Instapundit.com Instapundit.com

February 18, 2006

MORE IGNORANT THUGGERY: "Nigerian Muslims protesting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad attacked Christians and burned churches on Saturday, killing at least 15 people in the deadliest confrontation yet in the whirlwind of Muslim anger over the drawings."

If Christians were burning mosques, it would be portrayed as proof of their inherent degeneracy and violence.

UPDATE: More here.

TAMMY BRUCE NOTES rampant Olympic discrimination against female ski-jumpers, who aren't allowed to compete. I'm familiar with this: My stepcousin Karla Keck (you can see her in midflight here) was ranked first among women jumpers in the late 1990s -- but never got to compete in the Olympics, because, you guessed it, women can't compete. Lame.

SOMEBODY TELL BRYANT GUMBEL about this.

WELCOME to 21st Century London. I don't think the tourism-promotion folks will like this story.

MORE colossal Kofi conflicts: "Kofi Annan has learned nothing from the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food scandal, in which Saddam Hussein's billions corrupted the U.N.'s entire Iraq embargo bureaucracy. Earlier this month, Annan accepted from the ruler of Dubai an environmental prize of $500,000--a fat sum that represents the latest in a long series of glaring conflicts of interest. Call this one Cash-for-Kofi."

Note to Condi: Why don't we give this sort of outright bribery a try? It seems to be all the rage.

RYAN SILBERSTEIN posts a blog review of An Army of Davids: "This book is suburbia's version of Thomas L. Friedman's The World Is Flat."

DAVID BERNSTEIN has much more on the ABA's affirmative action policy. Given its earlier antitrust problems, I'm surprised the ABA is taking such an aggressive line here. Legal consequences aside, though, I think the ABA is in danger of further marginalizing itself, accelerating its move from an umbrella legal-profession organization to just another political interest group.

I HAVEN'T READ ROBERT FERRIGNO'S Prayers for the Assassin, but several readers note this line from the Publishers Weekly review: "Fans of instapundit politics will love this thriller, which has the cinematic motion and atrocity F/X of a good airport read."

That may (or may not) be true -- I haven't read it -- but from reading the entire PW review I'm not sure the Publishers Weekly reviewer likes me. . . .

Hugh Hewitt interviewed Ferrigno recently. The transcript is here. Ferrigno also has some interesting thoughts on how the Internet is affecting book sales.

THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS published the Mohammed cartoons that have mobs of ignorant thugs rampaging around the world. The reader reaction was favorable:

"Thank you," was the consistent message.

"Thank you for taking a stand for freedom of the press when so many of our U.S. newspapers caved in," an e-mail from Breckenridge told me. "My respect for you and the Rocky Mountain News is renewed."

"Congratulations on being an equal opportunity offender," another e-mail said. "Well done and well said. The Danish cartoon reveals media double standards, bias and political correctness run amok (all of which continue to be denied, save for you and a few others)."

"Thank you, Mr. Temple, for not bowing to the pressure from the Muslim world concerning the printing of the cartoons," a third writer said.

"It is time for the Western nations to know that the mere existence of the Western world is an 'insult to Islam.' There is a double standard at work here. We must tiptoe around to avoid offending Muslim 'sensibilities' while they can clearly state a goal as the destruction of Israel and run cartoons with impunity depicting other religions in an 'insulting' manner.

"I believe that political correctness is the downfall of a free society. It stifles free speech and expression and leads to both self-censorship and imposed censorship."

I received only a handful, literally, of complaints, and three of them were form letters late in the week.

Badly written form letters, at that. The conclusion: "This whole experience of publishing these cartoons has been enough for me to want to wear a Danish flag pin in solidarity with that country and to regret - at least during this test of journalism's commitment to free speech - my membership in the American Society of Newspaper Editors."

They keep forgetting that it's their job to tell us stuff, not to decide what we shouldn't be told.

PAUL CARON HAS MORE on the ABA and law school diversity.

He regards them as insufficiently committed to transparency where their discussion of affirmative action, etc., is concerned.

MAINSTREAM MUSLIM LEADER urges violence against gays. In Russia. To paraphrase Tom Wolfe, theocracy is forever descending on America, but somehow it always lands somewhere else.

UPDATE: Related thoughts from Sissy Willis.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ann Althouse:

Ah, so the cartoon violence is to work as general threat to suppress all sorts of behavior. Religious fanatics with no power to force others to adopt their religion use violence and threats of violence to force others to behave as if they were followers of that religion.

Indeed.

ANOTHER MICHAEL TOTTEN REPORT FROM IRAQ:

A Western journalist I met in Erbil, who has been in Iraq for some time, told me the place challenges almost every liberal idea he has ever had in his head. I don’t know what he was like, ideologically speaking, before he got there. But he certainly doesn’t have orthodox left-wing opinions today. (Some right-wingers, especially those who think of the entire Islamic religion as a totalitarian death cult, would likewise get a crash-course in reality if they ever bothered to hang out in Iraq and meet actual Muslims.)

I was only in Iraq for two days before I had to face the sort of thing my journalist friend was talking about.

By the way, his reporting is supported by reader donations, so if you like it you might hit his tipjar.

MEDICAL BENEFITS, VACATION, TORTURE: A look inside Al Qaeda's Human Resources Department. No, really.

SPECIAL FORCES: here's more on Rumsfeld's new defense strategy:

Each of the four military services has special-operations forces, which are overseen by U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla. For the most part, they fall into two categories. "Black units," such as the Army's elite Delta force and the Navy's SEALS, focus primarily on highly sensitive "direct action" missions such as hunting terrorists or rescuing hostages. "White units," like the Army's Green Berets, work closely training, advising and in some cases fighting alongside indigenous forces world-wide.

Under Mr. Rumsfeld's plan, special-operations forces would work in small teams, fanning out to remote corners of the globe to live with, train and advise indigenous security forces battling terrorists. Troops also would gather intelligence and build relationships with locals over the course of months and years.

"To succeed...the U.S. must often take an indirect approach, building up and working with others," Mr. Rumsfeld's review states. It uses the term "indirect approach" no less than 11 times.

An oblique approach often works.

February 17, 2006

JOEL KOTKIN looks at the multiculturalism of the streets. (Via ChicagoBoyz).

AUSTIN BAY comments on a permanent African peacekeeping force.

PLAME UPDATE: Tom Maguire is unimpressed with Fitzgerald's response to discovery requests.

OVER AT FARK.COM: Situation Comedies for Mohammed: Let the Fatwahs begin! Though you'd think they'd have learned better by now.

My favorite: Allah in the Family. (Via John Hawkins).

UPDATE: Blasphemous Mohammed emoticons, via Rand Simberg.

MICHELLE MALKIN has a big cartoon war roundup.

A DAMASCUS CHICKEN EMERGENCY?

AMAZON NOW LETS CUSTOMERS "TAG" ITEMS: Tags for An Army of Davids include "Heh," "Indeed," and, of course, "Puppy Blender."

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll thinks someone should send a copy to Donald Rumsfeld.

hallofshame.bmp

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: It's not too late to cast your vote for the PorkBusters Hall of Shame!

