Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2004 October 1-31

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New at Reason

We had some laughs, we had some tears, but now it's time for goodbyes. As Martha Stewart heads to the big house, Elizabeth Koch warns her about some familiar characters.

Retro-Futurism

Henry Jenkins has written a perceptive review of In the Shadow of No Towers and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, arguing that both works "want to bring us back to the future. Sky Captain uses state of the art digital technologies to reconstruct the popular American imagination, circa 1939; No Towers tells a personal narrative of September 11 through iconography drawn primarily from early twentieth century comic strips. No Towers makes explicit what Sky Captain leaves implicit -- the idea that we are returning to images from the past to cope with our uncertainty about the future."

Induce Vomiting

To bookend Julian's update on the Induce Act, here's a piece on the non-piracy uses of peer-to-peer networks. With half of Congress acting like P2P nets are evil, bit-ripping calutrons, it's good info.

Looking for Love on All the Wrong Continents

Apparently the Land Down Under isn't taking visitors from the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Australia's refusing importation of Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, the latest installment in the classic game series about a clueless-but-affable schmuck looking to score. The reason given is the game's sexual content, which is odd, because unless they've departed dramatically from the level of previous games, it's no more risqé than what you'd expect to find on, say, late night Cinemax. And, oh yeah, it's all CGI. Since I'm pretty sure Aussies haven't embargoed Jenna Jameson yet, that's a weird double standard. Can censors there possibly still, at this late date, be operating under the illusion that computer games are exclusively for (or, at any rate, should always be appropriate for) children?

New at Reason

Michael Young leaks the secret that the world has left Daniel Ellsberg behind.

Secret Spoiler?

The invaluable Current Electoral Vote Predictor daily map-making guy has the following up on his site today:

There is a secret spoiler lurking out there that only political junkies have ever heard of: Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party. He is on the ballot in 48 states, vs. about 35 for Nader. Some polls show him pulling in 1% to 3% of the vote. [...] The pollsters don't seem to know about Badnarik and rarely include him in the polls.

Drop Induce

The much-hated INDUCE Act appears to have been back-burnered for the present; time to crank up the iPod in celebration.

The WMD Side of the Sanctions Debate

Leaving aside the Duelfer Report's implications on should-we-or-shouldn't-have-we, there is plenty to chew on in terms of what was Saddam thinking? From the executive summary:

Saddam's primary goal from 1991 to 2003 was to have UN sanctions lifted, while maintaining the security of the Regime. He sought to balance the need to cooperate with UN inspections -- to gain support for lifting sanctions -- with his intention to preserve Iraq's intellectual capital for WMD with a minimum of foreign intrusiveness and loss of face. Indeed, this remained the goal to the end of the Regime, as the starting of any WMD program, conspicuous or otherwise, risked undoing the progress achieved in eroding sanctions and jeopardizing a political end to the embargo and international monitoring.

Bold from the original. If, as the report has indicated, Saddam's weapons programs were basically kaput since 1991, why not allow inspectors to come in and see that, apply their stamp of approval, and get the oil revenues flowing ASAP, rather than waiting until 1997? And, why didn't he resume weapons programs after 1998, considering that the oil-for-food billions were flowing, and the weapons inspectors had been successfully kicked out of the country?

Maybe these questions are answered deeper into the report (which I haven't read yet), but I think we can come to some preliminary conclusions: 1) Clinton sure screwed up by allowing the inspectors to be kicked out after '98, 2) Saddam sure screwed up in general; and 3) the sanctions/inspection combo sure worked better than most people (including me) thought, when measured solely by its intent to degrade Saddam's weapons programs. All of which (and much more) is interesting to think about, as the sanctions debate re-rears its head regarding Iran.

Unfree Samples

Writing at TNR Online, David Adler insinuates that the sampling ruling I mentioned here last month, holding that even de minimis use of recorded material in a new song is infringing, isn't as big a deal as it's been made out to be:

But is the decision really so radical? Bob Power, a producer and recording engineer who has worked with The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, and countless others, reacted to the court's main conclusion ("Get a license or do not sample") with a shrug: "I say the same thing to my artists." Patrick Dillett, whose engineering credits include Queen Latifah and the late Notorious B.I.G., said: "In theory this is a big case, but in practice the spirit of this ruling is already being followed. ... Most legitimate artists and labels have long toiled under the 'better to license than to litigate' banner." Indeed, the big labels now have sample clearance departments. Power noted that for a number of years, his own contracts with labels have required that he accept responsibility for any unauthorized samples.

Well, that's great if you're already signed to Sony, I guess. But I think this misses the point to a certain extent. What I like about a freer sampling regime, one that has room for poor ol' fair use, is this: Maybe I can barely plunk out "Nightswimming" on a piano, and maybe (make that definitely) I can't afford a professional studio or backup band, but I can take software like Sound Forge or Reason and remix a genuinely novel composition, using centuries of musical tradition as the raw material, on a desktop machine. Now, I don't think established artists should have to fork over a licensing fee any time they want to use a couple notes from an old funk track, especially when they're so altered as to create a subtantially original sound, but that's not the biggest problem I have with the ruling. Rather, it's the potential to chill the explosion of creativity from talented amateurs that technology's making ever more widely available. Incidentally, check out Three Notes and Runnin', a little creative protest insipired by that sampling ruling.

Update: Reader dhex's own contribution is here.

New at Reason

Jonathan Rauch hopes campaign finance can be unreformed.

Pre-emptive Straw-Man Astroturfing?

The L.A. Times did something amusing today -- it printed three of the three dozen letters it received reacting to the vice presidential debate before the first question had been asked. Included among them was one with the subject line "John Edward was amazeing!", that made reference to "ol' Halliburton Dickie" ... and which the LAT discovered was actually sent by a registered Republican, "just to see if we were checking."

Wimblehack

The New York Press is holding a tournament to pick America's worst campaign journalist.

Attention, Philly Area Reasonoids!

Appearing tonight and tomorrow near the City of Brotherly Love:

Thursday, October 7, 7-9PM
An Evening with Reason magazine
featuring Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie, editor of
Choice: The Best of Reason, and Senior Editor Brian
Doherty, author of This Is Burning Man
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
150 West Swedesford Road
Devon, PA 19333
610-695-6600

Friday, October 8, 7-9PM
An Evening with Reason magazine
featuring Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie, editor of
Choice: The Best of Reason, and Senior Editor Brian
Doherty, author of This Is Burning Man
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
Bryn Mawr
720 Lancaster Ave
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
610-520-0355

At each event, we'll be reading from our books, signing them, and talking about everything from the upcoming elections to the war in Iraq to the strange politics of millionaire rock stars to the "buddhafication" of American kids.

For more info on Choice, go here.

For more info on This Is Burning Man, go here.

Are Norwegians Mormons?

