TIM BLAIR has mysteriously obtained a copy of Susan Sontag's grocery list.

FRITZ SCHRANCK has some thoughts on the prosecution of domestic-violence cases, a subject on which he has firsthand experience.

SEAN MCCRAY savages Jonah Goldberg.

RECESSION HITS PROTEST INDUSTRY: Hmm. Maybe this is the explanation for why not much is happening in NYC.

MOIRA BREEN'S advice to war columnists is a must-read, especially for the people who, sadly, are least likely to read it.

ANOTHER CORPORATE BANKRUPTCY SCANDAL isn't getting the attention it deserves, as the media focus on Enron. But I think the Kathy Ireland angle will soon draw the press.

LOMBORG UPDATE: Reader Aaron Bergman sends this link to a Lomborg-debunkers' site. Reader Bill Magaletta sends this link to Lomborg's site where he responds to the critics, and calls special attention to this letter from Richard Lindzen, a meteorology professor at MIT, who objects to the way his work is used by Lomborg critics.

LITERALLY DOZENS of people have emailed me the link to this article in The Spectator, on how Western intellectuals' contempt for their own culture has bred terrorism. Read it and see why.

WRITING ABOUT EUROPE wouldn't be the same without the inevitable hatemail from British solicitor Martin Pratt. (At least he says he's British, though the "No shit, Sherlock" with which he opens his message sounds idiomatically rather American). Martin suggests that because (he says) only 60% of Britons supported British military cooperation with the U.S. in Afghanistan, I'm making too much of the disconnect between European elites and the masses.

Well, I thought the number was higher, but I'm too lazy to check. Let's say he's right. The 60% of Britons he says supported not just American action, but British participation in the American action, is rather a lot more than the, oh, about two percent of the British chattering classes who were supporting America, now isn't it? At any rate, Martin thinks I'm wrong to suggest that Europe is a haven of unrepresentativeness. Though the Euro couldn't pass in referenda anywhere, and had to be put through by fiat.

I think Martin is reacting as much to my general views of Europe as to my specific statements. I usually leave analysis of EU events to Eurobloggers like the Samizdata crowd, Fredrik Norman or Bjorn Staerk. But I see Europe headed in an ugly direction, where the best outcome is something like Singapore, and the worst outcome is something a good deal more unpleasant. Pratt hates it when I say this. But what kind of a friend would I be if I saw something like that coming, and didn't say anything? I hope that I'm wrong, and that Pratt's sunny view of Europe's future is correct.

UPDATE: Hey, and I don't even call the EU a "haven of fluorescent idiocy" the way Natalija Radic does. (There's a new picture, too, for Natalija fans -- who appear to be legion.)

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another British reader sends the following in response to my post on Martin's views:

Every opinion poll shows that while most Britons are against joining the Euro (and a substantial minority now favours complete withdrawal from the EU) they gloomily believe that the government will haul them into it by hook or by crook. This isn't just fatalism - it is indicative of a wide and growing gap between the rulers and the ruled on these islands and it is starting to show. With every week that goes by Britain steadily becomes a more lawless country and neither the government nor their media lackies seem to know what to do about it. There is a quiet restless seething in this country; a deep discontent. The pople know that something is wrong but they can't quite put their finger on it yet. Britain quietly simmers yet it is all formless and nebulous and has not yet got a face or name. It bubbles away.

I think it was Voltaire who visited Britain in the early 18th Century and described it as a country of 'Aristocracy tempered by rioting'. Those days may be making a comeback.

This may or may not turn out to be correct, of course. But at the very least, it is a view shared by many of Martin's countrymen, not simply a phantom born of Yankee ignorance.

AND ANOTHER UPDATE: Matt Yglesias makes this point:

I thought I'd take the time to say that for all the recent anti-Americanism coming from Europe and the anti-Europianism coming from America that we should see all this bitching and moaning for what it is -- bitching and moaning among a family or a circle of friends. . . . The point, fundamentally, is that the whole reason so many disputes fly back and forth across the Atlantic is that we can argue with the Europeans. We're in the same cultural conversation and share many of the same underlying values so we have things to say to each other about how those values should be applied.

MATT WELCH HAS more news from New York. And, in a much bigger development -- he now has health insurance!

Maybe we should start a blogger trade association, so people can get a group policy. Mickey Kaus suggested the trade association idea to me in August. Now that the number of bloggers has, at a scientific estimate, umptoopled, maybe it's time!

GROUNDHOG DAY, argues Orrin Judd, is one of the best comedies since Hollywood's golden age, and a film worthy of Frank Capra. Surprisingly, he makes a pretty convincing case.

HMM. All of a sudden Blogspot is awfully slow. CornerHost, where Sgt. Stryker and a lot of bloggers have gone, was hacked last night. Andrew Sullivan was hack-attacked last week. I wonder if there's a connection.

ENVIRO-UPDATE: This article from The Economist talks about Bjorn Lomborg and the rather harsh response to his book from the environmental establishment.

I'm not sure what to make of this. The opening quote is a very dismissive one from my former University of Tennessee colleague, Stuart Pimm, now at Columbia and not a jerk. I have to say, though, that on reading his remarks I was reminded of the arguments-from-authority used by historians to dismiss the critics of Michael Bellesiles. They said "don't listen to these critics -- they're not professional historians." Pimm basically says, "don't listen to this guy -- he's not an environmental scientist."

As The Economist says,

The replies to Dr Lomborg in Scientific American and elsewhere score remarkably few points of substance. His large factual claims about the current state of the world do not appear to be under challenge—which is unsurprising since they draw on official data. What is under challenge, chiefly, is his outrageous presumption in starting a much-needed debate. . . . Dr Lomborg—a courteous fellow—seems willing to talk calmly to his opponents. For the most part, while claiming in some cases to be men of science, his opponents do not return the compliment.
I haven't followed this debate closely, leaving that to Ron Bailey, Gregg Easterbrook, and other people who specialize in environmental matters, so I can't offer an opinion on substance. But I have this observation: the environmental lobby has been spectacularly wrong on a lot of things (remember Paul Ehrlich's 1970 prediction of food riots in America by 1974?) It hasn't dealt with that, and it's not going to preserve its credibility by arguments from authority.

If it wants to disprove Lomborg's work, it will have to engage in the kind of careful, well-documented criticism that amateurs (later followed by professionals) engaged in with regard to Michael Bellesiles' work, and it will have to make those criticisms, and their documentation, publicly available just as the Bellesiles critics did. So far, I haven't seen that.

I'M INFORMED that Sergeant Stryker's site got hacked. No word on when it will return. Think it was Saudis?

UPDATE: Cornerhost was hacked. You can read more here. Bastards.

MORE FROM NEW YORK: Reader Dan Fornuff sends this report:

I work in New York about a block from the Waldorf. I've been through many of these demonstrations before, both pre and now post Rudi but this one seems different. I couldn't believe the number of cops around, even compared to Rudi in full mode. At lunchtime I came back from the bank with an escort of 47 cops, a nice feeling. But the thing that seems different this time is the attitude of both the cops and the average New Yorker. The cops seem totally relaxed out there hanging around in small groups joking and smiling. The people walking around always used to give the cops a wide berth, either from being a little intimidated or just letting them do their jobs. This time a lot more people were engaging the cops in conversation, joking and laughing, it was almost a party atmosphere. This is all a result of 9-11, I hope it lasts.

SO, did Dick Cheney see his shadow?

KEN LAYNE links to some NY stories as evidence that the "late-1990s Protest Everything movement [is] falling apart." Interesting. This is certainly consistent with the reports of InstaPundit readers in New York.

CHESS, BANNED BY THE TALIBAN (what the hell was wrong with those guys -- and yes, that's a rhetorical question) is making a comeback.

A READER HAS UNCOVERED the secret source from which many in the British press are getting their information about U.S. government policy.

PATRIOT SCAMS: Several people have emailed in outrage about the conduct described in this article: phony patriotic merchandising. I agree.

A local jewelry store ran commercials for Christmas (likely to be repeated for Valentine's Day) about how September 11 taught us what was important in life -- the people we love. And what better way to show that we love them, than with a new diamond tennis bracelet for $5000! Ugh. I hope they got a lot of hate mail.


Who remembers that during the early phases of the Afghan campaign, Bruce Ackerman wrote an op-ed for the NY Times explaining that we can’t possibly win, so we should get out as soon as possible? Just asking.

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS -- DOWN, BUT NOT OUT! Reader Hunter McDaniel files this report from -- natch -- Boulder:

I went to a play at my daughter's high school in Boulder, CO this evening. It was "Snow White"; you know the plot. After her first attempt to kill Snow White has failed, the wicked queen is in a terrible pique and ready to kick some butt.

"Fill up the dungeons, and LOWER TAXES.", she rages.

Now you may have thought that the stereotypical tyrant was one who RAISED TAXES. That may be the case where you live, but not here.

That's just too funny.


READER JASON FORD writes to say that he's the original author of the Osama and the 72 Virginians story posted below, and that it appears to have taken on an Internet life of its own.

MATT LABASH reports on inhumane conditions at Guantanamo, where the press is concerned, anyway.

ANOTHER REPORT FROM NEW YORK CITY, from reader George Zachar:

I work near the Waldorf, and the surrounding area is flooded with cops and barricades.

The weather is lousy - cold, windy, rainy.

The few arrest reports I've seen involve Californians.

The balance must be indoors, staying warm. :)

Let's hope it stays that way.

BILL QUICK has some trenchant observations on security, or the lack thereof, at SFO airport and the Golden Gate bridge.

THE EUROPEAN UNION ANNOUNCES THAT IT IS "DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED" in Robert Mugabe's new plan to ensure that what he does to the white farmers isn't reported anywhere. Next, they will, um, frown in his general direction. No taunting, though -- they're still holding that one in reserve.

About a year ago, Dave Kopel and Joanne Eisen wrote that Zimbabwe was ripe for genocide. Since then, Mugabe has been following their script precisely. No wonder the EU is "disappointed." Too bad they're not doing anything.

TONY ADRAGNA SAYS that American foreign aid is a lot greater than most people realize when you allow for non-governmental aid. But who wants to count that stuff, and ruin a good sound bite?

REPORT FROM NEW YORK CITY: Reader Diane Ezer sends this update:

It's almost as if there are no demonstrations at all. Where are they? Our wonderful police have it all in hand. OTOH, maybe the little demonstrators wanted to get in a little shopping. After all, they're in New York. So many bargains!
Interesting. Maybe they're all out chasing their tails as a result of various phony postings on

JONAH GOLDBERG IS making fun of NBC anchor Soledad O'Brien's multiethnicity:

"O’Brien was named to Irish American Magazine’s 1998 "Top 100 Irish Americans" list and in 1997, she was awarded the Hispanic Achievement Award in Communications. She is also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She graduated from Harvard University."

How many more ingredients can a rich ethnic cocktail have before she has to stop accepting laurels from different identity groups?

