Rationales for an Irrational World

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Saturday, January 05, 2002

COPYKITTEN: Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard, writing on certain similarities between WWII books written by historians Stephen Ambrose and Thomas Childers, notes in Stephen Ambrose, Copycat
The two books are similar in more than just subject. Whole passages in "The Wild Blue" are barely distinguishable from those in "Wings of Morning." Sentences in Ambrose's book are identical to sentences in Childers's. Key phrases from "Wings of Morning," such as "glittering like mica" and "up, up, up," are repeated verbatim in "The Wild Blue." None of these--the passages, sentences, phrases--is put in quotation marks and ascribed to Childers. The only attribution Childers gets in "The Wild Blue" is a mention in the bibliography and four footnotes.
In my opinion - and I speak as an author with thirty published books - Barnes's charges of plagiarism are overblown. Even Childers says
he looked up the index when he first got "The Wild Blue" and flipped to the parts where his work was footnoted. His first reaction was, "this sounds awfully familiar. It didn't make me mad. It made me disappointed." Childers said he hasn't written Ambrose. "What would I say?" he asked. "Shame on you?"
Ambrose does cite Childers, and does footnote him, so there is no question he is aware of Childers's work, and in particular, the work he borrows from. (In plagiarism trials, one of the key questions is whether the accused plagiarist has awareness of the work supposedly plagiarized). Ambrose's crime comes more under the Picasso's apocryphal comment, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." To which I would add the modifier "accidentally." This may seem a copout to the non-writer, who can't imagine such things being inadvertent. But any writer, particularly a historian who must mentally juggle dozens, even hundreds of research sources as he composes, will understand how, without meaning to, some things will bleed into others, and things that seem original on writing are actually reflections of some bit of research floating in the author's mind.

All I believe is required here is either rewriting, (or more thorough footnoting) and an apology from Ambrose to Childers. These things happen. That in one instance Ambrose even puts Childers's prose into George McGovern's mouth indicates to me these appropriations are most likely inadvertent. It beggars the imagination that an author with as much to lose as Ambrose would consciously risk everything over a few copied sentences from a work he cites in his own footnotes. Although similar things do happen, the causes are usually more bizarre than seem to be the case here.

UPDATE: As for the truly rank ripoffs of intellectual property, my notion of a reasonable solution is contained in K.W. Jeter's nasty, twisted, vindictive (and delightful) book, Noir.

CUTE TEDDY BEARS: Australia Fires Hit Koala Habitat
Wildfires have ravaged the koala's habitat and likely killed or injured thousands, wildlife experts said Friday, as authorities arrested two more teen-age arson suspects.
Okay, now the American media will pay attention to the Sidney fires. Koalas are almost as cute as baby seals.

NYAH, NYAH, TOLD YOU SO: Anent the recent legislation intended to federalize airport security, James Morrow (link via Rand Simberg) writes in Reason:
In other words, those who said that the legislation would do nothing for security but much to swell federal payrolls (and who were accused of, as Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) put it, "putting…private profit ahead of public protection") turned out to be right after all. The oft-maligned "burger flippers" get to keep their jobs, but they've now got Uncle Sam signing their paychecks.
Morrow doesn't mention additional boondoggles like Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Brady) bill to allow non-citizens to remain as airport screeners. So in the end, this legislation turns out exactly as opponents predicted: a Democratic vote-hunt that will increase costs drastically, but do nothing to increase security. Let's hope voters keep this in mind when elections roll around, ten months down the road.

Friday, January 04, 2002

IT'S THE POLITICS, STUPID: It's lost in all the thunder of the war on terror, and gets very little play along the dead tree and talking head circuit. Even the blogosphere seems curiously unaware of it. Yet we can see its faint outlines, dimly reflected, as in a dusky mirror. One such reflection is the speech Tom Daschle gave on Friday, with his silly charges that, for the first time in history, tax cuts (Bush's, of course) had made a recession worse. I think I see another glimmer in the odd choice of trial venues for the accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. You can catch yet another glint in the expected quick burial of the case of Democratic Senator Torricelli, recently referred to the Senate Ethics Committee, which is also chaired by a Democrat.

So what the heck is it?

The election, of course. It's only ten months away. Both tradition and conventional wisdom dictate that the party in the White House will lose about twenty seats in the House of Representatives in an off-year election, which this one is. Yet the same tradition and conventional wisdom, as well as an impressive phalanx of "scientific" studies predicted that George W. Bush had no chance to beat Al Gore for the Presidency a year ago.

Oh, yeah. That. Still haven't quite got it out of your head yet, have you? Whenever anybody says the word election, you think of those insane days and weeks after November 7, 2000. And you just aren't quite ready yet for Election Madness, Part Deux. Especially with Osama and Omar still running around loose, and guys with explosive sneakers climbing onto airplanes. But it's coming. In fact, it's probably coming a lot faster than you imagined. Three months from today, on March 5, 2002, California will hold its primary. And ten months from today, on November 5, America will go to the polls and vote on one third of the members of the Senate, and all of the members of the House.

The Republican Party currently holds a fourteen seat advantage over the Democrats. Obviously, should it lose twenty seats, control of the House will shift. Pundit William Safire has already predicted that Democrats will lose the Senate but regain the House. And for a while, rumors bubbled that the real reason Dick Armey announced his retirement was that he agreed with this estimate, and had no stomach for being forced out of his position as House Majority Leader.

The stakes are high for both parties. The Democrats barely control the Senate. Certainly their paper-thin "majority" is not strong enough to allow them any real participation in government. They have no hope of moving their agenda. All they can do is play the spoiler role. But if they could capture both the House and the Senate, even by small margins, they could finally approach President Bush's war-based political colossus on something approaching equal terms. By the same token, President Bush, highly aware of the domestic political miscalculations that made his father a one-term president, is determined not to repeat those mistakes. He's aware that losing both houses of congress could endanger his reelection in 2004. And he is not helpless, even with the established mediacracy following their natural inclination to support a Democratic resurgence. Bush has in his corner what may be the single most important factor in the upcoming election: Karl Rove, the most effective Republican political strategist since Lee Atwater.

Rove's star is already much in ascendance behind the scenes. Any President has enormous abilities to influence the political landscape. Rove will make sure that President Bush and the Republican Party use this influence to the strongest possible effect.

What all this means is simple: there is a saying that, whenever the reason for something isn't obvious, then the reason is money. In this case, the answer to the same rubric is politics. Whether you know it or not, the campaign for control of congress in 2002 is already well underway, and it will color every action of both parties from here on out. So if something doesn't appear to make sense, ask yourself cui bono? - in the political sense. Because many of the things you're about to witness will make sense only in terms of politics. Count on it. And watch for it.

I KNOW, I KNOW: ArabNews: Makkah imam slams Western arrogance In a widely televised rant, Saudi Sheikh Saleh ibn Humeid said in his Friday sermon:
There is a huge gap between theory and practice of the Western principles of democracy, freedom and human rights.
Today’s world order is "dark, characterized by arrogance, haughtiness, humiliation and disdain. It is characterized by tyranny, suppression of peoples and nations, domination and monopolization," the imam said. "What kind of principles are these that create hatred, and educational systems that allow humiliation (of others)? What kind of a system is this that sows arrogance and conceit?"
The system that educated most of the World Trade Center suicide bombers?

BEAN COUNTER WAR: U.S. Suspends Funding to Iraqi Opposition Group This LAT article reveals the reason the US has cut off funding to the Iraqi National Congress, the principal Iraqi opposition group:
The INC always accuses the State Department of withholding funds because it doesn't support the INC cause," said Henri Barkey, a former State Department policy planning staffer now at Lehigh University. "But unfortunately, it was actually the INC that came up short every time in terms of providing accurate accounting and proper documentation and not living up to deadlines."

Washington has paid for an accountant, lawyer and grant writer to help straighten out the INC financial problems. But deepening frustration with the group's shortcomings in handling U.S. funds finally led to the decision this week to withhold funding for many of the INC programs.

U.S. officials say there have been some improvements in the group's operation. INC officials liked to fly first class on overseas trips, preferably on British Airways. Under U.S. law, however, aid grantees must fly on American carriers, in coach seats. The INC has begun to comply with these kinds of basic rules, sources said.

U.S. officials say they are committed to restoring the full $25-million grant from the State Department if the INC will improve its management.

Patton weeps.

TRIAL RUN: Rich Lowry files a column on Zacarias Moussaoui on NRO:
Zacarias Moussaoui is getting better than he deserves. In fact, his trial in Alexandria, Virginia can best be thought of as Patrick Leahy's revenge — the fruit of the Democrats' assault on the idea of military tribunals.
Lowry's thesis is
It seems clear that the Moussaoui trial is a kind of reverse show trial, a way for the Bush administration to demonstrate to the Democrats and the op-ed writers that it isn't so dictatorial after all.
This differs from both TheBS's analysis and that presented by QuasiPundit. Now, none of these three sources - Lowry, TheBS, or QuasiPundit - are ideologically or intellectually committed to Bush-bashing, yet all are at least puzzled at the government's handling the Moussaoui trial this way. And if those inclined to be neutral, if not openly friendly toward Bush are thinking like this, I wonder what conclusions his enemies are reaching.

AND YO MAMA'S UGLY AS A... InstaPundit recently welcomed Joshua Bittker's SmarterPundit to the blogosphere. SmarterPundit's raison d'être is supposed to be a meta-critique of other blogs. But if this:
Are you so jaded in your old, conservative age, Jay? (I notice there's no picture of him with the column as NRO usually has, and I haven't looked it up, so I don't even know how old he is.) By the way, it's as I write, not as me write, unless you are trying to write like those teenage girls.
is an example of the level of criticism we can expect, then SmarterPundit isn't.

DO AS I SAY: Berry lawyer to work for free
Mary Frances Berry has enlisted a prestigious New York law firm in an effort to keep a disputed commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. To join the legal action, Miss Berry has violated a commission statute that forbids the use of free assistance.
That any might be shocked by Berry's actions seems strange. Just ask supporters of Pacifica's station KPFA in California:
"Dr. Berry lied to the media on several issues. She did not misstate; she outright lied, and this can be documented."

CASUALTY REPORT: U.S. Serviceman Killed in Gun Battle The NYT reports:
A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier was killed by small-arms fire in eastern Afghanistan Friday, the first member of the American military to die from enemy fire inside the war-torn country in the three-month-old campaign.
That this is news at all, after three months of foreign war in which the United States toppled the government of a violent, distant nation, is testimony to the nearly inconceivable force and effectiveness of American war-fighting power.

