Professor V has a deeply

Professor V has a deeply irksome post about intelligent design where he follows up on an item from Max Power.

The post is irksome not because I disagree with the Prof’s argument, but because as usual, it’s extremely well-reasoned, and damnit, I can’t find away around it. And I really, really want to.

He argues that despite the strong urge to shoot down proposals to teach intelligent design in schools (the heart of the matter at hand), the arguments against doing so are tenuous:

Nor can one argue that intelligent design is unproven, but evolution is proven. Evolution has not been proven in any common sense of the term — true, it’s (to my limited knowledge) more or less consistent with the evidence, but intelligent design is consistent with the evidence, too. Intelligent design, in turn, is neither proven nor disproven; it may not even be disprovable, absent some quite remarkable and uncontrovertible divine revelation.

Professor V is making a rather irritating habit of coming up with intelligent, articulate arguments which logically lead places I don’t want to go. I wonder if I asked him nicely if he would stop…

Update: I may not have the intellectual horsepower (well, at least after a long day of posting) to challenge the great Professor V, but Max Power rises to the occasion and lands a few body blows (in an extremely civilized, intelligent, non-Bennett-like kind of way). Not quite sure I’m convinced, but it’s a fun fight to watch.

Question to the audience: Are we seeing here simply a difference in frame-of-reference? If I didn’t know better, I’d say that the differences between Prof V and Max Power stem, in large part, from Prof V taking a viewpoint on the issue from the perspective of a strong legal framework, whereas Max is looking at it from the perspective of the common standards of scientific research. Both are intellectually honest and rigorous, but they can, I think, lead to different conclusions given the same set of facts.

Hmmm. I seem to be doing color commentary on a bloggerly debate. Now that’s kind of odd…

Wanted: New LogoOk, I know,

Wanted: New Logo

Ok, I know, it’s not like the existing logo (see top left) is old. It’s more that it’s not really a logo. In fact, it’s just two pictures I inelegantly crammed together and slapped some text over. And one of these days Gateway might notice that I swiped the laptop picture from their product catalog, and then everything’s going to go to hell.

So here’s yet another chance to earn both my eternal gratitude and a free Truth Laid Bear coffee mug, should such a wonder ever come into existence . (But see, it won’t come into existence unless I get a cool logo, so it’s all connected).

TTLB Logo Search Frequently Asked Questions

What are you looking for?

Something very similar to the existing logo, but in an original drawing. I’d like to see the following characteristics:

  • Should be a simple line drawing, preferably black-and-white or with minimal use of color
  • Should be “logo-like”, i.e., simple, elegant, etc.
  • Should depict a polar bear peering at / hunched over the keyboard of either a computer or a typewriter
  • The polar bear should preferably being wearing a fedora, and possibly wearing glasses. I’m going for the 1930’s hack journalist look.
  • The logo should contain the words “The Truth Laid Bear”, and, if possible, have the slogan somewhere as well (although this is not a requirement): “A bear, the world, and the strong urge to hibernate”. (Note: Both of these are really optional; I can always put “The Truth Laid Bear” right under the logo. You do the graphics, I’ll worry about the words…)

What’s in it for me?

I told you, a free coffee mug.

No, really. What’s in it for me?

Well, I’ll credit your drawing somewhere visible on the front page of the site, and include a permalink to your web page or email, if you like.

No money?

Who do you think I am, Kaus? You see a Boeing parked anywhere around here?

Will you promise to use my submission if I send it to you?

Absolutely not. If I don’t like it, I ain’t using it. So while I appreciate any efforts anyone puts in, if your feelings and/or ego is easily bruised by rejection, please don’t send in a submission.

Does it have to be a polar bear? I’ve got this thing for brown bears…

It has to be a polar bear.

Black bear? Panda? I can really do great things with Koalas….

Polar bear, damnit.

Picky, aren’t you?

Yup. Get over it.

I think your idea for the logo sucks. I have a much better idea. Can I send it to you?

Well, sure. It’s not like I can really stop you. But I suggest running the concept by me first. See above re: picky.