Right now, Ted Stevens (R-AK) is in the lead, but it's not over until the fat lady sings.

Meanwhile, here's a bit of good news on pork:

BUSHNELL - Sumter County will not be pursuing federal aid to build a sports complex in the southern end of the county. When the motion was made to approve a request for federal funding, it died for lack of a second.

The issue sparked a debate Tuesday between Commissioners Dick Hoffman and Randy Mask after the matter was brought up for the second time in two weeks.

Hoffman again described the park project as a "pork" request, as he did at the meeting two weeks ago when the board was asked about funding for the complex and a hurricane shelter for the southern end of the county.

According to Citizens Against Government Waste and the Congressional Porkbusters Coalition, "pork" projects must meet two of the following criteria: they are either requested by only one chamber of Congress; they are not specifically authorized; they are not competitively awarded; they are not requested by the president; they greatly exceed the president's budget request or the previous year's funding; they are not the subject of Congressional hearings; or serve only a local or special interest. . . .

Hoffman said asking for government help in order to pay for projects was "too easy," and that he would support the complex "if the citizens of this county are willing to take money out of their own pocket to pay for it."

"That's when the rubber hits the road," he said.

It's all about changing the culture.

UPDATE: It's neck-and-neck: Robert Byrd has pulled ahead by three votes. The suspense is killing me!

FEAR THE GOVERNMENT that fears your dildo.

MORE LAW PROFESSORS WEIGH IN on the question of affirmative action and intellectual diversity.

IN THE MAIL: Bruce Bawer's new book, While Europe Slept : How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within. Here's an interview with Bawer by Brad Miner.

AVIAN FLU UPDATE: Global Preparedness is taking shape:

As the spread of avian flu accelerated through Europe, scientists said the world's ability to handle the disease is improving.

"If a catastrophic pandemic occurred tomorrow, everyone in the world would be unprepared," said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, or NIAID. Still, he added: "We're so much better off now than we were six months ago, a year ago."

Read the whole thing, for good news and bad. And Sen. Bill Frist talked about these issues, too, in our last podcast (also available via iTunes).

MY COMPLAINT ABOUT BELLSOUTH last night has gotten this response from Rand Simberg.

Maybe I should switch to Knology. The thing is, they've been very responsive in the past, but this time it's like everything goes into a black hole.

UPDATE: Well, there's a guy out there now, though they were supposed to call me before he showed up and nobody did.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Fixed now. The guy was, as always, nice and competent. But the online repair form seems not to have worked at all; the whole thing was in response to my phoning the robots last night, not to my online repair request from the day before.

STRATEGYPAGE:

Syria's attempt to leverage Moslem anger, over the Danish cartoons of Mohammed that have recently been published in some Western newspapers, seems to have backfired. By permitting the protest demonstrations against several Western embassies to turn into riots, the Syrian government appears to have been attempting to refurbish its connections with Islam. But some analysts in the region believe that the actual result has been to encourage anti-government Islamic extremists. This pattern is being seen in many Moslem nations, most of them run by dictators that normally do not allow free expression by the people.

Indeed.

ANN ALTHOUSE: "So the Senate Intelligence Committee is not going to investigate President Bush's (supposedly) controversial surveillance program. There was also a 96 to 3 vote today in the Senate not to hold up the Patriot Act. Quite a fizzle, no?"

MICKEY KAUS: "The possibility that Cheney would resign--allowing Bush to appoint and anoint a successor--seemed plausible before Cheney's hunting accident. It's probably less likely now, because Bush wouldn't want to be seen as having given in to the press mob."

But Sean Hackbarth has some candidates.

DICK CHENEY has inspired a new video game!

GUN REGISTRATION: Such a bad idea that even the Canadians are scrapping it. "One former Mountie called the registry 'totally useless' because criminals don't register their guns." Too bad they didn't figure that out a few billion dollars ago, but at least it's an object lesson for the United States.

February 16, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The National Journal is subscription-only and expensive, but Daniel Glover has reproduced some pork-related articles on his blog, with permission.

Here's Tempest in a Barrel:

For $495, an outfit called TheCapitol.Net will teach you how to feed at the trough. The firm, which does training seminars on how Washington works, is offering a one-day course on how to get an earmark. If you sign up, the folks at TheCapitol.Net will even teach you how to counter "public criticism of pork." . . .

Suddenly, however, "public criticism of pork" is all the rage, and earmarks are the target. Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif., resigned from the House and is going to prison for taking bribes to use appropriations bills to steer defense contracts to his corporate friends. Lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to operating a favor factory that depended on getting members of Congress to help his clients in a variety of ways. Reformers have vowed to send earmarks the way of such other once-familiar Washington institutions as Duke Ziebert's restaurant and The Washington Star.

Also, Moving Target:

"Earmarks have become the currency of corruption," Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., wrote to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., after the guilty pleas of ex-Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif., and lobbyist Jack Abramoff. "We can't allow this to continue."

But the road to earmark reform is potholed with definitional booby traps. Take these examples: $1.7 million to rehabilitate historic buildings at White Grass Dude Ranch in Grand Teton National Park, Wyo.; more than $1.5 billion to support "ultra-deepwater" drilling, largely directed to the Texas Energy Center in Sugar Land, Texas; a $44 million break from import duties for makers of ceiling fans, spearheaded by hardware mega-chain Home Depot.

All of the above could be considered earmarks, yet none qualify under the usual definition -- that is, a project inserted into an appropriations bill by a member of Congress. The dude-ranch funding, for example, was not a request from the Wyoming congressional delegation but a line item in the White House's 2006 National Park Service budget.

"What's an earmark? If there's a ship in there the administration wants, is that an earmark?" asked Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H. "The definition of how you get into this is going to be difficult."

Read the whole thing.

And, finally, a look at Presidential vetoes of spending bills -- not that we've seen many (by which I mean "any") of those, lately.

WHO'S MORE FANATICAL -- LEFT OR RIGHT? Responding to claims that Bush-loyalty is the ne plus ultra of the right, Marshall Wittman writes:

From his varied experience, the Moose questions whether this is true. The reality is that prominent conservatives have been critical of this President on a range of issues - the Weekly Standard has questioned Administration's execution of the war, the National Review and the Heritage Foundation has been critical of the President's big spending ways. And now, a range of libertarian conservatives have differed with the President on the NSA program.

Yes, there is an element of conservatism that attempts to apply a Lenninist discipline on ideological heterodoxy. In fact, the Moose was the target of their efforts. The Moose has enjoyed the distinct pleasure of being labeled both a Republican squish and a Rovian plant. But, based upon personal exposure to both sides of the political spectrum, this mammal can confidently observe that there is more tolerance for differences on the right side of the spectrum than on the left.

While Greenwald suggests that "loyalty" to Bush is the requirement for the right, the standard to to be a member in good standing of the liberal/left community is hatred of Bush. The Moose opposes most of the economic agenda of the Administration. However, he critically supports the President in the war on terror - including the NSA program. This has won the Moose the visceral opprobrium of the left. Because in the left wing universe, one must oppose everything the President supports. The truth is that a good part of the left believes that George W. Bush is a greater threat to America than Osama bin Laden.