DISMAL DASCHLE: Daschle attacks Bush on deficits MSNBC reports that
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle declared Friday that tax cuts signed into law last year by President Bush “probably made the recession worse.”
However, when CNBC commentator Ron Insana was asked if he placed any credence in the charge, he narrowed his reply to the effect that he had never seen an example of tax cuts causing a recession "in history." Insana further mentioned research that showed consumer confidence tended to track presidential popularity. In which case, TheBS notes, Daschle's determined though risibly misguided attacks on President Bush and his tax cuts, if they succeeded in damaging Bush's popularity, could actually prolong the recession.

Of course Daschle, looking forward ten months to the 2002 congressional elections, might well reply, "Okay, and the downside to that for us Democrats would be...?"

ABDULLARDS: With Friends Like These

More Saudi bashing from the WSJ Opinion Journal Online. But smart, effective Saudi bashing.

NOT BAD LOOKING, EITHER: The Swift-Guerriero push begins
Guerriero will be the first openly gay candidate for such a high- profile office. His pairing up with Swift also underscores the historical significance of her candidacy: She is the first woman to serve as governor of Massachusetts.
Governor Swift's selection of an openly gay man to run as her Lt. Governor on the Republican ticket is, of course, an act of political tokenism. But it's a great one, for two reasons: first, the pick itself, and second, the fact that it's a Republican pick. It's time America learned that not all gays are like the knee-jerk liberals who crowd my home town of San Francisco. More important, it's minority tokens who open the bus doors for everybody else.

UPDATE: Does this mean that Pat Robertson will shift his curse to Boston? (Thanks, andrewsullivan.com).

BORDER PATROL: Rise of Internet 'Borders' Prompts Fears for Web's Future
Yahoo declined on principle and sued in U.S. District Court in San Jose to make the order unenforceable because a foreign judge could not impose such conditions on a U.S.-based company. U.S. Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled Nov. 7 that the First Amendment trumps overseas laws when they pertain to content produced by U.S. companies. An appeals court upheld the decision but the French groups have appealed again and have vowed to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
Other nations seek technical means to enforce local control over the Internet, as it becomes clear they will not be able to use legalisms to nullify the U.S. constitution. But technical means won't work either, because it is always easier and, more important, cheaper to hack than defend. This will eventually force the Frances, Chinas, and Saudi Arabias of the world back to a confrontation with the sources of supply. That means with the United States. Yet one more battlefield in the war of culture against culture, one far more important than anything involving Islam and the West.

NONE SO BLIND: Patriotism Comes Under Scrutiny
A few left-wing types criticized the war or seemed to blame American imperialism for the terrorist attacks. Aha, said some commentators on the right, the libs are at it again – though the dissenters were a ridiculously small minority. (This was sort of like blaming the loony Marin County culture for John Walker joining the Taliban, ignoring the fact that 99.99 percent of Marin teenagers somehow resisted the lure.)
Howard Kurtz joins the Andrew Sullivan triage brigade, ignoring the fact that whatever was the absolute number of the liberal elite who became reflexive America bashers, their influence and position were considerable: Oliver Stone, Susan Sontag, Michael Moore, Ted Rall, Helen Thomas, Robert Fisk, all well known before 9/11 as leaders and spokesman for the left. Now, spin as they may, the left cannot disavow them. Too little, too late, and too bad.

BACK TO ABNORMAL? Unemployment Rate Climbs to 5.8 Percent
The nation's unemployment rate climbed to 5.8 percent in December, highest in more than six years, as businesses cut 124,000 jobs and the year ended with the job market in the depths of recession.
Yes, but six years ago, the economy was booming, and we weren't in a recession. To have the U.S. unemployment rate at the bottom of a recession be no greater than it was in the middle of the biggest economic boom in our history is no mean feat. Remember, for decades, five percent was considered the absolute minimum full employment rate. No longer.

WHAT TO DO? Charges Ruled Out as U.S. Concludes Torricelli Inquiry
Under its rules, the Senate Ethics Committee will open a preliminary inquiry into the matter. But it is unclear how aggressively the panel will pursue the case, particularly given the political repercussions of doing so while Mr. Torricelli campaigns for re-election and the Democrats fight to hold a single-seat majority in the Senate.
Yes, this must present quite a dilemma to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Casino), the Democratic chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee. He can either reopen this can of squirms and possibly threaten Democratic prospects of maintaining control of the Senate (and his own prospects of maintaining his chairmanship), or he can bury this squalid potato deeper than the charity in a Vegas pit boss's heart.

Can't wait to see the Vegas line on this one.

NYT READING THEBS? Taliban Leaders May Be Escaping; Al Qaeda Camp Is Hit by U.S. Airstrikes
As in other areas of Afghanistan, the victorious anti-Taliban forces seemed less interested in arresting top Taliban leaders than in grabbing control over the region.
American officials said today that the negotiations for surrender had often involved two or more anti-Taliban groups competing to win the surrender of the same Taliban commanders. That confusing, time-consuming process could allow Taliban leaders time to escape or buy their way to freedom, as hundreds of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters have done elsewhere in Afghanistan, American and anti-Taliban officials said.
"They have dollars, rupees, cars and weapons," said Hajji Shah Muhammad, a tribal leader from Now Zad in Helmand Province, where Baghran is situated. "These people can do anything they want and escape."
Advantage, TheBS.

WarLog: World War III by Jeff Jarvis

I was going to write an extensive post on Wallid Shatter (the Secret Service agent whose name Charles Caldwell knows, but the NYT, in a typically egregious case of "not reported here," doesn't), but Jeff Jarvis beat me to it. He's got my take on the matter entirely.

Thursday, January 03, 2002

True, my view of Bush was clouded by the dark fact that he's an illegal impostor who bullied his way into the White House and rudely refused to leave even after countless recounts proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he lost the presidential election. But the man's contempt for democracy is no reason to deny him his due.
Does anybody read Ted Rall seriously any more? I mean besides those of us who peruse him to shred him? I suspect that to the rest of the world, his reverse Ourobouros act went stale and odoriferous long ago.

HIT HIM AGAIN, HARDER, HARDER: A story in the Jerusalem Post, European diplomat: Arafat's isolation is having an impact, offers an interesting take on the effect of current Israeli policy that keeps Arafat restricted to Ramallah:
No less important, he said, is the US's adamant refusal to invite Arafat to Washington. "I know that for the last several months he has tried to get invited to the US and has not succeeded. And if my information is not mistaken, the refusal has been very brutal - he was told in no uncertain terms not to expect an invitation. I think the psychological impact of this on him and his population is very, very strong."
It's good to know the man who ordered the slaughter of unarmed Israeli teenagers is being so heavily affected by U.S. diplomatic brutality.

SOMETIMES YOU GET MORE FLIES WITH VINEGAR: Remember not so long ago, Kuwait was about to formally install the bloodthirsty Islamic Sharia as its legal system? Charles Krauthammer reports in Where Power Talks:
No longer. Kuwait has just abandoned the move to install sharia. Indeed, it has suddenly swung the other way, banning scores of Islamic charities that support religious extremists.
What happened? The spontaneous eruption of Western-style liberalism? The sudden emergence of an Islamic Reformation?
No. The answer is simple: Afghanistan.
As it turns out, it seems that while Islamic fundamentalism is moderately contagious, fear of an angry United States is even more so. That's good.

SCHOLARS AND DOLLARS: A NYT article, Black Scholars Mending a Rift With Harvard, notes:
Some Harvard faculty members had accused the Afro-American Studies department of crying racism to disguise a power play, but Professor Gates, the department's chairman, challenged that, noting that his professors were not pressing demands for more money.
"As a person who has been recruiting some of the finest scholars in America to Harvard over the past decade," he said, "I can safely say that people of the stature of Cornel West do not move for financial reasons.
"The compensation at his level will only be comparable elsewhere. Only someone who doesn't understand how the academy functions would make such a ridiculous statement. It vulgarizes what's a matter of principle."
In other words, according to Lewis Gates, the "some Harvard faculty members" who accused the Black Studies department of a power play don't "understand how the academy functions."

On the other hand, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton do.

POLL TACKS: Over at QuasiPundit, Will Vehrs and my former City compadre Tony Adragna are kicking back and forth my notion that there might be a political calculus involved in choosing to try accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui in the regular court system, rather than the tribunals that some have claimed would be more suitable for his case. Will and Tony are exchanging various legal arguments involving classifications of crime, proper role of the exclusionary rule, and so on. But my point is that which venue to use must be, for the Bush administration, as much if not more a political decision than one based on judicial or security issues.

It's easy to forget, (although Karl Rove hasn't) that ten months down the road we go to the polls again, and the results of that election will have an enormous effect on the rest of the Bush presidency. Making the decision to sacrifice a small fish like Moussaoui to a (potentially) botched civil trial, in order to assure massive public political acceptance of tribunals for other trials, may not look like a bad call down the road after all. I have to assume this angle was at least considered in high councils; Bush may not run a poll every time he wants to change his necktie pattern, but he's no amateur at politics.

And speaking of politics, the reason I expressed some reservations about the press release in which the former President and his wife expressed sadness at the death of their dog, Buddy, was this: press release? The only way such sentiments might be expressed in a chillier manner would be to send out Lanny Davis to make a "personal announcement." On O'Reilly, maybe.

I WONDER AS I WANDER: About the post right below this one: the most obvious example of what a large part of the United States viewed as an imposition of federal tyranny on them resulted in the Civil War, which ended up being fought between militaries representing two different governments; in other words a battle between states, even though one state was quite short-lived.

What if it had gone differently? What if the South had not seceded, but opted instead for armed guerilla resistance? Of course this wouldn't have kept Lincoln from ending the institution of slavery, but recall that Lincoln didn't issue the Emancipation Proclamation until well into the Civil War. If secession had not resulted in formal state warfare, would it have been issued when it was? In the meantime, armed resistance might well have made it so costly over the long term that Lincoln would have been defeated for re-election, or a drained North might finally have said "Good riddance," and let the South go. Interesting speculation, at least.

PRIVATE, GO SHOOT YOUR DADDY: Brian Linse notes in AintNoBadDude that
Dodgson makes the case for recognizing that, as a practical matter, an armed citizenry will not be able to enforce their rights by using their weapons against the government.
What all such arguments either miss or ignore is that the members of the US military, those who Dodgson and others regard as being solely "government," aren't. In large part they are also armed citizens who happen to be serving in the military. Perhaps not technically; but that's the way my money says it would shake out.

UPDATE: From Libertarian Samizdata, Perry de Havilland writes to note that he and Walter Uhlman have already made this point. Of course. For those of us not intellectually blinkered by an all-powerful-all-the-time conception of the nature of government, it jumps right out. I'd like to push it a bit further. Most who cite this caveat think in terms of soldiers not firing on armed citizens. But what is there to prevent the armed citizens (in some cases, very heavily armed) who just happen to be soldiers from turning their own weapons on those who are willing to kill their fellow citizens on behalf of the state? Given the poll the Samizdata team cites, they outnumber the would-be statist mercs more than two to one. Something else for budding tyrants to consider.