I went to law school with Soley's sister Maria (one of a seemingly endless number of smart, good-looking O'Briens), and Maria always said that her family looked like America would look in 50 years -- wildly and overlappingly multiethnic. Having seen the future, I have to say, it looks pretty good to me. But Jonah's right -- at what point do all these ethnic associations stop making sense? I'd say about ten years ago.

UPDATE: Reader David Lonborg writes from Hawaii:

I think you're in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The problem is not the ethnic associations. It's the ethnic chips on the shoulder and the sense that ethnicity plus ancestral wrongs equal current entitlements. Take that away, and having lots of ethnic associations becomes a good thing.

I live in Hawaii, where we've got LOTS of people with the kind of ethnic mixing you're talking about. You're right, it makes for lots of very attractive people (as well as lots of interesting food). . . .Now if we can just keep the perpetually aggrieved few from messing it up for the rest of us.

Well, that's the trick, isn't it?

WHAT EUROPE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND ABOUT AMERICA: Steven Den Beste has this great point: "The United States is made up of people whose ancestors hated Europe. They came here to get away from what Europe stood for; they came here because they wanted something different. And they were resolved not to let this nation become another Europe, because they'd seen the worst Europe had to offer." He goes on to note:

The resulting culture of the United States is emergent. It is more than the sum of its parts, and it is not like any of its parts. The United States is not "New Europe". It isn't immature Europe, which will eventually mature and become just like the old country. The United States is something completely new. We are a foreign country. In a very real sense we are the anti-Europe. And we value other things than Europe does. Those who liked how Europe handled things stayed there. Those who thought it stunk came here.

These differences are not a temporary aberration which will be corrected with time. The United States isn't going to become more like Europe as time goes on; if anything, it will diverge as its culture is yet again modified by an influx of new immigrants, this time from the South and West.

Each generation in America is strengthened by a new flow of immigrants. Now that flow is from Latin America, and Korea, and Japan, and the Philippines, and India, and Viet Nam, and China, and Taiwan; they will bring with them the best of their nations, and they will leave behind the worst, and America will change again. It will change for the better. And it will become even less like Europe. In fifty years, more than half the population of the United States will not be of European descent.

I think this should be required reading in Brussels. But it won't be.

IN MY POST ON NICK SCHULZ'S PIECE, BELOW, I mention that Harvard shouldn't be so sure that the problems with its academic and social culture don't matter, as reputations are far more volatile these days. A reader writes with this observation:

On the issue of fast-changing reputations of top universities, consider this:

Harvard Business School was once THE TOP business school in the country by essentially universal accamation.

Now, by many measures and in many polls, Harvard Business School does not even fall in the TOP TEN.

My wife is an HBS grad, so this matters a lot in my family.
If you act, regularly and over a long period of time, as if you're out of touch with reality, and hostile to American society and intellectual debate, your reputation as a university is likely to suffer, no matter how elevated it is. Harvard, I think, is in danger of that now. I believe that Larry Summers realizes it, but I don't think his faculty has caught on.

A READER SAYS I'M TOO NICE TO ROBERT WRIGHT, and cites this piece from Slate today as evidence:

The piece starts with some vague linguistic complaints about whether the axis of evil is really properly called an "axis", and then leads up to the following penultimate paragraph:

So much for that story line. "Axis of evil" was a phrase manufactured for domestic consumption, with disregard for the existence of a) our allies; b) those particular allies that have to deal with these "rogue states" up close and personal, such as South Korea; c) any terrorist recruiters who can turn Bush's more florid turns of phrase into effective propaganda. Bush could have delivered a warning to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea just as forcefully without using a phrase so incendiary. That the world's opinion of America matters-certainly one of the top few lessons of 9/11-continues to elude our leader.
Hmm. Could it be that Bush's strategy is to tell the whole world -- our allies, our enemies, and everyone else -- that:

(1) We believe that some regimes are evil.
(2) We are willing to fight evil.
(3) We are willing to tell the truth about evil without wondering whether some people might find it "incendiary."
(4) And, most important, that *we think the world's opinion of America will become more helpful to us* -- not because people will love us more, but because they will respect us and in some instances fear us more -- when the world figures all this out about us?

And what is it about some people that makes them cringe so much at this strategy, whether it's used by Reagan in his "evil empire" comment or now by Bush?

I think that what makes people cringe about good/evil discussions is that if you admit that good and evil exist and can be told from one another, it creates obligations: to oppose evil, and to support (and be) good. That's work, and it involves responsibility.

It seems to me that it's possible to admit that good and evil are not always clearcut, while still admitting that the distinction remains. To some people, though, that's apparently too big a mental effort.

Nonetheless, while Wright's piece is both dumb and snide, I don't think it reaches the level of Fisk and Rall. But maybe those guys have set the bar of idiocy too high. . . .

UPDATE: On reflection, I think I was a bit mean here. What bothered me most about Wright's piece was that he didn't seem to even entertain the possibility that Bush was acting in good faith, and I guess I just did the same thing to Wright. I do think that Wright is in good faith here -- which is what distinguishes him from the likes of Rall, Fisk, et al., who I'm not sure are capable of good faith in these matters. And that's a very, very big difference.

THE BLOVIATOR WONDERS why NPR's Margot Adler, in a report on Supreme Court Justice Kennedy speaking to an advanced-placement history class, felt she had to stress that the majority of the students in the class were Asian-American.

DOMAIN-SQUATTING ALERT: Someone's trying to capitalize on typos here. Hmm.

NICK SCHULZ WRITES THAT HARVARD PRESIDENT LARRY SUMMERS has a long way to go in his efforts to repair Harvard's deeply damaged academic and social culture, at least based on the behavior of the audience at a recent Kennedy School debate:

To be sure, not every question was hostile. One Iraqi student thoughtfully asked how the debate participants felt about self-determination for the Iraqi people. But in the main, the audience was reflexively hostile to arguments in favor of U.S. military action as evidenced by not just the questions but by the curious tittering, chatter, audible groans and side comments emerging from the audience during the debate.

The students and faculty at the Kennedy school are among the brightest in the country, many the future leaders of global government bodies in the United States and at the UN, World Bank, and IMF. Many of them compose the next generation elite that will help shape global political realities. So the collective reaction was instructive.

There was evidence of an unwillingness to engage ideas that challenge certain typical academic prejudices (such as aversion to American power). The mood reflected a posture that the important questions are settled and that they preclude the use of force to promote freedom and democracy around the globe.

Yes, titters, groans, and catcalls, rather than actual ideas and arugments, seem to be the staple response of war opponents these days (see the L.A. Weekly item below), presumably because they don't have anything more serious to offer. That's fine; it just means they won't be taken seriously. And, if this keeps up, neither will the Kennedy School.

People email me that I'm crazy when I say that top universities like Harvard have something to fear in the reputation department. But reputations change very swiftly nowadays. Why, I was just reading a couple of years ago about what a great, well-run company Enron was. . . .

SOME INTERESTING REPORTING on plagiarism in the Christian Science Monitor. One important factor here is publishers' pronounced dislike of footnotes and sourcing, which is certainly very real. Maybe they'll let up on that a bit, now.

FORGET JIHAD VS. MCWORLD -- Tim Blair offers Stupid World vs. Real World. Brilliant!

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON has more evidence that we've entered a post-PC era:

The more Americans find out more about Wahhabism, the Saudi royal family, the Dickensian Pakistani street, the Iranian mullahs, what Mr. Arafat really says in Arabic, Afghani warlords, the public parades of future Hamas murderers in Lebanon, and the Pravda-like nature of al Jazeera — the more they are shocked to learn that the multiculturalists, not the traditionalists in our schools, were the great deceivers. How ironic that multiculturalism demanded romance — not reason, parochialism — not inquisitiveness, and prejudice — not impartiality.

The rejection of a multiracial society united by a common adherence to Western values has formed the canon of our educational system for the last two decades. We were to embrace a "mosaic" of unassimilated special-interest groups rather than the blend of the melting pot. But throughout this war we have seen the horrific wages of nations that are not really nations at all, but simply tribes of competing ethnicities, religions, and races whose traditions promote private agendas, rather than freedom and tolerance.

If we didn't learn from the horror in Bosnia and Kosovo, then at least we should have seen in Afghanistan, Somalia, the Congo, and elsewhere these last few years that wherever people give allegiance to skin color, religion, language, and tribe first, and the common culture second — corpses pile up.

Well said.

WHERE THE ANTI-GLOBOS ARE RIGHT: Nice post from Matt Welch. I agree with Welch on this. In fact, one of the sad things about the anti-Globos is that they tend to discredit or at least distract from any kind of more intelligent anti-corporate, pro-free trade movement. Why, if the corporations paid these guys to discredit such movements, they couldn't do a better job.

Say, you don't think. . . .

RICH HAILEY SAYS I'M not a chump.

THIS REPORT provides more evidence of a terrorist learning curve, and says that there are probably Al Qaeda cells still operating in the United States.

I agree with the latter. I'd like to believe that the worst is over. Maybe it is. But even if the worst is over, that leaves room for lots of bad stuff. And maybe the worst isn't over. It's too early to be sure, and too early to be complacent.

MICHAEL BARONE WEIGHS IN on the state of the union address. He likes it, and says its greatest virtue was that it shocked America out of a growing complacency, and held out a new vision of American society both abroad and at home.


Self-Parody can go no further. But I'm willing to keep checking the site from time to time.

This one ArabNews: We have the power, but lack the guts is sandwiched between "Kingdom Launches Charm Offensive At WEF" and "Why Torture Is Never OK."

THE LEFT'S INTOLERANCE FOR DISAGREEMENT comes in for a good thrashing in this article by a disappointed leftist in the L.A. Weekly.

And whatever these perfect strangers from Kentucky stood for, however distant they were from the causes of global minimum wage, clean energy and sustainable peace, they were still able to treat people who shared almost none of their values without contempt. We were able to do the same, and to us, that was a hugely political act.

But it is the kind of political act for which the current crop of activist groups -- from the Voters Rights March to Ramsey Clark's International Action Center -- have increasingly little patience. Faced with dissenting views or even devil's advocacy from newspaper reporters, they grow hostile and deny access. When I've collaborated with activists on the left, as I did recently on a Web site, I've found them willing to censor discussions or use ridicule when certain words make them uncomfortable. When I've written about them, they've been unhappy that I've focused on their personal struggles and not exclusively on the issues, and as a member of the media, I've endured their suspicion and scorn. Were these people ever to actually run the country, I complained loudly in the summer of 2000, while I was up in Malibu covering the Ruckus Society's direct-action training camp, it would be a bona fide fascist dictatorship.

Yep. That's why so many of us -- including me -- who once thought of ourselves as leftists don't anymore.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER praises Bush's "astonishly bold address." He concludes: "This is not a president husbanding political capital. This is a president on a mission. We have not seen that in a very long time."

FAKE FBI BADGES are being sold on the black market by the hundreds, many of them to foreign nationals.

