InstaPundit.Com

12/1/2001

THIS PIECE ON LEON KASS IN SALON hints at something I've heard -- that Kass is having trouble getting people to serve on his Presidential bioethics commission, because people think that the fix is already in on what conclusion it's supposed to produce.

MAUREEN DOWD descends further into self-parody.

PROFESSOR SUSPENDED OVER CLASSROOM COMMENTS: WAR HYSTERIA BLAMED. Naturally, of course, he wasn't criticizing the war. Now his accusers turn out to be lying. Will they be disciplined? Will the people who suspended him be sanctioned for infringing on academic freedom? Will he sue for big bucks? (Well, the last one is pretty certain; don't bet on the other two).

OSAMA AS BOND VILLAIN, along with references to nanotechnology and Greg Brady. Is this cool or what?

ANDREW SULLIVAN hates Windows XP so much that he's switching to Apple. But Mark Steyn notes a feature that makes it invaluable to pundits.

MANY BIOETHICISTS DON'T THINK CLONING IS WRONG but are afraid to admit it, according to a story by Sheryl Gay Stolberg in Sunday's New York Times.

A small group of bioethicists were having dinner about a month ago when, out of the blue, one of them gingerly raised the topic of reproductive cloning. "I don't know how to say this," he said, according to someone who was present, "but in my heart of hearts, I don't think cloning is inherently wrong."

After a few nervous glances, the diners went around the table, each offering a similar confession. None saw human cloning as intrinsically evil or immoral. Few would say so in public, however. As the person who related this story said, "It's a little bit like the McCarthy period. There's nobody on the other side."

Well, the McCarthy comparison may be a bit much. (And there were people on the other side then). But of course bioethicists are afraid to say this: it would, in Joe Bob Briggs' felicitous phrase "threaten the whole feedlot." I mean, if cloning is OK, then why pay bioethicists to think about it, or put them on Nightline to opine about it, or name them to Presidential commissions to study the ethics of it?

Of course, when you pose as an independent expert, but choose your public stance because of self-interest, that's a conflict of interest. It's even, perhaps, unethical. Isn't it?

I WAS IN BOSTON, AND AWAY FROM INSTAPUNDIT in order to speak on regulation of nanotechnology at a conference called Nanotech Planet. (You can get a good general idea of the kinds of things I covered by reading this article, though my talk was a good deal broader than that; if you don't know what nanotechnology is, and want to, you can get a good general idea here). This was a high-level (i.e., expensive) conference and what I found striking was the very large number of venture capitalists, fund managers, etc., who were present. This has gone from a pet interest of geeks to an area that's attracting serious interest from people with money. It also appears from some of the presentations that technical progress is taking place faster than I had realized, which some say raises problems of its own.

The flight up and back wasn't bad. I watched the national guard folks at airports and they seemed quite well trained. In particular, they were paying very close attention to weapons-retention (e.g., always keeping a hand on their slung M16s so that someone can't grab them), which is a staple of law-enforcement training but not, I think, part of ordinary military training. This was true even for the ones who weren't wearing MP brassards, and it was true in Knoxville, in Boston, and in Charlotte (though they for some reason were much scarcer there). The most heavily armed guys I saw, though, were Massachussetts State Police in SWAT type outfits, who were almost absurdly overequipped with weaponry: M16, plus 9mm Beretta in low-slung "assault" holster, plus combat knife on belt, plus (on one guy) small backup pistol in the small of his back.

Security at Logan was marginally competent -- though my rolled-up newspaper unaccountably set off the metal detector, but wasn't unrolled, just patted down. Most efficient security: Knoxville (retired cops who've done this forever). Boston was, well, not glaringly awful. With the exception of a flight attendant on the Boston-to-Charlotte leg (when someone complained that by discontinuing magazines, blankets and pillows in the cabin the airlines were just saying they didn't want people to fly, he replied: "you can always drive!" Well, yes.) everyone was polite and efficient.

For those with a blue-and-red fixation, I can report that the number of flags I saw in windows while walking around Back Bay seemed pretty substantial.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL has a very nice essay comparing The Lord of the Rings with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Not surprisingly, Tolkien comes off better than Rowling, but the discussion is well worth reading.

There's also a fine piece on the Consumer Product Safety Commission's assault on BB guns, something briefly noted in InstaPundit back in October.

STILL MORE ON THERAPEUTIC CLONING: Reader Atlee Parks writes:

Barbara Randol's absolutely correct in what she tells you about the high financial cost of immunosuppressant drugs. What she doesn't really mention is that rejection, and efforts to treat it, are responsible for most if not
all deaths of major-organ transplants, as well as thousands of dollars of hospital bills. My father lived for nearly seven years after his 1991 heart transplant, and he was repeatedly hospitalized for "minor" illnesses such as bad colds and sinus infections. Cyclosporine caused enough degenerative bone loss in his hip that he had to have a full hip replacement three years after the transplant. When he passed away, it wasn't due to the failure of the heart, but to skin cancer resulting from the high doses of radiation
used to treat his initial rejection crisis after more conventional treatments failed. Compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars these episodes cost, the cyclosporine was a relative bargain.

Dad was considered a success story for having survived longer than five years; many transplant patients die from rejection (which nearly everyone suffers to some extent) within weeks or months of the surgery. I was and am immensely grateful to modern science for having given me a few more years with my father; but if there had been no such thing as rejection, Dad would still be alive. Somehow I can't quite bring myself to see therapeutic cloning as immoral.

Me neither.

ONE MORE: Reader Barbara Randol writes with a firsthand look at the stakes involved in therapeutic cloning:

I do have a comment on the cloning issue that I think is relevant. There are a lot of people out here who are either alive because of transplant technology or able to lead productive lives thanks to the advances in that field made in the last 30 years. I think this new therapeutic cloning research at least has the potential to make similarly dramatic advances. One thing people often don't consider are the immunosuppresant drugs that must be taken after a transplant to avoid rejecting the organ. These drugs are both very expensive (mine are covered my insurance, but just *one*of my many drugs-- cyclosporin, now available as a generic-- costs almost $700/month!! More than my rent!!) and have *many* unpleasant side effects and interactions. My body wouldn't reject a kidney cloned from my own cells-- it wouldn't recognize it as "foreign". Thus this cloned kidney would not require the expensive drug regime, which would lower insurance costs for my employer. If you figure $1,000/month in immunosuppresent drug costs until I reach retirement age in 30-40 years you can see why a cloned organ makes fiscal sense!!
Yes, and this doesn't even get to the question of availability, with most transplant organs in short supply.

BACK FROM BOSTON: I'll be posting some stuff later tonight. In the meantime, check out this article entitled "Returning jihadis tell Afghan ordeal."

A groundswell of resentment has emerged in Pakistani tribal territories against a fundamentalist leader who took thousands to Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban and left them stranded, residents said yesterday.

Soofi Mohammad, head of Tehrik Nifaz Shariah Mohammadi (TNSM), was arrested and jailed when he returned from Afghanistan after the rout of the Taliban militia, leaving his men behind. Scores of the tribesmen were reportedly killed inside Afghanistan and more than 2,000 were still missing.

Chortle. This kind of story needs to get wide distribution in Arab media. And it is.

11/29/2001

I'LL BE GONE AND PROBABLY NOT POSTING UNTIL SATURDAY AFTERNOON. I considered taking the laptop, but it just seemed like one more thing to haul through security. If I can get on the Web from the hotel I'll post a few items, but no promises. In the meantime, Matt Welch promises to return from his hiatus tomorrow and you should be able to count on the folks recommended to the left to keep you tolerably amused in my absence. See you!

