InstaPundit.Com

1/5/2002

STEPHEN AMBROSE – COPYCAT? That’s the question Fred Barnes raises about Ambrose’s latest book, The Wild Blue. Barnes says that some passages in Ambrose’s book come from a book by Thomas Childers entitled Wings of Morning. Ambrose footnotes the book, but in Barnes' view doesn't give it sufficient credit.

Barnes sets out some parallel passages. I haven’t read either book, so I can’t express an opinion on whether there’s plagiarism, sloppiness, or absolutely nothing at all wrong here. But that’s my point.

Alexander Lindey, author of what is still, after fifty years, the most influential work on plagiarism, warned that “We must be careful. . . not to confuse borrowing with theft.” He also warned against the use of parallels to prove plagiarism.

Employed with probity and intelligence, parallels can be of help – limited help. . . . But the narrow nature of their function must never be lost sight of. They must not be allowed to becloud or eclipse the paramount canon that the crucial test of plagiarism is and must be a reading of the rival works themselves in their entirety.
(The Modern Language Association takes a somewhat stricter approach, but their justification for doing so is dubious, at least outside the realm of student copying). Nonetheless, if similar scandals are any guide, we can be certain that the press will not do that. They will either ignore the matter entirely (because it would be too much work to do otherwise) or they will treat it with a broad brush. This is all the more bizarre given the tendency of the press to recycle press releases, and one another’s stories, without attribution all the time.

If you're interested in this topic in more detail, my 1997 book (coauthored with the estimable Peter W. Morgan), The Appearance of Impropriety: How the Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business and Society has an entire chapter dedicated to plagiarism and the way it is addressed -- or misaddressed -- by the media and pundits.

AN ITEM ABOUT YOU-KNOW-WHO.

THE BELLICOSE WOMEN'S BRIGADE (and InstaPundit) makes an appearance in Mark Steyn's Sunday column in the Telegraph. I like that. I don't like what he says about Britain, and Europe, by way of contrast. I don't think he's wrong, you understand. I just don't like it.

I KNEW IT WAS A BAD IDEA: Earlier I raised -- and immediately dismissed -- the idea of a nude bloggers' calendar, even though such calendars are a huge fundraising fad. But now I know I was right. This is a pic from the Australian Ballet's calendar-promotion and I have to say, I doubt that my fellow bloggers and I can compete. But hey, I've hardly met any of us in the flesh, so I could be wrong, I suppose.

SERGEANT STRYKER discloses the physical fitness requirements for service in an "elite" unit aimed at guarding VIPs' airplanes. Not too rigorous. I know quite a few law professors who could pass this test.

KIDS NEED FREEDOM: An interesting article in the L.A. Times and an even more interesting article from Spiked-Online on kids' need to be unsupervised and unstructured. They're both right. Kids today seem to be supervised constantly. I don't think it's good for them.

JOSH MARSHALL: Formerly a journalist with a blog, he's now a blogger who does journalism! I think this represents some sort of profound change in, well, something.

FRIENDLY FIRE AT COLUMBINE: There has been speculation about this for years, but the parents of one dead teenager now say they have new evidence that he was killed by the police. This is no surprise. The police response was a complete disgrace, and officers admitted "firing into the smoke" without clear targets, which is a major no-no for obvious reasons. Then the department clammed up and it has been withholding information ever since.

BEST BLOG SLOGAN NOMINEE: "Standing athwart History, yelling "Yee-Haw!"

A VARIETY OF INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS on The Daily Dose are worth your time.

ANDREA SEE offers pictures of her tattoos, along with thoughts on a career in pornography.

JAY ZILBER explains why Paul Krugman doesn't get it when it comes to class envy in America.

A READER WRITES THAT HE'S NOT TRYING to "revive the whole Cornel West thing," but forwards a link to this Salon story by Earl Ofari Hutchinson that isn't very kind to West, Jackson, etc. It's one of their lame "premium" stories, but the freebie into is enough to give you the flavor, I think.

Note to Larry Summers: you're caving to a guy who can't even get a sympathetic treatment in Salon?

A WONDERFUL POINT FROM EVE KAYDEN:

It is completely absurd to say that the Taliban at least brought order and security to Afghanistan. The fact that all the criminals are organized into one group and called "government" does not mean that there is no crime.

The Taliban brought to Afghanistan order in that no woman ever dared show her face. They brought security in that a citizen could at any time be accused of blasphemy and stoned to death. They brought safety in that the price for theft (execution or mutilation) was higher than the expected benefit (a couple loaves of bread).

Yes, bring peace and safety to Afghanistan. But don't say you bring their return.

Kayden also asks "Where are all the non-libertarian bloggers?" Well, Mickey Kaus, Josh Marshall, & Jonah Goldberg certainly count. (Okay, Goldberg is only a blogger in his more stream-of-consciousness moments). And I don't think Matt Welch and Ken Layne call themselves libertarians, though it's true that I don't see a lot of daylight between them and libertarians lately. But that's partly a function of what the issues are. Some recent adopters of InstaPundit seem to think that I'm a "conservative," but they only think that because they've been reading my posts on the war and Cornel West. (Go back and read my posts on the Justice Department or cloning and you may be disabused of that notion.)

What bloggers are more than anything, I think, is anti-idiot. That makes life tough for Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, and the Revs. Falwell, Robertson, Jackson, & Sharpton, for reasons that transcend traditional partisanship and ideology.

BABYLON BROTHER: My brother the historian has this observation on the "loser pays" approach to criminal trials:

Under Hammurabi's Code, anyone falsely accusing someone of a crime was to be punished as if they had themselves been guilty. False murder accusation? Oops...

Of course, under Hammurabi, the state was also liable for damages if they failed to find who was responsible for the crime against you. "I'm sorry we didn't get your car back. Here is $25k." That sounds pretty good until you think about what happens when the state decides they have to find SOMEBODY to be guilty.

Yes, the second-order effects of all these reforms bear thinking about.

I've spent the day at "Harry Potter" with my 6-year-old, and I'm headed out again, but I'm going to post more of the many excellent responses that the "loser pays" post inspired.

And, on another point, why are so many Chinese people trying to send me viruses? And I mean, like, a lot of Chinese people.

SHOUTING "LAGER, LAGER, LAGER" -- This piece from OpinionJournal decries the demise of traditional English beer, and beer culture, in favor of blander, lighter brews -- and patrons. Don't blame the corporate influences, the author says. Blame the blander customers. Sadly, I think he's right.

THE U.S. VICTORY IN AFGHANISTAN is empowering Egyptian moderates, who are calling for the end of censorship, which they "accuse of promoting backward values and bolstering religious, sexual and political taboos." Calling Islamic fundamentalism "backward" -- something that moderates have done for decades, but not very loudly in recent years -- is itself a major indicator of how this is playing. Victory: the best propaganda.

KEN LAYNE follows up his rant on Cornel West with one on Pat Robertson.

SURPRISINGLY, a lot of people like my idea of applying "loser pays" to the government -- though one lawyer who represents governments says it should work both ways.

Personally, I think that in a criminal case it should be mandatory. As the criminal justice system works now, it's really a species of "taking." Consider: if the government chooses to prosecute me, I can (1) spend a lot of money to prove myself innocent; or (2) go to jail. (They won't provide me a lawyer unless I'm poor, which I'm not). My paying for my lawyer is an integral part of the process of justice, which benefits society as a whole, and I'm essentially forced to do it. (When the alternative is going to jail, "forced" isn't too strong a word.)

Perhaps, if I'm guilty, then the legal fees should be considered part of the punishment. But if I'm innocent? The government has just forced me to spend a lot of money to ensure the efficient function of the justice system. (Prosecutors, remember, aren't supposed to want to see the innocent convicted, so they're as much beneficiaries of my defense as I am.) The efficient functioning of the justice system is a public good. We're not supposed to take private property for the public good unless we provide "just compensation" to the owner.

But if I'm an innocent defendant, where's my "just compensation?" Oh, the McDade Amendment (which the Justice Department absolutely hates) lets me recover my legal fees if I can show that the prosecution was harassing, malicious, etc. But that's only part of the problem (and recoveries here are hard to come by anyway). What if I'm just a poor schlub? I can be -- probably will be, unless I'm loaded -- financially ruined, only to get a "sorry, sucker, but at least you don't have to go to jail" at the end.

When you add to this the enormous financial resources of the government, and the absence of any market discipline -- or, usually, any political discipline except in high profile cases -- then a "loser pays" rule in criminal prosecutions seems fair to me. Any thoughts?

I DON'T THINK I LIKE THIS: There's been a ruling in the FBI/Scarfo keyboard-sniffing case. The court upheld the keyboard sniffing. It's not this particular decision that I don't like so much as the pattern that seems to be appearing. Where new technologies push the envelope, the benefit of the doubt is going to the establishment (FBI, RIAA, MPAA) in every case. New surveillance technologies fall outside old protections. But new copying technologies fall within old prohibitions.

Seems like there's a thumb on the scales here.

1/4/2002

JUSTICE: Indianapolis' war on videogames will cost it -- the city has to pay the legal fees of the operators. As it should. There's a good argument that "loser pays" should always apply to the government. Even (especially?) in criminal cases.

AN AMERICAN HERO IN AUSTRALIA: Hint -- he's a fireman.

I JUST RAN ACROSS this excellent oped on reflexive academic anti-Americanism from the L.A. Times. (I found it via Rand Simberg's site.) It's sensitive, and entirely willing to recognize America's flaws. All the author, Prof. Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman of SDSU, asks is that this recognition be balanced by a recognition of American virtues. Then I searched to see what letters it might have generated. There were a couple of positive ones, and then a negative one from Prof. Charles Crittenden of Cal State Northridge:

[T]he purpose of higher education is to teach the capacity to think and analyze, to take a critical stance toward society and the actions of government. The role of a citizen in a democracy is to question, not simply to accept what authority presents.

So it seems the obligation of the academy is to examine with a critical eye the actions of our government in the present crisis. It is particularly important since, with some notable exceptions, there has been virtually no questioning of policies by the mainstream media. There has been no serious discussion of the alternatives to war, the role the U.S. should have vis-a-vis the United Nations, the extension of military activities beyond Afghanistan or the serious repression of dissent and undermining of rights by the administration.

And there's the problem. Too many people, especially academics, confuse being critical with thinking critically. But they are only sometimes the same thing -- and they are never the same thing when the criticism is reflexive rather than reflective.

UPDATE: See these letters to the editorfrom Saturday for more on that theme.

EVERYBODY'S GETTIN' INTO THE ACT! Now Slate's Inigo Thomas, who was defending Cornel West day before yesterday, is dissing his rap CD, too.

"In all modesty," the site says, "this project constitutes a watershed moment in musical history." One doesn't hear that everyday, even from Mariah Carey. . . . That West has produced an album may be a watershed in academic musical history, but in musical history in general this seems a boast too many.
Indeed.