Three separate stories about a series of three portraits of President Nixon that were so "shocking" they had to be removed from Norway's parliament...and the only detail anybody's coughing up is that the pics show Tricky Dick "holding a cup of coffee."

Anybody know the rest of the story? Is "holding a cup of coffee" a euphemism for something?

New at Reason

Nick Gillespie and Mike Snell run the Bush tax cut numbers, and get some surprising results.

Hail To Thee, Polemic! You Kept Us Out of War!

Just to prove that you never know whose toes you're stepping on, Mr. Jayme H. Simoes sent me his 14th President spam this morning. An excerpt:

This week former funny man and radio talk show host Al Franken slammed President George W. Bush along with an unfortunate ancestor of the president saying that Bush the worst president in history, behind Franklin Pierce. Bad timing. This is Franklin Pierce's bicentennial year, and the group organizing the commemoration has a bone to pick with Franken. According to Pierce Bicentennial Commission chair, Jayme H. Simoes, "Mr. Franken may know jokes, but he sure does not know his U.S. history. Pierce was a polemic, but he was far from our worst President. His life paralleled the founding of this nation, and he served as President at a turning point in American history."

The Granite State's biggest Pierce exhibition, "Franklin Pierce: Defining Democracy in America," runs through May 8, 2005 at the Museum of New Hampshire History in Concord. For more details on Franklin Pierce and the Pierce bicentennial, visit the Pierce Bicentennial web page.

New at Reason

Ronald Bailey says don't worry about sex selection.

Adios, Guantanamo?

Most of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay will be released, the facility's deputy commander, Brig. Gen. Martin Lucenti, told the Financial Times.

Of the 550 that we have, I would say most of them, the majority of them, will either be released or transferred to their own countries [...]

Most of these guys weren't fighting. They were running. Even if somebody has been found to be an enemy combatant, many of them will be released because they will be of low intelligence value and low threat status. We don't have a level of evidence to feel that we can be confident to prosecute them [all]. We have guys here who have never told us anything, except to say that they want to cut off the heads of the infidels if they get a chance.

Heads-up from The Volokh Conspiracy. Previous Jacob Sullum coverage of Guantanamo can be found here, here, and here.

New at Reason

Jeremy Lott and Joel Miller discuss Bad Trip, Miller's look at the war on drugs.

Tick Tick Tick

This smells funny:

Viacom co-president Leslie Moonves told an investors conference Tuesday that results of an independent investigation into what went wrong with its CBS News "60 Minutes" report "obviously ... should be done probably after the election is over so that it doesn't affect what's going on."

Regardless of what the meaning of the word "it" is (either "the election" or "the investigation"), by this logic, you either A) don't believe you are capable of delivering a factual investigation in a partisan atmosphere, B) are somehow worried about the impact your reporting could have on an election, or C) both. None of which seems like the proper comportment for a news organization that takes itself (too) seriously.

Thanks for the Tip

Since Dick Cheney instructed us to go visit FactCheck.org (contrary to what he actually said), what can we find there? "Cheney & Edward Mangle Facts." What's more:

In fact, we did post an article pointing out that Cheney hasn't profited personally while in office from Halliburton's Iraq contracts, as falsely implied by a Kerry TV ad. But Edwards was talking about Cheney's responsibility for earlier Halliburton troubles. And in fact, Edwards was mostly right.

Burning the Broadcast Flag

Ten public interest groups are challenging the broadcast flag, claiming that the FCC's authority over broadcasts doesn't extend to mandating that TV makers install copy protection to operate on the broadcast signal after it's been received, absent some additional grant of power from Congress. The legal docs are here.

So much for the night's very palpable hit...

Cheney and Edwards have actually met at least three times. A vice-presidential memory skip or a calculated fib? Can anybody tell the difference anymore? Here's how Edwards is playing it:

"The vice president said that the first time I met Senator Edwards was tonight when we walked on the stage. I guess he forgot the time we sat next to each other for a couple hours about three years ago. I guess he forgot the time we met at the swearing in of another senator. So, my wife Elizabeth reminded him on the stage," Edwards said as the crowd roared.

According to Edwards' staff, Cheney replied, "Oh, yeah."

C'mon, Cheney! If ever there was a moment for "Go fuck yourself," this was it.

Schwarzeneggerian Shortcomings

In the Los Angeles Times, Reason Foundation's George Passantino lays into what Gov. Arnold has failed to do so far.

Whole thing here.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Imperialists

Jim Pinkerton ironically lays out the rules for effective imperialism over at The American Conservative. Among them:

Effective Imperialists must combine ethnic and linguistic "ground truth" with high Machiavellianism. To keep control of India, for example, the British cultivated the Sikhs as a ruling elite. Why? Because the Sikhs were a tiny minority. Once they were installed in the upper reaches of the Raj, the Sikhs were anxious for the Brits to stay, so as to preserve their top-dog status. That approach proved Effective for a century.

By contrast, today, is there any American clever enough to see the wisdom of dividing Iraq into three parts, so as to make all three mini-states--Sunni, Shia, Kurd--dependent on the U.S. for border protection? Evidently not.

Whole thing here.

He also mentions this 2003 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace study of the U.S.'s various attempts at nation-building. The short scorecard? Of 15 instances (not counting current interventions in Iraq or Afghanistan), only four succeeded, with success being defined as "democracy after 10 years" of U.S. involvement. Whole thing here.

Howard Stern Goes To Satellite (Horrible, Horrible Freedom Edition)

Earlier this morning, radio personality Howard Stern announced that he's moving to the satellite broadcaster Sirius in 15 months, when his current contract with Infinity ends.

This may not be the "most important deal in radio history," but it's definitely a shot in the arm of satellite radio--and related, non-regulated formats of content distribution (including cable TV). Fuck the FCC? You bet.

I've been listening to Stern since the mid-'80s, when he was the afternoon shock jock on WNBC in New York(if I'm remembering correctly, there was Imus in the morning [always a good reason to sleep in] and Alan Colmes was somewhere on the same slate [or maybe he replaced Stern after he got canned]). I've never been short on praise of the guy, either. Though I think he's been pretty flat for a long time now, I've always enjoyed the mirror he's held up to celebrity culture.

One real question emerges from this in terms of content: Stern is pushing the end-of-censorship angle of his future move. Finally, he says, he won't have to deal with the FCC and other puritans. But in fact a good deal of the oomph of his show is that it takes place in a tightly constrained context, where he flirts with crossing the line (this is also true of his TV show on the E! cable channel). On satellite, different rules--or lack of them--will apply. Will he be as interesting? Or, same thing, will audiences find him as interesting? I'm not sure.

I enjoyed his Rotten New Year's Eve pay-per-view special some years back, which featured material that would never seen the light of the broadcast day. Though the special was successful, it was surprising to me how many of his fans found that program over the top and generally unfunny. On satellite, he'll have horrible, horrible freedom to say and do whatever he wants. Which is very different from how he actually built his show over the years.