I think that the part of the Left that feels that way is relatively small, but it has a disproportionate impact. Meanwhile, Megan McArdle has thoughts on moderation:

Now, again, perhaps I'm just insensitive to these things, but I haven't found Ms Althouse to be an apologist for Bush. She clearly does not hate his policies as much as my more liberal commenters do. But of course, that would probably be why she voted for him. She, and Instapundit (who is also being singled out for opprobrium), have criticized the administration; it's just that when they criticize the administration, it's in a tone of "The Bush administration is doing something I don't like", rather than "The Great Satan is again unleashing the powers of Hell to destroy a Once Great Nation." I haven't noticed her, or Instapundit, criticising the administration's conduct of the WOT, but--I'm going out on a limb here--maybe that's because they generally agree with it, not because they're "apologists" for the administration.

Well, I try to avoid the whole Great Satan thing even when I'm talking about the likes of Ted Rall -- which I try to avoid doing anyway on the theory that they want to be talked about -- but I do try for (with mixed success) moderate language; in particular, I try to avoid name-calling aimed at individuals.

Moderate language isn't the same as moderation in ideas, of course. My ideas (I won't speak for Ann Althouse) aren't particularly moderate at all, at least on an opinion-poll basis. I mean, there's nothing moderate in this: "Personally, I'd be delighted to live in a country where happily married gay couples had closets full of assault weapons." Then there's the whole transhumanism thing. . . . I try to use moderate language in part because I disagree with pretty much everybody on something big. This has led to claims that I "lack fire." (You want "fire" from a law professor?)

So why are things so polarized? Maybe it's because even though we tend to look at radical Islam abroad, we're in a different sort of religous war at home:

Not all leftwingers in the US are as frankly religious as Hillary Clinton, and many don't even realise that the ideas that they champion have deep religious roots. But even for these people, being leftwing has itself become a sort of religion, with those who disagree viewed as sinister, almost demonic forces, rather than simply as individuals holding different views.

The language of righteousness and sin, if not that of redemption and grace, remains a hallmark of the purportedly secular left, though I find it no more attractive than the language of the religious right.

I don't fit into the religious right or the religious left. But, in America, you don't get to choose a major political party that does not have some sort of religious strain to it.

And it strikes me that one reason why politics in the US have become so much more bitter over the past couple of decades is that two rather different threads of religiosity have come to dominate the two major parties in distinct fashion, where each party had previously incorporated major components of both. This has turned political battles into quasi-religious ones.

Add to this mix the inevitable effect of Jane's Law ("The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.") and you've got a recipe for polarization. That's unfortunate, because this is a time when we'd be a lot better off without the polarization and division that we're seeing. I'm not sure what to do about it, though.

UPDATE: Related thoughts here. Sounds like I'm screwed no matter what happens. . . .

MARK STEYN ON HUGH HEWITT: Transcript and audio here.

BRAD SMITH has joined RedState.

BLOGGING, LOVE, AND MONEY: More thoughts from The Anchoress and from Dan Riehl.

BELLSOUTH'S BROKEN PROMISE: I've had trouble on the line since yesterday. I filled out their online repair form and got this answer:

Thank you for contacting us regarding your telephone service. A repair report has been generated to have your trouble cleared as soon as possible but no later than 2/16/06 by 7:00 PM. Please accept our apologies for your inconvenience. We appreciate your business. Thank you for choosing BellSouth.

It's 7:01, and nobody's called and nothing's happened. I've had good luck with them in the past, but this is pretty lame.

MORE GOOGLE BACKLASH:

W Ketchup announced today that it has cancelled all advertising with Google, including both search engine ads and content network ads. The company took this step to protest Google’s agreement to help the Communist regime in China suppress liberty and free expression in that country.

That's more backbone than the Bush Administration has shown on this issue. (Via Molten Thought).

And, by the way, my pre-election Heinz vs. W ketchup taste test can be found here, with a followup test ("Bush Country Ketchup") here.

THE BELMONT CLUB: "Three incidents embody, in their own ways, what the West values most of all. I'm just trying to figure out what it is."

EUGENE VOLOKH has thoughts on censorship envy.

GATEWAY PUNDIT reports on a female reporter stoned for not wearing a headscarf at an Islamic protest.

JAMES TARANTO is defending Al Gore.

HIAWATHA BRAY sends this report from Capitol Hill:

I just got back from DC, where I covered the hearing on US Internet companies in China. Boy, those congressfolk don't know how to cut it short! We were an hour 45 minutes into the hearing before the first witness uttered a sound. Pitiful. No WiFi in the hearing room either. All the livebloggers had to use Ethernet cable. I think it makes sense not to have wireless in government buildings, as a rule--too many security problems.

But I can't see why they can't hook up a router just for the occasional hearing and such.

I ended up filing my story from a nearby Starbucks. As I was finishing up, I noticed about six middle-aged, highly capable-looking men and women at a nearby table, poring over printed PowerPoint slides and various documents, tapping their Blackberries, and nattering on about the Centers for Disease Control and systems for tracking the health of the nation's livestock. Sure enough, these guys were hard at work planning for a possible avian flu outbreak in the US. Right there, in the shadow of the Capitol, at a Starbucks.

You may laugh, but I felt proud. Stuff like this is one reason I love my country. We make fun of politicians and bureaucrats all the time; God knows I do. But a lot of these guys--probably most of them--work really hard, and think really hard and are trying desperately to keep the rest of us alive. Think about most governments throughout history--or even most governments in the world today. Political power often attracts the worst of the worst--gunsels, road agents and chiselers. We get our share here too. But I bet most of the people working for us are just like these guys. Plain good people, doing their best. I thank God I live in a country full of them. Even if they do spend too damn much of my money!

Indeed. My brother, who spends a lot more time in the third world than me, often makes this point. Despite complaints about our government, often justified ones, it works better than many. Of course, that's partly because we complain, instead of responding with hopeless resignation.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A secret appropriations committee meeting?

HAROLD FORD, JR. RUNS TO THE RIGHT:

Ford said he supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms, he is against partial birth abortion, he argues we have to stay in Iraq until we get the job done and he says he was encouraged on his most recent of four visits to the war zone. He wants to end pork barrel spending and balance the budget by making every department cut spending, and he wants to reform the tax code.

It was in the area of entitlements that Ford made his boldest statements. He says we need to notify people 40 and under right now that they won’t be getting Social Security until they are 70. Increased life expectancy is threatening the solvency of the program. He also favors means testing so that those making over $300,000 a year would not receive a Social Security check. He is opposed to private accounts.

Read the whole thing.

ALL CHENEY, ALL THE TIME: Arianna Huffington is darkly proclaiming a coverup (maybe by the criminal syndicate that runs America? maybe not), Steve Martin is making light, and Hugh Hewitt is interviewing Lawrence O'Donnell about O'Donnell's, er, speculations.