But hey -- if an Arab-looking guy presents one and wants to bring a gun on a plane, I expect the airlines will be afraid of challenging it now, thanks to that Secret Service agent's complaints.

REUTERS WON'T CALL TERRORISTS TERRORISTS but they don't mind calling the WEF participants the "Global Power Elite." They are, of course -- well, some of them -- but then again, the Al Qaeda folks are terrorists, too.

So much for neutrality.

ADVANTAGE: TARANTO! James Taranto emails to note that "Best of the Web" pointed out the Fisk story back in November.

CLONING NEWS: According to this story there's real progress in organ-cloning:

Scientists at a Massachusetts private biotechnology company, Advanced Cell Technologies, say they have successfully used a cloned cow embryo to create kidneys that appear to function after transplantation.

The result, if it meets the rigors of peer review, is significant because it suggests cloning organs for human therapeutic purposes may soon be within our reach.

I wonder what Leon Kass thinks about this?

THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT AND SEGREGATION: Reader Joseph Britt offers these thoughts:

The "good guys" were bound to win legally in the Civil Rights era because changes in the law and Constitution after the Civil War left their opponents little room to maneuver, but also because the most dedicated segregationists never fully accepted the implications of the Union victory almost a century before.

The anti-war movement has much the same problem. It doesn't count among its members many fans of Osama bin Laden, or many Muslims at all, but does include an awful lot of people bitterly disappointed that the Cold War turned out the way it did. I ascribe this disappointment more to their being alienated from a large, dynamic and therefore intimidating American society than to ideological commitment, but among the "anti-war" voices there do seem to be a fair number recycling the language of the period when their side seemed to be doing especially well. This was the early 1970's, when America suffered its catastrophic defeat in Vietnam and the Soviet star seemed in the ascendant: not a period that offers a lot of guidance for today. No wonder "anti-war" arguments are so weak.

Yes, a crippling nostalgia for the past does seem a common trait.


"AND I WOULD HAVE GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT, TOO, IF IT WEREN'T FOR YOU MEDDLING KIDS!" That's Charles Murtaugh's version of Michael Bellesiles' response to his critics.

ANOTHER FISK HEADLINE: A reader sends this item, which is just delicious. Robert Fisk, on top of the story as usual, in the Dec. 6, 1993 Independent:

HEADLINE: Anti-Soviet warrior puts his army on the road to peace; The Saudi businessman who recruited mujahedin now uses them for large-scale building projects in Sudan. Robert Fisk met him in Almatig


OSAMA Bin Laden sat in his gold- fringed robe, guarded by the loyal Arab mujahedin who fought alongside him in Afghanistan. Bearded, taciturn figures - unarmed, but never more than a few yards from the man who recruited them, trained them and then dispatched them to destroy the Soviet army - they watched unsmiling as the Sudanese villagers of Almatig lined up to thank the Saudi businessman who is about to complete the highway linking their homes to Khartoum for the first time in history.

With his high cheekbones, narrow eyes and long brown robe, Mr Bin Laden looks every inch the mountain warrior of mujahedin legend. Chadored children danced in front of him, preachers acknowledged his wisdom.

Robert Fisk -- sucking up to terrorists since 1993!

BELLICOSE WOMEN UPDATE: At Mount Holyoke, they're now demanding the right to carry guns.

YOU KNOW YOU'RE IN A LAME PROTEST GROUP WHEN your chant is based on The Weakest Link.

Oh, well -- better Anne Robinson than Mary Robinson.


UPDATE: Oh, and this story compares conditions in Guantanamo with those in Australian camps for Afghan refugees and finds that Guantanamo wins hands-down:

In one jail, detainees are given medical treatment, eat three meals a day and have had their conditions scrutinized by the international media. In the other, children formed suicide pacts, others sewed their lips together and media access is denied.

The first jail is "Camp X-Ray" in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay. The other is in Woomera, in a remote corner of the Australian outback . . . . With the world's attention focused on the United States, captives from the war in Afghanistan may be enjoying a higher standard of life than families who fled Afghanistan.

NATALIJA RADIC SLAMS French imperialism in its latest manifestation.

THE FAILURE OF THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT: When I was in law school, one of my favorite professors was Charles Black, who with Thurgood Marshall wrote the brief in Brown v. Board of Education and who worked on many other major desegregation cases.

He said one of his biggest regrets was the poor quality of lawyering and argument on the segregationist side. He was confident the good guys would have won anyway but, he said, with some good lawyers on the other side, "we could have hammered out some good, taut law," instead of the flabby mess that resulted. But it's hard to have a dialogue, or even an argument, when one side speaks only in outmoded slogans and cliches.

I feel the same way about the antiwar movement. I'm confident of the outcome -- when people are trying to kill you, and hate you and everything you stand for, there's nothing to do but to kill them first, and that's obvious enough for the majority of people to grasp. But the argument has been lousy because the antiwar folks can't get out of their tired old Vietnam/CISPES groove. And I think that even if we win the argument, we lose when it's a lousy one.

I think a lot of "warbloggers" feel that way. It's not the disagreement -- it's that the arguments are so idiotic, they're insulting. That accounts for the tone that Jesse Walker complains about on Matt Welch's letters page. When all you get are tired slogans and ad hominems from people who act as if they don't think civilization is worth defending, you get annoyed. And with a very, very few exceptions (Robert Wright comes to mind; nobody else does), the antiwar folks aren't offering anything better.

RUMSFELD'S THOUGHTS on future terrorism are yet another slap at our recent complacency.

KEN LAYNE reports that another amusing protest has shown up on Protest.Net:

February 2nd 2002 March or Protest
Time 2:00 am - 2:05 am
Title Puppet Protest Against Civil Rights Violations
New York, NY
Location WTC viewing ramp
Speaker Starshine Amber
Phone Contact 202-651-4141
Topic / Issue Civil Rights
Sponsor Coalition for a Smaller World
Remembering the Horror
Between 2:00 a.m. and 2:05 a.m., the Coalition for a Smaller World will protest civil rights violations against 3,000 innocent people including gays, African-Americans, Latinos, Southeast Asians, Canadians, non-American Africans, lesbians, Muslims, minimum-wage workers, etc. Fascist soldiers of a Fascist, international globalized multinational corporation attacked and killed 3,000 people in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11 and we will spend five minutes protesting the murder of these world citizens who no longer have their civil rights due to being murdered.


After getting nailed by a Daisy Cutter, Osama makes his way to the pearly gates. There, he is greeted by George Washington. "How dare you attack the nation I helped conceive!" yells Mr. Washington, slapping Osama in the face.

Patrick Henry comes up from behind. "You wanted to end the Americans' liberty, so they gave you death!" Henry punches Osama in the nose.

James Madison comes up next, and says "This is why I allowed the Federal government to provide for the common defense!"
He drops a large weight on Osama's knee.

Osama is then caned by John Randolph of Roanoke and soundly thrashed by James Monroe, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and 65 other men who love liberty and America. As he writhes on the ground, Thomas Jefferson picks him up and hurls him back toward the gates, where he is to be judged.

As Osama awaits the ferry to take him to his final, very hot destination, he screams, "Aieee! This is not what I was promised!"

An angel replies, "I told you there would be 72 Virginians waiting for you, dumbass! What did you think I said?"

SAUDI ARABIA faces the wrath of the "American street," reports Jeff Jacoby, who thinks that the American street has it right.

Meanwhile, on the other coast, Prof. Edward Bernard Glick writes in the Los Angeles Times that we should ignore claims about "world opinion." He has this trenchant observation:

Americans should be very wary of European public opinion. With few exceptions, Europe's elites, particularly on the left, always have been publicly contemptuous (and privately jealous) of the U.S. They have mocked our dynamism, openness, diversity, informality, social mobility and our appeal to the huddled masses of the world.

Despite the fact that the U.S. saved Europe in both world wars, and left thousands of its soldiers buried in its graveyards while doing so, Europe cannot forgive history for its having ceded to us in the New World the Old World's erstwhile cultural, diplomatic, economic and military dominance.

When European intellectuals and their U.S. counterparts proclaim that the peoples of the world hate the U.S., they forget that Americans are not the ones who are paying fortunes of money to be smuggled into other countries. It's the other way around.

Yes, and as polls indicate, European elites don't even speak for their own people, whose attitudes on the war coincide rather closely with those of Americans. I believe that the Administration has been working hard to make that fact clear, and I think they should keep it up.

TARGETING WARBLOGGERS? According to this story, captured documents may indicate that terrorists have figured out their real adversaries:

The documents, sources said, referred to Washington, D.C., specifically the U.S. Capitol. Among the items found in Afghanistan were a picture of the Space Needle and a satellite image of a six-block area of what officials say appears to be a portion of Los Angeles, the sources said.
Say, don't Matt Welch, Ken Layne, and Charles Johnson all live within about, oh, a six-block area in Los Angeles?

SMARTERTIMES, which is including more and more original content -- as part of the runup to the New York Sun's publication, I suppose -- has an interesting comparison of Mayors Bloomberg and Lindsay.

RAND SIMBERG has some scorching remarks for European allies who are concerned that the United States might not consult them before taking other military actions.

DUANE FREESE reports on the Iraqi resistance and the prospects for ousting Saddam. There's also an amusing photo of Saddam in a porkpie hat.

THE IDLER HAS A FIRST-HAND REPORT of a meeting with Hamid Karzai. Real web reporting -- not just the opinionizing you usually see here. Check it out.

PROTESTS HIJACKED? A reader sends this link to Protest.Net's schedule of events:

Title: Communal Howling at the Moon
Event Type: Other
Topic / Issue: Fascism & Imperialism
City & State: New York, New Jersey
Sponsor: The Coalition to Ignore Reality

The Coalition to Ignore Reality calls on all sentient beings to join hands, paws, and other appendages in symbolic resistance to the wealth creation in the developing world while safely living the good life in the First World. We call for immediate suspension of the laws of mathematics to allow people of mediocrity, inability and foolishness to earn as much as all those who did their homework while the rest of us listened to forgettable music and masturbated late into the afternoon.
Damn those laws of mathematics!


You've talked about postmodernism and about Enron. Why not combine the two? Enron used postmodern accounting. In the Enron-Braveheart-Blockbuster deal, described in the Times, Enron took what an ordinary person would call a $115 million loan and pretended it was $110 million in revenue. Wait, did I say "pretended?" No, they reframed it as revenue. They recontextualized it. In our postmodern world, revenue comes from finding a way to describe something as revenue. The man on the street might choose to call it something else, of course, which only demonstrates the awesome power of the reader to reinterpret the text. (Even the $115 million figure resulted from a creative story about what future earnings on the Blockbuster deal might be, using assumptions so ludicrous that "nobody in the [broadband] division could comprehend" them, according to the Times.)

When President Clinton said, "that depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is," did he go far enough? Does the word 'is' still have a meaning? "Is" the revenue from the Braveheart partnership really revenue?

Hmm. If Derrida were an accountant, er, well, maybe things wouldn't be so different.

