JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES, according to this item, doesn't deserve some of the blame he's gotten for big-government policies:

Skidelsky has another surprise in store for those who think of Keynes as the patron saint of big government. Keynes's ''How to Pay for the War'' was a blueprint specifically designed to preserve personal freedom and prevent Britain from being turned into a centrally planned ''slave'' state. Shown a rationing plan, he said sarcastically, ''The policy of fixed prices plus having nothing in the shops to buy -- an expedient pursued for many years by the Russian authorities -- is undoubtedly one of the very best ways of preventing inflation!'' Though some of his ideas were adopted, his proposal to rely oncompulsory savings (to be paid back after the war), in lieu of confiscatory taxes, price controls and rationing, was ultimately defeated by the Labor Party, which saw wartime controls as the first, desirable step toward socialism after the war.
So Britain's economic problems didn't come from Keynes, but from not listening to Keynes. Interesting stuff.

UNHEEDED WARNINGS LEADING TO MAJOR DISASTERS: John Tierney says there's a double standard, with the government foulups and coverups that led to September 11 barely even being investigated -- even though thousands died -- while Enron's foulups and coverups have already got people calling for criminal prosecutions. Tierney's lesson:

"If you're going to make that kind of mistake, do it on government time."

JAMES LILEKS has this thought on Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn:

We’re always told what a repressive country this is, but if America had been one tenth as bad as Dorhn and Ayers thought it was, they’d be bones in a Virginia forest by now.
Shouting "come see the violence inherent in the system!" no doubt.

STEVEN DEN BESTE has some sharp observations on why Americans and Europeans see things differently. Excerpt:

Mathew Parris, in the London Times, writes:
We seek to project the message that there are rules to which all nations are subject. America has a simpler message: kill Americans, and you're dead meat.
By George, I think he's got it!
Den Beste's historical analysis, which boils down to U.S. disgust with Europeans' inability to manage their own affairs since 1914, seems to me to be spot-on -- both as an explanation for American attitudes, and for the chip Europeans carry on their shoulders.

UPDATE: Perry de Havilland doesn't think much of this analysis, and says so. Hey -- I thought bloggers always agreed with each other!

NICK GILLESPIE has some cogent remarks on Leon Kass's taste in literature. Let me add one more.

The Hawthorne stories that Kass favors all involve science that doesn't work. That is, it doesn't deliver on its inventors' promises.

But Kass's big fear is science that does work. He's not against cloning that fails. He's against cloning that succeeds.

JIM GLASSMAN SAYS Enron shareholder losses were partly the shareholders' fault. I've gotten a lot of email from accountant-type readers making more or less the same point. I was going to post something on it, but now I don't have to. Just read this piece.

ONE MORE THING ON PLAGIARISM, ETC.: Okay, here are the historians in trouble this year:

Joe Ellis, for lying to his classes about Vietnam experience. No problems with his published scholarship. Punishment: severe.

Michael Bellesiles: Charged with fabricating research crucial to his award-winning book's thesis. Punishment: None, so far. Also, has gotten less media attention than Ellis, above, or Ambrose and Goodwin, below.

Stephen Ambrose: Charged with repeating short passages, with attribution but without indicating they are quotes. Punishment: Moderate -- national media assault.

Doris Kearns Goodwin: Basically, same as Ambrose. Punishment: Mild, so far, but too early to tell.

Interestingly, only one of these historians, Bellesiles, has been charged with anything that actually goes to the validity of his or her scholarship. To be fair, Emory is apparently going to look into this. It's (barely) conceivable that Bellesiles will somehow be vindicated, and it's possible that in the end he will be punished more severely than any of the others. But certainly if you look at it in terms of media attention, the worst offense has gotten the least attention.

KEVIN DEENIHAN says that he was not joking when he promised racy pix of Daily Cal sex columnist Rachael Klein: he says she appeared topless in the October, 1999 issue of Playboy.

Somebody get Ms. Klein an agent -- she can write, and she's posed topless in Playboy. I foresee a book contract by May!

Er, and Kevin, I wouldn't post any Playboy pix on your site. You'll probably hear from their lawyers if you do. Or Rachael's.

COLBERT KING takes another whack at gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia, a country perhaps soon to be known simply as "Arabia," to judge from its declining PR fortunes in the United States.


Did you notice that the NY Times' Jan. 18, 2002 article "2 Jews Outlast Taliban. Maybe Not Each Other" follows in the footsteps of a December 9, 2001 article by AP author Laura King entitled "For Kabul's Only Two Jews, Hanukkah is Poignant and Solitary," but without any attribution to Ms. King? Has the NY TImes, the Old Gray Lady, pulled an Ambrose? As a great man once said, "I report, you decide."
Well, I wouldn't call this plagiarism. It's more like what Mickey Kaus calls a clean steal. Only the idea is the same -- not the words!

This does, however, illustrate why I think that focusing only on whether the words are the same is somewhat dubious.

UPDATE: It's worse than I thought! Reader James Taranto informs me of this story on Kabul's two jews who hate each other from back in August.

Originality, it seems, is hard to come by.

TALK MAGAZINE IS CLOSING DOWN, and Tina Brown blames terrorism. Well, 9/11 didn't help, but I don't think that was really the problem with Talk. I think that it just wasn't very good. But I don't care about this as much as some people, like the Dancing-on-Talk's-grave Mickey Kaus. Kaus can't resist noting that Kausfiles is still viable, and I'm sure lots of bloggers will chime in. Heck, some of us are actually profitable.

I don't think that means that big media will die at the hands of bloggers. I think that Perry de Havilland is right when he says that bloggers are the birds on the back of the hippopotamus of Big Media. Not parasites, but symbiotes. While bloggers sometimes provide first-rate reporting (e.g., Jeff Jarvis's posts on being there at the WTC on 9/11), most of what blogging is about is commentary: pointing out the questions not asked, the slant, the correlation with other stories, etc. That's not a substitute for reporting (though, sadly, Big Media seem less interested in doing that anyway). But it may make it better.

Hey, maybe Talk might have become viable if Tina Brown had put it out for public comments. Oh, who am I kidding?

A READER SAYS that he's figured out why they hate us.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has some elaboration on Paul Krugman's problems. I think she's right. The New York Times takes a simpleminded follow-the-money approach to conflicts of interest (that old appearance-of-impropriety thing) and Krugman looks to be square in the bullseye on this one -- made worse by the pro-Enron column Andrew Sullivan has unearthed.

Should Krugman be fired for this? I don't know. I think they should have fired him a year ago for being a bad columnist.

UPDATE: Reader Andy Freeman writes:

The popular "follow the money" standard isn't just an "appearance of inpropriety" failure. It's also a failure because its adherents often/frequently/usually don't acknowledge other reasons for bias.

One might be able to make the argument that "follow the money" is a tactic for people who believe that money is the root of all evil. (If money is the root of all evil, then there's no reason to look elsewhere or wonder if there are other motives.)


UH-OH. Now it's Doris Kearns Goodwin who's in trouble.

See you tomorrow.

DON'T BLAME BLOGGER, or terrorists, for a shortage of posts. We're going on an overnight, and I'll be away from the computer. I may log on remotely, or I may not.

THE BRUTAL AFGHAN WINTER IS OVER, writes reader Kevin Mickey, at least according to the New York Times. (Scroll to the end of the story).

ONE-MAN WEBSITE SCOOPS MAJOR PAPER. Surprised? I'm not. (Via Jim Romenesko).

JONAH GOLDBERG takes on postmodernism, racial politics, and disdain of mere "factual correctness." And although he's so self-effacing that he buries the reference, keen-eyed readers will note that the San Francisco Chronicle has picked up his syndicated column.

Hmm. See the Kinsley/Poe point below. This is starting to look like a trend.

THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY ONLINE has an interview with Randall Kennedy that makes me wonder: with all the talk about the "stars" in Harvard's African-American Studies program, how come nobody was mentioning Kennedy, who actually writes interesting stuff?

JONATHAN TURLEY weighs in, sensibly on the WTC statue issue.

MICHAEL KINSLEY says that conservatives rule the book biz, while Richard Poe says conservatives are the Secret Masters of the Internet and contrasts the profitability of sites like WorldnetDaily with that of sites like (sorry, Mike) Slate.

Kinsley has an explanation, though: liberals are too busy doing things out in the world to read books.

STEVEN DEN BESTE talks about U.S. "unilateralism" and alleged stinginess in foreign aid. It's a long post, but well worth reading in full. Here's an excerpt:

[I]t's because most of those treaties were intended by others to shaft us. In a nation where half the people are lame, it's completely understandable that they should want to pass a law banning running -- but there's no good reason why those who are not lame should consent.

But as to "aid", it really depends a great deal on what you mean by it. It's clear that to this author, the only thing which matters is "the check is in the mail." We give away a great deal of that; we are actually one of the world's largest donors of foreign aid. (That comment about "proportion of GDP" is an attempt to cover up that fact.)

Den Beste notes a lot of things that the United States gives away, from public health information, to satellite photos, to GPS, to disaster relief, that don't get counted into the foreign aid budget.

UPDATE: Reader Robert Marshall has this observation:

The US's "proportion of foreign aid to poor countries" ought to be measured in such a way as to include at least a portion of our defense
budget. Not because that expenditure is in any way altruistic, but because, as the only superpower left in the world, it falls to us to clean up the messes everyone else tries to ignore. Such as, Afghanistan. If we
hadn't gone in and cleaned out the Taliban, who would? The French? And yet all countries, and probably the poorer countries disproportionately, benefit from the clean-up.
Excellent point.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER slams Osama and praises Bill Clinton. No, really.