It's hard not to agree with this summary: "Veep coverage continues to tell us more about the folks producing it than about the Veep and the Administration."

UPDATE: Well, yeah: "But it’s more or less an open secret in Washington that Mondale liked to make Ed Muskie 'dance.'"

AUSTIN BAY looks at the U.S.'s new offensive against the Iranian mullahs.

PODCAST BUZZ: It's a trend!

PAJAMAS MEDIA CORRESPONDENT Andrew Marcus interviews Rep. Peter Hoekstra about all those unread Iraqi WMD documents. Hoekstra suggests parceling them out to the blogosphere. Call in the Army of Davids!

It'll be up on the PJ Media WMD Files site shortly, but you can see a QT version here if you don't want to wait.

Here it is, in both QuickTime and WMV versions.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Investor's Business Daily editorializes:

Members of Congress have developed the earmarking process into a fine art, skillfully asking for — and getting — dollars for specific local programs in their home states and districts without actually putting their names on the requests. Last year's mountain of earmarks — 13,997 of them — cost taxpayers $27.3 billion, says Citizens Against Government Waste.

Rep. Tom Prince, a Republican from Georgia, has introduced a sensible bill that amends House rules so that members who ask for earmarks will have to attach their names to the requests. Across the way, Sen. John McCain has introduced the Pork-Barrel Reduction Act, which has a provision that also requires the identification of lawmakers who propose earmarks.

The remainder of the bill is an attempt to make it more difficult for Congress to slip through earmarks.

Forcing disclosure won't end the problem of earmarks. Many in Congress strut and preen over their ability to bring home the pork. Shameless lawmakers such as Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, have never been shy about admitting they squeeze taxpayers across the country to pay for pet projects that they believe make them look good back home.

Porkbusters, a group at truthlaidbear.com that is dedicated to cutting the budget, has named these gentlemen Nos. 1 and 2 in the Pork Hall of Shame, but there's little chance that it bothers them.

Ideally, earmarks should be eliminated entirely. They are not legitimate federal expenditures. There are real people out there paying high taxes for goodies that others will avail themselves to.

Indeed. (Via Newsbeat1).

UPDATE: Assistant Majority Leader John Shadegg?

WILL BLOGGING LOSE ITS AMATEUR QUALITY? My TCS Daily column is up!

UPDATE: LaShawn Barber has more thoughts. "His latest column at Tech Central Station is called 'Blogging: Love or Money?' Why the dichotomy? I blog for both!" She has some thoughts on profitable niche blogging, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More thoughts from Rand Simberg.

HEH.

February 15, 2006

The Glenn and Helen Show: Bill Frist on Avian Flu, and Bloggers on Everything

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist talks about government preparations for avian flu, and bloggers interviewed on the fly talk about everything, all in the latest Glenn and Helen podcast. To listen, click right here, or you can subscribe via iTunes, which we like because it pushes us up on the charts -- we're Number 6 on the "talk radio" podcast charts at the moment. I don't think we're a threat to Howard Stern, though. (An archive of all our podcasts is here. For you dialup and cellphone listeners, a low-bandwidth archive is here.)

Anyway, in today's show, Senator Bill Frist talks about the threat of avian flu, and new government programs to prepare for epidemics of all sorts. Interestingly, he endorses the Ray Kurzweil suggestion to take a "Manhattan Project" approach toward developing rapid-response technologies for dealing with contagious disease of both the natural or biowar variety. How ready are we right now? Not very.

Also, we roamed Bloggers' Row at CPAC and interviewed a wide variety of bloggers, and a even a few non-bloggers we happened upon, including Little Miss Attila, Lashawn Barber, Joel Miller, Wonkette Emeritus Ana Marie Cox,, Sean Hackbarth of The American Mind, Chris Nolan, Condi for President fans Americans for Rice, and Muslims for Bush, soon to be renamed "Muslims for America." (Come to think of it, Frist has a sort-of blog, too).

The music is "Bonnie Lou and Buster vs. Caligula," off of Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere's album, Heartbreak and Duct Tape.

UPDATE: By the way, this is the digital recorder we used for the live interviews, with the accessory stereo condenser microphone.

And, as always, the InstaWife is asking for comments and suggestions.

IAN SCHWARTZ has video of Dick Cheney on Brit Hume's show, talking about his shooting accident.

WMD FILES is a new Pajamas Media blog devoted the the new discussions regarding Saddams's weapons of mass destruction.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT, this time at the University of Illinois.

POPULAR MECHANICS has been doing Katrina followup for months, and now they're saying that recently obtained documents cast serious doubt on some of the findings of the House report. Excerpt:

We've given the report an initial read and found it riddled with poor logic, internal contradictions and exaggerations. . . .

For now, though, here’s a quick overview of what seems to be the report’s most troubling shortfall: consistently blaming individuals for failing to foresee circumstances that only became clear with the laser-sharp vision of hindsight.

For example, the report states:

"Fifty-six hours prior to landfall, Hurricane Katrina presented an extremely high probability threat that 75 percent of New Orleans would be flooded, tens of thousands of residents may be killed, hundreds of thousands trapped in flood waters up to 20 feet, hundreds of thousands of homes and other structures destroyed, a million people evacuated from their homes, and the greater New Orleans area would be rendered uninhabitable for several months or years."

This statistic is referred to often, and refers to computer modeling of a direct Category 5 hurricane landfall in New Orleans. However, it's also a distortion. According to the data the Committee itself examined, 56 hours prior to landfall, Katrina was a relatively weak Category 3 storm, heading west in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the next few hours, it began its turn north, but where the storm was going to make landfall along the Gulf Coast was any weatherman's bet (the average 48-hour margin of error is 160 miles). In fact, it was not until the next day, Saturday, that it became more of a certainty that the hurricane was heading toward New Orleans. Furthermore, hurricane forecasters and emergency managers tell PM that until about 24 hours before landfall, hurricanes are too unpredictable to warrant the sort of blanket evacuation orders the report describes.

And according to transcripts obtained by POPULAR MECHANICS of the Sunday, August 28, videoconference between FEMA, DHS, Gulf State authorities, the National Weather Service and the White House, as late as Sunday—only 24 hours before landfall—National Hurricane Center storm tracks predicted: "There will be minimal flooding in the city of New Orleans itself." The death tolls listed in the congressional report presuppose: A) certainty that the storm would hit New Orleans directly, and B) certainty the storm would strengthen to a Category 4 or 5. Neither of these propositions was certain 56 hours prior to landfall. And, in fact, the hurricane was a Category 3 storm when it did hit.

The Committee report also criticizes the DHS and FEMA for not including the Department of Defense in their pre-storm and immediate post-storm planning. However, the same August 28 transcript shows that DoD was included from the beginning. In reality, despite organizational shortcomings, the rescue spearheaded by the National Guard and the Coast Guard turned out to be the largest and fastest in U.S. history, mobilizing nearly 100,000 responders within three days of the hurricane’s landfall. While each of the 1072 deaths in Louisiana was a tragedy, the worst-case scenario death toll would have been 60,000.