WALTER SHAPIRO WARNS:

The rapid collapse of the Taliban in northern Afghanistan has quieted armchair critics' talk of morass and quagmire. There is a danger, however, that this skepticism will be replaced by an all-too-easy feeling of euphoria, the belief that American military power can accomplish virtually anything anywhere in the world.
That's an important warning. So is this one:
Remember that after the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, it took several years for America to adopt George Kennan's doctrine of containment. The battle against terrorism is not even 100 days old. As stirring as the military victories in Afghanistan may be, it would be folly to believe we have figured out all the ramifications of our global war to eradicate terrorism.
Yep. It's a bit early to be confidently proclaiming "doctrines" at this point.

A GOOD PIECE BY RON BAILEY on cloning.

MORE ON CLONING: Okay, I promised more on the whole therapeutic-cloning issue, so here it is.

Therapeutic cloning research involves (at the moment) creating cloned human embryos consisting of from a few dozen to a couple of hundred cells with the exact genetic code of the person from whom the original cell sample was taken. The hope is to coax these cells into stem cells, which can then be transformed into any organ you want to produce: a heart, a pancreas, a liver, a prostate, whatever.

Some people see this as an abortion. I don't. Or, if it is, then God is the biggest abortionist of all. Huge numbers of "pregnancies" spontaneously abort at this early stage, often without the woman even realizing that she is pregnant. Nor do I feel that a couple of hundred cells constitute a human being. I know that some people disagree with this, but no one has offered me a reason, rather than a feeling, for taking another position. (Leon Kass believes in trusting our intuitions on this sort of thing, but only his intuition that it's horrible, not my intuition that it's no big deal). I can attest from firsthand experience that my wife and I have had several miscarriages, and while they are not experiences I would recommend, we certainly didn't feel that a person had died.

If you're worried about abortion, the million-plus actual abortions every year would seem a much more serious matter, yet they generate far fewer proclamations from national political figures. One reason for making a big deal here, I think, is that it's a way of scoring anti-abortion points without addressing the abortion issue head-on, something that is very dangerous to do. That may make a certain kind of political sense, but it hardly constitutes a moral argument.

Another argument is that permitting this will create a slippery slope to true human cloning. I find two problems with this argument. The first is that it assumes that human cloning is bad, which is itself a highly debatable proposition. The second is that I don't think it matters. Human cloning will happen either way: the technology is too close to being there, and there are too many people who want to do it. The same is true, of course, for therapeutic cloning, only more so: there are more billionaires who will need new livers than who will want genetic copies of themselves.

So the question is not whether these technologies will be developed, but where: in civilized places, by civilized people, under civilized rules, or in outlaw nations, by second-raters, for the highest bidders? With biological science likely to mean as much for the twenty-first century as physics and electronics meant to the twentieth, I think it's idiotic to adopt rules that will send research offshore. Had the United States responded the the 1938 splitting of the atom by outlawing atomic science, would the world be better off?

Finally, a few people have said that I am too hard on Leon Kass. A few have also said that I'm not hard enough. I won't adopt the fatuous position that complaints from both sides mean I'm right; they don't. But I don't think I've been too hard on Kass. This is a man who has moral problems with dissecting cadavers, who opposed in-vitro fertilization, who is uneasy with transplant technology. Such views may not be crazy, quite, but they're certainly far from the mainstream, and I think that Kass and his defenders have done their best to obscure that his real problem seems to be with modernity itself. That, too, may not be a crazy position, exactly, but it's not one that suggests Kass should be playing a major role in setting policy for new technologies.

I TOLD YOU SO -- or, rather, we told you so. Compare that piece that Dave Kopel and I wrote on the failure of the germ warfare treaty and the futility of the new "protocol" thereto, with this update from Amity Shlaes. The good news is, the United States is now doing what Kopel and I recommended then. The bad news is that the usual critics are complaining about "unilateralism." I agree with Shlaes that what used to be called unilateralism now looks a lot like "leadership."

PROPOSED LEGISLATION would require high schools to open up to military recruiters. Nothing here on law schools, though.

UPDATE: Here's an earlier story that the FoxNews folks emailed me to point out. They were on top of this two weeks ago.

HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY to the B-52! I wish I thought that we were buying stuff today that would work this well and last this long.

RUSH LIMBAUGH IS SAYING THAT THE FBI IS NOW LOOKING FOR CLAYTON WAAGNER, anti-abortion wacko, in its investigation of the anthrax hoax attacks on abortion clinics. Limbaugh hasn't heard of him, which just proves that Limbaugh isn't reading InstaPundit enough. However, he's missing the distinction between the hoaxes and the real anthrax attacks. It's very unlikely that the same people are involved in both.

He's also repeating (and pooh-poohing) theories that the Democrats are behind the anthrax attacks on the Hill, since the only Senators who got anthrax mail are Democrats. Democrats have meanwhile been peddling theories that right-wing Americans are behind the mailings, for the same reason. Uh, well, could it be that because the Senate is controlled by Democrats, meaning that the leadership is, well, made up of Democrats? If you just got a guide to the Senate and wanted to hit two really important Senators, then wouldn't you be likely to hit the Majority Leader and the head of the Judiciary Committee? Especially if you weren't an American and didn't know much about the ins and outs of politics? This explanation seems to me to make more sense than conspiracy theories of any stripe, or notions of right-wing motivation.

SHUFLEBOARD TIME FOR HARPER’S? I’m at Border’s with my laptop right now, working on
my speech for tomorrow. (Well, I was, until I opened a new screen and started typing this). As usual, the place is packed with people and their laptops. Are they all telecommuters? They don’t all look like students.

Anyway, before I started I drank a cup of coffee and looked through the latest issue of Harper’s magazine. Every time I do so, it seems tireder and more dated. The cover story in this issue, by Don DeLillo, is on terrorism and seems dated already – it’s just so early October. As it turns out, the terrorists and their sympathizers are neither as numerous nor as tough as DeLillo makes them sound, and it appears that our open society is not so helpless against medieval fervor, either. Ditto for a reprinted essay on “the powerlessness of the strong” in the face of terrorism. This is another piece that was out of date before it hit the printing press.

But the most tired and tiresome part of the issue is Lewis Lapham’s introductory essay. It’s full of blame America, well, second, anyway stuff like this:

If we mean to project abroad the force of the res publica made glorious by the death of American teenagers and Muslim holy men, we might want to consider taking better care of our own domestic commonwealth. For the last twenty years we’ve let fall into disrepair nearly all of the public infrastructure – roads, water systems, schools, power plants, bridges, hospitals, broadcast frequencies – that provides the country with a foundation for its common enterprise.
Note the preciousness and the juxtapositions here. Lapham uses actual Latin to describe what we might otherwise call a “republic,” in order to make sure that we know that he’s a certified deep thinker. Then he juxtaposes Americans (“teenagers”) with a false conception of our enemy (“Muslim holy men”) in a way that seems calculated to diminish Americans. (Does Lapham believe that terrorism and murder are authentically endorsed by Muslim holy men? Is that his view of Islam? Nah, he’s just being cute and irresponsible).

