Hopeful New Year!
Let's welcome 2002 with good cheer, faith and hope. It's going to
be a better new year. -- 12/31
As a series of impressions, C.J. Chivers' "Two
worlds paired by war'' has great moments. But the frame for the NY
Times' story is unthinking relativism:
They were dual worlds,
Manhattan and Afghanistan, full of contrasts and common themes. They
doled out two lessons, over and again: that your truth depends upon
your tribe, and the power of luck is almost absolute.
What happened? Depends upon who was asked, and there were more tribes
with a stake in what was going on than could quickly be counted: politicians,
cops, Pashtuns, refugees, clerics and Green Berets; firefighters, Uzbeks,
widows, orphans, amputees and marines. Each one had a different version,
even when talking about the same thing.
Certainly, different people
may see events differently. Most in the U.S. "tribe" blame Osama
bin Laden's Muslim terrorists for the 9-11 attack; some Muslims believe
Jews did it. A primitive tribe of Outer Lefties believe George W. Bush
is responsible. Is there no truth to be sought and found? Just tribal
lore? Surely, the New York Times does not believe that.
For that matter, while luck
determined, in large measure, who lived or died on 9-11 in Manhattan and
the Pentagon, does it really decide who lives or dies in Afghanistan?
It seems to me that good timing -- knowing when to change sides -- and
location -- if you live next to the munition dump, move -- has a lot to
do with it.
It's a shame there's a bogus
frame because much of the piece is quite good. I especially like the ending,
a universal truth. Chivers is trekking through the Hindu Kush toward Kabul.
A ragged porter asks where he's from. "New York,'' Chivers says.
He stopped me by my elbow,
making sure his eyes had mine. When he spoke again it was in the slow
diction of a man on an excursion into an unfamiliar language, but who
wanted to be heard. He nodded, deep enough to be a bow, before raising
both hands to eye level and letting them flutter to his waist.
The meaning was obvious, even high in mountains in a distant corner
of the earth. Towers falling down.
"New York," the Afghan porter said. "Very sorry us."
taken from a bombed-out Al Qaeda office in Kabul contains letters, memos
and a video file celebrating the carnage at the World Trade Center. The
Wall Street Journal paid a looter $1,100 for the computer.
One memo referred to
a ``legal study'' of the killing of civilians, in which the writer said
he had found ways to keep ``the enemy'' from using the killing of ``civilians,
specifically women and children,'' to undermine the militants' cause,
the Journal said. . . .
A video file made after Sept. 11 uses television footage of people fleeing
the World Trade Center, combined with a sound track of mocking chants
and prayers in Arabic, the Journal said.
Text files include an outline of an al-Qaida project to develop chemical
and biological weapons, code-named al-Zabadi, Arabic for curdled milk,
the newspaper said. -- 12/31
Airport security is like
and dumber,'' Mark Steyn -- this guy is so good! -- gets in a few
kicks at the French, for letting Mr. Hotfoot on the plane, and at Transportation
Secretary Norm Mineta, for his militant opposition to common sense. Mineta
still insists that the 70-year-old grandma from Indiana should get the
same scrutiny as the 22-year-old Muslim male with no luggage who paid
cash for a one-way ticket.
Steyn mistakenly credits Jeff
Jarvis' Naked Air to Ken
Layne. Steyn's alternative is Insecure Air.
Insecure Air--We Check
Nothing! Turn up five minutes beforehand, no ID, packing anything from
a Kalashnikov to an eyebrow pencil, and we'll let you on, no questions
asked. And guess what? You'll be in no more danger than if you flew
United or American and spent two hours having the sniffer dogs go through
By the way, I don't think it
matters whether airport security workers have a high
school diploma. The real question is whether they can pass tests that
cover the actual skills they need -- with frequent spot checks done after
they've been working for hours. And, even then, the system won't be fool-proof.
Too many fools out there. -- 12/31
Geneva doesn't shield terrorists
The Geneva Convention doesn't require terrorists to be treated like enemy
soldiers, writes Ruth
Wedgwood, an international law prof at Yale and Johns Hopkins, writing
in the New York Times. So Bush's military tribunals are kosher. There
are four prerequisitives for POW status:
First is being part of
a fighting force that adheres to an organized structure of command,
so someone can be held responsible. Second is wearing a distinctive
military uniform or insignia -- so that the other side can spare civilians
without fearing counterattack by disguised fighters. Third is carrying
arms openly. And fourth is reciprocal respect for the laws of war. To
claim the protection of the law, a side must generally conduct its own
military operations in accordance with the laws of war.
Al Qaeda has violated
these laws at every turn, and certainly in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Both the U.S. and Afghanistan
refused to sign a 1977 pro-guerrilla protocol that proposed including
combatants disguised as civilians.
Hitchens (via Jason
Soon) strikes again at lefties' excuses for Taliban terror in the
December Atlantic. The moral mushies will do anything to avoid siding
with their own country, writes Hitchens.
Members of the left, along
with the far larger number of squishy "progressives," have
grossly failed to live up to their responsibility to think; rather,
they are merely reacting, substituting tired slogans for thought. The
majority of those "progressives" who take comfort from Stone
and Chomsky are not committed, militant anti-imperialists or anti-capitalists.
Nothing so muscular. They are of the sort who, discovering a viper in
the bed of their child, would place the first call to People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals. -- 12/30
LA learns to read
Reading scores are soaring in Los Angeles Unified, which educates -- or
doesn't educate -- one out of eight California children. What's going
on? In "Herding
cats,'' New Times reporter Jill Stewart credits Superintendent Roy
Romer and Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Ronni Ephraim, who've
stressed training teachers to use Open Court, a step-by-step reading curriculum
based on "rigorous phonics, frequent repetition and (horrors!) memorization,
blended with fun activities and great storybooks."
Money to train the trainers
has come from David W. Packard's foundation. And, thanks to Ron Unz, most
students are now taught to read in English.
Another factor seen in successful
districts -- intelligent use of testing -- is also helping LA Unified
Ephraim is a strong believer
today in testing children, including a mini-assessment after just six
weeks of school -- but not so that teachers will "teach to the
test," as critics charge.
"The real important reason we do this is to provide the teachers
data about themselves. If all the kids did poorly in spelling, that
teacher needs to read the data and reflect on, hmmm, am I really using
all the sound/spelling cards in Opencourt? And if the data show a colleague
teaching the same grade has done really well, maybe a coach should take
over their class so they can go watch their colleague in the classroom."
Hollywood salutes Hollywood
I was going to see "A Beautiful Mind'' last night, but it was
sold out. A movie about a mentally ill mathematician is a sell-out? At
any rate, we saw "Kate
& Leopold'' instead, a pleasant romantic comedy which provides
an answer to the eternal question: What do women want?
Hugh Jackman. Please.
The movie was preceded by that
of America'' trailer, which is supposed to whip up patriotism. It's
a three-minute medley of snippets from 110 classic Hollywood movies, which
means there's not much of any one thing. Various American values are featured;
the best parts celebrated American exuberance. And I liked the inclusion
of the nutty general from Dr. Strangelove.
But the whole thing was pointless.
We don't need a half-second of John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart to feel good
about our country. We can see the American spirit in action in the real
world. -- 12/29
Nation demolition is our
If reporters are going to analyze the news, they should get it right.
Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the New
President Bush said today
that he expected American troops to remain in Afghanistan for "quite
a long period of time" to flush out remaining Taliban and Al Qaeda
fighters and to interrogate, fingerprint and process more than 6,000
prisoners of war.
The United States mission will not be complete, Mr. Bush added, until
Afghanistan is a stable country.
Bumiller goes on to say the
were strikingly at odds
with the scornful view that Mr. Bush expressed as a presidential candidate
toward the "nation building" that he said distracted the Clinton
Really? Bush specified military
action against Taliban and Al Qaeda hold-outs and processing prisoners
of war, not Clinton's brand of "nation building." Or anyone
else's. Perhaps Bumiller thinks Afghanistan won't be stable till it has
good roads, schools, hospitals, housing, etc., but clearly Bush is talking
about military stability. In fact, the administration has been quite careful
to avoid a commitment to long-term reconstruction of Afghanistan. As Don
Rumsfeld frames it, the U.S. interest is in preventing Afghanistan from
again becoming a base for terrorism.
Besides, we'll be busy blowing
up Al Qaeda bases in Somalia or the Philippines or Kashmir. Or deconstructing
Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. -- 12/29
Have shoes will travel
For a jobless ex-con, Shoe-Boy Richard Reid sure got
around: He visited the Netherlands, Belgium, Israel and Egypt before
paying cash for his Paris-to-Paradise ticket.
Al profiled Reid as a menace, according to this AP story.
Shoe-bombing suspect Richard
C. Reid underwent a rigorous body check and had to remove his shoes
for special screening before boarding an El Al plane this past summer,
Israel's national carrier said Friday.
Even after no explosives were found, the airline considered Reid a top
security risk and seated him next to an armed sky marshal in the second
to last row, far from the cockpit, said an Israeli source.
I fit an El Al profile too:
The single woman who might be tricked by an Arab Lothario into carrying
a package for him. I was questioned intensively and my suitcase was thoroughly
searched. I also had to remove my shoes when I crossed from Jordan (Aqaba)
to Israel (Eilat) but only because the metal on my hiking boots was setting
off the detector.
The AP story finishes with
a quote from the El Al pilot who foiled an attempted 1970 highjacking
by diving the plane, knocking the highjackers off their feet.
(Uri) Bar-Lev said he
believed the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington have
prompted a change in attitude, and led passengers to rely more on their
own wits. ``In order to prevent a hijacking or air terror, the main
weapon is a state of mind that says `we are not going to be hijacked
and we have to take the initiative,'' said Bar-Lev.
``Once you have this attitude, and this (Reid's) case just proved it,
you can stop it.'' -- 12/28
"We walked over what I consider hallowed ground today. We walked
over the spot where the friendly fire took so many of our, our men, and
the mujahedeen [anti-Taliban fighters] yesterday," Geraldo Rivera
said on Dec. 6, the day after three U.S. soldiers were killed near Kandahar.
"It was just - the whole place, just fried, really - and bits of
uniforms and tattered clothing everywhere. I said the Lord's Prayer and
really choked up."
in a lie by the Baltimore Sun -- Rivera had been 300 miles away from
the "hallowed ground'' -- Rivera claimed he'd walked the "hallowed
ground'' of a second friendly fire incident in Tora Bora that killed several
Afghans. Due to the "fog of war,'' he'd thought that Americans had
died there. The Sun got him again.
But a timeline offered
by the Defense Department appears to contradict that explanation. Marine
Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday that the deaths
in Tora Bora took place sometime after Sunday morning, or at least three
days after Rivera's report was broadcast.
And while Rivera said it took
him 72 hours to find out the Americans had died near Kandahar, MSNBC and
CNN said their reporters in Afghanistan were told "within hours"
where the deaths had occurred.