ANDREW SULLIVAN IS all over the Paul Krugman/Enron conflict-of-interest scandal. At least, it might be a scandal if anyone were paying attention. Sullivan wonders why they're not.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel has weighed in and says that Andrew's smoking-gun revelation about Krugman is likely to end Krugman's career on the Times oped page. See, just as I predicted, the casualties in the Enron affair will be among those peripheral to the main action. It always seems to work out that way.

I HAVEN'T BEEN COVERING BERKELEY SHENANIGANS as much lately, but now I don't have to: Kevin Deenihan has started a blog called CalStuff devoted to nothing but. I'll bet it's mined by columnists and pundits all over the place.

Deenihan promises racy pix of fellow Cal author Rachael Klein in a future edition, but that's probably just a come-on. I promise I'll always read CalStuff just for the articles.

MICHELLE MALKIN calls on fellow immigrants to stand up for America.

WHY DO THEY HATE US? I suspect that Tim Cavanaugh's lame assault on bloggers, mentioned below, is just the first of a wave. The interesting thing is, the top-rank journalists like Michael Barone, Walter Shapiro, Howard Kurtz, Charles Oliver, James Taranto, etc., etc., seem to like the blogger phenomenon. (Not to mention the ones who are bloggers themselves, of course). It's the folks several rungs down, like Cavanaugh or Justin Raimondo, who seem to have the most trouble.

But then, that's really no surprise. Imagine yourself in the position of a lower-tier writer: sucking up to editors, letting them rip up your writing, trying to fit in with their politics, grimly hanging on in the hopes that, some day, a bigshot will quote your stuff in a major national publication and you'll get the chance to move up.

Now the bloggers appear. They write what they think. No sucking up to editors. No ass-kissing. No grim hanging-on -- hell, these people are actually, and obviously, having the time of their lives. And to add injury to insult, they're being noticed by the bigshots while you continue to toil in obscurity. The horror! The horror! I mean, a goddam Air Force mechanic is getting more buzz than guys like Cavanaugh.

If my diagnosis is right, we can expect a lot more of this sort of thing. Heh heh.

UPDATE: Just looked at my counter and I'm getting nothing in the way of hits from OJR despite multiple links. Does anybody read the thing, besides Welch and Layne?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Robert Schwarz writes:

My guess is Justin Raimondo got more hits and more attention from his warblog assault than from any other article he's written. The lesson was not lost on Tim Cavanaugh. He's trolling for hits.
Probably so. Raimondo brags about his traffic (which he claims at more than Andrew Sullivan's) but I got bupkus from his piece, and the same is true for OJR.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: A couple of readers have written in to protest that Cavanaugh is several rungs above Raimondo, having worked for actual publications. (And Raimondo, as even one person who wrote in to defend him notes, doesn't have an editor, but needs one). No argument on either of these points. Still another says that Cavanaugh is basically just recycling a piece (I think she meant this one) slamming Mickey Kaus, Josh Marshall, etc., that he wrote in Suck last year. Well, hell, if Stephen Ambrose can do it, why not?
What's really funny, of course, is that in his OJR piece Cavanaugh says that the name "InstaPundit" undermines my credibility. This coming from a man whose biggest resume-line is that he used to write for a site called "Suck.Com"? Lighten up, Tim.

TUNKU VARADARAJAN is bemused by the fashion world's response to the war, which has resulted in accolades to Pres. Karzai's chicness, and a full-Leibowitz treatment of the Bush Administration in Vanity Fair. But really, there's a simple explanation: People love a winner. Especially "fashion" people.

ALEX KNAPP has a sharp rejoinder to the people who are cheerfully speculating on American Taliban John Walker's likelihood of being raped in prison.

He's absolutely right. Despite occasional enthusiasm even from government officials (remember California Attorney General Bill Lockyer?), the notion that rape is somehow an appropriate punishment is evil and wrong -- and, unfortunately, much too widespread.

ACADEMIC HONORIFICS: In response to my item, below, on the New York Times' inconsistent use of academic honorifics, reader John Kodis writes:

One area in which I've never seen the appropriate honorific applied by the press is when discussing the Unabomber. He's universally referred to as either Ted Kaczynski, or the Unabomber -- never as Dr. Theodore Kaczynski (PhD, Mathematics, University of Michigan, 1967).
That's Dr. Unabomber to you.

WRITING FROM LOS ANGELES, or maybe San Francisco, Tim Cavanaugh has a piece full of links and snide, pithy remarks in which he attacks bloggers for not going to Afghanistan, and for writing stuff that's full of links and snide, pithy remarks.

Keep it up, Tim. You're one of us, whether you realize it or not. And if you keep practicing, you may someday be as good as Moira Breen.

BJORN STAERK has this this spot-on observation on nerd culture and why it's good:

What you will find in nerd culture, though, is rationalism and a belief in Good and Evil. And I'll bet you can find more and better discussions of philosophy, psychology, sociology and history in science fiction, fantasy and horror than in anything they call serious literature these days. In mathematics, impossible concepts like complex numbers and eternity can be used to prove statements that are true, and so it is with fantastic literature.
An interesting sociological study (and sociology is interesting, even if it's a field that attracts idiots with nothing to say) would be a look at how nerd culture preserved all sorts of traditional Western ideals during the long dark night of the 20th Century, when the intelligentsia were jumping ship. Thank God.

JACOB SULLUM says that cloning isn't child abuse.

I think, as I've written here before that the arguments against cloning are actually quite weak, and boil down to little more than an aesthetic reaction of "icky." I think that such aesthetic reactions are no more appropriate here as a basis for law than they are when they're behind, say, laws against sodomy.

I don't know what Leon Kass thinks about those.

A READER WRITES that there's something not-quite-right about this story. I'm inclined to agree, though I can't put my finger on it.

SAUDIS SURRENDER TO BIN LADEN, WANT U.S. OUT: That's the gist of this sotry. Miserable cowards. Let's kick 'em out and give Arabia to Turkey.


I MENTIONED THAT LAW PROFESSORS ARE WRITING EACH OTHER about the shooting at Appalachian Law School in Grundy. Here is something terrific that Eugene Volokh wrote (originally for the LAWPROF email list) on the student heroes. It's reproduced with his permission.

These are real heroes, and I'm proud that I will soon have them as fellow members of my profession -- a profession which sometimes demands great courage of its members. I think the AALS should recognize their courage with some suitable award (perhaps named after Thurgood Marshall or some other lawyer who has put his life, liberty, or livelihood in peril to do what is right).

Let me also mention one other item. View the video on MSNBC, and notice your first reactions to the student being interviewed. I am sorry to say that my first observations were that he was somewhat plump, that he wore an unfashionable haircut, and that he spoke with what is in many of our circles an unfashionable accent. I wish that I hadn't noticed these things, but somehow automatically managed to ignore them -- my reactions do not reflect well on me. But there they are. The man did not look particularly impressive, or lawyerly, or otherwise extraordinary.

And yet he is extraordinary. He, together with his fellow students, confronted a gun-wielding murderer in order to save the lives of others. He didn't have to do this; it wasn't his job; he wasn't defending himself; he could have so easily just left the scene and avoided the risk; no-one would have condemned him had he done so. But he came back and risked death. Do I have this capacity? Does any of us? Most of us don't know, and probably will never know. None of my prejudices or first impressions could have revealed this capacity of his to me. Sometimes the hero looks like Gary Cooper in High Noon. More often he looks like a random guy in western Virginia.

Of course, denouncing prejudice is cliche to the point of banality. We're constantly told of the evil of judging people by their appearance. But of course we do it nonetheless -- and prejudice against the fat and against supposed "hicks" is, in my experience, a common prejudice in the very circles where other forms of prejudice are often vehemently condemned.

I hope that when I find myself falling prey to this tendency again, I'll remember this student and what he did -- and wonder again whether I, with my intellectual-class manners, would have had the courage to do the same.

UPDATE: Er, just to be clear, I didn't write the passage quoted above. Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA, wrote it. This seems pretty clear to me (just read the intro paragraph), but I've gotten a couple of emails from people who seem to think that I wrote it.

SHILOH BUCHER writes about deeply disappointed suicide bombers and undisappointed spouses.

SERGEANT STRYKER says I'm wrong with my idea of using de-mothballed planes and retired pilots for defense against rogue civilian aircraft. Read his explanation.

I'm willing to go with his version as he knows a lot more about this stuff than I do.

MORE TROUBLE FOR STEPHEN AMBROSE: Well, more of the same, anyway, as Forbes.Com stays on his case. Some paragraphs in his transcontinental railroad book, Nothing Like it in the World are similar to those of another book (though the resemblance isn't as striking as earlier examples). Ambrose footnotes them, but doesn't put them in quotation marks. There are some other problems, too.

Well, here's why I don't think this is plagiarism: I've had the same thing done to me, and I didn't think it was plagiarism then. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan gave a speech in 1988 in which he lifted several paragraphs from a piece I had written. The speech was "published" (there was a printed version that was passed out) and the paragraphs, just as with Ambrose, were verbatim but had footnotes citing to the piece that I had written (with John Ragosta). Elsewhere in the speech, Brennan mentioned our piece, and our names.