The Man Who Wouldn't Be Veep

If the choice between Dick Cheney and John Edwards dismays you, take a moment to remember a much more appealing vice-presidential candidate: Morrison C. Hansborough, who died last month and was remembered in The Washington Post last weekend:

Morrison C. Hansborough -- Washington native, Army veteran, mellow raconteur, jazz lover, congressional barber -- did not, in truth, have a chance of being vice president of the United States.

But for a few fleeting moments in 1976, Hansborough achieved some notoriety, as happened at odd moments throughout his life. Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy (D-Minn.), in one of his quixotic bids for the Oval Office, recruited Hansborough as a vice presidential stand-in on the D.C. ballot.

The politician and the barber had known each other since McCarthy served in the House and sat for the occasional trim....

When McCarthy ran for president as an independent in 1976, he asked Hansborough to be on the D.C. ballot. "He worked on Capitol Hill, he was a real Democrat and a friend of mine," McCarthy said. "There must have been something funny in the law that you needed a vice president to be on the ballot."

So far as can be determined, Hansborough made only one political promise. He said he would abolish the office of the vice president "the morning I win it."

[Via Sam Smith.]

Whoops

Props to New Republic's Jon Chait for spotting this one: Cheney mistakenly pointed viewers to FactCheck.com rather than Annenberg's FactCheck.org. The former is a pointer to George Soros' website.

Update: Commenters say the redirect was actually put in place very quickly after the debates. Must've been very quickly indeed, as I checked it not too long after. Also, my own whoops: I initially misattributed the catch; it's right now.

The Sunny Pessimist vs. the Growling Optimist

I'll fourth the emerging consensus that tonight was basically a split decision, with Cheney getting the slight nod mostly because he's much more credible on reminding me of my Dad. Both landed blows, both evaded questions annoyingly, both would blurt out their two or three topically unrelated talking points (His record's not credible! There he goes again confusing Saddam-I-mean-Obama with Zamfir!) at will. I bailed as soon as the foreign policy segment ended.

My one exceedingly minor observation was that it was discombobulating to watch this congenitally sunny-side-up pretty boy try his left-handed best to prove that we're all Screwed, while the cranky old man with acid reflux barked out the Case for Optimism. Weird.

The Victor: Maurice Chevalier

So halfway through the debate, my wife asks me, "Who do you think is winning?"

"I don't know," I say. "They're both so full of shit."

It didn't help that I had skipped the first half hour completely. TCM was showing Maurice Chevalier in Love Me Tonight, and if that doesn't trump a vice-presidential debate, what does? But at 9:30 I switched over and reluctantly settled in for the show. It wasn't a completely empty experience: I appreciated the fact that the two men obviously despise each other, and I admired their willingness to brazenly ignore any question they'd rather not answer. But mostly I missed Admiral Stockdale.

Who won? It's close, but I guess I have to give it to Cheney. Neither of these guys was impressive, but Edwards' empty suit was showing.

Rodney Dangerfield, R.I.P.

Completed the Triple Lindy this afternoon. Since we already had our probituary two weeks ago, I'll just say that, even though I wasn't expecting any more Rodney material on this side of the grave, I'm a sadder man.

Big News of the Night

Mega-payroll Yankees trail the budget-minded Twins 2-0 in the bottom of the 7th........

And the Winner Is... Gwenn Ifill!

Well, it's just about to wrap up, and I'm now embarrassed that I was actually hoping for an interesting evening. Cheney and Edwards' butch/femme dynamic was intriguing for about ten minutes, and my initial takeaway is that Cheney wins the Drool at the School in a split decision. Edwards loses me because he's more obviously full of rhetorical bluster, repeating and repeating and repeating phrases for effect, and best of all saying the American People know that he has less experience than Cheney, "and they deserve to know that." (Thanks, Johnno!) Anyway, that's just one man's opinion: I don't speak for the American people, or for the Reason staff. In fact, I don't even speak for the entire Cavanaugh household.

Veep Debate Wrap-Up

Well, it's over. It seems only fair that the candidates got to sit down through the whole thing, since the audience must have been lying down and sleeping by the end of it.

Strangest moment: When Cheney failed to respond at all to Edwards' invocation of the Dickster's gay daughter, other than to thank his opponent for the kind words about his family. Cheney, of course, has shifted his stance on gay rights.

To be sure, Edwards and Kerry are full of shit when they prattle on about civil unions vs. gay marriage. And when Edwards' big critique of the anti-gay marriage amendment was that it wasn't necessary because no state has to recognize another state's marriage laws. Come on, guys, either you believe in equality or you don't. Then again, it's hardly better that the GOP wears its bigotry and hate on its sleeve.

The Sampling Century (Bush-Bashing Edition)

Here's a sharp, well-done video montage of the GOP convention (click on link for gopconstrm.mov;Quicktime required). It's not quite as laff-inducing as "Rocked by Rather", but it's still pretty damn funny.

Remind me again, how did we live before video, audio, and print sampling were easy to pull off? One way is mentioned here, but the key word is primitively.

Kissinger's Ass? Meet Kalb's Lips

The good folks over at the National Security Archive have pried loose transcripts of 3,568 Henry Kissinger phone calls, and Jack Shafer has highlighted several in which the Beltway's leading journalistic lips -- especially Marvin Kalb's -- were planted firmly on the Dark Lord's buttocks.

Plenty of fun where that came from over at the NSA's site, including the obligatory foreign policy pow-wow with Ol' Blue Eyes. In the NSA's retelling:

When Sinatra called the crisis over Angola was ebbing but it was on Sinatra's mind as well as Kissinger's. With the U.S. Congress barring CIA intervention in Angola, Kissinger jokingly hoped that he needed some of Sinatra's "enforcers" to straighten the situation out.

Resigned Realism

If you're both a Reason fan and a Kerry supporter, here's a campaign site that just might speak to you.

[Via Doug Ireland.]

Dangerous Blogging

Slashdot reports on the case of a Malaysian blogger threatened by legislation that may brand his weblog a potential danger to "national security." Did he leak military secrets? Call for the assassination of public figures? Not quite. Apparently one of his readers posted a comment (later removed) that was derogatory to Islam. The people calling for this guy's head must not get out in the blogosphere much, because if that counts as a national security threat, Malaysia is really, really insecure.

New at Reason

Jesse Walker dives into American Visionary Art Museum's Holy H2O: Fluid Universe.

New at Reason

Kerry closes the gap, drag queens play hardball, and network fossiles minimize memos, in this week's Reason Express.

Taking the "Am" out of "AmCham"

What do you call an American Chamber of Commerce abroad that is run by non-Americans, "has ceased to be an institution dedicated to promoting the 'American' way of doing business, and is instead now a local symbol of the most 'un-American' of bad business habits, including cronyism, cartelism, non-transparency and even a degree of media coercion"? The comparatively trivial yet compelling (to me!) story, which was apparently too hot for the local English-language newspapers to handle, can be found here.