Questioned by Howard
Kurtz, Rivera blustered, threatening the reporter that uncovered his
Rivera denounces the Baltimore
Sun television writer who reported the mistake, saying: "The whole
basic premise that I lied or was dishonest is absurd on its face, and
were it any other reporter, would not even pass the laugh test. This
is the most false, hideously absurd allegation I've ever had leveled
Sun writer David Folkenflik "has slandered a journalist who is
an honest person and has contributed arguably much more to American
society than he has," Rivera says. "This cannot stand. He
has impugned my honor. It is as if he slapped me in the face and challenged
me to a duel. He is going to regret this story for the rest of his career."
"The time has come to
stop the Geraldo-bashing," Rivera told Kurtz.
I count three lies: Hallowed
Ground 1, Hallowed Ground 2 and Absurd on Its Face. But Fox New says it
was an honest
mistake: "Based on Geraldo Rivera's 30-year track record, Fox
News has full confidence in his explanation and journalistic integrity."
In hiring Rivera, Fox News
made a huge, not-so-honest mistake. As a journalist Rivera is . . . Well,
he's not a journalist. He's Chatty Cathy in a bush hat. He's tried to
turn Fox's war coverage into The Geraldo Rivera Show, starring Geraldo!
as Brave War Reporter and featuring Geraldo! as Mr. Patriot, with a guest
apearance by Geraldo! as Sensitive Prayer Guy. And now, we've got Geraldo!
has sold its credibility for nothing: Geraldo Rivera is a bore. A few
weeks ago, I tuned to Fox as Rivera launched into a question for some
Afghan, pictured in a little box in the corner. It went on and on and
on, so I switched to a another news show. It was on commercial, so I went
back to Fox. Rivera was still talking. I surfed over to CNN for about
30 seconds. The story was old, so I tried Fox again. Geraldo was still
talking. It seemed to be the same question. The little man in the
corner looked confused, and increasingly desperate. I changed the channel.
It reminded me of my junior
high days. A motormouth friend called and started talking and talking.
I put down the phone, went to the kitchen, toasted a slice of bread, buttered
it and returned to the phone. The motormouth was still talking, oblivious
to the absence of a listener.
The poor Afghan guy in the
corner didn't even have a piece of toast. -- 12/27
American vs. European culture
Mark Steyn's provocative Spectator
column (via Little
Green Footballs) argues that U.S. support of Israel and European disdain
reflects our love of liberal democracy and their love of paternalism.
He starts with the English:
Where Jews are modern,
urban and scientific, Arabs are feudal, rural and romantic. Jews wear
homburgs; Arabs wear flowing robes and head-dresses. Jews are famously
in trade; Arabs are just as famously hopeless at economic
creativity: they have oil, but require foreigners to extract it and
refine it. A backward culture that loves dressing up and places no value
on professional activity will always appeal to a segment of the English
Like the "cosmopolitan''
Jews, the U.S. is a transnational merchant culture, a global polluter
of more refined peoples. It makes us, as the French ambassador to Britain
might say, a "shitty big country.''
So each half of the West
looks in the Middle East for what it values most in itself: for the
Americans, liberty; for Europe, paternalism, benign or otherwise. The
result is a mirror image: just as Israel is the odd man out in the Middle
East, so increasingly America is in the West, wedded as it is to such
bizarre concepts as capital punishment, gun rights, free speech, etc.
We can understand the violent, woman-oppressing Pashtun
culture without honoring it, writes the consistently correct Moira
And the civilization that
looks in disgust on its destructive and impoverishing honor codes, its
harsh and restrictive treatment of women, has "hawk's claws"
vastly more formidable than these vaunted tough-guys could even dream
of possessing. A researcher
might ponder that maybe, just maybe, refusing to develop a stable and
productive political system, and obsessing about your sister bein' a
ho', are not the most intelligent responses to the challenges of survival.
Gullible war syndrome
Writing in Reason, Michael
Fumento explains why the recent study doesn't prove Gulf War service
leads to Lou Gehrig's Disease.
A Boston Globe editorial
touting the study said, "At a time when US soldiers are again in
harms way, the military must be alert to all possible hazards."
Right. That includes the hazard of telling soldiers going into harms
way that while they may survive the war unscathed, they could actually
become exposed to some undetectable sort of magical pixie dust that
will make them sicken and die years or even decades later. Theres
never a good time for nonsense like this, but during a war is the worst
time of all.
A host of well-conducted scientific
studies shows that Gulf War vets are as healthy as vets who served elsewhere,
Fumento writes. -- 12/26
Since Sept. 11, Americans distrust
of Arab "allies," such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, has soared,
according to a Zogby International poll. While 10 percent support the
Palestinian Authority, 72 percent are unsympathetic; Israel is at 59 percent
positive, 28 percent negative.
The Arab lobby in Washington
is blaming the "anti-Arab propaganda campaign" that has been
waged since the September 11 attacks for the shift in attitude.
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute and brother of
the editor of the survey, John Zogby . . . blamed a "steady diet
of anti-Arab information" for the swing in public opinion, saying
that "those who are seeking to disrupt and discredit the relationship
are working overtime."
Actually, the propaganda campaign
has been relentlessly pro-Islam: It's a religion of peace, all Muslims
aren't terrorists, etc. But those nasty facts -- Saudi and Egyptian suicide
bombers, Saudis funding kill-the-infidel Wahabbi mosques and schools,
the "Arab street" celebrating the murder of Americans, the Arab
Taliban, etc. -- are hard to ignore. Those who want to discredit Arab
nations -- those You Know Who Jews, I assume -- hardly need to work at
all, much less work overtime. -- 12/26
My brother and sister-in-law were just settling down for a long winter's
nap when they heard a clatter on the lawn, and a raucous adolescent cry,
"We just stole your snowmen!'' When they looked out the window, they
saw their wooden snowmen had been napped; their neighbor's Christmas decorations
also were gone.
They called the police, who
insisted on coming by to take a report. (There's not much crime in their
town.) They were asked to describe the victims: Hat? Scarf? Number of
circles in body?
The snowmen did not re-appear
on a neighbor's lawn, or at the nearby high school. They appear to be
gone for good. And the next night, when their toddler's dolly went missing
briefly, she cried, "They stole Baby! Call the police!''
Crime hurts. -- 12/26
Mistakes were made but who
are we to judge
Writing about the media campaign to "humanize'' Tali-boy, John
Leo perfectly parodies variations of the exculpatory TV interview.
Q. John, some people just
don't know you. They think of you as some sort of traitor, or a rat.
What are your feelings?
A. It saddens me, Barbara,
that some people have to put me down in order to feel good about themselves.
Name-calling like this says more about them than it does about me. Anger
comes from within. It isn't caused by other people's actions, certainly
not by my actions. We have to ask: Why are they attacking my lifestyle
instead of dealing with their own negativity? -- 12/26
Courtesy of Rand Simberg (via Instapundit),
here's a report from a field hospital treating media
casualties of the war against terrorism.
I stop by one of the therapy
centers to observe.
"Now Sunera, let's try this again. All men are mortal. Socrates
is a man. Therefore...?"
Sunera frowns, and sweat appears on her forehead. Hesitantly, she ventures,
"Therefore...Socrates is the basis of male-centered western patriarchal
violence that continues to brutalize women and grind them under its
"No, Sunera," the therapist explains patiently. "We're
practicing logic here. Lo-gic. Remember what I told you about logic?"
I close the door quietly. It will indeed be a long and hard road. --
And a happy New Year. At least, a happier one. --12/25
Who's laughing now?
Osama bin Laden is portrayed as a
fake and a fool, in a comedy show in Amman, Jordan, reports the Christian
Science Monitor. Mullah Omar is a flasher. -- 12/25
What if they had a peace
rally and nobody came
For all those who think northern
California is a hotbed of flag-burning peaceniks, check out this San Francisco
Examiner story on the
fizzling anti-war movement. Even a Quaker -- an ex-priest who now
runs the American Friends Service Committee -- is for "tailored military
activities" against Al Qaeda terrorists. -- 12/25
Third coming of Salter
In response to the Salter
as Jesus column, Paul Schmidt wrote:
A good friend of mine
is a Lutheran minister. His response to people who say, "God told
me..." is: "God spoke to me, too. He said you're wrong."
Christopher Johnson runs a
religious and a
political blog, and
he objected to Salter/Jesus on both grounds.
Her reading of the Scriptures
is easily refuted. The commands of my Lord are binding upon me.
If Joanne Jacobs strikes me upon my left cheek, I am to turn to Joanne
Jacobs my other cheek also. But if Joanne Jacobs strikes
Stephanie Salter upon her left cheek and I reach over and turn to Joanne
Jacobs Stephanie Salter's other cheek also, I am not obeying the will
of my Lord and Savior. I am an accomplice in an evil act.
This is precisely what Stephanie Salter advises George Bush to do.
Turn a great many other cheeks, none of which are his own. As
far as I know, George Bush did not lose any family or close friends
on September 11th. Even if he did and he reacted as Ms.
Salter would like him to, he would, as president, be in a great
deal of trouble. As Paul put it:
"For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those
who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority?
Then do what is right and he will commend you.
"For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be
afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant,
an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer(Romans 13:3-4)."
And you remember what happened to Saul when he disobeyed his Creator
for "religious" reasons(1 Samuel 15:21,26).
Thus the theology. Politically, Ms. Salter's column seems an extremely
odd thing for a liberal to write. Coming from an ideology that
abhors any public manifestation of Christianity at all, it seems strange
to me to read Ms. Salter advocating that the President respond
to the crisis in a "Christian" way. There are,
as Ms. Salter seems to have forgotten, non-Christians in America.
Were Mr. Bush to publicly announce that the country's response
to September 11 would be in line with what his Lord and Savior
would wish, this seems to me to be as close as it is
possible to come to an establishment of religion.
that there's a reason Salter won't be burned at the stake for heresy:
Millions of Americans killed millions of people to establish and defend
the right to a free press and freedom of religion.
Reynolds -- citing Lileks
but not me -- gets to the point:
The real problem with
Stephanie Salter, and a whole long list of columnists like her, isn't
that they're antiwar. It's that they're so absolutely, unrelievedly,
stone-cold dumb. -- 12/24
Innovation where it counts
Here's a link (courtesy of Virginia
Postrel) to a great New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell on the
ever-improving technology of disposable
diapers. -- 12/24
Second coming of Salter
didn't like Stephanie Salter's Jesus
Theres a plane in
Logan Airport that is on the ground in one piece, and a couple hundred
people still drawing breath, because a few people had the sense and
the courage to use deliberate and systematic violence - i.e., beat,
subdue, hogtie and shoot up a man who was trying to light the fuses
in his shoes. . . . If we buy the whole cycle of violence
idea, then those passengers participated in an escalation of violence
which will lead to more surly men with C4 in their Nikes. (Conversely,
if the plane had been destroyed because no one did anything, and the
cycle of violence had been broken, would terrorists have called it a
day?) -- 12/24
Naked and nice
Layne takes up Jeff
Naked'' idea, and explains the
added benefits: The burqa boys would be grounded; obese Americans would
be motivated to slim down.