How big should it be?

Definitely no bigger than the current logo; it’s pretty huge. Preferably about 50% to 70% of the current logo’s size. I aim for the site to be vaguely readable at monitor resolutions of 800×600, and to look good at 1024×768 or higher, and the new logo will go in the same spot the old one sits now (I like my site design, for the moment at least).

Does file size matter?

Size always matters, and don’t believe anybody who tells you different. But in this case, small is beautiful. I’m paying for bandwidth (a little) and may pay for all of it eventually. So keep it small — the current logo is like 30K or something and the new one definitely shouldn’t need to be any bigger than that.

I’d love to help, but I have a question you didn’t answer here. What do I do?

Ask me in email, and I shall respond. All will become clear.

I have the perfect logo for you and want to submit it. How do I do it?

Send it to me in e-mail as a GIF or JPEG.

Thanks to anyone who takes a shot, and I look forward to seeing what TTLB readers have to offer!


Five Things You Can’t Do

Five Things You Can’t Do at SFSU — And three that you can

In light of the incident at SFSU, I signed up with Joe Katzman’s blog-burst effort today, and asked for a piece to respond to for my blog to support the effort. Joe stuck me with SFSU’s Strategic Plan, in which SFSU “Envision(s) (the diversity of) Our Second Century” (at length). Clearly, I offended Joe in a previous life.

But I take the cards I’m dealt, and so, after reviewing SFSU’s vision, I present you with a list of the things you can’t do at SFSU (and the appropriate citations of their vision statement as to why), and three things that you apparently can do.

What You Can’t Do At SFSU

1. Tell your girlfriend that her dress makes her look fat.

Why? “”Behaviors which are intolerant, insensitive, or discriminatory are deemed unacceptable.” Not that I’d recommend trying that line anyway, of course. But I challenge any woman to tell me that such a comment is not “insensitive”.

2. Completely cover your office walls with life-sized portraits of Celine Dion.

Why? “The “Principles of Conduct for a Multicultural University” shall be reaffirmed. Every unit office shall display a permanent poster copy of the principles…” Not sure what a ‘unit office’ is, exactly, but I’m glad I don’t have one. I suppose you could make a small space for one and have Celine all around it though…

3. Start a film club devoted to the Austin Powers films for the sole reason that you think Dr. Evil is a strong role model for today’s youth.

Why? “Faculty, staff, and students who have an opportunity to plan or influence extracurricular activities should do so with a goal of increasing student learning about diversity, since extracurricular activities provide important opportunities for students to learn about individual and group differences. From films and speakers to clubs and student residence halls, extra-curricular activities should be viewed as resources for such learning. ” So if Dr. Evil doesn’t have something to say about multiculturalism, he’ll just have to “zip it!”

4. Tell your new dorm mate that you think she’s an idiot because she’s decided to worship the band Yes as gods, and thinks Jon Anderson speaks to her through a Holy Lava Lamp.

Why?“…religious, and other individual or group differences shall not be regarded as hindrances to success. Rather they shall be treated as positive opportunities for the enrichment of our educational resources and the quality of our campus life.” So don’t you go harshin’ her mellow while she’s communing with the ole’ lava lamp.

5. Form a “Generation Y and Pissed About It” club for 18-25 year olds to protest the fact that your generation didn’t get a cool moniker like “Baby Boomers,” “Flower Children”, or even “the Me Generation”.

Why? “The University shall develop a general harassment policy and procedures that will address all forms of harassment including, but not limited to, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and age. ” So you can forget about telling that damned 35-year-old grad student who keeps showing up at your meetings and suggesting “Children of the Millennium” as the perfect name to shove off — he’s protected by the vision, baby.

But despair not! There’s still a few entertaining things that you can do at SFSU.

