Saturday, March 23, 2002

Line of Death Drawn On Across BART Tracks

There was shock and outrage in San Francisco's East Bay region today after it was discovered that there was a Blogger Bash in Berkeley last weekend, and nobody invited certain important members of the blogging community. One report hinted that a splendid time was had by all, deepening concerns about a conspiracy within the blog community. Names named included Ken Layne, Matt Welch, Richard Bennett, and Blogs of War's Dr. Frank.

In response, the uninvited party has declared a "Line of Death" passing through the Fruitvale BART station, and, announced his intention to "keep an eye on things".

"If I hear about any of those guys coming down into my turf, there'll be big trouble," said one alienated blogger. Asked about the "death" part of the line of death, he admitted that the language was a bit strong, but that incursions beyond the line would result in "some snippy email and sarcastic blog posts, believe you me."

Speculation was also rampant that, as part of the retaliatory strategy, a much better party would be held soon, and it would be a lot better than their crappy party, and the blog report would make it abundantly clear who wasn't invited and why, and how much better a party it was.

Reaction among the wider blogging community was hushed, although one pundit, identifying himself only as "Dan", said, "I refuse to talk to you when you get this way. Besides, everybody probably thinks you live in Canada."

Friday, March 22, 2002


Or, how to start a new political party without screwing it up royally like the Libertarians did

Puny hu-mans! While scanning your primitive computer networks, we have discovered that you are considering a new political party, possibly to be led by a creature known as an "Insta-Pundit".

As a former leader of your pathetic world, I have done what all other political leaders do after they leave office: I have become a political consultant. Kneel before me while I explain how to reach the highest office in your country! Bwahahaha!

Rule #1 - Learn to Compromise
One of your hu-man philosophers once said, "Politics is the art of the possible." That means you cannot have everything you want, at least until you abandon your foolish democracy and embrace slavery. Let me give you an example from my successful presidential campaign:

Candidate Kang: Abortions for all!
Audience: BOO!
Kang: Okay... Abortions for none!
Audience: BOO!
Kang: Hmmnn... Abortions for some, tiny American flags for others!
Audience: YAAY!!!

You see? You must learn to compromise.

Rule #2 - Get where you want to be incrementally.
Sure, you may believe that your government should be the size of a Taco Bell. But you will never be elected by putting that in your platform. Instead, you must lead your vict..citizens gradually in the direction you want them to go.

Let me give you a recent example from an election on my home planet:
Candidate Kodos: If elected, I will fatten you all up and devour you in a lovely wine sauce!
Audience: BOO!

(two weeks later...)

Candidate Kodos: If I am elected, FREE FOOD FOR ALL!
Audience: YAAY!

Get what you want one step at a time. Your 'gun control' activists have learned this. Though they may want every gun in your country to be destroyed, they know they cannot win on that platform. Instead, they argue for locks on gun triggers. Then it will be guns without triggers. Finally, you will only be allowed to purchase pictures of guns with locks on their triggers.

If they had started out trying to pass their end goal from the beginning, you would still be driving in big guns like your history books show. But instead, they have incrementally moved you to the point where in only a few short years we will be able return and drive your pathetic race into the gruel mines of Rigel VII without opposition!

Rule #3 - It's a big tent, but not THAT big.
Whenever you form a party that is on the farthest end of the left-right spectrum, you will pick up everyone on the fringes. What should you do with these people? We recommend extensive rectal probing. But do not let them have a voice in your party. It only takes a few extremists screaming about privatizing all roads and an end to all public property, and people will laugh at you like we laughed at poor Kadath when he accidentally stuck his tentacles in the Hu-man tenderizer. Remember rules #1 and #2, and only give a voice to the people who will agree to them.

Rule #4 - Don't say unpopular things without reason
You would think this rule would be self-evident, but apparently not. Consider the Libertarian leader Harry Browne, who recently came out against the war on terrorism when 80% of your people approve of it. If you want to commit political suicide, it's much more fun to do it in a hotel room with an intern and a bottle of Thunderbird wine. Good politicians understand this.

