MORE ON HOW INDEPENDENT WEB JOURNALISM HAS DONE THIS WEEK in this article from Wired.
SAVING THE ECONOMY: READER ANANDA GUPTA REPORTS FROM THE FRONTLINE of InstaPundit's newly-organized Retail Support Brigade:
I have heeded your calls to buy something (in fact I've gone on quite a spree) and all of it has been over the net -- therefore incurring shipping charges. With every purchase, therefore, I am helping not just the merchant but the shipping company, whether it be UPS or FedEx or whichever airlines they subcontract with. So perhaps e-commerce is a step above even going to the mall.
SUPERB COMMENT BY ANDREW SULLIVAN about
the comments from the pathological right (Falwell and Robertson et al.) and the vile Left (Michael Moore, Eric Alterman), comments that reveal what many of us have suspected for years: that these elements in our culture are simply depraved. We shouldn't harbor any illusions about these people and their ilk, and we need not make distinctions between right and left. Crises show you what people are really about. Falwell and Robertson and Moore and others harbor a hatred for many people of this great country and at some level blame America for this atrocity. That they could do so this week is beyond belief. We have a war on now and I'm not going to pursue these people in this space for their divisive, cowardly remarks. To start attacking other Americans now would be to descend to their level. We have far more important things to think about and to do. But let us remember what this moment showed us about these people. And if this war ends, let us ensure that they are cast to the margins of our culture and our society, and never treated with respect again.
OSAMA BIN LADEN isn't going to like this. Rumor has it that these are being air-dropped over Afghanistan right now. The Arabic inscription will read: "What's Under His Robes?"
ANN COULTER'S COLUMN gets a lot of discussion here.
BE PATRIOTIC: BUY SOMETHING. That's what Scott Norvell says and he's got a point. I went to the mall yesterday, and it was deserted. It's actually magnifying the terrorism's damage when people stay home and the economy suffers.
Okay, people will make up for lost time soon. But going out to a movie, or dinner, or shopping isn't just good for the economy. It's a way of carrying on life as normal. That's a victory of sorts, too.
RAMESH PONNURU sounds a good cautionary note about reactions to Tuesday's attacks. He castigates Falwell and Moore, though, presumably out of comity, omits Ann Coulter. An excellent piece -- especially the conclusion.
LOTS OF GREAT COVERAGE in Jim Romenesko's Medianews. How the Wall Street Journal published despite the loss of its headquarters; how reporters are handling the stress of reporting the attacks; how much money Gannett is losing in ad revenue.
WEB JOURNALISM: The MeZine approach gets high marks in this ITN article. Pretty good piece.
CLOSE TO HOME: Just heard that one of my neighbors lost her sister in the Pentagon attack. She's already gone to DC. The neighborhood is going to greet her return with flowers, food and sympathy. And whatever else we can do to help.
THE SAUDI CONNECTION: I've gotten a couple of emails from folks in law firms and corporations, saying that, through customers and suppliers, the Saudis are quietly trying to pressure the U.S. into making this a law-enforcement matter, rather than something more like what President Bush wants. Some additional perspective on the Saudis is provided by this email from a reader who prefers to remain anonymous. It's a bit long, but worth reproducing in full because I haven't seen these points made together anywhere else:
By and large Americans have a grossely oversimplified image of Islam -- unaware of the huge doctrinal divisions that exist among the religion's dozens of sects and wide range of perspectives on the world. Strangely enough, when most Americans think of what a Muslim looks like, they think of the Saudis (perhaps these images result in part from the high media profile fueled by the Saudis' oil wealth). Similarly, most Americans would probably list the Saudis as among the "good" Muslims. Aside from bin Laden, there is a general absence of Saudi's in stock terrorist footage, and Americans also recall the role played by Saudis as American Allies in the Gulf War.
Nonetheless, the Saudis have in the past and continue today to play a central role in the development of fundamentalist Islam. This role has largely been overlooked by American media and, perhaps, policy makers. The Saudi ruling family rose to power as proponents of both Wahabi Islam and the Hanbali school of Islamic Jurisprudence, a system of thought which stresses an extremely literalist interpretation of the Qur'an and Sunna (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad) as the only guide for human action. While most Muslims think of "Hard" Shari'a (including punishments such as amputation for petty theft) as primative and barbaric, the Saudis have made it standard practice. In recent decades the Saudi's have used their newfound oil wealth to fund huge campaigns not only to convert non-Muslims to Islam, but also to convert other Muslims to Wahabi thought. Further, control over the Pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina has aided the Saudi's in spreading their extremely puritanical ideology throughout the Muslim World. Not only does the Pilgrimage bring millions of Muslims to Saudi Arabia every year, but the Saudi's wealth is interpreted by some as a reward for piety. Imagine poor Muslims from Indonesia or Nigeria traveling to Mecca and seeing Saudi wealth for the first time. Because the Pilgrimage is often subsidized, for millions of Muslims a trip to Saudi Arabia is the only international experience they will ever have.
In many other ways, the Saudis have been a major force in spreading conservative Islam. Harsh restrictions on Women's roles and behavior are characteristic of Wahabi Islam and were previously atypical elsewhere. Similarly, it has been the Saudi's who have encouraged Muslims to implement a harsher form of the Shari'a. For example, the move to implement "Hard" shari'a in Nigeria's north -- resulting in the much publicized caning of a 17-year old girl for premaritual sex and numerous clashes with Nigerian Christians this past year -- has been backed by the Saudi's, who offered "training" for new Islamic judges. Remarkably, there has been little commentary on these first steps to replace West Africa's centuries-old (and rather liberal) Maliki system of Islamic law with harsher Hanbali jurisprudence.
Ironically, one reason the Saudi's helped aid the US against Saddam Hussain in the Gulf War was precisely because the Saudis consider the Baath party in Iraq to be secularist and un-Islamic. Saddam is no Muslim Fundamentalist, and in the Islamic world his calls for "Holy War" against the West were a joke.
Obviously, the US cannot attack the Saudis merely for what they think and believe. Terrorism is not a "thought crime", and we must make it clear that it is the actions, not beliefs, of certain fanatical Muslims that are unacceptable. Our actions must be tempered, however, by the political reality that fundamentalists are not always the enemies, sometimes they are aleady our allies.
ALLISON ALVAREZ'S page has links to amateur photos taken inside the World Trade Center just before the collapse, and to close up photos of the Pentagon just after the crash.
PURE POLITICAL POISON: This editorial from Pakistan's The Dawn talks about attacks on Muslims in the United States. The tone is moderate, and notes that attacks have been few: "By and large, however, the American public has behaved sensibly. Considering the fact that Muslims number nearly seven million, the attacks seem isolated and few and far between. The Silicon Valley alone has 100,000 Muslims, but attacks have been limited and resorted to mostly by excitable, irresponsible youths." Let's hope they don't read Ann Coulter's columns.
OH, CANADA: Okay, they gave us Peter Jennings and William Shatner. But nobody's perfect. This story in The Globe and Mail tells of yesterday's memorial service on Parliament Hill. When the chips are down, you learn who you can count on. I won't forget this.
READER GLEN HOFFING writes with some thoughtful criticism. His letter is not only thoughtful, but long. Here's an excerpt that I think captures the gist, though:
I discovered your website a couple of weeks ago and find it informative, interesting and thought-provoking. Thank you for it.
Now for the quibble. I think you are getting a bit obsessive on the fears of our becoming a police state, kind of in the way that Andrew Sullivan (another thoughtful pundit) was getting obsessive with his theme of the media victimization of Gary Condit.
Your theme is basically that we must constantly exhort people not to let their fears lead them to advocate repressive measures to allay those fears. I think you have this exactly backwards. Scared people are going to reach out for anything to make them feel safe. Lecturing them not to basically boils down to telling human beings not to act like human beings. We do not disagree on anything except emphasis. You say fight terrorism, but the central thing is don't forget we are a free society. I say don't forget we are a free society, but the central thing is take the steps to keep us safe. I say things in this order not because I consider safety more important than freedom, but because I think as long as Americans feel safe, or at least fairly safe, the freedom thing will take care of itself. . . .
Maybe I am too complacent, but I don't think we will ever face a police state in this country until the barbarians are at the gate, so I hope we keep the emphasis on keeping them away from the gate. I personally am more worried about the Stupid State, where we work together with the best of intentions to achieve the same result in airport security that we have in schools with our Zero Tolerance policies.
I'd like to have more confidence in the powers-that-be on these things. I know that most of 'em are hardworking and honest, and have no desire to create a police state. But the 1996 "Antiterrorism" bill was a disgraceful case of opportunism, and when you do stuff like that, people who pay attention (of whom I am one) don't trust you as much the next time. This is why I've been harping on the issue of government trustworthiness all along. When you get a real crisis like this, you need a deep reservoir of trust in the government. But that trust has to be earned. Once you've abused it -- as has happened repeatedly -- people don't trust you as much. That's why I'm so much against abuse of government power. Not because I want our government to collapse, but because I don't.
Interestingly, the mail I'm getting from military and law enforcement people is overwhelmingly sympathetic to my position. (Nobody knows the bureaucracy's flaws like those inside it who have eyes to see). But I thank you for raising the issue, and in such a well-reasoned form (unlike Bruce, below). I'll try to keep from being obsessive. At least too obsessive. But isn't eternal vigilance supposed to be the price of liberty?
MY BROTHER OFFERED THE FOLLOWING THOUGHT LAST NIGHT (er, besides "how about another beer," I mean): What's striking about this, and what the perpetrators of Tuesday's attacks may not have grasped, is the enormous power of American media imagery at a time like this. I've criticized the U.S.-centric approach that they've taken, but while that approach has left most Americans insufficiently aware of the rest of the world's reaction, it has caused the rest of the world to be enormously aware of the United States' reaction.
I HAVEN'T WATCHED AS much TV as I might have if it weren't for InstaPundit (which is probably one of this 'zine's biggest benefits), but like everyone I've watched a lot. And it seems to me that the image that's going out is a powerful one. People around the world are used to thinking of Americans as spoiled, superficial, and kind of flighty. What they're seeing here are images of people who -- this week at least -- are anything but. The dignified and ecumenical character of the memorial ceremony, with priest, minister, rabbi and imam all speaking together, sent a particularly powerful message. The heroism of the rescuers -- and of the passengers on UAL flight 93 -- also sent a message. And so has the mixture of resolve and restraint with which the whole affair has been received. No weepy yellow-ribbon stuff here.
My brother's girlfriend, who is Nigerian, watched the rescue efforts and remarked that she's always surprised by how quickly Americans, who seem so undisciplined, can pull together some big operation from scratch. She's not the only one who's going to be surprised by that, I imagine.
OKAY, ONE MORE: I just saw Dick Gephardt on NBC. Every time I see him he repeats the same two points: Americans need to pay more in taxes, and accept less freedom. We all need to sacrifice. Hey Dick -- what have you sacrificed? Er, besides your eyebrows, I mean? BTW, you can call Gephardt at 202-225-2671, or fax him at 314-894-3400 if you want to ask him yourself.
GOOD NIGHT: My brother's in town. I'm going to have a beer with him (or maybe two) and go to bed. See you tomorrow.
"WE ARE ALL NEW YORKERS NOW." Those were the words of Mike Holloway, local businessman and sponsor of the semiannual "Mike Holloway's Gun Show in the Smokies" -- an event where you get in free if you join the NRA. I don't actually know this for a fact, but I don't think Mike Holloway is usually a man brimming over with love for New York City But he spoke these worlds on local talk radio earlier today, and with feeling. That says a lot.
PAUL ORWIN just emailed me this link to a page showing photos from memorial services all over the world. It's one of the most moving things I've ever seen. Visit it, and realize that -- although the U.S. media have done their usual narcissistic treatment -- in fact, we have friends all over. Thank you, friends.
THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT "WAR BONDS" NOW: I told you this "greatest generation" nostalgia thing was getting carried away. What's next? Victory gardens?
GREAT COLUMN BY CATHERINE FORD in the Calgary Post on freedom and security. Quote:
It needs to be a response other than the one from those whose moral certitude is comfortably centred in a God of vengeance and a God of choosing sides, those who elected to scold the United States for its lack of backbone, its lack of moral fibre and its lack of security.
Our neighbour is none of that. It is not lax, it is free. It is not godless or without morals.
It is a democracy. And its internal security is as much as should be demanded of a country that prides itself on honouring the rights of its citizens before the nation's obligations and any government's right to deny freedoms. . . .
No one will be able to escape the inevitable tightening of security around sensitive areas, especially airports. But in the hurry to condemn laxity in America, it serves no useful purpose to equate complacency with a lack of moral fibre.