Okay, enough of this. I may link to any new developments, but otherwise I'm leaving this alone barring something truly bizarre. I shall dis Cornel no more, forever.

Probably.

UPDATE: Okay, I'm done dissing West, but Ken Layne has just started, with a wonderful explanation of why Magic Johnson is better than Cornel West (and he's not talking basketball), among other things. Note that chain bookstores/coffeehouses play a role.

THE EVOLUTION OF PURPOSE? Neural-net software in an artificial-life experiment has evidenced what some experts call purposive behavior -- that is, motivation, not simply "reflex." Other experts are less convinced that true motivation, rather than simply better information processing (yeah, yeah, you know what I mean), was involved. This software is intended to provide intelligent agents for use on the web in a few years. Do we really want them to develop their own motivations? Do we even want them to be capable of evolving?

EVERYONE HATES RECORD COMPANIES NOW and politicians are starting to notice. Here's my favorite: Rep. Rick Boucher wants to know how the record companies can simultaneously copy-protect CDs and collect royalties on sales of blank recording media. Uh, by being greedy bastards? Chortle. Here's the gist:

A 1992 law allows music listeners to make some personal digital copies of their music. In return, recording companies collect royalties on the blank media used for this purpose. For every digital audio tape (DAT), blank audio CD, or minidisc sold, a few cents go to record labels.

"I am particularly concerned that some of these technologies may prevent or inhibit consumer home-recording using recorders and media covered by the" Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA), Boucher wrote. "Any deliberate change to a CD by a content owner that makes (the allowed personal copies) no longer possible would appear to violate the content owner's obligations."

The Capitol Hill attention is a potentially daunting sign for recording companies, which are becoming bolder in their efforts to keep consumers from making unauthorized copies of CDs. Each of the major record labels has said it is looking at several versions of new anti-copying technology; in particular, Universal Music Group executives have said they want to protect a large proportion of their new releases as soon as midyear.

I think some enterprising class-action plaintiffs' lawyer should sue and demand that they disgorge all their blank-media royalties, or something equally rotten. Serves 'em right, as they're rather fond of baseless lawsuits themselves.

TENNESSEANS ARE AS HAPPY AS IF THEY'D WON THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP! Why? Because Steve Spurrier is resigning. The only unhappy folks are the merchants around here stuck with a bunch of the "Will Rogers Never Met Steve Spurrier" t-shirts.

CORPORATE WELFARE AND UNQUALIFIED HELP: Michael Lynch has a good piece on the disastrous air-safety legislation.

LOTS OF COOL NEW STUFF on Andrew Sullivan's page. I especially like his response to Mike Kinsley's latest, but it's the juxtaposition of quotes about "God's protection" being withdrawn that makes the day.

TIRED OF CORNEL WEST ITEMS? TOO BAD! I got an email from reader Ted Barlow, who wins the prize for being the first complaint after weeks of Cornel West coverage:

I don't know enough about West to debate this statement, but I haven't seen any evidence for it. I see is a series of conservative pundits picking on West for the fact that the CD is lame and his web page is immodest (no argument). But I haven't seen anything at all that makes me think that West sees it as scholarship. Or that he considers it his main scholarly output. Why is his rap CD so different from your techno music? Why is your music a hobby and his music an embarrassment, other than the fact that some people are trying to embarrass him about it?
I'm tempted to argue that it's because his music is an embarrassment, but I guess Barlow's pretty much admitted that. The answer is that West, in fact, does intentionally blur the lines, and presents the music as the outgrowth of his unique insights into black American culture by virtue of being one of the "most preeminent minds" of our time. And if he thought that Summers was unfairly criticizing a hobby, why did he make it a big University event instead of saying "screw you, Larry -- what I do on my own time is my business!" Which would be the proper response to a University president who criticized a faculty member's hobby.

Reader Nancy Pearce, meanwhile, answers Barlow's question and confirms the "lameness" part -- which even Barlow doesn't disagree with:

Well, I finally gritted my teeth, held my breath and logged onto Dr. (Lord! who gave him a PhD?) West's web site. There's not much I can add to the ongoing analysis of this dung heap of self promotion except to ask, "What's with the statement - "...an educational experience through the traditional African American medium -- music?".

Is it just me or does this statement make it sound as if music is the sole purview of African Americans?

Of course not. Such a statement would be racist.

I promise I'll let up on this stuff soon. But, in the words of St. Augustine, "not yet."

UPDATE: A reader emails me with a reminder of West's helpful American-has-been-"Niggerized" post 9/11 comment. Not strictly relevant, but I suppose it didn't make me think any more highly of him.

(ANOTHER!) CORNEL WEST UPDATE: Rod Dreher pans West's rap CD in NRO, with devastating effect. And Tom Wolfe, suspiciously, appears yet again.

I've said this before, but I feel, somehow, that the very fact that absolutely no one has complained about my continuous coverage of the West affair (whereas I got several complaints over a passing snide remark concerning Prince Charles's architectural pretensions) means I should be extra clear: I don't mind that Cornel West produces rap CDs, even appallingly lame ones, in his spare time. I produce techno music in my spare time, after all. But I don't treat it as my main scholarly output (and, er, it doesn't suck like a bilge pump the way West's rap does, either). For me, it's a hobby, whose only real relation to work is that it does expose me to things that provide useful background knowledge when I teach students Entertainment Law or Internet Law. Professors, like everyone, are entitled to hobbies.

But you're supposed to know the difference between a hobby and scholarship. West apparently doesn't. (Though if you read Leon Wieseltier's assessment of West's scholarship, that may be more understandable).

What's more, it's not that I have hostility to West's area of work. African-American history, culture, and society are at least as interesting as (and frequently more interesting than) other similar subjects of academic study. What I have against West is his combination of sloppiness and narcissism. Like a spoiled but bright kid, he's convinced that whatever he does must be interesting and insightful just because he's done it.

In the hothouse environment of Harvard, where people all too often assume that their mere presence ensures great ideas, and in a program where critics are afraid -- with obvious reason -- that any criticism, however well-founded, might be treated as racism, such an attitude is almost inevitable. And that's bad because good work on the subjects that West deals with, or purports to deal with, would be very valuable. It's too bad that West operates in a structure that makes such work far less likely to occur. And it's too bad that, by caving, Larry Summers may be ensuring that things get no better.

So there. That's why I care about this stuff, even though nobody asked. And if you don't share my concerns, well, you can always stick around for the entertainment value of the whole affair -- which, I'll admit, is damned high.

BTW, West's C-SPAN2 appearance is at 12:00 on 1/6, not at 3:00. Sorry about that.

UPDATE: Prolific reviewer Orin Judd (I think he's #1 on Amazon now) gives West's most famous book, Race Matters, an "F" and provides links to lots of other amusing West-related stuff on his Sociology Reviews page.

ATTENTION JOURNALISTS: (This includes you, Vanessa Leggett, if you're interested. . . ) Mickey Kaus has another edition of his Assignment Desk out, with what look like some pretty good ideas. Though I have to say, where the Porkfest that passes for a "stimulus bill" is concerned, I agree with Bob Dole that "sometimes a little gridlock can be a good thing."

VANESSA LEGGETT UPDATE: She's free at last! As long-term readers know, this has been a steady InstaPundit topic since way back in the hoary old days of, er, August. Glad she's finally out.

As I've said before, her legal position is probably wrong. But what's going on in Houston is basically a political squabble involving the U.S. Attorney, and people shouldn't be in jail for that. And here's the passage that drives me crazy:

Federal prosecutors contend Leggett is not a journalist and so does not get special protection under the First Amendment. Leggett has not published a book or news articles.
Guess what: if she were a journalist, she still wouldn't get "special protection" under the First Amendment because the First Amendment doesn't give journalists special protection. The Justice Department does so, but that's basically a matter of political ass-covering, not constitutional law. Bah. They deserve the grief they've gotten over this case for that reason alone. (Also, interestingly, Legget does have publications -- including an item published by. . . . the Department of Justice!)

WILL WARREN, the Bard of Blogs, has a new poem about rocks from Mars. I like it, despite the occasional resemblance to Dr. Seuss. Oh, who am I kidding -- it's because of, not "despite."

CORNEL WEST ON C-SPAN: Several readers wrote about this, but Dale Leopold's is the funniest:

Just a quick heads-up. Right before Lewis Lapham's segment on CSPAN this morning (pontificating on the dishonesty of the "war" effort, shoulda-been-a-police-action, it's a boon to the military-industrial complex, yadda yadda yadda ad infinitum...), there was a promo for an upcoming "in depth" Booknotes with West this Saturday. Three frickin' hours with the good doctor to discuss his oeuvre. Oh, and they had a clip of him in the recording studio, throwing down. Judging from the number of giggles that this 10-second snippet induced in me, I'd have to say that listening to the whole CD might just be the equivalent of the old Monty Python "killer joke" sketch.

Here's the link to the schedule, but it's January 6 at 3:00 p.m. Watch at your own risk, I guess. Chortle.

UPDATE: By the way, if you missed my original post, you can stream some of his tracks from his site, though beware. . . Of course I listened and survived, but as an academic my tolerance for such things is already superhuman.

THE NOBLEST SACRIFICE: Tennessee's loss to LSU was a noble move, since it may have been a death blow to the now-discredited BCS. At least, we can hope.

MICHAEL BARONE has an interesting column on how Bush has changed the Republican Party.

WE HEAR A LOT ABOUT HOW DUMB American students are. So do people in other countries -- which is why the Germans are horrified to find their students doing worse than ours.

OKAY, THIS IS WEIRD: I can access Andrew Sullivan's newly redesigned site just fine using Explorer, but when I go there in Netscape I see the old site, and no updates since the redesign.

Yes, I know: "Get a real browser, dude." Though I'll note that one of the beauties of Netscape 4.76 is that it's so crappy that it's invulnerable to most worms, etc. That's the motto here at InstaPundit Secret Headquarters: "Your superior intellect is no match for my puny technology!"

UPDATE: Several people have emailed to suggest it's a browser cache problem, but when I use Explorer from the same computer (which I usually don't b/c for some reason it causes problems with my firewall) I get the same thing. Must be an upstream cacheing issue with my main ISP -- I was accessing the site last night from my laptop via a dialup connection.

SAUD DELENDA EST: Earlier I've posted links to Ralph Peters' insightful works in Parameters, the Journal of the Army War College. Now he has a piece in OpinionJournal that's, well, pretty hard on the Saudis. He says they're the root of most of our problems with terrorism. He's right.

AHA! IT'S ALL CLEAR NOW. I've been joking that the Cornel West / Larry Summers feud is really a publicity stunt for a new Tom Wolfe novel. Now reader Sean Hackbarth sends this link to Wolfe's current bio, which indicates (scroll down) that "Wolfe is currently at work on another novel, this one about college life."

