New at Reason: Like the poor, contrition chic is always with us. In the August-September issue, Peter Bagge takes this year's model out for a test drive.
The Wave answers the question on every San Franciscan's mind: Which mayoral candidates are human, and which are replicants?
According to an article in the Times, the music industry is using the availability of porn (and especially the dread kiddie porn) on peer-to-peer file trading services to garner support for a crackdown from people who might not get quite as worked up over a few bootlegged Britney albums. I'm not sure how one goes about regulating a decentralized system like Morpheus (which is really just a client for the open Gnutella network), let alone, say, Freenet, but I'm sure that won't stop them trying.
I also noted this rather implausible paragraph from the story:
A study in March by the General Accounting Office found that KaZaA would be effective for someone looking for child pornography. The agency searched for 12 terms associated with child pornography, such as "incest" and "underage." It did not actually download the files it found, but it determined that 42 percent of them had titles or descriptions associated with pornographic images of children
To quote the UFO nut from Slacker, there just aren't that many perverts out there. Well, not the sort that get off on adolescents, anyway. I'd wager that 99.9% of these alleged kiddie porn files feature some 40 year old in pigtails and a plaid skirt, not actual children. (Kinda creepy in its own right, but not criminal.) If they were looking for terms like "teen" or "school," they probably also caught a bunch of 19 year old college students. Not to say there's no genuinely awful stuff available out there, but I find it difficult to believe that it's really that prevalent.
Bowtie model Tucker Carlson grilled Ms. Spears the other day about the national security implications of her lame Madonna kiss. Then the conversation took a lighter turn:
Carlson then steered the interview to politics, asking Spears if she'd supported the war in Iraq. Spears answered, "Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that."
Link via Daniel Drezner.
Police in Alaska don't know quite how to deal with last week's decision by the state Court of Appeals declaring it every Alaskan's right to possess up to four ounces of pot in his home. Overturning the conviction of a North Pole man, David S. Noy, who was caught with a few plants, the court said a 1990 voter initiative that ostensibly recriminalized private marijuana possession was invalid because it contradicted a 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling.
Anchorage police told the Anchorage Daily News they still planned to refer cases covered by the decision for prosecution. State police said they would not.
"Until things change, the court of appeals ruling is the law," said Noy's attorney. "When we cease to recognize the rule of law in this country, then we have some serious problems."
Robert A. Heinlein has a new, apparently steamy book coming out in November.
"For Us, the Living" was written by Heinlein about 1938-9, before he wrote his first sf short, "Lifeline." The novel, "For Us, the Living," was deemed unpublishable, mainly for the racy content. So racy is/was the content that in the 1930s the book could not even have been legally shipped through the US mail!
Link via Kevin Drum.
This week's dose of conspiracy fun comes from Mike Jay of nthposition, describing the delusions of the late James Tilly Matthews, a man confined to Bedlam in the early nineteenth century:
For everyone who has since had messages beamed at them through fillings, mysterious implants or TV sets, or via hi-tech surveillance, MI5, Masonic lodges or UFOs, James Tilly Matthews is Patient Zero.
Matthews was convinced that outside the grounds of Bedlam, in a basement cellar by London Wall, a gang of villains were controlling and tormenting his mind with diabolical rays. They were using a machine called an 'Air Loom', of which Matthews was able to draw immaculate technical diagrams, and which combined recent developments in gas chemistry with the strange force of animal magnetism, or mesmerism....
The Air Loom was being run by a gang of undercover Jacobin revolutionaries, bent on forcing Britain into a disastrous war with Revolutionary France. These characters, too, Matthews could describe with haunting precision. They were led by a puppet-master named 'Bill the King'; all details were recorded by his second-in-command, 'Jack the Schoolmaster'. The French liaison was accomplished by a woman called Charlotte, who seemed to Matthews to be as much a prisoner as himself, and was often chained up near-naked. 'Sir Archy' was a woman who dressed as a man and spoke in obscenities; the machine itself was operated by the sinister, pockmarked and nameless 'Glove Woman'. If Matthews were to see any of these characters in the street, they would grasp batons of magnetic metal which would cause them to disappear.