One more item of consideration: as de Havilland notes, this whole idea of the military as some sort of Prussian class divorced from the rest of the nation is just whacked. Americans have no history of classism in this sense. The average grunt has far more in common with the average fireman or bus driver than he does with his own generals, and especially with the be-fatted politicians who give them their orders. Does anybody doubt that, had the military been given a choice between shooting the Clinton crowd or their own next door neighbors, what their decision would have been?

AMPUTATING THE HANDS THAT FEED YOU: Patrick Basham & John Samples on campaign-finance reform on National Review Online
Most members of the political class welcome any opportunity to sing the praises of curtailing political speech, especially the necessity of banning "soft money" donations — the unlimited donations made to political parties to pay for issue advertising, voter registration, and voter-mobilization campaigns. But lofty rhetoric designed to impress suburban soccer moms recedes when it comes face-to-face with the reality of funding a modern-day political operation.
It's a mystery to TheBS why the failure to pass any "meaningful" (meaningful="actually cuts the flow of money") campaign finance reforms is even news. No political entity is going to willingly cut off or even limit the source of its own funds. Not ever. And nobody has yet discovered a way to make them do it unwillingly.

THE LITTLE TRAINS THAT CAN'T: OpinionJournal - John Fund's Political Diary
Amtrak, the government's national passenger railroad, got a Christmas gift from Congress: protection from the law.
Fund offers an interesting, if convoluted, explanation of why Amtrak will keep on chugging, no matter how expensive the ride may be for the nation's taxpayers.

AND I'VE GOT THIS BRIDGE: WSJ.com - Democrats Try to Make Hay of Enron Fall As Lieberman Calls Hearings on Collapse (Subscription required)
The Connecticut senator noted that the company and its chairman, Bush friend Kenneth Lay, were active in helping draft the Bush administration's energy plan. Mr. Lieberman added, "We have got to ask whether the advice rendered was at all self-serving."
Mr. Lieberman emphasized that Enron's connections to the Bush administration aren't the focus of his committee's inquiry; instead, he says it will center on the precipitous collapse and what might have been done -- including by the government -- to prevent it.
You have to pay to read the whole thing, but this is the nut. Sen. Lieberman (D-Unbiased) will initiate hearings investigating the collapse of Enron in a vigorous hunt for any evidence of "self-service."

You mean like the coffee and condom machines that used to be in the Lincoln Bedroom, Senator?

THE ONLY THING TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF: U.S. Says It Bought Radiation Drug Justin Gillis writes:
The federal government recently bought 1.6 million doses of a drug that protects against certain kinds of radioactive fallout and will buy at least 6 million additional doses in the coming year to create a large national stockpile, the Department of Health and Human Services said yesterday.
A stockpile in the neighborhood of eight million doses. Say. Isn't that about the population of New York City?

MARY "NO" WHITE: Sen. Torricelli Will Not Face Charges (washingtonpost.com)

If you're a terrorist, watch out for Mary Jo White, the US Attorney for Manhattan. If you're a pol, though, or have connections to one, relax. You're in good, safe hands. It's been long rumored this Janet Reno lookalike was held over to quietly bury some inconvenient prosecutions. The "vindication" of Senator Torch (D-Sopranos) is the last of them. Ms. White has announced she'll step down at the end of this year.

NO BS AT THEBS: In The Military's Media Showdown , Howie Kurtz, the only print pundit who works as hard as The Professor scores one for TheBS.

In his latest, Executive Privilege Again, Bill Safire is on to something:
At issue here is Congress's responsibility and authority to examine the misdeeds of the executive branch in a thorough manner — with an eye toward legislation to make criminal those policies evidently adopted by a regional division of our F.B.I. to subvert the law in the name of the law.
Is there anybody who cares about transparency in government who wasn't at least puzzled by the Bush administration's recent attempt to rewrite the Presidential Records Act? Subsequent actions by Attorney General Ashcroft to claim executive privilege on Bush's behalf only serve to increase suspions.

In the past fifty years or so, the courts have not treated these executive assertions of privilege kindly. I doubt that when the dust settles on this conflict, the results will be any different.

DE FACTO, DE JURE: The Year in Internet Law

Useful NYT survey of legal experts's opinion of 2001's cyberlaw events.

OLD BUDDY, OLD PAL: 'Buddy,' the Clintons' Dog, Dies The NYT reports:
``We are deeply saddened by Buddy's death,'' the Clintons said in a statement issued by Payne. ``He was a loyal companion and brought us much joy. He will truly be missed.''
Would it be considered Clinton-bashing for me to doubt the heartfelt sincerity of this press release? Yeah, probably.

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: A NYT story, Marines Complete Sweep of Al Qaeda Compound reports:
But some Afghan officials said Taliban leaders, including perhaps Mullah Muhammad Omar, would use the drawn-out surrender to escape from Baghran. Mullah Omar, who fled Kandahar after turning over the Taliban stronghold to opposition forces almost a month ago, is also believed to be holed up in the mountains surrounding Baghran in northern Helmand Province.
"They wanted four days to surrender because they want to run away," said Hafiz Ullah, the security chief of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province. "They're going to run away. Maybe we can capture the small commanders, but not the big ones."
It's becoming more apparent than ever that the current Afghan government as well as the coalition of warlords that underpins it have next to no interest in capturing Mullah Omar. It's easy to understand why: collaring the one-eyed Mullah would place the fledgling leaders in an intolerable position. If they have Omar in their control, they have a limited range of options, all of them bad (from their viewpoint). They can try Omar, and invite retribution from Omar's Taliban supporters, who are still a potent force on the ground, particularly in the rural areas. They can turn him over to the Americans, with similar results. Or they can either release him or even offer him shelter, which will provoke the Americans on whom Hamid Karzai and friends absolutely depend for money and supplies over the next several years. The only option that offers even a chance for them to skirt these undesirable outcomes would be for Omar to perish of "wounds sustained in battle," (wink, wink). But even that option has some risks.

Far better, from their viewpoint, if no Afghan force ever actually has Omar in its possession. Which is why I think we'll see a lot more of these mysterious Marine missions into the boondocks. If the time comes that Omar actually is captured, it will be some nineteen year old guy from Olathe, Kansas who slips the cuffs on him.

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED: Legions Used Closed U.S. Web Sites
The abrupt shutdown of Internet Web sites run by the U.S. Department of the Interior four weeks ago has left Americans in the dark about activities on millions of acres of federal lands, national parks and monuments.
The intriguing aspect of this LAT story is not the reason the web sites were shut down - a lawsuit, not anti-terror precautions - but the effects of disconnecting just one federal department from the Web. Users can no longer order tickets to visit Alcatraz; plan Yosemite camping trips; track Rocky Mountain gas drilling; find reference material for high school papers; disseminate a huge environmental draft review; request drilling permits; process department time cards. Employees aren't even able to "view other agencies' sites, use a search engine or send e-mail to colleagues in other agencies."

For all intents and purposes, the Web didn't exist in any real sense seven years ago. Now government can't function without it. It's a good thing the terrorists we face come from cultures where advanced technology is regarded by the man in the street as being akin to magic. If we were facing a movement of Indian or Russian programmer/hackers, we'd have problems to worry about that would make even smallpox look like small potatoes.

YEAH? YOU DON'T SAY: At the end of the day on December 31, the good people at Libertarian Samizdata annouced that we should "expect the rate at which articles get posted to slow significently." Well, 48 hours and 4,195 words later, we're reaching for our dictionary to check the definition of "significantly." After that, we're going to look up blogorrhea.

WHY, INDEED? Gregory Hlatky over at the delightful blog A Dog's Life posts:
Reading a good quality blog, one asks one's self lots of questions about journalism today. How did a frivolous twit like Maureen Dowd win a Pulitzer Prize? Why does anyone take that Smith-educated cornpone plagiarist Molly Ivins seriously? Why hasn't anyone hit Robert Fisk again, since the first time doesn't seem to have taken? And why, oh why, are Ted Rall and Michael Moore doing anything but picking up roadside trash?
You mean they aren't?

Perry de Havilland at Libertarian Samizdata notes in an excellent article on the Euro changeover:
Even the obvious aspiration to challenge the US dollar as a global reserve currency is doomed. The welfare states of Europe simply cannot compete on equal terms with the less regulated US economy, either in terms on underpinning asset returns or total global liquidity. For all its faults, such as the current lunatic credit binge, the dollar will remain the international reserve currency for the foreseeable future.
Exactly. Remember when the Japanese yen was going to supplant the dollar as the world's reserve currency? Didn't happen, for the same reasons the Euro will also fail. Highly centralized, over-regulated, crypto-command economy welfare states are incapable of competing over the long term with less hobbled nations like the U.S. In the end it is the composite strength of a country that determines the strength of its currency, not government fiat, no matter how hopefully it's advanced.

DEAD TO RIGHTS? Court OKs Suits Against Gun Makers (washingtonpost.com)
An Illinois appeals court has ruled that the families of a slain Chicago police officer and four others killed by gang bullets can file public nuisance lawsuits against gun makers and distributors.
It's doubtful this will come to anything. The precedent is just too dangerous. As this article points out,
However, the Illinois State Rifle Association said Tuesday if the court's logic was extended to other industries, any number of products could be found unlawful. "For example, manufacturers of hypodermic syringes must know that their products will be used to inject illegal drugs," the association said.
And kitchen cutlery makers must know about potentially illegal use of butcher knives, and baseball bat manufacturers must know... As some appeals court will eventually determine, there's no end to the potential idiocy, the most egregious example of which is that this suit was filed in the first place.

UPDATE: A reader points out that I missed the biggest potential target of suits like these: automakers. Sixteen thousand Americans died in alcohol-related auto accidents in 1998, about five thousand more than died in firearms-related homicides in 1999. And the car companies have done nothing to prevent drunks from using cars.

OKAY, YOUR MONEY FIRST: Just watched Sen John Corzine (D - Plutocracy) on CNN's Greenfield at Large. The Senator, whose personal wealth is estimated in excess of 400 million dollars, spent 60 million winning election in New Jersey. So what had the Senator so upset in his Greenberg appearance? That "George Bush Tax Cut." Yes, that misguided Republican attempt to give back to the public a bit of their bloated overpayments to a government made up of Senators like Corzine who, left to themselves, would squander the cash as fast as a pack of sailors in an all-you-can-eat Vegas bordello.

I have to admit I sort of respect Corzine for spending his own tens of millions to inveigle votes, instead of following the customary practice of pumping out a billion or so of pork as indirect bribery to achieve the same effect. But watching a man worth almost half a billion dollars trashing a plan to return a few hundred bucks to the mokes who make fifty grand a year was as good an argument against dollar democracy as I've seen.

Corzine cited any number of better uses for that tax money. My reaction is that if the need is so great, start by spending some of your own enormous nest egg. After all, "From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs." Right?