What You Can Do at SFSU

1. Band together with a few of your friends and scream at fellow students to “Get out or we will kill you

2. Put up posters around campus accusing an entire ethnic group of the murder and cannibalism of innocent infants.

3. Trap a group of your fellow students against a wall with a mob and chant for their deaths.

Anyway. My tongue is firmly in cheek, of course. But I think you get the point. If you’re going to have a code like this — and see my post below for my dim view of such codes — you must enforce it consistently and firmly. And as I mentioned earlier, it sure sounds to me like some of actions which occurred went beyond hate speech and straight into good old criminal offenses.

I reserve my final judgment on the administration of SFSU (and the local authorities) — I reserve it for now, but not for very long. Perhaps they will follow through with the positive (if tentative) steps they have taken so far. But they need to do so swiftly, for the damage is already being done. Leaving this kind of behavior go unpunished — selectively enforcing their code of behavior based on political biases — will eat away at the confidence of not just Jewish students at SFSU, but any thinking students at that fine institution that their college home is a place that is genuinely safe for them — not to mention genuinely safe for rational thought and debate.

In particular, I would call on the University to release the videotape taken of the event (surely I can’t be the first person to request this). It was of a public event in a public forum, so I suggest they not even bother with any attempts to claim “privacy of the students involved”. Let their student body, faculty, and the world see the facts as they happened — and then judge for themselves whether the University’s response is adequate and appropriate.

Let us all hope that my optimism is not misplaced.

SFSUI haven’t posted much on


I haven’t posted much on the incident at SFSU, mainly because other folks have done such an excellent job of covering it (notably Meryl Yourish and Joe Katzman).

But if you’re not familiar with the story already — or even better, want suggestions on actions you can take to influence the outcome of this incident — you should definitely head over to Winds of Change. There, Joe Katzman has assembled a comprehensive list of bloggers who are focusing on the events at SFSU, and the aftermath.

For the record: I wasn’t there, but I’m quite convinced by the reports of people I trust that the counter-protesters on the Palestinian side of the argument crossed the line from peaceful demonstration into intimidation and threats of violence. (And quite possibly, if I remember my law right, may have committed criminal offenses above and beyond any violation of University codes, given that the threat of physical attack is actually the “assault” part of “assault and battery”.)

I take a fairly dim view of “hate speech” codes — I tend to think that the existing laws barring threats of violence provide an adequate level of protection while not trampling on honest debate. But I agree with those (like Glenn, I believe) who hold that any campus that has them (as I believe SFSU does) has to apply them consistently. Selective enforcement of such codes is guaranteed to result in about the worst possible blend of censorship by authorities and intimidation by individuals that you can come up with.

Anyway, that’s my $0.02. Now go check out Katzman’s site.

ThanksOkay, this is a little


Okay, this is a little sappy, but the urge just struck me to throw out a note of thanks. To who?

To you. Whoever you are.

TTLB is the work of one person; me. I do it for fun, and in fact I’ve only been doing it for less than two weeks. But in that time, I have been remarkably fortunate to have a great deal of traffic sent my way by the likes of my old friend Meryl as well as by blogger heavyweights Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus. And to be as complete as possible: the links from mortal humans such as Prof. Volokh, Electrolite, Amish Tech Support, Eric Olson, Bubba, Patio Pundit, and yes, even Mr. Roboto have been great as well. And to all of these folks (well, almost all…) I am grateful.

I do keep an eye on my traffic logs, which can be a rather obsessive behavior at its worst. And seeing folks come in as referrals from all the places above is terrific. But you know what gives me, as Christopher Hitchens is fond of saying, “a little holiday in my heart” ?

When I see someone surf onto the site with no referral at all. ‘Cause that means, some poor fool actually came here directly and wants to see what I’ve got to show them today.

And that’s a great feeling. So: I thank you, invisible reader, wherever and whoever you are. I hope my work lives up to your expectations, and I hope you continue find it worth your valuable time and attention. For that is a precious coin, and one for which I shall strive to deliver full and fair value.

PS – And to the few people I’ve noticed who have actually bookmarked this site: wow, you people really have questionable taste…

More things I don’t know

More things I don’t know much about: This story in the New York Times describes what is apparently a landmark Supreme Court ruling handed down yesterday regarding the ole’ classic tug of war between states’ rights and the power of the Feds.