1/3/2002

THE WEST/SUMMERS DISPUTE is beginning to look like the India/Pakistan dispute, with both sides backing down rather than face a nuclear exchange. Read the Gates quote at the end of this story and remember: when they say it's not about the money, it's about the money.

Who's the big loser? Well, Cornel West looks like an idiot, but an idiot who can cause trouble. Summers looks like a guy who cares about quality in education, but not enough to fight for it. Overall, Summers loses more, because he wants to accomplish things, while West only wants to continue unmolested in his fiefdom. (That is, of course, the natural advantage of faculty members in conflict with administrators.)

THE TORCH ESCAPES, in a puff of smoke, leaving Mary Jo White with a black eye. How's that for a mixed metaphor?

JOSH MARSHALL is sounding like a Jim Bennett-style Anglospherean in his discussion of why we should support India despite the good things about Musharraf's reformist efforts in Pakistan. Short version: we literally speak the same language.

IMMIGRATION IS GOOD, at least so long as you keep the terrorists out. That's the message of this post by Jason Soon, which references some interesting observations.

FIRST IT WAS SHOEBOMBER RICHARD REID, and now it's this. I remember reading some articles last year about how much we could learn from French law enforcement practices, but I'm beginning to doubt it.

MICHAEL KINSLEY says that we should stop "listening to our inner Ashcroft" (by which he actually means our inner Ari Fleischer) and worrying about what we say, or that it may offend someone.

All I can say is, Kinsley hasn't spent much time on University campuses, or in mainstream newsrooms, these last few years, has he? The Ari Fleischers of the left have been in charge for a while, and even the President of Harvard isn't safe from their attentions.

STILL MORE ON CORNEL WEST: Andrew Sullivan, who appears to have been following the Cornel West affair rather closely, offers a link to this assessment of West by Leon Wieseltier from The New Republic, back in the happy era when Sullivan was its editor. It's brilliant. Check out Andrew's new and more readable site design, too. Here's an excerpt from the Wieseltier piece:

In one of his most troubling utterances, West offers this summary of the recent history of African Americans: "The '60s in African American history witnessed an unforgettable appearance of the black masses on the historical stage, but they are quickly dragged off--killed, maimed, strung out, imprisoned or paid off." Paid off! This, from the burgher on the cover of Race Matters, who appears in his finery on a rooftop in East Harlem. West traveled there to be photographed in the neighborhood of those "black masses." He complains that nine taxis refused to take him from Park and 60th to 115th and First. "My blood began to boil," he recalls. A parable of racism. But he suffered the slights of Park and 60th, as he admits a few lines earlier, because "I left my car--a rather elegant one--in a safe parking lot." So the taxis would not take him where he would not take his car! This is not precisely what Gramsci had in mind.
Indeed. Read the whole thing.

RAND SIMBERG has some thoughts about space policy, and my column on that topic. They're good, though his taste in college fight songs is just what I'd expect from a (cough * loser! * cough) Michigan alumn.

CORNEL WEST UPDATE: His squabble with Larry Summers has made it to The Economist, and the story isn't very flattering to West:

If every professor who backed a lunatic politician were to be sacked, half the interesting minds in academia would be lost. Nobody denies that Mr West is talented. But is his work any good? He is the author of more than a dozen books, some of them serious contributions to his field. But lately he seems closer to becoming a performance artist—and a poor one at that.

His rap album (sample lyric: “No other people in the modern world have had such unprecedented levels of unregulated violence against them”) indicates that the medium is best left to the likes of Snoop Doggy Dogg rather than Harvard professors. His website is shot through with embarrassing boasts and grammatical errors. The section devoted to the rap album begins by stating that “In all modesty, this project constitutes a watershed moment in musical history” (what on earth would the immodest version be?). It describes Mr West as “one of the most preeminent minds of our time” and refers to somebody called “Nietzche”.

So Mr Summers clearly has a point.

The article goes on, however, to suggest that being right and being President may not be enough to enable Summers to prevail. But if he doesn't, it won't just be West's reputation that will suffer. It will be Harvard's. The article concludes: "before he records his next 'watershed moment', the talented Mr West might ponder whether Mr Summers had a point. Meanwhile, Tom Wolfe may just have found the subject of his next novel."

AN ESPECIALLY GOOD LILEKS RANT on cultural chauvinism, competition, and other non-pc things.

IN NORTHERN NIGERIA, they're naming their babies after Osama bin Laden -- though one woman has left her husband rather than see her son named Osama.

Sadly, this is evidence that the Saudi campaign to export Wahabbism to northern Nigeria has borne fruit.

Saud Delenda Est!

A SUPERB TRAVELOGUE -- with UFOs no less -- by Ken Layne. This should be in Rolling Stone.

BTW, the supersecret "Aurora" aircraft is supposed to burn slush hydrogen and other reports fit his description.

THE ONION REVIEWS THE COUP: Maybe they'll review Cornel West next.

CYNTHIA TUCKER IS CALLING FOR A RETURN TO THE DRAFT: Only not so much a military draft as a draft of young people for community service.

I have a better idea. Since we're not primarily interested in getting people for combat, let's not focus on young people. Let's draft middle-aged newspaper editorialists (the chief enthusiasts for such plans) and have them spend a couple of years emptying bedpans, teaching in inner-city schools, etc. Being older and better-educated, they should have more skills. And they seem almost universally in favor of national service schemes, so they shouldn't complain. Right?

MY NEW TECHCENTRAL STATION COLUMN is up now. I even managed to work in a Webb Wilder quote.

I LISTEN TO NEAL BOORTZ SOMETIMES. I've never heard him say anything racist -- unless you're one of those people who believes that, say, criticizing Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton is inherently racist. Boortz stood up very nobly in defense of the Atlanta Braves' "gay day" this summer and endured a lot of abuse from yahoos for doing so. But he's gotten into a fight with Prof. Kim Forde-Mazrui of the University of Virginia Law School that does him no credit. I didn't hear the show in question, but you can read their exchange of emails on Boortz's site.

Boortz, despite being a lawyer, is off-base. When Forde-Mazrui called for the local Charlottesville station to drop Boortz's show, it may have implicated "free speech" in some broad, fuzzy sense, but it certainly wasn't a First Amendment issue, as Boortz claims. Furthermore, I just don't understand this whole business about the Fifteenth Amendment (which Boortz at one point mistakenly calls the Fourteenth Amendment). One might reasonably complain about some of the things the Justice Department has done in enforcing the Fifteenth Amendment, but that's hardly the same thing as complaining about the Fifteenth Amendment itself, which simply guarantees the right of people to vote regardless of race.

It's not entirely clear that that's what Boortz was complaining about, but Boortz's reply is so half-assed that he adds to the confusion rather than dispelling it. Like Cornel West with Larry Summers, Boortz seems a bit too eager to pick a fight here. Maybe he's trying to boost ratings? Or maybe he just went off half-cocked. Anyway, he's wrong here.

Boortz's defenders may say that the likes of Al Sharpton get away with worse all the time, and they'd be right. But I don't think the solution to the double standard is for everyone to sink to the level of Al Sharpton. And Boortz seems to be coming close, here.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

I agree with you -- Neal sometimes picks fights for the sake of picking them, but he is called racist so often that he tends to explode. However, I did notice in the letter from the UVA Prof that he (she?) claims the Emancipation Proclamation was dated 1/1/1861. Lincoln was not yet in office on 1/1/1861, and the Proclamation was in September of 1862. A small point, perhaps, but if you teach law, even if you don't know dates like that, maybe you should double check them before you drop that note to the local radio station.
. You're right. On the other hand, I'm a law professor, and I should've caught it. Not enough coffee, obviously.

THERE'S SO MUCH GOOD STUFF IN Jay Nordlinger's column today that I'm tempted to take the rest of the day off and just send you there. He covers everything from Rumsfeld's popularity, to the American "street" and its dislike of Arab policies, to Korean porn-spam. Read the whole thing.

I don't get that much porn spam; I guess my ISP is good at stopping it. I also don't share Nordlinger's generalized dislike of porn, though I don't understand why anyone would think that some of the porn-marketing techniques work ("I've closed the last 37 pop-up windows and cursed them, but window 38 makes me want to get out my credit-card and give the number to a stranger in Indonesia!"). But I remember back when I was on the board of a nonprofit and a direct-mail consultant told us not to trust our instincts. You know those porcelain collector plates? he asked. You never buy, them, do you? But, he observed, those ads aren't aimed at people like you: they're aimed at the people who do buy porcelain collector plates. And they know their market. I often think of that when I see lame marketing techniques that persist over time.

THE BIGGEST LOSER OF 2001, according to Nick Schulz, is the international treaty as an institution. When I get time, I'm going to write a piece on the decline of respect for international law over the past couple of decades. My guess is that it was oversold, and is now contracting, sort of like the dot-coms. I think that the beginning of the end for the great era of international treaties was the defeat of the 1979 Moon Treaty in the Senate in 1980, which led to the U.S. decision not to move forward with the Law of the Sea Treaty as written, which led to the ABM "reinterpretation," and so on. But international-law enthusiasts didn't heed these signals that the market was becoming saturated, and kept cranking out more and more product, only to find. . . Well, you can fill in the rest.

UH-OH: Unlike the other stories I've read, this story from the Washington Post makes it sound like Summers is caving to West.

If so, his Presidency is over already. He'll be fresh meat for every interest group on campus (see below). You don't pick fights and then surrender.

FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE CITRUS BOWL:

Sorry, Mr. Reynolds. I often check in on the website and usually enjoy it. But as an intellectual I'm going to have to tell you that your idea of the outcome of the Citrus Bowl is mistaken and a product of false consciousness.

It's the same factor operating that shows that even though Rigoberta Menchu's book was a pack of lies from one end to the other it still remains "subjectively true." Considering actual fact demonstrates that you are still in thrall to bourgeois power-structure controls such as "truth" and "knowledge." . . . [Examples relating to Tawana Brawley and Palestinian Authority duplicity omitted for reasons of space]

And so we get to the Citrus Bowl. The idea that Tennessee could possibly have defeated, much less shredded, the scholar-athletes of the University of Michigan cannot possibly come true. Therefore it didn't. Please strive to discard your false consciousness and disabuse yourself of the significance of such dull and quotidian ideas as "scores" and "statistics." Do that and you'll understand the subjective truth of Michigan's glorious victory. Besides, U of M has a much better fight song.

Yours faithfully,
Alex Bensky (Detroit)

Hmm. Bensky sounds a lot like "Chomsky," doesn't it? Probably a pseudonym. And the objective superiority of "Rocky Top" is beyond dispute.

BELARUS, the armpit of Europe, is also its armory for terrorism, according to this piece in the Washington Post.

LOOKING BEYOND THE SURFACE: Mickey Kaus has some interesting angles on the Moussaoui non-plea, and on the West/Summers confrontation -- as well as a lovely slap at Jimmy Breslin.