Matthews had some genuine political intrigue in his background, and mixed in with the bizarre talk of Jacobin magicians were some apparently honest accounts of his nearly-as-strange personal history. "Certainly his family didn't believe that he was mad," notes Jay; "their view was that he was a good-natured man, a peacemaker, who had become eccentric as a result of his misfortunes and had developed cranky views on politics."
The psychiatrist who wrote the classic account of Matthews' worldview grew cranky with the years as well. Late in life, testifying in court, he was asked if a defendant was sane. "I never saw any human being who was of sound mind," he replied.
[Via Bryan Alexander.]
Apparently, some legislators are upset enough by courts actually, you know, enforcing the First Amendment that they've decided to resurrect a Ten Commandments Defense Act.
Now, I'm not a fancy city lawyer... I'm just a simple unfrozen caveman. Your "rule of law" and "stare decicis" are strange and unfamiliar to me. Yet I still feel fairly confident that you can't create an exception to a constitutional amendment by statute. So did the sponsors of this puppy just skip their Schoolhouse Rock! growing up, or can we assume that they've noticed how much good political mojo a bit of pointless grandstanding generated for Roy Moore?
Reason writers around town: Matt Welch gives the skinny on blogging and journalism.
New at Reason: Jacob Sullum asks how federal abortion access laws and states rights can co-exist.
Former Sen. Alan Simpson pens an op-ed in The Washington Post today that finds calls to amend the Constitution in order to "define marriage" fairly nuts. In addition to usurping a state issue for the federal level, such an amendment sends the wrong message while doing little to actually help marriage, Simpson says.
"The real threats to family values are divorce, out-of-wedlock births and infidelity," he writes.
As with most presidential candidate debates, the real loser was the audience. The winner was probably Al Sharpton, who didn't show up.
It was interesting (read: appalling, boring, etc) to see how the candidates, struggling to differentiate themselves from Bush and from each other, mostly offered up echoes of Bush rather than real alternatives (surprise, surprise in an age of broad consensus about governing).
One development that will bear watching is the evolution of front-runner Howard Dean into a standard-issue Dem circa 1979. His hook from the beginning was that he was an odd, "refreshing" duck--a supposed fiscal conservative who liked guns but wanted government health, etc.
Last night Dean, something of a free trader while governor of Vermont, threw a massive sop to the Dem union base by insisting, "We ought not to be in the business of having free and open borders with countries that don't have the same environmental, labor and human rights standards."
I won't be surprised if a Dem takes the White House in '04, but these folks may be even duller than the seven dwarves back in 1988.
The worst news is that last night's debate was the first of six to occur over the next several weeks. At the very least, they could add a Survivor element to it and vote one person off each round.
In Forbes, Daniel Lyons probes the increasing flow of money from plaintiffs' lawyers to advocacy groups for victims of sexual abuse by priests. [Free registration required] Snap (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), got between $30,000 and $50,000 of its $140,000 budget last year from donations from two lawyers. Some other groups have done even better:
The 3,000-member Linkup lists as its largest donor an Oregon plaintiff lawyer who has 50 clergy cases pending and last year made a $100,000 joint donation with a client who received a settlement from a religious order. The lawyer, Michael S. Morey, says the client put up two-thirds of the $100,000. Another Linkup donor is Joseph Klest, a lawyer who has handled more than 50 Catholic clergy cases in Illinois and who gave $2,615 to Linkup last year, according to Linkup's IRS filing.
Linkup's president, Susan Archibald, says she hopes to get a donation from William McMurry, a plaintiff lawyer in a recent $25.7 million settlement from Louisville's Catholic archdiocese. McMurry says he has made no promises.