Bear Assignment Desk (with apologies to Mickey)

Assigned To: Prof. Volokh, Prof. Reynolds, Ms. Lithwick

Assignment: Describe, in plain English that a simple bear can understand, exactly what the heck this ruling means, ’cause the Times story just isn’t cutting it for me. It sounds important, but I’m not quite sure I get it. Exactly what kinds of cases are we likely to see (or rather, not see) now that this ruling has been handed down?

More wisdom from the fellow

More wisdom from the fellow who knows more about Pakistan than I do (well, one of many):

The Kolkata Libertarian points to an interesting scenario in which Pakistan could score a public relations (if not military) victory over India should true (non-nuclear) war break out.

Go read it. We should be paying more attention to this crisis, and TKL has got a front-row view.

Update: Whoops. I mistakenly implied that TKL currently resides in India; he doesn’t: according to his bio, he’s living “in Chicago making a living as a born-again software designer…[and is] awed by the rites of spring and fall”. My bad.

CNN (reporting from Reuters, reporting

CNN (reporting from Reuters, reporting from the original study by the Electronic Privacy Information Center) reports on that Carnivore, the controversial system designed to “wiretap” email, might have provided information about Osama bin Laden before September 11 — if it had worked right.

Apparently, a Carnivore “run” looking for al Qaeda e-mails also picked up e-mails from non-targeted people, which is against the law. And the operator of the system got so flustered that he deleted the whole run, including the lawfully collected al Qaeda intercepts.

A ways back, the Justice Department was going to submit Carnivore to a fairly rigorous peer review by a panel of high-powered encryption and security gurus from the private & academic sectors. The conditions that were placed on the review, however, were rather restrictive, and eventually, the review went to a less-qualified group (see EPIC’s site for their report).

I’m serious about this peer review kick folks. There was a time, not so long ago, when everybody who knew anything that mattered about security and encryption either worked at the NSA, or at IBM. But that time is gone, and the Feds need to get over it.

This is just funny. But when you screw up designing systems that matter, people end up dead. And it looks like that’s what may have happened here.

Let me make my views on this general subject clear: I am not a total absolutist when it comes to privacy, electronic or otherwise. I believe now (and believed before September 11th) that there is a legitimate need for law enforcement to be able to intercept communications by individuals suspected of committing or intending to commit crimes.

What I object to is that our government continues to apply 1950s-era approaches to solving technical problems in 21st century. As with my comments on Amnesty yesterday: I agree with the objective; I just wish they’d do a better job.

One proposal that I find very intriguing is the idea of making Carnivore open-source. While this may seem absurd at first, it actually makes a great deal of sense when examined more closely.

Security experts Matt Blaze and Steve Bellovin testified to exactly that before Congress in July of 2000: you can find a summary of their testimony on Blaze’s page . (Full disclosure: I’ve met and socialized with Blaze a few times, although not in several years: he’s a friend-of-a-friend. You have been warned. )

At any rate, I think we’re going to see a great deal more discussion in this area going forward. Because as we’ve learned in many other areas since September, the old approaches just aren’t working any more — if they ever were.

PS – Glenn also has some comments on this matter.

In a post yesterday, Andrew

In a post yesterday, Andrew Sullivan admiringly quotes former Israeli Prime Minister Barak describing the Palestinian leadership:

“They are products of a culture in which to tell a lie…creates no dissonance. They don’t suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category. There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn’t. They see themselves as emissaries of a national movement for whom everything is permissible. There is no such thing as ‘the truth’.”

This troubles me a bit. If Barak is referring to the culture of the PA itself, then I’m with him 100%. But he seems to be referring to Palestinian culture more generally.

To be clear: I’m willing to accept the possibility that Palestinian culture does have genuine defects, and that one of them may be a more tolerant view of deception. I do not suffer from the liberal disease of assuming that all cultures and religions are equal, and that none of them have any inherent flaws. But if you’re going to fling out an accusation like this, I’d like to see some evidence or basis to back it up. (And no, the fact that Arafat is a liar does not prove the point: one man does not a culture make).