READER PHILLIPE RICHARDS has this comment on Arab complaints about "torture" at Guantanamo (reported below):

I'm not surprised that prisoners in Afghanistan would rather be in American custody. For all the talk about mistreatment of prisoners, all the talk of wartime atrocities by American soldiers, why is that refugees always seem to flee in the direction of rampaging American armies? Actually, that is misleading: when, other than during the Civil War, could any American army be plausibly describing as rampaging? European allies, whose general beliefs on the treatment of prisoners and criminal defendants, and due process in general closely mirror our own beliefs may have some standing to criticize, but Arab leaders who employ terror against their own citizens, sorry, subjects, can kiss my non-torturing ass.
Sounds like something Rummy would say.

BELLESILES UPDATE: Four historians are writing about Michael Bellesiles' book Arming America -- which won the Bancroft Prize in history last year but which many are now calling fraudulent or misleading -- in an upcoming issue of the William and Mary Quarterly. According to this article in the Boston Globe, three of the four are extremely negative about Bellesiles:

The book, which won the coveted Bancroft Prize for history, startled the field with the revisionist argument that, contrary to popular myth, functional guns were rare in early America, and that gun ownership was uncommon before the Civil War. The findings outraged organized gun owners because of their possible negative implications for ''the right to bear arms.'' But mainstream historians also raised questions, in some cases doubting that Bellesiles did the research he claimed to have done. For example, San Francisco records he cited were apparently destroyed during the 1906 earthquake. Bellesiles has been unable to support his use of 1,100 probate records he purportedly examined in 40 counties, because, he says, a flood in his office at Emory destroyed his notes.

The four historians are Jack N. Rakove of Stanford University; Gloria L. Main of the University of Colorado; Ira D. Gruber of Rice University; and Randolph Roth of Ohio State University. The latter three describe a stream of alleged errors in facts, numbers, interpretations, and methodology in Bellesiles's book. In his response, Bellesiles concedes numerous errors, but seems to minimize their significance by saying his book is about culture, not statistics, and that in any case all statistics about early America are tentative. Proof copies of the William & Mary articles were provided to the Globe on condition that they not be quoted directly until the magazine is mailed to subscribers next month.

Main, an expert in probate records, blasts Bellesiles for allegedly faulty use of such records, and for disregarding earlier published research that undercuts his thesis. Gruber, a military historian and expert on early militias, writes that Bellesiles is careless in his handling of evidence and context, and that his reading of the records is strongly biased in favor of his thesis.

Roth, a historian of violence in America who had favorably reviewed Bellesiles's earlier book about Vermont Colonial leader Ethan Allen, cites striking discrepancies between Bellesiles's statements about Colonial homicide rates and what records show. For example, Bellesiles writes in his book that in 46 years, there were no homicide cases heard in the courts in Plymouth Colony. But Roth writes that well-indexed and readily available records clearly show 11 murder cases in the Plymouth courts, and possibly four others.

Hmm. Early Bellesiles-defender Rakove has expressed skepticism about Bellesiles' work in some news stories over the past few months; I wonder what position his piece takes? The Globe doesn't say. From this account, though, it sounds as if this won't be enough to clear Bellesiles, meaning that the Emory folks will have to go ahead with their investigation, a task I'm sure that they don't look forward to.

AM I STUPID? I just turned down a highly lucrative consulting job over ethical concerns. Nothing technically unethical about it, it just made me feel uncomfortable. Then I look at the various news stories on Enron, punditgate, Global Crossing, etc., etc. and wonder: am I just a chump?

CHUMP UPDATE: Some email that I've gotten suggests that I wasn't clear. My point is that there's something wrong with a society where you do something you think is right, and then nonetheless feel vaguely like a chump for not cashing in the way so many other people seem to be.


IT'S STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL AND WARM. I'm going to take advantage of it. Back later..

A READER FROM PARIS WRITES to ask "why all the Arab-bashing?" and says that it's "not as amusing" as it was.

It's not meant to be amusing. It's just true. It's not "Arab-bashing" either. It's Saudi-bashing. And they deserve to be bashed. So do Iraq and Syria. Sorry if that's not amusing.

SPEAKING OF VIRGINIA, her New York Times column today is about a book I've mentioned here before: Brink Lindsey's Against the Dead Hand: The Uncertain Struggle For Global Capitalism. Lindsey's story -- of how the world came to the brink of widespread peace and prosperity a hundred years ago, only to be dragged into widespread war and poverty by people jealous of the power of markets -- is well-told and very convincing. If you haven't read it, you should.

WEBLOG GODDESS VIRGINIA POSTREL is profiled in this FlakMag piece.


BARBARA LERNER REPORTS ON THE TURKS, rather favorably. I think that Arabia will make a fine province of Turkey again. Syria and Iraq, too.

THIS HILARIOUS AND PATHETIC COLLECTION OF Robert Fisk headlines is brought to you courtesy of Gary Farber, who writes that it was a "fishbarrelling exercise," but nonetheless fun.

BARRY COMMONER, I remember reading many years ago, never understood DNA. According to Ron Bailey, he still doesn't. Commoner has an article full of stuff that is readily refuted by freshman textbooks, and that Bailey says is really an effort to resurrect theories of Commoner's that were exploded by Crick and Watson in the 1950s & 60s. Naturally, it's in Lewis Lapham's Harper's, which itself seems stuck in the past.

TONY ADRAGNA savages Michaelangelo Signorile and defends Andrew Sullivan.

15 KIDS AND ADULTS WERE INJURED, SOME CRITICALLY, AT A SCHOOL in Los Angeles, as a car veered into a crowd. It was a Mercedes. Will we hear calls for "car control," and explanations that "no one needs" a car with "that much power"?

IF YOU'VE EMAILED ME and I haven't responded, it's because BellSouth has been having email problems. I can get my mail via the web interface, but it's slow and doesn't move unread messages to the top. I'm trying; hang on. If it's really important, try again in a day or two.

CAR ANTI-TALK? Economist Steven Landsburg says that Click and Clack are idiots. Well, I didn't need economic analysis to tell me that, but Landsburg's piece -- which is on their crusade against cellphones -- proves that they're another kind of idiot, too.

LIKE YESTERDAY'S BAD BURRITO, Forbes.Com keeps coming back to haunt Stephen Ambrose. The latest involves charges of not giving proper credit to Cornelius Ryan.

As one American has said, will this ever stop?

ORRIN JUDD REVIEWS JIM JEFFORDS' BOOK: And, well, I won't spoil the suspense. Great opening paragraph.

THE BRUTAL TENNESSEE WINTER: It broke 70 today. At lunchtime I went down to Cherokee Boulevard instead of going to the gym. It was idyllic, with people jogging in shorts, t-shirts, and running bras, or playing frisbee down by the lake. Tonight I grilled steaks on the deck in shirtsleeves. I'm sure that winter will come back, but I have definitely enjoyed the last couple of days.

YALE LAW PROFESSOR JACK BALKIN has an oped that does him no credit in the New York Times. Balkin acts as if he's just discovered something new -- that in light of recent Supreme Court decisions on the commerce power, Congress probably can't ban cloning -- though this point has been made repeatedly in print. But what's more embarrassing is why Balkin thinks this is bad. Balkin thinks that we shouldn't let little matters like the Constitution get in the way of what he thinks is important, an ethical blatherfest (er, excuse me, "national debate") leading to laws he likes:

Cloning is an issue of national concern, meriting a national debate. It is irrelevant whether it can be classified as "economic" or "noneconomic." The Supreme Court should scrap its ill-considered doctrines and recognize that the national government has the power to make all laws that it considers to be in the national interest. Then we can focus on the real question of our moral responsibilities in a new and difficult age of scientific achievement.
(Emphasis added). The Framers would roll over in their graves at Balkin's backhanded treatment of the federal government's limited nature, which was the central aspect of the Constitutional design. Given Balkin's manifest contempt for Constitutional barriers, I think I'll side with the Court on this one, thank.

UPDATE: Reader Jim Morse writes:

I had a slightly different take regarding your post on the op-ed by Professor Balkin. I almost found his position reassuring. By effectively arguing that constitutional barriers be damned he concedes that he doesn't have a constitutional leg to stand on. For too long, we have all suffered through tortured expansions of the constitution that ignore the framers' intent. At least Balkin had the honesty not to try to argue for a justification of a cloning ban under the commerce clause.

SAUDI PRISONS: I link below to an ArabNews item on the allegedly horrible conditions in Guantanamo. It's worth noting this report from Human Rights Watch on human rights (or the lack thereof) under the current government of Arabia, along with this news report on Saudi mistreatment of British prisoners.

One of the released men, Paul Moss, told the Guardian he had been kept in solitary confinement for seven weeks and subjected to a torrent of physical and psychological abuse.

"They hit me in the testicles with a stick. Then they hit me on the chin each time I went down," he said. "They threatened to plant drugs in my house to get my wife and child beheaded."

Another man, David Mornin, said he had been accused of being a Jordanian terrorist and told to "confess to the bombings."

"They flung me off the walls, punched me in the gut, kicked me in the rib cage...they hammered me. When they released me I had to write a thank you note to the king, and sign to say I had not been mistreated," Mornin said.

I strongly suspect that, like those in Afghanistan, almost all inhabitants of Arabian jails under the current Saudi regime would be happy to be moved to Guantanamo.

HEY, IT'S NOT JUST REUTERS: Check out the opener on this AP story:

SHIBERGAN, Afghanistan (AP) - Jailed fighters of the fallen Taliban shout the name of their former foe, but no longer in anger. "We want to go to an American prison," many plead. . . .

Nearly a third of the prisoners at Shibergan are suffering from chronic dysentery and other gastric problems, doctors said.

"We have no medicine. It couldn't be worse," said Dr. Abdul Bashir, one of four prison physicians. "No, let me correct that. I will get worse when the weather gets warmer. We could be seeing things as bad as cholera."

The Red Cross, under its mandate as a neutral watchdog of prison conditions, cannot provide a steady supply of food or medicine. It does arrange daily deliveries of 5,200 gallons of water — well below what's needed, doctors say. . . .Many prisoners see their former enemy as a possible savior.

I think that President Bush should send the Red Cross a stiff note about its inadequate provision for these prisoners.

"REUTERS HAS BECOME THE ONION:" That's what the reader who sent me this link wrote. The link is to a Reuters story that begins: "LONDON (Reuters) - Iran, Iraq and North Korea on Wednesday rejected an accusation by President Bush that they form an 'axis of evil'." The responses sound a bit like something out of The Onion too.

PAUL KRUGMAN'S FINANCES, George Bush's sex life, Bob Novak's brutality, and more -- in the Wednesday version of Will Vehrs' PunditWatch. I've got other work to do, so I won't be back here for a few hours. See you then.