While you're reading Jarvis,
scroll down to his report on Tony Blair's 10 top 10 lists. In addition
to Blair's "10 things that have changed in Afghanistan thanks to
our war'' -- for example, women can go to school, kids can fly kites --
Jarvis adds: "People are not being starved to death, stoned, hanged,
imprisoned, and shot on the whim of a one-eyed lunatic despot and his
psychotic sugar daddy."
Also scroll down to Moira Breen's
mini-essay on Americans' "vice
of niceness.'' It's not that we're arrogant, she argues. Our problem
is that we don't have the "gift of contempt.''
hunger deaths are projected this year in central Afghanistan, notes
Johnson, who fantasizes about Noam Chomsky apologizing for accusing
the U.S. of "silent genocide.'' Last winter, under Taliban rule,
about 1,000 people starved to death in central Afghanistan.
Finally, libertarian bloggers
operating out of Samizdata
report a successful snatch-and lunch mission to liberate Muslimpundit
from a slave-driving boss. --12/23
Speaking for Jesus
Stephanie Salter, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, speaks
for Jesus, telling President Bush that What Jesus Would Do in response
to terrorism is . . . Well, Salter/Jesus speaks to W in mysterious ways.
You want not only to keep
them from hurting you again, you and your nation's people want to hurt
them back. And you are willing to rationalize all manner of destruction,
waste and -- if necessary -- killing toward those ends.
Dear brother, you are right to want to stop evil. The tricky part for
humans has always been, what is the best way to stop it? My four-letter
answer is written, over and over, in the Bible, but it has been ignored
by potentates, peons and sometimes popes for 2,000 years.
Why? Because it contradicts the human instinct for vengeance.
I'm good with crossword puzzles,
but I had a hard time with the four-letter answer. "Peace" is
too long. So is "cheek," as in "turn the other." "Pray"
would work. But I think she means "love.'' (Hey, I'm Jewish. "Love''
doesn't appear all that often in our Bible; "smite'' gets more play,
though it's five letters.)
Following me means forsaking
the desire to hurt back, to rob your enemies of their humanness, even
when their inhuman acts aim to rob you of yours. It means refusing to
buy the Great Lie of evil -- that true peace and justice can be achieved
through deliberate and systematic violence.
Actually, the notion that violence
never works is a Great Lie, or, at least, a Big, Fat Mistake. Deliberate,
systematic violence has defeated the violent, unjust Taliban regime, and
weakened Al Qaeda's ability to launch new attacks on innocent infidels.
Afghans now hope for a lot more peace and justice than they had under
the mad mullahs.
If "trying to stop evil''
is OK, then what's the problem? We're fighting in self-defense against
fanatical murderers who've attacked our country, and who threaten to keep
attacking until we all convert to their fascist brand of Islam. Turn the
other cheek and more Americans will get the peace of the grave.
Naturally, many of us undeified
Americans would welcome vengeance on the man we saw chortling about the
death of thousands of Americans (and his own dupes). But Bush hasn't called
for vengeance -- unless Salter/Jesus think it's vengeful to pursue Osama
bin Laden. What Would Jesus Do: Let him go free to plot more terrorist
Here's another possibility:
Stephanie Salter wants Bush to give billions of dollars to alleviate poverty
(i.e, enrich Third World dictators). Maybe she wants him to end sanctions
against Iraq so Saddam can have even more money for biological, chemical
and nuclear weapons development. She may be right, though I doubt it.
But she does not actually speak for Jesus Christ. If Bush doesn't follow
her agenda, he is not ignoring God. He is ignoring Stephanie Salter.
Despite my years as a newspaper
columnist, I don't know what Jesus would do if he were president of the
United States. But I bet he would be less arrogant than his would-be mouthpiece.
Flight 63 Militia
Not all the French are "cheese-eating surrender monkeys,'' despite
what you read in the blogs. Two men from Paris were among those who subdued
the shoe bomber, Richard
Dugeon said the first he knew anything was wrong on American Airlines
Flight 63 was when he heard a flight attendant 10 rows in front of him
cry out, "I need some help!"
"I was there in five seconds, and there were already two or three
guys on him," Dugeon said Saturday after the Paris-to-Miami-bound
jet landed safely at Boston. "It was like everybody knew what they
needed to do. It's pure instinct because it goes so fast. You're not
going to think twice."
Eric Debry was traveling
with his wife and children. He was sitting directly behind Reid.
Debry said he reached
over the seat, grabbed Reid by the shoulders and pulled his arms back.
"I jumped on his shoulder. Two other guys came and took his legs,"
After five or six male passengers
overpowered Reid, 20 passengers donated belts to tie him up and doctors
on the flight gave him a sedative, the passengers settled back to watch
"Legally Blonde'' before landing in Boston. -- 12/23
Everyone really likes Laura Bush, writes Norah
Vincent. OK, so far. But then Vincent goes after Hillary Rodham Clinton,
who she says nobody
sentence stands out like a thumb in the eye: "She planted her man-eating
maiden name like a black flag in her famous monogram, and Capitol Hill
Calm down, Ms. Vincent. Is
a maiden name in a monogram really so terrifying to D.C. denizens? If
they're unmanned that easily, they've got worse problems than HRC. --
I recommend Henry Porter's thoughtful analysis of how and why Britain's
got just about everything wrong -- and can't bring themselves to admit
It may have been that
the doves had the world's best interests at heart, but there was an
anti-American agenda in the peace party which was abhorrent if only
because these people would never talk about any other nation in the
way they did about the US. The US is, after all, a democracy and its
citizens were, after all, the victims of a bewilderingly violent attack.
. . .
pessimism prevailed - among hawks too - and the entire debate was underlaid
by a suspicion that we were spiritually inferior to Islam and the West
had it coming.
To my mind the most serious
mistake of the peace party was its failure to stand up for the democratic
achievements of the last 100 years and for the reign of liberal values
in which we thrive and indeed possess the freedom to debate the enormous
issues that now face the world. That is still something worth fighting
for and I am unembarrassed by saying it.
Also check out Frederik
Norman's analysis of the philosophical roots of terrorism:
From the national socialists
(nazis) and their holocaust, via the international socialists (communists)
and their gulags, to the Islamist fundamentalists (Al Quaeda) and their
suicidal attacks of today, the common idea they all held was the idea
that it is right to sacrifice some for others, or that it is right to
sacrifice some for a "cause." -- 12/23
Shoes of death
Will airline passengers be required to fly barefoot? A passenger on a
Paris to Miami flight tried to ignite
his shoe, which was packed with powerful C-4 explosive. A stewardess
smelled the match and intervened; passengers helped her subdue the man
and sedate him with drugs in the plane's first aid kit. The man, described
as Middle Eastern in appearance, was traveling with a British passport
-- now considered dubious -- under the name of Richard Reid. The American
Airlines flight landed safely in Boston.
Layne and Glenn Reynolds
point out once again passengers have shown they'll rise in an instant
to deal with a threat to the plane; security checkpoints are not what
has made the nervous skies safe.
Which reminds me that I've
been meaning to write about the ban on non-citizens in airport security
jobs. In San Francisco, 80 percent of people who man the security posts
are non-citizens; most are Filipino. The numbers are similar in San Jose.
I find it hard to believe that firing 80 percent of the staff and replacing
them with new hires will improve security, or that citizenship is the
sine qua non of reliability. Better screening would weed out the losers
-- citizens or not.
And, as we know, alert flight
attendants and aggressive passengers are the real security force. -- 12/22
Under the new education bill, students in failing schools will have the
right to transfer to better public schools in the district. A New York
Times story explains why that's meaningless. The good
schools are full.
In New York City, which
accounts for most of the state's 100 or so chronically failing schools,
the parental grapevine assures that better schools are highly coveted
and, invariably, full.
Many of the bad schools are
at or over capacity too, for that matter. -- 12/22
The double-counted dead
has the best refutation I've seen so far to the Women's Studies professor
who claims U.S. bombing has killed
more civilians in Afghanistan than Al Qaeda terrorism killed here
on Sept. 11.
. . . if you add up all
the casualty numbers in all the press reports you can find, without
checking for accuracy, reliability, double counting, propaganda, bias,
or military casualties getting mixed in, that you end up with 3,767
dead Afghan civilians. -- 12/21
ABCs of reading
The Council for Basic Education has several good articles on how
to teach reading. The bottom line: Most kids don't learn to read "naturally.''
They need to be taught, systematically and directly, to identify individual
sounds and link them to letters: mmm- aaa-ttt is m-a-t, which is mat.
Then give them lots of practice reading so they develop their vocabulary
and build comprehension. -- 12/21
Tanks a lot
Glenn Reynolds, defender
of gun shows, links to a Forbes
article on Jacques Littlefield, who owns more than 150 tanks and armored
vehicles. Not purchased at gun shows. Jacques is an old friend of mine.
I remember when he used to make model tanks, and when he bought his first
real one from Army surplus.
The article says Jacques is
fastidious about restoration. It doesn't mention his annual Fourth of
July party, which features Jacques crushing a couple of junker cars --
usually foreign -- with his Sherman tank. You might think it would be
a guy thing, but everyone loves it. There's just something about destruction.
Oedipus, call your office
Perhaps Tali-boy Johnny Walker,
an alum of Osama's Terrorism Camp in Afghanistan, wasn't just rejecting
his country; he was rejecting his gay father. P.J.
Corkery in the SF Examiner says Frank Lindh, whose last name Tali-boy
declines to use, moved in with a gay male partner at about the same time
his son turned to Islam for answers.
It would take a specialist
in family issues to map the constellations of feelings and problems
that would describe John Walker's path toward Islam in 1997, but sources
close to the family say the father's turn of life from married man to
modern gay man startled and flustered the 16-year-old.
Johnny Walker eventually joined
the Taliban, which executed homosexuals by crushing under a stone wall
or throwing them off a high building.
Some National Review type will
have a sneer at Tali-boy's gay dad. I wonder what Andrew Sullivan will
make of it.
Glenn Sacks, who wrote the
defending Tali-boy for his courage, e-mailed his critics with a defense
of himself. It's the best available: When Walker joined the Taliban it
wasn't at war with the U.S., Sacks points out. And maybe, when the war
started, he couldn't get out. Sacks equates Tali-boy with a young German
joining the Wehrmacht (not the SS) out of patriotism (not love of the
However, Tali-boy says he trained
as an Al Qaeda
terrorist, not the simple "foot soldier'' Sacks envisioned. And
when Tali-boy met up with American interrogaters before the prison revolt
he didn't reveal his identity or say he wanted to leave his Taliban buddies.
CNN released a tape of an interview
with a wounded, morphine-laden Walker, who says jihad was just
what he expected and the cause "definitely'' was right. In other
words, he joined the SS equivalent out of love for the Islamofascist cause.