Anyway, this smacks to me of a statement that Sullivan has picked up on because it happens to agree nicely with his worldview (and for the record, at least with respect to the PA, it also syncs with mine). But that doesn’t make it a valid argument.

And by the way: How exactly is Barak separating Palestinian culture from Judeo-Christian culture? Last time I checked, “Palestinians” included some Christians as well.

Anyone else with a firmer grounding in Palestinian or Arab culture care to chime in here? I’d welcome input from people who actually have knowledge in this area.

Finally: Yes, this is yet another post which criticizes Mr. Sullivan (at least a little bit), so I think I’d better put my cards on the table here. I actually like Sullivan, and enjoy his writing. He’s got a sharp mind, and a good moral sense that does not reduce down to “everyone should do what I think is right”. I think he’s got a blind spot with respect to Bush, but nobody’s perfect. And I also think he’s been letting his weblog run on autopilot a bit lately, which I suspect is because he’s devoting his energies to his stage performance in “Much Ado About Nothing” (and more power to him for it!) And finally: I’ve sent Sullivan an email each time I’ve commented on him in my weblog, which is my standard practice with anybody. Yes, I certainly wouldn’t have minded a link; no, I didn’t get one. But that’s his right; no complaints here.

Got it? Good…

The terror of HIVInstaGuy draws

The terror of HIV

InstaGuy draws our attention to a speech by U.S. Senator Bill Frist in which he warns that HIV “is increasing the possibility of terrorism”. The story is also commented on by SK Bubba at Yes, But…

There are two parts to Frists’ (alleged) claims, and I’ll take them in turn:

1) HIV is causing a massive collapse of the social, economic, and (eventually) political structures in Africa, and that will create a breeding ground for terrorism (my words, not his, but this is clearly Frists’ argument).

This, I think, is irrefutable, and is something we absolutely must pay attention to. If the fact that millions of people are dying isn’t enough to move us to action through sheer human decency, then perhaps the motivation of preventing future terrorism will. (No, I do not have a magic bullet suggestion on how to solve the problem; it’s complicated. But doing nothing, which is essentially what we’ve been doing, is definitely not the answer).

2) HIV could be used as a biological weapon to commit bioterrorism attacks.

Here, the problem is, I’m not sure that this is actually what Frist said, or what he meant. Bubba thinks it is, responding: “he DOES seem to be suggesting, by lumping HIV in with anthrax and smallpox and plague, that HIV could be used as a biological weapon? This IS totally irresponsible. As an M.D., Frist should and does know better. How are the terrorists going to spread this agent — by forcing us all to have unprotected sex with infected martyrs? “

If that’s truly what Frist meant, I’m all with Bubba here. The problem is, the only basis for drawing that conclusion in the original article is this statement: “Frist drew a parallel between the tiny HIV virus and the equally minute biological agents – including anthrax, smallpox and the plague – that terrorists could use as weapons.” Note that this is not a direct quote, so we’re relying on the reporter’s interpretation of what “drawing a parallel” means. I think it’s a bit of an interpretive leap, without any clear quote from Frist, to say that he’s suggesting HIV is going to be used as a weapon in the way Bubba describes.

What I think we can clearly conclude, though, is that he is at least suggesting that there are similarities between the problem of solving the HIV crisis, and the problem of combating bioterrorism. To me, that’s a perfectly sensible argument, although as Bubba points out, Frist may well be drawing that comparison to gain public support for a major funding initiative he’s promoting. But that doesn’t necessarily make it an invalid comparison.

The UN is worrying out

The UN is worrying out loud about death threats, arrests, and outright murders taking place in Afghanistan which may be politically motivated.

From my read of the UN briefing, it looks like one major problem area is Herat. This is not a big shock, since Herat is under the control of Abdul Rashid Dostum, who has always seemed to be a classic example of a stereotypical warlord thug (here’s another link to an interview with Dostum. Hint: never trust anybody who with a military background who refers to themselves in the third person). I don’t think he “gets” democracy, and I don’t think he has any interest in learning.