GEPHARDT "PLAGIARISM" UPDATE: Okay, I don't think there's any such thing as self-plagiarism, despite the Harvard standards that Matt Yglesias invokes below. But reader Newell Wright writes from Paris to suggest that Gephardt's line came from this September 12th piece by Leonard Pitts:

So I ask again: What was it you hoped to teach us? It occurs to me that maybe you just wanted us to know the depths of your hatred. If that's the case, consider the message received. And take this message in exchange: You don't know my people. You don't know what we're capable of. You don't know what you just started.

But you're about to learn.

Now compare this to Gephardt's statement, as quoted in Kausfiles:
As one American said, the terrorists who attacked us ... wanted us to know them. But these attacks make clear: they don’t know us. They don’t know what we will do to defend freedom, and they don’t know what they’ve started. But they’re beginning to find out.
Now, as one American said, let me make this perfectly clear: I don't think this is plagiarism. But then, as I've been told repeatedly, I'm too soft on these things. Or maybe I just understand where stricter standards actually lead.

THE ARAB NEWS IS denouncing the United States for its "savage" and "inhumane" treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo bay. Forget the obvious hypocrisy of being accused of savagery and inhumanity by a mouthpiece of the Saudi regime that currently rules Arabia. The more important point is that they're playing into our hands. The old rap on us, remember, was that we were weak, decadent, and soft. The new rap is that we're savage and inhumane toward those who cross us. Spread that one around, guys. It can only help.

HOWARD KURTZ takes on buckraking and punditgate on the Washington Post oped page. It's especially interesting that it shares the page with this piece by Russ Lewis on the press's inability to cover corporate affairs as well as government doings.

ANDREA SEE zings Bush for not naming Saudi Arabia as part of the "axis of evil." Well, it's not as if most of the terrorists were from, er, well, -- O.K., it's not as if most of the money came from, er, well, -- I mean, it's not like their government was in any way involved -- Oh, hell, she's right.

SGT. STRYKER has a take on the State of the Union that you won't see anywhere else.

TERRORISM, LEARNING CURVES, AND LAWMAKING: My TechCentralStation column for this week is up.

THE NRO GANG isn't very high on Bush's speech. Interesting.

Here's one more observation: Bush used a term that had practically gone out of use -- "the civilized world." And hardly anyone has noticed the implications. But they're pretty striking, when you think about it.

PREDICTION: When the Global Crossing collapse is investigated, it will look a lot like Enron. Lots of money to politicos, lots of accounting gimmicks to hide the problems for as long as possible. And while it's too early to tell, I suspect that both will turn out to be cases in which people started out honestly believing that they had the Next Big Thing, and committed most of their crimes in the process of trying to keep people (including, perhaps, themselves) convinced that they still had it even after it turned out they didn't.

Given that most entrepreneurial ventures -- even big ones -- fail, a large degree of self-deception is necessary to keep motivated. You have to believe that yours will be the one, or you don't stand any chance at all. (Sort of like trying to make it big in sports, or fiction-writing). That sort of self-deception is laudable, really: if people were brutally honest with themselves about such ventures, nobody would even try, and society would be worse off. But it's also dangerous, in that it's not too hard to cross the line into outright denial, fantasy, and gross deception after a while, all in service of the dream.

That, of course, is what outside auditors are supposed to prevent. Supposed to.

I WATCHED PART OF THE STATE OF THE UNION address on C-SPAN last night -- about the first fifteen minutes. I thought it was pretty strong and even Tom Shales agrees, if in his usual snide fashion. (The snideness is at least bipartisan, as shown by his comparison of Ted Kennedy to Spongebob Squarepants.)

Bush isn't a great orator, after the fashion of JFK or Martin Luther King. Nobody today is. But he was clear, and he was sincere, and it's amazing how far that will take you.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan says that Bush's repeated references to women were aimed at the American gender gap. No doubt in part -- but I think that they were also aimed at women elsewhere in the world, who have special reason to oppose the Islamofascists.

DICK GEPHARDT "PLAGIARISM" SHOCKER? Check out this unattributed quote discovered by Mickey Kaus with help from James Taranto. In the words of one American, "I'm shocked!"

UPDATE: Reader Matt Yglesias writes that Dick Gephardt also recycled something he said on Meet the Press Sunday. At Harvard, Yglesias (a Harvard man) informs us, this is plagiarism. Yeah, but at Harvard, Cornel West is a scholar. Among politicians, it's not -- or they'd all be hanging from the lampposts, in Charles Krauthammer's felicitous phrase.

TRAFFIC: A new record yesterday: 32, 197. Thanks!


LAGOS UPDATE: The damage and death tolls are even worse than they seemed earlier. Now the survivors are angry.

I JUST NOTICED Andrew Sullivan's new slogan. Very amusing.

AN AMUSING LETTER from an American reader, in the London Review of Books, courtesy of Australian InstaPundit reader Angie Schultz.

I MISSED THE STATE OF THE UNION: I was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with my daughter, and decided that that was more important. Patrick Ruffini says it was strong and appropriately war-focused; the New York Times quickie is less sympathetic, but basically says the same thing. I'll read the transcript and check the highlights later -- but we get SOU addresses every year, while very soon my daughter will be reading those books all by herself.


There are two kinds of Orwell-quoters, those who quote his fiction, and those who quote his non-fiction. When fiction-quoters find themselves in a debate way over their heads, they drag out their handy little Orwell toolbox, and throw out some ominous buzzword (Orwellian! Big Brother! Doublethink!), and then leave, considering the debate won. To them, Orwell is an excuse not to think, because any complex issue can be reduced to some 1984 or Animal Farm analogy. To non-fiction quoters, Orwell is a painful reminder never to stop thinking. You can read 1984 and emerge as much a blathering fool as you ever were, but read his essay on language, and it'll haunt you, forever poking at your self-importance and lazyness, as it has mine.


BELLESILES UPDATE: Here's a link to the Contra Costa County Historical Society's response to Michael Bellesiles' claims to have gotten San Francisco records from their collection. Here, dated January 22, is the item by Bellesiles that they are responding to.

DOING THE MATH: According to this story, "Of the 158 terror suspects now being held at the US prison camp in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay, 100 are Saudi nationals, the Saudi Government says."

This leads reader Randall Parker to ask:

I've read claims that Guantanamo holds the most dangerous prisoners. Well, if 100 out of 158 in Guantanamo are Saudis but if only a fifth of the 482 total held are Saudis then almost all (or perhaps all) of the Saudis being held are considered by the US government to be the most dangerous. Curious, eh?
Curious, indeed -- though I suppose not surprising in a way. Reason for the Saudis to be treading a lot more cautiously than they have been, though.

FRIENDS OF THE EARTH -- right-wing tools? Read this column by Chris Mooney and decide for yourself.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE: An item from The Times:

TWO of the Britons being held by US forces have criminal convictions for violence. Asif Iqbal and Ruhal Ahmed were convicted after a 16-year-old Asian was attacked with hammers and bottles. . . .

Ahmed and Iqbal were fined £500 at Wolverhampton Crown Court in 1998 and had to do 150 hours community service after Rahim Rashid, now 19, of Dudley, was scarred for life in an attack in which he was kicked in the head and beaten.

It is also reported that Iqbal told friends that he wanted to “die a suicide bomber”. . . .

The paper also says that his fellow suspect, Rasul, had tried to recruit friends to fight with him in Afghanistan. One neighbour was quoted: “It is ridiculous to suggest that he was brainwashed after going to Pakistan. He was preaching jihad while still in the West.”

Somebody send a clipping to Mary Robinson.

ENRON 401(K) UPDATE: Reader John Hekman makes an interesting point:

It has not been pointed out that the 401(k) losses of Enron employees look very large mainly because, like all plaintiffs in securities cases, they are looking at the highest price attained by the stock and comparing it to the current value. If they were to make their case in court, they would need to do a but-for analysis that would involve looking at the S&P 500 or similar index as a benchmark. Since Enron stock was less than $20 five years ago, and reached a high of over $80 (I'm not checking this), it far outperformed the S&P until last year. Damages based on a reasonable benchmark would be far less than what has been in the press.

Solons like Waxman can't both say that the employees should not have been so heavily in Enron stock and at the same time claim that their losses are represented by the difference between the highest value of Enron and today's price.

Hmm. "I put all my eggs in one basket, and I want damages based on the highest point of the 'egg bubble'." Nice point.

NIGERIAN STONING UPDATE: Scientific ignorance: a powerful force for good? Well, maybe in this case. I got this via the Nigerian grapevine:

I learned . . .that the woman apparently has had her sentence overturned. Seems the Koran says that a pregnancy can last as long as seven years, so the baby could be from the ex-husband.
Hard to believe, but it's from a reliable source.

SCOOP! Josh Marshall discovers something that the lawyers at Morrison & Foerster probably wish you didn't know.

SOME INTERESTING NUMBERS on the Afghan bombing and civilian casualties in relation to other wars, from Flit.

THE EUROPEAN UNION IS STANDING BY ARAFAT, but Steven den Beste reports that it's ready to bring its full weight to bear on Robert Mugabe:

"Targeted Sanctions". You know, those things which were so ineffective over the course of years at influencing Milosevic, and had such little success at stopping the excesses of the Taliban? You remember them.

That's the threat they're making against a man who has already demonstrated that he doesn't give a tinker's damn about destroying the economy of his own nation, so long as he remains in power over it. Why should he care about sanctions?

Oh, and the EU is going to frown real hard in his general direction, too.

And the UK might suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth. That'll fix him.

And if that doesn't work, then they shall taunt him again.

I think Steven is too optimistic. I don't think they'll taunt him, as that might smack of cultural imperialism, or something.

PATRICK RUFFINI ANNOUNCES that he'll have a State of the Union Blog giving his real-time commentary on Bush's speech tonight. Very cool idea.

BARBARA ARMIEL makes a convincing case that we're being cruel at Guantanamo after all:

In all, since we were speaking of men who, we were told, lived in mountain caves on a diet of insects, in what concerned journalists invariably described as the desperately cold Afghanistan winter, it became increasingly difficult to swallow new worries about them in the balmy (malaria-free) climate of Cuba.

All the same, I do believe we are forcing unbearable humiliation and true psychological torture on the prisoners in Cuba, but not by shackling. Being shackled or blindfolded is no humiliation for an al-Qaeda member. These detainees have the mentality of medieval warriors; chains and physical restraints only pay homage to their fierce repute.

However, the United States has announced with pride that the prisoners are guarded by military personnel who include women. That is against every aspect of Taliban culture and a humiliation far worse than being denied a prayer mat.

In maximum security, an inmate's bodily functions are monitored day and night. Until recently, it was taken for granted that inmates in these conditions, never mind Islamic terrorists, would be guarded by same-sex guards.

But this aspect of the prisoners' detention doesn't ruffle a hair on liberal heads. The same people who protest against the shaving of beards mention with an element of pride that there are female guards in Guantanamo.

Mary Robinson, call your office!

READER WILL MIDDELAER has a graphics program and he's not afraid to use it. Joe Lieberman won't like this. Neither will most any other national politician with an "e" in his name.