He mailed me a copy, which I was quite flattered to get. So obviously he didn't think it was plagiarism. Neither did I -- I was flattered, not outraged, and besides, he did credit me. I even reprinted (with permission and attribution, of course) his speech in a book later.

So how is this different from Ambrose? Okay, it's a speech, not a book -- but there was a printed version. Historians might say that Ambrose shouldn't do that, and maybe he shouldn't in a book that, implicitly, is advertised as his. But is it plagiarism? I didn't think so when Justice Brennan did it, so it's hard for me to think so now.

If you're interested, the Brennan speech was to the bicentennial conferences of judges of the United States Court of Appeals, and it was delivered on October 26, 1988.

I SAW WYCHE FOWLER cravenly making excuses for Saudi perfidy on TV last night and thought: what a disgrace! Matt Welch elaborates on this theme. Boy, does he.

FROM A LAW PROFESSOR'S EMAIL LIST comes this word that the Grundy shooter was stopped by a student with a handgun:

Students ended the rampage by confronting and then tackling the gunman, officials said.

“We saw the shooter, stopped at my vehicle and got out my handgun and started to approach Peter,” Tracy Bridges, who helped subdue the shooter with other students, said Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show. “At that time, Peter threw up his hands and threw his weapon down. Ted was the first person to have contact with Peter, and Peter hit him one time in the face, so there was a little bit of a struggle there.”

Very interesting. Believe it or not, some law professors on the list are actually suggesting that it would be a good idea if people with handgun carry licenses carried guns at school.

Where some of my colleagues are concerned, I'd find that very comforting. With others, well. . . .

ALQAEDA PRISONERS AT GUANTANAMO: A reader who says he has personal knowledge (something I'm unable to verify) sends this:

The Taliban brought in were infected with lice, hence the body shaving; the masks were due to the fact most, if not all, have tuberculosis; they are adamant in opposing their captors in whatever, including employing excretory functions and results as weapons, though they have little else perhaps to serve as weapons at present.

Despite WTC, it would appear that the greatest injustice these individuals have perpetrated is not against the United States, but against the people of Afghanistan. Any interrogation desired by the US might be better performed "over there," just prior to handing the bunch over to Afghanistan justice. Just a thought.

As I say, I can't verify this, but it's consistent with what we know.

CORNEL WEST UPDATE: A very negative article on West in the Village Voice of all places -- but the real villain according to this piece is Skip Gates. Very interesting accounts of how many of West's public defenders were in fact joint-venturers with Gates and West in various money-making activities, and how many academics, black and white, were unwilling to speak against either on the record, though there was considerable concern that the contretemps was hurting the image of African-American Studies, and African-American scholars generally (which it is -- see the Richard Cohen article below). Excerpt:

The most damning aspect of West's power play is the possible backlash for academics, black and white, in African American studies all over the country. These thousands of scholars, some doing brilliant and unheralded work, have struggled for respectability for years, and they don't need the kind of fallout that comes when privileged men call the race troops to arms for no greater reason than to enhance their already cushy careers. . . .

But another Ivy League professor, who does not wish to be named, was more aggrieved: "It is tawdry to
be called upon to go to bat in what is really a negotiation for further job advantage, when people are out of work, millions are going without health care, and there are real problems." He may be right.

Yes, as Richard Cohen suggests, the real victims of the whole affair are the people who aren't managing to hold up Harvard, but who will be viewed as affirmative-action babies, rather than scholars, as a result of West's grandstanding.

YESTERDAY I CRITICIZED A WASHINGTON POST story on gun background checks because it referred to a "study" by a "gun policy group," Americans for Gun Safety. AGS is a gun-control group, and I suggested that the Post wouldn't call the NRA a "gun policy group," or refer to one of its products as a "study." Brian Linse said I should have focused on the substance, rather than the spin. Okay, but the Post should have, too. Just compare the Post story, here, with this more critical story (suggested by reader Charles Oliver) in the Wichita Eagle, which includes quotes from ATF and state law enforcement officials disputing the study (which came from ATF records).

My pet peeve is that many major media outfits tend to uncritically accept the claims of groups that they consider to be "public interest" groups (i.e., groups they agree with), while subjecting the claims of groups they disagree with to scrutiny, or at least scorn. (This isn't a new point; Katherine Dunn made it in a terrific New Republic piece back in 1993). That tendency seems to be especially common in the gun area. What, the Post reporter couldn't have made the calls that the Wichita Eagle's reporter made?

EARLIER I MENTIONED THE KNOCKS THAT RICHARD POSNER WAS GETTING for his book on public intellectuals. Here's his response. Excerpt:

But you don't have to be an ecologist to point out that if ecology professor Paul Ehrlich predicts in 1970 that by 1974 the United States may have to ration water and that by 1980 hundreds of millions of people will be starving to death because of overpopulation, there's something wrong with his ecology. You don't have to be a social scientist to realize that political scientist Robert Putnam is fooling himself when he contends that the "Saguaro Seminar" that he has organized is the key to restoring a sense of national community. Nor do you have to be a cultural historian to conclude that the literary critic Jacques Barzun is barking up the wrong tree in declaring the trend to informal dress in law firms and investment banks a symptom of the nation's decadence. When academics step outside the ring of critical fire that is one of the glories of the academic culture at its best, the risk of their falling flat on their faces is very great.
He's right, of course. The biggest risk for academics is the fallacy of transferred expertise ("I know a lot about linguistics, so I understand thermonuclear war.") And, of course, the "ring of critical fire" is more prevalent in some fields, and at some institutions, than others.

Personally, I think it's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to be stupid. What's the difference? You're stupid when you won't admit that you're wrong, or when you say things that are obviously fallacious and continue to do so without responding to criticism. For example, for Paul Ehrlich to make the prediction he did in 1970 was wrong, but it wasn't necessarily stupid. For him to continue to predict disaster, without seriously engaging why he was so wrong, is stupid.

Me, I make no promises that I won't be wrong. But I try not to be stupid. I may fail at that, of course. But I try.

RICHARD COHEN has some interesting thoughts on what the West/Summers flap means for the credibility of affirmative action:

Of course, we all know the reasons for affirmative action. But a program devised to overcome the harmful effects of slavery and Jim Crow cannot persist as if racial discrimination has not abated. The secretary of state is black. The national security adviser is black. Leaders at AOL-Time Warner, American Express and Merrill Lynch are black. So is the president of Brown University. America has changed. Affirmative action seems more like a patronage program than a way of achieving justice -- an impression only exacerbated by the insistence of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton that it be preserved. . . .

That is what I got out of the Summers-West flap -- the strong suggestion, assumption, implication or whatever that Summers, the white and uber-qualified academic, was staring down West, an affirmative action baby whose skin color promoted him from a C to an A. I have no idea whether this is true, and in fact I doubt it is. But West and other proponents of affirmative action ought to wonder whether, in the long run, what they are affirming is not a concept of justice but instead a negative stereotype.

INSTAPUNDIT is mentioned in Howard Kurtz's column today, which also quotes from my FoxNews piece on Enron. Cool.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? "Aiming to target its audits better, the IRS intends a special random check this year of about 50,000 individual tax returns."

Better targeting by aiming at random? This reminds me of a scene from the Addams Family in which Uncle Fester stood right in front of the target while Gomez was throwing knives. "It's the only safe place," Fester explained.

Okay, this actually isn't as stupid as it sounds. The "random audits" are really to gather information and profiles that will let them do better targeting in the future. I think the writer just couldn't resist that opening line --though the quotes from the IRS suggest that its PR people might have done a better job here.

THE SAUDIS are complaining that they're being unfairly blamed for terrorism. Boo hoo. As a reader comments, this is like the Austrian line that "Austria was Hitler's first victim."

MICKEY KAUS has a great item on Joe Lieberman, Enron, and karma.

ANDREW SULLIVAN has spent the last few days exploring the New York Times' use of honorifics like "Dr." for black professors, but not white ones. It's fascinating, particularly as new evidence and observations come in and Sullivan refines the discussion: blogging at its best. Scroll up from here to follow the ongoing discussion.

PIXIE DUST: Reader John Borell writes:

Our transportation secretary was taken apart by Matt Lauer on the Today show this morning. Mr. Secretary was on to assure us that by tomorrow all baggage on U.S. flights will be screened, pursuant to new federal law (that is, the baggage will be screened as screened is defined in the statute). Now, for us lawyers, perhaps statutory definition is important. My wife is just a teacher, so she sawed right through this. "As defined by statute" she asked?

Yes, I explained that one definition of screened was matching a bag to a passenger on a flight. Mr. Secretary admitted that this was one aspect of compliance. Of course, the feds could have simply defined "screened" to mean that each bag has been sprinkled with pixie dust, and therefore it is NOW SAFE TO FLY.

Mr. Secretary also admitted that on connecting flights a passenger can deboard the plane while his luggage goes on its merry way.
Of course, it's extra sad that Norm Mineta is such a lightweight that he can be "taken apart" by the likes of Matt Lauer. That's like being eviscerated by Katie Couric.

But the whole thing, basically, is a scam. Yet everyone seems to see through it. Who, exactly, do they think they're fooling?