He then sets out a list of things that have been neglected, along the way to a call for a return to 1970s big-government liberalism. The “twenty years” is an obvious reference to the election of Ronald Reagan (never mind that for most of the last ten years we had a distinctly non-Reaganlike Democrat in the White House.). But the things he says are run down are all government enterprises, or (as in the case of power plants and hospitals) enterprises so closely supervised by the government as to absolve the “free market” of the blame for their mismanagement. (Lapham has also never been to Tennessee, where the big budgetary scandal is too much spending on highways. And never mind the impossibility of letting broadcast frequencies fall into “disrepair.” Perhaps he’s referring to NPR’s successful effort to kill low-power broadcasting? Somehow I doubt it.)

As I recall, I found Lapham’s schtick dated back in the 1970s. It hasn’t improved.. Isn’t it time that Harper’s got an editor who has had a new thought since the Carter presidency?

"GREAT SHOOTING, KID! NOW, DON'T GET COCKY!" That's the theme of this excellent piece by Stanley Kurtz on pushbutton warfare's successes and dangers.

UPDATE: Michael Lopez, who corrected me on my last Star Wars quote, writes: "I hate to do this to you a second time - hell, I hate to do this to *me* a second time. The quote is (if I remember correctly... I'm at work and have no way to check) 'Great shot, kid! Don't get cocky.' Okay. That's it. I'm done for the week." Well, I have no way to check either, at least no way that's worth the trouble. I do these from memory, y'know.

GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE, or something. Reader Scott Cram points me to this parody of the Buggles song "Video Killed the Radio Stars" with the title "Internet Killed the Video Star" and lyrics along the same lines. Best line about TV "Came from the Cold War/Now it's a cold sore."

UPDATE: Reader Glenn Crawford writes: "Actually the line is Came from the Cold War, Now it's one global store." Well, okay, but it sure sounded the other way to me. And I kind of like it better that way, too. . .

HATE SPEECH IS OKAY, says Wendy McElroy, so long as it's aimed at men.

Er, in answer to several emails, I want to make clear that I'm being facetious here. Wendy McElroy doesn't think this, but some people she's writing about do.

LAW SCHOOLS DISCRIMINATING AGAINST MILITARY RECRUITERS: Some interesting observations from a law student, and a link to this FoxNews item on the same topic, by a law student who is a military veteran..

Yeah, this goes on at my school, too. We had some lengthy faculty meetings about it, but the school wasn't willing to stand up to the AALS. I'm sending a copy of the FoxNews story to my dean, who I'm sure will be overjoyed to have another problem on his plate.

"AIRPORT SECURITY IS AN ABSOLUTE JOKE," writes reader John Borell. He continues:

The best example is that one of my friends was pick for an extra security screen just prior to boarding. Now, he and I traveled on the same itinerary, we shared the same e-ticket, so the airline knows that we absolutely are traveling together. About twenty minutes before boarding, his name is called, and he is asked to report to the desk. He is in the restroom, so I go see what they need. They tell me he has been randomly picked to have his carry on hand searched, and for a closer search of his person. He is to report to the desk in ten minutes. I was not picked for a search.

Now, I know that lawyers such as myself rarely have an original thought, but we are trained to totally take apart other's foolish ideas. Let me get this straight, I think, he now has ten minutes to 1) dump any contraband he managed to sneak past the MP's at the first check, or 2) if we are terrorists, take all his contraband out of his luggage and put it into my luggage, yes mine, whom the airline absolutely knows for sure is traveling with him. My God, do these people actually think? Total joke.

Of course, the other three of us had great sport mocking him for getting searched, but please, please, please do not tell me that this did anything other than make me hate flying even more.

Oh, I will not even go into the fact that Newark NJ airport makes people with e-tickets go to the main counter and get a boarding pass prior to clearing security, even when you have an actual printed pdf. file of your ticket. Hmmm, what is the purpose of getting an e-ticket if I have to get paper prior to clearing security?

Every time I hear a story like this I want to sell all my airline stock -- what makes them think people will keep flying in the face of this sort of thing? Then I remember: I don't own any airline stock, because I think that a business with such obvious contempt for its customers can't possibly survive.

UPDATE: Neal Boortz's page has more stories, including more on security screeners trying to steal credit cards and cash. Jeez.

WAR OPPORTUNISM ALERT: George Will's column today leads Will Vehrs to write:

Now we have the spectacle of Republicans trying to lard up a stimulus package with tax breaks for corporate contributors and Democrats trying to suspend the campaign finance laws they profess to support, all under the cover of the terror attacks of September 11th. I've never been a big supporter of campaign finance reform, at least as it's been designed up to now, but examples like these are poster children for reform or--my preferred alternative--sweeping out the incumbents who perpetuate this smarmy system.
Wars uncover a lot of flaws in existing political systems. This one is showing us what we already should have known: that we have a ruling class (in both parties, and including much of the press) that is morally and intellectually unfit to rule.

ALL RIGHT, I WAS WRONG: Maybe Harry Potter really does promote witchcraft. It seems that it's had that effect on Osama according to newly discovered information.

(Via Rand Simberg).

INTERNET KILLED THE VIDEO STARS: That's the conclusion of an NSF-funded study conducted by UCLA:

Internet users watch 4½ hours a week less television than do non-Internet users, the study shows. And the longer people have been online, the less they watch TV. Among those who have been online for less than a year, about 30 percent said they watch less TV. But of those who have used the Internet for five years or longer, about 35 percent said they have cut back on television.
I think this is probably because TV, well, sucks. Naturally, TV types are disputing the study:
"You can't view the Internet and TV as some sort of zero-sum game," said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters. "Because you use one new medium, don't automatic assume that it draws away from another. [The study] seems to suggest that you can't walk and chew gum at the same time, and you can."
Well, we can, but I'm not so sure about the folks in the TV business. No, that's not just a gratuitous slur (though it sure was fun) but a pointer to what I think is the key: TV sucks, and the Internet hurts viewership not only by competing for people's attention, but also by making clear just how much TV really does suck. Just look at the quality of news and opinion you get on the various warblogs compared to what you see on World News Tonight. Plus, the Internet puts you in charge. TV treats you as a passive consumer of news and entertainment. Lots of people, it turns out, prefer to be in charge. Go figure.

PATRICK RUFFINI observes: "The final verdict on whether Enron "gouged" California consumers has just been delivered. It turns out that Enron was so good at extracting predatory profits from the market that it is now a complete laughingstock: near-bankrupt." Ruffini has some choice observations for California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, too, who wanted Enron's CEO raped in prison as punishment for the "gouging."

MATT WELCH points out this excellent takedown of Anna Quindlen by Andrew Hofer. Read it -- it's superb. Does this woman think?

SPEAKING OF ANTI-AMERICAN SPIN, check out the headline on this story in The Times: "CIA blunder sparked Taleban revolt that became a mass suicide." Except that the story never tells you what the "blunder" actually was. Having some CIA guys with beards who spoke the language questioning prisoners? That's a blunder?

A witness said: “The fighting started when the Taleban were being questioned by two men from the CIA. They wanted to know where they had come from and whether they might be al-Qaeda.”

Both CIA operatives were dressed in Afghan robes, had grey beards and spoke Persian. One of them was known as Michael, the other as David.

Michael asked one Taleb why he had come to Afghanistan. He replied: “We’re here to kill you”, and jumped at Michael, who killed him and three others with his pistol before being wrestled to the ground.

I'm just proud that the CIA guy who was killed took down several of the Taliban first. No doubt Mary Robinson considers that some sort of war crime, too.