BELLICOSE WOMEN UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan points up something that I had missed. Buried in this Washington Post story is a mention that Democratic pollster Celinda Lake has found that this is the first war where female support is equal to male support.

That's no surprise to InstaPundit readers, of course, but it's nice to see that this observation is being borne out by the polls. Tremble, Islamofascists everywhere. American women tend to get what they want.

NPR's PHILLIP MARTIN IS REPORTING ON THE SUMMERS/WEST DISPUTE: They're making the point that the Afro-American Studies department opposed Summers' appointment as President all along. Hmm. That puts a new spin on the whole thing, doesn't it?

The story is entirely slanted on West's side, but it doesn't necessarily help his case. They have Jesse Jackson, too, somehow trying to tie Summers to Ashcroft, and Al Sharpton saying that Summers is "interfering improperly" in his campaign, with the implication that former Clinton cabinet member Summers supports George Bush. Puhleez.

Summers needs to stand up to West, or he'll be rolled by every interest group on campus.

UPDATE: Speaking of interest groups: A Harvard reader forwards this link to a Boston Globe story about Summers being pressured to start a Latino Center analogous to the Afro-American Studies center. This strengthens my belief that Summers is playing a deeper game here than the folks at NPR, or Slate, have figured out.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has some interesting observations on basic economics in The New York Times today -- especially as they bear on the book industry.

RECYCLING FOR FUN AND (NON)PROFIT: My latest FoxNews column is up. It's about how activist groups' press releases manage to turn into "objective" news and "independent" opinion pieces. (I've updated the link; some people said the old one didn't work for them, although it worked for me.)

TRAFFIC: 27,300 yesterday, for a new record. Thanks for stopping by!

PATRICK RUFFINI ARGUES that despite the scorn heaped on pundits, "public intellectuals" have actually done better than "pure academics" over the past few years. He says it's because the work of public intellectuals is exposed to outside scrutiny, while the work of insular academics is not.

Provocative, though I'm not sure it's right. He references this review of Richard Posner's book on public intellectuals, which I eagerly await. The review, by Alan Wolfe, isn't especially positive, but I'm not sure that means much.

1/2/2002

MORE ON ARGENTINA: Andrew Hofer has a lot of interesting stuff and links to lots more.

PERRY DE HAVILLAND is bearish on the Euro -- and on Europe -- in this post.

MY EARLIER COMMENTS ABOUT TENNESSEE were a polite way of reminding a reader with whom I had a wager (TN wins, he buys the ad off a blog of my choice; if MI had won, he would have chosen the blog for me to buy the ad off of) that it was time to pay up. He's gotten in touch (I forget that not everyone is online as much as me). Ah, victory is sweet.

MORE ON ARGENTINA from reader Veronica Zunino:

It seems there is a lot of ignorance among your readers regarding Argentina. I don't blame them. It is a large although insignificant country too far South to matter to the US. However, I have always been taught not to talk about something I don't know. It seems your readers should be reminded of that basic premise.

Argentina's situation is primarily responsibility of Argentina. No one can deny that. The political class is corrupt. The management of the economic crisis has been a disaster. There is a complete absence of a
social safety net.

Nevertheless, it would be ridiculous to imagine that the economic policy established almost 10 years ago was an Argentine invention. As the NYT article clearly pointed out, then president Bush demanded such a reform of the Argentine economic system. It worked for a while. Then the political class worked against it. The US only watched it from a distance and then stroke the final blow.

I would be the last person on earth to ask for US intervention of any kind in my country. I know that intervention is not a solution. Truth be told, even if I want it that intervention would never happen given that
the US is not interested at all in such a distant country. However, I don't think it is correct for the US not to recognize its role in this situation. It is time for the US to at least once show some courage and recognize its responsibility. The cost of such an action is no match to the suffering of this country.

Yes, though in truth I'm still somewhat unclear on exactly what the U.S. could do. Here are some options:

1. "Jawboning" in favor of better economic policies: Probably won't help, and will be regarded as interference.

2. Sending bailout money: Just postpones the day of reckoning; that's been going on for a while.

3. Trade action: not likely to make much difference.

Another reader, whose email I can't find in the mass of them that I got today (looks like we'll set a new traffic record, and the email is commensurate) said that the trade policies of the MERCOSUR nations are to blame. I don't know enough to offer an opinion on that.

I think, though, that Americans do care. But there's no very obvious solution in sight.

CORNEL WEST UPDATE: Well, Slate's Inigo Thomas (who still owes me a kill fee from when he was at the late, unlamented George magazine) has picked up on the Cornel West/Larry Summers dispute, though he appears to be utterly in the tank with West.

He does identify the rap record as the cause of the dispute, but mistakenly thinks that the problem is Summers' dismissal of West's lame effort. But it's West who's threatening to leave because his ego is bruised.

Of course, this may be a cunning ploy by Summers to get rid of a bunch of people who aren't doing much for Harvard, but who he could never actually fire. Thomas doesn't give that prospect any ink -- er, electrons -- but maybe he should. Now that would be worthy of an "Idea of the Day."

And where's my damn kill fee?

RICH LOWRY SAYS A MAJOR WAR AIM SHOULD BE TO break the power of Big Oil. I agree.

JONAH GOLDBERG has put down the soft-core porn long enough to write a good column on the new realism in international relations.

HERE'S A LIST OF "BANISHED WORDS" based on overuse, misuse, or general unappealingness. I don't agree with all of them, but some are pretty funny.

READER JACKSON MURPHY WRITES: "Just a quick thought. Since Matt Welch isn't around to count your posting volume, I thought I would point out that it is barely 4 pm your time and you are at 19 posts today. I think you could be heading to a new record. Thanks."

Must be the new Aeron chair. Mmm. Comfy.

THE MOUSSAOUI PLEA: Reader Roger Zimmerman writes:

According to CNN.com Moussaoui stated the following at his plea hearing:

"In the name of Allah, I do not have anything to plea and enter no plea. Thank you very much."

The report goes on to sat that U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema "presumed that meant a plea of not guilty and Moussaoui's lawyer agreed."

I would have liked to see the Judge make a point by responding something along the lines of:

"In the name of Jefferson and Madison, I will interpret that as a not guilty and so enter it."

Some might have thought such a response too flippant for the occassion, but not me.

Indeed.

THOSE NASTY, VENGEFUL AMERICANS: This story tells of a group of New York firefighters and police who stormed Kabul with . . . 29 tons of food and blankets.

Chomsky, et al. must just hate stuff like this -- though I'm sure that by tonight they'll have some argument cobbled together to explain why it's just another form of exploitation.

READER MCCUTCHEON THOMASON wants to know what we'll charge Mullah Omar with if we catch him:

As far as I can figure out, he didn't do anything to us -- directly, at any rate. The best I can come up with is "harboring a fugitive", and I'm not sure of that, but then I flunked out of law school. I suppose "conspiracy", but that seems questionable to me.
Well, "conspiracy" almost always works -- it's what you charge people with when you don't have anything else.

But I suspect the charge will be "levying war unlawfully against the United States," or perhaps "crimes against humanity," or even -- and this is highly plausible and likely to work -- "piracy," a crime that by long tradition allows any nation that can lay hands on the alleged pirate to try said pirate with a minimum of fuss and no worries about jurisdiction. (And conspiring to seize planes is pretty clearly piracy.)

This is speculation on my part, though, as I haven't seen a bill of particulars where the Mullah is concerned.

BERNARD GOLDBERG'S BOOK, BIAS is getting a lot of attention -- including not one, but two pieces in the Wall Street Journal. But this piece from The Idler adds to the chorus with an independent story of how newsies cheered Reagan's near-assassination. I was working in Democratic politics then, and I can attest that there were some people hoping he'd die.

So what? Well, yes. Except that (1) bigshot media like the New York Times and CBS pretend not to be biased -- though I agree with Andrew Sullivan that it's silly for Fox to pretend the same thing; and (2) Democrats are always portrayed in those media as compassionate while Republicans are "haters" (unless they're Paul Gigot, in which case it's newsworthy that they're not haters).

UPDATE: A reader writes:

n re your link to The Idler piece on newsies cheering Reagan's shooting, I saw the very same thing. I was at the time a doctoral student at Rutgers Medical School, and my mother called me at the lab to tell me that Reagan had been shot. Knowing that there was a TV in the medical students' lounge, I walked over to the other building to watch. A group of black medical students were also watching, and cheered and clapped at early (and thankfully erroneous) reports that Reagan was not expected to survive. Without a doubt, the most shameful performance by students entering a profession charged with saving life...
Well, let's just say that "Clinton-hating" didn't really represent a new degree of viciousness in American politics.

A READER FORWARDS THIS STORY ON THE B-52 bomber fleet and why they're still working so well. It's fascinating stuff. I just wish we had more of them.

THERE'S LOADS OF GOOD NEW STUFF AT ADIL FAROOQ'S MUSLIMPUNDIT. Saudis' lack of civil society, media coverage of Islam, the trouble with wahabbism, and more.

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE PALINDROMIC YEAR 2002, and on math education in general.

BTW, one reader wrote to complain about the Pentagon/public schools slogan mentioned below. Of course, it's mostly a cute response to those disarmingly stupid Air Force bake sale bumperstickers. But on the other hand, my local paper ran a feature recently on a program designed to help people in their forties get over math anxiety -- especially fear of fractions. The people in question were all elementary school teachers.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON has some insightful observations (as usual) on what war does, and on who learns from it. I'd heard of him before 9/11, but he definitely falls into the category of people who have thoroughly distinguished themselves over the past few months. This column is a good example of why.

TIM BLAIR HAS ANOTHER Pilger takedown along with some insight on why Kylie Minogue is the opposite of Osama bin Laden. And it's not just the lovely Ms. Minogue's near-complete absence of clothing as contrasted with Osama's rather voluminous wardrobe.

HERE ARE SOME PREDICTIONS FOR 2002 that are worth hoping for. Especially the one about the Oscars.

AND SMALLER BUGS TO BITE 'EM: In what may be the beginning of an infinite regress, Joshua Bittker has set up a blog aimed at criticizing bloggers (especially, it seems, yours truly -- that's okay, I can take it!). Well, this was already getting started with Blogwatch I & II, etc., but will it be a whole new genre? You decide.

FLYING CARS: Boy, every time I mention those things people send me interesting stuff. Reader Ed Driscoll forwards his interview with Syd Mead who designed those cool-looking flying cars for the movie Blade Runner. Mead is not that optimistic about the prospects for flying cars in reality, though. But he does have this interesting observation about transit:

The mass transit system of choice worldwide is the automobile. . . The 'car' will remain viable as long as the 'mass transit' is unreliable, subject to labor strikes, sabotage, anti-personal behavioral controls, ill-conceived routing, poor maintenance, insecure surveillance at off-peak hours, and a magnet for the poor, the disaffected, the anti-social, the thugs, and riffraff that accumulate in metropolitan centers.
Yep. Couldn't have said it better myself. It's no coincidence that the biggest supporters of mass transit tend not to use it much.