Read the whole thing, and stay tuned for more.


UPDATE: Brendan Loy isn't impressed.

AS I MENTIONED A WHILE BACK, I liked Tobias Buckell's novel Crystal Rain, rather a lot. (Including the cover art.) He's now put the first third of the book online, downloadable for free.

MICHAEL TOTTEN is photoblogging from Kurdistan.

SPACE ELEVATOR UPDATE: This is cool:

A slim cable for a space elevator has been built stretching a mile into the sky, enabling robots to scrabble some way up and down the line.

LiftPort Group, a private US company on a quest to build a space elevator by April 2018, stretched the strong carbon ribbon 1 mile (1.6 km) into the sky from the Arizona desert outside Phoenix in January tests, it announced on Monday.

The company's lofty objective will sound familiar to followers of NASA's Centennial Challenges programme. The desired outcome is a 62,000-mile (99,779 km) tether that robotic lifters – powered by laser beams from Earth – can climb, ferrying cargo, satellites and eventually people into space.

The recent test followed a September 2005 demonstration in which LiftPort's robots climbed 300 metres of ribbon tethered to the Earth and pulled taut by a large balloon. This time around, the company tested an improved cable pulled aloft by three balloons.

I love it.

HOWARD KURTZ has a big Cheney roundup.

It's possible to make fun of the press's self-involvement here, and it's hilarious to hear -- as I did in the car on the way home just now -- Hillary Clinton complaining about this Administration's secretiveness, as if we'd forgotten the health care task force, the Rose Law Firm billing records, etc. But nonetheless, Cheney screwed up bigtime.

Anyone can have an accident, and absent, you know, actual facts there's not much to say about the actual shooting (though as Kurtz notes, that hasn't stopped some people from proposing theories as if they were fact). But they've played to everybody's characterization of them, and it's the classic political mistake of not responding quickly.

That said, it's also a classic example of the press's instinct for the capillary. This is getting Natalee Holloway level coverage, when there's lots of more important stuff going on.

NEXT, THEY CAME FOR THE plastic clowns.

ARMY OF DAVIDS gets a recommendation from The Manolo. Super-fantastic!

MICKEY KAUS offers message advice for the Democrats. Trouble is, I'm not sure "normalcy" is what the Democratic base wants.

MY VALENTINE'S EVENING: Spent the night with my 91-year-old grandmother, so my mother could watch my sister's kids, so my sister could accompany my brother-in-law to Nashville for some medical tests. It's familial love, not the romantic variety, but extended families are good.

February 14, 2006

IT'S ALL ROBOTS ALL THE TIME over at Ann Althouse's today. First a look at robotic Senators, then a reference to robotic frigidity, and finally advice on the growing robotic menace.

I say, don't rage against the machine. Embrace the machine! After all, robots are people too -- or at least they will be, someday.

I'd say Ann's following that advice, as the robots are everywhere on her blog today -- the above examples are just the beginning.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Ted Barlow is ready to put an ad program on the block. "I really hope that there’s some teacher, somewhere, getting some use out of Energy Ant."

MARK GLASER offers a guide to podcast directories.

CANADIAN POLITICO Warren Kinsella is suing a blogger for libel.

As the old joke has it, I think he's liable to regret doing so.

ANOTHER FASHION FELON for the Capitol Fashion Police. Okay, it's too silly to be a felony. But definitely a misdemeanor.

JOSHUA SHARF REVIEWS An Army of Davids.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT: I blame -- well, okay, not John Ashcroft this time.

G.M. ROPER: "Cancer, me, and the blogosphere." It's good news.

MY THOUGHTS ON MONEY AND HAPPINESS: Part of this Forbes Magazine issue on the topic.

PAUL HACKETT has dropped out of the Ohio Senate race. He calls the Democratic party's effort to get him out a "betrayal."

MICHAEL TOTTEN reports from Iraq.

PERHAPS BUSH SHOULD DEFEND HIS WIRETAPPING PROGRAM as an effort to be more European: "The fact is that in much of Europe wiretapping is de rigueur—practiced more regularly and with less oversight than in the United States. Most Europeans either don't know about this or, more likely, simply don't care."

HERE'S A QUAGMIRE DECLARATION that seems about right to me.

A HALF MILLION LEBANESE rally on the anniversary of Hariri's murder: No embassies were burned.

DAVID BERNSTEIN HAS MORE on the ABA and affirmative action.

IN THE MAIL: Elemental: The Tsunami Relief Anthology : Stories of Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Steven Savile and Alethea Kontis. Looks pretty good, with contributions by Larry Niven, Brian Aldiss, Joe Haldeman, and many more, and an introduction by Arthur C. Clarke.

MICHAEL BARONE looks at the politics of negation.

EXPLORING THE WORLD OF ALTERNATIVE WEEKLIES: I actually like our local rag pretty well, though it seems to have suffered a bit from staff cuts lately.

I CAN'T SAY I'M SURPRISED:


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com

EUGENE VOLOKH:

So I guess it's not just that we aren't supposed to draw pictures of Mohammed as terrorist, or of Mohammed at all; we aren't even supposed to draw pictures that are obviously not of Mohammed, and that are meant to mock the inability to draw pictures of Mohammed.

Well, I have to admit: The folks who are offended by this have a First Amendment right to be offended. They should feel entirely free to be offended.

The rest of us should feel entirely free, as a matter of civility as well as of law, to say: Your decision to be offended by this particular cartoon gives you no rights (again, as a matter of civility as well as of law) to tell us to stop printing it.

More on the underlying conceptual issue — the difficult but necessary distinction between (more or less) reasonable taking of offense and unreasonable taking of offense — later; I also hope then to talk in some measure about the distinction between this cartoon and others that I do think can reasonably be found to be offensive, and that probably shouldn't (as a matter of civility) have been published in the first instance, though it is proper to publish them now in order to explain the controversy. For now, it seems to me that this incident does plenty to illustrate the danger of the "it's wrong to publish any cartoons that offend people" attitude.

Particularly as those who espouse this attitude don't really mean it.

AVIAN FLU IN NIGERIA?

And there's this:

Bird flu has reached Western Europe, with Italy and Greece announcing yesterday they had detected the H5N1 strain of the virus in dead swans.

No immediate threat to humans, yet, of course. Meanwhile, the WSJ's avian flu newstracker reports:

The European Commission expects to release in March details of an influenza pandemic simulation exercise carried across the 25 EU-member states in November. The final report is still being prepared, but among the early findings released were the fact that the organization's computer network could become overloaded in a scenario of a quickly evolving pandemic.

Even if the feared avian flu pandemic never materializes, it's becoming clear that we're not ready for a pandemic of any sort, really.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: What Will Europe Really Do?

Here is what we can probably anticipate. First will come a radical departure from past immigration practices. Islam will be praised; the Middle East assured that Europe is tolerant—but very few newcomers from across the Mediterranean let in.