THINGS LOOK UGLY within the Aryan Nations. Er, I mean, more than usual. Here's an item on the current schism:

All of the State Leaders, the Minister of Information and Propaganda, and the Aryan Nations National Security Officer understand the issues and stand firmly at my side. Even so, the jackals and the backbiting dogs will be howling to high heaven that the decision to sever ourselves from the office in Hayden Lake is nothing more than an attempt on my part to take the Aryan Nations away from Pastor Butler.
Okay, first of all, if you had a competent propaganda minister, wouldn't he change his job title to something else?

But what a surprise: the Aryan Nations is full of "jackals" and "backbiting dogs." Who'da thought it?

UPDATE: Reader Barbara Randol has a theory:

I opened the link to the aryan nations site and looked around. I have a new theory based on the mind-numbingly awkward grammar: the aryan nations have obviously been infiltrated by some sort of immigrant group. No native English speaker would have written the following sentences: "He continues to allow himself to be surrounded by those that permitted, through in-action and overt rejection of orders, idiots with guns, causing the loss of the Aryan Nations churchgrounds and property in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Therefore forcing our hand into issuing this proclamation."
Well, this would explain a lot.

READER LAURENCE LOUDEN has two observations in one:

When we send those alleged al Qaeda fighters to Britain, let's keep the orange jump suits and sell them on e-bay.

Of course, we should use the money to help those Enron employees who didn't have a chance to unload their worthless shares on an unsuspecting public.

On this second point, I was listening to the way NPR news characterized the "lockdown" period this morning and thinking the same thing -- had Enron employees dumped their shares on widows and orphans, would that have been better?

JONATHAN TURLEY dismisses lawsuits over the war in Afghanistan (and yes, there are lawsuits over the war in Afghanistan) by saying "war is not a slip-and-fall case."

BELLESILES UPDATE: Melissa Seckora writes that Bellesiles' latest claim to have found the missing records is, again, untrue.

Also, several people who read the Chronicle of Higher Education piece that I link to below think that -- although it's pretty good at exposing Bellesiles' problems -- it's also unfair to Bellesiles debunker-in-chief, Northwestern University legal historian James Lindgren. They're right: the piece casts Lindgren as some sort of tattletale.

But the usual rap on academics is that they're too lazy, and too unwilling to face unpleasantness, to chase down academic fraud. You'd think that, once someone actually does it (and, as the Chicago Tribune report illustrates, historians are indeed using the "f" word here), they'd get some credit for bucking that characterization, wouldn't you? I feel sure that other uses of Lindgren's time would have been more personally and professionally rewarding, but at the very least the leading newspaper of academic affairs might be expected to give him some credit, rather than treat him as somehow suspect for taking the extensive time and trouble to unravel something that reflects very badly on academia.

JAI AL-LENO, the Al Qaeda stand-up comic, plays Guantanamo.

READER RICHARD RILEY has these thoughts about the Noah non-plagiarism flap, and the nature of weblogging:

Yesterday's business where a mis-formatted re-post of Tim Noah's Slate piece gave rise to plagiarism accusations, then my messages to the posters correcting them, and then retractions and the end of the matter, is a good instance (since I was involved!) of what you often observe - what a remarkable phenomenon is weblogging. A combination of publishing (since it's out there for public consumption, and thousands of people do read them) and intimate personal conversation (since my own quick research and email messages resulted in the retractions). Leaving aside all the hype over the last 5 years, I think it is really a new medium. I can't think of anything comparable. And it's weblogging that really seems to bring out these characteristics.

SAMIZDATA IS POSTING more traffic-friendly photos (well, photo) of Natalija Radic.

UPDATE: The above produced this email from Team Samizdata:

So what are we. . . Chopped liver?

Does this mean you think the rest of the lovely Samizdata Team are not photogenic? Natalija was not the only one whose mug shot was published!

I mean, yeah, sure, we don't have the legs or other, ah, attributes of the inestimable Ms. Radic but that does not mean we do not ooze 'traffic friendly' sex appeal in our own quirky ways!

Quirky's the word, gents.

SALON SEXWATCH UPDATE: Well, last week was apparently a fluke, just to throw me off the trail. This week we're back to relationships, blah, blah, relationships. Yawn.

Meanwhile Rachael Klein talks about what makes relationships worthwhile: "let your sexy partner undress you." Oh, and Rachael fans will be pleased to note that she has a new picture up on her site. She informed me by email a few months back that she was much better looking than the old picture that they had with her column; surprisingly, she appears to be right about that.

I'm predicting a syndicated column by May, book contract by October.

GARY FARBER has some good thoughts on punditgate, buckraking, and hypocrisy.

READER EUGENE VOLOKH offers a partial solution to the tweezer-and-nailfile problem:

Here's a way for airlines to make a cheap gesture to help customers *and* minimize delays caused by debates with the security guards: Get the USPS to set up a mailbox and a stamped-envelope machine in front of every security checkpoint. If need be, they can even pay the USPS some modest extra amount in case the side trip for the mail carrier would otherwise be non-cost-justified.

Then, if you have a congressional medal of honor or a pair of nail-clippers or a hairpin or whatever else that you want to get home, you
won't need to spend everyone's time arguing with the security guards. You'd just step out of line and take a minute to mail the item to yourself.

I think you might have mentioned the mail as a possible solution in an earlier post, but the trick -- as anyone who focuses on customer convenience knows -- is to make it *easy*, and then maybe even take the credit for making it easy.

Sounds good. But I have to say, so far I don't see any great interest in making life easier for passengers.

UPDATE: Reader Richard Starr has this dispiriting response:

Nice try, but in the airport I was in most recently (Dulles) the mailboxes had been removed--you know, for security reasons.
Boy, you can't win for losing here, can you?


DAHLIA LITHWICK has some good thoughts on the return of the brainwashing defense:

We must try these terror cases free from the patronizing assumption that strange, even crazy beliefs are necessarily products of illness or undue influence. The proper word to describe a savage act committed at the behest of a charismatic lunatic is not "brainwashed." It's evil.
Exactly right.

GREAT STORY on how (and why) the press gets military coverage wrong by Chris Bray, in Reason.

THE DC POLICE are issuing traffic-cam tickets even when they can't read the license plate. Hmm. Municipalities are now, it has been held as a result of the Ramparts scandal in L.A., subject to suit under the racketeering laws. This sure sounds like a pattern of fraud and extortion to me. I think some enterprising lawyer should give it a shot.

NOW THIS IS A TAKEDOWN worthy of the blogosphere. Bravo!

(Via Glenn Kinen).

THE EUROPEAN UNION is pledging to stand by Arafat. Let's keep that in mind.


America is threatening to return up to 40 alleged al Qaeda fighters to Britain, presenting the Government with a security, legal and diplomatic nightmare.

The Britons, three held at Camp X-Ray in Cuba and the rest still in Afghanistan, were captured during and after the campaign to topple the Taliban.

Elements of the Bush administration want Britain to accept responsibility for the prisoners. Ministers and security sources are deeply unhappy, and are strongly urging Tony Blair to forestall any formal request from Washington.

So much for criticism of U.S. prisoner-handling, I expect.

FIGHT THE POWER: Hawaii has installed traffic cameras, and ignited a rebellion:

The response has been swift. Rebellious drivers have snapped up several thousand license covers that illegally obscure plates, owners of automobile-accessory shops say. They have sent angry letters to the local papers urging people not to pay their tickets. Cellphone brigades call morning radio shows to relay the vans' locations, and reports abound of drivers hurling obscene gestures, insults and even trash at the vans.

Some officials are even saying that the program may be working too well. "People are now driving too slow," said Carol Costa, a spokeswoman for the City of Honolulu "They're driving in packs so their plates can't be seen by the cameras. There are people who speed around the packs of cars. And the vans, of course, themselves are being targeted by drivers."

"Of course" is right. This is America. We're willing to pull together against terrorists, but not to be Good Germans. Keep that straight, pols, or forget it at your peril.

THE ENRON SCANDAL moves to Britain.

War? What war? We have a juicy scandal!

A FUNNY ITEM FROM Andy Borowitz:


White House Downplays Veep’s Influence Over Seasons

It's the subhead I like best.

ANDREW SULLIVAN SAYS HE COINED THE TERM "INSTAPUNDIT." It's possible, but I've thought of the term as generic, and as predating his page. I first remember it being used to describe the blonde pundettes of the Clinton / Lewinsky scandals, Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter, but the first use of it I can find on NEXIS was in an April 7, 1994 oped by Thomas J. Lipping in the Washington Times about Supreme Court nominations: "Some of the insta-pundits are saying Mr. Clinton will pick someone very much like Justice Blackmun, whose entire judicial legacy is a single decision, Roe vs. Wade, creating the right to abortion." (If you don't have NEXIS, but do want to pay $1.95, you can read it here in the Washington Times archives. Though it beats me why you would want to.)

But I'll happily give credit to Sullivan for inspiring my site. I was a big AndrewSullivan.Com (and VPostrel.Com, and Kausfiles.Com, and Talking Points) fan long before I started this stuff myself.

READER SUMAN PALIT sends a link to this interesting article on the collapse of fundamentalist Islam in southwest asia, along with these comments:

What is striking is that this was not the result of American diplomacy, or European diplomacy, or UN diplomacy. It was, in the words an ex-ISI chief, because "..the Americans were so ruthless.." Obviously, the world has not learned the correct lessons from the history of WW-II. It was ruthlessness, not kind words and multilateral conferences, that ended the war. Americans are realists, and realists have the annoying tendency to be ruthless when their survival and way of life are threatened.
I think it was in one of Steve Stirling's books where a character remarks that evil people always seem to think that they have a monopoly on ruthlessness. But they're not the only ones wondering where Ruth is. . . .

WHAT WE'RE NOT SEEING ON TV: Some pretty striking images from Afghanistan.

UPDATE: A bunch of readers email that this image is probably not what it purports to be, and say that it probably shows the vehicle hitting a landmine. I'm not qualified to say. The most persuasive comment is that a 2000 pound bomb doesn't send bodies flying into the air, at least not in pieces big enough to see.

JIM BENNETT writes that the idea of transnational governance is one that has been tried before, without success.

One of the benefits of wartime is it unmasks certain illusions tolerated in peacetime because they seem harmless. Take, for example, the idea that the primary task of the state --that is, defense of its citizens -- can be abdicated to international organizations or treaties.

It's amazing that this lesson needs to be learned again and again. The Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 solemnly outlawed war. Not too long after, Hitler invaded Poland, with the League of Nations running behind the Panzers saying firmly, "Stop, sir, you have broken the law."

Actually I made that last bit up. The League of Nations merely ceased operations at that point.

The lead-up to World War II also saw the various treaties of neutrality the Belgians, the Dutch, the Danes and the Norwegians had relied upon prove marvelously ineffective in stopping the forces of the Reich. These days, the resolutions of the United Nations deterred neither Osama bin Laden nor the nations that sheltered his organization from hijacking airliners and slamming them into the World Trade Center.

Bennett is right that transnational organizations (all the way back to the pre-Reformation Church) have done a poor job at providing military protection, or at making it unnecessary.