JAMES LILEKS seems to have had a New Year's much like my own. I like his reflections on the stages of New Year's Eve partying.

GREAT COLUMN by Michael Kelly in today's Washington Post.

THANK GOD! Punditwatch is back!

TOM TOMORROW asks the question that I asked earlier: Where the hell are the picturephones? (And the flying cars? What happened to the future, dammit? I want my money back!)

On the other hand, nobody expected the Internet, which is basically one huge playground for guys like me. And if you actually want a picturephone (which it turns out most people don't), you can do that over the Internet easily enough. But I still want my Jetson-style flying car!

CORNEL WEST AS RICHARD REID? That seems to be what Jesse Jackson is saying in this latest installment of the Cornel West/Larry Summers soap opera, but I'm sure it's not what he meant to say:

Both Jackson, who knew Summers when he was U.S. Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, and Sharpton, who yesterday expressed his "great concern'' about the issue in a two-page letter, are requesting sitdowns with the head of Harvard.

The professors' departures would "blow a hole in the fuselage of academia at Harvard,'' Jackson predicted.

I've always felt that Jackson's reputation as an orator was overblown (yeah, he looked good compared to, say, Jimmy Carter, Fritz Mondale, or Bush I, but compare him to folks like Martin Luther King or JFK and you'll see what I mean). But this metaphor seems, uh, deeply unfortunate.

Maybe somebody should check out West's shoes, just to be safe. . . .

I'M SLIGHTLY WEIRDED OUT by John O'Sullivan's piece likening the U.S./Russia/Europe relationship to that of a a menage a trois between a cowboy and two women who want to be lesbians but don't quite have the, er, balls to make a go of it. But the analogy kind of works.

And who'd've expected to see something like this in the National Review of all places?

REALITY INTRUDES: A couple of weeks ago, a reader suggested this slogan: "It will be a great day when our public schools teach our children half as well as the Pentagon trains our soldiers." It seemed to have some resonance, and now there's this story in the Washington Post suggesting that maybe there's something to it.

MORE BAD PR FOR HARVARD (AND AOL): Apparently, the idea of using email to notify applicants of admission didn't work, as AOL blocked the messages as spam. Oops. "'This wasn't exactly the instant response we intended,' William Fitzsimmons, Harvard's dean of admissions and financial aid, told The Boston Globe." What's more important? This, or a professor's hissy-fit?

1/1/2002

TENNESSEE 45, MICHIGAN 17: And nobody's emailed me with congratulations. Go figure.

VORONOI DIAGRAMS, HELIJETS, AND TESSELATIONS: All at Caterina.Net. Good reading if you're tired of my sort of posts.

MICHAEL BELLESILES & MILLI VANILLI: A professorial reader who probably wants to remain anonymous writes:

You may recall, Milli Vanilli eventually came clean and admitted their fraud. Don't expect any similar mea culpa from Bellesiles; he's following the Clinton playbook of layering lies upon lies and demonizing the opposition. Now that the New York Times has officially disowned him, I bet the papers will let this episode wither on the vine, which is really too bad. It'll be a new low for academia if an obvious liar can keep his position.
Well, I just ran across an editorial from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from December 18 comparing Bellesiles' scholarship with Notre Dame coach O'Leary's phony resume, and Atlanta-based talk radio host Neal Boortz has been on the story too. So I don't think Bellesiles' dissembling is going to work. But I could be wrong; I have been wrong about such things before. Much will depend on how much value Emory's administration places on the school's academic reputation.

I'VE MENTIONED IT BEFORE, but I want to nominate this piece as one of the best blog items of 2001. That's especially true because it was published so soon after 9/11, when doomsaying and helplessness were very much abroad in the land.

THE NUDE CALENDAR FAD gets some attention from Daniel Taylor. Hmm. How about a nude blogger calendar? Nahh, I don't think so.

I'M JUST A CRUEL GUY: A reader writes: "You get a picture of the woman that wrote that wonderful blog, she's beautiful, you tell us that, and then you don't post it!? How could you!" Buwhahaha!

Actually, you can see Natalija here at Dawsonspeek. I couldn't view the site in Netscape when I was posting earlier, so I couldn't be sure the picture was there. But I checked it in Explorer. If you're using Netscape and having the same problem, you might try this link instead to go straight to the picture.

SOME INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS on what may be a fairly ugly endgame in Pakistan.

THE GRAND "SO WHAT?" (With apologies to Art Leff). NBC will begin running liquor ads soon. Big deal. That's the take in this opinion piece by Adam Thierer.

Personally, I don't care if liquor ads make people drink more. People in this country (with the probable exception of Ken Layne) need to drink more. In the days of the three-martini lunch, American business ruled the world (probably because managers were too smashed in the afternoons to interfere with the people who do actual work). In the days of the post-work pre-dinner cocktails the divorce rate was much lower. And journalists -- here Ken Layne may be a shining throwback -- did a lot better work when they imbibed hard liquor instead of mineral water.

But these arguments aside, it's provable beyond reasonable dispute that liquor ads won't accomplish the worthy goal of lubricating America's tight-sphinctered neo-prohibitionists. How can I prove it? By pointing to all the champagne ads you saw over the last two weeks.

The argument against allowing liquor ads is that they will lead to more consumption. But if ads did that, wouldn't Korbel be running those lame commercials all-frickin' year long? That they run them only in the holidays suggests that the ads in fact simply get people who are already buying champagne to buy Korbel instead of, I don't know, Freixenet, or Mumm's, or whatever Korbel's closest competitor is. Because you can bet that if Korbel thought they'd double their annual sales by running champagne ads before the Labor Day holiday, they'd do it. I mean, why not? The reason they don't is that people don't associate champagne with Labor Day, and hence won't already be buying champagne.

So there. Go to it, NBC. And see if you can get some of your producers to imbibe from time to time. Might do some good.

LIFE DURING, AND AFTER, WARTIME: A very moving post by Natalija Radic.

UPDATE: Reader Hamish Campbell writes:

The reason I read instapundit every damn day is that you have links to the best damn stuff on the net.

I have never read a blog article before that left me with a lump in my throat until I read Natalia Radic's piece. Really wonderful and really human. I bet she is beautiful too.

Thanks Glenn

Well, I've never met her, or even seen a photo, so all I know is what I can learn from her writing, which is that she's beautiful on the inside, where it counts.

Thanks for the compliment on the link. InstaPundit: basking in reflected glory since 2001!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Within minutes of posting the above, an InstaPundit reader emailed me a picture of Natalija Radic. (I love the Internet!) Apparently, she's beautiful both inside and out.

WISHFUL THINKING: Steven den Beste demonstrates rather persuasively that claims of a new multilateralism on the part of the Bush Administration are, ahem, premature.

MOVE OVER, JESSE! BIG AL'S COMING TO TOWN! The theater of the absurd that is Harvard professor Cornel West's confrontation with Harvard President Larry Summers just got even more absurd. Now that Summers has (unwisely) agreed to meet with Jesse Jackson (about what?) Al Sharpton is demanding a meeting, too! Let that be a lesson to you, Larry. Here's the best part:

Sharpton said he's considering filing a lawsuit against Harvard as ''an aggrieved party.'' He said because other universities follow Harvard's lead, professors elsewhere may fear repercussions if they support his possible run for president.
This is so bizarre. I can't believe it isn't getting more publicity.

AWARDS FOR MEDIA STUPIDITY: Okay, like most such awards there's a strong point-of-view here. But many are delicious. My favorite is Howard Fineman's comparison of Calif. Gov. Gray Davis with Winston Churchill (no, really!) in a report on the California electricity shortage.

GREAT POST BY JEFF JARVIS on debris from 9/11. Read it.

VIRGINIA POSTREL notes that the main point I made in my WSJ piece, and before it in this post is in her (1998) book The Future and its Enemies. I don't remember that, but I've (natch) read the book, and was probably channeling her without realizing it. If I'd remembered, I'd have given her credit. But heck -- if I gave Virginia credit for everything I say that she said earlier and better, I'd probably have to give her credit for everything I say. Perhaps I should add such a note to the page template. . . .

MORE ON DIVERSITY AND SEGREGATION: Apparently Boston is doing just as badly as SF, while other places are doing better. Reader Tom Wright reports from Boston:

I can't speak for San Francisco but I do travel to Boston fairly often. I grew up in Alabama and Birmingham in the 60's was never as segregated as Boston is now. Go the area around Faneuil Hall, a spot crammed with pubs and restaurants, and you will find very few black faces. On more than one occasion I have found myself part of the only group in an establishment that had blacks in the party.

I wonder if others have the same impression?

So do I. Meanwhile, reader Ellen Micheletti writes:
What you see in Knoxville holds true in Bowling Green KY as well. Go to malls, ball games and parks here and you will see quite a diverse group of people. Of course most of them are there to shop, eat, play or hang out with their friends, not count the crowd to make sure that quotas are met.

Maybe if the professional hand-wringers in San Francisco would go to more family friendly places where ordinary people go, they would find the diversity they seek.

I think there's an interesting phenomenon here.

BELLESILES UPDATE: According to this article, Russell Baker has called Michael Bellesiles the "Milli Vanilli of the academic community." Now that hurts.

Most of the rest will be familiar to longtime InstaPundit readers, though the cumulative weight of it all is pretty damned damning.

DARE TO BE MEDIOCRE! That, apparently, was the theme of the Norwegian King's speech to the nation last night. I'm left, well, speechless.

SALON SEXWATCH UPDATE: No sex, no sex column. I think it's very convenient for them that both Christmas and New Year's are on Tuesday this year. I wonder if they're hoping to use this long hiatus as an excuse to dump the column for good without (they hope) readers noticing.

Or maybe they're locked in tense negotiations with Rachael Klein. Hey Rachael: they're already $74 million in the hole. See if you can cut a deal that makes it 75!

EXCELLENT OPED on terrorism and Churchill by Tom Wheeler. An excellent historical analogy that I hadn't thought of.

BAY AREA HATEWATCH UPDATE: According to this article in the Chronicle, San Francisco, unlike, say, Knoxville, hasn't managed to overcome segregation in restaurants:

"One of the biggest challenges in San Francisco is how to make the upscale restaurants less white," said Clark Wolf, a nationally known restaurant consultant who is based in New York but got his professional start in the Bay Area. "I've brought people to San Francisco for years to show them the restaurants and they are often struck by how white and segregated the city is."
This is funny, because one of the things that I notice around Knoxville is just how diverse the crowds at restaurants (and malls, and everywhere else) are. But, you know, Knoxville hasn't had a bunch of shrill race-baiters constantly trying to call attention to racial differences for political gain. The Bay Area has. So it's no surprise that there's more self-segregation going on there.