Margate N.J.-based attorney Stephen C. Rubino, showing some of that fine ethical sense that makes Margatians the finest bunch of folks this country has to offer, does not show up in the rogues gallery here.
Unethical as these contributions may be, they're still less objectionable than using the bucks my aunt has been throwing into the collection basket all these years to pay hush money while re-assigning abusive priests. And while it's clear there are many greedy victims and "victims" looking to cash in at this point, this whole affair has (so far) been remarkably free of civil misconduct and prosecutorial abuse. Still, as these cases unfold, a good bullshit detector is a must.
New at Reason: Finishing out this week's two-step with the National Review, Nick Gillespie explains how the USA PATRIOT Act makes your web surfing trail the government's summer reading.
New at Reason: Charles Paul Freund samples some of Saddam's Own Hot Sauce. (All profits go to charity.)
According to the Taipei Times, Taiwan is the victim of a large scale, systematic hack attack launched from mainland China. I have trouble seeing the point of this, though... all it does is alert the Taiwanese government to existing security holes—holes that it might actually be useful to exploit in concert with a physical attack—and make people wary of contracting wtih Chinese software firms. (Via /.)
The Drug Reform Coordination Network has more on how law enforcement agencies are responding to the appeals court ruling that restored (from the court's perspective, clarified) Alaska's status as the state with the nation's most tolerant marijuana laws.
Alaska Chief Assistant Attorney General Dean Guaneli tells DRCNet: "When police come into a home, whether on a domestic violence call or something else, and see marijuana, we are not in a position to tell them to turn their back on it....We are telling the police it is not legal to possess. We will continue to do as we have done. We will file charges and leave it up to the courts."
Guaneli seems oblivious to the fact that the state's second highest court already has said police should not be filing those charges to begin with. "Alaska citizens have the right to possess less than four ounces of marijuana in their home for personal use," a unanimous Alaska Court of Appeals declared last week, citing the Alaska Supreme Court's interpretation of the state constitution's privacy clause.
Greg Wilkinson, a spokesman for the Alaska Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Enforcement, sounds less defiant than Guaneli. "We are approaching this from two angles," he says. "One feeling is that it will be business as usual. That other [is] that it will not." Thanks for clearing that up.
The big winner in the debate: marijuana. All five candidates declared their support for making it available for medicinal purposes. It was the only thing on which they all agreed.
Good news: The powers-that-be in Rockford, Illinois, are backing down from the plan, cited here yesterday, to knock down a popular church and replace it with a spanking new jail. Scott Richert has the details:
By mid-afternoon, it appeared that the county was in full contrition mode. County Board Chairman Kris Cohn, State's Attorney Paul Logli, and Sheriff Richard Meyers issued a press release, stating that the county "has no plans to buy and/or destroy St. Mary's Church....The only land that may be impacted by a connecting tunnel or overhead walkway would be … the former grade school building. In the event that particular building is in any way affected, then appropriate and mutually beneficial arrangements will be made to preserve or relocate the heating plant currently located in the former school so as not to disrupt the Church or its congregation."
Here in Rockford, no battle is ever fully over, and while the county board resolution has been changed explicitly to exclude St. Mary's Oratory (but not the school and any other property, including the historic rectory), the resolution also makes a provision for "including any additional property required..." St. Mary's Oratory, however, is the only additional property in the area under consideration. Still, yesterday afternoon the sky seemed a little more blue, and the sun shone a little more brightly than normal. Perhaps Rockford was due for a little good news.
To feel perfectly ancient, check out Beloit College's Mindset List for the incoming class of 2007, born in 1985.
Among the nuggets, "Iraq has always been a problem" and "They have always had a pin number."
Today a federal judge threw out a lawsuit brought by fat New York teenagers who blame McDonald's for their portliness. If that sounds familiar, it's because U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet rejected a similar lawsuit by the same plaintiffs in January, ruling that "legal consequences should not attach to the consumption of hamburgers and other fast-food fare unless consumers are unaware of the dangers of eating such food." If the plaintiffs could show that there were hidden hazards lurking in McDonald's meals, Sweet suggested, they might have a case.