Obviously, the Loya Jirga process is going to be extremely interesting. Not surprisingly, the press (at least, the U.S. press) seems to have totally forgotten that there’s a country over in central Asia which still needs a real government, so I think we’re going to have to rely on surfing the UN web site for a while…

Eugene Volokh discusses a web

Eugene Volokh discusses a web site which posts photos of women who are suspected of getting abortions (taken from outside the clinics) in an effort to shame them into… well, feeling ashamed, I guess.

Question to Prof. Volokh (or anyone else): Could any kind of an “improper use of name or likeness” argument be made here? I poked around the web site in question, and didn’t see any requests for donations, which might have made that kind of attack easier. But surely some benefit is accruing to the fellow hosting this web site by using these women’s photos.

Update: Professor V has swiftly responded to my query, and in a nutshell answers, “Nope”. I actually should have known that, but it’s been quite a few years since my Comm Law class…

Robert Crawford wrote in to

Robert Crawford wrote in to respond to my … well, it wasn’t a claim, let’s call it my wishful thinking that General Musharraf is a secular leader:

As I understand it, Pakistan is essentially an Islamist state. Article 2 of its constitution ([here]) says “Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan”. Also, look at “The Objectives Resolution”:

While Musharraf’s coup suspended some of the Constitution, his “Provisional Constitutional Order No. 1” specifically exempts the Islamist parts of the Constitution from exemption: [see here]

Musharraf’s not a secularist holding out against the fanatics; he’s just a more pragmatic fanatic.

Mmmmm. You’re not brightening my day here, Robert…

Update (Wednesday): Robert has a blog, here.

Remember that nice little Saudi

Remember that nice little Saudi PR campaign designed to convince us all what wonderfully cuddly teddy-bears our arm-choppin’, terrorist-fundin’ friends are?

Well, NPR program On The Media has an interview with Michael Petruzzello, the poor bastard who led the campaign for the PR firm which drove the ads, Quorvis Communications. (What, he couldn’t get the Marlboro gig?) He has a rather hard time of it explaining why nobody wants to run his ads.

Check it out . It’s in RealAudio, but they will likely have a transcript up on their home page soon too. (You might have to advance through the show to the proper segment; the link doesn’t seem to work as I expected… I believe it starts at 33:54)

PS – Yeah, yeah, NPR = Evil Liberal Media, I know. Get over it — some of their programs are well worth listening to, and On The Media IMHO is one of ’em.

Did you know that InstaMentions

Did you know that InstaMentions now come with free editing?

Not only did Glenn kindly cite my Amnesty post below, but he also pointed out a grammatical error (now corrected) in my ‘graph beginning “But reading through their report…”

A gentleman and a scholar, that Reynolds…

Update: Sheesh. Meryl twists the knife by pointing out that I misspelled “grammatical” the first time around. No gentleman, she, but a scholar, perhaps…

I’ve decided to leave the

I’ve decided to leave the Memorial Day page header up at least through the end of today; traffic was rather low over the weekend and I’m expecting a surge of back-to-workers today (if that’s you: get the hell back to work, slacker! But not before you finish reading all my stuff.)

And besides: I think this year, I’m just fine with devoting an extra day to showing appreciation towards our soldiers.

Amnesty International has released their

Amnesty International has released their Annual Report 2002 today.

Unlike some of my esteemed colleagues in the blogosphere, I don’t think Amnesty is wrong about everything. I tend to think of them in the same mental bucket as the ACLU: each group represents an extreme viewpoint which forms a useful and necessary component of the overall cultural and political debate. If they didn’t exist, we’d quite likely have to invent them.

