THE GREAT XP DEBATE

Well, none of you took any notice of my plea for no more emails. Not to worry. They’ve been fascinating. The bottom line is that the overwhelming majority of you guys back Apple. I could recite the dozens of stories I’ve gotten of similar wretched Microsoft experiences, but they’re all essential paraphrases of my own sad little tale. But what really strikes me is the semi-religious enthusiasm of Mac-users. You’d think I’d just converted to Islam or something. It’s really something to hear the sheer zeal with which Mac users speak of their computers. This is more than consumerism. It’s something like a lifestyle, or at least an attitude. Of course, I’m now stricken with worries that if Apple comes along and offers us sponsorship or something, I’ll be pillloried for conflicts of interest. You can almost hear David Talbot licking his chops now. But screw that. I’m shopping for an iBook tomorrow and if it sucks, I’ll tell you. If I turn into as big an Apple fan as my correspondents, I’ll tell you as well. And if Steve Jobs wants to advertize on a site with lots of Apple fans, my email address is easily found. ;-). Think different, eh?

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CLINTONx92S LEGACY

Spin this one, Gene Lyons! According to Drudge, Vanity Fair is preparing an investigative piece on the catastrophic failure of the Clinton State Department to snag bin Laden and learn vast amounts of information about al Qaeda in 1996 – occasioned by a remarkable offer to cooperate from the Sudanese government. Ix92ve mentioned this point several times before – and had the usual hysterical response from Clintonistas that Ix92m a “hater,” etc, etc. (How many Clinton-“haters” edited a magazine that pioneered Clintonx92s rise as a candidate? How many enthusiastically endorsed him in 1992? How many urged not to vote for conviction in impeachment? How many wrote a screed against Kenneth Starr at the height of the impeachment battle? How many consistently supported his right to a private sexual life? I did all of the above. My disgust at Clinton comes from nothing more than close empirical observation of his public malfeasance, corruption and lies for eight long years.) The truth is that the Clinton administration was worse than incompetent when it came to preventing international terrorism: its policies were dangerously naxefve, ineffective and counter-productive. As usual, none of the main players will ever concede error. Which is why the press will have to work even harder to nail their culpability and remind us more forcefully of the damage the 42d president did.

THE CLONING HYPE: Two useful pieces dissecting the pressx92s recent hype of the human cloning threat. If you want to be reassured about the science and unnerved by the “journalism,” read this Buffalo News piece. For more depth on how small companies can manipulate gullible science reporters, check out this piece by my colleague Jon Cohn at The New Republic. Ignore Jonx92s statist remedies – the guy would have the government take over your toe-nail clipper if he could. The rest is very smart and worthwhile.

TWO SENTENCES

“The Taliban’s collapse shattered two myths: Islamic invincibility and American weakness — myths amplified over eight years by the Clinton administration’s empty gestures and demonstrable impotence in the face of Islamic terror. The Islamic street exploded after Sept. 11, not because of rage — the rage is there always — but because of triumphalism.” Charles Krauthammer today manages to say in two sentences the core of what we now know. His advice to tackle terrorist cells in Africa before Iraq also makes sense to me. I hope the president reads this column and gets the message. I think – and trust – he does.

TWO MORE SENTENCES: “When the Europeans subsidize business we call it dirigisme. When Republicans do it they call it a stimulus package.” Donx92t miss David Brooksx92 superb evisceration of the hideous bill now almost destined to become law. Be depressed. Be very depressed.

MBEKI MADNESS, CTD: The one truly effective use of certain anti-HIV drugs is to prevent transmission of the virus from pregnant mother to child. Nevaripine is one such drug. It is free to the South African government, donated by the evil drug companies, and yet Pretoria is refusing to distribute it to a majority of its provinces for reasons that simply defy rational explanation. This is not a complex drug regimen – itx92s one pill a day. The drug is not toxic and is taken for a limited length of time. It literally saves the lives of infants, 20,000 of whom are at risk of early death each year of AIDS in that country. So why is Pretoria stopping its distribution? They claim expense in the administration of the drug – but its administration is among the easiest there is, and the drug itself is free. They are also preventing private practitioners from dispensing it – something that would cost the country nothing. Remember: mother-to-infant transmission is by far the easiest method of preventing HIV from spreading. Yet this simplest of steps is being prevented in the only African country with the health infrastructure to make real progress against HIV. This is more Mbeki madness. And it highlights dramatically the fact that in Africa, the last group responsible for not tackling the AIDS crisis are the drug companies.