WAR CRIMES: Reader Rajat Datta writes:

POWs snatch up arms and try to shoot their way out, and killing them becomes a massacre that violates the Geneva convention. This is too ridiculous a proposition to be taken seriously. Except that it is being proposed seriously, and points out why we should never sign up to the International Criminal Court for war crimes. We know that the anti-American left, particularly in Europe, are going to spin this event out to be a war crime in hopes of triggering a Vietnam-like reaction against us. Do we really have any doubt that our military soldiers and pilots are going to be threatened with trumped-up charges, such as this one, unless we agree to have our foreign policy dictated to us by the Europeans?

We can't have the fate of our soldiers being held hostage because of anti-American politics.

Yes, the efforts to spin this as a massacre are absurd. Not, mind you, that I'm shedding a tear for the dead Taliban/al Qaeda guys anyway. But so long as "international" is a synonym for "second-raters who don't like America" (which it all too often is) an international criminal court is going to be a tough sell.

The various "international" organizations, from Doctors Without Borders to the UNHCR, have shown themselves to be, well, idiots at the most charitable. The United States should be keeping score on this, and should be meting out paybacks. Mary Robinson should be ensured an unpleasant term of office.

UPDATE: Just noticed that Mickey Kaus is criticizing Amnesty for this too. My take: Amnesty International feels that it has to do stuff like this to maintain credibility in thuggish third-world regimes. Uh, okay. But remember, by doing stuff like this, you lose credibility everywhere else. Another direct-mail solicitation, formerly donated to, now heading for the circular file.

11/28/2001

"CLONING: EMBRYOS TODAY, FEARS ABOUT A RACE OF ORGAN SLAVES TOMORROW:" That's from UThant.Com (motto: "Just like Mark Russell. But funny."), which also offers these juicy nuggets:

The embryo - affectionately named "Young Frankenstein" by its creators - has sparked fierce protest from scholars worldwide who annoyingly argue that Frankenstein was actually the doctor's name, not the monster's.

Also pissed off are moral and religious leaders, whose secret joy at once again being relevant has been dampened by what one ethicist calls "a vague resentment that this issue doesn't seem to have much to do with abortion." . .

Many on the political left also oppose cloning, including U.S. Senator Tom Daschle, several Democratic lobbying groups, and the European Union. While E.U. officials admit that genetically modified children do not scare them as much genetically modified food, they argue that hordes of clone babies are just the start of a slippery slope which might eventually lead to high-yield strains of wheat.

Yeah, that would be terrible. The Ari Fleischer bit is pretty damned funny, too. Read the whole thing.

RADIATION RISKS: They're pretty small, according to this story by Gina Kolata in the New York Times. Some scientists even think -- with studies to back them up -- that modest doses of radiation may prevent cancer by activating cellular cleanup mechanisms. The models currently used to estimate risk seem to be alarmist and not backed by science, but the story reports that we're going to keep using them because, basically, they're easier.

APPARENTLY, IT'S NOT JUST BELLICOSE AMERICAN WOMEN that Osama has to worry about.

JOHN MCCAIN IS IN THE TANK with gun control forces. Just compare what he says in this USA Today story with this press release from the Brady Campaign (formerly Handgun Control, Inc.) and this planted Op-Ed by Clinton DoJ functionary Eric Holder. I thought McCain was a Republican. Wasn't he?

This seems dumb to me, and suggests that McCain's political tonedeafness is growing. Or, to be more accurate, it shows he's focusing more and more on his only real constituency -- the Washington press corps, which traditionally loves any gun control angle, especially when it comes from a Republican. As I wrote on this campaign some weeks ago: "There's a campaign going on here, all right. I don't think it will have much traction, though. Do Osama's boys really need to haunt gun shows to get an AK-47?"

THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY IS IN BIG TROUBLE: That's because the increased security has led to calculations like this one, from a Neal Boortz listener who was hassled extensively by security:

Now for the logic;

1) Airfare $45, time from arrival at Hartsfield to departure from Savannah terminal = 4 hours

2) Rental car from ATL - SAV, $45, drive time from ATL - SAV 4 hrs Guess which method I'll take next time?

As Boortz notes, all this screening and checking is "nothing but window dressing." That point is underscored by Michael Barone, who emails that European airlines seem to be doing better despite (we're constantly told) much higher security standards:
Flying is much less of a hassle in Italy than in the US. On a Roma-Milano flight, I had to wait a grand total of maybe three minutes; boarding the Milano-Washington flight was not much longer. Of course there are fewer passengers there than in big US airports. But they didn't confiscate my nail clippers and lighter.
They didn't? And yet, somehow, Barone made it through alive. Whew!

This stuff has to end. I'm traveling to speak in Boston on Friday, and will report back on my experiences unless I'm killed by a nailclipper-wielding terrorist. But I haven't booked another air trip, and don't plan to in the near future because it's just too big a pain. And, with two-hour waits or worse at either end, the zone in which driving is a more efficient (not to mention less annoying) alternative is a lot bigger.

PUNISHING THE TRUTH: In TechCentralStation, Ronald Bailey talks about the smear campaign against Bjorn Lomborg, whose debunking book The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, casts doubts on many claims made by Greens. While I think Bailey is a bit hard on my former colleague Stuart Pimm, he makes some good points. And the folks who brought us Alar and "Nuclear Winter" don't exactly deserve the benefit of the doubt here.

MICKEY KAUS NOTES THAT ASHCROFT-BASHING seems to have more to do with internal FBI politics than anything else. And he offers this devastating zinger:

McGee doesn't note the internal bureaucratic reasons FBI veterans might have for objecting to Ashcroft's changes (they would "dismantle the bureau," according to one former official)--not to mention the individual egocentric reasons. . .

And while the pre-Ashcroft system of patient, long-term surveillance put in place by William Webster may have been a "model of counterterrorism" with many successes, as McGee claims, it clearly wasn't quite successful enough, was it?

I haven't been especially friendly to Ashcroft, but the FBI has been a mess since, well, basically when it was founded. It's never been cleaned up; internal politics and entrenched fiefdoms have always been the driving factors. Ashcroft, whatever his other flaws, seems to be trying to fix this. It's not surprising that he's getting this kind of insider-spun flak.

GIRL POWER TAKES DOWN THE TALIBAN.

EUGENE VOLOKH forwards this beautiful snippet from Scott Adams' Dilbert newsletter:

My Holiday Message

I've written and rewritten this section a dozen times. My problem is that no matter how much I write, I keep condensing it down to the same thought: This holiday season, as we laugh and eat and shop and enjoy friends and family, our soldiers are in Afghanistan risking everything for us. Some of them won't come back. The rest will never be the same.

Every one of them volunteered. They think we're worth it.

Let's prove them right.

Yes, let's.

DAHLIA LITHWICK lets slip this remark in Slate today:

Ann Beeson is precisely the sort of oral advocate the majority of the court loves to hate. She's a woman, she's incredibly smart, shockingly liberal, and she talks at 4,000 words per minute.
Now, I don't know any reason for thinking that the majority of the Court (or even any Justice thereof) "hates" women like Ann Beeson -- with the possible exception of the 4,000 word per minute part. These guys aren't spring chickens, and I'm sure their hearing isn't what it used to be. And my students -- who are a lot younger -- think that I talk too fast, and I don't talk as fast as Ann Beeson.