There will be continued public furor over the American efforts in Iraq, but far greater secret efforts to coordinate with the United States—in everything from isolating the Assad regime in Syria to rethinking missile defense. For the past three years the post-colonial Europeans have wished the Americans to learn their imperial lessons by failing in Iraq. Yet it may well be that many in private will now wish us to succeed, if only in the hopes that such Middle East democracies will be less likely in the future to turn loose their mobs to burn European embassies and threaten their citizens.

We won’t see much public condemnation of Hamas, but more likely quiet efforts to pull the plug slowly on subsidies for such terrorists.

Read the whole thing. I hope he's right.

REBECCA MACKINNON:

Fascinating. With Google, Yahoo! Microsoft and Cisco about to be called on the carpet in Congress on Wednesday, AOL releases a new Chinese-language portal. It focuses on culture and sports, with a major feature being downloadable Chinese movies. But the target audience is – at least officially – meant to be the Chinese-speaking community in the United States.

I can confirm: the search engine on this portal is uncensored. Searches for “Falun Gong” and “Tiananmen Square Massacre” turn up the full range of results from dissident and human rights websites. I can also report that according to my friends in China, so far the AOL Chinese portal is not blocked from within the People’s Republic. Yet. However one blogger in Southern China reports that some content is inaccessible. But the language he uses implies the blocking may be for geographical copyright reasons rather than political reasons. It will be interesting to see how accessible the site remains from the PRC over the coming weeks.

The timing of AOL’s release is pretty interesting – one wonders if they are launching the portal now to gain maximum praise for not censoring at a time when their competitors are in the censorship doghouse.

Let's hear it for competition. And here's more on Yahoo!'s latest action.

TALKING ABOUT ANGER: Hugh Hewitt had Jonathan Chait on his show last night. The transcript (and audio) are online here.

Kaus has related thoughts.

February 13, 2006

WELL, YES: The InstaWife is unbearably hot. Duh.

BATMAN VS. AL QAEDA: "Superman punched out Hitler. So did Captain America. That's one of the things they're there for."

THANKS to all the folks who have moved the Glenn and Helen Show up to #5 on iTunes' "talk radio" charts.

A FIELD REPORT from the Army of Davids. Very cool.

WHAT WAS DANA MILBANK THINKING? I assumed it was a photoshop until I saw the video. Good grief.

UPDATE: Jim Treacher emails: "Dana Milbank was thinking ...that nobody would notice because it was Countdown with Keith Olbermann." Maybe it was some kind of a test!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Pat Graham senses a hidden hand:

Stunning! The clown costume deconstructs Milbank's report and makes him appear absolutely ridiculous. (Reminiscent of Dukakis in the tank helmut or Kerry in the astronaut garb.) This is clearly the work of Karl Rove or the RNC.

Rove's moles are everywhere.

JOE GANDELMAN:

Just when former Vice President Al Gore seemed to be re-carving a niche for himself as an outspoken, blunt political critic of the Bush administration he forgot a key rule of real estate:

"Location, location, location."

In a political move that is at best baffling, Vice President Al Gore delivered a speech filled with hard-hitting language about U.S. treatment of Arabs in the post-911 world in Saudi Arabia.

Even a potato that was just taken out of the sack would know that the location — Saudi Arabia, a country not exactly role model for the observance of human rights, democracy and a country of origin for many of the 911 hijackers — was a bad one. By choosing to deliver his speech there he was virtually ensuring that a controversy about it being on foreign soil, and from Saudi Arabia, was BOUND to overshadow its actual content.

Why didn't Gore just put a sign on his back that said "KICK ME" and then walk into a Republican rally?

Uh, oh. We better not give him any ideas...

Al Gore looked like the Joe Lieberman of 1988 back when I was working for him. Now, well, he doesn't. I'm disappointed, because he seemed a lot more sensible than that, once.

UPDATE: Ouch.

SO I GET HOME AND FIND MY INBOX full of complaints from lefties that I've been "silent" about Ann Coulter's remarks on Friday. I guess they're scrollbar-challenged, as I did in fact note them and link to Sean Hackbarth's denunciation. I figured that readers would know my feelings about Coulter -- whose similar comments I was condemning back before Bill Quick named the blogosphere -- but on the other hand, I guess I shouldn't take stuff like that for granted. I got an email today from a reader who didn't know that my wife had had a heart attack, and I got an email last week from a reader who, despite my best efforts, had somehow missed the fact that I had a book coming out. You can't assume that everyone is keeping up with everything, and I tend mostly to ignore Coulter.

The lefties seem mostly upset about her use of the term "raghead," which is racist and offensive, but more or less akin to the term "cracker," which doesn't seem to bother a lot of lefties. So pardon me if I'm largely unmoved by their mock outrage on this account.

But there are more serious reasons to be unhappy with Coulter, reasons that, as so often happens, are actually obscured by the theatrics of angry lefties. And though I've been a bit distracted this weekend, and I don't generally like to give Coulter's attention-getting efforts more attention, it's probably worth mentioning them now.

I didn't attend the event (I didn't actually attend any events except the book stuff in the Exhibition hall; I was supposed to be on a panel about online media but had to cancel) but as I understand it, Coulter made the raghead remark, and then a Muslim attendee -- perhaps the guy from "Muslims For America" that Helen interviewed for our podcast -- got up to object to the "raghead" remark, and she put him down. And that's what's really bad. In fact, Ann Coulter is guilty of doing what Ann Althouse and Stephen Green note that the lefty bloggers tend to do: Someone stretched out a hand, and she spat on it. And her ongoing treatment of Muslims has followed this general pattern of fostering alienation. The result of this sort of behavior is aid and comfort to the enemy.

To win this war, we need to kill the people who want to kill us. But we need to win over the rest. The terrorists of Al Qaeda want to polarize things so that it appears to be a war of Christianity against Islam, of America and the West against all Arabs and Muslims. With remarks like those, she's helping their cause, not ours. Call it "objectively pro-terrorist."

UPDATE: So I post this, and I'm still getting emails like this:

Why are you so silent about your CPAC co-speaker’s hateful and violence-advocating rants?

Why do you tell Democrats they should "muzzle and marginalize their idiots" while you ignore Ann, even though she's one of the most influential pundits in your Party and received a boisterous ovation from your fellow conservatives when she urged violence against "ragheads" and the assassination of Supreme Court justices? Why would you participate in an event that sponsors a speech urging violence against Muslims and the domestic political opponents of Republicans?

Speak up, I can't hear you.
David Miller

Or read me, apparently. Hit "refresh" people. But this is starting to seem a bit, er, contrived. Have the people sending these emails even been to my blog?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ah, apparently it's some sort of campaign. It seems to me that the lefties are once again falling for Karl Rove's notorious "blogpaper" strategy.

MORE: And here's a nice roundup from Gateway Pundit about moderate Muslims coming to the fore in Denmark that illustrates what I mean. Read this report from Brussels Journal, too:

Moderates such as Kamran Tahmasebi say they have had enough of fanatic Islamism and its intimidation of the Muslim immigrants in Denmark. “It is an irony that I am today living in a European democratic state and have to fight the same religious fanatics that I fled from in Iran many years ago,” Mr Tahmasebi says. He came to Denmark as a refugee in 1989. Today he works as a social consultant and is very grateful for the life Denmark has made it possible for him to have. He says he no longer wants to keep a low profile to avoid attracting the attention of the imams. The cartoon affair was an incentive for him to stand up and warn against the Islamist imams in Denmark, whom he says are damaging the integration process with their misleading criticism of Danish values and norms.