On the tape, Walker speaks English with a foreign accent, yet another
re-creation of his pathetic self.
Blair prints the Sacks e-mail, with Blair's parenthetical comments.
Dare to say it: Mass murder
Kelly intelligently analyzes the Newsweek column by a Yalie struggling
with the idea that maybe it's morally wrong to commit mass murder. (It's
archived for subscribers only.) Alison Hornstein's classmates are unwilling
or unable to judge terrorists. She's trying.
At some point soon after
Sept. 11, listening to Yale students and professors offer rationalizations
for the mass murders (poverty in the Middle East, U.S. foreign policy,
etc.) Hornstein had an epiphany. Some things were just wrong. "Just
as we should pass absolute moral judgment in the case of rape, we should
recognize that some actions are objectively bad, despite differences
in cultural standards and values. To me, hijacking planes and killing
thousands of civilians falls into this category."
Hurrah! A breakthrough! A moral judgment! Yes, Ms. Hornstein, murdering
thousands of people in fact is bad. But wait. A lifetime of instruction
is not sloughed off quite so easily as all that; Hornstein's bold moral
judgment is not quite so bold as all that. Look at her conclusion again:
"To me," it begins. To me. Hijacking planes and killing thousands
is not objectively bad after all. It is objectively bad only in Hornstein's
opinion. Indeed, she rushes to reassure on this point: "Others
may disagree." Others may disagree. And she adds: "It is less
important to me where people choose to draw the line than it is that
they are willing to draw it at all." Oh, dear.
It is astonishing, really. Here you have an obviously smart, obviously
moral person trying nobly and painfully to think her way out of the
intellectual and moral cul-de-sac in which the addled miseducation of
her life has placed her -- and she cannot, in the end, bear to do it.
She cannot judge.
Ms. Hornstein, push on. Go the last mile. Go out on the limb of judgment.
Mass murder is indeed objectively bad -- and not just in your opinion.
Others may disagree -- but they are wrong. Indeed, they are (shut the
door for this part, lest the hall monitors catch us) morally wrong.
My daughter's given up on trying
to persuade her college friends -- Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Davis, Harvard,
Princeton -- that terrorism is wrong. "That's just your opinion,''
they say. "You just feel that way because you're an American.'' Or
they've been taught that no authority such as the government or the press
can be trusted (except for Noam Chomsky) so they doubt all sources of
information and have nothing left on which a decision can be made.
I raised my Allison to believe
that it's good to be judgmental -- if the judgments are sound. That's
why God gave us brains; we're supposed to use them. -- 12/19
All covered with soot
Curbing carbon dioxide emissions is the hot solution for global warming,
but a Stanford scientist says reducing soot
would do the job a lot faster and provide huge health benefits. Mark Z.
Jacobson, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering,
presented his findings Dec. 11 to the American Geophysical Union.
Diesel fuel -- much more common
in Europe than in the U.S. -- is one of the big soot producers.
Many people mistakenly
believe that diesel vehicles are better for the environment because
they travel 30 percent more miles per gallon than do gasoline-powered
vehicles. But diesel vehicles emit about 18 percent more carbon per
gallon than do gasoline vehicles. More important, soot is a much more
efficient warming agent per unit mass than is the worst greenhouse gas.
That translates into greater global warming with diesel than with gasoline
over the next 100 to 150 years, Jacobson says. -- 12/19
The Saxon war
Jay Mathews analyzes a county's fight over Saxon
math textbooks, which offend progressives but seem to work well for
Young women judge prospective
mates by how they treat their mothers. Supporters of creativity and
choice in American schools judge educational administrators by how they
treat Saxon and other maverick publishers who can show positive results.
Sadly, most textbook review committees and their school boards are not
up to the challenge. -- 12/18
Compared to students in 32 industrialized countries, Irish students
are great at reading and science, and slightly above average in math,
according to a survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD). There's also bad news, reports the
Irish Times (via the unlinkable Dec. 24 Weekly Standard).
But the OECD sounded a
disapproving note, pointing out that education spending in the Republic
is significantly lower than in many other developed states. It suggests
that students here are forced to work harder to achieve their grades
because of lack of investment. --12/18
The San Francisco Chronicle hyped an "investigative''
story that was really a plant
by Gov. Davis' re-election campaign, writes Dan Walters of the Sacramento
Sunday's San Francisco
Chronicle published a lengthy, front-page article describing how Richard
Riordan, then the mayor of Los Angeles, telephoned "a harried Gov.
Gray Davis" last Jan. 10 and threatened to cut off power supplies
from the city's electric utility -- thereby making severe power blackouts
a near-certainty -- unless it was paid in advance.
The governor's top campaign
adviser promptly cited the Chronicle story, headlined "With L.A.
rich in energy, Riordan dealt no mercy during state crisis,'' to attack
Riordan, the leading Republican challenger.
Riordan's insistence on
Los Angeles' getting power money up front was not news in Southern California.
He had said so publicly on the very day -- Jan. 10 -- that he allegedly
made his phone call to Davis. But it was news in Northern California
and it appeared to represent disdain by a Los Angeles mayor for consumers
in Northern California, where the threat of blackouts last winter was
The surefire evidence that the Chronicle story was a Davis plant was
its use of the governor's personal telephone logs. There is simply no
way the Chronicle could have obtained those logs without the cooperation
of the Governor's Office. Davis won't even release his schedule of fund-raising
events, much less his telephone logs. --12/18
Angry, and proud of it
Richard Cohen is mad
as hell at Osama and his crew, and he's not going to fake it anymore.
In a complicated, on-the-one-hand,
on-the-other-hand world, in an era when science and common sense have
robbed us of the absolutes of religious dogma, it is downright invigorating
to feel an anger so pure and so justified that time itself has diluted
it not one bit. I hate bin Laden so much that when some people said
they hated him even more after seeing him on the latest videotape, I
wondered how they could. My anger is pressed to the floor already. .
(The anger) comes not
from our insecurities or failings but from what is best in all of us
-- sorrow for the dead, sympathy for the grieving, concern for the future
and love of our country. I feel no shame -- but I would if, after what
happened, I felt no anger at all.
The anti-war minority claims
a moral superiority to us revenge-crazed cowboys and cowgirls. Yet to
be cool, detached and "oh-so-judicious'' in response to the mass
murder of one's countrymen is nothing to brag about. -- 12/18
Poor kids, good test scores
Often, high-poverty, high-minority schools are low in achievement. But
thousands of such schools are succeeding,reports Education
Trust. The non-profit identified more than 4,500 schools nationwide
that serve predominantly poor or black and Hispanic students, and also
perform in the top third of schools in their state.
In a profile of a
Baltimore school that went from horrible to high-performing, the New
York Times finds some common factors in effective schools: "They
often devote extra time to reading and math, find inventive ways to motivate
children and emphasize orderly behavior." Not exactly rocket science.
Cartoonist Ted Rall's war commentary
is so weirdly wrong that I figured it wasn't worth the bile needed
to destroy it. But James
Lileks proves me wrong. He writes that Rall is
the Mikey of bad punditry:
he hates everyone. He hates the right, he hates the left, he hates the
Afghans themselves. Everything sucks and the people who dont realize
that everything sucks suck worst of all.
Rall refers to "Vietnam,
our first Afghanistan.'' Lileks responds:
Vietnam = Afghanistan.
Yep. No question. 50,000 dead vs. 5 dead. Ten years vs. ten weeks. Constant
guerilla warfare using US troops vs. a proxy army assisted by remarkably
effective air support. Draft army vs. an all-volunteer force. The parallels
are truly stunning. Someone get Mai Ling on the phone and start designing
the memorial; itll go right next to the sad black gash on the
Mall. And it will be one inch high. -- 12/17
Peace protest leads to violence
When Jorge Torres of AntiAntiWar.com
challenged the views of a woman protesting the sale of "war toys,''
she whacked him with her sign. Frederik
Norman has a link to the video. -- 12/17
When flying, the bus is
I live roughly midway between San Francisco and San Jose airports, so
I checked both when I was looking for a January flight to JFK. The cheapest
non-stop from San Francisco to JFK was $1,130. The cheapest non-stop from
San Jose was $162.50. And it's the exact same flight, preceded
by a bus ride from San Jose to SFO. I called United to confirm this. A
very nice young man told me that the online info was correct. And that
United doesn't care if the passenger actually rides the bus from San Jose
or gets to SFO by other means.
Surely, this kind of price
differential is crazy. No wonder the airlines are in trouble -- 12/17
Leak for democracy
The Bush administration's loyalty, "cool professionalism and collegiality
not be best for democracy,'' according to "some politicians and
academics'' unearthed by Richard Berke of the New York Times. How can
there be a public debate if Bush aides won't leak self-serving snippets
to the press?
Hofer performs the take-down on the leak-for-democracy thesis:
. . . As most organization
people know, loyalty and unanimity outside the meeting ALLOWS debate
within it. Leaders are more comfortable having a wide ranging debate
if they know that when a consensus or decision has been reached they
will all agree to follow it.
Berke quotes a Bush aide and
a Clinton aide making this argument, but says we won't know how much internal
debate there's been until after the Bush administration is over. Hofer
points out a story -- same section, same day -- on the debate
within the administration on how to integrate Russia into NATO.
An administration that speaks
with one voice tends to be more persuasive, but it doesn't stifle other
voices. Those who disagree with Bush's policy can raise other options.
They do. What the "politicians and academics'' are really saying
is that Bush isn't playing fair. It's like the U.S. Air Force bombing
from way up high where the enemy doesn't have a chance to shoot down our
planes. Bush is using his strength -- an ability to create a loyal, cohesive
team of advisers -- to further his policies. It's not sporting. --
America, please bomb my
At a tree-trimming party yesterday, an Iranian-American woman was telling
me what it was like when the ayatollahs took over and shoved Iran, the
most modern, "European" country in the region, into the past.
Women lost all their rights. Those who protested were sent to prison.
She and her husband feared their child would reveal their modern ways
to the day-care teacher, a true believer, and they'd be arrested. They
made it to America, where "freedom is for granted.''
After Sept. 11, young Iranians
-- who'd grown up under the ayatollahs' rule -- held a candelight vigil
to express sympathy for America. They've never known a modern Iran, but
they want the future. They want freedom.
Her dream -- she knows it's
unlikely -- is that the U.S. will do for Iran what it's done for Afghanistan,
using our military might to overthrow the religious tyrants and liberate
the people. -- 12/16
From Israel to Osama
The U.S. is using "intelligent'
missiles to blow up Al Qaeda's Tora Bora caves.
The AGM 142 "Hav
Nap" missiles are so advanced that they can be flown directly into
the mouths of the caves sheltering the terrorists.
They were developed by the Israeli arms manufacturer, Rafael, in the
1980s. While the Americans possessed them during the Gulf war, it was
decided not to use them against the Iraqis in operation Desert Storm
because they were sensitive about killing Arabs with Israeli-made bombs.