Instead of taking Sweet's advice, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Samuel Hirsch, based his amended complaint on allegedly deceptive McDonald's ads. But according to Sweet, he failed to explain how his clients had been harmed by the ads.
George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf, the obesity lawsuit enthusiast who bragged of advising Hirsch, now says "anti-fat lawyers aren't discouraged" because the dismissal was "expected." It "will not deter the filing of additional lawsuits," he insists. I believe him.
A writer called Cheeseburger Brown has penned a bestiary of traffic-based organisms, interpreting each freeway pattern as "a distributed animal with human components." Here's a sample:
Unfettered, the Epiphysian Cyclosalp is like half a butterfly, its riparian body gilded by a slowly flapping wing of accelerating, gliding Librigenates ebbing and flowing in a stately round. Its insides whorl as partners switch places, benthic turning briefly pelagic, pacer cars joining a rippling pulse of local inertia forward, headlights cross-sweeping.
Don't worry about the unfamiliar words: By the time you get to the passage, they've all been defined.
[Via bOING bOING.]
On his show tonight, Bill O'Reilly complained, with a straight face, that he's been the recent victim of "journalistic terrorism" carried out by the New York Times. To read the alleged newspaper equivalent of deliberately murdering random civilians to terrorize populations, click here.
Ramesh Ponnuru is right, and I'm wrong. Mostly. He lays out his case here, and he's correct: much of the language I cited in the Patriot Act was there in the pre-amended version of Title 18 as well. So it's not true, as I wrote, that the Patriot Act "expands" the definition of terrorism to include hacking. It would be more accurate to say it expands the definition of hacking, along with the government's ability to surveil and prosecute hackers. The fact that it does this under the heading "cyberterrorism" might raise some eyebrows, but it was a mistake to treat that as a significant development in itself.
1. Please ignore that perturbed blog entry I wrote earlier today.
2. If you haven't looked at my article on moral panics yet, go ahead and read it, but when you come to the part where I say the Patriot Act expands the definition of terrorism to include computer hacking, just shake your head and ignore me.
3. For more details on what's going on in that cyberterrorism section of the Patriot Act, and elsewhere in the law, go here.
Yesterday, defying the popular wisdom that it's easy to overdose on OxyContin, The Washington Times finally got around to running the Scary New Drug story that the rest of the press ran last year or the year before. To be fair, the Times does add a few new wrinkles to the familiar tale of a painkiller gone bad. It uses a capital H and a quirky hyphen in the phrase "Hillbilly-heroin," for example, and it goes with "powerful morphinelike high" instead of "heroin-like high." Also, it identifies OxyContin, a Schedule II drug legally available only by prescription, as an "over-the-counter painkiller," and it describes Percocet, which contains the same narcotic (oxycodone), as a "less-addictive painkiller."
As is typical for this genre of yellow journalism, the front-page article, headlined "OxyContin a Scourge for Users in Rural Areas," uncritically regurgitates the claims of law enforcement sources.
"OxyContin has been a highly destructive controlled substance that has had a devastating impact in much of America, particularly in the western Virginia and Appalachian region," U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty tells the Times. The Times not only accepts McNulty's account but embellishes it, stating later in the article that OxyContin is responsible for "destroying communities nationwide, although mainly in the East from Maine to Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky."
An agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives tells the Times: "Every year from 1996 to 1999, the crime rate [in southwestern Virginia] doubled directly because of the influx of OxyContin." The Times does not say what crimes the agent has in mind (murder? burglary? drug dealing? jaywalking?), or in what sense they were related to OxyContin.
The Times reports that in Broward County, Florida, "105 persons died from OxyContin overdoses from January 2001 to July 2002." This seems inconsistent with the article's earlier claim that OxyContin has killed "hundreds" of people during the last five years. If a single county has more than 100 OxyContin-related deaths over an 18-month period, surely the country as a whole must be up into the thousands by now.