Watch, as I use our brain-scanning technology to show you how politicians avoid saying what they think:
Strom Thurmond: Mr. Speaker, I have something to say.
Mr. Speaker: (~My god, his wrinkles flap when he talks!~) The floor recognizes the elder statesman.
Strom Thurmond: (~Did I leave the starting crank hanging from the car this morning?~) I have many important things to say.
Mr. Speaker: (~And you better hurry up and say them before you drop dead, you old coot~) Please go on, we want to hear them all.
Strom Thurmond: (~What did I want to say again? Up with the Confederacy? No, that was a while ago. Hey, am I a Democrat?~). Thank you for listening, Mr. Speaker. I'm done.
Mr. Speaker: (~WTF? Jesus, that was creepy~) Thank you. You are a credit to your party.

See? Trust me on this. Once you are actually in government, you will have to resist the desperate urge to choke the living shit out of someone at least five times a day. So if you can handle that, you can keep your big mouth shut now.

A Final Note to President Clin-ton: Please, we can learn no more from you with our rectal probing technology. Stop coming back to our ship. And quite frankly, the $20 you left on the instrument console was just plain insulting. What kind of drooling space monsters do you take us for?

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Statistics 101

with your instructor, Norman Mineta.

One of the key problems we encounter in our study of statistics is estimating the parameters of a population based on a sample from that population.

To establish the motivation for the ideas I'll be talking about today, I'd like to share with you an actual problem that came across my desk recently. A group of people (the population) decided to disrupt air travel in the United States, and a subset of that group's membership (the sample) was chosen to carry out the disruptive activity. In this particular case, the sample was chosen by "sampling without replacement", due to the nature of the disruptive activity. All nineteen members of the sample were young Islamic men.

Question: what does this tell us about the properties of the population (the prior distribution or simply prior) from which the nineteen were chosen?

Now, the naive assumption is that the prior distribution reflects the properties of the sample, implying that the population (labelled "AQ") looks like this:

But of course, this is an incorrect assumption. A much better solution is to assume that the prior distribution is that of "all air travellers plus Jon Lovitz":

The take-home message is: always consider all available information when forming a prior distribution estimate.

Next time, I'll discuss expected value, which helps us answer questions like:

  • What is the probability of a senior cabinet-level appointee or agency head resigning or being fired after presiding over the biggest screw-up in history? (lower than you might think!)
  • How much wasting of a population's time should be tolerated to avoid making a subset of that group feel uncomfortable?
  • How many people need to die before I face reality?

    It'll be lots of fun. See you next time!
  • Don't Annoy Canadian Snipers

    I do a lot of criticising of Canada's foolish government, and their shameful treatment of our military. But it's important to remember that while our guys are suffering under a severe shortage of modern tools and supplies, they are still among the best-trained, most highly motivated troops in the world.

    According to this article, "Canadian Snipers Get the Job Done", Canada's soldiers in combat have racked up the highest kill ratio in the theater. The article goes on to describe how three Canadian snipers and three U.S. Special Forces operatives systematically tore apart an Al-Qaida pocket that had pinned down an entire company of the 101st Airborne. These six men closed with the enemy while remaining camouflaged, and shot them to pieces. The Al-Qaida soldiers couldn't find them, and wasted all of their mortar rounds trying to bracket them in. And after all that, the six were almost shot up by an Apache gunship that couldn't see them, and ceased firing a mere three feet from their position.

    Here's a short snippet of the story:
    For the sake of speed, they were moving without their 50-kilogram rucksacks and spare ammunition. But then they were running low and needed special optics equipment.

    Under fire, Cpl. Ed, 25, of Manuels outside St. John's, Nfld., ran the 100 metres back down one side of the ridge and up the other - and then back again with their gear in tow.

    They were 3,500 metres high. At such altitudes, the air was gaspingly thin even at a brisk walk. Although extremely fit, Ed was nearly passing out after the two-way sprint, with AK-47 rounds nipping at his heels.

    But Ed, who's developed an uncanny Sean Connery imitation, didn't stop there.

    Ed grabbed his M-203 grenade launcher and started firing at the al-Qaida fighters who were giving them trouble from a nearby creek bed.