Jason Soon of the blog Catallaxy Files reports on Aussie efforts to stamp out porn "unsuitable for children" on the internet.

As more governments realize the Internet is an intellectual autobahn straight through all their barriers and right into the minds of their citizens, they are making stronger efforts to control the flow of the digital river. Authoritarian tyrannies view a free flow of information as much more dangerous than, say, a free flow of drugs. The second threatens their citizens; but the first threatens their own existence.

The drug analogy may be useful, though. In its endless war on drugs, the U.S. has targeted the supply - countries like Colombia and distributors like the cocaine cartels - more heavily than demand - American drug users. In a way, this makes sense; from a warfare point of view, supply is more concentrated and easier to hit than demand, which would involve military action against a huge underground of drug users, something any military is badly structured to combat.

Governments everywhere are now having to come to grips with the realization that in order to keep up, let alone expand in the third millennium, they must develop a computer culture. Yet if they do so, there is no way they can effectively screen Internet information flow. But as, in the face of foreign demands for more control, the Supreme Court affords more and stronger constitutional protections to the Internet, the United States stands to become the digital equivalent of Colombia as a supplier of banned or dangerous information. As much as anything else, this could have important implications for our international relationships over the next decade. Even our relationships with current friends.

IAN MCKELLEN IS GANDALF: I just received my new four book boxed set of LOtR from amazon.com. The books, new editions all, arrived with illustrations that consist of actors from the movie. Don't get me wrong. I love the movie, and will probably see it many times. However, for years I've had my own mental pictures of Gandalf, Elrond, Frodo, Aragorn, and all the rest. Now, I suppose, those pictures will be supplanted forever by actors who will also show up in latterday versions of Something About Mary Ann, and Die Harder, part 16. It's going to be hard watching Aragorn diddle Madonna, four or five years down the road.

THE KLEPTOCRATS: Excellent, clear-headed discussion of the real and secular problems that have dogged Argentina for the past seventy years at Andrew Hofer's fine blog, More Than Zero.

YEP, SEEMS TO BE WORKING WELL: From a cite at Tim Blair's blog: Cool heads needed to douse the firebugs - smh.com.au - Letters

In a letter to the editor, N.R. Cowdery, QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, Sydney, wrote:
Existing penalties and procedures are adequate. There is no need for legislative amendment. Maximum penalties are high enough; minimum penalties have been shown constantly to create injustice in all kinds of offending. Community conferencing for juvenile offenders is not a soft option - they may be required to confront personally those who have lost everything as a result of the offenders' actions.
Adequate to what? Certainly not to provide sufficient disincentives for a seeming host of Australian firebugs. That last part - "confront personally those who have lost everything" - might have some value. If the victims are given nail-studded bats to help the "confrontation" into proper channels.

RAISE YOU THIS, SAUDI: Rich Lowry on OPEC: National Review Online
There may be many humanitarian reasons for toppling Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, but with OPEC again cutting production to raise global oil prices, one of the hard-headed reasons should be obvious: oil.
Lowry eschews bleeding-heart mush in favor of realpolitik in suggesting a rationale for nation unbuilding regarding Saddam Hussein.

CHEESE-EATING SURRENDER MONKEYS, PART I: CNN.com - First French troops in Kabul - January 2, 2002
The first contingent of French troops have joined the international peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.
Sacre bleu! It looks as if the Afghans have brought in some real experts in the art of surrender. Things must really be over, over there.

UNTO THE NINTH GENERATION: John Walker Lindh's high school suffers from anti-Taliban anger (1/02/2002)
``I'm in no way shape or form defending John Walker -- he came to the school and left,'' Levinson said. ``The whole issue of who he is and what happens to him really belongs in the hands of others. I just want the school to be able to operate safely and without disruption.''
Miller said the last time she made headlines was when she brought a junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program into another alternative school, and was ``criticized for being an arch-conservative.''
``I'm as outraged as all other Americans at the terrorist attack on this country; I mourn for the men and women who lost their lives and I support those who continue to risk their lives to defend our freedom,'' Miller said.
``And I understand that America and the rest of the civilized world is seeking someone to blame for this outrage. However, it's unfair to point a finger at a school that John Walker Lindh attended for a short time.''
Miller's right. It is unfair.

VERSION NUMBER 212: The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Main News
The covert operation to facilitate Osama bin Laden sneak into Pakistan from Afghanistan in November could well be the script of a spy thriller.
A Pakistani warlord from Pashtun-dominated Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Mulla Sufi Mohammad, played a pivotal role in smuggling the most elusive man on earth from Afghanistan to Pakistan, well-placed sources here disclosed to The Tribune today.
An interesting report. No corroboration that it actually occurred, though.

THEY'RE B-A-A-A-A-K: California man reports shark attack off Maui

The more things change...

CNN's second-highest rated host Greta van Susteren is jumping to rival FOX NEWS for nearly $1 million a year, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned...CNN had countered the FOX offer with more money -- close to $1.4 million a year -- but she rejected, say top sources.
If this doesn't get the l-dotters at lucianne.com and the freepers at Free Republic rockin', lockin', and loadin', I don't know what will.

UPDATE: Score one for TheBS.

MUDIBAN: Inside Politics -- The Washington Times
Democrats, in the name of tolerance, plan to demonize conservative Christians as being like the Taliban, according to an article in Newsweek.
I don't think anybody on the left or the right will get very far with campaigns like these. Those who try are much more likely to tar themselves than their opponents, and rightly so.

NAKED ROBBERY: New Hole in AOL Instant Messenger

AOL and fellow behemoth Microsoft in battle to produce the most dangerous software.

ESSENTIAL READING FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM: Our Recaptured National Confidence (washingtonpost.com)

The invaluable Michael Kelly does it again.

WaPo reports that a Study Links Cancer Prevention, Aging
A critical protein that protects animals from cancer in their early years appears, in later life, to cause much of the deterioration associated with aging, according to a provocative new study.
If you think about it, this makes sense. Cancer is a case where the limits on cell growth seem to vanish. Cancers are essentially immortal, in that individual cells will keep on reproducing indefinitely. So the same things that combat life extensions in cancer may well also combat it in normal cells.

THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING, PART II : Taliban Intelligence Chief Reported Killed
The intelligence chief of Afghanistan's deposed Taliban militia died in American bombardment in the eastern part of the country last week, a government official confirmed Wednesday.

WHAT PROVOKES YOUR RISIBILITY, SIR?: OpinionJournal - Citizen of the World

I know that Tunku Varadarajan is making a valiant stab at brewing lemonade out of lemons here, but:

Osama bin Laden: New Year's resolutions? I do not make New Year's resolutions! It's a filthy infidel practice. May death rain up(on) all those who resolve.
Is stuff like this really funny? Or am I just being an unregenerate crank?

TWENTY BUCKS FOR A MOVIE? WSJ.com - Box-Office Records Mask Movie-Industry Problems
Although many observers thought people would stay away from the movies after Sept. 11, industrywide the numbers have been up 5% since then from year-earlier levels, thanks mostly to hits such as "Harry Potter" and "Monsters Inc."
This article points out the disappointing (for Hollywood) fact that rising ticket sales totals mask a collapse of actual butts on seats in movie theaters. When a "movie date" in a big city can cost as much a forty bucks for tickets, snacks, and parking, a film has to be spectacular to get much repeat business. And repeats are the main reason for the mega-hits.

I am puzzled by those "observers" who thought people would "stay away" from movies after 9/11. History indicates anything but. Compared to other forms of outside entertainment like restaurant dinners, concerts, and so forth, movies are still cheap. And when times are tough, people want to escape. The movie theater has always been a quintessential American form of escape.

NO, I'M NOT SURPRISED: The WSJ reports that new Argentine President Duhalde pledges to abandon many free-market policies.

Of course. Isn't that what Peronista fascists do?

YOU SAY POTATO, I SAY POTATO TOO: In the NYT, India Calls Pakistan's Moves Against Islamic Groups Illusory
"You can't fight terrorism in Afghanistan and spread it in Kashmir," Mr. Vajpayee said. "This can't go on."
Compare that statement with this one by Condoleeza Rice:
You cannot help us with al Qaeda and hug Hezbollah. That's not acceptable.
We've seen some punditry to the effect that the U.S., in declaring a war on "terrorism with a global reach," mistakenly encouraged nations like Israel and India to up the ante against their own terrorist attackers as well. I doubt there was any inadvertence about it. After all, it wasn't Ariel Sharon who delivered the lookalike ultimatum to Arafat. It was Condi Rice.

WHERE'S JUDGE ROY BEAN WHEN YOU NEED HIM? Oct. 14 Trial Set for Suspect Linked to Sept. 11 Attacks say the NYT.
These are likely to be crucial skirmishes over the government's expected effort to seek the death penalty, a possible change of venue and the use of classified evidence against Mr. Moussaoui.
Many have asked why Moussaoui was not tried by the military tribunals. I think the government is playing a very clever game here. By allowing Moussaoui (who is something of a peripheral character in the WTC bomb plot) to be tried in the standard judicial system, the government may intend to demonstrate by revolting example how this system is incapable of reaching what the average American would consider to be justice, thereby making tribunals all the more attractive. The circus already seems to be arriving in town, with legal pundits and professional furrowed-brows clogging the cable channels to explain all the loopholes, options, and dodges available to the defendant.

While permitting a legal travesty to develop may seem like good politics, I see a danger: if Moussaoui manages to use the courts to avoid what the majority of the American public considers a just outcome, it won't be justice that is tarnished, but the American justice system. And that is a far more dangerous kettle of fish.

DUH: The NYT reports today that the U.S. Expects Afghans to Turn Over Omar if He Is Captured

Yes, we do expect that, and I imagine we will make our expectations, as this article mentions, "very clear."

It's understandable that Afghans have little interest in going after Omar themselves. In a culture that apparently prefers to settle confrontations by arranging surrenders rather than battle, the prospect of confronting hardened true believers who have no incentive to surrender must be daunting. When those same fighters may well be your tribal brothers, even relatives, the incentive becomes that much lower. Nonetheless, if Omar is alive, the United States must get him. We have no other choice. Absent Osama himself, the Mullah Omar is at least public enemy number two in the eyes of the American public that has, so far, monolithically supported President Bush's military actions against the Taliban and al-Quaeda. To let Omar slip through our fingers, even into the control of an Afghan court, could swiftly drain this support.

Worse, it's entirely possible that an Afghan court might not execute Omar even if they tried and convicted him. Such an execution would focus residual Taliban rage on the government itself. I think a lot of this supposed Afghan reluctance is a dumb-show designed to shift the onus of dealing with Omar to the United States, while at the same time propping up the fiction (for local consumption) that the current Afghan government is in no way subservient to the U.S.

