium counterweights from the wings of old downed US planes. If Al Qaeda bought something like that they wasted a lot of money. They would need something like Cs-137 or Co-60 to make an actually effective radiological weapon (both of which are more than a 100 million times more radioactive than U-238). Unless you see that Al Qaeda has something like this you don't have to worry.

Tee hee. Radiological scam artists -- freedom's first line of defense!

STEPHANIE SALTER WAS CHANNELING JESUS, and I was going to write something about it, but the holiday season afflicted me with too much charity and cheerfulness to give her the sound Fisking that she so richly deserved. Fortunately, James Lileks -- afflicted with a cold and Minneapolis weather -- was able to muster the proper spirit.

As Lileks says, the real problem with Stephanie Salter, and a whole long list of columnists like her, isn't that they're antiwar. It's that they're so absolutely, unrelievedly, stone-cold dumb. I'm going to excerpt a bit, but don't let that stop you from reading the whole thing -- this is just an appetizer:

Salter’s message is quite clear: when the guy in the seat next to you starts lighting his sneakers, whistle a happy Psalm. Tell him you love him. Seek peace, and as you hurtle down into the cold cold ocean, wrap yourself in your heavy Gandhi cloak for warmth. The cycle of violence has been stopped!

Granted, two hundred people are dead. But at least they didn’t die angry. Fighting makes baby Jesus cry.

Bravo. Lileks' column is the best argument yet for the common cold.

READER TIM HENDERSON forwards this link to a story about the FAA's instituting "random shoe checks" in response to the latest terrorist attempt. Henderson adds: "I can only hope that a terrorist never tries to blow up a plane using some C4 hidden up his ass."


THIS POST BY WILL WILKINSON IS too good to excerpt. Just read it.

WHY A NATIONAL ID CARD IS WORTHLESS: This story, forwarded by reader Paul Music, explains how easy it is to get a certified copy of someone else's birth certificate, which can then be used to get other ID.

Garbage In, Garbage Out. A "National ID Card," regardless of how secure it is against forgery, is only as good as the documents used to get it. Those are worthless, so it will be too.

Worthless, that is, except to would-be war profiteers like Larry Ellison.

"DIRTY BOMB" ALERT: More evidence of efforts to produce a "dirty bomb" (a conventional explosive that scatters radioactive material) by Al Qaeda is found in this report of uranium-238 and cyanide found in drums at an Al Qaeda base in Afghanistan.

A TIP FOR TONY: A reader suggests that the Brits might want to send some extra Harriers to the Falklands about now. The new government in Argentina appears to be enacting more dumb economic policies and will probably need some sort of a distraction to keep people from realizing they've been had -- again.

Argentina is living proof that there is no country so lovely or well-endowed that an idiotic political class can't ruin it.

MOIRA BREEN says that the secret to American success in the world isn't going to be humility, but arrogance. American "niceness," she says, is not understood, or responded to in kind. Hmm. Where's Alice "No More Mr. Nice Guy" Cooper when you need him?

SCHUMER ADMITS ASHCROFT IS RIGHT: Last week, Dave Kopel and I explained why Ashcroft is right and Schumer is wrong about the legality of using gun-check records to find out if terrorists bought guns. Now, in a tacit admission that this is the case, Sen. Charles Schumer has introduced a bill to change the law to permit this. But Brock Meeks says that Schumer is a power-hungry idiot in this take-no-prisoners oped.

I’m not a gun owner, though I grew up with guns and hunted often with my father. My personal preference is for stricter gun control laws and that’s me in the corner raising my hand when asked “who would like to see an end to sales at gun shows?” That said, Schumer’s proposed bill, dubbed “Use NICS in Terrorist Investigations Act” (S. 1788) is bad on principle and despicable in its genesis: a hysterical atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and doubt, better known in the cyber world as FUD.

FUD is a kind of mind-fog; it clutters the debate with scare tactics and hyperbolic scenarios. FUD is found daily on Capitol Hill and has been in abundant supply during any congressional hearing on computer crime.

The National Instant Check System (NICS) is used to check the background of persons wanting to purchase a firearm. The names and information input into NICS are supposed to be temporary, the law creating the NICS says to “destroy all records… relating to the person or the transfer” as it relates to the sale of a gun by a licensed dealer.

But Schumer’s bill would mandate the permanent data warehousing of that information and make it available to every law enforcement official in the country, down to the local sheriff in some rural municipality.

When the NRA says such a proposal is a not so subtle attempt to create “gun owner registration, plain and simple” it’s right.

Yep. There's a lot of war opportunism going on. This is the latest effort to recycle the (bogus) claims of gun-control groups about terrorists and gun shows into the same legislation that gun-control groups were trying to get before September 11. They should be ashamed. But they're way past that.

PUNDITWATCH IS UP, with Will Vehrs' usual sharp insights. I'll just add one insight of mine: When George Stephanopoulos was cross-examining the editor of Time about Time's decision not to choose Osama bin Laden as its "Person of the Year," the response should have been "George, you sound like you're on retainer for the guy." He did.