Strange Bedfellows... but Do They Smoke After?

A friend on the hill forwards this depressing Roll Call article (subscribers) on the collaboration between tobacco maker Phillip Morris and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Like the priest in Harold and Maude, the thought of this particular commingling makes me want to vomit. From the article:

"The simple fact that other tobacco companies will likely come out on the opposite side of the issue - against FDA regulation - provides Philip Morris with a chance to distinguish itself from its competitors as a good corporate citizen," [an internal PM] memo continued.

Of course, the new federal regulations also stood to help the company's bottom line.

Because Philip Morris controls roughly half of the $40 billion annual cigarette market, a ban on cigarette advertising would help the company solidify its grip on the market.

Without the ability to advertise, smaller players such as Brown & Williamson and RJ Reynolds - now Reynolds American Inc. - would have few options to swipe market share from Philip Morris and the world's most recognized brand, the Marlboro Man.

I'll Trade You Two Spleens and a Pancreas...

One of the first pieces I wrote for Reason was about the group LifeSharers, whose members pledge to donate organs upon death, but request that priority be given to any other compatible members on the waiting list. The medical establishment, as I noted there, seems mostly opposed to this approach. Today, there's a New York Times story on the apparently kosher practice of explicit quid pro quo organ trades, wherein the family members of people requiring organs undergo simultaneous operations, swapping to achieve a match. Can anyone construct a coherent bioethical theory according to which this is OK, but LifeSharers is objectionable?

Forbidden Puppet Love

The much-anticipated (by me, at least) Trey Parker/Matt Stone patriotic puppet war opus Team America: World Police is threatened with a contract-breaking NC-17 rating...over simulated sex between puppets. (All the characters in the movie are puppets.)

As the UK Guardian reports:

The makers of Team America: World Police have reportedly gone to great lengths, modifying the offending scene nine times for submission to the Motion Picture Association of America, the US film classification authority. They are keen to secure an R rating, which would allow under-18s to see the film when accompanied by an adult.

The makers, directors Matt Stone and Trey Parker and producer Scott Rudin, are contesting the MPAA classification, saying that the film doesn't show anything that's not been seen before in other R-rated movies. And besides, Rudin told the Hollywood Reporter, "our characters are made of wood and have no genitalia. If the puppets did to each other what we show them doing, all they'd get is splinters."

UPDATE: Now with link to the Guardian story, above.

Alienating the Anti-Aliens

Immigration restrictionistas are hopping mad over the White House's request that House Republicans drop immigration-tightening provisions from the 9/11 Commission-related security bill. The measures, which were not included in the Senate's version of the legislation, would have sped up deportation of immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally in the last five years, blocked federal employees from accepting foreign matricular IDs, and made it more difficult for illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses. Supporters say the Bush Administration previously signed off on each of these measures, and are calling the request "an act of utter hypocrisy."

'I Can't Understand Why It Isn't Rescheduled'

Medical marijuana activists are trying a new approach to getting the drug reclassified so it can be legally prescribed: a petition that charges the Department of Health and Human Services with violating the Data Quality Act by disseminating erroneous information about cannabis. Among other things, Americans for Safe Access notes HHS is wrong when it asserts that "there have been no studies that have scientifically assessed the efficacy of marijuana for any medical condition." Indeed, David Murray of the Office of National Drug Control Policy tells The Washington Post "it is 'beyond dispute' that marijuana's efficacy has been assessed and potential benefits identified."

But that doesn't mean marijuana has an "accepted medical use"--one of the criteria for putting drugs on Schedule II and thereby making them available by prescription. This requirement is a bit of a Catch 22, since it's hard for a drug to be accepted as a medicine when it's entirely illegal. But even if marijuana nevertheless gained wide acceptance among doctors--which it arguably has, depending upon how you define "wide" and "acceptance"--that wouldn't matter, Murray says, because it's not for doctors to determine what is medically useful; that's the government's job.

Metallica, or Spinal Tap?

On the inevitability of self-parody. (Link via Dr. Frank)

Deconstructing Degentrification

Via Arts & Letters Daily comes this excellent post about gentrification over at 2Blowhards. A snippet:

The term "gentrification" was coined in 1964 by a left-wing British sociologist named Ruth Glass. She used the word to refer to what was then taking place in a part of London called Islington. Islington originated as an affluent place, but had become a rough, working-class area. In the sixties, it experienced gentrification. (Actually, it had been experiencing something like it for some years, at least since George Orwell wrote about it after moving to the neighborhood in the forties.) It's where Tony and Cherie Blair and their family lived before moving to 10 Downing Street. (Cherie is said by the London papers to be truly upset that when Tony was elected and they sold their Islington house they got £750,000 for it, while now it is worth £1.5 million.)

Lots of references to Brooklyn, Reason, Jane Jacobs ("Truly, she must be the only writer championed by both Reason and Tikkun"), and more. Whole thing here.

Bargain Ban

Daniel Steiner, the Florida limo service operator who was punished for charging too little, has taken his case to federal court, arguing that Hillsborough County's regulations infringe upon his 14th Amendment right to earn a living.

New at Reason

Cathy Young goes back to 'Nam.

Gatekeeper Anguish

The NYT's A.O. Scott complains that there are just too many worthy movies around for a critic to pronounce on.

So many were screened recently at Toronto's film festival, writes Scott, that it produced "a free-floating anxiety verging on panic. To commit oneself to seeing a movie was also, of mathematical necessity, to skip about six others, a ratio that left a residue of nagging worry. What if, nestled somewhere in that neglected half-dozen, there was a life-changing masterpiece, or the kind of performance that heralds the arrival of a new star? Through bad judgment, inattention or sheer caprice, you could blow off your whole year-end top-10 list in a single morning ...."

This problem isn't limited to festivals; it has flooded the world. "[M]any worthy films are lost in the shuffle," worries Scott, "failing not just to cross over to a mass audience, but even to find the self-selecting, appreciative cult they deserve."

Scott realizes that there are now many ways to keep movies visible longer, but that's no good either, because "their continued availability also contributes to the general cultural glut, as the DVD's and TiVo memory banks fill up with more and more stuff to watch."

What's a pair of eyes to do? Well, nothing. If you're not trying to play world gatekeeper, there's no problem to deal with. Cults, for example, are self-organizing and can take care of their own tastes. Furthermore, there's one "glut" that Scott overlooks: a plenitude of independent critical voices not associated with gatekeeper institutions, especially on the Internet. If there are too many movies to pronounce on, there are also more people pronouncing on them in many more places. Anyway, there are a lot fewer people waiting for the NYT's pronouncements. The NYT matters, but not like it used to. High-end critics and their audiences may not be a cult, but they're looking more like a subculture.