Nor does the Broward County figure jibe with the numbers reported by the Drug Enforcement Administration. "As of April 2002," Melinda Ammann noted in Reason's April issue, "the DEA counted 146 'verified' deaths involving OxyContin--cases where OxyContin was the source of oxycodone found in someone’s body but not necessarily the cause of death. Even in these cases, the subjects usually had taken alcohol or other drugs in addition to oxycodone." If we accept the DEA's figure at face value, the Times is suggesting that something like two-thirds of the OxyContin deaths occurred in Broward County.
The Times is similarly credulous when it comes to testimony from self-described OxyContin addicts. "It put me on a path straight for hell with no exit ramps," says one addict turned police informant. "That pill was made by the devil himself....It ruins your family and your relationships, your children's lives, your closest family to you, your job."
If OxyContin is so overwhelming in its destructive power, a halfway skeptical person might wonder, how do so many people manage to use it as a painkiller without going to hell in the express lane? How do they preserve their families, maintain their relationships, and keep their jobs even while taking this diabolical drug? The Times, which seems only dimly aware that OxyContin serves any positive function at all, does not ask.
New at Reason: Where should evolution intersect with politics? Should the human genome be considered a civic landmark? Should we prevent aging if we can? Ron Bailey checks in with the homo sapiens at the Association for Politics and the Life Sciences.
Great line on how odd it was for Sen. John Kerry to start his presidential campaign in South Carolina: "Massachusetts Democrats don't stop in South Carolina unless the car runs out of gas on the way to Disney World."
Authorities in Rockford, Illinois, want to tear down a vibrant and reputedly beautiful church, then build a jail on the rubble.
A federal court has just blocked the media ownership rules that the FCC adopted in the face of so much protest last June. The revised regulations aren't entirely dead, but they won't be put into place unless and until they've survived a "full judicial review."
Here's some food for thought: Does the famous "night journey" sura actually involve a journey to Jerusalem? Egyptian columnist Ahmad Muhammad 'Arafa, writing in Al-Qahira and translated by MEMRI, says the Prophet was just taking a little jaunt over to Medina:
This text tells us that Allah took His Prophet from the Al-Haram Mosque [in Mecca] to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Thus, two mosques are [referred to] here, the first of which is the Al-Haram Mosque, and the second of which is the Al-Aqsa Mosque. 'Al-Aqsa' is a form of superlative which means 'the most distant.' Therefore, the place to which the Prophet was taken must be a mosque, and not a place where a mosque was to be established later, nor a place where a mosque had once stood. This place must be very far from the Al-Haram Mosque. It need not be [actually] built, as the Al-Haram Mosque [itself] was at that time merely an open space around the Ka'ba [and not a building].
But in Palestine during that time, there was no mosque at all that could have been the mosque 'most distant' from the Al-Haram Mosque. During that time, there were no people in [Palestine] who believed in Muhammad and would gather to pray in a specific place that served as a mosque. Most of the inhabitants of Palestine were Christians, and there was among them a Jewish minority. Although the Koran refers respectfully to Jewish and Christian houses of worship, it does not call any of them a mosque, rather 'churches and synagogues' (Surat Al-Hajj :40). The construction of the mosque situated today in Jerusalem and known as the Al-Aqsa Mosque began only in the year 66 of the Hijra of the Prophet - that is, during the era of the Omayyad state, not during the time of the Prophet nor that of any of the Righteous Caliphs. So much for the mosque.
There's more. The argument seems so simple and straightforward that there must be something wrong with it.
Anyway, pending specification of my "stolen bases," I suppose I'll reply to Jonah Goldberg's comments. First, have there been folks who overstated how bad PATRIOT was? Sure... but do we have to wade through that mire before talking about a set of particular arguments? If one gets to be a hawk without having to constantly defend "invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity," I think its fair to say civil libertarians aren't required to stand by every wild statement made by someone who doesn't like PATRIOT.