The elephant in the living room, though, was George W. Bush. If you're not going to pick Osama, why pick Giuliani -- a great wartime leader for NYC -- over Bush, whom even Gore supporters are on record as calling a great wartime leader for the United States? Nobody, not even Stephanopoulos, asked that question.

UPDATE: Oh, nobody asked that question because I'm an idiot! Bush got it last year. Duh.

THE IRREPRESSIBLE NATALIJA RADIC has some advice for Maureen Dowd about Prada, and life in general, over on Samizdata. There is no happiness like that snatched in the shadow of the sword.

JUST READ THE DECEMBER ISSUE OF EBONY, which had the section where black leaders talk about 9/11. Marian Wright Edelman and Hugh Price served up appropriate sentiments. But Jesse Jackson opened by talking about the segregated army of World War Two. He then segued to the present (an anti-Confederate Flag harangue) with something like this: "But as our soldiers struggle with two armies under one flag. . ." (this is from memory, but I think it's right -- and I'm sure about the present tense of "struggle"). So Jackson makes it sound as if we still have the segregated army of World War Two, completely ignoring that today's military is, in fact, the most successfully integrated body in American society.

Like Bill Clinton, Jackson has had a hard time finding the right tone since 9/11.

CORNEL WEST IS THREATENING TO LEAVE HARVARD in a dispute with new President Larry Summers. Now, having already -- like Summers -- panned Cornel West's rap album, I'm probably not an unbiased observer. But my recommendation to Summers is: let him go. He's a poser whose self-indulgent posturing is a detriment to African-American studies, and to any form of serious academia. He also can't spell Nietzsche, or make subjects and verbs agree, or spell "preservation" properly (I can't even tell if he's trying for "preservation" or "perseverance") -- just give his website a look.

We're not talking occasional typos here. We're talking marginal literacy, at least for someone who claims -- as he does on his website -- to be "one of the most preeminent minds of our time." It's certainly nothing that reflects well on the writing standards of Harvard professors. I don't think Richard Marius would have approved.

As for Summers, any University president who's willing to call stupid ideas "stupid," and to dis Cornel's lame rap CD, is okay by me.

MARK STEYN has a very nice Christmas column, on Irving Berlin of all people. But it works. It works very well.


The result is that while passengers are waiting in longer lines and National Guardsmen are patrolling airports with automatic weapons, "nothing has changed" in the quality of airport security, said Isaac Yeffet, the former head of security for Israel's El Al airline, which is widely considered the most secure carrier in the world.
Well, duh. But the El Al analogy is a false one: El Al is a tiny airline with hardly any passengers, flying on a few routes. Plus, its passengers are unusually willing to put up with crap. It can't serve as a model for big airlines, much less the whole national air transport system.

Airport security is a joke because it has to be a joke. When you play defense, across a huge front, you'll always be spread too thin and your staff will tend to lack vigilance because of the high likelihood that they'll never encounter a genuine threat in their entire careers.

The best defense is a good offense. The best airline security technique is to vigorously pursue terrorists, and to destroy national governments that back them. (See Eliot Cohen, below). And, as we've seen, for passengers to beat the crap out of them if they manage to get on a plane.

INVADE IRAQ? Eliot Cohen says it should be easy: Iraq's weaker, and we're stronger.

TIM BLAIR EXPLAINS why Christmas is a bit cheerier, uh, Down Under.


Not only was this latest guy foiled by passengers, but according to the news reports I'm hearing, he was repeatedly sedated by doctors on board. Raising any number of questions, such as: do MDs routinely carry IV sedatives with them? (Is it a French/South Floridian thing?) How did the *doctors* get on board with hypo needles? And are PhDs given a similar allowance for potentially deadly work-related equipment? I've got some glass pipettes lying around that would make good eye-poking tools...
Yes, and as a lawyer the tools of my trade are, well, deadly dull.

But actually, the story I link to below says that the doctors used the plane's onboard medical kit, which contains such things, to sedate him. I kind of like the idea of accountants throwing calculators, models wielding stiletto heels, and so on, though.

TURNING ON THEIR OWN: No, not John Walker and Noam Chomsky. This is serious. Maureen Dowd is dissing Prada!

BERNADINE HEALY'S experience at the Red Cross gets the full-length treatment in the New York Times Magazine.

My prediction: the smart and competent Healy will be scapegoated, in preference to the Board facing up to the deep and serious problems that the Red Cross has. This will be doubly true since some (including some on the Board) are likely to fear that opening up the book on the Red Cross's problems might hurt former Red Cross head Liddy Dole's political career. There's already a hint of that in the story. Watch for more.

SO, RUDY GIULIANI IS TIME'S Person of the Year. That's a lot better than the rumored choice of Osama bin Laden. I still would have gone for the passengers of United Flight 93, who set an example that foiled a terrorist just yesterday. But I won't kick about Rudy being chosen.

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