This is no big deal in a way: Lithwick is obviously engaging in hyperbole for effect (4000 wpm being about 10 times as fast as the famous FedEx commercial guy could go if memory serves). But she's sneaking in the suggestion that the majority of the court hates women and smartness (doubtful) along with the notion that they hate liberals (Beeson's more libertarian than shockingly liberal, in many ways, actually) and the unexceptionable one that they hate people who talk too fast. That's not quite a smear, but it's not quite fair reporting, either. At least, if she suspects that there are disguised Taliban on the Court she needs to engage the subject a bit more directly.

I like Dahlia Lithwick, who has interviewed me in the past, but I think this is a bit over the top. I realize that web journalism requires speed (though to bloggers like me, writing for Slate seems almost leisurely). But too much of this kind of stuff leads to, well, Maureen Dowd territory. And nobody wants that.

The other interesting thing about the oral argument she describes is the invocation of Salon.Com as possibly pornographic. What this demonstrates is that neither Beeson, nor Justice Scalia, reads InstaPundit, since if they did they'd know that Salon is home to a sex column containing absolutely no sex! None. Week after week after week.

THE FUNERAL WAS AS LOVELY as such an event can be. There's nothing noble about death, but it can be handled nobly, and in this case it was by all concerned. This obituary from the University of Tennessee student paper is nice, except for their confusing the number of years he taught (40) with his age (er, not actually 40). Normally one must look to The New York Times for such errors. My favorite quote:

"He always kept his door open, even if it was very noisy in the hall. Once someone asked him, how could you concentrate with all of the noise in the hall? And he replied, 'You have to remember I grew up in New York, and I went to school in New York, I used to do my homework on the subway going back and forth to school. I can do mathematics anywhere.'"
This editorial is very nice, too. But that's enough funereal stuff. Back to normal soon.

NO POSTING for a while. The funeral is today. I'll leave you with this poem by Charles Black, which will be read at the service. It's called "Letting Go:"

In the process of letting go the breath
Moment for relieving your eyes' ache,
You see bark patterns, a child's hand
Catching and throwing, next to the tree.

You have to relive all your days
To receive the gift of surprise
At words you didn't quite hear, once riding.
Do what you can; everything will come

In memory if never in experience.
Revisit, retell. Love sounds deeper
Out of time than in time. Act love imperfectly;
You will remember love itself.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL is calling for an investigation of the prison revolt at Mazar-i-Sharif, suggesting that it may have been a massacre. (Those 40 dead guards were apparently just a smokescreen). The reader who sent this says, "Just out of curiousity, I checked Amnesty's website which is completely silent about faits divers on 11 September 2001. Roll over, Noam Chomsky and tell Know-Nothings the news..."

The various "humanitarian" groups haven't exactly covered themselves with glory since 9/11, now have they? Between demands for a bombing pause (which as it turns out would have delayed food aid and caused thousands, at least, to starve), waffling moral equivalence, and occasional financial fraud in relief funds, it's been a pretty sorry spectacle. I hope we'll see a bit more scrutiny of these groups, whose politics and competence are both open to question.

ANOTHER CLUNKER OF AN OPED FROM THE GUARDIAN. This is what they've been reduced to whinging about: DNA tests at Ground Zero. As the reader who forwarded the link notes, 'You always know where you are with someone who refers to a crime scene investigation as "meta-language."'

D'OH! Kerry Kennedy Cuomo's unflattering comparison between the Bush administration and RFK's tenure as Attorney General may be the political blunder of the year. Not only did it come across as cheesy, partisan, and ungrateful -- which it was -- but it inspired columns like this one by Steve Chapman on Bobby Kennedy's less-than-impressive record on civil liberties while Attorney General.

BUSH AS FDR? That's the theme, more or less, of this oped in the Washington Post. You'll never guess who's making the comparison, though, which is the real news item here as far as I'm concerned.

11/27/2001

NOTHING MORE for a while. I'm boiling eggs.

READER LISA SCHELL WRITES:

I'm a bellicose female. Before, but especially since September 11, I've followed FoxNews, CNN, NPR, the AP wire,Opinionjournal, international news Sources, Instapundit, and every news source I could find over the air or the net, ad nauseum.

The fact is, even if one's serious about world events and political action, some perspective and levity is required. And the networks just don't do anything really funny or laughter-forcing anymore.

I'm dying for diversion and a really good belly laugh-- one that comes without political-correctness, Political messages, scatological humor or sexual innuendo. Some plain silliness, something that helps release the day's worries and refreshes for the next. Wish I'd caught the Carol Burnett Special.

Gee, I'm sounding like the majority of us, the non-self-important-and anxious-to-keep-my-media-exposure types-- "flyover country". Sometimes we need a party, we need a disco, we need some fooling around.

Can I giggle now?

As Lisa notes, the Carol Burnett special pulled a giant share. Of course, it was hard to find humor that met Lisa's requirements before 9/11, too.

CLONE WARS: Chris Mooney takes on some dumb arguments (or rather non-arguments) against cloning.

CLONING: Here's a link to some thoughts on a cloning ban that you may find interesting.

READER ANDY FREEMAN WRITES, about the Newsweek story on Flight 93 that I mention below:

You quoted Newsweek as saying
> It began with a group of citizen soldiers on Flight 93 who rose up,
> like their forefathers, to defy tyranny.

As I remember, no one in that group was a member of the National Guard, let alone the standing US Military. If they are soldiers of any kind, they are members of the "well-regulated militia". It sure looks like they were helpful to the cause of "a free state".

I note that whenever BigMedia criticizes an armed force (apart from the US military), it usually calls that force a "militia". "Good" armed forces are called "police" or "army."

Yep. I said the shift in tone with this piece was interesting.

AHA! An alert reader sends word that my Boston Globe piece on the Second Amendment is now up on their website here. Jack Rakove's piece is here. Look fast -- they usually take stuff down in 48 hours.

HERE'S THE NEWSWEEK STORY based on the United Flight 93 voice recorder transcripts. The facts are interesting, but really just flesh out what we already knew. But read this lead-in paragraph and ask yourself if you would have read anything like it in Newsweek in, say, August:

Osama bin Laden is said to have thought that the United States has become soft and weak (a judgment he may have been reconsidering as he fled from cave to cave last week, chased by U.S. commandos and bombers). Bin Laden is also reported to be deeply historical, to recall with immediacy the struggles and triumphs and humiliations of the Islamic world of a century or a thousand years ago. He might have been wise to have learned more about the historical willingness of Americans to die for liberty. The first American flag flown by the patriots of the early Revolutionary War was not the Stars and Stripes but a banner showing a coiled snake, with the inscription don’t tread on me. America’s latest war for freedom did not begin with a speech by George W. Bush or a cruise-missile attack on a terrorist-training camp in Afghanistan. It began with a group of citizen soldiers on Flight 93 who rose up, like their forefathers, to defy tyranny. And when they came storming down the aisle, it wasn’t the Americans who were afraid. It was the terrorists.
Don't get me wrong -- I like this. But this sort of evocative writing was present before 9/11 only in places like The American Rifleman. Another sign of the cultural sea change that has taken place.

It's right, too. Flight 93 was a huge defeat for the terrorists not only because it prevented an attack, but because it made Americans feel like they could fight back. As Brad Todd wrote, years of terrorist planning were undone in 109 minutes by ordinary Americans with cell phones.