Second, I don't know whether the term "fifth columnist" has been applied to PATRIOT skeptics in particular, and didn't mean to imply that. I was just taking a frivolous shot at an annoying phrase I've seen bandied about the blogosphere to describe those bad Americans who are less than totally sanguine about the administration's approach to the war on terror.
Oh... and I wouldn't characterize the original piece as "attacking" Rich Lowry. A vigorous foot massage, maybe, but an attack?
The Onion conducts a real and entertaining interview with P.J. O'Rourke, discussing the glory days of the National Lampoon, the through-line of American satire from the 1950s to the 1980s, and the triumph of certain libertarian ideas. There's also this little salutary nugget:
If there are three words that need to be used more in American journalism, commentary, politics, personal life... it's the magic words "I don't know."
Link via Tim Blair.
For those interested in the topic, David Rieff wrote a gloomy, information-packed article for The New York Times Magazine five weeks ago, including several thought-provoking interviews with former top policymakers.
It would also be nice if someone at Reason were to acknowledge the magazine's own repeated errors of fact in describing the Patriot Act, which I have mentioned in NR.
I wasn't aware that Ponnuru had written such a piece, so I went looking for it. If Lexis-Nexis has steered me correctly, he's referring to an article from NR's print edition (what -- he wants us to respond to things that aren't on the Web?), in the June 2 issue. It doesn't mention any "repeated" errors on our part, but it does cite two alleged misstatements in Reason, one from Nick Gillespie and one from me.
I'll let Nick respond to his half of the attack. My purported mistake is described here:
Also in Reason, Jesse Walker writes that Patriot "expands the definition of terrorist to include such non-lethal acts as computer hacking." That's misleading. Pre-Patriot, an al-Qaeda member who hacked the electric company's computers to take out the grid could not be judged guilty of terrorism, even if he would be so judged if he accomplished the same result with a bomb. Hacking per se isn't terrorism, and Patriot doesn't treat it as such.
If anyone's being misleading here, it's Ponnuru. For the Patriot Act's definition of "cyberterrorism," turn to the law itself:
(i) loss to 1 or more persons during any 1-year period (and, for purposes of an investigation, prosecution, or other proceeding brought by the United States only, loss resulting from a related course of conduct affecting 1 or more other protected computers) aggregating at least $5,000 in value;
(ii) the modification or impairment, or potential modification or impairment, of the medical examination, diagnosis, treatment, or care of 1 or more individuals;
(iii) physical injury to any person;
(iv) a threat to public health or safety; or
(v) damage affecting a computer system used by or for a government entity in furtherance of the administration of justice, national defense, or national security
I submit that the first and fifth items on that list include activities far less substantial than taking out an electric grid and far afield from anything any rational observer would call terror. It's true that they don't define "hacking per se" as terrorism, but then, I never claimed that they did.
Update: Well, not quite. Details here.
Richard N. Rosenfeld's American Aurora is a book you should read, but if you want to take the easy way out, you can learn a little about Benjamin Franklin Bache and his anti-Federalist Philadelphia Aurora from David Talbot's recent "Documents of Freedom" essay comparing Bache with his grandfather Ben Franklin. It's worth sitting through the ad for Thirteen to get your Salon pass. Warning for conservatives: Talbot slags Drudge and Rush, but he makes a good case that Bache was a crucial figure in the early republic:
After Adams' election, Federalist animosity toward Bache grew into persecution. In the spring of 1797, he was physically attacked and badly injured by a young Federalist while touring a ship at the Philadelphia waterfront. The Adams administration awarded Bache's assailant with a diplomatic appointment to France. The following year, while Bache was away, a drunken Federalist mob surrounded his home and terrorized his wife and children before being driven off by neighbors. The attacks prompted the publisher to wonder whether it "might, indeed, be a gratification to some that I should have my throat cut."