There's a lesson in this. Think it'll sink in?

STILL MORE ON ARGENTINA: Okay, the email is in and nobody has expressed actual agreement with Eric Mauro's email. The closest is this from Rajat Datta:

What kind of a government gives up the obligations and privileges tied to having your own currency? The mere act signifies serious problems. While it can clearly be a good thing in the short run, it's clearly a sign that something is seriously wrong in the body politic. Fixing it is imperative. Fixing the unreliable political class must be the nation's first priority.

So they dollarized back in 1991, taking the pressure off them to reform their political class. They allowed a temporary fix to become permanent. From that point it was a mathematical certainty that disaster was coming. Is it really so surprising that in 10 years that same political class--so untrustworthy with their currency--found some other way to sabotage their economy?

Yes, the Argentine political class has never been any great shakes. I'm afraid that their problem is now exacerbated by over a generation of serious brain-drain. However, dollarization is a useful measure when you don't trust your political leaders not to inflate the currency, which is a reasonable kind of distrust in Argentina. Reader Jonathan Gewirtz writes:
In response to the reader who argued that Argentina's economy was ruined mainly by a strong USD and deflation:

There has indeed been deflation in the U.S. To confirm this, just look at the price of gold, which is remarkably low in historical terms. (The CPI and other indexes probably understate deflation, in part because they do not effectively account for qualitative improvements in the goods and services
whose prices they monitor.)

- However, the U.S. economy, while suffering recession (at least some of which is probably attributable to Fed-induced deflation), is still in decent shape, while the Argentine economy is in chaos. And the USD, though probably overvalued, is stable, while Argentina's currency is collapsing. The U.S. remains a magnet for investment, as financial and human capital flee Argentina. It seems unlikely that Argentina's problems are mainly a function of our deflation.

A more likely cause of most of the troubles was Argentina's major policy mistakes that discouraged investment and productivity. As David Malpass pointed out in the WSJ (Dec. 28), the Argentine government pursued IMF-inspired austerity programs that "contributed to the collapse of tax receipts, sky-high interest rates to compensate for currency uncertainty, an investment standstill, deadly riots, and the fall of the government." The standard IMF prescription of increased taxes, balanced budgets, and currency devaluation destroys investment incentives and private savings. This prescription has been a disaster everywhere it has been tried. The recent Argentine imposition of currency controls and the raiding of private pension funds could only further erode confidence and made collapse of the Peso
certain. Why would anyone want to work, invest, or save in such a country?

The new currency is a fraudulent gimmick that confirms that the Argentine political establishment lacks the will to deal seriously with the country's problems. The best way out is the politically difficult route of reducing taxes and spending, and doing whatever else it takes to give confidence to investors. But great damage has been done, and the corruption and weakness of Argentina's political class, which precipitated the economic problems in the first place, make a reasonable solution seem unlikely in the forseeable future.

Reader Daniel Kauffman provides some perspective with this timeline:
Eric Mauro's Argentina commentary crashes in the second paragraph, when he states "things were going great there until 1997.". . . Consider modern Argentine history leading up to the 1990's:

1955 Military coup ousts Peron, 4000 killed
1956 Peronist revolt crushed, thousands imprisoned, 38 executed
1958 Representative government restored, economy shaky
1963 Gov't institutes controls on wages, prices, foreign investment
1966 Military coup
1971 Junta named president schedules elections for 1973
1972 Riots, strikes, terrrorism secondary to economic crisis
1973 Peronistas win elections, Peron returns, riots kill 380
1974 Peron dies, economy deteriorates
1975 Terrorists kill 700+, inflation at 335%
1976 Military coup
1977 Military govt murders 2300, arrests 10,000, & 20,000 - 30,000 disappear
1981 Military leaders depose one another - twice
1982 Military invades Falklands, gets ass kicked by Thatcher
1983 Elections return, inflation at 900%
1989 Inflation at four digit levels, Peronist elected
1991 Peso tied to dollar, economy stable for first time in 35 years

Well, the quality of the above debate certainly seems better than what we've seen (almost none) in the mainstream press up to now, though I notice that the New York Times seems to be paying more attention today. Of course, their solution, tax reform, is likely to prove enormously difficult when trust in the government is so low. (It's hard when trust in the government is high!).

12/31/2001

HAPPY NEW YEAR: InstaPundit, of course, is a creation of the last few months of 2001. For me it's something of a high point; 2001 was not one of my better years personally in some other respects, and it meant a lot to me to have something that was going well and generating immediate feedback.

And the feedback is the best part. Yeah, I get more email than I know what to do with. But it's worth it. I get all sorts of interesting links, often to things I never would have found on my own. I get people who tell me when they think I'm right. I get people who tell me when they think I'm wrong. They're usually very polite, and only a very few are flamers. ("Reinhard Heydrich" keeps trying to win me over, but in spite of being a Nazi he's polite. Give it up, Reinhard -- Nazis are losers. Even the Communists were more successful at being totalitarian monsters.)

This whole blog world is something new, and cool, and it's very exciting to be in on the ground floor. The war sped up the phenomenon, but it was happening already. Some readers find it ironic that I criticize the media, because they say I'm part of the media. Well, sort of. But we bloggers are part of the media the way citizen soldiers in wartime are part of the military -- they may do the same job, kind of, but they tend to make fun of the way the careerists think, and to not display what careerists consider a proper degree of reverence to the traditions and courtesies of the service.

I started "InstaPundit," with its somewhat flippant name, because I had always felt that most anyone with a little time, a few brains, and the desire to do so could opine as well as the talking heads on television and the barons of the print world. I think that the blogging phenomenon has proved that to be the case (in fact, I'd say the average quality of, say, the blogs listed to the left is higher than, say, the New York Times editorial page, though maybe that's setting the bar too low). And that's a tremendously important thing to find out, and to prove, at a time when traditional media are breaking down.

It's been a tremendous year for bloggers, at least, and let's hope that 2002 will be better for everyone.

Thanks, and Happy New Year, to readers, bloggers, and emailers all.

BIN LADEN'S POPULARITY IS WANING, says this Los Angeles Times piece:

Today, interest in his fate has faded, and Muslims who revered him as the reincarnation of Saladin--the 12th century Arab hero who fought the Christian Crusaders and ruled an empire from Cairo to Baghdad--feel like victims of their own illusions. His myth lingers only in grainy videos showing a gaunt, hunted man living in a cave, leading the remnants of a defeated foreign army and
speaking of the deaths of 3,000 civilians as a "blessed event."

"I think morally he has the obligation to come out of the caves and step forward," said Imtiaz Ahmad, who sells tea in Peshawar's teeming bazaar and admires Bin Laden's defense of Islam but not his deeds. "Otherwise the killing won't end in Afghanistan. If he hadn't been there, there would have been no bombing, no killing, so I'm just as glad he's history."

Well, this guy's got a clearer grasp of events than Noam Chomsky.
"People like to back a winner in the Islamic world," said Pakistani journalist Ashfaq Yusufzaie. "They thought Bin Laden could really stand up to the West, that he could defeat a superpower the way the Afghan moujahedeen had the Soviet Union. When his Al Qaeda and the Taliban crumbled in just weeks, sympathy for Bin Laden fell drastically. People were left feeling totally demoralized."
Good. And there's some sign of progress:
Now that it is clear that Afghanistan's defeated Taliban regime is not going to be the vanguard of anything, some scholars say Islamic liberals have been emboldened. Their voices have long been muted by fundamentalists who advocate a militancy not shared by the vast majority of the world's 1 billion Muslims, scholars say. Al Sharq al Awsat, a Saudi-owned newspaper in London, recently accused Bin Laden of "putting the whole Islamic nation on a butcher's block."

"Islam became politicized, and when religions are politicized, that's dangerous," historian Qhwaja Massud said in Islamabad. "But our real problem is economic. Our societies are in crisis. They're illiterate, impoverished, jobless. That makes it easy for religious leaders to exploit people at the bottom. It enables fascism to come out of the closet. What we're seeing here is that fascism wears religious cloaks."

Yep. Well, people learn from failure, and the Islamic world has had a lot of bin-Ladenesque failures: Nasser, Khadafy, Arafat, Khomeini, bin Laden. Even a flatworm is smart enough to turn away from pain.

IT'S NOT EXACTLY NANOTECHNOLOGY, but this article on microfluidics is pretty cool.

YALE LAW PROFESSOR RUTH WEDGWOOD takes on the military-tribunals-violate-international-law argument:

Afghanistan and the United States have a few things in common. Each has ratified the third Geneva Convention of 1949, which sets out basic protections for prisoners of war. But such prisoners must be defined as lawful combatants for the treaty to apply.

There are four key prerequisites. First is being part of a fighting force that adheres to an organized structure of command, so someone can be held responsible. Second is wearing a distinctive military uniform or insignia — so that the other side can spare civilians without fearing counterattack by disguised fighters. Third is carrying arms openly. And fourth is reciprocal respect for the laws of war. To claim the protection of the law, a side must generally conduct its own military operations in accordance with the laws of war.

Al Qaeda has violated these laws at every turn, and certainly in the Sept. 11 attacks. In protecting and harboring Osama bin Laden and his operatives, the Taliban leadership has also become party to the violations.

The traditional fate of unlawful combatants has been nasty, brutish and short, in tribute to their chosen form of warfare.

Read the whole thing. I think she's right. It was a long time ago, but I actually took a course called "the law of war" when I was in law school, and this is in accord with what I remember.

MORE ARGENTINA: Reader Eric Mauro writes with this disturbing observation:

I appreciate you writing about Argentina. You seem to be open to suggestions about what the cause of the crisis is. There's a strong possibility that our US Fed unintentionally caused the crisis. I hope you will consider it, as the phenomenon dragging Argentina's economy down is going to drag the US economy down too.

Any search for the cause in Argentina's corruption, government, behavior, latin heritage, social structure etc inevitably crashes on
the fact that things were going great there until 1997, with the same set of people running things.

The Argentines tied the peso to the dollar in 1991. It was so successful that they wrote it into the Constitution.

What happened in 1997? The strong dollar. Why? In 1996, the US Fed, to fight inflation from a booming tech sector, failed to provide the amount of liquidity the markets were demanding, because they were afraid the money would go into risky, inflation-causing tech stocks.

But by making each dollar more desirable, the Fed brought about the beginning of a long, slow monetary deflation. It was the opposite of 'printing money'. Unfortunately Argentina was so successful, they failed to see it happening. Argentina imported 100% of the deflation. Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia etc had painful episodes, but were quicker to get their currencies off the dollar.

Deflation will crush an economy, bankrupting debtors, and giving lenders books full of bad debts. This is what's happening to Japan.