The real question is, why are we now relying on Barney Fife/SS security measures and, as Neal Boortz reports today, screeners who blatantly steal from passengers, instead of taking advantage of the American characteristics that Newsweek extols? Because it makes bureaucrats feel important, perhaps?

BEST OF THE WEB SAYS ANDREW SULLIVAN WAS SNOOKERED by the "UsQueers.Com" hitlist. I got this at the same time as Andrew (in fact, I was cc'ed on the same email) but it looked fishy to me. When I saw it on AndrewSullivan.Com I assumed that he had checked it out. (He has more sources in that area than I do). Apparently, though, it's a hoax.

Hey, everyone gets snookered occasionally. I don't blame Andrew. I'm sure somebody will fool me with one of these things sooner or later. Just remember: the test isn't whether you make mistakes, because everyone does. It's what you do once you realize you've made a mistake. Sullivan posted a note on its likely-fake nature at 1:12 AM, just hours after he had posted the original item.

UPDATE: A reader writes that the owner of UsQueers.Com is in fact a gay activist, who appeared on the Michael Medved show yesterday, and who, he says, held some Baptists hostage a few months back. Er, okay. Maybe Andrew's not so far off base after all. I'll update again if I find out more.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This story makes the UsQueers connection explicit.

READER BILL RUDERSDORF WRITES:

What I have in mind is a point-by-point
comparison of Bellesiles' chicanery with that of David Irving. A lefty pseudo-academician and a Nazi apologist should share the same dungeon, as they are sharing the same techniques:

a.. They both seem to have a good command of obscure material: one distant
in time, the other hard to get and in another language.
b.. They both selectively quote.
c.. They both misquote.
d.. They change or obscure context.
e.. Their citations are one-sided; material which would support the
opposite interpretation is surpressed or obscured.
f.. They pretend to be scholars, operating under the strictest honor.
g.. Their stories (and their supposed facts) seem to change with time.

What do you think?

I'm not actually all that familiar with David Irving, whom I tend to confuse with Clifford Irving, who authored (if I recall correctly) a phony Howard Hughes diary, so I'll pass this comparison along and let readers decide if the shoe fits.

READER Steve Gerow adds:

Re Bellesiles--what about the glowing reviews in the Atlantic & Economist? Nary a peep outta them either.

A friend heard Bellesiles interviewed on NPR a couple of weeks ago. The friend is unaware of the controversy and was telling a group of us about an interview he heard with an author on NPR who was saying guns weren't at all common in Revolutionary America. A couple of us asked him if the interviewer
had asked the author about his sources or about the controversy at Emory U. It wasn't even mentioned.

There should be more flak for and in the media--this one is being ignored because they got conned. What Bellesiles was saying was just...too good to check!

Bully for the Globe--they're the only one with any balls!

I hadn't heard the NPR item, but it's appalling that they would be presenting Bellesiles' work that way. Either they're too dumb to know about the problem, or they know and don't care. Either one is pretty damning.

Hey, if you don't like the way these guys are covering this stuff, write 'em and say so.

UPDATE: A bevy of readers emailed me the NPR program information. Dee Ann Abel was first:

Search "Arming America" on the npr.org home page. Your friend was on "Fresh Air" on September 26th. I'm about halfway through it now, and it's an uncritical, fawning interview. Pretty disappointing - I consider Terri Gross to be an excellent interviewer.
"Uncritical" and "fawning" pretty much describes the treatment that Bellesiles has gotten from most of the bigname media outlets. But September 26th was two weeks after Melissa Seckora's piece in the National Review Online came out, and after the Boston Globe piece came out. What, these people don't look their guests up on NEXIS?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Michael Kuhl writes: "FYI the "Fresh Air" interview is from September
*2000* (as in about a year ago). Terri was fawning over Bellesiles when fawning over him was cool." Okay. But they still shouldn't have rerun the interview without noting the controversy.

HASHEMITE RESTORATION UPDATE: The idea is gathering steam. The Sauds should be bending over backwards -- hell, just bending over -- to demonstrate their cooperativeness right about now.

SALON SEXWATCH UPDATE: Another week, another Salon sex column with no sex. Nope, none. Again. Meanwhile Rachael Klein over at the Daily Cal tells us that she's "feeling uncharacteristically G-rated." That means her column is about. . . the joys and benefits of masturbation. Oh, right, that's "G-rated." Well, maybe for Rachael's column (sample quote: "There is no such thing as too much masturbation. This is a widely believed myth and is only used to frighten people into dousing their masturbatory fires. Let me reiterate that—you cannot masturbate too much.") Salon should drop its current sad charade and just hire Klein to write a real sex column.

They need to do something. Otherwise I shall taunt them some more, next week.

READER STEVE SIMPSON WRITES:

Gary Wills once criticized the wealth of Second Amendment scholarship in law reviews on the ground that law reviews are not "refereed journals" like the historical journals in which he, and presumably Bellesiles, publish (might have been in his book "A Necessary Evil," or maybe even the NY Times review of Bellesile's book). So much for scrupulous academics.

Tendentious academic orthodoxy: 0; decentralized, free-wheeling marketplace in ideas: 1.

Yes. As I point out below, Amazon.Com's readers caught onto Bellesiles over a year ago, while The New York Times still hasn't admitted that the fawning review (written by Wills) that it ran back then entirely missed the book's problems.

DEBT FORGIVENESS: helping the third world, or letting corrupt and incompetent governments escape the consequences of their actions? That's the question, as Andrea See notes in her customary pithy fashion.

NEW YORK TIMES QUESTION: The scandal over Emory historian Michael Bellesiles' bogus research has been covered in the National Review, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and elsewhere. But, so far, there hasn't been a word in the New York Times.

The Times was all over the story of Mount Holyoke historian Joseph Ellis who was disciplined for lying about serving in Vietnam. But, as the Times was careful to note, the integrity of Ellis's scholarly work was never questioned. (In fact, the reporter on the Ellis story went to the trouble of emailing me to stress that point.) In Bellesiles' case, the integrity of his scholarly work is precisely what is at question, something that would seem far more important than classroom puffery. And the Times even gave Bellesiles a glowing review from Garry Wills, which was repeated -- after problems with his research were widely reported -- when the book came out in paperback in September.

Say, could that be it? Could the Times not want to admit that its review process is less rigorous than Amazon.Com's?

I'M LISTENING TO NPR on cloning right now, and the story is pretty good -- throwing cold water on the media's George-Lucas-inspired "attack of the clones" hysteria -- and explaining that what's really going on is growing some cells in a dish.

I've gotten some emails on this, and I plan to post something longer today if I get the chance. But it's catch-as-catch-can around here at the moment, so it'll be later.

SHARON ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT: This hasn't gotten much play as far as I can tell. Interesting tidbits:

The group said Israeli security forces arrested three members of a five-man cell before they had a chance to attack Sharon's home in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City.

One of those arrested lived next door to Sharon's home and allegedly recruited residents with Israeli identity cards to join the cadre, Israel Radio said.

Okay, first, Sharon lives in the Muslim Quarter? That seems like, uh, a security risk. Second, he's got Palestinian assassins living next door? Okay, they got caught, so I guess I can't entirely view this as a failure of the Israeli security services, but still.

11/26/2001

DALE AMON TAKES ON THE BBC and other nattering nabobs with an almost Hitchensian brio.