"The cultural glut is hardly limited to movies," observes Scott. "The response to growing markets (like those for film and for video games) and to shrinking markets (like those for books and for recorded music) seems to be the same: make more. But what are we supposed to do with it?" Ah, the anguish of gatekeeping.

No Religion

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports that Ohio State University has agreed to let religious groups be religious. Under the school's "nondiscrimination" policy, student organizations were not permitted to use religious criteria to choose members or leaders. But as FIRE pointed out, "Ohio State cannot constitutionally control a religious student organization's message or composition." Adds FIRE's Greg Lukianoff: "A Muslim organization has a right to be Muslim. A Jewish organization has a right to be Jewish. A Christian organization has a right to be Christian. It is not tolerance but intolerance to forbid such voluntary associations."

Beer for College Students vs. Pot for Patients

Ari Armstrong notes that Pete Coors, beermeister turned Republican senatorial candidate, believes in federalism when it comes to alcohol but not when it comes to marijuana. Go figure.

Reform, Syrian Style

Yesterday, Syrian President Bashar Assad organized a significant cabinet reshuffle that brought a substantial number of Baathist officials into the government of Prime Minister Naji al-Utri.

Some Syrian pundits have argued that it shows how serious the regime is about reform; in fact the reshuffle appears to represent a hardening in Damascus, as the regime faces a number of major challenges that, it fears, may ultimately lead to its downfall. This includes increasingly vocal domestic criticism of the regime; the regime's utter inability (despite a plethora of intelligence services) to defend against Israeli attacks; U.S. and French pressure on Syria (through the UN) to pull out of Lebanon; and, even, growing tension in Lebanon after Assad imposed an extension of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's mandate over the wishes of most members of the (otherwise pro-Syrian) political elite.

The person to watch is Ghazi Kanaan, the new interior minister. He was for many years the Syrian proconsul in Lebanon, and returned to Syria to head the Political Security directorate. He will probably continue to do so, since it comes under the authority of the Interior Ministry, and he's powerful enough to impose his writ on both. The likelihood is that Kanaan was brought in to tighten the screws in Syria (he's the one who cracked down on Syrian opposition figures, but also on Syria's riotous Kurds last March), and to strengthen Syria's hold over Lebanon. It might be fair to say that the Syrian regime, for the first time since Hafez Assad died in 2000, is seriously worried about its future.

If this is all true, it would confirm that the four-year "reform" effort of Bashar has led mostly nowhere--as indeed it could not, since the president never sought true liberalization of the Syrian system. It also shows that domestic reform by Middle Eastern autocrats is a splendid fiction if it does not at the end of the day include the possibility of a non-violent change of regime. Bashar thought he could emulate the Chinese model; now he fears he might be Gorbachev. In fact, his ways are to be found neither in Moscow nor Beijing, but in Cairo and Tunis, where the populations have just been promised several more years of the same mediocrity at the top.

How a Bill Becomes Kielbasa

The Boston Globe visits the sausage factory.

[Via Designated Semiotician.]

All in Your Head Shop

The Tacoma City Council is considering an ordinance that would make it a "gross misdemeanor," punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and a year in jail, to sell bongs, crack pipes, or other implements used to consume illegal substances. Police will not be fooled by signs proclaiming "all accessories are designed and marketed for use with tobacco and legal herbs." (As a fake head shop owner on Comedy Central's Crossballs put it, "There are a lot of people in society who enjoy smoking tobacco in very elaborate ways.") In fact, the Tacoma News Tribune reports that police plan to charge shopkeepers for selling even seemingly innocuous items such as the Love Rose, "a 4-inch glass tube stuffed with a small rose," and glass pens that "can be dismantled so that only the glass tube remains"--both of which can be used to inhale crack fumes. Retailers who want to avoid jail may also want to steer clear of aluminum foil, paper clips, spoons, and apples.

Attention Philly Area Reasonoids!

You're invited to two upcoming book events near the City of Brotherly Love:

Thursday, October 7, 7-9PM
An Evening with Reason magazine
featuring Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie, editor of
Choice: The Best of Reason, and Senior Editor Brian
Doherty, author of This Is Burning Man
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
150 West Swedesford Road
Devon, PA 19333
610-695-6600

Friday, October 8, 7-9PM
An Evening with Reason magazine
featuring Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie, editor of
Choice: The Best of Reason, and Senior Editor Brian
Doherty, author of This Is Burning Man
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
Bryn Mawr
720 Lancaster Ave
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
610-520-0355

At each event, we'll be reading from our books, signing them, and talking about everything from the upcoming elections to the war in Iraq to the strange politics of millionaire rock stars to the "buddhafication" of American kids.

For more info on Choice, go here.

For more info on This Is Burning Man, go here.

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

One of these things just doesn't belong.

Over here we have the latest CIA assessment of potential links between Saddam and al Qaeda. Executive summary: none. Oh, and that deal about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi getting treatment in a Baghdad hospital for an amputated leg? Scratch that, two legs.

Over here we have Don Rumsfeld desparately trying to the square the CIA findings with his own belief system, to wit Iraq and al Qaeda talked about all kinds of things including safe havens and WMD. Only pointy-headed CIA-types refuse to see what that means.

Bottomline, if this pissing match between the CIA and the Bush administration goes on much longer we'll all get hosed.

It can only be attributable to human error.

If the death-fart of big media has a sound, it must go something like this chastisement of Farnaz Fassihi's email snafu:

Aly Colon, who teaches ethics at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., says the simplest course for the Journal would be to reassign Fassihi elsewhere because her views are now so well documented. Paradoxically, her factual observations would have made a terrific first-person account for publication, Colon says.

That's right: The greatest threat to a reporter in 2004 is that people might find out your opinion of the story you're covering.

I'm Sure Hugh Hewitt Will Be Very Upset

It hasn't received nearly as much attention as the 60 Minutes imbroglio, but an article filled with fabricated quotes was posted on the Fox News website last week. An excerpt:

Rallying supporters in Tampa Friday, Kerry played up his performance in Thursday night's debate, in which many observers agreed the Massachusetts senator outperformed the president.

"Didn't my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate!" Kerry said Friday....

Kerry still trails in actual horse-race polls, but aides say his performance was strong enough to rally his base and further appeal to voters ready for a change.

"I'm metrosexual -- he's a cowboy," the Democratic candidate said of himself and his opponent.

A "metrosexual" is defined as an urbane male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle.

Fox has retracted the story, explaining that it "was based on a reporter's partial script that had been written in jest and should not have been posted or broadcast. We regret the error, which occurred because of fatigue and bad judgment, not malice." The reporter in question was Carl Cameron.

Joshua Micah Marshall still has some questions about the affair. He also notes another recent boo-boo at the Fox campaign desk, in which the network was taken in by a tale more obviously phony than any forged memo.