BRITISH READER CHRIS BERTRAM writes with this question:

There's deep concern in the UK media (including conservative outlets like the Daily Telegraph) about the status and treatment of Al-Qaida prisoners in Guantanamo. I'd be interested to hear your lawyerly take on this one. As things are reported here the issues are:

(1) The US contends that the prisoners are "unlawful combattants" rather than PoWs are are therefore not entitled to the protections afforded to PoWs under the Geneva Conventions. But the human rights groups (and many lawyers here) are claiming that the US has no right to make such a determination and if there is doubt (and there's certainly controversy) the matter of their status should be referred to a competent international tribunal (pending which they should be treated on the assumption of PoW status).

(2) Certain individual aspects of their treatment are giving rise to concern, notably the shaving of their beards which may be a problem given their religious views.

I hasten to say that this concern is shared by many people who have supported the US action from day one and who think that Al-Q are a criminal and murderous conspiracy. One worry that is frequently aired is that by determining their status unilaterally rather than by reference to an international tribunal, the US may be setting a precedent which would allow other countries (e.g. Iraq) to make a similar determination in regard to US or British special forces in the future.

So what does Instapundit think?

I don't really know. The unlawful-combatant argument rings true to me based on a "law of war" course I took in law school, but I haven't studied the subject a bit since and my knowledge is rather stale. People I respect are on both sides of the issue, and they seem to be talking past each other to the extent that I find it hard to assess who's more persuasive.

There is no "competent international tribunal" for making such a decision however. People are always invoking these as if they exist, but they don't. Perhaps Europeans, used the the European human rights court, forget that the United States isn't part of the EU. The World Court might rule on it (though who would the other party be? the Taliban are in poor shape for litigation, and only governments may argue before the World Court). And it would be 2031 or so, based on past experience, before it got around to a ruling anyway.

The beard thing, however, is silly. It is traditional to shave prisoners' body hair to prevent lice -- a concern that seems obsolete but under the circumstances probably isn't. Nor do I feel that such dignitary concerns are very important, and I think that groups like Amnesty diminish their credibility by raising them.

One of the big problems with this, of course, is that threats of other nations to treat American prisoners badly carry no weight, because they always do. The experience of American prisoners, from Bataan to Korea, to Vietnam, has been one of consistent maltreatment in violation of international law, which is why it is hard to generate much excitement in America over these issues. American prisoners are always treated much worse than America treats foreign prisoners. Indeed, this non-reciprocity is a major reason for the vague hostility that Americans feel toward international law.

Hope this is some help.


MARK STEYN says that Enron is a bipartisan political scandal if it's a political scandal at all. He's right, but I found this imagery rather, uh, disturbing:

In other words, if this is "another Whitewater," it's a bipartisan one: In Monica terms, it's as if, in between oral sex with the president, she was squeezing in bondage sessions with Newt Gingrich and rounding out the day lap dancing with Strom Thurmond.
All together now: Eeeuuwww!

BARBARA KINGSOLVER DECONSTRUCTED: AGAIN. Just think of what she'll find the next time she googles herself.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: An all-powerful force for good! This morning I mentioned a New York Times letter to the editor suggesting that members of Congress who received campaign donations from Enron should return them for the benefit of the employees who lost their 401K money. Now Charles Schumer's gone and done it. Next time, please wish for world peace. Or a really good beer with no calories at all.

The reader who sent the link notes: "Apparently Charles Schumer is an instapundit junkie!!" I'd say it's more likely that he's a New York Times junkie. But hey, according to Pravda Instapundit is the New York Times of blogs!

UPDATE: All kinds of people are giving back Enron donations now. It's a trend!

LAST FALL, I was part of a program at Stanford Law School on the Second Amendment, along with Michael Bellesiles, Eugene Volokh, Robert Cottrol, Akhil Amar, Sandy Levinson, Carl Bogus, Joyce Malcolm, and a cast of thousands. You can see the conference in streaming video here if you're interested (RealPlayer8 required). Bellesiles is the keynote address. My panel is the one on original meanings.

It's several hours of stuff, so you'll have to be really interested to sit through it all. On the other hand, a lot of it's interesting, if you're interested in the Second Amendment, and you can fastforward through the parts that aren't.

SCOTT SHUGER says NORAD dropped the ball on 9/11, and hasn't learned from its mistakes. The first part is probably true. The second is less so. The US just isn't set up to maintain combat air patrol over cities, and doing so -- even in the limited way we're doing it -- is placing a big strain on the system. Being ready for attacks, even in small cities like Tampa, would take a whole different force structure.

Maybe we should resurrect some obsolete mothballed F106s or F4s and call up some older reservist pilots. You don't need Eric Hartmann's reflexes to guard against rogue airliners.

RECYCLING ALERT: This story on background check problems in the Washington Post comes straight from a "study" by Americans for Gun Safety. Americans for Gun Safety is a gun-control group. But in the Post story it's identified only as "a gun policy group."

Question: would the Post ever identify the NRA as a "gun policy group?" Or neutrally report one of its studies? Answer: are you kidding?

HERE'S THE FULL LIST of the White House bioethics committee. At first glance, I see a lot of superficial diversity, but no great enthusiasts for cloning, biotechnology, or grand technological optimism. But I don't know all these folks.

PATRIOTISM IS GOOD, writes Yale Pol. Sci. professor Steven Smith. A reader comments: "Does this mean they'll bring back ROTC?"

Pretty good piece, though. And its mere presence in the Yale Daily News is, well, news.

A BUNCH OF PEOPLE have sent me this piece from The Progressive on "The New McCarthyism," in the expectation that I'll make fun of it. I can't, quite.

Oh, it has its funny points, not least the seemingly-strong desire to feel persecuted that permeates it. And the anecdotal coverage of feds' heavy-handedness falls pretty flat -- basically, a few people got visited by agents who looked around, asked a few polite questions, and left.

But if this sort of thing really is going on, and with regard to people as harmless as these sound, then it's a problem. Oh, it's not especially fascistic. But it sure is a waste of time. Progressive-type leftists aren't likely to be Al Qaeda agents.

My advice to all the people who feel "intimidated" by this stuff: show some backbone. If you don't want the feds around, throw 'em out. (That's part of being an American). My dad was stalked by the feds for years when I was a kid (he was a moderately famous civil rights / antiwar protester). We survived it without trauma. You can, too. But if you're so easily intimidated that a couple of guys dropping by will scare you spitless, you're not going to be the vanguard of the revolution. Any revolution.

THERE HAS BEEN A SHOOTING at the Appalachian School of Law. It's in Grundy, Virginia, a couple of hours from here. According to FoxNews tv, the Dean, a faculty member, and a student have been killed, three others are in the hospital. The shooter was -- in what has apparently become an instinctive response since 9/11 -- rushed by several students and subdued. Here's a link to the somewhat less informative AP story on the subject. Fox seems to be ahead of everyone on this -- they've been interviewing people from the scene by phone.

There's no obvious terrorism link, though I heard somebody say the shooter was a foreign exchange student. A student they interviewed said he thought marital problems and bad grades were the cause, though.

PRAVDA IS STRANGER THAN FICTION: Now, if I had made some dismissive comment about Justin Raimondo's anti-blogger assault, along the lines of "go write for Pravda," it would have been seen as unfair. And yet, as it turns out, completely accurate. This is just too bizarre. But, hey -- I got a cool new InstaPundit motto out of it! (see upper left)

UPDATE: A reader writes

Very glad you linked to this site - I had not come across it before. He writes extremely well -- the first and most important yardstick in this new little sub-universe. And he's saying interesting, challenging things, even when one might disagree with him. His front page is full of links that were worth going to and that I hadn't seen elsewhere. Really, this blogger is among the best -- whatever one's political views.
Well, interesting links are the name of the game here in blogland. It's amusing to hear anti-blogger Raimondo called just that, though. The thought had crossed my mind as well.

THE COMFY-CHAIR REVOLUTION: I have a column up at TechCentralStation today, too. I don't know if it's a good thing having my FoxNews column (which is sorta biweekly -- it's twice a month) and the TCS column come out on the same day or not, but that's not really up to me. But it's probably good -- though I don't teach today I have a lot of other work to catch up on, and yet you'll have plenty to read.

But who needs me anyway, when you've got Wednesday's Punditwatch from Will Vehrs?

A READER WRITES to ask "if I send you money, will you promise to keep InstaPundit going for a whole year?" Sorry, no. I don't have any plans to stop, but InstaPundit is a labor of love. If it ever starts feeling like work, I'll stop. Donations are appreciated, but if I were doing this for the money I'd be better off flipping burgers. A lot better off.

HOW LONG BEFORE someone ties this space-research discovery to Bush's pretzel incident?

A MAJOR CULTURAL INDICATOR? Reader Eva Gullion sends this link to the new Doc Marten U.S. Flag-toe Boots!. She notes:

I just thought this was an interesting trend because, at least when I was in high school (91-95), Doc boots were the shoes of choice for the Leftist counter-culture kiddies. . . . I don't know what the significance is (besides the astonishing fact that like, wow, the Doc Marten shoe people are filthy capitalist pigs too!) but I thought it was kind of funny somehow. I guess you would have had to see the kids I went to high school with and the kind of kid I was in high school too. I can assure you we would have been horrified!
Very interesting.

LARRY SUMMERS UPDATE: Now he's rejected a potential hire because he's too old. I guess Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will sit this one out. Maybe Granny D will demand a meeting?

I HAVE A COLUMN ON ENRON up over at FoxNews. Enjoy!