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

HASTA LA VISTA, BAY-BEE: I've got a manuscript to check copyedits on and get in the mail to the publisher by tomorrow. Of course I'm just starting it now - as a writer, I make a great procrastinator. TheBS will be relatively silent until the money-stuff gets done with.

It's an original Planet of the Apes novel. Starts after the Oberon crash lands, and tells the tale of the Rebellion of Semos. No Marky-Mark character. Thanks for asking. Later.

BLOGGING ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL: This isn't really an award as much as it is an acknowledgment and recognition. When we consider what the Blogosphere touts as its strengths, especially in relation to dead tree and talking head media, we think of speed (post it now), of accuracy (Ken Layne can fact check your ass), of wit and flexibility (pick your own six pack of examples), of biting analysis (hi there Susan Sontag, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, Robert Fisk, Ted Rall, Helen Thomas, Maureen Dowd, the NYT Editorial Board, et al), but most of all, I think we believe we just do it better. Better in every way imaginable, and in some cases, every way unimaginable, than the traditional media does it. It, of course, being punditry in all its spendiferous glory.

This being the case, I went back and took a look at what the luminaries of the Blogosphere actually accomplished in journalism's trenches on the most pressure-packed day in the last ten years of American history. I went to dozens of blogs and read their archives for that day. (We can fact check your ass - even if it's our own asses). There really wasn't any contest.

On 9/11, one blog posted an astounding 3,500 words of encouragement, analysis, hard reportage, links, predictions, and reassurance. Here are some samples:

DUMB STORY ALERT: Look for these headlines "A loss of innocence," "America loses its sense of invulnerability," etc. They trot these out every time, from Challenger, to Oklahoma City, to the (previous) WTC bombing, etc. Note to editors: why not skip 'em this time?

A QUIET, UNYIELDING ANGER: Bush seems to be steering the right course, not going over the top and not wimping out. Two important points that he made: these guys hate us because of who we are -- free and prosperous -- not what we do. Second, this isn't just a law-enforcement problem, it is, as the Washington Post editorializes, war.

PUTIN SUPPORTS TOUGH RESPONSE: Okay, he's probably just hoping we'll forget about Chechnya (like we've paid much attention anyway) but it's more political cover for Bush.

IF THE UNITED STATES' RETALIATION GOES ASTRAY, MOST AMERICANS WON'T CARE: That's because of sentiments like this one from Egyptians: "Bullseye!" For decades, Israelis have told us that Arabs were anti-Western and wished us ill. This is going to cause a lot of people to agree. Coming after the Durban conference, this marks a drastic reduction -- for the foreseeable future -- of any serious concern for what the Arab nations think.

THIS ALSO LIBERATES BUSH: His father worried (unnecessarily) about American public opinion, and thus failed to finish off Saddam Hussein. Clinton was always concerned about looking like a bully. Bush needn't worry about that. It will be open season -- not just militarily, but economically, diplomatically, and every other way -- on any and every Arab country that Bush wants to target.

ARAB COUNTRIES that want to escape the consequences had best start sucking up to Bush right away, and handing over the culprits' heads on a platter (perhaps literally). This isn't like Lockerbie, or any previous event. It's war.

THE PRESS COVERAGE on all this seems to focus on horror and tragedy. I don't think it's capturing how angry people are. Foreigners always forget just how mad Americans get when they're pissed off. The dominant tone I'm getting is pissed off. Even the usually-pacifistic intellectuals are adopting a hard line. That happened after Pearl Harbor, too.

VIRGINIA IS MAD. So am I. Hell, so is everyone. And the TV footage of jubilant Palestinians just proves what I've always suspected -- they just don't get it. They'll learn. Oh, how they'll learn. Even if it turns out that this was done by the Chinese, or disaffected high school students, their jubilation will be long remembered. The American role as "mediator" in the Middle East is over. Since -- though they don't realize it -- that's the only thing that has kept the Palestinians in the game since 1991, their future is likely to be grim, now.

It's Not Just Terrorists Who Take Advantage: Someone will propose new "Antiterrorism" legislation. It will be full of things off of bureaucrats' wish lists. They will be things that wouldn't have prevented these attacks even if they had been in place yesterday. Many of them will be civil-liberties disasters. Some of them will actually promote the kind of ill-feeling that breeds terrorism. That's what happened in 1996. Let's not let it happen again.

Only One Antiterrorism Method Works: That's punishing those behind it. The actual terrorists are hard to reach. But terrorism of this scale is always backed by governments. If they're punished severely -- and that means severely, not a bombed aspirin-factory but something that puts those behind it in the crosshairs -- this kind of thing won't happen again. That was the lesson of the Libyan bombing.

"Increased Security" Won't Work. When you try to defend everything, you defend nothing. Airport security is a joke because it's spread so thin that it can't possibly stop people who are really serious. You can't prevent terrorism by defensive measures; at most you can stop a few amateurs who can barely function. Note that the increased measures after TWA 800 (which wasn't terrorism anyway, we're told) didn't prevent what appear to be coordinated hijackings. (Archie Bunker's plan, in which each passenger is issued a gun on embarking, would have worked better). Deterrence works here, just as everywhere else. But you have to be serious about it.

GEORGE BUSH IS NOW THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD: People always say that about Presidents, of course, but usually it's only notionally true. Now, if he wants to nuke Baghdad, there is nobody to say him nay -- and damned few who would want to. That's a danger if he goes off half-cocked, but I don't think there's much risk of that. But I wonder: do the people behind this assault realize what this means?

There is a lot more. Try to remember back to that day, to the fear, the confusion, the simple stunned paralysis that gripped us all to one extent or another. In that light, this performance is all the more awesome, for its speed of reaction, clarity of thought, accuracy of analysis and prediction, and above all, its sheer usefulness. I don't believe any other journalist, traditional or blogger, came within ten ballparks of this spectacular exhibition of the very best of which the Blogosphere is capable. We all grew up a bit that day, but perhaps our medium most of all, in large part because of one man, variously known as The Professor, the hyperblogger, InstaPundit. Glenn Reynolds, you did yourself, and the rest of us, proud.

InstaPundit links to a San Francisco story and says:
BAY AREA HATEWATCH UPDATE: According to this article in the Chronicle, San Francisco, unlike, say, Knoxville, hasn't managed to overcome segregation in restaurants...This is funny, because one of the things that I notice around Knoxville is just how diverse the crowds at restaurants (and malls, and everywhere else) are. But, you know, Knoxville hasn't had a bunch of shrill race-baiters constantly trying to call attention to racial differences for political gain. The Bay Area has. So it's no surprise that there's more self-segregation going on there...There's a lesson in this. Think it'll sink in?
There's less of a lesson than meets the eye. Even the article notes that only eight percent of the SF population is black. More than thirty percent of the locals are asian, while another sixteen percent are hispanic.

The article doesn't bother to mention other factors: because of various repairs only now being made to damage from the 1989 earthquake, the city has lost 16,000 parking spaces. There is considerably less cross-bay traffic than there used to be. In the past ten years, housing prices have skyrocketed. A one bedroom apartment averages fifteen hundred a month, a two bedroom 2200-2400. Parking averages another 250 a month. Coping with after-tax costs like these doesn't leave a lot of room for the two hundred dollar dinners featured at these top restaurants. But the most glaring error of omission is tourism, which is the city's largest industry. Anybody who works in the hospitality business in San Francisco, as I did for more than a decade, knows that the high end hotel and restaurant business is absolutely driven by conventions. If the chest surgeons or the lawyers are in town fifteen thousand strong, the eateries are packed. If not, you can usually get a seat at eight o'clock as a walk-in at any place in town - including La Folie and Charles Nob Hill, both within three blocks of where I live. And the fact is most of these free-spending conventions are primarily white.

The article offers no hard evidence to back its claims of self-segregation and discrimination. It admits its surveys are "informal." And it notes:

If San Francisco's best restaurants are discriminatory, it's not being reported to city officials. Less than a dozen complaints against restaurants were logged last year at the city's Human Rights Commission.
If the city were as full of shrill race-baiters as InstaPundit assumes, one would think the HRC, ground zero for discrimination complaints, would be swamped. But it isn't - and the reason why is that much of the shrill race-baiting going on in San Francisco emanates from places like the San Francisco Chronicle, in articles like these.

UPDATE: Two things: First, the closest thing to hard numbers the article cites is this:

Of those who told researchers they had been to an upscale restaurant in the last month, almost 80 percent were white. Only 4.5 percent were black. When researchers reduced the field to San Francisco residents, the numbers barely improved.
The number of people of any color who can casually afford 200 dollar meals, even in San Francisco, is small. Let's say that the hundred top restaurants in the city seat a total of 10,000 (a horseback estimate I'd be willing to defend with further research). Absent a large convention in town, those houses will average fifty percent capacity at best - and these top-end joints do well to get one full seating turn a night, due to the complexity and length of meal service. So we're talking five thousand diners. Of that number, to match the percentage of the black SF population, four hundred should be black. The study hints that, in SF, the number of high end diners is "barely" more than 4.5 percent, which isn't as bad as it sounds, because blacks in San Francisco are disproportionately lower income than other ethnic classes. So call it 5 percent, and call it 250 diners on an average night. We are now talking about a shortfall of 150 black diners, if that, out of a local black populace of about 60,000. Is this evidence of a massive wave of self-discrimination? I think that's a dubious proposition.

Second, the article is at least honest enough to mention the issue of the sort of gratuities blacks, on average, leave for service. The reporters try to spin this as a myth, but the evidence they present indicates otherwise. And I will step out on the limb and say that twenty five years in hospitality, as a busboy, waiter, and bartender, taught me that blacks do indeed tip much less, on average, than any other ethnic group. Even Europeans and (non-American) Asians, once they are made aware that the gratuity is not included, will generally tip a reasonable amount. But American blacks, for whatever reason, are horrible tippers, and even black service people know and admit it. When blacks receive bad or reluctant service in high-end dining rooms, I believe it is because of this reputation, not because of their skin color (except as skin color is a marker for bad tipping). And by the way: anybody who thinks waiters don't profile doesn't understand the first thing about the service biz. But the profiling has almost nothing to do with skin color, except, sadly, in the case of blacks; oddly enough, dentists of any color also tip horribly. I knew service people at the major SF hotel I once worked at who would call out sick when dental conventions hove into town. Try this: go into a top restaurant wearing good jeans, a nice sweater, loafers, and a Timex. Go to the same restaurant wearing a well-cut italian suit, polished black dress shoes, and a Rolex. You may well notice a subtle difference in the way you're treated. And it will have nothing to do with your ethnicity. It also ignores the fact that this will work in other settings that have nothing to do with food, service, or tips.