That is the price of freedom. Too many had to pay the bill this week but which of us would choose to live in a locked-down country, where suspicion of "the other" is automatic?
Sadly, as the email from Bruce, below, indicates, some people seem not just willing, but actually anxious to live in a "locked-down country." Sad, too, that we need Canadians to remind us of our own nature. But she does it well.
THE SENATE has approved a bill allowing warrantless taps of Internet traffic. This is one of those losses of freedom I was talking about. It may (and should) be ruled unconstitutional. But it shouldn't be passed at all.
Would this have prevented Tuesday's attacks? No, because we didn't know who to tap. Has the FBI wanted this for years anyway, under a variety of excuses (drug dealers, organized crime, kiddie porn, whatever the flavor of the week was)? Yes. Is this bureaucratic opportunism? Yes again.
If the bill can't be stopped, opponents in the House should insist on a sunset provision -- say in two years. If it hasn't proved its usefulness by then, it should be scrapped. But really, it should be scrapped now.
AMERICA'S NEW WAR: That's what CNN is calling it. And in this they're not hyperbolic, but perceptive. The Senate Resolution that was passed today is a declaration of war -- and I doubt the House will soften it. (See the text here.) True, it doesn't say "Declaration of War" in 64 point type at the top, but it doesn't have to, any more than a document has to bear the heading CONTRACT to be a contract. People should realize that this has great consequences. Domestically, the war power becomes activated, which gives the federal government greater reach than it has in peacetime. Internationally, it has certain consequences as well. With the passage of this declaration, George W. Bush will wield more power than any human being has ever wielded. Let's hope he wields it well.
TERRY PITTMAN EMAILS with these sage words:
It seems to me that terrorists, by their nature, want to inflict terror. That is their objective. To me, panic is a form of terror. Therefore, if we don't panic (by turning into a police state) we have fired the first return shot. Once they (terrorists) figure out that we refuse to play their game, maybe they will give up and get a life! Like buy a McDonalds franchise, perhaps.
WHY THEY HATE US: I alluded to this idea, and some people have emailed me wanting more detail. I hadn't gotten around to that, and now I don't have to thanks to this superb column by Steve Chapman. Here's a quote, but really, the whole thing is so good that it seems almost unfair to excerpt it:
America's founding document, the Declaration of Independence, is not just a historical relic concerned with grievances against George III. It's a radical manifesto whose relevance has not diminished in 225 years. What makes it so important, then and now, is its exaltation of the "unalienable rights" of every person -- including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." . . .
Freedom and openness are the most conspicuous and admirable features of our society, but they infuriate those intent on exerting control over their fellow man. To them, nothing can be more dangerous than letting people think for themselves.
It was bad enough when democratic freedom prevailed on our shores. But today, it is the aspiration of billions of people around the world. Tyrants and terrorists see our way of life as a mortal threat to everything they hold dear. To our credit, it is.
Me, I'm a pro-Enlightenment sort of guy. And I'm about out of patience with the antis.
ANOTHER EMAIL: This one friendlier than the one below.
Just to add my support for your editorial on Fox News regarding our freedoms. Without them, I don't know what would be the point of this country. There would be no national purpose, no character, no pride, no patriotism. Just survival and security for its own sake. If that's enough for some people, fine. But leave us our country the way it was founded and leave because you can get security the way you want it in any other country.
ANN COULTER UPDATE: Yesterday I wrote about Ann Coulter's comments in the National Review Online. I was unhappy with this part: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war."
On an academic email list that I'm on, Ann has gotten a lot of grief for these remarks, from a lot of people generally thought of as right-wing. They're particularly unhappy with the "convert them to Christianity" line. Ann (who I didn't know was on the list; I guess she was lurking) has replied to say that she didn't mean forcible conversion. (This is kind of hard to swallow, in context, but okay). She also accused her critics of anti-Christian bigotry -- and says that she's gotten a lot of fan email, naming quite a few left-liberal journalists as its sources (I won't repeat the names here, since I doubt they wanted them publicized).
I believe this. As I've written before, I'm amazed at all the previously pacifistic lefties I know who have become absolute war hawks. This isn't surprising. The same thing happened at the outsets of World War One and World War Two.
Me, I'm all for revenge. But I believe the Klingon proverb that revenge is a dish best served cold. Terrorists want us to get so mad that we lash out blindly -- and the comment about converting them to Christianity is pure political poison, no doubt already being circulated around the Arab world as proof that the U.S. isn't really out to get terrorists, but out to get Islam. Yeah, that's helpful.
Ann was close to Barbara Olson, and she can be forgiven her grief, and perhaps even her overwrought and damaging expression of it. But someone at the NRO should have edited that line.
I JUST GOT BACK FROM THE GYM, where the services at the National Cathedral were on all the TVs that usually show ESPN and CNBC. It's the first (and, all things considered, I hope the last) time I've ever seen everyone in a gym put down their weights and observe a moment of silence.
I'm not usually moved by things like this. In fact, I've found our recent habit of having national outpourings of grief at every occasion from Dale Earnhardt's death to Princess Diana's rather offensive. But this was different. It didn't feel hokey, or forced. This wasn't happening because people were trying desperately to have an authentic moment of grief. People were having an authentic moment of grief, and were trying to contain it. I found it very moving. I was even moved to see Bill Clinton sitting next to the Bushes. And he, I have to say, looked very good. Now that he's not the center of attention, he seems to have found a measure of the dignity that he always lacked. Yesterday, his response to questions about what he would do if he were President was exactly right: I'm not the President. It was classy, something that I don't normally associate with him. (That's one of the interesting things, actually, about this whole event: quite a few people I'm not crazy about have astounded me with the rightness of their behavior, while some people I looked up to have disappointed me. I guess you really see what people are made of at times like this).
The moment ended, the weights began clanking, the racquetball games started back up, and things got back to normal. Except that they weren't normal, as we thought of them a week ago. And they won't be, anytime very soon.
MORE EMAIL: And not the nice kind.
You and your right-wing ideologues mistakenly equate freedom with happiness. We probably have more "unhappy" people in this country than in most countries where, according to you and your friends, there are less "freedoms." Many of the poorest tribal people in Africa, many even - God forbid - "pagans," are possibly the happiest people in the world.
Money doesn't buy happiness and neither does "freedom." Ben Franklin lived in another time and his words and thoughts, although eloquent and cogent in his day are simply not applicable today. That America is gone - certainly after last Tuesday it is gone. Beliefs such as yours are going to perpetuate the "terrorist" problem, and may actually have helped bring on this tragedy. Bring on the new laws, regulations, restrictions, anything to combat the problems in our society. Only those with something to hide should fear this. Do you have something to hide? Bruce Scott Powell, Ohio
Ben Franklin's time was different, eh? It was a time of war, revolution, piracy (the terrorists of his day), indian wars, plague, and despotism. Yeah, his thoughts couldn't possibly be relevant in tough times like ours.
Franklin also said that he was leaving us a Republic -- if we could keep it. You don't seem to want to keep it. People like you aren't part of the solution. You're part of the problem. And you're cowards, too: too afraid of life to hold onto the principles that made this country great just because times have gotten tough. You think freedom makes people unhappy? I'll spring for a one-way ticket to North Korea, and you can find out for yourself.
Oh, and I thought I was a left-wing ideologue. That's what one of the other hate-mailers said.
Sorry to rant, folks, but this is what we're up against: people who think freedom is actually bad and who are happy to have an excuse to get rid of it. People who -- much like Osama bin Laden -- are offended that Americans are rich and free and happy. That's sick. And it's UnAmerican. But it's out there. And people who think this way are seizing their opportunity. I'm just happy to have one who was willing to show his true colors. I've left his name in so you won't think I was making this up. I wish I had. I wish I had to.
SELL YOUR STOCK in David McCullough. His ill-considered comments are coming back to haunt him. As The New Republic says:
David McCullough preached on CNN that "I'm afraid that it will also mean a curtailing, trimming up some--maybe even eviscerating of the open society [that] we know." (This is the same man who is making a mint off an admiring biography of the author of the Alien and Sedition Acts.)
But it's a false choice. People who want us to make this choice are either stupid, or have an agenda. Either way, they shouldn't be listened to. I'm glad that there are many voices speaking up against the kind of police-state mentality that these guys advocate.
EXCELLENT POINT: Virginia Postrel makes a good point about violence and anger directed toward American muslims. Yes, it's deplorable and unfair. But, she notes, there really hasn't been all that much considering that a nation of a quarter-billion has experienced an enormous shock at the hands of a despicable enemy. It's true. What violence and nastiness has occurred is awful. But how many other countries, in the same circumstances, would have had so little?
ADVANTAGE: INSTAPUNDIT John McCain is on NPR at this very moment, making the same points about the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that Brannon Denning emailed in yesterday (scroll down).
AMERICANS WEREN'T THE ONLY ONES WHO DIED: That's what this piece in the Wall Street Journal notes, with a partial listing of people from other nations who were killed. Of course (he added smugly) InstaPundit readers already knew this. Still it's good to see American media finally picking up on this point.
WE HAVE TO "GO ON BEING AMERICANS": That's what E.J. Dionne says in a terrific oped in today's Washington Post. Quote:
Terror is designed to paralyze. It succeeds when a country loses confidence in itself -- when it gives up what it values most. "The resolve of this great nation is being tested," President Bush declared. Indeed. But how do we define resolve?
We should resolve to catch and punish the terrorists -- and to punish those who harbored or trained them. We should discover whether we could have known that this was coming, and how we might be warned the next time.
But our central resolve must be to go on being Americans, to remain a people who cherish our liberties and never allow a small, mad group to push us into questioning the value of freedom.
Amen, brother. Print this column out and fax it to your Senators & Representative.
THE RADIO SHOW went pretty well. I read the quote from Air Force cadet Sarah Robinson, below. I love doing radio. With TV you have to get dressed up and look nice, then go to some studio or satellite uplink across town. With radio you can be in your pajamas with your second cup of coffee.
MORE EMAIL: "Professor Reynolds, I agree with your views on anti-terrorism laws. So many restrictions on our freedoms are not only pointless and self-defeating, but they devalue the sacrifices made by millions of Americans throughout history. As someone in the military, who has sworn to defend the Constitution, it sickens me to think that we would forget the foundations of our great country and abide by cowardly laws." Sarah Robinson, Air Force ROTC cadet, St. Louis University
I can't tell you how many letters like this I've gotten from people in the military. It chokes me up to read them. And I'm a hard-boiled, cynical law professor.
GOOD MORNING: Over 5500 yesterday. Wow. I'm getting ready to do a radio show (KTSA, San Antonio) about antiterrorism and freedom -- they called after seeing the FoxNews column. You can do the same thing if you want -- just call up your local talk radio show and say that you don't believe we have to sacrifice our freedom to fight terrorism. To paraphrase Patton: we won't win by taking away our freedom. We'll win by taking away their freedom. Permanently.
ANOTHER GREAT ITEM on Virginia Postrel's site. It's a link to a Forbes interview with Thomas Burnett, one of the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93. Virginia's very important point: he's basically an ordinary nice guy, who sells artificial heart valves that save some people's lives. That sort of work, she notes, doesn't cut much ice with advocates of "national greatness," but it's heroism of a kind, too. And when it came time for the other kind, Burnett showed that the two go together. How many of our political leaders would have done the same in the crunch?
EUROPEAN SUPPORT is growing, as the lead at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung illustrates. Even Sweden and Pakistan say they're in the game, though I wouldn't expect too terribly much. But even their participation in name only is a big deal. U.S. media aren't giving this enough attention.
PROFESSOR BRANNON DENNING has the following trenchant observation:
First, let us agree that it is a good thing (and probably a good constitutional move) for President Bush to seek authorization from Congress to take whatever action is appropriate to respond to Tuesday's heinous attack. However, Congress should remember that the last time carte blanche authority was given to a chief executive to wage war, it ended badly. In 1964, President Johnson sought and received virtually unanimous authority to protect American interests in Vietnam following a series of "attacks" on U.S. warships (attacks, incidently, that were in response to American covert operations off of the North Vietnamese coast). Until Tuesday, everyone agreed that granting that kind of open-ended authority to wage war was a bad idea. Now, I fear that Congress is poised to do the same thing again. My advice: authorize the President to act, but try to build in some oversight. Require the President to seek re-authorization after a period of time. Something. In its haste to deliver the punishment that Tuesday's attack deserves to our enemies, let Congress not set another bad precedent by again delegating away the authority vested in it, not the President, regarding the initiation of war.