READER CHRIS FOUNTAIN WRITES:

Didcha notice that every station played the same tape today purporting to show the Marines loading up into a helicopter and heading off to join the battle? (Look for the guy carrying a bulky yellow-rubber duffel bag - he's ubiquitous). Only the Mcneal or is it Leher? report identified the film as tape of a training exercise which occurred on November 20th. Not a huge deal, but it's deceptive and obnoxious. There's no need to phony up footage, yet everyone's doing it. New Journalism indeed.
No, I haven't watched enough TV the last couple of days to notice that. But I've seen similar stuff before. There was one clip of Israeli tanks on the West Bank that kept being rerun for years, and, if I recall correctly, even did duty as purported footage of American tanks once or twice during the Gulf War before somebody complained and they pulled it.

MY BOSTON GLOBE PIECE ON THE SECOND AMENDMENT isn't available on their website, but you can read it here. The version I've posted is probably not quite the same as the one that ran in the Globe -- this is the last version I sent them, but they made a few minor edits. Close enough, however. This was part of a colloquy with Jack Rakove, a professor of law and history at Stanford. I can't reproduce his piece, because (1) I don't have it; and (2) I don't own it.

MATT WELCH'S WIFE, PLAGIARIZED? Sure sounds like it. How come nobody ever plagiarizes me? I guess for the same reason that burglars left my wife's 486DX2/66 computer on the office floor when they realized what they were stealing. . . .

SENDING IN THE MARINES: It's probably necessary to finishing the job in Afghanistan. But it also accomplishes a few other things. First, it puts paid to the argument that the United States won't send in ground troops when it's angry -- and the competence and ferocity that I expect the Marines to show will make an excellent contrast to the ineffective Arab and Pakistani troops of al Qaeda. Second, it provides some on-the-job training for a military that hasn't seen a shooting war in ten years. You can bet that this will come in handy in future actions in Somalia, the Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, or -- my guess -- maybe even Algeria, which I think will turn out to have played an underappreciated role.

DIANE FRANCIS has an interesting column on the difference between Islam and Arabism. Or maybe I should say Arab authoritarianism. Guess which one is really behind our problems?

The call for a Holy War has nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. Fanatical Muslim Arabs have infiltrated its clergy and offer followers the same dictatorial ruthlessness as exists in Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Kuwait.

Skeptics who feel there is something intrinsically wrong with Islamic theology should consider the following facts.

A businessman friend recently returned from a trip to Indonesia where he met with its President Megawati. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country and there is virtually no support there for bin Laden, the Taliban or other "Arab" causes.

The second-largest Muslim group happens to be the 155 million Muslims who live in India. This massive minority has likewise been totally indifferent to the call for Holy War.

The same applies to Muslims in Turkey and Nigeria and Pakistan as well as the "stans" of the former Soviet Union such as Tajikistan or Turkmenistan, which are part of America's coalition.

Put another way, if this was a pan-Islamic movement, every Muslim country in the world would have exploded with grassroots support for the cause. If this was a pan-Islamic movement, the Afghans would have resisted attempts to unseat the Taliban. Instead, the rapid toppling of that government reveals that the Afghans, like Arabs in other Muslim nations, merely want and deserve liberation from their unacceptable dictatorships.

The only long-term solution is democratic revolution in the Muslim world and the toppling of most Arab regimes.

This Ledeen-like analysis sounds right to me, and it seems to be catching on. It's going to take more than 4-page ad buys to stave it off, too.

ACCORDING TO THE TELEGRAPH, Flight 93 passengers almost saved the plane. This is based on flight-recorder tapes. Interesting reading.

MICHAEL LEDEEN CONTINUES HIS PROVOCATIVE ANALYSIS of Iran and other mideast countries.

Iran is ready to blow sky-high. The Iranian people need only a bright spark of courage from the United States to ignite the flames of democratic revolution.

Similarly in Iraq, opposition groups have exposed glaring weaknesses in Saddam's oft-celebrated security apparatus. Over the past month, Iraqi opposition groups have carried out numerous acts of sabotage, striking at oil refineries, pipelines, and police headquarters. During the Thanksgiving weekend, a Shiite resistance organization claimed to have hit one of Saddam's palaces in Baghdad with a mortar shell.

I hope that the right people in the NSC are reading Ledeen.

THE DEA: BLOWING SMOKE?

In California, the DEA has been seizing the medical records of medical-marijuana patients and destroying the marijuana gardens of AIDS and cancer victims. Since September, the DEA has raided and uprooted a marijuana garden in Ventura County, raided and seized the patient records of a medical research facility in El Dorado County, and shut down the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center in West Hollywood. (There, DEA agents seized some 400 marijuana plants, and the medical files of several thousand current and former patients. They even took the mix the center used to make marijuana brownies.) . . . .

The issue is whether going after medical marijuana is a wise use of limited resources, especially in a Republican administration — and very especially when we're in a real war, rather than just trying to reduce some domestic problem like poverty or inflation or drugs and calling it a "war."

Authors Dave Kopel and Mike Krause say that "the medical-marijuana issue should be a poster child for federalism." Yep, and as they note, Candidate Bush said that it ought to be a decision for the states. Given our priorities now, why are federal law enforcement agents wasting their time on brownies for sick people?

JUST ABOUT TO HIT 725,000 in total traffic. Hmm. Maybe I should come up with a prize for the millionth visitor. Walter Shapiro suggested lunch with John Ashcroft to discuss civil liberties, but I'm not sure I can deliver that, or that it would help. Maybe an InstaPundit coffee mug?

MOON MINER'S MANIFESTO? This article explores growing interest in lunar mining. This stuff is gradually moving from the world of science fiction to the world of reality, just like, well, computers, cloning, biotechnology, etc. The future arrives every morning.

SEYMOUR HERSH UPDATE: A reader points out that the numerous casualties that Seymour Hersh reported from the Kandahar raid still haven't appeared. Could they have been covered up this long? Or did Hersh fall for a line?

CBS PRODUCER STEVE FRIEDMAN DOESN'T CARE ABOUT THE POLLS that show the public doesn't like or trust, well, guys like him. Hmm. I guess I'd take this more seriously if (1) it werent' such obvious sour grapes (does anyone think he'd say this if the polls were 90% positive?); and (2) if TV news folks didn't make so much of polls, even obviously meaningless or slanted ones, all the time.

The other thing is, Friedman thinks the press is unpopular because it's asking "tough questions." But I think the press is unpopular because it's asking stupid questions -- and because its questions often betray a bias that they think people are too dumb to notice. Reading Friedman's comments, I don't think it's the audience that's dumb.

EXCELLENT OBSERVATION FROM PATRICK RUFFINI:

Since September 11, we have devoted all of our energies, spending billions of dollars and federalizing thousands of workers, to prevent an exact replica of the hijackings. What we don't realize is the heroes on United 93 already solved that problem for us. Their actions, not our hubristic legislation, dealt the hijacking industry a death blow. Instead of focusing on the ways terrorists could attack next, including an infiltration of ground crews, we seek to reinvent the wheel by attacking yesterday's problem.
Attacking yesterday's problems is a hallmark of "security" planning; it was the focus on 1970s-style hijackings (aimed at TV coverage and usually involving few or no fatalities) that made the system vulnerable to the 9/11 attacks. I keep saying, air security is a joke -- and has to be by its very nature. What's happening in Kandahar right now -- and what happened in Mazar-i-Sharif this weekend -- is doing more to protect us than any number of airline screeners.