BEES TAGGED WITH MICROCHIPS: A tool for finding landmines? No, really.

LOOKING AFTER THE WORKERS: Frank Hansen has this interesting suggestion in the New York Times: "Anyone who received campaign contributions from Enron should return every dime to the employees who had their pensions wiped out."

I agree.

ENRON: THE GREEN CONNECTION -- A reader who calls himself a "closet Jude Wanniski fan" (the most common kind, as best I can tell) sends this link to an item on Enron's donations to environmental groups. This isn't that surprising: Enron has a wind power subsidiary, and I think was fairly heavy (compared to many others) into alternative energies.

SHOEBOMBER RICHARD REID'S ties to Al Qaeda look stronger, in light of evidence found in captured computer files.

IS YOUR SON A COMPUTER HACKER? This guide for parents explains the warning signs.

It'll be in Good Housekeeping or Reader's Digest next month, no doubt.

UPDATE: I hate to spoil things by pointing out that the item I link to is a spoof. It seemed pretty obvious to me (especially once you got to the AMD part) but I've gotten so many "is this a spoof?" and "did you realize that this was a spoof?" emails that I guess I have to say so. Sorry to do this, as it costs you that moment of confusion that is part of the key to a successful spoof, but I don't want people to be fooled.

Of course, it's getting harder and harder to tell spoofs from the real thing anyway, these days.

ARMED BELLICOSE WOMEN UPDATE: Tom Friedman notes the effect that armed women are having on the Islamist psyche:

For all the talk about the vaunted Afghan fighters, this was a war between the Jetsons and the Flintstones — and the Jetsons won and the Flintstones know it. (There are Al Qaeda prisoners held near Bagram, guarded by U.S. Army M.P.'s, some of whom are women. Imagine going overnight from a society where you never see a woman's face to being guarded by one with an M-16. "At first some of them [make faces]," one woman M.P. told me, "but then they realize there's nothing they can do.")
Another reader suggests that we should rub the Saudis' noses in this, making armed women soldiers as visible as possible, having them man check points that Saudi drivers (all men, of course) must pass through, letting their long hair escape from their helmets, etc. Especially where Saudi women can see.

A BUNCH OF PEOPLE have emailed me about this column on bloggers by Justin Raimondo. I almost didn't post on it, since he's probably just trolling for hits.

But although one reader called it "offensive beyond words," I find it mostly amusing. Apparently, despite all the Chomskyite ranting about manufactured consent, the folks at find it offensive when people they disagree with criticize the Big Media.

I also can't help notice that is a lot quicker to ask for money than most of the bloggers they criticize (scroll to the bottom). Ah, those pure anticapitalist lefties.

UPDATE: Okay, a lot of people say they're not anticapitalist lefties, they're anarchist libertarians. If you say so. Reader Brian Carnell puts it this way: "AntiWar.Com is closer to LewRockwell.Com than it is to something like CommonDreams.Org or The Nation."

Oh, okay. That I understand.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ross Nordeen sends this:

I read your site daily and I like it enough that I've contributed via I've also given money to and I'd like to stick up for them. First of all, although they do link to a lot of nauseating leftist crap, Raimondo is libertarian, not an anticapitalist lefty. The links aren't an endorsement of the linkees.

There is intelligent anti-war commentary being written out there, but there is very little, so a portal site like ends up linking to a lot of bad stuff. I've seen some good commentary by Jacob Sullum and Jacob Hornberger, mostly on military tribunals, but few others are able to do similar good work.

Raimondo's rants often come across as over-the-top attempts at trolling, but his basic premise, that a strict, non-interventionist foreign policy would be best, is one that I completely agree with, even when his columns, like his most recent one on webloggers, make me cringe.

Stupid antiwar commentary from people like Ted Rall, who loathes America, needs to be slammed, but intelligent antiwar commentators needs to be encouraged. You may think that Raimondo is not in the latter group, but I know that he's speaking from the right place (pro-America, pro-freedom) even if he comes across as a troll.

Fair enough. I've only visited a few times, and was sufficiently turned off by what I found that I haven't been back. But I don't want to slam anyone unfairly.

I would be happy to see the United States maintain a strict, non-interventionist foreign policy. I share Jerry Pournelle's worry that it's hard to maintain an aggressive foreign/military policy and not wind up as an empire. But it's also hard -- perhaps impossible -- to be a big economic and cultural power and have an isolationist foreign policy. To a degree, the United States experimented with a move in that direction during the 1990s, and it didn't help. And contrary to Raimondo's claim, I don't "love" the war. (I do love it that the war appears to be going well, but that's nothing to apologize for). I was writing InstaPundit before there was a war, and I've been happy of late to be able to talk about something else. I'd like to see a world where everyone was free, happy, and at peace. But that's not the world we live in, and pretending won't make it so.

MICHAEL BARONE writes that despite some predictions to the contrary, the war isn't making people feel any more enthusiastic about big government. He offers some insights as to why.

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED, here's a link to the actual criminal complaint against American Taliban John Walker, courtesy of reader Eugene Volokh. Eugene writes, "The Web is a wonderful thing." It sure is.

STROMATA REPORTS ON what it calls the first documented Enron scandal. The villains, fittingly enough, appear to be Congressional staffers and reporters.


SHILOH BUCHER is hot on the trail of media bias.

PRINCE BANDAR has lit out for Saudi Arabia. The story ties it to rumors that Osama bin Laden may be hiding out there, or be about to arrive. This could be a bit awkward for the Saudis, unless they hand him over posthaste.


On NPR this morning, I heard that in her lawsuit challenging the dress code, McSally notes that a similar policy does not extend to civilian American women serving in Saudi Arabia, such as embassy staff. So the Saudis seem to tolerate western dress for women in certain spheres. Could it be that what really rankles is the idea of a woman in a military uniform, a professional Bellicose Woman? That might be a bit intimidating to men who wear flowing robes, wear a lot of scent, and ogle young boys (yes, pedophilia occurs in places in the Muslim world besides Kandahar).
Interestingly, I've heard in other places that the Saudis particularly resent women soldiers, and that photos of them are often used in anti-US propaganda.

Of course, they should be afraid.

BRUCE GOTTLIEB SAYS that military tribunals may be as fair as civilian trials. After all, he notes, where are you going to find a civilian jury sympathetic to Al Qaeda defendants.

MORE ON THE TALIBAN'S EERIE RESEMBLANCE to Monty Python characters, from Rand Simberg.

ANNE APPLEBAUM has an excellent piece in Slate on why the West, especially the human rights groups, has been so nearly silent on Zimbabwe. It doesn't make the usual international-human-rights crowd look very good. Not that the various governments look better.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has still more on the Kass Commission.

THE MAKEUP OF LEON KASS'S BIOETHICS/STEM CELL COMMISSION is now public. The list doesn't look especially diverse. At least, there are no people who prominently disagree with Leon Kass. Christopher Reeve, who advocates cloning research and who according to Virginia Postrel wanted to be on the commission, is not among them. The commission is also rather light on scientific talent (there aren't any scientists), suggesting that the rumors that Kass was having trouble getting scientists to serve on what they expected to be a "packed" commission may have some basis.

I'M POSTING LESS OFTEN TODAY because classes have started. I do have an actual job, you know.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON has some interesting quotes on war. Amusing, appalling, and in one case inspiring.

WORTHWHILE BELGIAN INITIATIVE: I haven't weighed in on the whole WTC statue PC'ness issue, which just seemed too easy. But reader Maarten Schenk writes -- from Belgium, no less -- with a keen observation:

Just a little idea I had while driving to work today: why don't all the people who don't like the PC-statue (of the 'ethnically diverse' firemen raising the flag) just chip in and have their own statue commissioned? The mere existence of a statue which depicts the 'real' event will serve as a constant reminder of the PC-revisionism which led to the current statue being made. Or is someone already gathering funds for this? If not, I claim the idea ;-)
As far as I know, nobody else has made this suggestion, which seems like a good one to me.

UPDATE: Boy, a lot of people really liked this idea, which is proof that InstaPundit readers are free of anti-Belgian prejudices. Reader Todd Waller reports that New York Firefighters are thinking about a privately funded statue that would be historically accurate.

I just had a thought. Imagine that all three of the firefighters who raised the flag had been black. (1) Would NYC have changed it to a "representative" group then? And (2) if they had done so, what would Al Sharpton have said?

Yeah, I know: fish in a barrel.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ben Sheriff writes that he's done some research on costing, and that based on the cost of a one-person statue at life-size, the cost for a three-person statute with Old Glory would be about $200K.

MOIRA BREEN DEMOLISHES FEMINIST WHINING in a lengthy and superb post. Excerpt:

I had the reaction I always have to these alleged great crusaders for women's rights - why do they all come off as such goddamned wussies? This woman's grim and lugubrious views of human relationships, and martyred air, remind me very much of the "professional feminists" of my college days, who would bitch, bitch, bitch about men - to other women or in organizations - but who would never ever personally confront an actual individual male over loutish behavior.
Read the whole thing. It's brilliant.

SALON SEXWATCH UPDATE: Okay, this time you make the call. It's conceivable that this item about a woman whose husband won't sleep with her and who wants to have sex with his best friend counts as "sex." I'd say no since (1) she's not getting any; and (2) columnist Cary Tennis advises her not to sleep with the best friend. I'm not quarreling with the advice, but what we have is no sex, and advice not to have sex.