Murder might not have been on the minds of Bache's enemies, but certainly imprisonment was. The following year, the Federalists in Congress pushed through the notorious Sedition Act -- a bill, commented Thomas Jefferson, that was aimed directly at his republican ally, Benjamin Franklin Bache. On June 26, 1798, Bache was arrested by a federal marshal and charged with "libeling the President & the Executive Government." Slapped with a crushing bail of $4,000, Bache was forced to appeal to his friends for help and the Aurora and his family teetered on the brink of ruin.
And lead to better parenting? Glenn Reynolds has an interesting column on the subject.
Bowling for Colubmine, Michael Moore's interesting and dishonest documentary, is now out on DVD, with one new alteration (a doctored caption on a Bush-Quayle campaign commercial is now un-doctored). In typically charming fashion, Moore has pre-emptively declared that
Absolutely every fact in the film is true. And anybody who says otherwise is committing an act of libel.
Meanwhile, the Spinsanity boys have a fresh round-up of the Bowling items that were presented as facts, but which were in fact not. For a more partisan but also information-rich take, check out BowlingForTruth.com.
New at Reason: Another kid is gravely ill; his doctors and the state insist on a medical procedure; his parents refuse (not for religious reasons this time, but for some understandable medical reasons). The old question: Do you have the freedom to kill your kids? Ron Bailey gives a diagnosis.
One of the dreariest spectacles in American politics is watching presidents spend Labor Day making illiberal promises and policy decisions in front of unionized crowds. George W. Bush is certainly no exception, using yesterday's holiday to announce a new Manufacturing Czar position, thump the tub for "fair" trade, and warn that he's gonna "send a message overseas." Oh dear.
Fans of J.S.G. Boggs should enjoy Noney, a hand-drawn, hand-signed, and hand-printed currency. "Each Noney note has the same denomination: zero," its website explains. "This doesn't mean each note has no value...just relative value. There's no fixed exchange rate or area of operation. Noney's worth as both art and currency is something to negotiate through each individual transaction -- anywhere."
[Via Abstract Dynamics.]
What was Ahmed Chalabi's role in the failed coup against Saddam in 1996? Joshua Micah Marshall considers two different versions of the story.
One more sign that people's lives are going pretty well: They don't care about presidential candidates.
From an AP account of a CBS poll:
Two-thirds of voters � including two-thirds of Democrats � were unable to name any of the Democratic candidates for president, said the CBS News poll out Sunday.
As the presidential campaign season swings into full gear, get ready for a steady stream of "vanishing voter" stories, in which pundits and graybeards bewail the lack of interest in retail politics.
I wrote about the much-vilified "AWOL Electorate" before the 2000 presidential election and, even with 9/11 and the Iraq war, I think my main point still holds true:
We participate less in politics for the same reason we stopped going to drive-in movies the way we used to, getting married as teenagers, making dinner at home, and, for men at least, wearing blue suits with white shirts and red ties: not because we can�t, but because we don�t want to. Our flesh is not weak when it comes to voting; it�s just not willing.
The center of gravity in American life has shifted away from partisan politics and into other areas of activity in which individuals (and groups of individuals) have far greater hopes for gaining satisfaction. The big story in American life over the past few decades is not the decline in voter participation but the ever-increasing proliferation of options, of choices, and of identities in everyday life.
New at Reason: Apologists for the USA PATRIOT act say anybody who makes a fuss is a chicken little, and want to know what's so bad about increased search, seizure and surveillence powers by the government. Julian Sanchez takes up the challenge, and puts the burden of proof back on the government.
Incredible. CNN just aired an add trumpeting "the mayor's plan" to provide opportunity scholarships to D.C. children trapped in schools which, as the ad notes, wealthy residents who can afford private school would never dream of sending their kids to.
Well, it's fantastic that this is happening, but it's just a little difficult to watch D.C. mayor Anthony Williams patting himself on the back for this after being just recently dragged, kicking and screaming, to his present position of grudging support for educational choice.