I hear the cries of outrage now. Tipping is a very sensitive subject for many people. More than a few strongly resent the practice: "It's not my fault the restaurant doesn't pay you people enough. I'm not going to chip in." What isn't understood here is that the diner will pay no matter what. A good waiter in a top house in San Francisco can expect to make a hundred fifty a night in tips over a six hour shift. To match that, you'd need to increase the salary by twenty-five bucks an hour - more, really, because the waiter probably skims a bit on tax reporting. If you think that won't have any effect on the price you pay for your steak au poivre, you don't have much of an idea how capitalism works. Another alternative, one suggested in the article, is to simply add the gratuity to the check automatically, as is done in Europe. Ever wondered why European dining service is so lousy? Because bad waiters get tipped just as well as good waiters. The tip is nothing more than guaranteed salary, and they get paid simply for showing up to a job where personal incentives are non-existent. Which means the motivation to provide good service is about the same as that at your local Department of Motor Vehicles.

What's the answer, one that works for all colors of diners? Easy. Tip more for good service, less for bad, and complain to management if you think you've been ill-treated. And keep in mind that once you are known as a good customer at a restaurant (it only takes a couple of visits: waiters have memories like elephants) you'll always be well treated, whether you're a black woman from Alabama, or a white man from the top of Nob Hill.

But what this article is trying to peddle - that San Francisco's restaurants are a hotbed of anti-black racism, or self-selecting discrimination - is the self-serving hooey of race-baiting journalistic quota-mongers. Oh, and by the way...those folks (newspaper reporters) don't tip very well either.

Source: Calls About Bin Laden Intercepted

This grab-bag ABC news story raises more questions than it answers.

An intercepted phone call from Iran suggests that Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) is still alive - if not in the best of health.
Intercepted from who? If a government official, then Iran's al-Qaeda ties must be stronger than previously reported, which would put the supposed rapprochement between Iran and the US at risk.
However, Admiral Craig Quigley from Central Command denied reports that Marines are in a hunt for Omar, and said he could not account for pictures of U.S. troops leaving Kandahar on Monday.
Who are you going to believe? Me, or your lying photographs?
Afghan villagers accused the United States of targeting civilians in a second instance, after three bombers hit a village in Paktia province, killing 100 people. However, a military spokesman said the target was a compound used by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda fighters and their Taliban allies, and that two surface-to-air missiles were fired at the planes during the raid.
It's a semantics problem. The Taliban is no longer a government. Therefore, all Taliban are now civilians.

THE ONION COMES TO IOWA: The Des Moines Register reports that:
No one voted for Chris Roling in Delaware's city election Nov. 6, but that won't stop him from being sworn in as the town's next mayor today.
"It won't hurt me to do it," Roling said. "I just thought maybe somebody else would."

Three Saudi men were beheaded Tuesday for committing acts of sodomy and "seducing young men,'' the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Now we know the reason for the U.S. military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. Look for a Falwell press release supporting new methods of terror attack prevention.

Looming Afghan shipwreck -- The Washington Times Looming Afghan shipwreck.
Bruce Fein reports:
An Afghan constitutional shipwreck is looming before the United States and the United Nations.
Fein garners my first nomination for the annual Fisk Award, given for the most badly written sentence in journalism:
The probability that the witch's brew of Afghan factions will pluck a flower of constitutional safety from the nettle of historical warlordism and grim ethnic and religious enmities is submicroscopic.

CORPORATE TERRORISTS? Monsanto Hid Decades Of Pollution (washingtonpost.com)
On the west side of Anniston, the poor side of Anniston, the people ate dirt. They called it "Alabama clay" and cooked it for extra flavor. They also grew berries in their gardens, raised hogs in their back yards, caught bass in the murky streams where their children swam and played and were baptized. They didn't know their dirt and yards and bass and kids -- along with the acrid air they breathed -- were all contaminated with chemicals. They didn't know they lived in one of the most polluted patches of America.
Buried deep in the article is this:
...while no one has determined whether the people in Anniston are sicker than average, Solutia has opposed proposals for comprehensive health studies as unnecessary. And it has not apologized for any of its contamination or deception.
In the absence of data, local residents seem to believe the worst.
Without data, all we have here is a feast of lawyers and media.

SILVER LINING: Sept. 11 Changes Were for Better, Poll Majority Says (washingtonpost.com)
Most Americans say the country has permanently changed for the better as a consequence of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and more than half report that the tragedy has transformed their own lives, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Given that this poll was taken at what could turn out to be the bottom of a recession, it is amazingly optimistic. The sentiments expressed may also be very fragile. We'll see.

OMAR HUNT? U.S. Forces Reportedly Sent To Capture Taliban Leader (washingtonpost.com) Officials Deny Marines Deployed to Hunt Omar.

It's always difficult to decipher who means what in discussing US actions in Afghanistan. There's been a lot of deliberate misdirection, presumably in a good cause: ours. What the motives are in denying that the Marines are hunting Omar, while Hamid Karzai says they are, is equally difficult to penetrate. The one thing missing from this article is on-the-record sourcing. The reports of Marines and helicopters taking off are attributed variously to anonymous witnesses and photojournalists. Central Command vigorously denies the report:

"It's completely wrong," said Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a spokesman for the Central Command, which is directing the war. "No one has gone anywhere. They're flat wrong."
I can't recall a previous instance of bigfoot media and U.S. military being in such blatant contradiction in Afghanistan. The military isn't denying the motives for the mission, which would merely mean a case of sly parsing. It's denying that the mission exists at all. Somebody is lying. My guess is Central Command.

"FASCISM OF THE LEFT": Pact Near to Form New Argentine Government
The LAT reports:
Party leaders work to rescue Argentina from political and economic turmoil. Senator emerges as the front-runner to assume presidency for two years.
In practice, what this boils down to is that the leaders of the "Peronists...the Radical Party, and the center-left Frepaso," a handful of men, have decided to take over the government and impose a new leader, "Eduardo Duhalde, a senator from Buenos Aires province."

Duhalde is a hard core Peronist, the former governor of "Buenos Aires province, infamous here for police and judicial corruption." The Peronistas have always been a crypto-fascist movement, but, as Seymour Lipset writes, "from the left." The crypto aspect is fading a bit with this power grab, which does not bode well for the Argentine future.

HAPPY NEWS YEAR: Pakistan Detains Islamic Militants (washingtonpost.com)
Under pressure to avert war with India, Pakistan said today that it had rounded up more than two dozen Islamic militants and detained the leader of a group blamed for an attack on the Indian Parliament earlier this month.
This is good news. The question for Musharraf has always been the same as for Arafat: Can he control the militants? In Musharraf's case, the prognosis is hopeful.

I PROPOSE A NAME for the intellectual cyberspace we bloggers occupy: the Blogosphere. Simple enough; the root word is logos, from the Greek meaning, variously: In pre-Socratic philosophy, the principle governing the cosmos, the source of this principle, or human reasoning about the cosmos; Among the Sophists, the topics of rational argument or the arguments themselves. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language)


Here's to the bright New Year
And a fond farewell to the old;
Here's to the things that are yet to come
And to the memories that we hold...

Monday, December 31, 2001

I REALLY LOVE YOU: The Wall Street Opinion Journal's Best of the Web links to this CNN.com story of a 59 year old Vietnamese refugee who sold her house to finance a $100,000 "Thank You, America" float in the Rose Bowl Parade. We know this is meant to be heart-warming, but it strikes TheBS as a little...strange.

YOU'RE OKAY, I'M OKAY: My Way, the High Way
In the months since my decision to leave the Republican Party and become an independent, I have been both hailed and admonished. This is not surprising, given the impact of my decision. Yet, I find that many of the journalists, legislators and ordinary citizens who offer their thoughts still don't understand the reasons behind my decision.
Senator Jim Jeffords (RepIndDem - Dairy) launches LAT counterspin to reports he isn't living happily ever after. Really, he is. Really. But does he understand the (unintentional?) irony of the hed atop this op-ed? Maybe not.

DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON'T: Latinos Say Walkout Is No Sure Bet

The Salt Lake Tribune reports on efforts to organize a one day walkout of Utah's Latino workers during the Olympics to protest the indictments or firing of nearly three hundred Latinos who "allegedly lied to obtain employment in secure areas of the airport."

It "remains to be seen" if workers would be willing to risk their jobs and -- possible deportation of undocumented immigrants -- to protest the federal crackdown, Salazar said.
It is a conundrum. Do illegal aliens want to risk arrest or deportation to protest the arrest or termination of a group that may include illegal aliens?
"The United States would not be anything without Mexicans and Latinos. Americans know we like to work. We are the little pack donkeys," Cortez said. "We have to fight for our rights, even if we do not have papers."
There's only one problem with this. Illegal aliens have no right to fight for legal rights in the first place - and legal aliens don't need to.

SOFT ULTIMATUM: India hands Pakistan 'wanted' list
The BBC's Jonathan Head, who is in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, says the latest moves mark a slight softening in the bellicose rhetoric between the two nations - but tension is still dangerously high.
The similarities to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continue, as India demands that Pakistan arrest and hand over twenty men India views as terrorists. The question is, can Musharraf comply without a possibly fatal test of his own power over the army and ISI in a battle with Islamic fundamentalists?

UPDATE: Tony Adragna at QuasiPundit offers a link and an excellent analysis by Tom Roberts on the relative nuclear strength of Pakistan and India. Seems the Pakistani nuclear force may be far stronger than generally presumed, which may serve as a damper on Indian inclinations to rush headlong into war. In an odd way, good news.

THE BANALITY OF BANALITY: Computer in Kabul holds chilling memos

Via MSNBC comes this Wall Street Journal report on a computer stuffed with al-Quaeda files the Journal managed to acquire from a street vendor in Kabul. It's a mesmerizing tale that raises a host of questions: I'd love to have listened in on the negotiations between Journal lawyers and the FBI over who got first crack at the hard drive.

There is the usual snarl of terror how-to stuff (nerve gas, napalm, washing machine bomb timers) which is described as "chilling". Why is it always chilling, by the way? Don't these writers have access to a decent thesaurus? Is there anybody who reads modern thrillers or watches action films who is chilled by the very notion of nerve gas or things that blow up?

With the chilling stuff are a lot of files that indicates the modern terror organization has the same kind of problems any bureaucracy suffers. My favorite is a file template for a sign that reads: “This is a work place! For those who do not work here, please do not enter at all. Dr. Ayman.” Okay, you terrorist savages, step away from that water cooler and get back to your desks! Save the chatter about the Iranian national football team for your coffee break! There is also a lot of inter-departmental bitching about salaries and funding: “I am almost broke,” wrote one operative. “The money I have may not last until the feast. Please send money or bring it to us as soon as possible.”

Apparently Terror Inc. is just like Oracle or the Department of Motor Vehicles. Except they kill people. Wonder what kind of PowerPoint (tm) presentations they found on that machine?

UPDATE: I wonder what the terrorists thought was inside the computer? Djinn? Didn't any of them watch enough western television to know that when you're evacuating the joint, the first thing you do is take an axe to the hard drives?