The US air force chiefs in Afghanistan, however, are no longer worried
about such niceties, or that the man who wants to bring about the destruction
of the United States and Israel may be destroyed by Israeli bombs being
dropped by American planes. A Pentagon spokesman said: "I hope
the irony of this is not lost on bin Laden."
Irony is not bin Laden's strong
suit. But the rest of us can appreciate both the irony and the fact that
the U.S. no longer cares about Arabs' delicate sensibilities. --
A bomb-maker's notebook found in Kandahar details an attack
on London, according to the Observer.
In step-by-step instructions
it describes how to construct a huge remote-controlled van bomb - identical
to those used by al-Qaeda against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
with lethal effect in 1998.
A scribbled note on top of one page suggests the intended target was
Moorgate in the centre of London's financial district. . . .
Written in note form - apparently as an aide-mémoire by the man
who would construct the bomb - the language used suggests that the author
was a British fundamentalist who prepared the document while training
in the Sheragha Jama district of Kandahar, an area riddled with the
former homes and compounds of al-Qaeda fighters.
There's no way to tell whether
Al Qaeda has a "sleeper cell'' in place ready to carry out the Moorgate
bombing. -- 12/16
Upside: It will cripple
the school district
To prevent a state takeover of Philadelphia schools -- and a handover
to Edison Schools, Inc. -- Mayor John Street "commissioned a strategic
plan to undermine the state's position, with options that included taking
the school district into bankruptcy and shifting key educators to the
city payroll to 'cripple'
school operations." The secret report was leaked to the Philadelphia
"The potential upside
to this strategy is that it could cripple the school district's ability
to function and accelerate Edison's anticipated failure," the report
said. The "downside" was that "it could be perceived
by the public as hurting the children in the public school system."
In other words, failure is
a good thing if it can be blamed on Edison, a for-profit school-management
company; it's a bad thing if people blame the mayor. Perception is all.
Education counts for nada. --
Let there be lights
Catholic? Jewish? Colored lights? White lights? Michael
Kelly has a funny holiday column (via Virginia
Postrel). I especially liked his description of his son's Unitarian
Christmas pageant. It starts with the lighting of the menorah . . .
followed by the traditional
singing of the great Christian hymn "Oh, Mitten Tree" (during
which the faithful paraded around a tree that was decked, in fact, with
mittens). A Unitarian pageant turns out to be different from a Roman
Catholic one. In Tom's pageant, Jesus Christ is celebrated as "a
very special person" and "a great rabbi" and an all-around
asset to the community. The Son-of-God debate, which has proved so regrettably
contentious over the years, is not mentioned. -- 12/16
Art restoration in Kabul
In addition to banning music, the Taliban destroyed all artworks that
depicted the human form. But a heroic doctor saved
122 paintings in Kabul's National Gallery of Art by painting over
forbidden images, reports Patrick Cockburn.
Mohammed Yusef Asefi uses
a big yellow sponge to rub vigorously at a painting of a mountain ravine
in Kabul's National Gallery of Art, and an extraordinary change takes
place. As the sponge passes over the surface, an old man herding three
donkeys along a mountain path begins to appear. . . .
Working in secret, he
painted out the people and animals and replaced them, usually with plants.
When Taliban inspectors arrived they were faced with bland landscapes
to which they could not object on religious grounds.
Asefi risked prison, torture
and death to save the paintings from destruction. Another 400 art works
stored elsewhere were slashed by the mullahs. -- 12/15
Dumb and dumber massacre
When defenseless civilians are killed, the word in English is "massacre.''
When combatants die in battle, the word is . . . Well, according to the
Independent, it's "massacre.'' As in, "America 'covered up massacre
of 280 Taliban'."
The Americans and their
Afghan allies appear to be trying to cover up the slaughter of more
than 280 foreign Taliban fighters believed to be loyal to Osama bin
Laden in Kandahar airport.
Mystery has surrounded the fate of the foreign fighters since the airport
was captured last week, after intensive bombing by the Americans. Afghan
anti-Taliban forces acknowledged that more than 280 fighters had been
holding out in the airport, but claimed that only about 20 were killed.
The rest, they claimed, escaped alive.
But one of the Afghan soldiers who took part in the fighting said yesterday
that he was ordered to return to the airport a day after it was captured,
where he says he helped bury the bodies of about 280 mostly Arab fighters.
The soldier, who used the pseudonym Ahmad Gul to protect his identity,
said the majority were killed by American bombs.
Gul, the only source, never
says the dead fighters were killed after the surrendering. He does say
he handed over two Arab prisoners to the CIA, and hasn't seen them since.
But why would he? Reporter Justin Huggler (great name!) goes on to say:
Mr Gul's version of events
would strengthen the argument of those who say the Americans prefer
to kill the foreign fighters rather than take them alive.
It comes after the massacre at Mazar-i-Sharif, where American and British
forces fighting alongside the Northern Alliance killed more than 150
foreign Taliban prisoners-of-war, when they quelled a prison rebellion
using air strikes.
In Tora Bora, the Americans continued bombing despite an offer from
al-Qa'ida fighters to surrender to the United Nations or diplomats from
their own countries. The US would only accept an unconditional surrender
which was not forthcoming.
In other words, the U.S. will
try to kill enemy fighters who are still fighting, and will not let them
dictate the terms of their surrender. -- 12/14
But what do you really
Over at Inappropriate,
Moira Breen is debating whether tearing apart idiot Brits is unsporting.
They're such easy targets. But she's so good at it. Here's the conclusion
of her analysis of a Natasha
Walters column in the Independent. Walters claims to hope that George
W. Bush will not abandon refugees to starvation.
Oh horseshit, Natasha.
Horseshit horseshit horseshit. You have no fonder hope, you cretinous,
ignorant, sanctimonious bipedal manifestation of pond-scum, than to
see George Bush drinking blood out of a baby's skull.
Steele of the Guardian, she concludes:
Update: Moira says "swamp
thing'' is a Natalie Solent
epithet. Solent has now issued an apology:
In an earlier post I foolishly
compared the noted cultural commentator Edward Said to a "swamp
thing of moral relativism." I now learn that the Swamp Thing was
actually a noble creature treated harshly due to its alien appearance.
Said may think that describes him, but it doesn't. Mr Thing, I apologise..
The "root causes'' of Winona Ryder's shoplifting
'n drugs arrest are analyzed on More
than Zero. Among them are:
1) the growing gap between
the haves and have-nots in our sad society
2) A lack of understanding of the diseases of shopping and consumerization
I'm a victim!
Yesterday, a deranged woman punched me while I was window-shopping. After
she hit me, she put up her fists like an old-time pugilist and said, "Self
defense,'' in a smug way. I was too surprised to say a word. I hadn't
seen her before she hit my arm; it took a few seconds for me to understand
what had happened. Call it a random act of unkindness. By then, she was
walking away -- she had on pink socks but no shoes -- to join a group
of transients lounging down the street.
No doubt she was protesting
the growing gap between haves and have-nots, and taking revenge for my
apparent consumerism. Or else she's nuts.
I told the police -- the next
person she hits could be too frail to take a punch -- but said I didn't
want to press charges unless that's the only way to get her into treatment.
Ann odd thought came to me:
I don't think I've ever been punched deliberately, in my life, until now.
It hurts. And now I feel unsafe in my own town, next to my favorite Persian
cafe and the Tibetan shop, across from the Post Office and the bank.
If I were a deranged woman,
would I hit me? No. But I'm not as deranged as Robert
Fisk. - -12/14
Why do sharks bite us?
September 11 was a call to moral
seriousness, writes Mark Steyn. Read the column, if only for his shark/Islam
bits. -- 12/13
Osama bin done it
"Marines Find Tapes Proving BIN LADEN KILLED DIANA,''
according to a headline I saw while standing in the Walgreen's check-out
Wow! He really is evil.
Lord of the racists?
Courtesy of Australian blogger Tim
Blair, here's a batty column in the Sydney Morning Herald arguing
that "Lord of the Rings'' and "Harry Potter'' are racist.
The appeal of the Lord
of the Rings is fundamentally racist. Middle Earth is inhabited by races
of creature deeply marked off from one another by language, physical
appearance, and behaviour. It is almost a parody of a Hitlerian vision:
orcs are ugly, disgusting, brutal, violent - without exception; elves
are a beautiful, lordly, cultured elite; in between are hobbits, short,
hairy, ordinary, a bit limited, but lovable and loyal and brave when
they have to be.
Individuals within races don't vary from the pattern. To know one is
to know all. The races are either dangerous or they are benign. An orc
- any orc - is without question an enemy. A hobbit would never side
with an orc.
As for Harry Potter:
Harry and his friends
are members of an elite. They are not a race, but their powers are handed
down the generations from parents to children. The skills must be inherited
before they are developed with teaching at Hogwarts. The reader quickly
identifies with this genetic elite, the wizards such as Harry, and despises
the talentless, boorish muggles.
How we laugh when the Dursleys get into difficulties! They deserve it.
They are, after all, just muggles - hapless, fat, brutal and stupid.
They're all like that. Go on, Harry, hit them again and watch them cry
Chris Henning, the opiner,
has two problems: First, he's been trained to oppose the home team in
all circumstances, even if the other side is made up of vicious Orcs or
vicious Dursleys. Second, he doesn't know the texts.
Last night, I finished rereading
"Lord of the Rings.'' The underestimated Hobbits and their allies
among the "free peoples'' (men, elves, dwarves and Ents) come together
in brotherhood to defeat the evil Sauron and his minions (orcs, corrupted
men). Tolkien denied the saga, much of it written during World War II,
was an allegory of the rise and fall of Hitler. But it sure reads like
it. Only Hitler is Sauron, not Frodo Baggins (England) and his multi-ethnic
friends (the allies).
Everyone conveniently speaks
the Common Language, though they also have local languages with complex
linguistics worked out by Tolkien, a scholar of language. The "free
peoples'' share many values across species lines, though there are differences
as well. There's no such thing as a good orc or a bad elf, but individuals
within races do vary: A wizard may be corrupted, an elf may befriend a
dwarf, an Ent may grow tree-ish, a hobbit may be a hero, a gollum or Lotho
the Pimple. (For awhile I started to wonder if Frodo and Sam had a homoerotic
master-slave thing going, but Sam does go on to marry and father 13 children.)
Humans vary most of all, though Henning misses Tolkien's emphasis on inherited
kingliness. (It helps to have a touch of elf in the family.) Above all,
individuals are tested by great challenges and must find the courage to
do what is right.
The Harry Potter books also
are devoted to the battle of good versus evil. The bad characters like
Draco Malfoy sneer at Muggles; the good characters do not. Wizardry is
not inherited: Muggle-born children may become wizards, like Harry's mother
and his friend Hermione. The Dursleys are not despicable because they're
Muggles; they're despicable because they abuse the orphaned Harry, who
does not hit them and make them cry, even when he learns how to use magic.
a brilliant parody of litcrit, Frederick C. Crews showed it's possible
to interpret a work of fiction in an infinite number of (stupid) ways.