But reading through their report, I’m struck not so much by the specific points they raise — some of which I agree with, some of which I do not — as by the tone of the document, particularly where it comes to criticism of the United States. And I think I’ve put my finger on the problem. Try this experiment, as you read the report: imagine, each time you see a statement critical of the U.S., that it was prefaced with the following:

“Amnesty recognizes that the United States is, bar none, the world’s foremost defender of human rights in the world today. The contributions made by the U.S. to the freedoms and human rights of both its own citizens and those of the world are unparalleled in the history of nations. From the founding documents of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, to its repeated intervention to avert humanitarian catastrophes in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, America has contributed greatly to the cause of human rights throughout its history; leading the way in enshrining such rights in law, and defending them, where necessary, with force of arms. However, the U.S., like any state of fallible human beings, is not perfect, and therefore, in the spirit of improving an already-great civilization, we offer the following criticisms of recent U.S. policy…”

Amnesty, I think, does themselves a severe disservice simply in the way they present their criticisms. I suspect people often react negatively to their complaints on items such as civilian casualties during our bombing of Afghanistan not because they think bombing civilians is a good thing, but because Amnesty takes such a combative and accusatory approach, with seemingly no recognition at all of the contributions the U.S. (or other Western democracies that they place in their sights) have made to the cause of human rights worldwide.

I guess what I’m saying is, it’s not the fact that they criticize U.S. policy that bothers me; it’s the fact that they’re just, well, such jerks about it.


Foreward, Page 1:As the “war against terrorism” dominated world news, governments increasingly portrayed human rights as an obstacle to security, and human rights activists as romantic idealists at best,”defenders of terrorists” at worst.

Ignore the actual thrust of the statement for now: just focus on that first phrase. Why is “war on terrorism” in quotes? Which part of that phrase is being questioned? War? Terrorism? Er, “On”? With two little punctuation marks, Amnesty manages to make themselves sound skeptical that there is an actual war going on, thereby alienating that large segment of the world that has not been in a coma for the last nine months. Not bad for the very first page !

Introduction, Page 1: On 7 October the USA, in collaboration with its coalition allies, began a sustained bombing campaign in Afghanistan as part of President Bush’s declared “war on terrorism”. By the end of the year, an as yet unknown number of Afghan civilians had been killed or injured or had their homes or property destroyed, in circumstances that led AI to call for investigations by competent authorities to determine whether violations of international humanitarian law had been committed.

Wouldn’t this be a nice spot to recognize, even in passing, that regardless of the acknowledged negative of civilian casualties (the existence of which is not debated; the magnitude of which is) , there was equally inarguably a massive positive achievement for human rights here — i.e., the removal from power of one of the most repressive regimes on the planet? I don’t even ask that Amnesty agree with my view that the positive outweighed the negative — all I ask is that they at least acknowledge that the positive exists.

And we haven’t even gotten to the, shall we say, slanted presentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The headline for that section of the Introduction is “The intifada“, so I guess we can’t accuse Amnesty of not getting their bias out on the table right up front. This section is a great example of how to slant a story by the selective use of space and detail: following an introductory paragraph which matter-of-factly states statistics about deaths on each side, the report devotes a bit over two full paragraphs to Israeli offenses, with a grand total of one — count it, one — sentence devoted to Palestinian terrorism (not a word you’ll see Amnesty use).

Despite these problems, there are some things to agree with in Amnesty’s report. Such as:

Foreward, Page 2: We must turn the debate about security and human rights on its head – human rights are not an obstacle to security and prosperity, they are the key to achieving these goals. Human security comes only with human rights and the rule of law. Human rights are the basis for creating strong and accountable states, without which there can be no political stability or economic and social progress. Yup. Though I expect we might disagree on the methods to achieve this particular goal.

Foreward, Page 3: The same governments that denounced the human rights abuse of women by the Taleban government of Afghanistan remained silent about the plight of women in Saudi Arabia. Another big Yup.

And that’s the frustrating part. Amnesty’s mission is a vital one, and one that I support from the bottom of my heart. Torture is bad. Human rights abuses are bad. There is no argument between us here. But Amnesty continues to miss the story by focusing disproportionately on the abuses perpetrated by the civilized democracies of the planet. It has been argued that this is deliberate: that Amnesty knows that they are more likely to be able to affect change in these nations, simply because they do care about human rights.

But that is a coward’s way out, and it is a betrayal of the noble mission which Amnesty has taken upon itself. The mission is clear, and it is a just one. I only wish they’d do a better job at it.