MICHAEL BELLESILES UPDATE: Melissa Seckora has a devastating piece on Michael Bellesiles' wholly inadequate response to critics' claims that data in his book Arming America are false or fabricated. Bellesiles, she reports, keeps changing his story, and has mostly answered criticisms that haven't been made, while failing to answer the very serious allegations (such as purported reliance on data that were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake) that actually have been made. "Even when Bellesiles comes close to giving some sort of explanation for his inaccurate gun counts, he manages to give responses that are directly contrary to ones he has given before, and are still wrong." As Seckora reports, Emory University's history department is investigating, and Emory faculty are beginning to express concerns with Bellesiles' work publicly. It seems about time.

DOMESTIC TERRORISM: antiabortion wacko Neal Horsley says that fellow antiabortion wacko Clayton Waagner is behind the phony-anthrax attacks on abortion clinics.

I don't know whether to believe either of these guys. They're certainly capable of such acts morally, and they're probably up to the task of stuffing an envelope and putting a stamp on it. Does this story make the "domestic terrorism" explanation for the real anthrax attacks more or less likely? I'm not sure. And this could all be bragging, or misdirection, or who knows what.

AS I WROTE EARLIER, there's nothing noble, natural, or desirable about death. It's merely, so far, unavoidable. One area of science with a lot of promise for extending people's lives -- and, just as important, increasing the quality of those extended lives -- is therapeutic cloning. Need a new heart, liver, prostate, whatever? Scrape some cells off, grow a new one in a jar, and implant it. There are no rejection problems, since it's genetically yours. There are no ethical problems about competition for scarce donor organs (bioethicists tend to like these, since they empower bioethicists to make "tough decisions," but those waiting on the lists generally feel differently), and there are no issues -- as is increasingly the case in China and elsewhere -- about harvesting organs for donation from prisoners, etc.

The people trying to make a big ethical hoo-hah about therapeutic cloning don't deserve much attention. Even if you agree with them (as I don't) that cloning of entire individuals is morally suspect, it's hard to see the deep moral problems associated with growing a new heart in a jar.

Of course there are those, like Leon Kass, who simply think that it's a bad thing for people to live longer, healthier lives and that it's desirable for us to die at around 70. To them I simply say: you first, Leon.

Others see this technology as, somehow, related to abortion. To that my basic response is "huh?"

And some see it as a slippery slope to human cloning. This isn't quite so stupid, but it's close. After all, we don't see heart transplants as a slippery slope to a Nivenesque world of forced organ transplants from the weak to the strong, even though that is already happening in China.

This issue is a slam dunk in favor of research. It's bad for people to die. It's good for people to live long, healthy lives. People who say otherwise aren't taking an ethical position. They are pro-death, in the most literal sense of the word.

UPDATE: Just ran across Ken Layne's take on all this. Beautiful.

EDWARD LUTTWAK WARNS that humanitarian agencies aren't part of the solution, but part of the problem:

The only way of overcoming the political fragmentation that is already causing frictions - and might explode in violence - is to reward co-operating local leaders with a flow of aid to their own people, while denying aid to troublemakers. That obviously requires central control of aid to Afghanistan, so that it can be channelled to preserve the peace, as well as to bring urgent help to a long-suffering population.

But if the dozens of competing NGOs now clamouring to enter are allowed in, each warlord will acquire his own supply of food for his men, and also a steady source of cash, by way of protection money.

That is what aid organisations do: to follow the television cameras inside conflicted countries, to obtain the publicity that keeps contribution flowing and the aid organisations in business, they pay off local warlords and mere gang leaders in transactions thinly masked as "escort fees", while feeding their warriors.

When unarmed aid operatives are handing out food and other help, men in arms are bound to be the first claimants on anything going. Aid organisations, in the odour of sanctity, thus serve as the quartermasters of civil war, as they did in Somalia most notoriously.

This is absolutely right -- and while it wouldn't be fair to say that this phenomenon hasn't been covered at all by the press, it would certainly be fair to say that it hasn't been covered much. (This is in part, I theorize, because there is a lot of dating between aid workers and journalists in these troubled areas).

The aid groups will scream bloody murder if the U.S. takes control of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, but that's actually probably a good thing. They were screaming bloody murder before, too, and demanding a "bombing pause" that almost certainly would have caused, not prevented, large numbers of deaths from starvation. By cutting the aid groups out of the picture, and publicly stating that following their advice would have killed millions, the United States could accomplish two additional goals: (1) demonstrating to the various "international" groups that propaganda campaigns against the United States can be costly; and (2) diminishing the moral standing of groups whose moral standing needs diminution. All while actually promoting peace and plenty in Afghanistan.

That's what, in my part of the world, we call a "threefer:" three for the price of one.

11/25/2001

TODAY WAS SPENT on funeral arrangements. The funeral home people were better and easier to deal with than the doctors or the St. Mary's hospice people (the latter of whom would barely return phone calls, and never managed to get the last pain medication prescription called in until it was too late). It will be a Jewish (Reform) funeral, on Wednesday.

My father-in-law's name was Julius Smith. He taught mathematics at the University of Tennessee, the same place where I teach law, for 37 years. His most creative and interesting mathematical work, I gather, was done as a consultant for Oak Ridge National Lab, where he worked off and on for many years. He never went anywhere without running into his current and former students – whose names, interests, and spouses he could always remember. They were always glad to see him.

Every Sunday from the time she was born, he came over to spend a few hours with my daughter while my wife and I went to the gym. Both of them looked forward to the time together, and she's still having trouble grasping that he won't come next week.

He had a dry wit, and his cynical – and, as it turned out, usually correct – take on local and national politics had nothing of the goody two-shoes about it. Nor was he a coward or a pushover, by any means: he wasn't somebody to push around. But as his sister said tonight, in his entire life she had never known him to do a single thing that was mean. We'll miss him.

It's really true what they say, that you don't marry a person, you marry their entire family. I'm very happy with the family I married, and they've shown themselves well during the past weeks. I admire them, and love them, for it.

I won't say anymore. This isn't one of those "a day in the life" mezines. Tomorrow I'll be back, as time allows, talking about cloning, military tribunals, and whatever else. I think he'd like that; he approved of InstaPundit. But today I just don't feel like it.

Thanks for all the kind emails and wishes. See you tomorrow.

EVIL BERT: THE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: In which Bert's up-close role in supporting bin Laden is revealed, along with the source of the bin Laden resemblance to certain James Bond villains. Frightening stuff; read it if you dare.

Best quote:

I can't even get Sesame Street. Who knows if they're skimming my residuals? I've plotted intricate global high-finance conspiracies that baffle the SEC and would stump the Lone Gunmen. But even I can't understand those Hollywood profit participation statements!
(Via Samizdata).

IT LOOKS LIKE I WON'T BE DOING MUCH POSTING TODAY. I would link you to the colloquy on the Second Amendment that Jack Rakove of Stanford and I have in today's Boston Globe, but it doesn't appear to be on their website. At least, I couldn't find it. But I know it came out today b/c I got an email from someone there. If you find it, send me a link and I'll try to post it at some point; otherwise I'll put the piece up in its entirety on another page and link to it later -- but not now.

Check out the Reason Online webpage for a bunch of cool stuff, along with the usual suspects on the left under "recommended." I'll be back later. Thanks for all the emails of support and condolences.

MY FATHER IN LAW DIED LAST NIGHT. He was a wonderful man, and will be very much missed by his large family. Don't expect too much in the way of posting today, though as my primary duty is childcare at the moment, I may find some time around the computer later.




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