The last gasp of bogus Iraq-World War II comparisons was (we can only hope) the notion that the postwar period in Iraq is similar to the "Werewolf" period in postwar Germany (when you'll recall that Allied troops were still being killed on an almost daily basis and Hitler was sending out home videos from his hiding place in an abandoned Fanta bottling plant). This tale has now filtered up from the blogger/columnist level to America's leadership, with National Security Advisor Rice and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld pointing to the Werewolves in recent speeches. At Slate, Daniel Benjamin puts a silver bullet in the legend of Operation Werwolf, which, it turns out, was manned mostly by underage kids, caused no real disruptions in the occupation, and killed a total of zero (0) Allied troops in the postwar period:
In practice, Werwolf amounted to next to nothing. The mayor of Aachen was assassinated on March 25, 1945, on Himmler's orders. This was not a nice thing to do, but it happened before the May 7 Nazi surrender at Reims. It's hardly surprising that Berlin sought to undermine the American occupation before the war was over. And as the U.S. Army's official history, The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946, points out, the killing was "probably the Werwolf's most sensational achievement."
Indeed, the organization merits but two passing mentions in Occupation of Germany, which dwells far more on how docile the Germans were once the Americans rolled in—and fraternization between former enemies was a bigger problem for the military than confrontation. Although Gen. Eisenhower had been worrying about guerrilla warfare as early as August 1944, little materialized. There was no major campaign of sabotage. There was no destruction of water mains or energy plants worth noting. In fact, the far greater problem for the occupying forces was the misbehavior of desperate displaced persons, who accounted for much of the crime in the American zone.
Avedon Carol points, with considerable pique, to a New York Times story about Florida prosecuting attorneys who are attempting to block prisoners from having potentially exculpatory DNA evidence considered by appeals courts. The Innocence Project at the Cardozo School of Law has already exonerated 136 convicts on the basis of such evidence.
New at Reason: Cathy Young's smashes Judge Roy Moore's Tables of the Law.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has overturned Michigan's ban on direct shipments of alcoholic beverages from other states, declaring it an unconstitutional barrier to interstate commerce. The court rejected the state's argument that the ban was authorized by the 21st Amendment, finding that it served not to discourage alcohol abuse but to protect local producers and distributors from competition.
Most states still have such laws, which can criminalize such innocent activities as ordering alcoholic beverages from online merchants, joining a beer-of-the-month club, or selling wine to customers in other states. But restrictions on interstate alcohol shipments recently have been defeated in Virginia, Texas, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Challenges are pending in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Florida.
The New York case, brought by the Institute for Justice, is scheduled for oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit tomorrow.
New at Reason: Virginia Postrel seeks the true meaning of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Another Alaska court, this time a court of appeals, has ruled that Alaskans have a right to possess small amounts of marijuana in their homes for personal use. The unanimous ruling, which overturned the conviction of a North Pole resident caught with five pot plants, cited a 1975 decision in which the Alaska Supreme Court concluded that the right to privacy guaranteed by the state constitution included possession of marijuana in one's home, provided the amount did not exceed four ounces, the threshold for "intent to deliver." A 1990 voter initiative ostensibly overturned that decision, but the state Court of Appeals says the Supreme Court's interpretation of the constitution still stands.
Forget the next worm attack. Worry about this from today's New York Times:
As America's 156 million Internet users brace for the next round of digital vandalism, some experts say that it is time for the government to bolster a basic sense of stability in cyberspace that societies expect from their critical public resources.
"The government has essentially relied on the voluntary efforts of industry both to make less-buggy software and make systems more resilient," says Michael A. Vatis, former director of the National Infrastructure Protection Center at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "What we're seeing is that those voluntary efforts are insufficient, and the repercussions are vast."
Proposals for government action being discussed by policy makers and computer security experts include strengthening the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity division and offering tax incentives to businesses for spending on security. Another proposal would require public companies to disclose potential computer security risks in Securities and Exchange Commission filings.