TIM NOAH UPDATE: Tony Adragna has retracted his earlier claim. Apparently, some editor at MSNBC chose the Novak quote to be the "breakout" quote on the Noah story, and committed some formatting errors making it look as if Noah had used Novak's words. Compare the MSNBC version to the Slate version (both linked on Tony's site) and you'll see what I mean.

THE PUBLIC-HEALTH COMMUNITY has come up with some model laws for responding to bioterror. There's been some -- rather critical -- discussion of these on law professors' email lists that I belong to, but I haven't looked at them closely enough to have formed my own opinion yet. Without going into the merits of these particular proposals, though, it is unfortunate that the public health community has engaged in activities over the years -- political science aimed at supporting gun control and anti-sprawl efforts, for example -- that diminish its credibility at a time when it is needed to do its actual job.

THE POST-PC ERA: More evidence of change from Tim Blair.

MATT WELCH SAYS that the Houston Business Journal was covering Enron's problems for months before its collapse, but that the big guys still don't realize (or admit) that they were scooped.

TODAY is the anniversary of the Challenger explosion. Haven't seen much about it.

MICHAEL LEDEEN is nominating Colin Powell for an Oscar.

THAT LOGO THING: Reader Dominique Petitmengin writes from France to ask: "Dell and Enron come both from Texas and they use the letter E with the same twisted way: is there any connection between them?"

Hmm. This sounds too much like one of those eye-in-the-pyramid kind of Masonic conspiracy theories to me. On the other hand, I should have noticed it -- I'm writing on a Dell machine with that logo right in front of me. But I don't know the answer.

(It finally works right -- though the fault, I should say, appears to have been with Novell and not Dell.)

TONY ADRAGNA rips Tim Noah for "misdemeanor plagiarism".

UPDATE: Bill Quick piles on, noting Noah's had-it-up-to-here treatment of certain other people.

ACCORDING TO THIS STUDY, I need to drink more. Well, if it's for my health. . . .

BELLESILES UPDATE: This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education has a lengthy summary of the Arming America controversy. It's more sympathetic than the slightly more recent (I think) Chicago Tribune story I mention below (the Tribune story says Bellesiles' latest claim to have found the missing San Francisco records is false; this story reports it as new and unverified). Two interesting passages:

Arming America's initial reception was anything but a firing squad for Mr. Bellesiles. Upon its publication, by Alfred A. Knopf in September 2000, many of his peers embraced his thesis that Americans have not always been heavily armed, that the "gun culture" of the United States is a relatively recent, post-Civil War phenomenon. Two eminent historians lavished praise on Arming America in two of the most prominent places a book can be reviewed: Garry Wills on the cover of The New York Times Book Review and Edmund Morgan in The New York Review of Books. And last year, it snagged the coveted Bancroft Prize for historical excellence. (The Chronicle Review ran an excerpt from the book shortly after it was published.)

The acclaim for the book was so great, in fact, that it drowned out attacks, largely from gun-rights absolutists and amateur historians, who said the research was shoddy, even fraudulent. Tinged as they were with ideological invective and accompanied in some cases by bellicose personal attacks on Mr. Bellesiles, such voices were largely dismissed by scholars. Fearing for his safety, Mr. Bellesiles withdrew from online discussions of his work and concealed his e-mail address, even while his scholarly star was on the ascent.

But more recent criticisms have been harder for Mr. Bellesiles's fellow historians to ignore, and perhaps pose an even greater threat to him. Scholars and reporters alike have been raising serious questions about the documentary evidence in Arming America -- of county probate records in particular -- and the conclusions Mr. Bellesiles drew from them. . . .

In the National Review, Melissa Seckora has speculated that many reviewers "uncritically embraced" Arming America "because it appeared to confirm what they have long wanted to believe" about the politics of guns in America. "One could only imagine the outcry," she wrote, "if a conservative scholar, fabricating evidence to prove a pet conservative point, had been found to be careless (to say the least)."

While some historians who praised Arming America say now that they didn't have time to check the footnotes, scholars have found time in the past -- when a controversial scholarly work challenged widely held views in academe. When The Bell Curve analyzed the academic performance of black students in a way that offended many professors, there was no shortage of scholars with the time to pick over its every detail.

There's also a lengthy chronology of the whole affair, which may be particularly useful to people who have come to this issue late.

JOURNALISTS THINK THEY'RE NEUTRAL, but the terrorists don't. Does Reuters know about this?

RICK BERKE IS CAUGHT IN A SAVAGE LEFT/RIGHT PINCER ATTACK by Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan. Surrender, Rick, or you'll wind up in the journalistic equivalent of Gitmo.

UPDATE: Fritz Schranck, who says he's neither left nor right, compares the Times' work to that of Miss Cleo, and notes that Berke is now under attack from left, right, and center.

STATE OF THE UNION WEBLOG! Reader John Simmons has an thoroughly modern suggestion:

Why should President Bush continue the tired old tradition, begun by Woodrow Wilson, of making a speech to comply with his Constitutional requirement to advise Congress of the state of the union. Earlier presidents advised Congress in writing. Mr. Bush should make the leap to 2002 and advise Congress (and everyone else) by setting up a blog.
Hmm. Somehow, "the Blog President" just doesn't have the right ring to it, though. Does it?

WHY NOBODY LISTENS TO EUROPE: It's all show, and no go, with NATO being a very small tail on a very large American dog, according to NATO chief Lord Robertson, who is threatening to resign.

Lord Robertson reportedly told a private meeting of Nato foreign ministers that he would quit unless given the money he said he needed.

Last week, he told European military leaders "the truth is that Europe remains a military pygmy" hard-pressed even to retain 50,000 troops in Bosnia.

The European leadership can't understand why they're not taken seriously when they tell the United States what to do. But when you don't pay the piper, you don't get to complain about the music.

U.N. SEX SLAVE UPDATE: Alex Knapp's site also has a link to this excellent Wendy McElroy article on the sex-slave operation in Bosnia, which seems to have operated with the acquiescence -- and in some cases, participation -- of U.N. peacekeeping officials. She observes:

The character revealed by the United Nations in Bosnia is particularly significant today. The agency is pushing hard to become a global government. In March, the U.N.'s High Level Panel of Financing Development will meet in Mexico and endorse recommendations that are expected to include: a World Taxing Authority, global taxes on fossil fuel and/or on all currency exchange and U.N. supervision of all international finance.

As the United Nations pushes for jurisdiction over the globe, it is important to remember how it has acted in Bosnia. The character of an institution, no less than of an individual, is revealed through actions, not words. It is revealed in the small behaviors. Such as the willingness to watch or participate in the selling of young girls into the living hell of Bosnian brothels.

I have another observation. Imagine if these were U.S. military officials in Afghanistan. Would this story be trumpeted to the high heavens by the Euro press? While the Bosnia story hasn't exactly been blacked out, it's never generated the sort of loud public outrage that hooded Al Qaeda terrorists in Guantanamo have produced. It's not just the U.N. that's looking bad here.

ALEX KNAPP identifies more of what he calls "major ball-dropping" in the CIA's work on Al Qaeda. I think he's right, and I hope that the investigation will commence. The dropped balls here are more important -- but are getting less attention than -- the dropped balls relating to Enron.

LAGOS EXPLOSIONS UPDATE: Apparently, it's much worse than initial reports indicated. Hundreds are dead, thousands homeless. But it looks like it was an accident, which unfortunately is all too believable where the Nigerian military is concerned.

THE ENRON / GREEN CONNECTION: It wasn't just pundits and politicians who were getting Enron money. According to this story, enviro groups were getting bucks, too. Enron, it says, was at the center of a huge "baptist-bootlegger" coalition.

So, as the movement to establish the Kyoto protocol developed momentum, Lay built up alliances with the Greens, his contemporary Baptist allies. On December 12, 1997, just a day or so after the Kyoto meeting had concluded, an internal Enron memo asserted that the Kyoto protocol "will do more to promote Enron's business than almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the US". It described the protocol's endorsement of international trade in carbon credits as "another victory for us", adding "this agreement will be good for Enron stock". The memo claimed that Enron had "excellent credentials with many green interests" including Greenpeace. These groups, in turn, were described as referring to Enron "in glowing terms".
This isn't a smoking gun proving illicit behavior, but along with earlier reports that Enron funded a number of enviro groups heavily, it's suggestive enough that somebody with expertise in the area -- Gregg Easterbrook, maybe -- should be following this story closely.


MORE ON NIGERIAN STONINGS in this story from the New York Times Magazine. Where's Amnesty International? Other than a single reference to unnamed "international human rights monitors" and an obviously ineffectual poster advertising the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights (I think they mean the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" here), the human rights community is AWOL. I guess they're too busy to worry about terrorists on the beach to waste time on the stoning of rape victims with small children, at least so long as the stoners and stonees are nonwhite.

UPDATE: And there's a major error, as this Islamic expert writes:

Bloody NYT doesn't know shit about Islam. Saying that Nigeria's Maliki law is the "strictest" of Shari'a interpretations. Geeeez. I just e-mailed them about how they don't know the names of Central African Countries.
Yes, I've noticed their confusion about which Congo has the volcano. Hmm. Maybe that "New York Times of the bloggers" thing should come down.

EVEN LAW SCHOOL DEANS aren't safe from Enron fallout. Much too much blather about appearances here. These people need to read my book.

HISTORIC MOMENT: My first post using the new Blogger Pro fee-based service. The signup's not bad, but I'll be paying through the nose for posting bandwidth. (This won't affect most people who are, ah, less prolific posters than me). Oh, well -- the Amazon tipjar will cover it. And I've been trying to funnel money to Blogger for a while, so I don't really mind paying. Heck, even with the bandwidth charge, it'll be less than I've been spending buying off people's Blogspot ads.

If you're using Blogger and you haven't signed up, don't be afraid. The teething problems seem to be more or less solved, and the interface is largely the same. There won't be much in the way of tooling-up. Although Blogger Pro won't function with my beloved Netscape 4.76. Boo hoo. But at least I know that, somewhere, Charles Johnson is smiling.

TRUE NAMES: An interesting observation from a reader:

When the media speak or write about Cassius Clay, they refer to him excusively as Muhammad Ali. Why? He converted to Islam and changed his name. When they refer to Lew Alcindor they call him Kareem Abdul Jabbar -- because he converted to Islam and changed his name.

John Walker Lindh converted to Islam and changed his name to Sulayman al-Lindh, according to early news reports on CNN and elsewhere. Yet all the media are now referring to al-Lindh exclusively by his former name.

Why is this? Perhaps, just perhaps, refusing to use his real name --Sulayman al-Lindh -- preserves a patina of innocence for the Taliban fighter formerly known as John Walker. It marginalizes the fact that al-Lindh took intentional steps over a period of three years to place himself in the heart of violent Islamic fundamentalism, a process so deliberate that he changed his name to begin it.

As I said, an interesting observation, and something that had entirely slipped by me. Why are they doing this?