    "We don't know what happened," said Alex. "All we know is, their firing stopped."

    It must be noted that these guys only got their desert camo because a British commander pulled strings at the last moment and gave the Canadians some of theirs, and the Canadians had to sew their own padding into the uniforms because the correct ones were not available. That our government could let men like this fight with a disadvantage for the sake of not buying them a few lousy uniforms makes me sick.

    It's important to remember that while our pampered officials in Ottawa are being 'troubled' by the U.S. expansion of the war towards Iraq, the guys who really matter are down in the dirt fighting beside Americans, getting the job done.
    Oh, Jonah, Jonah...
    Today in National Review's "The Corner", Jonah Goldberg asks, "why is this Oklahoma drug test thing such an outrage?"

    For the uninitiated, the controversy he refers to is a decision by an Oklahoma school board to require random drug tests for kids who want to engage in extra-curricular activities. You can read about it here.

    Oh, where to start. First of all, there is the practical issue: If you think extra-curricular activities are a good thing for kids, let's not make it more difficult for them, hmmn? Many of these activities are a sort of outreach for troubled kids, and it's completely assinine to set up a requirement for joining that ensures that the ones who need help the most are the ones who will now avoid these programs like they would avoid a bong filled with rancid Mountain Dew.

    Then there is the self-selection argument: The drug users in the school tend not to be little Poindexter in the chess club. Targeting extra-curricular activities is just plain stupid. If you want to find the drug users, how about drug tests for the kids who BEAT UP the chess club? Sheesh. This whole program smacks of a rule made by people who's only exposure to drugs was the time when they went to the school dance and smelled some kind of sweet smoke near the kids with the leather jackets in the corner, and the experience left them traumatized for life.

    Now, on to the morality of this whole thing: I thought the Constitution protected citizens from unreasonable searches? Has the definition of this been so watered down that making someone pee into a bottle for the privilege of being educated can't make the list? And if anyone thinks this is trivial, they should try to remember what it was like to be a geeky, shy 16 year-old. Now imagine that kid walking down a hallway in highschool with a cup of his own urine in his hand. Teenage kids can be horribly self-conscious about matters like this, and this is terribly invasive. And you've just gotta know that more than one of those cups of pee will wind up being poured on the head of the kid who'd just trying to follow the increasingly moronic rules adults keep coming up with. Way to reward the good kids, you school-board schmucks.

    Yes, high school kids are technically children. Yes, the school is in loco parentis. But this is also the time when these kids are in transition from childhood to being adults. We should treat them with respect and as adults unless they prove they can't handle it. After all, we'll be treating them that way in a short year or two, when we no longer have the ability to correct their mistakes without the big club of the criminal justice system. Do we really want to instill in them the idea that society requires regular surrendering of bodily fluids to a government agency as a precondition to citizenship?

    The end result of this will be a huge drop in enrollment in extra-curricular activities, less control over the children instead of more (they'll be out hangin' at the mall instead of playing in the marching band now), and drug use won't drop one bit.

    We are already raising a generation of cynical, confused children due to nonsense like zero tolerance laws that expel honors students for having bread knives in their trucks. Now we're going to make them pee in bottles to engage in high school life. The whole thing is misguided, and offensive, and ineffective, and in the end will backfire horribly.

    Other than that, it seems okay.
    Bush - My Kinda Fratboy

    On Monday, Andrew Sullivan took a much-needed break from public Catholic/Gay introspection, and wrote a very nice article about President Bush. In it, he says much the same things that I said on this board last week - that Bush's intelligence is constantly underestimated by those who see his sense of humor and down-home good-ole' boy persona as a sign of stupidity.

    I'm not going to go through the litany of examples of Bush's intelligence, such as the fact that he got better marks in college than Gore (who made a career of flunking out of bonehead faculties), or that he scored higher verbal SAT's than Rhodes Scholar Bill Bradley (and only 40 points lower than Al Gore), or that he beat Gore like a rented mule in all the presidential debates. Well, okay maybe I am going to go into that litany again, because I just did.