If I'm right, though, the deflation ought to be felt in the USA as well. Why then hasn't the Consumer Price Index gone down more?
Because the effects of deflation hit different sectors at different times. The farms and metals sectors, with their prices determined on the spot market, have fallen dramatically, mostly during 1997, during a boom in the US. This is the more likely explanation for the low price of oil as well. Monetary adjustments like this can take as long as 20 years to spread through an economy. Japan didn't see broadly falling prices until 1998.

Why didn't the US go into recession in 1997? First of all, the farm sector was hurt immediately. As for the broad economy, the difference between the US and Argentina is that the US had tax cuts in 1997 and 2001, while Argentina, under the influence of the IMF, passed tax increases and austerity measures to balance their budget and get more IMF loans. This is why their politicians are so unpopular.

If the deflation is not corrected, we will have a lot of economic unhappiness and uneven, weak growth for the next fifteen years. And then the baby boomers will start to retire and things will get really bad.

Well, there's a cheerful note for the New Year. I'm not sure I agree with this analysis, but economic prognostication is not my specialty.

UPDATE: A lot of readers disagree with this analysis. I may post more on it later when I have time to think.

IN THIS INTERVIEW, former CIA officer Marc Gerecht says a lot of interesting things. But here's one I want to underscore:

Leading into World War II, the United States military superannuated a significant chunk of the officer corps because it realized that much of the corps had become incompetent during peacetime. There is no proper parallel, unfortunately, for an intelligence service, because it's a closed game. If you're on the battlefield and in open sight, you know if you have incompetent officers. You don't know that in a clandestine world. What essentially you're asking is for the clandestine officer corps to be severe on itself. There's no tradition of that in the Agency, certainly not in the senior ranks.

Rule of thumb: if you don't see massive "retirements" in the senior grades, starting with the director, George Tenet, the deputy director, the executive director, and the leadership and senior lieutenants in the clandestine service's regional bureaus and in the Counterterrorist Center, then you cannot realistically expect to see reform in the service. And removing the pre-9/11 crowd would only be the first step.

I think this is absolutely right. It may be forgivable not to get rid of the incompetents at a time when you're probably desperate for warm bodies, but if you don't get rid of the incompetents soon, you send a signal that you don't really care about competence. The CIA can't afford not to care about competence.

HERE AT THE REYNOLDS HOUSEHOLD, we had an early New Year's dinner and that's pretty much it for our celebrations. I've never been that excited by New Year's anyway, and my wife (despite spending a lot of time at places like CBGB and the Mud Club in her earlier years) is by nature an early-to-rise, early-to-bed type. (So are her sisters; our New Year's often involves the husbands sitting around while all three sisters fall asleep on the couch).

Now I have the laptop upstairs while we all watch a heartwarming New Year's episode of "The Wild Thornberrys" on Nickelodeon. It doesn't get much better than that.

JUST RAN ACROSS MOIRA BREEN'S vigorous Fisking of Harvard professor Roger Owen, who defends the economic backwardness of most Islamic countries.

He sure sounds dumb. What is it with Harvard these days?

I mean, to be a bigshot Harvard professor is supposed to mean -- well, not that you won't be wrong exactly -- but at least that you won't say things that are transparent nonsense, capable of being ripped apart by bloggers with the casual ease displayed by Ms. Breen. Or, if it doesn't mean that, then what exactly does it mean? Certainly not that we should pay special attention to the views of Harvard professors simply because of their status, obviously.

I know I'm picking on Harvard a lot here, but it's not because of any plan to do so. I just keep running across examples of obvious stupidity. Feel free to send me any examples of Yale professors doing equally stupid things. Heck, in a spirit of egalitarianism, I'll even make fun of professors from Stanford, Columbia, or any other institution. (Even my own! I've got tenure.) But it just seems like the Harvard patent-idiocy team has got more depth than any of our other institutions of higher learning.

Maybe I should email Moira's item to Larry Summers.

THIRD PLACES AND A BOOK IDEA FOR SOMEONE: A reader writes:

I can buy that maybe a Borders might work, but Walmart? I think either CostCo or Home Depot would be better. Maybe its the small town atmosphere? The only Walmart (NW Tucson) I've been to is noisy, crowded, unpleasant and not a place I would look to meet friends and acquaintances (or even have a cup of coffee). Now Trader Joe's works for coffee, groceries and having a pleasant chat with complete strangers (no place to sit down, though).
The WSJ column -- and before it the posting on the subject here -- has generated more reader email than anything I've done on InstaPundit.

I think a feature magazine article or a book with a title something like Corporate Community would be interesting. You see more of this once you start looking. There's an Abercrombie spinoff at my mall (I forget the name) that features a circle of leather chairs around a fake fireplace. I joked that I would bring my laptop next time, and the salesgirl said "people do." I think that with cellphones, laptops, palms, etc. making it easier for people to be away from home and the office while still covering the bases, there is likely to be a huge market opening for businesses that can lure them with pleasant surroundings and amenities.

I think this is a good thing, compared to the old "encourage 'em to buy and move on" mentality of most retail establishments. I also think it's an interesting sociological, marketing, and technological phenomenon.

2001 -- AN ANNUS HORRIBILIS. At least, that's the consensus of the International Papers.

Well, it was a crappy year in a lot of ways. Mass murder and war do that.

But it wasn't all bad. In fact, while I would happily use the wayback machine to prevent the 9/11 attacks if I could, America's response has so far hit all the right notes. If you assume that something like this was bound to come sooner or later, then we should be glad that it came when it did, and in the form it did, instead of a few years from now in a haze of smallpox virus, or a nuclear blast. Or a couple of years ago, with Madeleine Albright at the helm.

BOY ALL THE EMAIL ON MY ARGENTINA POST BELOW IS NEGATIVE. All of it. On the other hand, I have yet to receive a single criticism of my multiple Fiskings of Cornel West. Go figure.

EVIL BELGIUM EXPLAINED! Steven den Beste has the shocking answer. But in retrospect, it seems so obvious!

THIRD PLACES: A reader writes:

BTW: Loved your WSJ column. A few years back I was in Gloucester, Virginia, a small town not too far from Richmond and Williamsburg, but still definitely the sticks. I went to the Walmart there and it dawned on me that Walmart in a place like Gloucester serves much of the same function you described in your piece. It's a free and open community space where people can gather. It's all that the people in this town had to serve as a common gathering point. And it was cool. Elites who rail against sprawl and hate how superstores are putting the mom and pops out of business need to visit this place and understand what it means to a community.
Yeah, it's that way in the boonies here, too, and I must say that Walmart seems to do its best to promote it. Critics no doubt would dismiss that as insincere. Maybe it is -- but really, who cares about sincerity if you're getting the results?

THINGS JUST KEEP GETTING WORSE IN ARGENTINA, and if the issue is getting the top-level attention it deserves then that fact has escaped my notice. Here, however, is a report from InstaPundit reader Javier Gonzalez:

Have the girlfriend in Argentina visiting her folks. Third President in the last couple weeks has just resigned, with the immediate successor to the presidency following suit. The girlfriend is spending half the day, everyday, at different banks, enduring long lines in the scorching heat, avoiding troubles at night, living among a people dejected, outraged, and despairing over the ruin of their country. I know the Administration is busy with the war and the Paki-Indian conflict, but I think it is important to keep reminding ourselves as Americans that we abandon our allies when it is convenient. I don't mean this to be overly critical of an Administration that I support. But at the very least, a country that is disintegrating in America's backyard should be the subject of more attention somewhere, even if only on your excellent weblog. Please read this article. Regardless of where the majority of the blame falls for this collapse (and surely the majority of it falls squarely among Argentina's corrupt political class), it is undoubtedly true that the U.S. bungled this badly (which is made clear in paragraph 11 of this NYT article).
The Times site appears to be down at the moment, but here's the passage he quotes:

But the abandonment of Argentina represents more than just an economic policy failure. It also has a strategic effect, because it confirms to the rest of Latin America what many leaders have always maintained: that the United States is a fickle and undependable ally.

Over the past decade, Argentina has aligned itself more closely with the United States on foreign policy questions than any other country in the region. It was the only Latin American country to participate actively in the Persian Gulf war, and in recognition of that and numerous other demonstrations of support, the Clinton administration formally designated Argentina a "non-NATO ally."

Despite its problems, Argentina has spent $20 Million sending 600 troops and a field hospital to Pakistan/Afghanistan in support of the United States.

It's a disgrace that we haven't done better on this issue.

UPDATE: A reader writes to disagree:

Argentina is in its present mess because it will not divorce itself--be it the politicians or the people--from socialism.

We don't owe them anything in light of their failures to give themselves what they owe themselves. We appreciate their assistance in Afghanistan, but we cannot make them want or do the right thing for themselves. Two diffent issues altogether.

In other words--not our fault. They need to find another target to blame for their mess, and starting with themselves, would get them nearer the bullseye.

Well, Argentina does have a dysfunctional political class. But even if you think they deserve this (which I don't), it would be good politics and diplomacy for us to at least look like we're trying to help.

WEBLOGS ARE CREATING A CHANGE IN THE MEDIA comparable to the change the Reformation brought to the church according to UPI Columnist Jim Bennett. I think he's right. Expect to read more about this as the word filters out to mainstream media; I think my TechCentralStation column for next week may be on this topic.

CORNEL WEST UPDATE: Rebuffed by the Taliban, Jesse Jackson is now trying to mediate between Cornel West and Harvard President Larry Summers.

'The tension at Harvard is having an impact across the country,'' Jackson said in a phone interview with the Globe.
Oh, yes. Americans have quit thinking about the war, or the holidays, to worry about whether an overpaid, self-obsessed Harvard professor is getting enough obsequies from the University president. The main impact that I've observed is that the few who are paying attention to West's little tantrum are rolling on the floor, paralyzed with laughter. Somehow, I don't think that Jackson's involvement will do anything to address that problem.

West is described in the Globe story as being "represented" by Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree. "Represented?" Remember what's going on here: Summers hasn't fired West. West has threatened to leave. What's to represent?

This must all be a clever PR stunt to promote the next Tom Wolfe novel. Not even the prima donnas of the Harvard faculty can be this ridiculous on their own. Can they?

HITCHENS LANDS MORE BLOWS ON THE ANTI-WESTERN LEFT. And they're wonderful. Here's my favorite, discovered via Joanne Jacobs:

Members of the left, along with the far larger number of squishy "progressives," have grossly failed to live up to their responsibility to think; rather, they are merely reacting, substituting tired slogans for thought. The majority of those "progressives" who take comfort from Stone and Chomsky are not committed, militant anti-imperialists or anti-capitalists. Nothing so muscular. They are of the sort who, discovering a viper in the bed of their child, would place the first call to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Ah, you just have to love Hitchens. Read the whole thing. And he's right. What's appalling about the antiwar folks is that they're just so stone-cold stupid. You'll notice that I haven't spent much time criticizing the non-stupid antiwar folks (that, basically would be Robert Wright and, well, Robert Wright, and, of course, Robert Wright). But most of what you hear from these people is so dumb it's actively insulting that they expect it to be taken seriously.