Old conventional wisdom: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution a disaster. I say: Look for calls to give the President "whatever power he needs" to conduct the war the Adminstration has declared.
The upside, of course, is that Bush is no LBJ. But the point is a good one.
BOMB THREATS GALORE: Apparently, a lot of bozos want to get in on the action. I got an email saying that Penn State was being evacuated because of a bomb threat. The whole campus? Surely not.
ANTI-MUSLIM SENTIMENT: The good news is, nobody's actually been hurt. The bad news is that more bozos of a different variety have come out of the woodwork. Still, compared with sentiment against Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor, it's not that bad. Here's some good news, from the same story:
On Wednesday, the Senate passed a resolution, 98-0, condemning violence and discrimination against Arab-Americans. Both President Bush and his father, the former president, called for tolerance. Attorney General John Ashcroft added: "We must not descend to the level of those who perpetrated Tuesday's violence."
TRAFFIC REPORT: Yesterday we broke the 4200 mark. Today we're already at 5200. And they're mostly "direct hits" -- people coming here on purpose, not just clicking on a link. Thanks. I can't believe that many people are interested in what I have to say.
LOVE/HATE MAIL: The FoxNews piece generated huge quantities of mail, and it's still coming in. Most of it -- I'd say by about 5 or 6 to 1 -- was positive. That surprised me, really: my experience has been that people are usually motivated to write more when they disagree. But I think a lot of people are turned off by the automatic assumption that the first thing we have to do when there's an act of terrorism is give up some freedom. I really do think that it's akin to sacrificing a goat to appease the gods -- it's a case of what psychologists call "magical thinking," where a particular action is associated with a desired result without any logical connection. Well enough on that. First, some of the favorable ones:
Make your statement loud and often. The Terrorist "experts" are all in unison that we can no longer have this luxury of freedom. As far as I am concerned I am as fearful of those in this country that believe they profit from a loss of individual freedom as I am from bin Laden. A victory over terrorism that includes reduced freedom is a shallow victory indeed.
The government has obviously screwed up in what they get paid for, but no doubt, as usual, they will blame it on the victims for having too much freedom. Keep up the good work.
No one gets my freedom. Not foreigners. Not my own government. Nobody.
I believe Patrick Henry had the same idea when he asked is peace so dear that we give up our freedom?
The article is absolutely correct. Some light is about to be shone on the absurd thinking and actions of many elected American officials over the last twenty or so years. However, the big question is whether we'll learn anything and take corrective action.
Thank you. I was screaming at the television last night as one person after the other said that "we have to change" . We do not and should not change. They (the terrorists must be the ones who change). Thank you for being at least one voice of sanity.
Then there were the not-so-favorable ones:
You mention inconvenience in your article. You are so right. It is so inconvenient when a mother is killed by a terrorist. As an ignorant patriot even I can see that we do not live in the 17th or 18th or 19 or 20th century anymore.
You speak of freedom. There is a word for unfettered, unrestricted freedom. The word is anarchy. There is a need for order, and sometimes order demands sacrifices. We should
be willing to make the necessary sacrifices, even if it requires the loss of some personal freedoms.
We can never be completely free. I, for one, will gladly give up some of my "freedom" for safety and security while flying! The price of not doing so could be more than I want to pay.
Go to hell, jackass! I'll sacrifice a little personal freedom to make sure I'm alive.
Well, maybe. But what you're being asked to sacrifice personal freedom for is things that don't stand an ice cube's chance in hell of actually stopping a terrorist! That's what's insulting about it. What's depressing is that there are people out there who will buy into a dumb rule just because it's a rule, and they're comforted by that. There's nothing in these FAA rule changes that would have stopped Tuesday's attacks. What would have? Armed sky marshals (we discontinued those). Armed passengers or crew (we don't allow those). Competent airport security (nobody will pay for those -- and, as a practical matter, it's impossible to stop all the terrorists that way: it's spread too thin).
Here's a good suggestion from one reader:
One expansion of our freedoms which would truly increase our safety is to allow volunteers to be trained as armed Sky Marshals. We should be using federal resources to train thousands of volunteers, rather than to pay the salaries of a much smaller number of hired employees. The idea is to arm and train as many frequent flyers as can pass a security check and are willing to sacrifice personal time for initial and regular follow-up training. As a criminal prosecutor for eight years, I can tell you that in times of crisis, those with the mental and emotional wherewithal to take appropriate action are not necessarily those wearing a uniform, or collecting a salary. We've all experienced the angst from knowing that everyone aboard the airplane except the bad guys has been disarmed. We should go the other way and arm the good guys -- with appropriate safeguards to insure that the ones with the guns are the good guys. Give your average air traveler the training and right to protect self and others this way and thousands will leap to the opportunity.
This sounds like a sensible suggestion. Unfortunately -- and here's what makes me mad about this stuff -- it won't empower any bureaucrats, and thus has a poor chance of succeeding.
However, there's a good chance that some of the FAA regulations will be temporary. If you think that they should be doing something else, you can email them at: [email protected] or call 800.255.1111.
EMAIL GALORE: My inbox runneth over with comments on the FoxNews piece about sacrificing security for antiterrorism. Literally several hundred. Mostly positive, I'm happy to say. After some family time (this isn't actually my whole life, however it may seem) I'm going to digest and excerpt some of the emails, pro and con, for posting. Er, but don't expect individual replies. I'd like to, but there's just no way. There really are hundreds, and they're still coming in. I'm already skating on the edge of carpal tunnel here..
IT'S STARTING: Declan McCullagh reports that Congress is suddenly considering stiff bans on encryption -- even though there's no evidence that Tuesday's attacks were facilitated by encryption. (We didn't know enough to even try to listen in on these guys). This stuff isn't patriotism. It's bureaucratic opportunism. All sorts of stuff will come out of the closet, get dusted off, and be relabeled a "response to the terrorist attacks" even though it has nothing to do with them and was sought by bureaucrats for their own reasons long before.
JONAH GOLDBERG says we should build the World Trade Center again, Lee Majors style -- better, stronger. No monument would be as good a monument as that:
For more than a decade, America has been increasingly obsessed with wallowing in remorse. After various school shootings, the Oklahoma City bombing, Princess Di's untimely death, and a dozen other tragedies large and small, America � or more specifically American media and politicians � have fetishized grief. The television networks have devoted hundreds if not thousands of hours to asking victims or their families, "How do you feel?" Sometimes, you could almost hear the news producers high-five each other when interviewees wept openly. Sometimes I think the "B" in MSNBC stands for "Bathos." . . .
[O]ther than delivering righteous retribution, the best way America can show that it's wiped away its tears and put steel in its spine is to rebuild the World Trade Center. A serious, dare I say manly, nation doesn't wallow. It dusts itself off, and gets up off the mat.
I'VE RECEIVED CANADIAN JOURNALIST GORDON SINCLAIR'S piece on "The Americans" in dozens of emails. Often they don't give the source. It's here. (Thanks, NRO, for publishing the link).
PROFESSOR TOM WEST has this to say:
In recent years, our government has instinctively made things inconvenient for law-abiding citizens, and invaded their freedom, as a response to criminal actions.
If someone shoots up a school, the government takes guns away from non-criminals and does not allow teachers to arm themselves. If drunk drivers cause fatal accidents, government mandates unconstitutional random stops of vehicles everywhere. If a plane is hijacked, government orders intrusive burdens on all air travelers, the silliest of which are those two questions at every check-in. "Well, yes, I did agree to carry a package with a funny ticking sound for a nice Arab-looking fellow I met in the parking lot."
WHAT'S WRONG WITH COUNTERTERRORISM: This article describes problems with the United States' counterterrorist efforts. Of course, the Pakistanis are now promising cooperation. Will that make a difference?
JUST RAN ACROSS THIS TERRIFIC ITEM BY DAN GILLMOR: He's right, of course. Quote:
What happened on Tuesday was an act of war. The American government and military should and will respond in kind.
If law enforcement and national security agencies declare war on the American people in the process, they will give the terrorists a gift. The despicable people who planned this will triumph if we add to the damage.
THE DOD HAS THIS PHOTO ARCHIVE from the Pentagon bombing online.
NOT JUST AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY: There's a reason it was called the World Trade Center. As Ananova reports, it reaches around the globe:
Jack Straw says hundreds of British dead in Trade Centre . . . 50 Irish may be missing . . . New Zealand waits for news of 150 "missing" . . . Nine Australians dead, 85 missing . . . Asian countries say citizens still missing . . . 100 Japanese workers and tourists missing . . . At least 12 Mexican workers missing . . . Up to 100 Canadians still missing . . . 40 Indians missing
As I said earlier, the global angle to this is underreported in the U.S. media.
ARAFAT KNOWS WHAT TO WORRY ABOUT but he's clueless about how to handle his problem. Strongarm tactics may prevent Western news teams from covering pro-terrorist celebrations, but they only emphasize what he has to cover up. Arafat's basic problem -- which he shares with most Arab leaders -- is that he has to inflame his supporters against the West to keep power, but that he also depends on the West to keep power. The jig is up on that ploy, I'm afraid. But though Arafat and others may have been totally cynical in putting this strategy in place, enough people bought into it that now they're prisoners of their own propaganda. Despite looking like Ringo Starr's no-good brother, Arafat is smart and adaptable. But I don't see how he's going to wriggle out of this situation.
POPULAR SENTIMENT: Here's some encouraging evidence that people aren't being stampeded into giving up their freedom in the (vain) hope that it will keep them safe.
PETER BEINART shines a light on the ugly messages on anti-globalization chatboards (something that Andrea See beat him to by a couple of days). It's not pretty, though. Being anti-globalization is (mostly) stupid (being against the concentration of corporate power, on the other hand, isn't stupid at all, but it's not anti-globalization, either), but people have a right to be stupid. Most of these messages, however, demonstrate that the anti-globalization movement is in some cases not just stupid, but far more nasty and self-centered than those that they despise.
I wouldn't make too much of this: every chatgroup has its assholes. But if the press found this kind of thing in email from EXXON executives, they wouldn't get much in the way of allowances. Sauce for the gander.
A NEW KIND OF WAR: Interesting suggestion from game designer Ken Burnside, on Jerry Pournelle's website:
We cannot win this war with bombs or bullets, although we can accelerate its prosecution by those means. We can only win this war through a generational conflict; we must win the war in the hearts and minds of the children growing up in the Middle East now.
Winning that longer war will be costlier and less immediately gratifying than cluster bombs and Fuel Air Explosives, and "killing the bastards and everyone that helped them."
It can, however, be a profitable war.
If you are an author, or someone who creates media, contact your publisher about translating your works into Arabic. Someone in the DoD is in charge of outbound propaganda; we should find who that person is, and give them the munitions to win this war.
Bin-Ladin has declared this a culture war.
Let's show him what a culture war TRULY looks like. Let's send in Shakespeare. And Heinlein. And Harlequin Romances, Pokemon and The Simpsons.
IT'S NOT JUST ANN COULTER: Police have just turned back an angry crowd marching on a mosque in Belleville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. About 300 people with flags; no violence. But still. As Mark Whittington points out (see below), it's not fair to tar all of Islam with the bin-Laden brush, especially when we don't even know for sure (heck we don't know for "kinda sure") that it was bin-Laden.
Islam is as diverse as Christianity. Marching on a particular mosque to protest Islamic fundamentalism may be like marching on a Unitarian church to protest Operation Rescue. Besides, this is bush-league stuff; unworthy of Americans. It needs to stop. People should save their anger for the people who deserve it, not just the people who are close to hand.
JAKE TAPPER TAKES BUSH TO TASK for ignoring the bipartisan commission on terrorism. Er, except that following their recommendations wouldn't have done much: they actually spent most of their time worrying, and warning, about biological & chemical attacks, smuggled nukes, cyberterrorism, and so on. Not hijacked airplanes. What they're saying now is largely self-serving. It ill-becomes those who at least pose as statesmen.
OVERLAWYERED.COM on declarations of war: "Before going to war, declare war. Formal declarations of war paradoxically help make the world a more civilized place, at least when compared with the alternative, the modern practice of waging war without declaring it: like other legal formalisms, they help put an end to self-serving guessing games among both combatants and third parties as to who owes obligations to whom."
CHUCK COLSON on "Just War Theory" and proportionality. God, I love the Web!
GREAT POINT from reader Mark Whittington: "I think Ann Coulter misses the point. It would be far simpler if Middle Eastern terrorists were to convert to Islam. Islam condemns the wanton murder of innocents and teaches that people who do that go to Hell." Indeed.