Mr Tahmasebi is one of the people involved in the newly established network of moderate Muslims in Denmark led by Naser Khader, a member of the Danish Parliament. He says he is well aware of the risk he is taking by siding with Mr Khader, who has for a long time been living under police protection. But Mr Tahmasebi feels it is his duty to take part in this debate. “Naser Khader has carried this responsibility for too long. I share his beliefs and now I want to stand up and say so. Apart from that, as a parent I feel a responsibility to fight, so that my children will not have to live under Islamist dogmas. They shall be able to live free in this country.” Mr Tahmasebi adds that he believes the imams are one of the biggest problems Denmark is facing today.

You encourage these people by standing up to the radicals, and you also encourage them by not assuming that the radicals speak for everybody.

STILL MORE: Ah, so the emails calling me a "facist" and the like, by people who had obviously not read my posts or my blog, were coming from this post by Glenn Greenwald, where he included my email address. I'm tempted to return the favor, but I suspect that he's just trying to repair his credibility with his followers after I committed the unpardonable sin of linking to him favorably.

But the downside of these astroturf campaigns is that they only ensure that I'll view critical email from lefties with a more jaundiced eye next time, wondering who's really behind them. Plus, the obvious ignorance (and frequent illiteracy) of the emailers hardly serves to improve my opinion of their side of the debate. Thanks for doing your small part to degrade the blogosphere, Greenwald.

More thoughts on Greenwald's crusade here.

LATER: Okay, so I posted this last night. We're now well into Tuesday afternoon, and I get this email from Crooks & Liars reader Ben Compson:

I too am wondering why you haven't condemned Ann Coulter's recent remarks at CPAC. One thing that good about your blog is that you're somewhat moderate and often speak out when either liberals or conservatives need spoken out against. You silence here is deafening.

You lay into liberals when they say outrageous things like Coulter did, and you ought to be speaking up this time as well. Even if it costs you a few books sales.

I don't think my silence is deafening here since, well, I haven't been silent -- I think that Greenwald's readers, the ones who are still emailing me anyway, are ignorant sheep who apparently haven't bothered to look at my blog, but who just do whatever Greenwald suggests.

Anyway, Compson, since I actually addressed your concerns last night, and since you raised the connection here, how about buying my book? It's the least you can do!

Er, that, and try not to be such a tool next time. Because, you see, I make a point of trying to read serious emails that disagree with me first, and floods of emails from people who obviously haven't read my blog, but are just acting at the behest of someone else, make that approach untenable.

SPENT THE MORNING at the pediatric cardiologist; cancelled my first class this afternoon when -- after doing an EKG, etc. -- they decided that some findings indicated that my daughter warranted an echocardiogram. That actually turned out OK, and shockingly they were fast enough that I made it back (barely) in time to have taught that class after all. Probably just as well I'm not trying to, though. I've spent all the time I want at cardiologists, though the pediatric kind represent a new thing, and one I'd happily have foregone.

The point is to rule out any kind of congenital problem in my daughter, on the suspicion that some undiagnosed abnormality may have led to my wife's heart attack. So far, so good, but there are more tests to be completed.

Back later.

IS EUROPE DOOMED? Anne Applebaum has thoughts at Cato Unbound. "If the rise of China continues apace, I’m afraid Dr. Dalyrymple’s final phrase—that Europe is 'sleep-walking to further relative decline'—might even be too mild. At some point, it’s also possible that Europe’s decline, for all the reasons he listed, might even cease to be relative."

UPDATE: Fareed Zakaria writes on the decline and fall of Europe. I agree with Applebaum that it's not inevitable. But it's inevitable if Europeans don't start doing something about it.

SO WHEN I GOT HOME, I found The Dance of Time, the new David Drake / Eric Flint novel, waiting for me. I was always a big fan of the historical Belisarius, though -- in a sort of Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen meets The Terminator -- this Belisarius has to contend with an evil time-travelling computer from the future. Anyway, I've enjoyed these books since the first one, An Oblique Approach, and based on the small amount I managed to read before I collapsed from exhaustion last night, the new one seems just as good.

JOHN HINDERAKER looks at Midwest Heroes.

INCENTIVES FOR NEW VACCINE PRODUCTION: This seems like a good idea:

Under an advance market commitment plan, the G-8 nations would promise to subsidize the purchase of new vaccines -- for between $800 million and $6 billion -- if pharmaceuticals companies develop ones that meet standards of efficacy and safety. Once the G-8 spends the pledged amount, the drug companies would sell the vaccine at a set discount in the developing world.

The idea is to ensure that companies get a substantial, upfront, government-backed financial incentive to develop the drugs, even if they ultimately have to sell them at a low price. "By restoring appropriate incentives," advance market commitments "can stimulate private research and investment, accelerate the discovery of new vaccines, save lives and contribute to economic development in a cost-effective way," Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti wrote in a report to his G-8 colleagues in December.

We certainly need to do something to make new vaccines more available.

THE CARNIVAL OF CORDITE IS UP! So is the Carnival of Cats, the Carnival of Cars, and the Blawg Review. Also check out the new Haveil Havalim.

RIGHTSIDEREDUX endorses Tom Delay's opponent.

MICKEY KAUS writes on Brokeback Mountain and the Heartland Breakout Meme. "The Heartland Breakout Meme seems like B.S. of the sort that consistently hurts Democrats (and others who believe it)."

To the unclear extent that Brokeback has been a success, though, I identify a different explanation. My 14-year-old niece liked the film and explained it this way: "It's a chick-flick with nothing but hot guys."

UPDATE: Sploid offers "A Brokeback Mtn. for the Rest of Us." Daniel Drezner will be pleased!

ALPHECCA is unhappy with Dick Cheney over his unfortunate firearms accident. But Six Meat Buffet is mocking him cruelly. That last picture is just mean.

UPDATE: SoccerDad reports that other politicians have had similar problems.

KATHY SHAIDLE wants readers to help buy an Egyptian blogger a digital camera.

THE MULLAHS CELEBRATE AN ANNIVERSARY, but no one else does.

Meanwhile, Al looks like he could have used a party.

Tigerhawk has further comments on Gore's remarks. "Substantively, the idea that cracking down on Saudi visa applications is 'playing into al Qaeda's hands' is laughable."

Only Al Gore could come up with the idea of criticizing Bush for not sucking up to the Saudis enough. Sigh.

UPDATE: More here.

A FREE SPEECH COUNTERPROTEST IN PARIS: "You know, right before you came, we almost had them surrounded."

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has video.

STRATEGYPAGE:

The annual Shia Ashura festival brings out the faithful in large numbers, and was banned when Saddam ruled. Since then, terrorists have attacked the Shia participants, killing 55 in 2005, and 181 in 2004. This year, the terrorists were unable to kill anyone. Iraqi police and soldiers supplied the security, with the help of some religious militias. This sharp drop in terrorist activity was no fluke.