NOT ENOUGH TO WORRY ABOUT? Read this item on fourth-generation thermonuclear weapons -- H-bombs without the need for a messy, expensive fission trigger. I think they may be a bit optimistic (or is it pessimistic) about the technology, but that's ultimately a matter of timing rather than feasibility. I'm not comforted that this report was originally distributed at a conference in Shanghai.

I'VE BEEN EXPECTING BAD THINGS TO HAPPEN in New York this week, when the usual anti-globalization protesters rally. This story doesn't make me feel any better.

This time, of course, the authorities hold all the cards. The public doesn't give a damn about those guys anyway (and didn't much before 9/11) -- and now the humanitarian groups have blown their credibility over al Qaeda. That means there will be no political price to pay beyond grousing from the chattering classes no matter how brutal the response -- especially since the killings in Sweden and Italy will make it harder for Eurocritics to point the finger at the U.S. (They will, but no one will listen).

The authorities, I suspect, know this. I doubt the protesters have caught on to the new realities. If they haven't, then things will likely get ugly.

I hope that they don't. I think that the transnational bureaucrats need to be brought to heel, but I don't think that the antiglobos -- who really just want to put in their own bunch of even stupider and more venal transnational bureaucrats -- are the solution. In fact, by discrediting the opposition, they're really part of the problem.


STEVEN DEN BESTE offers a chilling (non-terrorism) explanation for the crash of flight 587. He goes on to argue for airline reregulation.

I'm opposed to airline reregulation on general principles, but as a selfish matter I should support it: usually when I fly, it's on someone else's tab -- but the hassles, etc., are all borne by me. But before deregulation, most people couldn't afford to fly except for family emergencies or long-dreamed-of vacations that broke the bank. Now anyone can. That's an accomplishment that we take for granted, but it's no less of an accomplishment for that.

On the other hand, the airlines aren't exactly covering themselves with glory. Security remains a joke, and now service is even worse than the already-abysmal pre-9/11 levels. If they can't make it better, reregulation will look pretty appealing to a lot of people.

AMBULANCE CREWS LEAVING PATIENTS TO DIE because of bribes from funeral homes? Yep, that's what this report says. I think that trumps the horror stories of Britain's National Health Service that Virginia Postrel has posted.

BIG EXPLOSIONS IN LAGOS, NIGERIA are reportedly the result of an accident at an Army munitions facility. Government sources deny that there is a coup or mutiny underway.

Whenever you have to deny stuff like that, it's a bad sign, but so far I haven't run across any evidence that there is anything else going on. Sabotage, of course, is always a possibility, but that's entirely speculative at this point.

ROBERT X. CRINGELY explains why ultrawideband data networks are so scary. I want mine! Now! (Link via The Daily Dose).

SOME TIME AGO I said that whoever gave the order to ground all the civilian planes on September 11 was a hero. To my surprise, it seems that was Norm Mineta. Well, I'm not much of a Mineta fan most of the time, but he did the right thing, in a hurry, under pressure -- and very likely prevented more hijackings by doing so. Bravo.

NATALIJA RADIC weighs in on the Milosevic trial. Her proposed solution sounds better to me -- and less likely to have been botched than Milosevic's trial, which is reportedly in "disarray," and in danger of collapse.

MORE EMAIL: Various comments have come in regarding the bank-robber analogy quote in "Bogosity Watch," below. Here's my favorite: "Enron was the bank, and it was an inside job."

READER EMAIL: A couple of views on the Anne Applebaum piece re prisoners of war. Reader Alex Bensky writes:

The British chattering classes want us to treat the terrorists as prisoners of war. Not a bad idea, and as soon as the British start according such rights to the IRA I think we should consider it very carefully.
Meanwhile, reader Randall Parker says:
Here's a theory on why people like Anne Applebaum get it wrong on whether the Guantanamo pictures are a PR debacle: They have to personally argue with the European chatterer class people who are mad at us. It is uncomfortable to be in a small minority in social settings where others are expressing condemnation of what your group is doing. I think this also explains why the State Department ends up being so sympathetic to the views of leaders in other countries. They do have to be on the receiving end of complaints. This may explain why the State Department is taking the position that the Guantanamo prisoners should be given Geneva Convention POW status. It's natural to want the people who deal with directly to approve of you and to approve of the company, government or other group you are identified with.
Hmm. Then why don't Euro journalists and diplomats who come to the United States suffer from a similar form of Stockholm Syndrome? We need to choose our folks from more resistant stock. Journalists objective enough to refuse to call terrorists terrorists should surely be able to resist such peer pressure. Shouldn't they? And diplomats are supposed to remember who signs their paychecks.

PUNDITWATCH IS UP! And boy is Will V. p*ssed!

PUNDITGATE IN BRITAIN: A much swifter resolution:

ROGER SCRUTON, the conservative philosopher, academic and journalist, has been dropped as a Financial Times columnist following the disclosure that he is being paid £54,000 a year as a consultant to the tobacco industry.
Hmm. Think Krugman's case would be different if he shared one, crucial, descriptor with Scruton?

APPEASING OUR ENEMIES, betraying our friends? The White House is vulnerable on the sympathy-for-the-Saudis angle -- in fact, it's Bush's main vulnerability politically at the moment. This item, coming so soon after the Neil Bush Billy-Carterization episode, is widening the cracks in his armor.

Is anyone at the White House paying attention?

THE WASHINGTON POST is outlining the run-up to September 11. Alex Knapp has noted the smoking gun that indicates that the intelligence community was simultaneously on the ball and dropping the ball. And I don't think "smoking gun" is too strong a word.


Mr. Duncan, Enron robbed the bank. Arthur Andersen provided the getaway car. And they say you were at the wheel. -- Rep. James Greenwood, R-PA
This is a brilliant sound bite, and it has succeeded admirably in drawing attention to the obscure congressman who uttered it.

But it's also bogus. This wasn't a bank robbery. It wasn't even like a bank robbery. (For one thing, Enron is broke -- an unusual condition for a "bank robber" right after the heist). Greenwood's trying to make things simple, and get on TV. But what he's really showing is that he cares more about getting attention than he cares about getting to the truth.

PUNDITGATE STRIKES BRITAIN, at least according to this report from The Guardian. This sounds far worse than anything involving Enron, I have to say.

I'd like to know more about who's getting money from what organizations. And I'd like to see the inquiry expanded to foundations and the like, whose nonprofit status is treated as proof of moral cleanliness in Washington -- but which shouldn't be. There's a lot of agenda-advancing money out there, I think, and it should be smoked out.

THE MESSAGE IS GETTING THROUGH on the Guantanamo issue, as this piece makes clear.

Polls conducted by British newspapers and television stations have come out with heavy majorities in favour of what the Americans are doing. . . .

If there is a conflict, it is one between British politicians and the people who vote for them. The conflict between the governed and their governors is present on almost all law and order issues.

Most British voters want tougher and longer sentences, with fewer legal niceties, more defendants convicted and fewer criminals paroled; most politicians (many of whom used to be lawyers) are not convinced of the efficacy of tougher sentencing policies.

I'm not a big fan of a lot of "get tough" approaches to crime and prisons, but the real point here is that Jim Bennett is right: there's a big split between elite and non-elite opinion on these issues in Britain, with non-elite opinion far more sympathetic to the United States -- and the United States has forced that split much more into the open.

Which is why I wonder if this has been the PR debacle that Anne Applebaum, and others, suggest. It looks to me like a very clever and effective PR strike against the political position of elites who are reflexively anti-American, producing a movement toward marginalizing them the way their opposite numbers have been marginalized in the United States.

THERE IS NOW A PAID, MORE-FUNCTIONAL VERSION OF BLOGGER and I'm going to switch to it shortly. I'm holding off today, because I'm seeing a lot of emails that people who sign up are having trouble getting registered, but I expect that will be fixed shortly.

The bummer is, it's priced in part by the volume of postings -- which, as you might imagine, hits me pretty hard. But I'll do it anyway.


Note that this is the Saudis' fault -- they've been exporting their nasty brand of Sharia to West Africa, and displacing the far more compassionate native-grown brand, for years.

Saud Delenda Est!

ANNE APPLEBAUM writes that the Guantanamo PR has been badly handled. I disagree.

By conventional standards, the publication of the photos of shackled prisoners -- photos released by the Pentagon -- was a gaffe. But think again. True, the European commentariat went ballistic. But now even the editors of The Mirror have been forced to realize -- and publicly admit -- that 91% of their readers disagree with them and think that the United States government is doing the right thing. If the goal was to separate the European political class from its constituents, the operation was a brilliant success. And who's to say it wasn't?

Meanwhile, the anti-American Arab press is making a lot of the European claims of torture and brutality in the camps, which might actually be believed by its many gullible readers. But don't we want those readers to feel that the gloves are off? Where's the downside to us of having potential terrorists, and supporters of terrorists, believe that we'll behave almost as brutally as their own governments will? After all, they've been deriding us as "weak" for years because we didn't do that sort of thing.

I don't think you can pronounce this a PR failure.

DAVID IGNATIUS SAYS WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT ENRON is how quickly it collapsed. In Japan, he says, Ken Lay would have held on as CEO for decades. Under American capitalism, you screw up, you're out. In most of the world, people as well-connected as Lay don't get left to face the music. Excellent point.

GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN: Here's a column by a muslim woman on the debt muslim women owe America:

Although some women fear wearing a hijab in America, my experience has been just the opposite: People are respectful and understanding. On Oct. 8, I showed up at work and discovered many female colleagues -- all non-Muslims -- wearing the hijab as a sign of sisterly solidarity, an act repeated by American women across the country. It was a special day for America.

I ask my Muslim friends to imagine the reverse scenario. If Americans had hijacked planes and crashed them into Mecca, would the Muslim world have ever shown such sympathy? My friends cannot help but agree that the response we have encountered here is extraordinary.

Now American Muslim women must respond in kind. We have come to America seeking safety and freedom, and rightly demanded equal respect and equal rights as citizens. Although American democracy has welcomed and accommodated Islam, the Muslim world continues to regard America with
suspicion. And for too long, we silently tolerated this one-way embrace.

Think this'll get reprinted in the Arab News?

A WARNING: Earlier, I posted a link to an article about computer-hacking efforts, aimed at U.S. energy companies, that seem to be coming from middle-eastern governments. Reader Paul Music adds this observation:

I work as an electrician, and I know more about the frailties of the American power didtribution network, as revealed by the rolling blackouts in California and Texas. It's all interconnected, and overloads are usually prevented by switching in/out permutations of networks, 24/7. These commands are given over computer networks that aren't at all as secure as they need to be. We've been puzzled by heretofore presumed 'random' shutdowns, so we're of course stunned (I was about to write 'shocked', non apropos ) to learn that at least some shutdowns were deliberate, and from outside the Utility Network.

"Fat Lady Clears Throat, Act One, Scene Two"
Maybe all those Y2K-inspired backup generators will turn out to have a national-security purpose.

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