SLATE GOES WOBBLY: Steve Chapman writes a singularly unpersuasive piece in Slate against taking the war to Iraq. The basic argument is that deterrence works, and that Saddam would never actually use all the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons hex92s been spending so much time and money constructing. The reason? Our ability to respond in kind prevents him. Only if we really pushed him into a corner would he be tempted to use such weapons. There are a few questions worth asking about this line of argument: a) why does Chapman think Saddam has gone to such great lengths to get these weapons – even to the point of watching his country pummeled by international sanctions – if he has no intention of using them against his most formidable enemy? b) he has used them – against his domestic enemies after the Gulf War debacle; c) why couldnx92t he cooperate with al Qaeda or other terrorist groups to use these weapons indirectly and so avoid blame and therefore retaliation? To reassure us on the first two counts, Chapman relies on Saddamx92s mental stability to argue that he wouldnx92t do something irrational. Hmmm. And Hitler would never do something crazy like invade Russia, either. Letx92s just say this wager is a lot more persuasive when the consequence of its being wrong isnx92t the elimination of a major Western city.

THE CHEMICAL OPTION: Then therex92s the simple possibility of Saddam using a third party to do the deed. Chapman bats this away. “[I]t strains belief to picture a secular Arab ruler giving the ultimate weapon to fanatical terrorists who want to establish Islamic theocracies across the region.” But not all fanatical terrorists are of this stripe. Some are motivated by hatred of Israel or the West for less fundamentalist reasons than bin Laden. And therex92s plenty of evidence that Saddam has trafficked with these people in the past – including the first attempt to blow up the WTC, an attempt which involved a rudimentary, failed effort at chemical warfare. And what if we couldnx92t determine who was behind the attack? How does deterrence theory work then? Chapman says it would be easy. Any chemical or biological attack would point directly to Saddam, like O.J. at the crime scene. Really? Chapmanx92s example to prove this is our ability quickly to pin-point al Qaeda as the source of 9/11. But the more salient example is the anthrax attack. As far as the public knows, we still have no clue who did this – despite several letters and several deaths. So why are we sure Saddam wouldnx92t be able to pull the same thing off – or hasnx92t already? If anything, the anthrax attacks have made this scenario more likely. I get the feeling from Chapmanx92s piece that he still doesnx92t get it. This country is in grave and mortal peril. So far as we know, any major city could be subject to a devastating chemical or biological attack at any time. Two such attacks have already occurred in the last three months. What does it take to get our deterrence theorists and multilateralists to realize that the world has changed – and that inaction is the most dangerous and reckless option of all?

DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE: “Exporting MTV would only serve to confirm Islam’s worst fears and most accurate suspicions about the West – that we are a people who exploit women in crueler and more effective ways than the Taliban ever considered. We turn them into sex objects. What we do to young people in general is no better. While the Islamists program their young people into becoming suicide bombers, MTV programs our children into self-destructive, sexual time bombs … MTV is not an ally of Western civilization in the war with competing ideologies. It can only provide our enemies with more ammunition to be used against us. And, because of its impact on our own kids, it represents a corrosive, fifth column assault on everything that has made America great and good.” – Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily.

GAY FASCISM WATCH

“‘We’re watching you,’ said one [activist] voicemail message saved by Jeff Sheehy, a press officer for the AIDS Research Institute at UC San Francisco. ‘Your name is on the list of enemies of the homosexual community. We’re out here on the streets and we’re going to make sure that you don’t open your mouth again to demonize us.’ ‘I don’t know what to do,’ Sheehy said. ‘I’m afraid to go to work.'” – from the Los Angeles Times today.

THE GREAT XP DEBATE ON THE LETTERS PAGE

OK, OK, no more emails, please. I’m defecting to Apple this weekend. And to all of you geek snobs: you’re right. I’m a total techie loser. Like most bewildered and abandoned consumers of Microsoft’s horrible products. (I guess that’s one corporate sponsor I can wave goodbye to.)

THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS

Yes, I’m having the proverbial root canal thing this afternoon. Beats Windows XP.

POST BLOOPER

Hilarious misplaced caption from the Washington Post online yesterday, sent to me by an amused reader. Check it out.