He's got a new book, Postmodern
Pooh, that I'm going to order. But you have to know the text.
Why they hate academics
In a FoxNews column, Glenn Reynolds has some cogent explanations for the
of professors, including:
1. Cleverness isnt
everything: In the academic world, originality is prized, and cleverness
is almost as good as originality. But cleverness is overrated. To argue
(as Cornell historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg and womens health advocate
Jacquelyn Jackson did in the Boston Globe) that women who wear bikinis
to be fashionable are somehow just as "trapped" by "cultural
confines" as Afghan women who are forced to wear burqas on pain
of lethal beatings may be clever, but its also wrong absurdly
wrong. Academics may appreciate the cleverness, but non-academics tend
to focus on the "absurdly wrong" part. Not surprisingly, they
also tend to lose respect for the people, institutions, and disciplines
that appear incapable of making straightforward comparative judgements.
Clever explanations for hypocrisy (on P.C versus free speech, for example)
dont help, either.
2. Being contrary isnt the same as being insightful: As I said,
academics want to look original. Actually being original, however, is
hard work. The second-raters, therefore, tend to look for ways of seeming
original without doing the heavy lifting required to actually come up
with something new. One way of doing this is to set yourself against
whatever the popular view is in the hopes that others will mistake this
for incisiveness. (This frequently works, since other people are often
not willing to put in the necessary effort to tell the difference).
But knee-jerk contrariness isnt original its just
conformity in the opposite direction. After a while, this becomes obvious
even to casual observers. -- 12/12
An angry mourner
I'm still recovering from yesterday's memorial service for Luci Williams
Houston, a woman who was so full of life, so full of joy. Luci, a Mercury
News photographer, was murdered; her estranged husband has been arrested.
The service was in a Unitarian
church, with a branch where the cross might otherwise be. It was opened
by a minister of Religious Science, who said it didn't matter whether
we spoke of God, Allah or Buddha, or just the Life Force. Then Luci's
sister got up and said that she didn't mean to offend but God's name is
"Jesus Christ." I liked that.
Luci had joined a prayer class
on Sept. 11; that was a comfort to her family. But I can't make myself
believe that Luci has taken the next step of her spiritual path, that
she was ready for Heaven. Luci was 43 years old. She deserved many more
years of life. Her friends -- which include just about anyone she ever
met -- deserved to have her around for another 40 or 50 or 60 years. (I
think she had it in her to be a great, little old lady.)
The service was a celebration
of Luci's life, a chance for her friends and family to talk about what
a wonderful person she was. Many people there felt better afterwards.
I didn't. I felt angry.
I guess I'm not ready to move
on. Neither was Luci. -- 12/12
"Buy This Book -- or
the Terrorists Will Have Won"
The above is my favorite book title, so far, in the Name My Book contest.
It comes from Mathew Drachenberg.
Jim Miller proposed "unCommon
Sense,'' which was one of the titles I came up with myself but rejected
for being already in use. (But not with an appropriate subtitle.)
Alan Carroll suggests: "Brain
Thrust: Joanne Jacobs' Full Throttle Essays" with a jacket blurb
reading,"Keep a copy at home and at work for when your mind needs
the kick of a richly textured thought food. Give copies to your friends
so they can keep up when Joanne's burning rubber writing turbo-charges
your neural nets."
It sounds like some thing the
FDA would regulate. Or possibly the Vice Squad. -- 12/11
Pakistani holy warriors
marched off to Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban. The survivors are
creeping back home, dejected and discredited,
says this Mercury News story. Pakistanis also are mad at the madrass fanatics
who exhorted their followers to be martyrs.
PISHIN, Pakistan -- The
roughly 200 Taliban fighters who have come home to the apple-growing
oasis of Pishin on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan are not getting
the hero's welcome they might have expected when they set off across
the border to fight the holy war.
``People blame them for the destruction of Afghanistan,'' said shopkeeper
The U.S. bombing campaign against the Taliban, which was harboring terrorist
leader Osama bin Laden, detonated massive and often violent anti-American
protests across the Muslim world. But as the Taliban militia collapsed
with stunning swiftness, it has become plain that people in Pishin have
little patience with losers.
That is a remarkable reversal, especially for a hamlet that looked on
with pride long ago as some of its youths, filled with Muslim zeal,
went off to join the Taliban.
Now police are keeping an eye on Taliban members who returned in defeat.
Villagers no longer listen to their views on religious issues. Only
their madrasahs, the Islamic seminaries long accused of turning out
zealots, welcome them. And even they are under new pressure.
Sales of bin Laden posters trailed off, and anti-American demonstrations
around Pakistan have dwindled to small crowds of die-hards usually outnumbered
If Pishin is anything to judge by, defeat has so discredited the Taliban
fighters among their hometown neighbors that they will find it difficult
to continue promoting their politics or their puritanical brand of Islam.
A similar story on "Jihad's
lost battalions" ran yesterday in the New York Times. John Burns'
writing hints at his point of view:
Like their kind down the
ages, the militant leaders mostly stayed home, or crossed the frontier
only long enough to declare themselves holy warriors before hastening
Many of those firebrands are in detention now, prisoners of a Pakistani
government that has taken the debacle of the jihadis as an opportunity
to tighten its crackdown on the militant groups so as to sever their
hold on millions of the country's poor and illiterate.
In any event, those leaders elderly men grown rich and pampered
from their preachings, men who saw to it that their own sons and grandsons
stayed out of the war have powerful reasons now to disguise the
extent of the miseries they caused.
While their deputies storm up and down the valley, calling meetings
after Friday Prayers to heap venom on America, many tribe members blame
the disaster on the militant leaders, saying they sent the valley's
sons to their deaths, then did nothing to help the families left behind.
Those who made it back also
report they were abandoned by their Afghan Taliban compatriots, who ran
away or switched sides, with no warning to their Pakistani brothers.
All those who predicted that
U.S. bombing would make angry Muslims even angrier should notice where
their anger is directed. -- 12/11
Hanukkah in Kabul
Two Jews survive
in Afghanistan, according to this sad and funny Fox story. The two men
lit their menorahs Sunday night in the empty synagogue of Kabul. But not
together. They hate each other. -- 12/11
Name my book
In addition to "Start-Up High,'' my charter school book, I'm
working on a collection of columns, mostly from the Mercury News. But
I need a title that says: "A book of short, sensible, sometimes funny
essays on various topics written for intelligent readers who will want
to buy many copies for all their friends and relations."
So far, I've been called it
"The Naked Pundit: Best of Joanne Jacobs,'' though no nudity will
be involved. I'm also toying with something like "Nostradamus, Sex,
Weight Loss, Angels, Taliban: Key Words of Joanne Jacobs.'' Or perhaps
a one-word title, such as "Unabashed,'' which has a ring to it.
Suggestions are welcome. --
Ten years ago today, SLAC physicist Paul Kunz posted the first
Web page, reports CNet, via Frederik
Norman. Who is a 19-year-old Norwegian blogger. -- 12/10
Johnny Walker is talking
to interrogaters about his high times in the Taliban militia. That could
help with the dupe defense.
Lileks blasts the Glenn Sacks column. I especially liked Lileks' response
to the plaint that, Some see our consumer society as empty and devoid
of meaning. They seek meaning in a cause.
The hoariest of 60s cliches,
warmed over so many times its blackened, cracked, crusty and bereft
of all nutrition. Consumer society means a society in which
- brace yourself - there are lots of things to buy, and lots of people
who want to buy things. And this is just so horrible. We shouldnt
want DVD players - no, we should all pack into overheated theaters and
watch scratchy prints of the movie the theater owners want us to see,
at a time of the theater owners choosing. We shouldnt want
computers, or extra sweaters, or peppermint-chamomile hand lotion, or
cellphones, or leather briefcases, or that nice lamp that would go perfect
with the chair in the living room, or a food processor that saves a
few minutes of chopping onions by hand, or an Elmo doll for the baby,
or a camcorder that lets us record the days of our lives for our descendants,
or ANYTHING besides flat bread, a Koran, a change of socks and underwear,
a gun to kill Jews and Monsanto executives, and maybe some new batteries
so we can listen to Mullah Omars cassette-tape lectures on the
need to beat women for wearing toenail polish.
Over at Reason, Nick
Gillespie defends the "trivial" '90s by pointing out that
peace and prosperity -- though boring to write about -- are nothing to
sneer at. -- 12/10
A fight against freedom
Newsweek has details
on the "long, strange journey'' of Tali-boy, including a report from
his first madrass principal.
Most teenagers, when they
rebel, say they want more freedom. John Walker Lindh rebelled against
freedom. He did not demand to express himself in different ways. Quite
the opposite. He wanted to be told precisely how to dress, to eat, to
think, to pray. He wanted a value system of absolutes, and he was willing
to go to extreme lengths to find it.
According to Newsweek, "Sources
say that Walker has proudly informed his interrogators that he was not
merely Taliban but Al Qaeda." That's probably untrue, but it sure
doesn't help the dupe defense. Still, it might help Daddy's lawyers prove
Tali-boy is mentally incompetent. Like Ezra Pound, only without the poetry.
Starr lists the teen-age Walker's newsgroup postings -- which start
with hiphop commentary (at one point, he poses as black) and end with
Walker selling his CDs and music equipment and pontificating on Islamic
law and Zionist Jews. Tali-boy's nom de net, by the way, was "doodoo.''
Oh, and here's another stupid
column run in the San Francisco Chronicle. Glenn Sacks says Tali-boy
deserves respect because he sacrificed for his beliefs. Matt
Welch notes that Walker was fighting for "religious fascism.''
He wanted to make everyone else live under the Taliban's version of Islamic
law, regardless of their own personal beliefs. -- 12/9
Afghan thieves stoned Independent reporter Robert Fisk, and nearly killed
him. But it's
not their fault, writes Fisk. They are lesser breeds without the law.
And he's a white Westerner, and therefore guilty of absolutely everything.
Still, what's this about Fisk
defending himself against the stone-throwing mob? If that's not OK for
Israelis or Americans, why is it OK for Fisk? He felt horribly guilty
about fighting back against the men who were trying to kill him. Yet Fisk
fought back. Tsk.
Sullivan dissects Fisk's racism. For more visceral hits (i.e., using
"sanctimonious asshole") read Ken
Layne and Tim
Blair. They include links to Fisk's biased and off-base stories.
Amnesty International et.al. think that the two CIA agents' threats to
leave Tali-boy to "rot in prison" if he didn't talk might be
torture, which is "inappropriate.'' Moira
Breen inflicts some pain.