UPDATE: I should note that -- though I really only know Mark electronically -- I think it's fair to say that he is, if anything, to the right of Ann Coulter.
GODFREY DE BOUILLON, CALL YOUR OFFICE: Okay, this passage by Ann Coulter starts off sensibly enough, and quickly descends into, well, nonsense is the kindest word I'll offer, and it's not the most accurate that comes to mind:
The airport kabuki theater of magnetometers, asinine questions about whether passengers "packed their own bags," and the hostile, lumpen mesomorphs ripping open our luggage somehow allowed over a dozen armed hijackers to board four American planes almost simultaneously on Bloody Tuesday. (Did those fabulous security procedures stop a single hijacker anyplace in America that day?)
Airports scrupulously apply the same laughably ineffective airport harassment to Suzy Chapstick as to Muslim hijackers. It is preposterous to assume every passenger is a potential crazed homicidal maniac. We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.
Is it possible that tall, blonde, pretty Ann is offended at being treated -- by lumpen mesomorphs, no less -- like short, swarthy men with funny accents? (Actually, if I remember correctly, she's probably a better shot than most terrorists, and her tongue is as sharp as any boxcutter). Sorry, Ann, but that's what this whole "Rule of Law" thing is all about, you see.
I've seen some other people I respect, who are light-years to the left of Ann Coulter, say the same things, though (mostly) not in print (Steve Stirling, who knows better, invokes the words of Hulagu Khan at the taking of Baghdad: "I am the Sword of God, come to give you judgement.") Even Dr. Seuss said and wrote some things during World War II of which he was later embarrassed. So I'm just going to put this down to too many hours spent watching cable news channels and not enough sleep. But really: there's a difference between righteous indignation and frothing at the mouth. This is the latter.
EXCELLENT PIECE BY JAMES FALLOWS: Forget banning steak knives: put a marshal on every flight. (He also has some good points on general vulnerability in the aviation system). Actually, I think there are more flights than there are marshals, but he has the right idea. I think arming the cabin crews is a better idea -- and the idea (nearly passed a few years ago) of letting retired cops and civilians with concealed-weapon permits go armed isn't a bad one either.
Even my most liberal friends are not big on the steak knife ban. As one woman said yesterday: "Great. Let's be sure that everyone on board is as helpless as possible."
I said it before, but the knife ban is asinine -- it looks hysterical and stupid, because it is, and it's handing a victory to the terrorists, not defending against them. People need confidence that those in charge are thinking clearly. This isn't helping.
PASSENGERS VOWED TO PERISH FIGHTING: This story by Jodi Wilgoren and Edward Wong in the New York Times has the best coverage of the heroism aboard United Flight 93, bolstered by a partial cockpit transcript and more interviews with family members who spoke via cell phone. Great coverage, of something that I think will turn out to be very important.
TRAFFIC yesterday hit yet another new record, breaking 4200 readers. I'm glad you're finding this worth reading.
MICKEY KAUS is back! I mentioned earlier that I had gotten worried and emailed him. He said he didn't have anything to say yet. I'm glad that's changed.
FROM THE MAILBAG: The email I get is almost uniformly great, and it's in huge quantities these days. But here are some excerpts:
The Internet was designed to survive catastrophe, and it did its job yesterday.
When I look at a skyscraper I see �target.� When we look at the internet we see distribution and resiliency. Does this mark the turning point in what was already a trend away from massive
consolidation of resources and a more distributed model of our reality?
Perhaps this fear will dissipate over time, but today who can say that they are not afraid of
being in a target (be it a large building or any large collection of people) and who can say that
they honestly feel that this style of proclamation (by foreign born or American terrorists) is
going to end...ever.
The sad fact is, that we still need to see Muslims/Middle Easterners/whomever as humane and rational -- since most are. The problem is that too many people have been willing to overlook kooks like bin Laden simply because they were not representative. They aren't representative, but they are kooks, and dangerous ones at that. Now, we need to make sure we don't make the mistake of overlooking the normal people because we have made kooks representative of all Muslims/Middle Easterners/whomever. The kooks want us to drive the rest of the population into their fold, and if our response fails to be properly selective and measured, we will play into their hands.
It makes no sense to talk about security measures that could prevent another such terrorist attack. The terrorists brought nothing but knives(presumably of legal size),skill, and determination. The attack was planned by a criminal mastermind who used our very strengths against ourselves:available flight schools, densely populated techno-structures, and lots of air travel. No precaution was possible against this attack. You can't do a comprehensive background check of each airline passenger, and even so, nothing unusual might have shown up. The question is, what do we do now? We can easily secure the airlines by merely requiring that two armed sky marshals accompany each and every flight (we'll even let the airlines hike their fares to support this). But I'm willing to bet that the next attack will be something entirely different, such as bacteriological agents causing mass deaths. Should we wait for the next attack, or hope that this one was a singular occurrence? Surely, if this type of thing happens again we need to take military action somewhere, preferably the location that is the probable source of the attacks.
Politicians in Ireland are proposing a National Register of knives, and "strict licensing of knives capable of inflicting serious harm." [full story below]
When the FAA shut down our national air space, it didn't just ground the big birds. People in privately owned and personally flown aircraft from single engine trainers to business jets were also forced down. This morning, the government aircraft were back in the air. This afternoon the big planes are allowed to finish the flights so the passengers can go home, and the companies are also allowed to reposition the empty planes for tomorrow's flights. But thousands of law abiding citizens are still trapped away from home because their small planes are still grounded.
details on the new flights, and the new security restrictions. Of the seven new restrictions, only one or two would have made any difference Tuesday
This whole knife control thing is asinine. It's letting the terrorists make fools of us, pure and simple.
GOOD NIGHT. Last night I said that I hoped today would be better. And it was. Oh, we didn't wake up and discover it was all a dream. But we had stories of heroism to match the ones of destruction. And there are signs of a consensus appearing, that we shouldn't sacrifice freedoms on the altar of antiterrorism. Not too bad, considering.
EXCELLENT PIECE by Michael Lynch. This is bad, but heck, if you're my age you spent your whole childhood under the threat of nuclear annihilation. And we came closer on a couple of occasions than is generally realized. As I said yesterday, this is normal life.
YASSER ARAFAT IS SCARED: And he should be. The blood-donation thing was a first-class PR move, but it's gone over as hypocritical. He knows that those photos of street-jubilation among Palestinians are pure political poison. His only salvation will be to deliver the ringleaders' heads on a plate. I don't think he can do that.
AHA! I've been wondering why so many usually-liberal and pacifistic academic types are now yelling for blood the loudest. My sagacious brother offers this explanation:
Hey, I think I just figured out why so many seemingly mellow liberal types are calling for brutal retribution against the perpetrators of yesterday's attacks (take our friend at the Carnigie foundation, for example). The answer is that these folks feel betrayed. Betrayed by the very folks they have been defending as rational and humane. Now they feel as if they have been used.
HAVEN'T HAD ENOUGH OF MY BLATHERING? Then read this FoxNews Commentary. I'm going to get RSI from all this typing.
TRAFFIC has been amazing. There were almost 4200 visitors yesterday, going way beyond the previous record of the (terrorism-free) day before. I'm also getting lots of email. I'm trying to respond to it, and what I don't respond to I'm saving to try to post on later. I very much appreciate all the nice things that people (almost everyone, actually) are saying. I'm glad you've found InstaPundit helpful, and even, as some say, comforting. I intended this to be something far more casual and arch. And it may be someday. But not this week.
THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL PAGE TODAY SUCKED. Sorry, but I just can't say anything better. I was going to write about it, but I just couldn't bring myself to. (Maureen Dowd's piece was particularly awful). Fortunately, I don't have to. SmarterTimes -- who has to write about stuff like that -- did it, and did a better job than I could.
AMERICAN COVERAGE gives an unrealistic picture of the world's reaction. You can see it in places like Caterina.Net or on Andrea See's page, and in this letter to Jim Romenesko's Media News from Paul Kunino Lynch, an Australian journalist. Excerpt:
On a Sydney television network that broadcasts non-English-speaking news daily, bulletins from Japan, China, Italy, Germany, Greece have carried the images America is sorrowfully familiar with, and the newsreaders' faces are filled with the same sorrow.
US TV news as shown here -- at one point, CNN was live on five separate networks, and NBC, ABC and CBS news also arrived here live -- gives a misleading impression of the world's grief. A few dignitaries in expensive suits, the British prime minister, the French president, express sorrow, a few dozen people of Arab descent in Israeli streets express delight. These latter are a very small splinter of humanity. Most of the world shares your sorrow. I wish US TV news could convey this truth.
Americans tend to feel that the rest of the world doesn't care about them. People in the rest of the world tend to feel that America doesn't care about them. I wonder how much blame for this belongs at the feet of the major American media?
The Washington Post's website had a very moving photo of women lighting candles at a memorial service in Germany. It was on their front page; now it's here. Some more coverage like this would be a good thing, I think.
SOME VERY NICE APPRECIATION for the support people from other countries are showing on Caterina.net.
EXCELLENT CRITIQUE OF THE CLINTON TERRORISM POLICY in The New Republic, which is in the process of posting a lot of new and interesting stuff (see Jeffrey Rosen's piece, described just below). Clinton, says author Lawrence Kaplan, treated terrorists as everyday criminals, terrorism as a law enforcement problem, and military force as something that could be applied in ever-so-sensitive increments, in order to send "signals."
SUPERB COLUMN BY JEFFREY ROSEN on why the freedom-for-security trade is bogus. As Rosen points out, Europe and Britain have become surveillance states, but they still have terrorists. London's vaunted security-camera "Ring of Steel" hasn't caught a single one; it's mostly used to nail traffic offenders. Those shadowy "security consultants" and bureaucrats have racked up an impressive record of abject failure against terrorism. We shouldn't pay much attention. Quote: "Galvanizing acts of terrorism tend to provoke sweeping increases in domestic surveillance that change the character of civic life without deterring or preventing future terrorist attacks. By learning from the excessive and ineffective responses of the past, America can focus its energies on retaliating against the guilty rather than transforming life for the innocent. . . . [O]ur constitutional freedoms may be about to face their most serious test in decades. We can't protect ourselves from suicide bombers by blindly surrendering our liberty. To do so would only ensure the victory of fanaticism, and the destruction of all that makes America uniquely worth defending."
He's right. Tell your Senator and Representative.
"WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE BUT THREE OF US ARE GOING TO DO SOMETHING:" More on people who acted the way Americans used to think we were all supposed to act.
TONY JUDT says that Free Agent Nation has come to warfare:
In the twentieth century, war was made on civilians. In the twenty-first century, war will be made by civilians. It will be the definitive "faith-based initiative," requiring neither guns, tanks, ships, planes, nor missiles. Like other faith-based initiatives it will bypass the conventional state. All it will need is planning skills and a willingness to die for your beliefs. Everything else--machinery, technology, targets--will be furnished by civil society, its victim. The point of such warfare will not be to achieve an objective, much less win a final victory. It will be--it already is--simply to make a point.
I'm not sure he's right. But let's say he is. Perhaps we should respond in kind, by privatizing our response through the hallowed institution of letters of marque and reprisal. These were banned by treaty at the apogee of the state system, but perhaps these techniques, evolved during a period more like our own, once again might have some use. As long as we're thinking "new economy," there's no reason to limit its benefits to the other guys.
GIVING HEROISM A GOOD NAME: Charles Lane reports that the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, knew what the terrorist were planning and determined to stop them, even though it cost them their lives. I hope that these people are awarded the highest possible civilian heroism medal. And I hope that a big deal is made of their behavior. The JPFO folks are right about this: We've told people not to get involved for too long. That message is a recipe for disaster on many fronts -- but this was definitely one of them. It's time to reverse the culture of disarmament, which holds that there's some sort of moral superiority in being ineffectual.
IT'S BETTER THAN BANNING PLASTIC STEAK KNIVES: Thoughts from Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership:
"We know that terrorists have repeatedly promised to attack U.S. population centers, and that:
1. The World Trade Center was undefended against any air attack.
2. The Pentagon was undefended against unexpected air attack.
3. The airliners carried nothing but unarmed and undefended people.
The common factor: "undefended."
What renders Americans undefended? The idea that "we don't need to defend ourselves" -- the culture of disarmament -- delivered to the terrorists many thousands of potential aircraft full of people who had no means to stop an onboard terrorist. Even the pilots and crew were federally guaranteed to be unable to resist hijackers by force.