First We Got the Bomb, and That Was Good

Slate reports that all the high end weaponry we're selling to our new bestest buddies in Pakistan is signally ill-suited for fighting the Taliban or other groups using guerilla tactics... but it sure would be handy in a conventional conflict with India. Meanwhile, Condi Rice says that AQ Khan, the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear bomb and apparently also the Wilt Chamberlain of rogue state fission on the side, has been sufficiently "punished" by national humiliation.

What Really Killed Rick James

Now that our nervous nation has been hipped to the addictive properties of coffee, reader John Luther sends in alarming news about a new candidate for Schedule I.

New at Reason

Jeff A. Taylor calls up America's unready reserves.

New at Reason

Michael Erard recounts the strange history of Microgram, the DEA's double secret magazine.

U.S. Interrogators Charged With Murder

Four American soldiers, three from Military Intelligence, were charged with murder today in the asphyxiation death of an Iraqi General that prosecutors say occurred during an interrogation session. Interesting passage from the Colorado Springs Gazette account:

One source close to the case said the public might not get more detailed information because much of it is highly classified.

The regiment's commander in Iraq, Col. David Teeples made a single statement about the case before he was reassigned to the Pentagon in June.

"There is no evidence, there is no proof," Teeples said.

Both warrant officers are from a unit responsible for intercepting radio signals and other electronic intelligence duties. Neither is trained as an interrogator.

Yao Ming's road to the White House

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) proposes amending the constitution to allow naturalized citizens to hold an office even Zanzibar-born Freddie Mercury assured Americans he didn't want: the President of America.

The proposed amendment makes for some interesting splits among pols in California (and presumably, other states). Governor Schwarzenegger, no doubt eyeing a federal ban on foie gras, supports the idea. GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has introduced a similar bill in the House. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi is all for it but quibbles over the necessary time of residency and/or citizenship. But fellow Democrat (and naturalized citizen) Rep. Tom Lantos comes out strongly against:

I am irrevocably opposed. Our Constitution should only be amended for the most pressing and substantive reasons. There are 250 million native-born Americans, and there ought to be enough talent among them to find someone to serve as president.

"But," Lantos adds in his most charming Count Chocula accent, "if there is a restoration of the Austro-Hungarian empire, I am ready to consider a joint candidacy with Arnold, provided I am on top of the ticket."

Although the Bush/Kerry race gives the lie to the idea that our native-born talent pool is large enough, I kind of side with Lantos on this one. Being denied the presidency is a pretty light burden for a naturalized citizen to bear, and in the absence of any pressing need, amending the constitution should always be a low priority. But I'm willing to be persuaded on this issue.

Java Jive

According to The Washington Times, a recent study concludes that "a single cup of coffee a day can produce 'caffeine addiction,'" featuring withdrawal symptoms such as headache, drownsiness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, depression, nausea, and muscle aches. In response, the National Coffee Association argues that caffeine is not truly addictive because its users do not develop tolerance, the withdrawal symtoms are not severe enough, and the drug is "still considered safe."

But neither tolerance nor withdrawal is required for addiction--a point the American Psychiatric Association's current definition of "substance dependence" concedes. And the issue of health effects is distinct from the question of how hard a drug is to give up: A person may be very strongly attached to a substance that has a negligible effect on his health.

Such is the case for many regular coffee drinkers, who might have a hard time giving up their habit but don't really want to, since it is not hurting them and does not disrupt their lives. (To the contrary, it probably enhances their productivity and their enjoyment of social situations.) As the lead author of the study notes, caffeine, the world's most popular recreational drug, is "cheap and readily available, so people can maintain their use of caffeine quite easily." If caffeine were illegal, its aficionados would more closely resemble the popular image of drug addicts as desperate, twitchy outlaws.

Watching the Road, While the Road Watches You

Interesting scare story in Charlotte, NC's, Creative Loafing about the possible future of a high-tech road that keeps track of us wherever we go, and about the not-widely-reported government/private enterprise organization, Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA), working and lobbying to create the system. Here's the heart of the fear:

National databases to track our every move? A national network of government-controlled traffic management centers that use wireless technology for traffic surveillance by 2022? But the reality is that much of the technology and infrastructure needed to bring the system to life has already been put in place.

In the old days, if you turned on your windshield wipers, power just went to the wipers. But in the cars of today, a miniature self-contained computer system of sensors and actuators controls the wipers and just about everything else the car does. All that information winds up on something inside your car called a data bus.

"We have the ability to communicate essentially any of the vehicle information that's on that data bus, typically encompassing the state of about 200 sensors and actuators," said Dave Acton, an ITS consultant to General Motors.....

For automakers and tech companies, the databus is a goldmine of information that can be transmitted via imbedded cell phone or GPS technology. This year alone, 2 million cars in General Motors' fleet were equipped with the GPS technology that would enable customers to subscribe to OnStar-type services if they choose. Eventually, says Acton, all cars will likely be equipped with it.

But the same technology installed in GM's fleet is also capable of transmitting the car's location and speed to any government agency or corporate entity that wants it without the driver knowing, whether they subscribe to OnStar-type services or not.

Though government-run transportation centers across the country are not yet collecting the data, Acton predicts they will begin to within the next decade.

This story touches on the always-present other side of technological privacy violation debates: these technologies always have positive, desirable uses as well. For example, they could help in instituting more intelligent pricing schemes for roads. Another promise held out by advocates of this sort of intelligent transportation system is that it could severely curtail car accidents:

...the system will have to do far more than use GPS technology to transmit where cars have been and what they did along the way. Cars will need to swap information instantaneously with each other and with roadside readers at highway speeds in real time, something today's GPS technology can't do. To solve the problem, the federal government is pushing back the boundaries of wireless technology to create devices that can make the vision possible. Using something called Dedicated Short Range Communications, or DSRC, the transceivers the government is developing would allow cars to carry on simultaneous conversations with each other and with corresponding roadside units, sending messages or warnings throughout the transportation management system instantly.

These "conversations" could prevent collisions or stop drivers from running off the road, while giving transportation managers an instantaneous view of road and weather conditions. With a DSRC transceiver and GPS technology in every car, automakers believe they can wipe out nearly all automobile fatalities in the US.

The story isn't clear on what this means. In some cases, a warning signal to remind the driver to look at the damn road would prevent an impending collision, but many of them occur because events change too quickly for the driver or car to react safely and prevent the impact--for example, when someone changes lanes or brakes abruptly and unexpectedly. Perhaps these systems envision making it impossible for you to break or change lanes unexpectedly, but the story isn't clear on that, and neither is this ITSA hype sheet pushing the vision.

For those interested in exploring the future of intelligent transport in a deeper manner than the Creative Loafing piece, or this blog entry, here's a place to start looking.

And You Thought tATu Was Crass...

As if Vladimir Putin wasn't troubling enough, Russia has produced a new pop songstress guaranteed to send a shudder down many spines:

No one knows her real name; she's known only as "n.A.T.o." and is a self-professed "suicide bomber" musician, who performs in a full-length burqa (i.e. the all-covering Muslim female dress) and veil, singing in Arabic. [...]