Here is a man supposedly
deeply disturbed by an alleged atrocity. Does he call the agents' (alleged)
actions "barbaric", or "atrocious", or even a milder
"unconscionable"? No. The so-called "torture" is
"inappropriate". Torture is "inappropriate"? Wearing
sneaks with a ball-gown is "inappropriate". This is the vocabulary
not of heartfelt indignation and thirst for justice but of benumbed
and self-serving bureaucracy. If they are truly on a disinterested search
for truth and justice, why have they been enthusiastically smearing
the reputation of a dead man, with hearsay and speculation, before any
inquiry has been undertaken? -- 12/9
Tali-boy by the Bay
Gee, I take a few hours off
for cousin Zev's bar mitzvah and I miss the Great Blogger Pile-on.
Tali-boy Johnny Walker is a
spiritual traveling, critical thinking, culture-appreciating kid who deserves
a plane ticket home to Mommy and Daddy, argued Louis Freedberg. The SF
Chronicle column, "A
product of Bay Area culture,'' has been slashed, stomped and spitted
by Matt Welch, Steven
Den Beste, Andrew Sullivan,
Breen and Charles
Johnson (Little Green Footballs). But it's just too fat a target to
Freedberg asks us to "consider
how the 20-year-old Walker found himself in his bizarre predicament.''
Well, let's see. First he converted
to Islam, then to the fascistic Wahabbi cult. He went to Yemen and then
Pakistan to memorize the Koran. He volunteered to fight with the Taliban
-- first against Hindus in Kashmir, then against his own country and its
allies in Afghanistan. He was captured. He was questioned by American
agents. If Walker had been an innocent trapped in the Taliban militia,
he could have said so, offering information to show he wasn't willingly
fighting his own country. Instead, he
said nothing. Then his fellow prisoners -- and possibly Tali-boy --
beat one of the American agents to death, seized the fort, killed dozens
of people . . . Quite a predicament.
Freedberg goes on to insist
that Tali-boy is typical:
Until his latest detour,
his journey for self-discovery had not been that different from those
of many other young people in the Bay Area.
This is a place which
arguably encourages more religious exploration and innovation than any
other region in the United States . . .
Beyond just religious tolerance, young people here are taught from an
early age to accept other cultures and peoples. Young people are also
encouraged to travel abroad, often through official school programs.
. . .
The Bay Area is also a place that encourages critical thinking about
the U.S. role in the world. That may have played a part in his vulnerability
to the Taliban's extreme propaganda.
Let Walker get "his life
back on track,'' concludes Freedberg. "We'd want nothing less for
our own children, who could easily have found themselves in a similar
My daughter grew up in the
Bay Area; she's exactly the same age as the Tali-boy. Indeed, she's also
planning a foreign study trip -- to Oxford, where she plans to study social
behavior and history.
Yet her interest in religion
and culture hasn't led her to join a murderous cult. Her critical thinking
skills are the kind that enable her to resist propaganda. She could
not have "found'' herself -- easily or otherwise -- in a "similar
mess'' because she is not a crackpot. And there are a lot more Bay Area
20-year-olds like her than there are goofballs like Tali-boy. Most of
them know they'll be held accountable for their actions; the rest learn
that eventually, and usually painfully.
Lileks puts it:
Imagine if hed popped
up in Idaho in a compound with a shaved head gripping a shotgun on behalf
of a pure Christian state. I dont think wed be spending
a lot of time wondering about his spiritual journey, since it would
be quite clear: troubled boy fell in with God-bothering brutes who presented
him with a simple worldview, one that explained everything from the
roots of evil to why he didnt get a bike on his eleventh birthday.
Trying Tali-boy for treason
seems like more trouble than he's worth. Ken
Layne's castration solution is not nice. Sending him home for a hug
isn't right either. I'd go for a nice, long spell in a POW camp, but I
don't know how long the foreign Talibs will be held before they're sent
Man Without a Country,'' written in 1863, a Navy lieutenant court-martialed
for treason cries out, "Damn the United States! May I never hear
her name again!'' He's sentenced to his wish: He's held on one Navy ship
after another, forbidden to set foot in the U.S. or hear any mention of
his homeland. If Tali-boy could be sentenced to spend the rest of his
life in Afghanistan, maybe that would do it. But it wouldn't be a long
life once the Afghans found out he was a foreigner who'd come to their
country to make war.
I'll close with a story told
by a man at the post-bar mitzvah lunch: He got into a cab at Dulles airport
on the day the Alliance took Kabul. The driver was talking excitedly on
his cell phone but finally hung up. "That was my brother calling
from Kabul,'' the cabbie said. "They're free!'' -- 12/8
Omar is captured,'' claims the Times of London. Fortunately for us,
the Taliban chief didn't pretend to reject terrorism, so the amnesty deal
is off. Here's a curious sentence in the story:
Mullah Omars captivity
will, however, boost Western morale at a time when many thought that
the goals of the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan were not being
Goals not being met? Let's
see: The Taliban have surrendered
Kandahar. (Even in their "spiritual heartland,'' the Taliban's
departure was met with "joyous celebration.'') The Afghans have agreed
on an interim government led by a young, educated Pashtun
leader with a talent for diplomacy. Osama is running from cave to
cave with a massive headache. How could it be going any better? Well,
Osama could be dead. OK. Can't the Times wait a few days before declaring
a morale crisis? -- 12/7
Remember Pearl Harbor accurately
Today is the day to make false comparisons between voluntary questioning
of Arab immigrants and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World
In the current case, the FBI
wants to ask recent arrivals from terrorist-harboring countries if they
know anything that might be useful in the investigation of Al Qaeda. They
can refuse to answer. Only those accused of violating U.S. law -- usually
immigration law -- are being detained.
During World War II, law-abiding
Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast -- many of them U.S. citizens
-- were interned for no reason other than their ancestry. None were convicted
of espionage or other disloyal acts. One of those shipped off to a desert
camp was a Cub Scout named Norm Mineta who grew up to be mayor of San
Jose, a congressman and now Transportation secretary.
"Highjacking history" in the Wall Street Journal, Dorothy
Rabinowitz explains why profiling Arab immigrants is not like interning
Pakistani press control
One of my little thrills has been reading Rajiv Chandrasekaran's byline
on Afghanistan stories in the Washington Post. I knew him when he was
editor of the Stanford Daily; I was a board member. (And the only person
able to both spell and pronounce his name.) Now, I see in Editor &
Publisher that Pakistan wants to deport
a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post, is the latest victim
of a Pakistani policy designed to prevent journalists born in India
-- or those of Indian descent -- from reporting within Pakistan.
According to the story, the
Pakistani government has no beef with anything Rajiv's written so far.
They just object to his ancestry. Makes you glad to be -- like Rajiv --
an American. -- 12/6
Andrew Sullivan takes another
cut at Jacob Weisberg's essay
bashing the bashers of idiotic anti-war commentary.
Those of us who hammered
the nihilists, post-modernists and feeble-minded after September 11
might seem to be going overboard in one respect. In retrospect, with
regard to this war, these people turned out to be pretty irrelevant.
But there was no way we could have predicted that at the time . . .
But more generally, the reason for our vehemence was that we decided
to take the opportunity of the war to expose and discredit the far-left
more broadly. . . . By showing how people like Sontag, Pollitt, Chomsky,
Moore, et al were incapable even of responding to mass murder, we were
able to show how deeply corrupt their thinking was and is.
Radosh joins the debate in FrontPage.
Welch smart-bombs Weisberg:
The end of Weisbergs
column is a particularly offensive attempt to get inside the secret
motivations of those of us with the bad manners to gang up on the goofy
anti-war Left (Their reasons vary, he says, professorially).
Heres an alternative theory, Jacob: People dislike bullshit, regardless
of the source, regardless of anybodys politics. When the country
gets bombed by madmen who want to kill all of us, that dislike of bullshit
gets magnified several times over, and a whole bunch of silly people
who are safely ignored most of the time suddenly feel the glare of 280
million very angry, very smart, very focused Americans. And one thing
these newly attentive Americans are particularly weary of is the tired
1990s tactic of assigning malevolent hidden motivations to your demonized
political opponents -- 12/6
Boy Talk: "Shut up"
Free speech, open inquiry, the scientific method . . . Not at a government-spnsored
conference on Boy Talk, an anti-drug program modeled on Girl Power, writes
Kurtz in National Review. Professor Christina Hoff Sommers' scheduled
speech was cut off by a Health and Human Services official when Sommers
mentioned there's no evidence Girl Power works.
Minutes later, as Sommers
was forced by a hostile crowd to defend her claim that scientific studies
ought to be used to help evaluate the effectiveness of government drug-prevention
programs, Professor Jay Wade, of Fordham University's Department of
Psychology an expert on "listening skills" ordered
Sommers to "shut the f*ck up, bitch," to the laughter of the
others in attendance.
According to Kurtz, Girl Power
encourages girls to be less feminine, while Boy Talk will encourage boys
to be less masculine. It's not surprising there's no evidence this prevents
drug abuse. -- 12/6
There's a "Giving Tree''
at my Y. You take a card with a needy child's first name, age, sex
and Christmas wish, buy the gift and return it to the tree. I spotted
a card for Little Dove, a 10-year-old boy. Perhaps
it's the Boy Named Sue Effect, or simply the natural perversity of the
young, but what Little Dove wants for Christmas is a Stealth bomber model.
Would-be elves in the San Jose
area can help sort presents for Family
Giving Tree. It's a huge, exhausting but fun job that starts this
weekend. Make sure Little Dove gets his bomber. -- 12/6
What anti-war movement?
Jacob Weisberg claims
that 'there is no anti-war movement, intellectual or popular, in the United
States,'' and therefore no reason for hawks to blast the cranks (Noam
Chomsky), muddle-head novelists (Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Walker) or
nonentities (Ted Rall) who blame America first, last and always. "Those
policing the debate are dropping the rhetorical equivalent of daisy cutters
on a few malnourished left-wing stragglers,'' writes Weisberg in Slate.
"Of course those opposed to the United States defending itself against
terrorism are wrong. They also happen to be totally irrelevant."
Bloggers are fighting back.
Spin, writes Andrew
Sullivan: "I think many leftists were shocked by the vehemence
of the reaction to their nihilism and stupidity. Our intellectual daisy-cutters,
like the real thing, had an effect."
Rational Liberals have a duty
to criticize Stupid Liberals, writes Ken
Layne: "These cranks -- Alice Walker, Oliver Stone, Michael Moore,
Ted Rall, Barbara Kingsolver, etc. -- have not just been jabbering from
some 50-watt Pacifica station in Berkeley. The cranks have been given
prime media real estate. I've seen their junk in the New Yorker, the New
York Times, the LA Times, Vanity Fair, on the national talk shows and
cable-news jabberfests, on public and commercial radio. . . . as long
as these Fringe Left windbags are given the 'liberal' slot on the op-ed
pages and talk shows, I expect Hitchens, Kelly and the Warbloggers to
Weisberg's only right
if liberal is redefined to mean "left-wing people who don't oppose
the war,'' argues Steven Den Beste.
Welch, noting anti-war doomsayers' perfect record of getting it wrong,
says this: "There are many anti-war folks who now have serious credibility
problems, and have effectively removed themselves from the grown-ups'
Personally, I know many liberals
who found themselves -- to their own surprise -- very eager to blast the
hell out of the terrorists. "I want to go to Afghanistan and kill
people,'' one said to me.