FOOL ME ONCE: Argentina's new president resigns after a week
President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa resigned Sunday after support for his caretaker government abruptly collapsed, plunging Argentina into a deepening political and economic crisis just a week after he took office...His decision came after violent anti-government protests flared again in the streets of Buenos Aires Friday — but this time against his administration...Friday night and into Saturday, thousands of Argentines banged pots and pans to demand that Rodriguez Saa lift a month-old banking freeze on cash withdrawals and strip controversial figures from his Cabinet who are suspected of corruption.
These events make more sense if one understands that Argentines are likely to protest any government that proposes to devalue the dollar-peso exchange rate. A month ago, the WaPo reported that
Although most Argentines are paid in pesos, they have debts ranging from home mortgages to corporate loans that are denominated in dollars, and analysts say a devaluation would likely spark a massive wave of personal and corporate bankruptcies in a country already stung by four years of recession.
Argentina started off very well with economic reforms ten years ago that pegged the peso one-to-one with the dollar. This wiped out inflation almost overnight, and put the economy on a firm footing very quickly. Unfortunately, this sort of stability did not permit the traditional Argentine practice of printing money in order to bribe the general populace, and so the government was forced to borrow real cash from real international banks that were uncontrolled by the government itself. They managed to run up a tab of 130 billion dollars during the nineties, while their strong currency hampered their ability to compete in international trade. The conflict could not be resolved because the debt became too large, and so the debt has been repudiated and the government collapsed into chaos.
"That is my money inside that bank, mine!" cried Ramona Ruiz, 67, a retired textile worker who was trying to withdraw funds from an ATM in the city center today only to find it empty. "I was being patriotic by not removing my savings earlier. And now I see what a fool I was to put any trust at all in these corrupt politicians."

BRITS BANG ON: news.telegraph.co.uk Gun crime rises despite Dunblane pistol ban
By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
HANDGUN crime increased by 40 per cent in the two years after the ban imposed because of the Dunblane massacre, according to a new study.
The article cites a rise in gun crime from 2,648 to 3,685 in the two years following the confiscation of 160,000 handguns in England.

Anybody familiar with John Lott and his work More Guns, Less Crime would be vastly unsurprised by this outcome.

AN IDEA WHOSE TIME, ETC.: United Press International: Anglosphere: The new Reformation?
All of these developments suggest a permanent change is in the offing. Bloggers and their readers may form only a small percentage of the Anglosphere populations, but they are typical "early adopters" -- trendsetters and opinion leaders. The crossover between the blogs and mainstream media means that ideas, opinions and identified errors from blogspace will be reflected more and more in mainstream media, to the extent that they remain distinct things.
This bears eerie resemblance to my own analysis which, while written after the appearance of this article, was composed without any awareness of it.

UPDATE: It's beginning to look as if this article will be linked and analyzed by nearly every denizen of the Blogsphere. Small wonder: what this print pundit is forecasting for the future of blogging is at the not-so-secret heart of every blogger's dreams.

UPPER BODY STRENGTH: Averted Disaster Captured on Film

The link is to a series of pictures posted by the NY Times [link may require registration] that were taken by a passenger sitting near Richard Reid, the Shoebomber aboard Flight 63. It's interesting to note that the participants in the actual act of physically subduing Reid, as well as those standing nearby, are exclusively male. TheBS, which is both in favor and in awe of the Brigade of Bellicose Women, mentions this not out of any innate misogyny, but because it is unlikely that it will be much noted elsewhere. Perhaps, many will reply, with good reason.

Sunday, December 30, 2001

IT'S REALLY DEAD NOW: CNN.com - Japan casts aside Kyoto agreement: report - December 30, 2001
TOKYO, Japan -- Japan has effectively abandoned the Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report released Sunday.
By so doing, Japan has also effectively killed the treaty itself. This article from the BBC explains why:
Japan holds the key to the protocol's future.

In order to take effect, the Kyoto treaty needs to be ratified by countries accounting for at least 55% of the total 1990 carbon dioxide emissions from developed countries.

The EU and its allies, who have said they will ratify the treaty with or without US support, account for 49.5% of emssions. In order to pass the threshold they needs Japan's 8.5% of emissions.

The US accounts for 26%.

Care to make a guess who the Eurocrats are going to blame for this debacle? While breathing huge sighs of relief that the U.S. and Japan let them off the hook?

LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND THE LAT:Welfare Reform Offers Paradox
MILWAUKEE -- It was touted nationwide as bold reform with bold results: Wisconsin insisted everyone on welfare must work, and cash aid to the needy plunged.

More than 25,000 adults were on welfare the month before reforms kicked in. Three and a half years later, fewer than 6,700 were on the rolls--all "earning" their aid by working community-service jobs or studying for high school diplomas or attending drug abuse counseling. The success won then-Gov. Tommy G. Thompson a top job in the Bush administration.

But as the acclaim built, critics warned that trouble loomed. Just wait, they said, until a recession hits--until the uneducated, unskilled workers pushed off welfare lose the part-time, minimum-wage jobs they have scrounged. Just wait until they look to the state for a safety net and find it's no longer there.

Well, the recession has arrived, and Wisconsin's vaunted welfare program is facing its toughest test.

The caseload has climbed for eight straight months. The number of people receiving cash aid is up 25% since February. Demand for food stamps has soared. And every month, scores of welfare recipients crash into Wisconsin's deadlines: a two-year limit on state-subsidized community service jobs and a five-year limit on cash benefits.

Mickey Kaus eviscerates this misleading bit of inflammatory news reporting:
In other words, the real Wisconsin caseload story seems to be this: The caseload fell dramatically from 81,000 families in 1993 to 6,700 last February. Now, with the recession, it's back up to 8,400. It fell 92 percent, and now it's given up just 2 of those percent. That's a shift, but hardly a big welfare increase (so far) by historical standards. The caseload is still a tenth the size it was in 1993. ...
Yes, this is the Internet, and we can still fact check your ass.

THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING: Newsday.com - Blind Cleric's Son Dead
Mohammad Abdel-Rahman, 29, died about two weeks ago from wounds he suffered during the bombardment of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan, said the lawyer, Montasser al-Zayyat.
I think we'll continue to see reports like this. We dumped an enormous load of munitions on Tora Bora, and I suspect we killed a lot of people in very messy ways. It's going to take some time to sort out just who did die in the bombardment. It may turn out that a lot of terrorist leaders who are supposedly wandering around Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Michael Moore's living room are really dark brown paste on blackened cave walls.

OH, FORGET IT: HoustonChronicle.com Helen Thomas writes:
It's good that President Bush is taking his time to decide the fate of John Walker, the 20-year-old Californian who joined the Taliban and fought with them against the now-victorious opposition forces in Afghanistan.
I hope the "quality of mercy" will prevail with the president, who calls himself a "compassionate conservative."
You know, someday we won't have Helen Thomas to kick around any more. Then what will we do?

RABBLE OF THE WORLD, SHUT UP: A Tantrum Over Art in Memphis MEMPHIS, Dec. 22
The cold war may be over, but Marx and Engels have nevertheless managed to create a small political furor in this old river city.
At first, few noticed their five famous words — "Workers of the world, unite!" — inscribed among dozens of other quotations outside the gleaming new $70 million Memphis Central Library, which opened in November.
This is an excellent example of the cognitive dissonance I mention elsewhere. The use of one of the most famous Marxist quotations, from the Communist Manifesto, no less, as an inscription in front of the new Memphis library has kicked off a storm of controversy.

The Red part of the country elected a President whose best speech included the phrase,"They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century." I suspect that a good portion of the people of Memphis regard Marxism as one such ideology. Yet the article reports: " 'Nobody anticipated the fuss over the quotation,' Ms. Hussong said."

This is the mindset that marvels that Bush/Gore was even close, let alone that Bush was elected, because nobody they know would ever vote for a Republican. This is the mindset that calls a furor over printing Communist slogans on American public buildings a "tantrum." This is the mindset that would never anticipate a fuss like this, because, of course, no intelligent, sophisticated person would make such a fuss.

This is the mindset of Susan Sontag, Robert Fisk, Ted Rall, Oliver Stone, the NYT, the Memphis Library Board and Urban Arts Commission. None of them are doing very well these days. I wonder why?

President Bush must compromise more next year if he wants to get an economic stimulus bill through Congress, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Sunday. He complained that during December negotiations "we didn't see a lot of give on the part of the administration" until it was too late.
Tom Daschle has an underserved reputation for being the Democratic political genius who single-handledly stalled the Bush agenda. Unfortunately for the conventional wisdom, he hasn't stalled anything. Not that he hasn't tried. Just that he hasn't been very good at it.

Bush has won almost every important head to head battle he's waged with the Democrats. With the latest leading economic indicators all pointing up, it's by no means clear he even needs to fight for a stimulus bill any longer. In fact, it may be in the Republican's best interest to not have a stimulus package pass at all. I predict Bush will make a show of battle, if only to have soundbites for the elections ten months from now. No matter how the senatorial war turns out, Bush wins. If the economy isn't all the way back, it's the Democrats's fault for blocking the stimulus. If the economy is sprightly, credit goes to the Republicans for pushing the stimulus package through.

UPDATE: On further thought, this doesn't cover all the possibilities. There is one alternative that could hurt Bush: the stimulus package goes through with Democrat help, and the economy still doesn't improve. At that point, the Democrats would be in an excellent position to hang the entire recession around Bush's neck. While this isn't the most likely outcome, it still has to be considered a possibility.

THEY HATE US? GREAT: The Australian: Bin Laden book banned [December 31, 2001]
A FRENCH book about Osama bin Laden, called The Forbidden Truth, had been banned in Switzerland at the request of one of bin Laden's half brothers, Yeslam Binladin, his lawyer, Jurg Brand, said.
This goes a good way toward explaining Saudi attitudes toward a U.S. media that doesn't show them what they believe is sufficient respect, ie., bringing up uncomfortable connections between the Saudi aristocracy and murderous Islamic fundamentalists.

In Saudi Arabia or most other Arab nations, the press is no problem because it's controlled by the state. But even in Europe, money and influence are sufficient to impose prior restraint on journalistic expression. That wouldn't work here, which is one more reason why they hate us, and one more reason why we should be proud they do.

Andrew Sullivan posts some excellent notions about blogs and the future of blogging:
I think we’re pioneering together a new kind of opinion journalism, as well as a new relationship between writer and readers. Editors and proprietors, wonderful though they can be, are dispensable in this new cyber-age. That’s a huge shift. It’s already fomenting a whole subculture of web-logging that is changing the political and intellectual culture. And we’re only at the very beginning of the new era.
I think he's spot on, and not just because some of his conclusions fit well with some of mine.