What rendered the Pentagon, an obvious military target, undefended? The belief that it didn't need defending against air attack. The people inside were victims of government decisions not to provide defense against relatively easy attacks from the air. All of the air attack victims are victims of government decisions not to expose, disrupt or wipe out aggressors who have announced their intentions to attack America.
As a nation, we have put all of our safety eggs into the basket of government and military. That's a mistake.
You will soon hear proposals to impose "heightened domestic security." Some will call for martial law. Many more will urge complete disarmament of Americans, "just to make sure" that the terrorist threat is reduced. We can expect to hear calls to curtail citizens' rights because of the threat. We will hear "this event changes our ideas about how free a free society can be."
Wrong. Now is the time to defend a free society, not destroy it in fear. Now is the time to protect our civilization, not to collapse it because of acts of war.
Now is the time, not to disarm ourselves and resign to government protection, but to arm Americans against terrorist attacks. More Americans have to take active part in defending our nation, our communities, our families, ourselves."
TAKING THE WRONG APPROACH: They're going to ban pocketknives on planes, however small, and there will no longer be steak knives -- even plastic ones -- in First Class. Now, does this really make any sense? Will it actually stop any terrorists?
TRIUMPH OF THE WEB: The Internet was designed to survive catastrophe, and it did its job yesterday. This New York Times article describes it. Declan McCullagh has an interesting log of messages from infrastructure managers who kept things going despite power failures, dust and ash-clogged intake vents, etc., on his Politech site.. Declan also reports that the FBI is rolling out Carnivore in a big way. This request doesn't sound that unreasonable: "Hotmail officials have been receiving calls from the San Francisco FBI office since mid-(Tuesday) morning and are cooperating with their expedited requests for information about a few specific accounts," the person said. "Most of the account names start with the word 'Allah' and contain messages in Arabic." However, we should keep a sharp eye on this -- there will be lots of efforts to slip long-desired stuff through whether it has any connection with the attacks or not.
A FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT from New York with some digital images. Click here.
JESSE WALKER writes: "The phrase 'police work' may have been an unfortunate choice on my part, since it seems to imply something small. My point is that the response should be targeted at the criminals and their accomplices, not at civilians or at anyone who merely happens to be a usual suspect." Fair enough. I don't think we should be indiscriminate. But I don't think we should require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, either. As InstaPundit readers know, I'm meticulous about such things where actual police work is involved. But this is -- whether it winds up being declared or not -- basically a war. The standards of proof there are different.
WHY WE SHOULDN'T DECLARE WAR: The argument against declaring war is made by Jesse Walker of Reason. I agree that we shouldn't be hysterical or indiscriminate. But I don't agree that this is just a matter for "police work."
TERROR RAP? The FBI is looking for some middle eastern men who recorded a CD of rap tunes celebrating mideast terrorism in Florida, under the name "Arab Assassins." Quote: "Lyrics include: "I know I'm going to die," "I'm next on God's list," "Let me roast with them," and "Guerilla warfare? I say it's strictly honest." the music also refers to bombings, New York, fundamentalist Islamic martyrs and disguises. The lead singer raps that "the U.S. will remember this." " Oh, you can bet on that last.
Does this have anything to do with what happened yesterday? Who knows? But it's not going to make any friends.
AS ALWAYS, ANDREA SEE has thoughts worth reading. Thanks to the Internet, the effects of this disaster seem more immediate to people around the world. I wonder if the perpetrators thought about that.
SUPPORT FROM UGANDA:
Please accept my heartfelt condolences about the terrible shocking events of
yesterday. My heart goes out to all Americans.
WALTER SHAPIRO HAS IT RIGHT: "Terrorist acts can't cause freedoms to take flight". I'm glad to see this emerging as a consensus. I hope people will hold strongly to this line once the inevitable sleazy legislation intended to turn terror into bureaucrats' wish lists materializes. I'm all for seriously addressing terrorism -- but if the 1996 legislation was any guide, that won't be what we're doing.
MICKEY KAUS IS OK: Maybe I was the only one to notice that he hadn't been posting on Kausfiles (well, I doubt that -- but maybe I was the only one to worry). He assures me by email that he's ok, but just has nothing he wants to say right now. I understand, though my reaction has been more in the opposite direction. But I'm just glad he's OK. If anyone else has been wondering (and I'll bet a lot of InstaPundit readers read Kausfiles, too), now you don't have to worry.
RUSH IS RIGHT: Yeah, I listen to him sometimes, but I seldom say that. But today, as I write this, he's making me actually proud of him. We didn't become a great nation, he says, by hunkering down, by being fearful, by diminishing ourselves. And we won't stay one. He's decrying those who say we should give up a little freedom in exchange for a little illusory security. Bravo. Contrast this with Pulitzer-winning historian David McCullough, who was on TV last night advocating that very thing. I've said it before, but the right has somehow, and without it being really commented upon, become the chief bulwark of civil liberties in this country, while the left -- with exceptions like the ACLU & Nat Hentoff -- has become timid and authoritarian.
TERRIFIC COLUMN BY DAVE KOPEL: It's so good I won't even post a representative quote -- there are just too many good ones. Read it, and rejoice that such sensible views are being published despite the horrific events of yesterday. This is why this country is, ultimately, unbeatable. Our system of free expression makes us less stupid than others. Not perfect, but less stupid. That's enough.
WAR? OR SOMETHING ELSE: Some very thoughtful comments by my brother, whose credentials as a scholar of Islam are impeccable:
Sigh. Lets go past the WWII references and go straight to the Civil War. Many Southerners who weren't willing to fight for Slavery/states rights were willing to fight for the Honor of the South. Many Muslims who aren't willing to fight for terrorism will be willing to fight for Islamic/Arab Honor. And they aren't going to put on uniforms. They know that won't work. They will use what does... suicide bombing, mass protests, and still more terrorist-style attacks. Fighting back will be like trying to kill mosquitos with baseball bats. When you get one, it will be really really dead, but you will look pretty stupid in the process. And you will get really tired really fast. I prefer the DDT approach, but this isn't nukes. It is Western Culture in the form of music videos, KFC and swimsuit models. These are powerful forces for the insinuation of the real Western values of individualism and secularism. People like the Saudis know it and that is why they so eschew these things.
At the same time, I don't think that we can respond to this the way we respond to lesser acts of terrorism. The trick -- and it will be tricky -- will be responding in a way that helps, not just a way that makes us feel better for a little while.
IT'S NOT 1939 FOR CHRISSAKE: Andrew Sullivan is quoting Auden's Sept. 1, 1939. It's a great poem. But this isn't World War Two. Thinking that it is is a matter of Boomer narcissism. (Yeah, I know, Andrew's not a Boomer -- but he seems to have caught the bug here). Worse still, thinking that it is gets in the way. Responding to this may require the fortitude that Americans (and Brits, and others) showed in World War Two. But it's a very different kind of thing. People made fun of Bush, Sr. when he remarked wistfully that he hadn't been "tested in fire." But what I'm hearing in some quarters in the way of WWII nostalgia sounds very much the same. Let's not confuse a war with a midlife crisis.
GAS PANIC OVERRATED? Taking my daughter to school I passed three gas stations. All were open, had regular prices, and no lines. Yet I keep getting emails (even from people here in Knoxville) saying that there's no gas, or $5/gallon gas, or whatever. If everyone rushes to gas stations and tops off, stations will run out. But that's always true. So far this seems to be a case of rumormongering run wild.
WHERE'S "AIR RAGE" WHEN YOU NEED IT? As best we can tell, passengers in these airplanes were held at bay by a handful of men with small knives. They got the crews to come out of the cockpit by assaulting a flight attendant.
Not long ago, an assault on a flight attendant would have been subdued by passengers, without the need for "official" intervention. People (mostly men, but women, too) were raised to believe that they had a responsibility to enforce rules of public behavior, physically if need be, and even where there was (horrors!) personal risk involved. Now, on the other hand, people are constantly told to be passive, to not get involved, to stay out of things that might lead to trouble. That, supposedly, is the smart thing to do But we cannot maintain order by waiting for the duly-constituted authorities to arrive. What in a previous age was called cowardice has been elevated to the status of a virtue But it is not, and never has been.
Apparently the passengers and crew on the airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania did put up a fight. The plane crashed, but they saved hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives by ensuring that it didn't hit its target. We need to loudly praise such heroism -- it, and not passive cowardice, will be needed in the days to come. As, in truth, it always has been.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER is calling for a declaration of war too. Where's the White House on this?
DECLARE WAR: Terrific letter in the Washington Post by Wade Hinkle:
If the attacks were conducted by a sub-national group or individuals, we should still declare war. There is plenty of precedent for this in early 19th century U.S. history. Congress several times authorized military action against what we would now call sub-state actors (such as the Barbary pirates). The Constitution (Article I, Section 8) explicitly authorizes Congress to grant letters of marque and reprisal, as well as the authority to define and punish "offenses against the law of nations" partly to deal with brigands. In this case, the war objective ought to be to destroy the enemy's ability to conduct further attacks.
It does not matter if the attackers are unidentified. It is perfectly permissible (and legal) for Congress to declare war on the perpetrators and have them identified definitively later by the commander in chief.
President Bush should ask for such a declaration of war today. It would legitimize and galvanize the inevitable American reprisal.
I hope that this will get the attention it deserves. I'm afraid that we'll have a lot of blather and then sink into the usual mire of counterterrorism as usual. "Limited war " has never worked.
AIRPORT SECURITY: Brendan Miniter hits the nail on the head in OpinionJournal today. Airport security didn't stop these hijackings. More of it won't stop the next round. As a military maxim has it "he who defends everything, defends nothing." Airport security can't be good, because it is so widespread. It winds up being done by people on minimum wage, because you can't afford Delta Force at every ticket booth and embarkation ramp, and who are lackadaisical because it is statistically certain they will face tens of thousands of false alarms for every real incident.
ARMED SECURITY on planes might be a start. So would be an end to our culture of "go along with their demands so no one gets hurt," which encourages terrorism and -- as we saw yesterday -- sometimes ensures that thousands are hurt. More on this topic later today.
BRAVO, VIRGINIA! I saw David McCullough blathering last night. I haven't read his new book, but after hearing him talk I can imagine him as an enthusiast for the Alien & Sedition Acts. Here's what Virginia says, which is better than anything I could do:
Get these "greatest generation" pundits off TV, starting with David McCullough. Maybe it's nostalgia for the days of internment and rationing, but these guys are way too ready to concede defeat by handing over our liberties in pursuit of an impossible level of safety. Resilience and basic bravery, not a rush to precaution, are called for. The way ordinary Americans can stand up to terrorism is by making sure we retain the right to live normally�and by continuing to value the products of normal life.
GOOD NIGHT. May tomorrow be a better day.
NUCLEAR RETALIATION? MSNBC is reporting that nuclear retaliation has not been taken off the table. Of course, first we have to know who to bomb.
THIS CD COVER featuring an exploding World Trade Center, will soon be a collector's item. It'll be off the shelves tomorrow, I expect.
ANDREW SULLIVAN IS BACK ONLINE, which is good: all day long I've wanted to hear his thoughts. His connection of this act with the Durban conference is particularly on point.
GAS PANICS: One thing that isn't being widely reported is panic over gas. But it's happening. Several stations here in Knoxville ran out earlier tonight, and I'm getting email that it's that way elsewhere. People are topping up, and spreading rumors (which I can't verify, and doubt) that pipelines are being shut down for fear of terrorism. Here's something I do know: if every American tops off his/her tank on the same day, it's enough to completely overload the gasoline distribution system. This should settle down in a day or two. Let's be reasonable here, okay?
ROBERT KAGAN IS CALLING FOR WAR, something that would be less objectionable were he not a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It's not that I think he's wrong, exactly: this is war, of a sort, and not some picayune law-enforcement matter. But I was remarking earlier today about the phenomenon of "greatest-generation-envy" that the boomers seem to have, and Kagan's repeated invocations of World War Two, etc., worry me a bit.
Generals are always supposed to be preparing for the last war. But as a nation, we can't afford that. This wasn't Pearl Harbor. There were no Japanese airplanes. They were our own airplanes, hijacked by sinister forces. Let's apply a remedy that suits the problem, not Baby Boomer generation envy.
DUMB STORY ALERT: Look for these headlines "A loss of innocence," "America loses its sense of invulnerability," etc. They trot these out every time, from Challenger, to Oklahoma City, to the (previous) WTC bombing, etc. Note to editors: why not skip 'em this time?
A QUIET, UNYIELDING ANGER: Bush seems to be steering the right course, not going over the top and not wimping out. Two important points that he made: these guys hate us because of who we are -- free and prosperous -- not what we do. Second, this isn't just a law-enforcement problem, it is, as the Washington Post editorializes, war.