But even if 95 percent of Americans
reject the blame-America line, it's getting published and broadcast as
legitimate opinion, as Layne says. Therefore debate cops are doing a public
service by challenging dishonest and dumb arguments.
dropkicks Robert Scheer's latest argument: The Soviet Union was really
evil so why fuss over Osama?
For if Al-Qaeda is no
more evil than the Soviet Union, and only a fool like Reagan would think
the Worker's Paradise an "evil empire," then really we have
nothing to fear from radical Islamic militants. . . .
But Scheer is quite wrong to think Osama bin Laden no worse than the
Soviet Union. The Soviets did not respect the lives of millions of people,
the record on this is quite plain, but they did respect their own lives
very much. It is this Russian rationality which made the system of mutually
assured destruction work. It will not work, however, against people
who want to be sent to the sloe-eyed virgins ASAP.
The rest of Scheer's column is a lecture on the complexity of evil,
where we are instructed that evil cannot be killed with a stick. He
also seems to suggest, strangely, that we should take a more Christian
attitude towards the Muslim fanatics who wish to destroy us. Terrorists
can be redeemed, it seems. Scheer points to Yasser Arafat and Gerry
Adams, among others, who he informs us were "once associated with
'terrorism'." Hmm. Is that right? Good thing they've completely
renounced it, else the peace process in the Middle East and Northern
Ireland wouldn't be going so smashingly well.
Why bash cranks and idiots?
If nothing else, because it's so much fun to read.
All of a sudden, the government-controlled Saudi press is saying nice
things about the U.S., says Steven Den Beste on USS
Clueless. Instead of writing about persecuted American Muslims, one
Saudi story praises U.S. understanding of Islam; another observes (inaccurately)
that many Americans are Unitarians and therefore not Christians. So we're
not so bad.
Everybody likes a winner. --
Intifada is over'' writes Tom Friedman in the New York Times.
It ended with last weekend's
spasm of suicide bombings against Israeli kids a signal that
the Palestinian national movement was being taken over by bin Ladenism,
which is the nihilistic pursuit of murderous violence against civilians,
without any political program and outside of any political context.
"Two weeks ago, a Gallup
poll showed nearly 60 percent of Israelis favoring a Palestinian state,''
Friedman notes. President Bush was on board. There was a chance for a
serious peace deal -- if the Palestinians were willing to compromise.
But instead, Palestinians
offered a suicide package. It leads to only one conclusion: that the
priority of the Palestinians is not achieving an independent state.
Their priority, apparently, is to kill Jews and get revenge for Israel's
assassination of a Hamas leader whose only claim to fame was organizing
previous suicide bombings a regular Thomas Jefferson.
The mindless murder of Israeli
civilians will kill Palestinian hopes, argues Friedman. -- 12/5
Dan" Rather is anchoring from Kabul, writes Howard Kurtz in the
Washington Post. And giving out macho quotes. Asked if it's smart to go
to Afghanistan after eight journalists have been killed, Rather replied,
"On some days, in some ways, danger is my business." Over to
you, Roland Burton Hedley. -- 12/4
I haven't written about the terror attacks against Israeli civilians because
it's just too damn depressing. I can't envision any hopeful scenario.
Pundits say Arafat is finished, but so what? The alternatives aren't any
Layne echoes my thoughts in this post, till his last hopeful paragraph.
I haven't written much
about the horrible attacks in Israel this weekend, but that doesn't
mean I haven't been thinking about it all. These attacks seem to be
a desperate provocation by the Islamic Terrorists, a bunch of chaos
intended to destroy Powell's coalition. The war against bin Laden's
little bitches in Afghanistan has been an astonishing success. The House
of Saud is cowering, the Colonialist Arabs in Afghanistan are mostly
dead (enjoying those virgins, losers?), anti-Moslem violence in the
United States was limited to a few dumb morons two months ago, and Bush
has said it's time for a proper Palestinian state.
It's Jew-Killin' Time!
Fools. They never wanted a Palestinian state. They wanted martyrdom,
nothing more. They didn't give a damn about all the Arabs and Jews who
work together. They didn't want their kids to grow up smart, to have
decent lives. Once you're blown apart, you don't have to worry about
your kids or your wife.
I can't pretend to know what will happen next, but my guess is that
Hamas and its ilk are gone. And those Zionist nuts from Brooklyn building
houses in the "settlements"? Gone. The whole world is finally
paying attention, and this bullshit just won't stand. Israel will no
longer be able to coddle the fringe nuts, and the PLO is about to get
a serious cleansing. Powell's nice and all, but Rumsfeld runs the military,
and he's not afraid to use it. -- 12/4
Fight beyond death
has a great story on the fight at the unspellable fort in Mazar-e-Sharif.
Even in the heat of battle,
warriors can be rational; few fight to the death. But the Taliban at
Qala-i-Jangi truly did, and beyond it. Spann's body, recovered by a
special-operations squad, had been booby-trapped; a grenade had been
hidden under the corpse of a Taliban fighter that lay on top of the
American. -- 12/3
A Reason article, "Blacks
against racial preferences,'' cites poll results that surprised me.
Did these polls get much coverage?
A joint Washington Post/Harvard
University/Kaiser Family Foundation national poll this summer found
that 86 percent of blacks do not believe that race or ethnicity should
"be a factor when deciding who is hired, promoted or admitted to
college." These results parallel a Zogby survey of university students
last year. About 77 percent of all students disagreed that "schools
should give minority students preference in the admissions process."
Whites opposed this by 79.5 percent, blacks by 51.9 percent, Hispanics
by 71.4 percent, and Asians by 78.1 percent. Nor did these responses
vary much with the wording of the question. "Students disagree
with current trends in college," Zogby concluded. -- 12/3
Mac is back
I've always used a Mac at home, but now I feel ahead of the curve instead
of behind the times. Andrew Sullivan
has become a Machead, driven away from the Seattle Empire by the frustration
of trying to use Windows XP.
At prime-number.com, Allison
Alvarez, an actual computer type, has bought an ibook; she claims
it's just a purchase, not cult membership. --
Foreign Taliban fighters
plotted to blow up a Taloquan
hospital that was treating the wounded from both sides, according
to a chilling Washington Post story. Ten Uzbeks were admitted to the hospital.
Their most serious wounds were treated; nobody had the time to search
The potential disaster
was averted the day after they were admitted. A Northern Alliance commander
became suspicious of the 10 foreigners who would talk rapidly with one
another, then fall suddenly silent and pensive. One by one, the patients
were called out of their room, seized, stripped and taken prisoner.
When the search was over, 15 small bombs and hand grenades were found
strapped to the men's bodies and hidden in their packs, along with an
assortment of knives and spiked fighting knuckles -- all ready for use
when the men decided the time was right.
"During that day, they told us they wanted to speak only to a big
commander or a general," said Sayed Azimullah, an anesthesiologist.
"They had a plan to kill foreign journalists or top commanders.
We were very afraid of these people."
Note to Amnesty International:
It's hard to treat people humanely when they keep trying to kill you.
Courtesy of Little
Green Footballs, here's
"Death in the Dust,'' a Time photo essay on the battle to retake
the unspellable fort in Mazar-e-Sharif. -- 12/2
Prisoners at war
Amazingly, 86 Taliban fighters survived the prison revolt in Mazar-e-Sharif,
including an American convert
to Islam, who told Newsweek how it happened.
Hamid said he had been
fighting with the Taliban during the two-week siege of the city of Kunduz,
about 100 miles to the east of Mazar e Sharif. Finally, under a negotiated
deal, the foreign Taliban forces surrendered to the Northern Alliance
forces of General Rashid Dostum. But almost as soon as Hamid and about
500 others were taken to the fortress. Two of the [Taliban] threw
grenades they had hidden in their clothes, and killed a couple of people,
After that they put us in the basement
and left us over night. Early in the morning, they began taking us out,
slowly, one-by-one, into the compound. Our hands were tied, and they
were beating and kicking some of us. Some of the Mujahedin [Taliban]
were scared, crying. They thought we were all going to be killed.
I saw two Americans there. They were
taking pictures with a digital camera and a video camera. They were
there for interrogating us. As soon as the last of us was taken out
of the basement, someone either pulled a knife, or threw a grenade at
the guards, and got their guns, and started shooting. I dont really
know how it happened. As soon as I heard the shooting and the screaming,
I jumped up and ran about one or two meters, and was shot in the leg.
Its not as bad as you would think, but after that I was down in
The Americans were CIA agents Mike Spann
and another called Dave. Spann was badly beaten, possibly to death,
and then shot by the prisoners. Dave and local Red Cross doctors were
able to escape with the help of a team of U.S. Special forces. Then,
said Hamid, they hit us with everything they had. The Americans
were bombing us. It was horrible. Nearly everyone in the basement was
Alliance troops poured fuel
oil in the basement and set it on fire. But when they sent men down to
take out the bodies, Taliban survivors shot them. The Alliance exploded
artillery rockets. Finally, the Alliance flooded the basement. Many of
the wounded drowned; after a night standing in cold water, the survivors
This account answers some of
the questions raised by Amnesty International, as reported in a bias-heavy
story that mentions a "horrific atrocity'' but never describes
As Washington tried to
wash its hands of the episode, saying that the alliance was responsible
for the prisoners, human rights lawyers warned that the Geneva convention
may have been breached on two counts: the degrading treatment of the
Taliban, when they were tied up, and the huge firepower directed at
them by US warplanes.
On the first count, article 13 of the convention says: "Prisoners
of war must at all times be humanely treated." On the second count,
the convention permits the use of force against prisoners. But it says
that this must be proportionate.
Was the response of the detaining
powers proportionate? Was only minimum force used, as required by the
Geneva convention? Could
this situation have been contained without such use of force?
Answer: The force used was
barely enough. Mickey Kaus wonders:
"How many chances to surrender peacefully were the Taliban supposed
to get? Was this a sporting match in which the sides were supposed to
equalize their weaponry to assure an excitingly close contest? (And isn't
a three-day battle close enough?)"
Were those who were killed
Answer: Their hands were tied
after the suicide grenade attack to keep them from attacking the guards;
when some prisoners were untied so they could wash and eat, they attacked
again. The Alliance guards retreated under fire. They did not stop to
untie the rest of the Taliban soldiers, many of whom were killed in the
exchange of gunfire.
Did summary executions take
Answer: Not according to Hamid,
or this New
York Times story, which notes none of the dead suffered a single shot
to the head.
Are those who desecrated bodies
to be held responsible?
Answer: You mean the guy who
took a gold filling from a corpse? Or the soldiers who took boots from
the dead? No.
Are summary executions still
taking place in Afghanistan?
Answer: Yes. The Taliban is
still executing people in Kandahar.
Are there serious shortcomings
in the holding of prisoners in Afghanistan?
Answer: Yes. -- 12/1
QuickReads . . .