The New York Times has

The New York Times has a piece today documenting the last hours and moments of the Twin Towers, which people I trust speak highly of. I haven’t read all of it yet, but certainly will soon.

If you find that story compelling, I also would recommend listening to the broadcasts on the emergency radio channel of the NY fire and police departments, which are available on the ‘net here.

A few warnings/notes about that link: first, you will probably hear an advertisement before the actual clip starts. It’s entirely possible that it will be for products that are staggeringly inappropriate to be hawking on such a serious broadcast. Second, this outfit seems to think they are a real radio station, and so when you open the link you apparently get dumped into a broadcast “in progress” with no ability to control start/stop time. Many months ago, I found a much better site that allowed you to review individual chunks of the broadcasts at will, but I can’t seem to find it now — if anyone else has a a better link, please send it my way.

But, if you can get past those issues, the broadcast is riveting, and if you had begun to lose that sharp feeling of anger and sadness from last September, is guaranteed to bring it back in full force.

Need more? has audio clips. Try this 911 call from the morning of the attacks. Or David Letterman’s concise, moving summary of the attacks on his first broadcast following them. And if you need to be reminded of the resolve necessary for the fight ahead, try President Bush’s statement to Congress, or even better, John McCain’s simple declaration of September 12th.

For me, today is a deeply appropriate day to review material like this. For although those that lost their lives on September 11th were not, for the most part, soldiers, they were without question causalities in a war. A war which started long before September 11th, and which stretches ahead of us into the future to an end we cannot now know: except that we know it will most certainly end with our victory.

What we also know is that we must remember those we have lost, and that the only way to truly honor their memories and their sacrifice is to continue the fight against the cowards who robbed them of their lives. The fight will take us on a long road; one which merely began in Afghanistan, and which winds through the capitals of Islamabad, Baghdad, Riyadh, and others. The pressure to allow the regimes who solemnly claim to be our allies in public to remain in power, quietly supporting the murderers in the darkness through funds, arms, or simply words of hatred against our nation; that pressure will be great. There will never be sufficient evidence to convince the world that these regimes are evil. There will always be those who cry “racism”; “oppression”, and “national sovereignty” in defense of the tyrants, the religious fascists, and the murderers.

But to reject those voices, and press on with the fight, is simply what we must do. And it is the only way to truly remember our lost from this war, and those that came before, with honor.

Update 5/31: I’ve removed the actual .wav sound files which the links above; I had temporarily stored them on my personal server but need to conserve bandwidth (it costs $$$) — especially with the flood of Salon folks coming through today. If you want to hear them, go directly to the WavSource site above — they are all there.

The BBC has some early

The BBC has some early reaction to General Musharraf’s speech on Pakistani television today, in which (the BBC indicates):

General Musharraf answered Indian claims that Islamabad was allowing militants to carry out attacks by saying that Pakistan would not allow terrorism to be launched from its soil…He said no infiltration was taking place into Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Hmmm. That statement about “not allowing terrorism” from their soil would sure be a lot more reassuring if I had any faith that the statement about “no infiltration taking place” was true. Which I don’t.

The BBC also shows here that they do know how to do things right on the web with excellent background coverage surrounding the main article here, including a grim little map which shows the striking range of both Pakistan and India’s missiles, along with data on the nuclear payloads which can be mounted on them. (Bottom line: Both sides have the capability to nuke any site in the other’s territory, as well as quite a bit of real estate in surrounding countries if they chose).

CNN also covers the story (with background that isn’t so shoddy either), and includes this quote from the general:

He said Pakistan wanted dialogue, but he added: “If war is thrust upon us, every Muslim is bound to respond in kind.”

I find it worrisome that Musharraf is using this kind of vaguely Islamist rhetoric in his call-to-arms. I’ll confess up front that I haven’t paid nearly as much attention to the general as I probably should have (and there are lots of people out there who know more than I on the subject, including this fellow ). But isn’t he supposed to be the secular guy holding the fundamentalists in check?