[She] plans to come give one of [her] trademark "terror concerts" somewhere in England in the month of November. The kick-off "terror concert" occurred in Moscow last September 11 (of course!) and featured invitations printed to look like airline tickets, to accompany n.A.T.o.'s standard repertoire of songs sung in Arabic, delivered "in front of screens broadcasting images from al-Jazeera . . . interspersed with flashing words such as 'al-Qaeda', 'Iraq' and 'Nasdaq'."

Story and text care of EuroSavant.com.

Code Name: Sunshine

William Arkin, who until last month was a military affairs columnist for the Los Angeles Times, is coming out with a new book entitled Code Names, which is claiming to reveal the names and other details of 3,000 ongoing secret government intelligence operations. The Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy News calls it "perhaps the most concentrated act of defiance of official secrecy policies since Howard Morland wrote about 'The H Bomb Secret' in The Progressive in 1979, drawing a government injunction to block publication." From the book's website:

In a perfect world, all of this secrecy would be to protect legitimate secrets from prying foreign eyes. But [...]Arkin learned that while most genuine secrets remain secret, other activities labeled as secret are either questionable or remain perfectly in the open. The sheer volume and complexity of these operations ensures that the most politically important remain unreported by the press and shielded from the scrutiny of the American electorate. [...]

But Arkin knows where to draw the line. The information in his book will not jeopardize individuals or operations.

I wrote about the Bush Administration's dramatic ramping-up of secrecy in the August issue.

Microscopic Americans?

Occasional Reason contributor Todd Seavey's response to National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru on stem cells strikes me as pretty much dead on. I've debated Ramesh on this very issue before, and the conclusion I've come to is that he manages to construct (as he always insists) an entirely secular argument against stem cell research precisely by removing from the religious argument the reference to God that would render it, if not convincing to nonbelievers, then at least intelligible. As a result, he ends up with an argument that is, in a sense, too materialist, in that it makes "personhood" consist, not in having a particular sort of mind, but on having the right sequence of proteins in your DNA.

Smokin' in the Boys Room

Upset with your local public school system? Here's a novel approach -- buy the URLs of the board chief and a member of the county board of supervisors, and turn them into gay porn sites.

Just When You Thought Dan Rather Couldn't Look Worse

Steve Clemons notes that Michael Moore was offered those bogus memos while he was making Fahrenheit 9/11, but he didn't run with them because of doubts about their authenticity. I think if I lost a journalistic integrity contest with Moore, it'd be John Belushi samurai time.

Classic Reason

Roy Childs' article "Big Business and the Rise of American Statism," first published in Reason back in 1971, has just gone online at the website of the Molinari Institute.

...And Last in the American League

The return of big-league ball to Washington, D.C. may be a boon to Heine Manush fans everywhere.

But it's also a massive ripoff for everyone else. And that's even before the newborn team hits the field and starts sucking (as they almost certainly will). One promising sign: The still-to-be-finalized deal between the team and the city is already being attacked as the corporate welfare that it is. Reader Neil Hrab points to this piece in Counterpunch:

How a couple dozen of the richest men in the United States got one of the most impoverished cities in the Western Hemisphere to give them $440 million, is already being called the "swindle of the century." It's the biggest heist since the Monorail came to Springfield on 'The Simpsons'. Just to compare, the St. Louis Cardinals' franchise is paying 77 percent of a $387 million stadium now under construction. The Detroit Tigers are paying for 62 percent of their $327 million stadium. In DC, the city picks up every penny.

Whole thing here.

Here's a compendium of old Reason pieces about stadium subsidy shams. These pieces date back to the late '90s, but sadly, the arguments made therein continue to apply.

150,000 Strong

Just a quick post to note that Hit & Run recently received its 150,000th comment from readers like you.

From attaboys to howdareyous to whatthefucks--it's all in the glorious archives of H&R. And will remain there long after the age of humans has passed and the ants or Venusians or whoever takes over the planet.

Thanks for sharing.

Out-Libertarianed by Tucker Carlson?

I neglected to mention last night: Later in that same Bill Maher show, they had Tucker Carlson on and Maher was asking about the Plame hoohah. Carlson avered that a journalist's freedom to print the truth is absolute, covering even the exposure of a CIA undercover agent. Maher asks (roughly): "Oh, come on, so journalists can publish our troop movements? Even if it endangers the troops?" Yes, Carlson confirms: When he said absolute, he meant it.

Now, I thought I was pretty hardcore on free speech. But even I think it's OK to make that illegal. So, informal and utterly unscientific poll: How many people would be willing to join Carlson in biting that particular bullet?

The Bigley Mystery

An extremely bizarre story is developing on the fate of the British hostage in Iraq, Kenneth Bigley:

Dutch intelligence officers raided the home of Kenneth Bigley's brother last night. An intelligence officer from the Foreign Office is understood to have accompanied them to Paul Bigley's home in Amsterdam.

The raid came amid claims that the British hostage was free to roam his kidnappers' home in Iraq and was "caged" only for terrorist videos.

Paul Bigley's computer was seized and he was interrogated about his alleged contact with the Tawhid and Jihad group, which yesterday claimed responsibility for Thursday's killing of at least 35 children in Baghdad ... Mr Bigley has been an outspoken critic of the Government's handling of his brother's case and has established his own contacts in the Middle East but denies being in direct contact with the kidnappers.

The whole thing is here in the Daily Telegraph, though the Daily Mail offers a far more skeptical take on the whole thing.

The Trial of K Continues

After taking his mallet to a dour, sour David Broder (and several pieces after his brilliant demolition of Lewis Lapham's attempted demolition of the right-wing "propaganda mill"), Jack Shafer has returned to a favorite bete noire, Henry Kissinger. The gist of his latest Slate piece is that Dr. K inevitably makes scarce when asked about his onetime shenanigans in Latin America, particularly in Chile.

We knew that, didn't we? But more interesting is how tough a sell is Kissinger's brand of "realist" politics today--whereby high national interest mandates, for example, an utter disregard for human rights. I recall that when I was studying politics in grad school almost 20 years ago, one was either a realist or a sappy liberal idiot. That's one reason why people end up libertarian, perhaps, but it's also worth reflecting on how the otherwise much-derided American neoconservative movement sought to bridge that yawning gap. The fact that Kissinger has to hide from the New York Times can be partly (and I do stress only partly) put at the door of the neocons.

After all, one of those who opposed Dr. K's foreign policy approach in the past was Paul Wolfowitz.

Killed: Great Journalism Too Hot to Print

On October 2 at 5:30PM, C-SPAN's BookTV will be running a taping of a panel discussion I participated in on "Killed: Great Journalism Too Hot to Print." Along with Featurewell's David Wallis, US News & World Report's Jodie Allen, and others, I discussed media self-censorship and consolidation.