But it's as close as the column has gotten so far. What do you think?

What would Rachael say? Sadly, we can't know. The Daily Cal is still on "winter break."

JOSH MARSHALL has an interesting point about Enron and Bob Bennett, but misses an even more significant one. Read Josh's post for the former; here's the latter:

In every town there are lawyers who -- by reputation at least -- are the ones you go to when you're guilty as sin. Enron is being represented by Bob Bennett. Case closed.

No, I'm not being cute. Several people have told me that was their first thought on hearing that Bennett was involved. Will this reputation hurt Bennett? Probably not. Plenty of guilty folks out there needing lawyers.

THE NEW YORK TIMES has another story on Stephen Ambrose and academic standards. Sample quote: '"Teachers are supposed to be role models in students lives," Mr. Groller said. "They should try to lead by example."'

Perhaps they'll follow it up with a similar story on Michael Bellesiles' data fakery. Perhaps.


By the way, have you seen this one?

"Most of the security measures for Super Bowl XXXVI have been drawn up, but federal officials haven't decided whether they will allow one of the most recognizable -- and goofiest -- symbols of fan enthusiasm should the playoff-bound Green Bay Packers make it to the big game.

"In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, federal law enforcement officials are leaving nothing to chance for the country's annual showcase of football hype and hysteria. That hand-wringing may leave Packer backers without the oversized wedges of yellow foam rubber that, when worn as a hat,
transform their owners into cheeseheads."

This gives me an excuse to root for the Packers--just to know that the Secret Service is having to explain to tens of thousands of rabid Packerbackers why they have to have their cheeseheads confiscated before
they enter the Superdome. Maybe Bush can issue an Executive Cheesehead Order to break the embargo.

Is there a Chinese curse that says "may you live in surrealistic times"?

What would Ray Nitschke say?


Waxman's PAC contribution patterns leave him open to precisely the same sort of guilt-by-innuendo tactics he is practicing against Bush.

In the current election cycle Dynegy gave Waxman $1,000. Dynegy is Enron's major competitor, and in
fact is currently being sued by Enron. Edison International, the holding company for Southern California Edison, also gave him $1,000. Edison is a major debtor to Enron due to unpaid electricity bills from the California energy crisis.

This $2,000 is a greater percentage of Waxman's 2000 hard money campaign fundraising (2,000/517,000 = 0.3%) than the Bush campaign's percentage of Enron hard money contributions (113,800/125,000,000 = 0.091%) It' apperance of impropriety! He should recuse himself!

Bush campaign contributions:

Waxman PAC contributions

Boy, the site sure is getting a lot of attention all of a sudden. It may turn out to be as useful at deflating scandals as at discovering them.


UTHANT.COM is back, and is blaming Florida for, well, everything. Mickey Kaus has been assigned to investigate.

TIM BLAIR SCOOPS THE MAJORS on the pretzel-choking story.

TIM NOAH SAYS that Robert Rubin is getting an undeserved free pass from the press for his Enron call.

ANTHRAX, SMALLPOX, EBOLA: So what's the CDC worrying about? Suburban sprawl. Jeez. These guys need some serious priority-reordering. Or they just need to be replaced with a new center that actually works on, you know, disease control.

MATT WELCH has some great stuff on journalists who don't understand stock options covering Enron, and editors assigning reporters who don't understand Afghanistan to cover the war there.

MORE ON LIGHTHOUSE ENERGY GROUP: I mentioned earlier that Henry Waxman got some money from the Lighthouse Energy Group, but that I couldn't figure out the connection with Enron. Looks like Lighthouse is representing Enron competitors. A helpful InstaPundit writer sends this information:

A little info on Lighthouse Energy Group. I don't know if you've done this already, but if not it may be useful. No information given after 1999.
OpenSecrets Link
Looks like they had 3 clients in 1997/98/99.
1. Calpine. A public company, counterparty to Enron for energy sales in California. 154 NYT stories the past 30 days mention both companies:
NYTimes Link
2. Alliance Pipeline. Has a couple Enron competitors as partners: El Paso Corp. and Williams.
Alliance Pipeline Partners.
3. Longhorn Partners. Similar deal: BP-Amoco Pipeline Company, Exxon Pipeline Company and Williams Pipe Line Company.
Longhorn Pipeline Link.
So Waxman is lighting out after Enron after receiving money from a lobbying group that represents Enron competitors. Very interesting.

Of course, this sort of conflict of interest issue is probably bogus. But, in all likelihood, so will be the ones that Waxman drags out. If they're not at least an order of magnitude less bogus than this, Waxman should be thrown in irons, sedated, hooded, and flown to Guantanamo by the Bogosity Police. Though if there were a Bogosity Police, they'd have to annex most of Havana to make room for all the "ethical watchdogs" they'd be housing.


Relevant to your discussion and response to V. Postrel:

May I quote Scott Adams:

"Prediction 52: In the future, everyone will be a news reporter"

"Thanks to the ubiquity of video cameras and the internet, every citizen will be a reporter. If something happens in your neighborhood, you'll tape it, stick it on the internet with your own commentary, and make it available to the world. Sports commentary and statistics will be generated by fans who enjoy doing it for free. The weather reports will be computer-generated and constantly available by computer, pager, voice mail, and dozens of other sources. All news gathering will be disaggregated...

People will have acces to software that constantly combs the internet for 'small' news that is relevant to them. The software will learn to filter out reports from Induhviduals who constantly post incorrect information. You will still get misleading reports quite often, but that's no different from today.

[Key point]

"This model depends on people being willing to take the time to put information on the Net without the benefit of payment. Why will people do that? They will do it because that's our most basic human nature:

People like to talk more than they like to listen. That's why our mouths are so much bigger than the combined size of our
earholes (I know that statement makes no sense, yet it's strangely compelling).

It is not only unnecessary to pay people to tell you what they know, it's almost impossible to stop them from doing it."

[Adams then notes that he gets over 350 emails per day that give him ideas, suggestions, jokes, etc. for Dilbert] "All that the writers ask in return is a reasonable likelihood that I will read the message (I do my best)

"Look at the explostion of "personal home pages" [read: in 2001-02,'Blogs'] on the Internet. People spend untold hours populating their personal web pages with information about their hobbies, opinions, favorite music, and loads of other information that nobody asked for.

"Bottom line: we are a species that needs no incentive to give away information. The Internet and video technology make it easy to share what we know with the world. And boy will we share."

The Dilbert Future, 202-03.

Note that this was published in 1997.

And there you have it.

RICHARD POSNER (featured below cheek-by-jowl with porn-star/techno diva Traci Lords) is Slate's Diarist this week. Should be interesting, though today's entry is mostly an introduction.

SPINSANITY SAYS that liberal pundits are out ahead of the politicians in trying to make Enron into a scandal:

What is perhaps most remarkable about the Enron debate is that it has entered high gear before there is any evidence of political impropriety. In fact, after a round of largely speculative back and forth this weekend, Enron is the hottest topic in Washington. In the highly polarized world of punditry, it appears that even the first hints of scandal are now enough to set off cascades of irresponsible rhetoric that can dominate the national agenda.
I think they're right. Now that so many of these guys have disgraced themselves by being so utterly wrong on Afghanistan, it's natural for them to want to move the market into an area they're more familiar with.

OPINIONJOURNAL READERS wrote in to suggest excuses Arafat can use for the ship full of smuggled weapons that was recently seized. Some are pretty damned funny.

TERRORISM WILL RETURN in Central Asia, warns Ahmed Rashid, unless there is serious reform. Another argument for the Kemalist approach, though Rashid's piece also makes clear that all sorts of terrorists have all sorts of motivations, and that Islamism is only one of them.

JIM BENNETT has an interesting column on globalization, culture, and luck. In the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, "In my experience there is no such thing as luck."

READER JONAH GOLDBERG forwards this link to a piece on Izzy Stone that suggests that Stone was a proto-blogger -- and asks why Stone got so much deference from bigshot journalists while his latter-day incarnation, Matt Drudge, does not.

To be fair, Drudge has morphed into more of a news service than what he used to be -- but he's certainly been as much of an influence as Izzy Stone was.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has put up all sorts of good things on her site, including a Leon Kass update. But what I want to discuss is her pooh-poohing of what might be called "Weblogger Triumphalism."

Virginia points to Andrew Sullivan's comment that he has as many hits per month as Talk has subscribers, and to my echoing of Jim Bennett's point about weblogs being part of the "Reformation" of Big Media. No doubt it's beneficial to all of us to have our pretensions deflated (in fact, this sort of response is one reason while weblogs are so cool). But I think that Virginia is missing the point.

It may be unfair in some sense to compare the visitors to Andrew's site with the subscribers to Talk, but is there any doubt that Andrew's site has had more impact on the nation's thinking since 9/11 than Tina Brown's rag?

To Virginia, who used to edit a magazine where she had to meet a payroll, and who now is making a living as a freelance writer, it's inevitable that she focus on The Benjamins -- and she does. But my point (and I think Andrew's, too) was that there's more to it than that.

Weblogs are having a big effect, as I said in the TechCentralStation column that she kindly references, in no small part because so many people in Big Media read them. (See, when you're a columnist you can surf all day and call it "research." Sort of like being a professor). I know a lot of 'em read InstaPundit because they email me; I'm sure far more read Sullivan, Postrel, Kaus, and Marshall.