SO MUCH FOR "SILENT GENOCIDE" -- According to this story in the Post, "massive" deliveries of food aid have averted a famine in Afghanistan.

Now return with me for a moment to the thrilling days of yestermonth, when "relief" workers were urging a bombing pause to allow a few truckloads of food through. How many people would be starving if we had listened to them?

Nonetheless, I suspect that they regard this with mixed feelings. First, much of the aid is coming via the American government. Second, and worse still, there haven't been many news stories about the relief gruops lately. How will they do their direct-mail?

UPDATE: A reader tut-tuts that I would be happy that government aid is replacing private aid. Well, I am. That's because of how the private aid groups have acted. Sorry -- I'm not a member of the Church of Political Correctness, even in its libertarian manifestation. And it's important that these groups -- which have had a free ride on anti-Americanism for years -- suffer some consequences for their behavior earlier this fall.

JAPAN IS DROPPING THE KYOTO AGREEMENT on the ground that it's economically disastrous. Expect a big chorus of dissatisfaction from, well, nobody.

IRANIAN YOUTH: Still pretty damned unhappy with the mullahs. As, apparently, are a lot of their parents. We need to be working this angle.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S MORE UPSETTING: That U.N. officers apparently ran a sex-slave ring in Bosnia, that the U.N. higher-ups managed to shut down the investigation, or that the Washington Post put the story on page A17. And where's Amnesty International, who regard harsh words as torture, on this issue?

Just remember this when you hear claims of "atrocities" by the American military.

BEST MUSIC OF 2001 on The American Mind. But how could he leave out Colourgirl's "Joyrider"?

12/30/2001

"THEY'RE FUNKY -- THAT'S WHAT MAKES THEM AMERICANS" -- My brother, on The Crystal Method.

AMERICAN INDIANS ARE PROTESTING the naming of a brothel in Nevada after Crazy Horse. They say it's demeaning.

I can't help but wonder: would Crazy Horse actually feel demeaned by this?

ARAB CULTURAL IMPERIALISM: This story tells of efforts (Saudi-financed, natch) to make Asian mosques look more, well, Arab.

Hmm. When McDonald's wants to sell cheap, clean food it's a horrible act of cultural imperialism, and violence against local cultures. But when Arabs want to tell people what their places of worship should look like, that's barely worthy of notice, much less condemnation.

Where's Prince Charles when you need him? Oh, right. You never do.

IS IT BAD MANNERS TO GOOGLE SOMEONE WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION? I'd say of course not, but one of Eric Zorn's friends thinks it's disgusting.

THINGS AREN'T IMPROVING along the India/Pakistan border. On the other hand, it's not entirely clear from this report that they're as bad as the headline suggests. And, luckily, the locals' homes are highly resistant to gunfire. But then, they'd have to be.

Here's an interesting angle: India is reacting to terrorism presumed to be by Pakistanis, in the fashion that people were worried that the United States would respond to 9/11, with a massive show of force expected to lead to invasion and use of nuclear weapons. Notice that the people who were so worried about Afghan civilians dying from U.S. bombs are showing far less concern with the millions who might die from Pakistani and Indian nukes. Why? One suspects that to the Chomskyites, it's okay to die from bombs, so long as they're not American.

Personally, I find the prospect very painful to contemplate. Neither India nor Pakistan are perfect, but India has made great progress in recent years, and I believe that Musharraf is serious about trying to remake Pakistan along the Turkish model, which would be a wonderful thing for Pakistan, and a wonderful example for the Islamic world. A war between them at this point would be tragic.

OOPS! The link I have below for the science fiction writers on Slashdot actually casts a vote for Heinlein when it loads, according to Bjorn Staerk and another reader. You can always go to the Slashdot page and scroll down (it's on the right) if you don't want to do that. There's a "view results" button there.

"VICTOR'S JUSTICE:" A reader sends these thoughts:

A lot of well-intentioned people are suddenly getting all nervous and jumpy and throwing this term around again, like it actually means something. But it doesn't. Like "cycle of violence" or "proportionate response" it is just a silly circumlocuction that allows you to haver about instead of taking uncomfortable action which is the logical consequence of your position.

Victor's justice! As if there were any other kind, following the resolution of a conflict. Losers don't usually get to determine these things, do they? If the fascists are on the winning side, you'll get their version of a public reprimand. And that'll be "victor's justice", too, I suppose if you're so morally impoverished that you can't tell right from wrong, and unshackle the concept of justice, which is a virtue (and therefore an eternal condition) from that of winner or loser (by definition, temporal conditions)

If what you mean by shanking them together is "please don't lynch the losing side", you should say so.

But somehow I can't work up too much indignation in the case of troublemakers who strutted and preened before movietone cameras or video recorders so they could immortalize themselves making a brag of their vicious enormities.

I agree, though I admit to being a bit vague on what "havering about" means. One of those Britishisms, I guess.

WELL, DANG! There's no Punditwatch today! Bummer.

THIS YEAR'S FALWELL AWARD WINNER: (er, besides Jerry Falwell) is this piece in The Guardian saying that terrorism is a "judgment upon the West" for its evils, and quoting Isaiah. Puhleez.

What is it with antiwar leftists suddenly channeling God? And no, it doesn't make it better that the writer is a Bishop. Any more than it made it better that Falwell was a minister.

READER MEGAN MCARDLE (Penn, '94) takes issue with Princetonian reader Dave Tepper's attempt to foist Cornel West off on Penn. Her letter was too long to put here, so I've put it over at InstaPundit EXTRA!. Here's an excerpt:

I must protest the callous way in which you and Mr. Tepper attempt to foist Cornel West upon us. I can only suspect that the cause is the kind of ignorant prejudice which caused Penn to be labeled the "armpit of the Ivies" while I was there. I am not only offended at such thoughtless stereotyping of the University which gave the world the first computer, but also saddened at the ignorance of our recent history which enables Mr. Tepper to make such a thoughtless suggestion.
She also says that Penn has enough divisive and self-serving racial politics already without adding West to the mix.

JEFF JACOBY WRITES ON THE alarming growth of racist hate speech, and the refusal of major media to address, or even recognize, the problem.

READ THIS POST! It's from Shannon Okey, about getting George Soros in on supporting Blogger. Sounds promising to me.

SUCKA DJ'S AGAINST AMERICA: No, this isn't another Cornel West item. Instead, it's a link to Michelle Malkin's bitch-slapping of rap artist Boots Riley of The Coup (you remember them from the exploding-WTC album cover to the right). Interestingly, I just last night read a piece on 9/11 in Urb, a hiphop/techno magazine I've written for in the past, that interviewed Riley. The funny thing is, the Urb piece (by Hua Hsu) opens with spontaneous "fuck bin Laden" chants from crowds at concerts, but then quickly segues into a vaguely Chomskyesque discussion of how Americanism and anti-Ladenism are being "manufactured," while the authenticity of people like Riley is being suppressed. Funny -- I thought that rap was supposed to be the authentic voice of the people (you know, the ones chanting "fuck bin Laden"), not the maunderings of self-obsessed auteur types like Riley.

JOANNE JACOBS, who really needs individual item-links on her page, takes on Hollywood patriotism and New York Times news analysis.

MORE ON THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Patrick Ruffini writes:

Surprisingly, I actually kinda have to agree with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette piece (they're a Scaife operation, aren't they?) and I noted this in reaction to Eliot Cohen's piece last week. Cohen hit the mark: our military has been getting better since the Gulf War -- but the big thing that's left unsaid is that has happened *despite* the "hollow" military/Clinton budget cuts. Why? Well, I'd like to think it's because the military isn't immune to the realities of the real world: that *it is* possible to use technology to become more efficient with limited funds. And I'm concerned, quite frankly, that new money without a commensurate number of new projects to work on will just give us more flab in the Pentagon's backside, not a more muscular military.

Rumsfeld was my favorite member of the cabinet before 9/11, and it's because he is a defense reformer. He caught a lot of heat from Congress for attacking some sacred cows, and suggesting that $300 billion was literally being mis-spent. He was labeled by some a failure. It's been quite a dramatic turnaround for him, and I'm glad. Now he'll get to stand up to Congressional appropriators, who are ever-so interested in new toys for their districts, at the expense of what makes sense for national security.

See, I wasn't being a flack for the Republicans, as one reader sneered -- I was attacking a hard-right Scaife editorial! Actually, I think Patrick is right here, as far as it goes. But there's another side here, as a reader writes: action against Iraq is reportedly being held up by a shortage of cruise missiles, a shortage brought on in part by profligate Clinton expenditure of same, and in part by failure to procure enough (and enough ammo in general, right down to 9mm pistol rounds, as another reader points out). That's the real problem with the "hollow military." And, sure, to some degree they can substitute smarts for stuff. But that soon sounds like some pointy-haired Dilbertesque manager saying "fight smarter, not harder." Not bad as a concept, but lousy as an excuse.

UPDATE: Oops. Patrick's wrong -- it's the other Pittsburgh paper that's Scaife-owned, according to several readers. Oh, well.

TIM BLAIR IS PROVIDING BETTER COVERAGE of the Australian fires than the U.S. media, most of whom are barely covering them, and who give only the vaguest information on what, exactly, is burning and where. Hey, New York Times -- hire Tim Blair!

I was down in Sydney and environs (including the wonderful Fairmont Lodge in the Blue Mountains, which I hope hasn't burned) a few years ago: I went down to give a speech and then hung around for a while so as to ensure that I would be just as jetlagged on my return home as I was on my arrival. I loved it. While I'm not pleased with Australia's absurd attitude on gun-ownership, I loved the place and the people. I'd like to get back for an extended period -- a month, say. Perhaps in a few years.

Anyway, my heart goes out to people having to deal with this, and I'm appalled to see that most of the fires appear to have been deliberately set. What losers -- I hope that they get the book thrown at them.

DAVID IGNATIUS calls America a latter-day Rome. Well, sort of.

There is, by the way, an embarrassment of riches on the Washington Post's Outlook page today. I won't try to link to them all. Here's the main Outlook link.

GEORGE WILL DISSES THE EURO in today's Washington Post. Euros are ugly, he says, and feature pictures of places that don't exist. This, he concludes, demonstrates that the European Superstate is itself an abstraction.

He's probably right, though American money has been derided as ugly for years (and that creepy eye-in-the-pyramid certainly isn't real, thank goodness). But it got me thinking. A while back I noted that a lot of Africanism in American culture is the equivalent of mixing wooden shoes, a dirndl, bagpipes and a Viking helmet and calling the result "traditional European costume." It occurs to me that this is precisely what the EU is trying to do. I share Will's doubts that this will lead to a viable (super)state over the long run. And I worry about the consequences of failure.




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