OH, IT HURTS: Iraqi People Deserve to Be Liberated
If there is any joy at all in the business of war, it is the securing of a better peace. Even those who deplored the bombing of Afghanistan must celebrate the reopening of girl's schools, the restoration of personal liberties of all kinds, the prospect of a nation beginning to rebuild. Iraq is a far richer country than Afghanistan, gifted with oil, water, good farmland, scenic beauty, rare antiquities. Were it were not for the bleak and terrible regime of Hussein, it could be the showplace of the region. Now is the time to make some belated amends for a tragic mistake. Some in the Bush Cabinet want to strike Iraq to safeguard the West from future terrorism. That is a reason. But there is an even better one. It should be done for the sake of the Iraqis.
This is the same writer who wrote, five days after 9/11, to deplore that:
Palestinians, the government of Iran, Saddam Hussein in Iraq. We are willing to find enemies everywhere-—most tragically, even among ourselves.
Evidently, more than a few things are moving in the right direction.

YAWN: United Press International: Brits probe airport security breach
British Airways launched an investigation Sunday after two tabloid journalists claimed they carried weapons on to a plane at London's Heathrow airport without being stopped.
The Sunday People reporters said they were not challenged by security guards and even managed to get a cleaver, a dagger and a stiletto knife passed through X-ray machines and onto a Boeing 737 domestic flight to Manchester.
Despite calls from some quarters for airlines to allow cops and private citizens who have concealed carry permits to fly with their firearms, I'm beginning to suspect a sizeable percentage of the flying public is already armed to the teeth.

UPDATE: And my bet is looking better by the moment.

UM, NOTHING? European and Pacific Stars & Stripes
Many campus protests appear to be the latest variation on a familiar routine

"It seems to be the same core group of people at every rally, no matter what the cause — a small but really vocal majority," said Nick Martin, a senior majoring in electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California at Berkeley. "People are well-meaning, but sometimes I wonder how much they know about the real world."

IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR: List time, we mean. John Leo comes up with a compendium of some of the year's funniest and most memorable lines in New York Daily News Online | A Good Year for Witty Lines. A sampling:
"A rattlesnake loose in the living room tends to end all discussion of animal rights," Time magazine's Lance Morrow wrote after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Billy Crystal said: "Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place."

William Hague, former leader of Britain's Conservative Party, explained his baldness by saying, "Grass doesn't grow on a busy street."

The best adage on Washington politics came from former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.): "One day you're the toast of the town, the next day you're toast."

That last one might be something for RepIndDem Senator Jim Jeffords to ponder.

A CONSERVATIVE IS A LIBERAL WHO'S BEEN MUGGED BY THE SIERRA CLUB: In Making Waves in Malibu the LAT tells the story of a coterie of Malibu mega-rich fighting to keep access to their beaches private against efforts by the Sierra Club and others to open nine new access roads right through the celebs's swimming pools. It would seem to be a clear case of property right infringement, except that the article notes:
Each of these public easements--usually 5 to 9 feet wide--was promised by property owners decades ago in exchange for Coastal Commission permits to build or remodel homes along the shoreline.
Perhaps the definition of a Malibu conservative will soon be "a liberal who has to lie in the bed he's made."

JUMBO DUMBOS: In Rules Will Allow Airport Screeners to Remain in Jobs the NYT reports on the congressional decision to reverse itself and no longer require high school diplomas for members of the newly-federalized airport security service. In an egregious case of burying the lede, the article also mentions efforts to reverse the requirement that screeners be U.S. citizens
Transportation officials also said this month that they planned to work with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to find ways to expedite the citizenship process for screeners with good work records.
To translate this, you have to make the assumption that there are screeners who currently aren't citizens, and the new service intends to keep some of these folks on while trying to expedite them through naturalization.
"What we really need are people who understand how terrorists work, who can spot a false passport, who can ask the right questions of the right people," said Isaac Yeffet, former director of general security for El Al Airlines and now a private security consultant in Cliffside Park, N.J. "Every screener is holding on his shoulders a 747 full of passengers. It is impossible to imagine that they would have dropped out of high school."
Right. Especially a high school dropout from, oh, Saudi Arabia.

YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE: A few weeks ago, an article by University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein got a lot of play in Blogspace, because of his contention that the Internet allows people to tailor their news sources to their own preferences. Sunstein says:
In short, good citizenship requires far more than countless editions of the Daily Me. Democracy is undermined when people choose to live in echo chambers of their own design.
Ignoring the nasty little whiff of authoritarianism - god forbid people should be able to do anything of their own design - I think Professor Sunstein has it exactly backwards. What drives people to extremism is trying to exist in an information datasphere that entirely contradicts what they know about the real world.

Here's what I mean: Joe Normal knows that if he borrows too much money and lives beyond his means, he risks losing everything to bankruptcy. Yet for decades the national press preached that this practice was perfectly all right - as long, of course, as it was done by Democratic politicians. Joe got his first .22 rifle when he was twelve years old. He's still got it, thirty years later, and now he has several other guns. He's never shot or otherwise hurt anybody with his firearms, though one night when a drunken thug tried to mug him and his wife, he showed the would-be robber his .32 pistol, and the robber immediately ran away. Yet all he's ever heard in the media he reads and watches is that guns kill, they are never any good for anything, people who own them are all potentially violent nuts, and such weapons should be banned. I can play this game for several more paragraphs, but you get the idea. This situation is called cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive Dissonance postulates that individuals, when presented with evidence contrary to their worldview or situations in which they must behave contrary to their worldview, experience "cognitive dissonance." Dissonance is defined here as an "unpleasant state of tension."
And that fairly well defines the state of mind - "an unpleasant state of tension" - that exists in nearly half the population of the United States, that half that tries to exist in a conventional datasphere that contradicts almost everything their eyes, ears, and experience tell them. "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?" may seem funny in the abstract, but it's no joke to live with every day of your life.

Which is why I think the rise of the Internet and alternate but respectable news and analysis sources like the more intelligent blogs (of whatever intellectual persuasion) is a boon to the public good. People who once had no outlet at all can discover their perfectly legitimate opinions are not the thoughts of a deranged fringe minority (commie pinko liberals, vast right wing conspiracy, porn lovers, gun nuts) but have roots sunk deep in various respectable intellectual and philosophical traditions. And in the case of those who really are on the lunatic screaming edges, finding a few of their own kind to rant at may actually relieve the kinds of pressures that cause irrational beliefs to become insane deeds.

Yes, Sunday is the day for vaporous thumb-sucking here at TheBS. Thanks for noticing.

THIS AIN'T NO BS: The Blogical Suspects tip-toed out into the world less than a week ago, so it's been quite a surprise how quickly word has spread in some parts of Blogworld, and equally gratifying the welcome TheBS has received. Thanks for links, cites, and good cheer to dawson.com and my fellow San Franciscan John Weidner at Random Jottings. Much appreciated, folks.

Blogger alone claims more than 300,000 blogs. The slice that many of us seem to inhabit is much smaller; in it, InstaPundit and andrewsullivan.com seem to lead the pack, with perhaps as many as fifty or sixty other blogs grouped in the same philosophical/ideological/talent pack. What pack might that be? Centrist to center-right, occasionally libertarian, questioning, honest, mildly but not disablingly cynical, original, talented writers. I read at least that many blogs, and one thing about them stands out immediately.

The most intelligent group I've ever officially been associated with was the student body at my boarding school, The Hill School. I had classmates like Tobias Wolfe and Oliver Stone, to name a couple. One day, after a bonehead play on the intramural football fields, our coach gathered us together and screamed, "For a bunch of assholes who are supposed to have an average IQ of 138, you guys sure can be fucking idiots!"

I'm betting a 138 IQ wouldn't even get you in the door of this blogger community. The people who publish the blogs I read all seem to be scary bright - even, or especially, the ones I disagree with. It's a shame I can't say the same about the national punditocracy I also read and watch.

I've got a new book coming out about e-publishing. I barely touch on blogging in it, because when I wrote it earlier this year, I was only aware of andrewsullivan.com, Kausfiles, and Virginia Postrel - all of whom are mentioned, but mostly in terms of using various donation systems to eke out enough income to support their sites. In the beginning, these three and their me-zine experiments were eyed askance by the national press; now they are quoted everywhere, or, even better, blatantly robbed. Why better? Because it means they've become sources of conventional wisdom themselves. CV will always coopt whatever it finds useful, but this, in turn, hands greater influence to these sub rosa sources.

I expect to see a similar respectability begin to spread a bit more widely, beyond that small pool of bloggers who start from an established position as nationally known print pundits. And the influence of bloggers will grow, as more Internet users realize they can tailor their news sources to their personal preferences. Some (generally print) pundits point to this development with alarm, but I disagree; there is already too much lockstep conventional wisdom dominating traditional outlets. Alternative sources of analysis can only help to broaden the general perspective.

Back in the late sixties I was involved in the underground newspaper scene. The exhilaration at writing news reports and analysis that was at odds with what we saw in every respectable paper, and then getting it published was incredible. The best part was knowing they couldn't stop us.

It feels that way today.

OK, one last time guys. What I am advocating is that the 2nd Amendment be accorded the same status as the rest of the Bill of Rights. I believe that this would render virtually all existing gun laws unconstitutional. The model of the judicial history of the First Amendment is my guide, and I can't imagine that most "gun boys" would have much to complain about if the 2nd were limited as narrowly as the 1st.
I wouldn't, at least.

UPDATE: I checked with an old girlfriend who owns more guns than I do. She says that although she isn't a "gun boy," she wouldn't complain much either - because if this were the case, she could finally buy the full-auto AR-15 she's been lusting after for years.

SCOOP? This post on Tim Blair's blog is sourced but not linked, which makes me wonder if it isn't a rare example of genuine blog original reporting. It's a raw and powerful account from a NYC fireman who barely survived the WTC attack, and includes this:
"At about ten minutes to ten the South tower exploded from the center as if it had been set with detonating charges. I was standing about 5 meters down the ramp from the chiefs. Behind me about another 5 meters were 50 men. I turned, with those by my side, and yelled for everyone to run. We all yelled. I saw men planted to the ground in disbelief. We ran into the garage with the sound, like an avalanche, chasing us.
There's a lot more that's well worth reading, but it's the first sentence of this excerpt that will start a thousand conspiracy theories raging.

UPDATE: Tim emails to say this story is original with him. Nice job. The biggest disadvantage bloggers have versus the national pundits is the lack of a robust news infrastructure of their own. If the NYT wants to investigate something, they can throw a hundred reporters at it. But bloggers are, for the most part, able only to offer analysis of the news the big guys do dig up. We can't say much about news that isn't reported in the first place.

I think that eventually bloggers will begin to get some investigative capability, especially as more and more of the world's action goes online. White hat hackers may be the first glimmer of future newshounds. I could be wrong. This could be just some of my science fiction writer wishful thinking. We'll see.