Now some of the effect of that is obvious, as when Mark Steyn credits Ken Layne and Jeff Jarvis for the "fly naked" idea. But I think the bigger effect is below the surface. Not only are Big Media exposed to ideas from outside the all-too-hermetically-sealed world of Big Media, but they find themselves criticized, often very cogently. (Even if they don't surf, they'll find this when they Google themselves. And, you know, they do.) The criticism may or may not change their minds on particular points, but the knowledge that it takes place, and that others in their own circles are reading it, is likely to affect their thinking, or at least their writing and reporting. (In fact, I believe that it already is, but that's a topic for another post.) For while the economy of The Benjamins is important, my brother the historian notes that a major phenomenon in history is people's willingness to value status over money. And gossip (which in a way is what webloggery about mainstream journalists is) has always been a powerful determiner of status.

So even small-circulation weblogs are likely to have substantial influence if they reach the right people.

This should be no surprise. Izzy Stone's newsletter, if memory serves, only reached 1500-1600 people, and it was highly influential. Lots of weblogs reach that many, and some reach as select a crowd. (What's more, they do it without financial subsidies from the Evil Empire!). What would be surprising would be if this didn't have an effect.

That's why I think the Reformation is a good example. The Catholic Church didn't go out of business as a result of the Reformation. In fact, after a while it was bigger than it had ever been. And the Pope's opinions remain important to this day. But post-Reformation, the Church didn't enjoy the kind of monopoly that it did before, and its policies were, and still are, influenced by the knowledge that they would be criticized in ways that they never would have been before -- and that people didn't have to listen if they didn't want to.

I do think that something like that is happening as a result of the weblog phenomenon, and I think it's pretty significant. If this be triumphalism, then call me a triumphalist.

UPDATE: Jesse Walker writes that he thinks the case for Stone's being subsidized by the Communists is weak. I do think that the case for Stone being a spy for the Soviet Union is weak, though there is some evidence from the Venona intercepts. I had thought that the subsidy case was stronger than that, but I'm not interested in arguing the point, which quickly leads to Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs and other places I'd rather wind up. Let's put Stone into the "not proven" category, and let it go. My point was the influence that he wielded, not the source of his funds anyway.

ISRAEL, INDIA AND TURKEY: A new Triple Alliance? They all have problems with Islamic fundamentalists. They're all (to varying degrees) constitutional democracies. Makes sense to me. And the net effect, as the Martin Walker column I link to correctly notes, is the extension of U.S. influence in the region.

Sorry, Osama. You screwed up.

UPDATE: A reader points out that this piece by Tunku Varadarajan made this point back in September. Advantage: Varadarajan! Er, but it's even truer now. Yeah, that's it. It's not more obvious (and hence less praiseworthy to notice) -- it's more true and hence more praiseworthy to notice.

With spin like this, I'll be on the NYT editorial page soon.

ENRON UPDATE: Democrats are divided on what to do. Jon Corzine (D -NJ) who got money from Enron, is taking a cautionary line. Henry Waxman, on the other hand (whom the Post describes accurately as "camera-hungry") is raring to go (I'm still trying to find out if the "Lighthouse Energy Group" who donated to Waxman is connected to Enron, or one of its competitors, though either way it seems like a conflict of interest -- but Waxman obviously isn't concerned.) And Charles "was that a TV camera?" Schumer, who got the most money from Enron of any Democratic Senator is being most uncharacteristically silent.

Of course, as I said Friday, most of these conflict-of-interest issues regarding folks like Waxman, and maybe even Schumer (though he got a lot of money compared to most) will be bogus. But, of course, so will most of the conflict-of-interest issues that people will be raising about the Administration.

IS IT JUST ME, or is the whole Bush fainting spell story kind of, well, weird? I presume they'll do followup studies to rule out something more serious, though the current diagnosis, neurally mediated vasovagal syncope, can be disabling, even though not life-threatening.

Of course, it may be nothing. I often get dizzy when I stand up fast because I have low blood pressure (usually around 110/60). And exercising more (my resting heart rate dropped to the low 50s last year; thanks to the exercise-reduction effects of InstaPundit, it's probably up some now) did seem to make that worse, not better -- and Bush, as best as I can tell, is in substantially better shape than me. (Maybe he's not getting enough salt?) But he wasn't standing up fast -- he was eating a pretzel. (Maybe he stood up when he thought he was choking? Vasovagal syncope can be triggered by coughing, which certainly can happen if a pretzel's stuck in your throat.)

It's kind of scary, though: if Bush had choked, we'd have only Dick Cheney's bum ticker between us and . . . President Hastert!

JEREMY LOTT has some interesting thoughts on Christianity and globalization. This might also be a good time for me to mention a book I read a while ago in prepublication bound-galley form, but that is now out: Brink Lindsey's Against the Dead Hand: The Uncertain Struggle for Global Capitalism. The two seem to mesh nicely. I'll be writing more on Lindsey's book later -- for now, I just recommend it.


I made a round trip flight from Seattle to San Jose this weekend. On three of the possible four occasions for security checks, I was 'randomly' selected for the lay-it-all-out search. Empty pockets, grope up and down my back, belt off, shoes X-rayed, open shoulder bag and fiddle case. The nail clippers in the fiddle case rode serenely through undiscovered, although it would only have taken opening the string compartment to find them. Humph.
Yep. Intrusive, but ineffective.

The more I think about it, the more I think this is a clever Bush Administration plan to make the airline screeners emblematic of Big Government, thus discrediting the notion for all time. It's working.

VANESSA LEGGETT UPDATE: Reader Kevin Connors forwards a link to this oped by Julie Hilden, castigating the Justice Department for thinking that it matters for First Amendment purposes whether someone is a "professional journalist" or not.

What's really disgraceful is that this whole thing is a piece of Houston politicking on the part of the U.S. Attorney there.

SO THEY'VE HAULED OFF A PILOT for asking why they were frisking him for tweezers with such enthusiasm when, as a pilot, he didn't need a weapon to crash the plane.

Such a question is entirely reasonable, and exposes the sheer idiocy of our cosmetic air-security system. Naturally, the man must be jailed.


FREEDOM'S RITES: Samizdata provides advice on dealing with the Saudis from Winston Churchill.

READER MICHELLE MALKIN says that there was plenty of Dave Thomas-hating, or at least Dave Thomas condescension, from the media. She sends this link to a rather, er, well, let's be charitable and just call it overly-precious piece by Hank Stuever in the Washington Post, and this link to letters from some irate Post readers.

I missed both of these (hey, I don't read everything). Looks like she's right.

JUST CHECKED THE AMAZON HONORS donation report. Hey, thanks! I appreciate it, especially as I'm getting ready to migrate InstaPundit to a new site that, sadly, won't be as cheap. I'm not abandoning Blogger, but recent problems -- and all the dire warnings from Reid Stott and Charles Johnson have convinced me it's time to host elsewhere. Unfortunately, nothing matches the cheapness and convenience of the Blogger/Blogspot combination. But that's life.

NIGERIA now has a space policy. Glad to see they're looking ahead.

THERE ARE SOME ARTICLES ON ENRON at I'd tell you where I got the link, but I don't want to get anyone in trouble.

SEARCH-ENGINE CENSORSHIP: Joshua Bittker put a phony recipe for the explosive TATP on his site and now it's disappeared from Google. Is Tom Ridge behind this?

At least it's some sign of activity, though if you read the recipe (hint: it involves brown sugar, baking powder, and vanilla extract), it's obvious that it's not especially, er, clever activity.

FOXNEWS is running a story on what it calls Michael Bellesiles' "lies" in Arming America. You can see a streaming version at the link above. I wonder if other media, like NPR, will pick up on this.

They sure picked up on the Stephen Ambrose story a lot faster.

READER ED DRISCOLL forwards this link about the White House's action to block sales of germ warfare information. Driscoll adds that he thinks someone at the White House must be reading InstaPundit.

Actually, that's true -- someone is. But I think this has more to do with The New York Times article that I linked to than with my coverage. Of course, I'd be happy to be wrong. (At least, I think I would. I'll have to get back to you on that one).

REFORMIST IRANIAN MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT have staged a walkout to protest their harassment by the mullahs. Revolution, baby! Bring it on!

MORE FOLK-PROPAGANDA against bin Laden. Consumer Reports says this is in bad taste, which proves that they just don't get it.

ALL-ENRON ALL THE TIME! PUNDITWATCH has the roundup of the Sunday-morning shows. Short version: the circus is back in town.

JOANNE JACOBS has some cool stuff on blogging verse and the post-9/11 fate of the folk-song army.

KEN LAYNE has some great stuff on special forces. They seem a lot smarter and more knowledgeable than the journalists covering them. And I'll bet they speak more languages.

SAUDIWATCH: Jeff Jacoby discloses the shocking extent of U.S. sucking-up to the Saudis over the Clinton, and both Bush, administrations. He says it's time for an ultimatum. I think it may be past time for an ultimatum. Note that the Hashemite idea (or is it the Turkey idea) seems to be gaining steam:

We would make it clear to the Saudi princes that we expect their full cooperation no matter where the war on terrorism takes us. And if it takes us to a land war in Iraq, Saudi Arabia will make its military bases available for staging the invasion.

Will the Saudis refuse? Will they protest that complying with our demands will mean the toppling of their regime? Either way, our course will be clear: We will seize and secure the oil fields.