    But the more interesting point to be made is that we have turned faux-gravitas into a political requirement by demeaning people with a real sense of humor. As a result, we wind up electing boring, dry, pompous asses. The United States is largely run by the people who annoyed the hell out of you in high school and college.

    Anyway, part of the reason for the existence of this website is to try to prove that the serious and silly can mix together without one demeaning the other. John Cleese is a very intelligent man, but he's also got a killer silly walk. Steve Martin may be one of the smartest people in Hollywood, and he got his start with a fake arrow stuck through his head. Winston Churchill was a great statesman, but that didn't stop him from responding to a quip about his drinking with the rejoinder, "Yes, I am drunk, but you are ugly. And in the morning, I'll be BLLARRRGGG" (sorry Chuck - stole your line).

    So let's hear it for the fratboy in the White House, the guy who knows you can have a foodfight in the White House kitchen and still change gears and kick some serious terrorist ass an hour later.

    And as for Tom Daschle, Bill Bennett, Robert Byrd, Al Gore, Tom Delay, and all you other super-serious bores, as of this moment you are all on Double Secret Probation.

    (Note to John McCain: You aren't funny. Don't even try. And you don't have to - you get a pass on this due to your five years spent in a tiger cage in a far-east shithole. You earned your gravitas, so please don't try to crack jokes with Jon Stewart and David Letterman - it's just too painful to watch).
    Asteroid Takes Earth By Surprise

    An asteroid the width of a 747 snuck up on the Earth today. Happy Fun Pundit Reporters scoured the globe recording reactions from some of the world leaders:

    • In an English-language broadcast,Yassir Arafat announced his sincere joy joy that the asteroid would miss the Earth and said it was a sign that all Earthlings desire peace. Later, speaking in Arabic he called upon the asteroid to smite Israelis, and declared a complete celestial body Fatwa on Israel.

    • In Washington, Tom Daschle held a press conference at which he expressed his "disappointment" that the asteroid had not made its presence known sooner, and said that he was 'concerned' that the Bush administration did not notify him earlier about it. Not that he was accusing the Bush administration of hiding anything, of course. But why not come to a hearing on it if they have nothing to hide? It was all so very troubling.

    • In Canada, Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced that he would immediately embark upon a fact-finding mission to a Florida country club to consider the growing asteroid menace, and gave his nephew a job as 'asteroid issue analyst' for $120,000 CDN per year, or almost $9.50 American.

    • In Tennessee, Al Gore was holed up with his political advisors, who were trying to devise a post-asteroid strategy. Current topic of discussion - whether a near miss by an asteroid means the beard should come off or stay on. The Gore team is forming an action committee to consider this issue, and hopes to have a position paper ready by mid-2003.

    • The French, upon hearing that an asteroid was threatening the earth, immediately offered their unconditional surrender. However, they have requested the right to maintain a sense of smug superiority over it.

    • In New York, Bill Clinton said that for $100,000 he'd solve the problem by sending brother in law Hugh Rodham up to the asteroid to eat it.

    • Somewhere in Canada freezing his nuts off, a Happy Fun Pundit wiseass noted that the Earth hadn't been taken by surprise by something that large since Rosie O'Donnell's 'outing'.

    Tuesday, March 19, 2002

    Five Myths About Missile Defense

    I have found myself recently debating missile defense issues, and I have had the same arguments against it come up time and again. It's time to put these arguments to bed, so bear with me while I attack some of the sacred cows of the missile defense naysayers. My apologies to those of you who showed up today looking for something wacky - try as I might I couldn't dredge the humor out of nuclear holocaust. Tomorrow I'll promise to write something nutty, or at least post a picture of Al Gore's beard for comic relief.

    On to the Five Myths of Missile Defense:

    1. Missile defense will lead to nuclear proliferation.
    This argument was weak back when it was first floated during the cold war, and it makes no sense at all today. Rogue nations cannot hope to develop enough missiles to overwhelm a defensive system. And we can always outspend them if they try. Indeed, the reason these countries are frantically trying to develop missiles now is because they see them as an easy strategic end-run around conventional forces they cannot hope to compete with. The best way to ensure that countries do not build nuclear or chemical missiles is to show them that their investment would be wasted.