CLOSING THE BARN DOOR:
"BY REQUEST FROM THE BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO AND FIREARMS AND NICS, THE FOLLOWING IS A SPECIAL NOTICE TO ALL FIREARMS RETAILERS
� ATF ISSUE SECURITY ADVISORY . . . The ATF has issued a special request that all federally licensed firearms retailers consider implementing additional security measures tonight and in the near-term to safeguard their inventory following the terrorist attacks launched on the United States today.
� NICS FULLY FUNCTIONAL . . . Officials at the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in Clarksburg, WV, have said that the increased volume of telecommunications usage nationwide has resulted in some retailers having difficulty in obtaining NICS checks. NICS says the system is fully operational and delays retailers encounter are strictly due to the telecommunications system overload. The ATF and NICS appreciate your patience during these difficult times."
PUTIN SUPPORTS TOUGH RESPONSE: Okay, he's probably just hoping we'll forget about Chechnya (like we've paid much attention anyway) but it's more political cover for Bush.
WHEN WILL WE GET BACK TO NORMAL? A colleague asked me that today. "This is normal," I replied. For most of human history, wondering when somebody from another tribe was going to try to kill you was the standard activity. In much of the world, it still is. Three million people have died in the Congo in the past couple of years. Before that, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, the Middle East, Cambodia, -- you get the idea. It's only in comparatively strong and wealthy Western nations that we can pretend that safety is normal. It really isn't all that normal for us, either. In the past hundred years we've had two world wars and a bunch of others. In the 19th Century we had the Civil War, the War of 1812 (in which most of DC was burned), etc., etc.
"Normal" is what we call those brief periods when something normal isn't happening.
TERRIFIC COLUMN BY DEROY MURDOCK: He has it dead right, about reacting and overreacting. Quote:
[O]ver the long term, political leaders must exercise extreme caution about overreacting to these staggeringly severe circumstances. Those who have called for government control of Internet-encryption technology, monitoring of the movements of cell-phone users and similar surveillance techniques will demand these and other steps in the aftermath of these disasters. In the name of fighting terrorism, such steps may be appealing. However, American leaders and voters alike should be very careful about embracing measures today that will leave citizens less free in the long run in an effort to catch criminals in the here and now. The Bill of Rights must not collapse with the Twin Towers.
American officials should feel no such restraint about retaliating against whatever group or nation perpetrated these acts of war. Any country that gave aid and comfort to whomever did these things should be treated as if its president were at the controls of one of the flying bombs that so tragically found its target.
Well said. I should add that holding these countries responsible is appropriate, but there have to be limits. Right now, somewhere in Washington, somebody is probably working on some grandiose scheme to retaliate in a way that will kill most Arabs and annex the oil. I hope that such dumb ideas wind up on the cutting-room floor where they belong.
NO WEAPONS NEEDED: Will Saletan makes an excellent point in Slate: these terrorists needed no weapons. They turned ordinary implements of peace, jet airliners, into deadly devices.
This reminds me of a story. JFK was once asked the difference between the Atlas that launched John Glenn and the nuclear-tipped Atlas missiles aimed at Russia. "Attitude," he said.
Diplomats like arms-control treaties. Domestically, some people like gun control. But ultimately, it is people who are dangerous. As Dan Akroyd said in Driving Miss Daisy, "A car is an object, mama. It does not act. It is acted upon." So, too, a jet plane. And everything else.
JAMES FALLOWS CONCLUDES, PERSUASIVELY that the suicide flights were flown by reasonably expert pilots, in this item in Slate.
OKAY, SO WE'RE NOT BOMBING AFGHANISTAN: At least that's the latest. (Remember what I said about "the fog of war"?). It's just normal gunfire, explosion, etc. in Kabul.
IF THE UNITED STATES' RETALIATION GOES ASTRAY, MOST AMERICANS WON'T CARE: That's because of sentiments like this one from Egyptians: "Bullseye!" For decades, Israelis have told us that Arabs were anti-Western and wished us ill. This is going to cause a lot of people to agree. Coming after the Durban conference, this marks a drastic reduction -- for the foreseeable future -- of any serious concern for what the Arab nations think.
THIS ALSO LIBERATES BUSH: His father worried (unnecessarily) about American public opinion, and thus failed to finish off Saddam Hussein. Clinton was always concerned about looking like a bully. Bush needn't worry about that. It will be open season -- not just militarily, but economically, diplomatically, and every other way -- on any and every Arab country that Bush wants to target.
ARAB COUNTRIES that want to escape the consequences had best start sucking up to Bush right away, and handing over the culprits' heads on a platter (perhaps literally). This isn't like Lockerbie, or any previous event. It's war.
I'm a deputy attorney general, and essentially act as the general
counsel for the Delaware Department of Transportation. Among other
things, I've worked for several years with my counterparts in the Port
Authority of NY/NJ on the EZPass project (electronic toll collection
As soon as I heard of the attacks on the WTC, my thoughts went
immediately to my business friends who work for the Port Authority in
Building One. There was no way I could reach them to find out how or if
they made it out safely. Then I thought of all the thousands of others,
with similar thoughts about the thousands of people they know who work
or live in the same area.
The "six degrees of separation" that connect so many Americans may not
be fully appreciated by those not of this country. It'll be one of the
reasons we come together fairly quickly as a people to react in strong,
measured ways to this newest outrage.
My office is near Dover AFB, which went to Delta level along with all
the other military bases. State employees were dismissed early, and as I
drove by the base I was impressed at the line of cars of AFB staff lined
up to enter the base for duty on short notice. It was obvious that many
were interrupted in the middle of living their lives according to the
normal peacetime routine. It was also obvious that these people know
their duty and are prepared to follow through.
Some good will come of this eventually, I'm sure. It's just an awful
price to pay.
SO MUCH FOR THE KLINGONS: Bombs -- or cruise missiles, or something -- are falling on Kabul. Bush visited a major B-52 base and SAC headquarters today. Coincidence? Not likely. Cruise missiles are fine, but this can't be one of those Bill Clinton wham-bam-I've-bombed-you-ma'am specials. Whoever we decide is responsible must be obliterated sufficiently to ensure that this won't happen again. I just hope we know what we're doing on this.
THE PRESS COVERAGE on all this seems to focus on horror and tragedy. I don't think it's capturing how angry people are. Foreigners always forget just how mad Americans get when they're pissed off. The dominant tone I'm getting is pissed off. Even the usually-pacifistic intellectuals are adopting a hard line. That happened after Pearl Harbor, too.
I suppose this Afghanistan bombing means we know, or think we do, that there's an Afghanistan connection. We have some intelligence. I won't post the emails, but apparently multiple passengers (including Barbara Olson, wife of SG Ted Olson) called out on cellphones during the hijackings, which must have provided some useful information. The terrorists were armed, apparently, only with knives and boxcutters. I said below that the Archie Bunker theory of aircraft safety (give everyone a gun when they board) was looking good. I was being facetious then.
VIRGINIA POSTREL has many great posts on her page, including a link to a terrific Jonah Goldberg column that she excerpts.
VIRGINIA IS MAD. So am I. Hell, so is everyone. And the TV footage of jubilant Palestinians just proves what I've always suspected -- they just don't get it. They'll learn. Oh, how they'll learn. Even if it turns out that this was done by the Chinese, or disaffected high school students, their jubilation will be long remembered. The American role as "mediator" in the Middle East is over. Since -- though they don't realize it -- that's the only thing that has kept the Palestinians in the game since 1991, their future is likely to be grim, now.
HAVING SAID THAT, I want to invoke the old Klingon proverb: Revenge is a dish best served cold. Or, if you prefer a different science-fiction universe, we shouldn't give into the dark side of the force, letting our anger run wild.
OF COURSE, as in either of those movies, those considerations don't preclude squashing the offending parties like bugs. But they do suggest that we should do it deliberately. Terrorists WANT to get us off balance, lashing out, and out of control.
SPACE.COM IS REPORTING THAT THE WTC EXPLOSION WAS VISIBLE FROM ORBIT: The story says that the crew could see the billowing smoke clouds as the station passed over the Eastern Seaboard. This seems dubious to me, but conceivable given the very clear weather.
UPDATE: The Dennis Roddy link isn't working. He emailed me the story and link and said it was from a forthcoming "Extra" of the Post-Gazette. It may be up later, or it may have been withdrawn; I'll try to find out. Other news organs have apparently been reporting the same thing.
BLOOD BANKS ARE JAMMED with people who want to donate -- here in Knoxville, and, I'll bet, everywhere. It's a powerful desire to do something to help. I'm going myself, if I can get through the crowds. More later. Scroll down for various items, including Dennis Roddy's breakthrough hijack story.
THERE'S A FIRST HAND ACCOUNT from the World Trade Center in Slate.
TOM CLANCY WAS RIGHT: (Reposted from earlier today) And we're living one of his scenarios right now. Not much is known for sure, but it's obvious that the United States is the target of a major terrorist assault. There's a lot of bloviation on the cable news channels, most of which will turn out to be wrong or misleading later. Here, for your consideration, are a few points to be taken from past experience:
The Fog of War: Nobody knows much right now. Many things that we think we know are likely to be wrong.
Overreaction is the Terrorist's Friend: Even in major cases like this, the terrorist's real weapon is fear and hysteria. Overreacting will play into their hands.
It's Not Just Terrorists Who Take Advantage: Someone will propose new "Antiterrorism" legislation. It will be full of things off of bureaucrats' wish lists. They will be things that wouldn't have prevented these attacks even if they had been in place yesterday. Many of them will be civil-liberties disasters. Some of them will actually promote the kind of ill-feeling that breeds terrorism. That's what happened in 1996. Let's not let it happen again.
Only One Antiterrorism Method Works: That's punishing those behind it. The actual terrorists are hard to reach. But terrorism of this scale is always backed by governments. If they're punished severely -- and that means severely, not a bombed aspirin-factory but something that puts those behind it in the crosshairs -- this kind of thing won't happen again. That was the lesson of the Libyan bombing.
"Increased Security" Won't Work. When you try to defend everything, you defend nothing. Airport security is a joke because it's spread so thin that it can't possibly stop people who are really serious. You can't prevent terrorism by defensive measures; at most you can stop a few amateurs who can barely function. Note that the increased measures after TWA 800 (which wasn't terrorism anyway, we're told) didn't prevent what appear to be coordinated hijackings. (Archie Bunker's plan, in which each passenger is issued a gun on embarking, would have worked better). Deterrence works here, just as everywhere else. But you have to be serious about it.
For now, the terrorists have won. They've shut down the U.S. government, more or less. They've shut down air travel. They're all over TV. But whether they really win depends on how we deal with this; hysterically, or like angry -- but measured -- adults.
CRASHED UNITED AIRLINES PLANE WAS HIJACKED:
The Westmoreland County Emergency Operations Center said it received a cell phone call at 9:58 a.m. from a man who said he was a passenger aboard the flight. The man said he had locked himself in a bathroom and told 911 dispatchers that the plane hadbeen hijacked. He said he thought the plane was going down and told dispatchers that he heard an explosion and saw white smoke on the plane.
Then the line went dead. Dispatchers contacted the FBI. The plane went down near the town of Shanksville, on hillsides dotted with old strip mines.
From a story by Dennis Roddy in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
PENGUIN RADIO is streaming DC & NYC emergency radio channels.
THIS WEBSITE HAS PICTURES OF THE WTC taken by a NYC resident; they seem to be being updated.
THIS IS THE ANNIVERSARY OF CAMP DAVID, more or less (they were 9/5-9/17/78). Is that significant?
MANY MAJOR MEDIA WEBSITES ARE GROANING UNDER THE STRAIN but Slashdot, home of industrial-strength geekdom, seems to be up to the load and is posting steady news updates.
GEORGE BUSH IS NOW THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD: People always say that about Presidents, of course, but usually it's only notionally true. Now, if he wants to nuke Baghdad, there is nobody to say him nay -- and damned few who would want to. That's a danger if he goes off half-cocked, but I don't think there's much risk of that. But I wonder: do the people behind this assault realize what this means?
MORE LOCAL NEWS: Not that anyone cares directly, except as a sign of what's going on in a lot of places. The federal courthouse in Knoxville has been evacuated and is closed. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is under extremely heavy security. Our mayer, Victor Ashe, lost no time in condemning terrorism, which surely strikes fear in the hearts of the responsible parties. Local talk radio features surprisingly measured views: the local host Hallerin Hill is doing a superb job, showing anger but staying cool and stressing that we don't know much yet. Man-in-the-street interviews demonstrate a strong desire to obliterate the responsible parties, but no impulse to go off half-cocked. The nature of the response actually makes me quite proud.
THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT: Hysterical overreaction against American muslims and Arab-Americans. At this point, of course, we don't know who did this, but suspicion naturally runs toward various Islamist fundamentalist groups. Here is a statement from the Muslim Public Affairs Council:
In response to the criminal attacks against targets in New York City and Washington, DC, the Muslim Public Affairs Council issued the following statement: 1) We feel that our country, the United States, is under attack 2) All Americans should stand together to bring the perpetrators to justice 3) We warn against any generalizations that will only serve to help the criminals and incriminate the innocent 4) We offer our resources and resolve to help the victims of these intolerable acts, and we pray to God to protect and bless America
I ate lunch at a venerable Knoxville middle eastern restaurant, where the Arab proprietors seemed a bit nervous (though half the clientele, as usual, was Jewish). Hysterical overreaction is a major danger of terrorism; yielding to it plays into the terrorists' hands. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that the people who need to hear this message aren't reading InstaPundit.
MORE BOZOS: The BBC is reporting that Palestinians have taken "credit" for the bombing. If this is true, Israel will soon reach to Damascus.
WHODUNIT: From the Posse Comitatus site (a right-wing more-or-less terrorist group in the United States):
May the WAR be started! DEATH to His enemies may the World Trade Center BURN TO THE GROUND! Rev. 18...
Keep Yahweh in your hearts folks for His wrath is upon His enemies!
Praise His Holy name...
Hail Victory! Pastor August B. Kreis III
Does this mean that this was domestic terrorism? Or that Kreis knows anything? Not necessarily. All sorts of bozos will be coming out of the woodwork to take "credit" or whatever. I doubt this will improve Kreis's reputation, though, and I'm sure it will get him some attention.
CONSERVATIVES AGAINST THE DRUG WAR: Here's a report on the burgeoning conservative opposition to the Drug War. This is one of the most interesting, and underreported, political trends of our time.
BIOTECH IN SINGAPORE: The always-interesting Andrea See has more on the Singapore biotech scene, as well as some interesting observations on Chinese paternal racism, To Kill a Mockingbird, and camgirls. Andrea's not a camgirl (she's, like, an adult, with a real job and everything), though she does have a "wish list."
GREAT PIECE ON THE MICHIGAN POT SHOOTINGS by Jacob Sullum in Reason. The old Saturday Night Live "X-Police" skits, in which cops would throw someone out of a window and then proclaim "another drug-related death!" seems pretty prescient these days. What's interesting is that opposition to the Drug War is now coming from beyond the usual circle of suspects.
It's about time. The Drug War has failed at its goal, and has become a full-employment project for sleazy dealers and just-about-equally sleazy (and corrupt) law enforcement entrepreneurs. The incarceration of millions of nonviolent offenders for simple possession is a stain on the honor of a country that is supposed to be free. And the widespread militarization of law enforcement it has brought is something that we never would have tolerated a generation ago, and shouldn't tolerate now.
SPEAKING OF ANTI-SCIENCE ON THE LEFT: Andrew Sullivan has an item on how political correctness has stifled an important genomic diversity research project in Britain. He's especially on target concerning the cowardice of the scientific establishment in the face of PC attacks.
DON'T DISTURB ME WITH FACTS: Despite clear evidence that biotech corn doesn't hurt butterfies Greenpeace isn't changing its tune. I guess their direct-mail on this issue is too lucrative to let the truth stand in the way. What would they say about a company that acted in this fashion?
SWEEPING BACK THE TIDE: Schools are tightening up dress codes in a futile effort to fight the bare-skin trend in fashion. Personally, spaghettis straps, off-the-shoulder outfits, and bare midriffs don't sound all that racy to me. Besides, it's a waste of time. When I was in high school they were fighting the same battle, and losing. Then the "preppy" look came in and everyone turned to khakis and oxford shirts, largely eliminating the problem. Cycles being what they are, this will undoubtedly happen again.
TRAFFIC RECORD: InstaPundit just blew through the previous record for traffic. And the night is young, with 4 more hours to go on the Pacific Time that my server & counter use. (I run on Eastern Time, which is why you shouldn't think that I'm as early a riser as the time-stamp on these posts might suggest).
DEMOCRATIC BUDGET COUNTERMOVE: Gene Sperling, Nat'l Economic Council head under Clinton and one of that administration's best-working parts (the others were his compatriots Robert Rubin & Larry Summers) was trying out the tax-cut counterstroke on Foxnews' Hannity tonight. His argument: a capital-gains cut would just encourage people to cash out of the market. An investment tax credit would be better since it would promote new investment. He's smart.
I don't know about the cashing-out -- the capital gains cut only encourages that if you've got, well, a gain. And most people who are going to have those have already cashed out. But it's still a pretty good point. And the ITC is also prized by a lot of GOP types, especially in the business community, meaning that it might have some traction. It's probably easier to phase out than a capital gains tax cut, too, which gives it added appeal to dems for the reasons discussed below. Let's see if this one gathers any steam.
JUDICIAL CYBERSNOOPING FOLLOWUP: A story out this evening says that standards will be set tomorrow for judicial employees' use of computers and describes some of the issues. The "compromise" still sounds pretty restrictive.
I also wonder what they're going to do about the completely inappropriate personal attacks on judges engaged in by Leonidas Ralph Mecham, who is supposed to be "serving" the federal judiciary, not dictating to it. Much less engaging in inept efforts at character assassination.
HOW TO BECOME A EUROPEAN DICTATOR: Anne Applebaum offers some easy steps in Slate. The item is really about Belarus, of course, a country whose problems get too little attention. I guess that's because it has (officially) renounced capital punishment. Except for those pesky death squads, that is.
YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST: Now Trent Lott is proposing the quid-pro-quo of a Social Security payroll tax cut coupled with a capital-gains tax cut. Just as predicted below! (see first item for today) Probable Democratic response: the payroll tax cut isn't big enough, and the capital gains tax cut will only help the rich. Probable GOP response: okay, we'll cut the payroll tax more, and do the capital gains tax. Er, with maybe an acceleration of the bracket reductions we already passed. Or would you prefer another rebate, to stimulate the economy? If you want, we'll tilt the rebate toward the lower brackets, so long as we get cap. gains for the upper ones.
I'd call it a 50% chance of a bidding war on tax cuts, again, which is exactly what Bush wants, of course. Not only are tax cuts good for him, but since raising taxes is hard (as Jacob Weisberg notes -- see the quote just below), you get a structural reduction in the Democrats' advantage: since, to oversimplify only a bit, Democrats are the party of government workers and clients, every time you reduce the pool of money available to the government relative to the economy as a whole, you reduce the Democratic base. That's been Bush's game all along. And so far, it's working.
JACOB WEISBERG has a response to the Mickey Kaus item on the budget I mentioned earlier. Weisberg is right on at least one point: it's not easy to raise taxes: "Walter Mondale got demolished in 1984 for suggesting that a tax increase was necessary to cope with the Reagan deficits. George H.W. Bush became a traitor to his people for accepting an insufficient one. Bill Clinton lost control of Congress in 1994 in part because of his support for his 1993 tax increase." Weisberg is right, and this fact -- that raising taxes has been political suicide and cutting taxes political manna -- is at the core of Bush's rope-a-dope strategy on the budget. Of course, one lesson that Weisberg could take from this, but doesn't, is that this means that the voters, in general, think they're paying too much in taxes. That should matter in a democracy, shouldn't it?
MICKEY KAUS makes this interesting point: Bush doesn't really look like he's having a lot of fun being President. And people who don't enjoy being President usually aren't reelected.
This is a problem -- and not just for Bush. To me, one of the refreshing things about Bush is that he doesn't display Clinton's rather narcissistic "It's good to be the King" pleasure in office. It's obvious that Bush could be a happy guy whether or not he were President. (Al Gore, unfortunately, looks like he'd be an unhappy guy whether or not he were President).
But if Kaus is right, our system actually selects for people who love the job. And since, as most people (perhaps even Kaus) would agree, being President is a job no sane person could really love for eight years then what does that say about our Presidential selection system? Is it selecting for kooks? Certainly a lot of our Presidents have been, er, mentally less than admirable: Kennedy, with his risk-taking and narcissism, LBJ with his megalomania, bullying and, well, LBJ-ness, Nixon with his paranoia, depression and obsessive-compulsiveness, Clinton with his narcissism, sexual compulsiveness, and compulsive lying. Carter was/is clearly sane -- and also stands as evidence for Kaus's position. Ditto for Papa Bush. Reagan is a tougher question: he certainly wasn't crazy. And as an actor, I suppose he was able to play the President in a way that made the experience more enjoyable for him than it would be for many others. (Yes, I know, there's some reason to think that his mental faculties were already beginning to fail before he left office -- but I don't think that's the same as the sort of personality-disordered thing that Nixon, Clinton, etc. had going on).
I guess I'd have to call the crazy-President corollary to Kaus's theorem unproven, but with a lot of suggestive evidence. Hmm. Here's a slogan for '04, for whatever candidate wants it: " ______ in '04: JUST CRAZY ENOUGH TO WANT TO BE YOUR PRESIDENT!"
JUDGE-SNOOPING FOLLOWUP: L. Ralph Mecham's backoff from cybersnooping on federal judges, reported in InstaPundit on Saturday, is reported in this New York Times story from yesterday. Read the quotes from Mecham at the bottom, in which he clearly is trying to portray Judge Alex Kozinski as some sort of a pervert for opposing his cyber-eavesdropping. What a disagreeable little man.
PERHAPS MR. MECHAM should to be encouraged to find employment in some position that will more profitably engage his skills for snooping and innuendo. I understand The National Enquirer is hiring. Ironically, if you look at the letter sent by Mr. Mecham, the bottom of the letterhead bears the slogan "A Tradition of Service to the Federal Judiciary." The AO seems to have lost sight of the difference between "servant" and "master." I hope that the federal judiciary will see that this lesson is driven home -- and that perhaps Mr. Mecham is, too.
FROM THE WEIRD HEADLINES DEPT: "Mother Teresa was not possessed by the devil, exorcist confirms". What's the followup: "Christopher Hitchens still unconvinced"?
BIOTECH CORN: It turns out not to kill butterflies after all, according to the National Academy of Sciences and the EPA. Wonder when Greenpeace will admit it's safe?
LAW ENFORCEMENT FOR PROFIT: Look, everybody knows that traffic and parking enforcement is 95% about revenue and 5% about safety. But DC seems to be doing its best to prove it. First there's the unseemly rush to bring out red-light cameras. Now DC is tripling the number of parking enforcers. When I lived there, I watched one of them give tickets to cars that still had time on the meter. I didn't even bother to say anything, though I understand somebody else sued them for this. They're especially attentive to cars with out-of-DC license plates.
It's not quite as bad elsewhere, but it's close. It's hard to have a lot of respect for law enforcement when this sort of thing goes on. Especially in DC, where they can't find missing interns, or close even half of their homicide cases. Shows you what they consider important.
Or maybe they need the money to pay off the lawsuits by female EMS employees who were told to have abortions or lose their jobs.
GRAMM ALERT: One possible sweetener in efforts to get Gramm to retire early so that hispanic Rep. Henry Bonilla can be appointed to fill his seat: buzz that he might be offered the post of Treasury Secretary as soon as Paul O'Neill is eased out. O'Neill, as InstaPundit has noted before, has committed the unpardonable sin of serial truth-telling. Why, he's said that Social Security isn't a substitute for individuals' saving for their own retirement. He's said that the corporate income tax should be abolished. He's even said that global markets drive the dollar's value to a much greater degree than does U.S. policy! (begin Monty Python accent) He's a heretic! Burn him! Burn him! (end Monty Python accent).
The big barrier to replacing O'Neill with Gramm is this: Gramm's not all that good at keeping his mouth shut, either. Especially about topics like those above.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS IS SAVAGING ASHCROFT, according to, er, an AP story. They're savaging him, quite properly, over Mary Jo White's subpoenaing of AP reporter John Solomon's home telephone records as part of the Torricelli investigation. (Well, almost quite properly -- Ashcroft actually recused himself on the basis that he served with Torricelli in the Senate).
THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT has managed to get itself in hot water with the press in record short time: between this, the Vanessa Leggett debacle, and a variety of other missteps. Part of this is unfair: Clinton's Department of Justice was horrible on civil liberties, but got away with a lot more because (1) it was Democratic; and (2) it knew better than to tromp on the press. Ashcroft's DoJ can't help being Republican, of course, but it's been remarkably ham-handed on these issues. In a way, that's a testament to its fairness, since there's no reason why the press should be treated better than the rest of us, but it's no testament to its political acumen.
Ashcroft's problems here are, however, one reason why it's better for civil liberties to have a Republican administration in office. The press operates off pigeonholes, and it has a pigeonhole for "Republican Administration declares war on civil liberties." It has no such pigeonhole for Democrats, which is one major reason why the Clinton/Reno Justice Department was able to get away with so much. (That's not just my opinion -- I seem to recall Ira Glasser saying that the Clinton Administration had the worst civil liberties record since Woodrow Wilson's, which is true.) This pigeonholing is partly partisan -- most reporters are Democrats -- but it's partly tradition going back to Watergate. The upshot is that GOP administrations are watched more closely, and can get away with less.
The other reason is that Democratic administrations, despite their often testy relations with the press, basically regard the press as a constituency group. Republicans don't. They're thus more likely to be evenhanded, which the press interprets as an attack. But it's good for the press to encounter firsthand the kind of thuggish overreaching that is, in fact, par for the course in federal investigations and prosecutions these days. Evenhanded application of the law is what promotes resistance to bad law. Federal prosecutors' powers are too great. If the press starts reporting on that, it may do some good. And if the press is no longer exempted from those powers, it's more likely to report on them.
DOES THIS mean that Ashcroft and the Justice Department are right? No. It just means that they're busted. They shouldn't be doing the kinds of things they've done to Leggett and Solomon to anyone. They do all the time. This time, it's getting noticed.
VIRGINIA POSTREL is plugging InstaPundit today. Thanks, Virginia. She says: "I know Glenn has a real job (as a law professor), but he seems to do nothing but post new stuff�all of it interesting." Well, I do have a real job, and it keeps me in front of the computer a lot (especially these past few weeks, when I've been finishing up a serious writing jag, the result of overcommitting as usual back last February when September seemed comfortably far away). This stuff is a nice warm up to real academic writing -- or a nice way to fill those moments when I've run out of steam on the Commerce Clause or whatever. I'm tickled pink that people find these posts interesting -- especially as it lets me call my usual aimless surfing "research."
TODAY'S PAPERS, in Slate, is rather doubtful about today's WSJ story on the travails of executive branch appointees. (Sorry -- no link to the WSJ story, as it's pay-only; I don't pay, and if I did it wouldn't do you any good unless you paid too). I don't think that Slate's treatment is fair. I served on an unpaid White House advisory committee with no actual decision-making power (it was advisory, after all). To do so I had to fill out so many intrusive forms that I nearly bagged the whole thing. And my finances, sadly, aren't all that complicated -- nor, I'm sure, was the scrutiny that I got a patch on what people face when they're appointed to actual jobs.
WE HAVE SO MANY laws regulating the "ethics" of government officials (mostly in ways that have nothing to do with actual, ethical behavior) that it serves as a real disincentive for normal people to take the jobs. People who are unusually ambitious, or so rich they can pay others to handle all the paperwork, are not so deterred. But do we really want to actively sort for those people? And does that have anything to do with ethics?
FROM THE "GET A CLUE" DEPARTMENT: This article in Salon by Judith Greer argues that "Civilian massacres like My Lai and No Gun Ri are inevitable in the exceptionally ruthless Western way of war. So why can't we just face up to it?" Note the casual anti-Western slam here, as if no other culture ever waged war ruthlessly, or at the expense of civilians. Nope, no other -- except for, basically, all of them. Has this woman ever heard of the Tai-Ping Rebellion? Timur the Lame? Genghis Khan? The Cultural Revolution?
APPARENTLY NOT. But that's characteristic of those who bash the West this way. They're usually ignorant of other cultures -- and of history -- substituting a thin patina of New Age wishful thinking for actual knowledge.
FEARS OF A RECESSION are leading to talk of more tax cuts and Democrats are starting to join in. This is precisely in line with the plan InstaPundit has been attributing to Bush since mid-August. By passing his tax cut early, and by letting the Democrats go on about fiscal discipline, Bush has put them in a situation where the big argument will be how big a tax cut, and what kind of tax cut, we'll have to fight the recession. Bush will no doubt want most of it to go to capital-gains cuts, but he's vulnerable on that front, since it's easy to peg those as tax cuts "for the rich." Democrats will -- if they're smart -- push for broader-based tax cuts or rebates that will reach the middle class. BUT there's a catch there. Come the recovery, canning the capital gains cut is easier to get away with than canning a middle-class cut. Bush (or at least Karl Rove) knows this, and has planned to put the Democrats in this position all along. One proposal is to cut the social security payroll tax. Advantage for Democrats: it helps everyone who works, and helps people who make less more than people who are well off. Advantage for Bush: once that's on the table, Democratic complaints that he's robbed social security to finance a tax cut are dead. UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan is making the same point today. He notes that we may have seen the closing of a very brief window in which new spending programs might have been viable, and that Bush's tax-cut strategy is what slammed it closed. As you might expect, I think he's right. To this I'd add that if so, the Democrats need to come up with a new strategy: the existing one based on funneling funds to constituency groups -- or at least protecting those groups against cuts in current funding -- isn't going to carry the day in such an environment.
OF COURSE, a social security payroll cut (and it would have to be nontrivial to show up in people's paychecks) won't exactly help the program's fiscal problems. But those are decades off anyway, and the election is next year.
RESPECTING JURORS: Juries are supposed to be equal in power and dignity to the judge. To see how hollow this is, one need only compare the relative opulence of most judges' chambers with the shabbiness of most jury rooms. This letter from the Washington Post points up the conditions in DC: "Jurors are herded in lines, made to wait for interminable periods, treated rudely by clerks and constantly reminded by overbearing officials about their duties as citizens to serve the courts while being threatened with punishment like common criminals if they do not." It's hard to imagine anyone treating a judge that way. It's also hard to imagine judges trying to get out of serving. Think there's a connection?
WITH TORTURE & REFUGEES RIFE around the world, it's good to see that the Boston Globe is focusing attention on the most pressing question of our day: who had the best abs at the Video Music Awards. Hints: It wasn't Kid Rock, who was there. Nor was it InstaPundit, who wasn't.
WHILE MY LOCAL BORDERS BOOKSTORE doesn't mind how long you dawdle over your coffee -- or even if you read their newspapers and magazines without buying them -- French coffeehouses are embarking on a campaign to hustle customers out after thirty minutes, unless they order another cup of coffee. Funny that Borders doesn't mind and they do. Ah, those evil chain bookstores....
REFUGEES have it tough. The United States accepts the most, according to this UNHCR report, with about 85,000; Canada is second with about 17,000; and Australia is third with about 4,000. (Can this be right? The Netherlands is on the list of "main countries" for refugee resettlement with 20 -- yes, that's right, 20 -- and France, Britain, and Germany aren't on it at all). Given that the report estimates about 11 million refugees worldwide, that's fairly appalling.
MOST, of course, aren't trying to "resettle" -- they just want to wait out the trouble and then go home. But still, these numbers aren't very impressive.
TORTURE IS widespread in China, which also executes more people than the rest of the world put together, using confessions extracted through torture and kangaroo courts featuring judges with no legal training. Yet, somehow, it is capital punishment in the United States that attracts condemnation from, for example, Europe.
There are two explanations for this: racism -- no one expects much of the Chinese because they're non-Europeans -- or anti-Americanism -- no one cares about about capital punishment, it's just a way to bash the United States.
Neither explanation is very flattering for Europe, is it?
SPEAKING OF DAN GILLMOR: He makes an excellent point on his weblog about Fritz Hollings' proposed sellout to Big Entertainment. As Dan puts it:
We're seeing again and again who the real pirates are these days. They are the barons of the entertainment industry, and they will not be satisfied until they win absolute control over everything that moves.
This law would make the Digital Millennium Copyright Act look mild. It is the ultimate attack on your rights. It would destroy your privacy, or what's left of privacy.
I don't advocate breaking the law. But if this passes, and is not declared unconstitutional, there will be civil disobedience on a scale not seen in decades.
Dan's absolutely right. And this kind of thing does more to undermine faith in the government than any of Gore Vidal's screeds. Here's a question: why are people who want the government to live up to the way we were told it works in civics class called anti-government, while people like Hollings -- who are busy flushing away the government's credibility and moral standing for the benefit of fatcat contributors -- are considered pillars of the establishment?
AHEAD OF THE CURVE -- BY MORE THAN USUAL: Instapundit reported on August 16 that Bush had been added to the anti-abortion "Nuremberg Files" website because of his stem-cell decision. I'm proud of it, as it's InstaPundit's first -- and probably only -- real "scoop." Today, the Telegraph is just getting around to reporting the same story as news. Advantage: InstaPundit!
IT'S NOT JUST THE FBI: As this oped by Stephen Yagman notes, the BATF hasn't learned anything from its tragic debacles of the past. Let's be honest here: the federal government isn't very good at law enforcement. Unfortunately, it has a lot of money. That means that it has a lot of people running around doing things that they're not very good at. And they have guns.
The FBI is responsible for investigating suspected federal crimes. Up until the last decade, that mostly meant things like espionage and conspiracy and wire fraud and kidnapping. It meant crimes that didn't honor state lines. But that was back before members of Congress began introducing new legislation every time there was a new outrageous act of criminal behavior. The Congressional Record is loaded with examples of representatives and senators talking tough on crime and demanding that their colleagues join with them in support of this bill or that. Yet, for all their good intentions, federal laws aimed at attacking violent street crime are mostly ineffective. Nevertheless, once on the books, the majority of these laws fall to the FBI to enforce. This making of every offense into a federal crime has now begun to erode the effectiveness of the federal courts. In his 1998 "Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary," Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist observed, "Over the last decade, Congress has contributed significantly to the rising caseload by continuing to federalize crimes already covered by state laws. The trend to federalize crimes that traditionally have been handled in state courts ... threatens to change entirely the nature of our federal system. The pressure in Congress to appear responsive to every highly publicized societal ill or sensational crime needs to be balanced with an inquiry into whether states are doing an adequate job in these particular areas. Federal courts were not created to adjudicate local crimes, no matter how sensational or heinous the crimes may be." And federal law enforcement is not the answer to local crime problems either. But try telling that to Congress.
Legislators know that appearing tough on crime is good politics, which is why federal crime-control measures have been as much a part of the political landscape as kissing babies. What nobody says, though, is that baby kissing has about as much impact on violent crime as most federal crime legislation.
He's right. But Congress -- ever eager to substitute a positive network soundbite for the drudgery of actually doing its job -- continues to jump on whatever issue looks hot, with scant regard for the rules and needs of federalism. (The proposed federal cloning ban, disgracefully championed by people like William Kristol who call themselves conservatives, is the latest example). The result is a federal government that doesn't work as well as it should, because those running it lack self-discipline.
AN ASTONISHING STATISTIC: Well, it's not that astonishing if you think about it, and I've heard it before. But in light of America's grievance culture, it seems astonishing. It's repeated in this column by Mark Steyn, of Canada's National Post: "For all their problems, the approximately 30 million American blacks have a greater combined wealth than the 30 million Canadians." Does this mean that Canadians should be demanding reparations from Britain? Er, except that I think the Canadians are better off than the British....
SO LONG TO THE PROFESSORS: David Broder touches on but doesn't fully address a major issue: the dominance of professors in '90s politics. He says goodbye to Phil Gramm & Steve Horn, but doesn't put this in context with some other former professors who loomed large on the national stage: Newt Gingrich & Bill Clinton. (Tom Campbell is left out, too). It would, in fact, be fair to say that the '90s were the decade of the professors. Is it any coincidence that the '90s were also noted for a clarifying of issues, general prosperity -- and especially vicious politics?
AS WE MOVE to an information economy, it's not surprising that people in information fields -- actors, newscasters, and yes, professors -- play a bigger role in politics. And it's not surprising that professors who enter politics do pretty well. After all, compared to faculty politics, what goes on in Washington is softball.
DECONSTRUCTING THE SIMPSONS: This item from the New York Times describes a new book on the philosophy of The Simpsons. Various views on American anti-intellectualism, the relevance of Nietzsche, and the Aristotelian recipe for a happy, moral life (as exemplified by Marge), are teased from the episodes of America's longest-running prime-time animated show. (At least, I think it is.) The authors, however, apparently leave out Ralph ("my cat's breath smells like tuna") Wiggum as an exemplification of the Wise Fool, which is probably just as well.