Details here.

You Gotta Be Kidding Me

I just saw the Dixie Chicks on Bill Maher claiming that "corporate bans" on their music (i.e. stations deciding not to run their music for a while) were "against the Constitution." Can they possibly have been involved in this whole bruhaha for this long and not found one person to explain how the First Amendment works?

New at Reason

Jacob Sullum isn't saying Dennis Hastert and John Kerry are a couple of lying demagogues. He's just saying he doesn't know.

New at Reason

Julian Sanchez gives a post-fight wrap on the Charade In Dade.

Thar She Blows

Mt. St. Helens is erupting; looks smallish and containable (and neato!) so far.

Limb, Sawing, Crash

By Monday I expect solid poll evidence of a substantial bump for John Kerry coming off of his dismantling of George W. Bush in Miami. It is not that Kerry was that good, but that Bush was that bad.

"Last night the president looked very uncomfortable answering questions," is how Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) put it, and I have to think most people, in their most apolitical hearts, would agree. Bush seemed only ready to offer his standard stump assert-and-smirk routine.

Kerry eventually noticed this and began to throw a blizzard of sometimes disconnected factoids and arguments toward the prez. Better discipline on his part -- or even a real debate debate -- and Bush might've imploded.

I've always hated the upcoming "townhall" format, precisely for the loony-tunes, C-SPAN Ultra queries it generates. Bush tosses that smirk at the wrong laid-off guy's trade jeremiad, and watch out.

Airline I.D. Requirements Do Exist...

...but no, we still can't know exactly what they are, the government says in a filing in the ongoing John Gilmore lawsuit challenging the till-now secret law. As Wired.com reports:

Justice Department lawyers also argued that Gilmore cannot challenge the requirement because it is not a law, it is a law enforcement technique.

"The identification-or-search requirement is simply a technique used to detect possible violations of the law, such as the prohibition on carrying a weapon or explosive onto the plane," they wrote. "While passengers have a right to know the law (that they cannot bring weapons on board), they have no due process entitlement to advance notice of how the Government might attempt to discover whether the law is being broken."

[Gilmore's lawyer William] Simpich dismissed that argument as absurd doublespeak.

"Drugs are against the law," Simpich said. "So blowing through your house to look for drugs is a law enforcement technique that you can't challenge, either."

Reason's feature article by me from our Aug./Sept. 2003 issue on phase one of Gilmore's fight here; an update on round two, also from me, here.

Support Your Local Police

It warms my heart when I hear a tale of a police force that's got its priorities straight.

Lehrer Dodges Hewittian Bullet ... This Time

Before last night's surprisingly entertaining back-and-forth over the five-or-six-party North Korea talks, Red State champeen Hugh Hewitt issued this pre-emptive Weekly Standard Online warning over the scalp of PBS' rat-eyed moderator:

Jim Lehrer and the rest of the old media should know that they have to play it straight tonight.

Or else what?

in this era of new media, any detectable bias on Lehrer's part will result in a cyber-tsunami headed towards PBS affiliates across the country.

The key is "detectable," and the arbitrators of that ... will be the viewers themselves, working through the blogosphere, posting on FreeRepublic.com, calling into talk radio, and canceling their pledges to local PBS affiliates if their verdict on Lehrer's performance is negative. If Lehrer goes in the tank for Kerry, expect an enormous blowback--as predictable as the one which followed CBS's foisting of forgeries on the public.

Judging by the lack of Lehrerocide on Hewitt's website this morning, Robot Jim successfully avoided Rather's cruel fate (perhaps it has something to do with the fact it's rare for debate moderators to present fraudulent documents as fact). For an earnest, multi-party discussion of Lehrer's performance, try Jay Rosen's site. And for some unintentional comedy, go back to Hewitt's Weekly Standard piece and see what he's really miffed about -- that's right, it's that the mainstream media "refused to acknowledge a genuine, though bizarre, story that is actually having an impact on the race--because they collectively don't think it should be having an impact on the race." That story? "Ooompa-Loompagate."

Just Say Nein

The legislative year in the state California ended yesterday, and the Austrian-oppressed Governator has vetoed nearly one-quarter of the 1,270 bills that came to his desk, "a greater percentage of bills vetoed than in all but one year since 1967," according to the L.A. Times. The peeved spokesman for the California Assembly Democrats, Steve Maviglio, complained to the LAT that

Voters are beginning to see what a Schwarzenegger Republican is, and that's a California version of George W. Bush on economic issues.

The rest of the country should be so lucky.

The Politics of Cruelty

As usual, Will Saletan has some good rhetorical analysis from last night's debate. Chuck Freund's piece from our May issue on politics and "media intimacy" is also interesting to reread in light of the debate.

What strikes me here is that we're getting a Republican version of a mode of thought that conservatives used to love to mock when liberals deployed it. That is, you get the sense reading certain lines of argument in defense of social programs that whether or not they're effective is secondary: These programs are (as Robert Nozick famously noted in an essay from The Examined Life that fueled the belief he'd gone apostate) a way of signalling a kind of collective caring about the plight of the badly-off. Opposition to them is a sign that Republicans are mean, regardless of whether any particular critique is on point. Similarly, any suggestion that some people are badly off because of bad choices they've made risks "blaming the victim." That position always struck me as a kind of metastasis of a good rule of interpersonal etiquette: If a friend calls to tell you he's lost his job because of poor performance or chronic lateness, your first response (even if you might more gently raise this point later) is not to say, "well, it serves you right, slacker," rather, you commiserate.

A similar attitude now seems to be prevalent in foreign policy apologists. The problem with negative appraisals of the situation in Iraq isn't that they're wrong, as such, but that it's somehow cruel to the families of soldiers to suggest they've died for an error. And if you point out that the U.S. is bearing the brunt of the war costs in both blood and treasure, you're debasing the contributions of our allies.

In both cases, independent of which side is ultimately in the right, this seems distinctly unconducive to serious and frank discussion of either domestic or foreign policy.

It's Time to Play the Music, It's Time to Light the Lights

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) is apparently pitching a minor fit over reports that former CPA spokesman (and informal Bush/Cheney '04 flack) Dan Senor helped draft Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's speech to Congress. GOP campaign spokesman offer by way of rebuttal:

He's not a campaign spokesman, a consultant or a staff member. He's someone who speaks out on behalf of the president's policies. He's someone who supports the president's reelection.

So he's not on the payroll, but given that the campaign refers media to Senor for interviews, he's not exactly just an independent citizen who happens to support Bush's reelection, either.

Anyway, on the one hand, this isn't particularly surprising, or even something I'd be inclined to get that upset about. But it does rather pull the rug out from under all the righteous indignation over Joe Lockhart's crack that "you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips."

Utterly Apolitical, Completely Non-Debate-Related Friday Fun Link

A dramatic reading of a 419 spam.