Read the whole thing.


ANDREW SULLIVAN WRITES on Cartoon Cowardice:

The fundamental job of journalists is to give you as much information as possible to make sense of the world around you. And in this story, where the entire controversy revolves around drawings, the press is suddenly coy. You can see Saddam Hussein in his underwear and members of the royal family in compromising positions. You can see Andres Serrano’s famously blasphemous photograph of a crucifix in urine, called Piss Christ. But a political cartoon that deals with Islam? Not our job, guv. Move right along. Nothing to see here.

When people riot over cartoons as tame as these, you'd think it would be news.

UPDATE: Dave Schuler has more thoughts on the press's timidity. As I've said, when you reward violence and efforts at violent intimidation, you'll get more of them.

I also think that if the press is this scared of Islamic extremists, claims that Bush is manufacturing an artificial climate of fear regarding Islamic extremism ring rather hollow.

February 12, 2006

IS THE ABA ENCOURAGING PEOPLE to break the law?

HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN, JIGGITY-JIG: Drove back from D.C. in the teeth of the fearsome East Coast Blizzard, which in fact, at least on our travel route, was more like the Brutal Afghan Winter than, say, the Blizzard of '93. Some snow and ice, and a few flipped 18-wheelers, but not very bad really.

Back later. In the meantime, a nice summary of what's really at stake in the Cartoon Wars:

Sari Hanafi, an associate professor at the American University in Beirut, said for Arab governments resentful of the Western push for democracy, the protests presented an opportunity to undercut the appeal of the West to Arab citizens. The freedom pushed by the West, they seemed to say, brought with it disrespect for Islam. Hanafi said the demonstrations "started as a visceral reaction — of course they were offended — and then you had regimes taking advantage, saying, 'Look, this is the democracy they're talking about.' The protests also allowed governments to outflank a growing challenge from Islamic opposition movements by defending Islam."

And note this:

"The wave swept many in the region. Sheik Muhammed Abu Zaid, an imam from the Lebanese town of Saida, said he began hearing of the caricatures from several Palestinian friends visiting from Denmark in December but made little of it. 'For me, honestly, this didn't seem so important,' Abu Zaid said, comparing the drawings to those made of Jesus Christ in Christian countries. 'I thought, I know that this is something typical in such countries,' he recalled."

Like race riots in the early 20th Century, this is a case of ignorant yahoos being exploited by elites in order to protect the elites' power against civilizing influences.

THIS DOESN'T SOUND like much of a Homeland Security triumph:

The city's ports, considered a major target of terrorists, are about to be taken over by a firm based in the United Arab Emirates, a country with financial links to the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Dubai Ports World is set to complete a $6.8 billion deal to purchase Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., a London company that already runs commercial port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans and Miami.

Color me unimpressed.

DID SOME BLOGGER INTERVIEWS at Bloggers' Row yesterday for the next podcast, and tested out this cool but fairly cheap Olympus digital recorder. Listened to the results on headphones and they sound quite good -- very clear despite considerable background noise. I wish everything got better and cheaper as fast as electronics are.

UPDATE: Reader C.G. Browning says that $200 isn't cheap. Well, it depends -- the pro models are much more expensive.

ANOTHER UPDATE: An anonymous reader from Australia writes: "Not everybody gets everything free the way you do."

Actually, pretty much the only thing I get free is books, and the occasional DVD. When I write about gadgets, they're gadgets I've bought myself. If someone were to send me a freebie for review, I'd note that.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Writing in the Washington Post, Michael Grunwald takes a broken-windows approach to pork:

[C]onventional wisdom is congealing around the notion that Congress is what it is, and can't be changed.

But that was once conventional wisdom about New York, too. "The most important thing we've learned since the mid-'90s is that there's plenty we can do to clean up bad neighborhoods," said Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin. It turns out that aggressive policing really can defeat an anything-goes mentality, that entrenched criminal cultures really can be reformed, that potential offenders tend not to offend when they believe their crimes will be witnessed, reported and punished. "At some point, people have to say: Enough is enough," said Carnegie Mellon University criminologist Alfred Blumstein, author of "The Crime Drop in America."

In Congress, unlike cities, reducing crime is less of an end in itself than a means to the end of better government; members of Congress, their aides and the lobbyists who schmooze them can victimize taxpayers without breaking any laws. Still, in this moment of runaway cynicism, it's worth asking whether the strategies that cleaned up the mean streets can clean up K Street.

"Sure, why not?" Levin said. "You'll have to change the culture. But we've learned a lot about how to do that."

Thus culture change, and the broken-windows approach itself, is the underlying philosophy of PorkBusters, of course. Let's keep it up.

Sen. Tom Coburn certainly is, as George Will notes:

Coburn is the most dangerous creature that can come to the Senate, someone simply uninterested in being popular. When House Speaker Dennis Hastert defends earmarks -- spending dictated by individual legislators for specific projects -- by saying that a member of Congress knows best where a stoplight ought to be placed, Coburn, in an act of lese-majeste, responds: Members of Congress are the least qualified to make such judgments.

Recently, when a Republican colleague called to say "his constituency" would not allow him to support Coburn on some measure, Coburn tartly told the senator that "there is not one mention in the oath [of office] of your state." Senators are just not talked to that way under the ponderous rituals of vanity that the Senate pretends are mere politeness. . . .

Civilization depends on the ability to make even majorities blush, so it is momentous news that shame may be making a comeback, even on Capitol Hill, as a means of social control. Embarrassment is supposed to motivate improved education in kindergarten through 12th grade under the No Child Left Behind Act: That law provides for identifying failing schools, the presumption being that communities will blush, then reform. And embarrassment is Coburn's planned cure for Congress's earmark culture.

"Quite time-consuming" was Coburn and John McCain's laconic description, in a letter to colleagues, of their threat to bring the Senate to a virtual standstill with challenges to earmarks. In 1999, while in the House, Coburn offered 115 anti-pork amendments to an agriculture bill -- in effect a filibuster in a chamber that does not allow filibusters. Collaborating with Coburn makes McCain, the Senate's dropout from anger management school, look saccharine.

When Coburn disparaged an earmark for Seattle -- $500,000 for a sculpture garden -- Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was scandalized: "We are not going to watch the senator pick out one project and make it into a whipping boy." She invoked the code of comity: "I hope we do not go down the road deciding we know better than home state senators about the merits of the projects they bring to us." And she warned of Armageddon: "I tell my colleagues, if we start cutting funding for individual projects, your project may be next." But Coburn, who does not do earmarks, thinks Armageddon sounds like fun.

I suspect that a lot of people will be doing their best to undermine Coburn as a result, but I also think that it'll be pretty obvious what they're really about.

UPDATE: Couldn't find it earlier -- I was rushed trying to get out of DC and into the blizzard -- but here's N.Z. Bear's post from September on culture changes and the "broken windows" theory as applied to pork and PorkBusters.