But our purpose would not be plunder. We would appoint a respected, pro-Western Muslim ally to run the oil industry in trust for the Muslim world. No longer would the petro-wealth of Arabia be used to advance Islamist fanaticism and terror - or to maintain a decadent royal family in corrupt opulence. It would be used, rather, to promote education, health, and democracy throughout the Middle East. The Gulf's great riches, now a well spring of disorder and unrest, could be transformed into a force for decency, stability, and peace.

A respected, pro-Western Muslim ally. Hmm. Can't be Egypt -- not pro-Western, or trustworthy, enough. Syria, Iraq, and Iran are out. Morocco? Not impossible. Pakistan? Now there would be the way to cement Musharraf's position, but I doubt it. Jordan or Turkey look best: Turkey if the suzerainty is to be more than nominal, Jordan if it is not. (Perhaps we could have a combination, with the secularist Turks running the government while the Hashemites look after the holy places).

The Saudis must hate this. Any such effort, of course, must include the confiscation of Saudi royal wealth, and the close supervision of Saudi royal family members, to ensure that they do not sponsor further terrorism.

JUST WATCHED GENE SPERLING (one of the brighter lights of the Clinton Administration in my probably-biased opinion) and Jack Kemp sparring over the tax cuts. Gene (who's a law school classmate of mine) emphasized the common ground on tax cuts, which confused me until Wolf Blitzer unveiled a poll that showed Americans 67% opposed to delaying or repealing tax cuts.

GOLF TERROR PLOT REVEALED? No, this isn't a joke. Golfers: If you see anybody acting suspicious, whack him with a one-iron. God know they're not good for much else.

MORE ON TURKS AND ARABS: Reader Steve Bodio writes:

Re: Turkish dissatisfaction with Saudi Arabia.

All of the Turkic, not just Turkish, Islam culture seems to harbor a distrust of Arabs. I've spent a lot of time since '98 with the Kazakhs of western Mongolia; their attitude could best be summed up by my friend Canat's remark: "I am Moslem. We love Allah, but we do not love mullahs." They have rejected teachers from Arabia, quite recently. Turkic (Uzbek, Kazakh, Turkoman) Moslems preserve the pre-Islamic traditions of their ancestral Altai mountains. They tend to Sufism, saints, and shamans (even Canat who has an advanced degree in engineering consults with the local shamaness.) Their women ride, and everyone drinks -- both airag (fermented mare's milk) and vodka. And they always have been like this, as you can see by reading 19th century accounts. (Some believe that the Prophet allows airag because it doesn't come from grapes!) [Not actually an absurd belief].

On 9-12 I got an e-mail from Canat: "This is not just tragedy for Americans, it is whole world tragedy. My Kazakh people are behind you."

I think he meant it. We have a lot of potential allies in Central Asia.

Yes. Perhaps we should explain to those who complain of a "war against Islam," that it's really a "war against Arab colonialism." In Henry Kissinger's felicitous phrase, it's a good argument, and it has the added advantage of being true.

EVEN THE NEW YORK TIMES is suggesting that Cornel West was "crying wolf" by "crying race". This article indicates to me that Jeff Jarvis may be right when he says we're moving into a "post-PC world." Harvardian Charles Murtaugh suggests that Summers may have taken West in with a "rope-a-dope" tactic: giving in in a meaningless way, then letting West be savaged in the aftermath. Certainly West, who is now the butt of jokes across the political spectrum, from Salon and The New Republic on the left, to The Weekly Standard and NRO on the right, hasn't come out of this a winner. And check out the unflattering photo and accompanying caption that West gets in The Times.

Professors live and die by their egos, and West's hasn't gotten much stroking out of this affair.

DAVE SHIFLETT defends Dave Thomas against anti-fast-food philistines. Here's a great excerpt:

Why cavil they? For one thing, they don't like fast food because it's fast. They don't like fast cars, either, or quick bucks. This is the slow-growth crowd, which also delights in grinding bureaucracies and is likely to support federal laws against running around the pool.

Nor do these critics like big stuff, including the supersized meals championed by Wendy's. While a normal American salivates at the thought of a tri-decker cheeseburger wearing a top hat of bacon and pickles, these people will jump out a high window if one is brought into the room. They are similarly spooked by 350-pound high school linebackers, SUVs, big hair, and most other manifestations of the expansive American spirit. . . .

Their core problem, as we know, is a gnawing fear of death. Deep in their quaking souls they believe that if they eat right, get to bed by 9 p.m., stay out of the sun, and otherwise cling to the Gospel According to the Surgeon General, they might live forever. When normal Americans hear the words surgeon general, of course, they reach for the safety catches on their Pez dispensers.

I wasn't aware that Dave Thomas was as widely loathed by the chattering classes as Shiflett makes out, but then I live in Knoxville, and Dave was a Knoxvillian. Well, actually he was an Oak Ridger who took the bus into Knoxville to work for local restaurant kingpins the Regases, who themselves started numerous national chains. So he's pretty well thought of around here. But then, Knoxville -- despite being a town dominated by a University, a National Lab, and the Tennessee Valley Authority -- isn't a town where bobo anxiety reigns supreme. Thank God.

UPDATE: Reader Matthew Yglesias writes:

I'm with you in questioning whether the chattering classes ever had as much disdain for Dave Thomas as Dave Shiflett seems to think. I recall that on the day he died I saw lengthy and glowing stories about him on CNN, Fox News, and ABC World News Tonight. The anti-fast food brigade was always much, much more concerned with bashing McDonald's.
It seems that way to me, too. I like Tim Blair's take on that phenomenon:
HERE’S A FUN EXPERIMENT you can try at home: take a bunch of meat, grill it, and stick it between some bread. Now sell it to somebody. Repeat the process until you identify just what the hell it is you’re doing that’s so damn evil.
He has a lot of links, but they're to McDonald's - haters, not Wendy's - haters.

SOME INTERESTING THOUGHTS on the future of the Internet, copyright, etc., in what is sadly the last edition of Cyberlaw Journal.

A FIRE has destroyed years of work in a genetics lab at U.C. Santa Cruz. Officially, the cause is unknown. I put the odds that it's ecoterrorism at 50-50. Stay tuned.


You've had a number of posts calling for the return of the Ottoman empire, as well as posts about how one of the Saudi tactics for spreading its sect of Islam is to tear down beautiful mosques in other countries and replace them with what their sect believes mosques should look like. Thought this Washington Post story about 300 Turks burning pictures of Saudi royalty to protest the destruction of an Ottoman-era castle in Mecca would peak your interest. Of particular note are the last two paragraphs of the story:

"In Saudi Arabia, a government-controlled newspaper on Saturday criticized what it called Turkey's ambivalent attitude toward Muslims and its ties to Israel.

"By protesting against the kingdom's decision to demolish a dilapidated structure to further expand the facilities in the holy city, Turkey has once again proved its ambivalent approach to anything that has got to do with Islam and Muslims," the English-language Riyadh Daily said."

Ah, those Saudis. Can't respond to any criticism without pulling Israel or the evils of secular based government into the argument, can they?

Oh. And the Taliban reference by the Turks in this more comprehensive story on the castle's destruction... I seem to remember you (or one of your peers) comparing the destruction of mosques in Kosovo?? to the Buddha-boom incident by the Taliban. If it was you, then Instapundit was first again!

Very interesting. Well, I didn't exactly call for the restoration of the Ottoman Empire -- but I think it would be an improvement. And it's certainly true that that part of the world has known peace and prosperity pretty much only when they were imposed from the outside.

The Saudis have been hostile to the Turks all along, for obvious reasons. Now the Turks are starting to pay attention. In fact, you may see the Turkish government using the very real resentment of the Saudis and Wahabbism among its own muslims (and muslims lots of other places) as a way of redirecting political discontent at home. That's an interesting switch on how the Saudis, et al., use anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism for the same purpose.

I think that Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria would all do well as provinces of Turkey, with Mecca and Medina being returned to their traditional custodians, the Hashemites.

FAREED ZAKARIA writes about 9/11 and the need to learn from failure. He is, of course, right. Here's a key passage:

Immediately after the attack it seemed almost unpatriotic to ask pesky questions. Then the war in Afghanistan required our attention. And now we’re on to the victory lap. But sometime we had better start figuring out just what went wrong. After Pearl Harbor, the United States responded and defeated its enemies, but it also began a process of completely rethinking its military, intelligence and diplomatic institutions in light of the changed world. Nothing like this is happening in Washington. . . .

No one has much of an appetite for an investigation. The reason for this might well be that September 11 happened not because of intelligence failures, but, even worse, because of policy failures. The former can easily be blamed on others. The latter requires that everyone—both parties, both branches of government—take a long, hard look in the mirror.

Well, I think there were probably some serious intelligence failures, too -- in fact, I've pointed to some recently.

But at a more fundamental level, he's right. Nobody wanted to hear about this stuff (Tony Lake famously remarked in 1994 that he had too much on his plate to worry about terrorism). Of course, one reason why nobody took it seriously is that the FBI and CIA have screamed "terrorism" in support of all sorts of absurdly unrelated items (like the Clipper Chip) over the years, thus ensuring that they would be ignored even when they had something major.

We need a top-to-bottom review of what went wrong. And we need to reinculcate a philosophy of focusing on the job, rather than of bureaucratic opportunism, something that Zakaria rightly says can only happen with leadership from the very top.

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