    2. Missile defense is useless because the enemy will just sneak a bomb into the country if they want to blow up a city.
    This is not an argument against missile defense any more than the existence of nuclear bombers was an argument against the development of anti-submarine technology. Different threats require different defenses. And smuggling is ultimately something within the government's ability to control during wartime, especially for something as large and bulky as a homebrew nuke, which would certainly weigh hundreds of pounds and would probably have to be smuggled by ship. But you can build as big a wall as you want around your country and it will do no good if your enemies can lob nukes over the top.

    Moreover, this objection misses one of the primary functions of missile defense, which is to act as a credible deterrant to nuclear blackmail. The prime threat is not that Iran WILL launch a missile at the United States, but that they will use the threat of such a launch to force us to allow them free rein in dealing with their neighbors. That's why these nations want them, and that's why we must deter them.

    Yes, they could also blackmail us by claiming that they have planted bombs in our cities. But this type of blackmail would mean their instant removal from the community of nations, and would be an admission that they have grossly violated international law. The ramifications for trade and arms imports make it unlikely that a nation would take such a step. Missiles do not have that disadvantage. Their use as bargaining chips can be much more subtle, and their existence in rogue countries would be wildly destabilizing. A credible defense against missiles seriously undercuts their ability to blackmail us.

    3. None of these nations would dare launch at us, because they know they would be destroyed.
    This sounds logical, but we are not necessarily dealing with logical people. Saddam Hussein has nearly bankrupted his country rather than give up his weapons of mass destruction. This is a man who will not mind using them. And consider what would happen if someone like Saddam had his back against the wall. If we invaded a nuclear Iraq, and Saddam was surrounded and knew his time on this earth was measured in hours or days, would he not launch a nuclear weapon at Israel or the United States?

    Also, we must consider the instability of these nations. Rival factions vie for control and conquer and hold various territories as they jockey for power. If a rival group managed to gain control of a state's nuclear weapons, it might launch them in hope of a retaliation that brings the regime down. Or they could fall into the hands of an extra-national group like Al-Qaida which wouldn't care in the least if its current host nation came under attack as long as they could strike a blow against the Great Satan. There are other scenarios under which nuclear weapons might be used. Do we really want to gamble the lives of millions of citizens that none of these will come to pass?

    Then there is the blackmail issue. If Saddam had nuclear ICBM's in 1990, Kuwait would a memory, because we would not have dared to oppose him. And today most of the middle east could well be in the control of a madman. And 'ground zero' would refer to the former state of Israel.

    4. Missile defense will never work, and even if it does the other side will just build more countermeasures.
    The first part of this argument has been proven wrong for at least ten years when it became clear that that only thing stopping deployment of missile defenses were incremental engineering issues, and not fundamental breakthroughs. The latest successful test should help put that argument to bed forever.

    The countermeasures argument is more problematic. Back when missile defense was being designed to thwart a rival superpower, it was an open question as to whether development of missile defenses would be able to stay ahead of countermeasures. But world events have made this issue much simpler. States like Iran and North Korea simply don't have the resources to build complex countermeasures. Iran is not about to launch orbital hunter-killer satellites or multi-stage chaff-firing decoy rockets. They can barely afford a single missile program. As a result, we know what kind of threat we will be facing. In Iran's case, it's the Shihab-4 and Shihab-5 rockets, which have ranges of 2,000 and 12,000 km, respectively. We can tune our defenses to that specific threat, and make our job much easier. And if Iran does attempt rudimentary countermeasures, we will deal with them.

    This whole argument is somewhat of a red herring in the first place. Weapons systems evolve. The same logic could have been used with tanks, for example. Why put heavier armor on a tank, when it will just cause the enemy to build more powerful guns? The answer is because until they do you gain a temporary advantage. But they WILL come up with something better, so you adapt. They penetrate your armor, you come up with active armor. They penetrate that, and you build a tank that can shoot while moving. They build targeting systems for that, so you build low, stealthy tanks. And so it goes. Missile defense will be no different. The evolving dynamic of battle is never an excuse to simply throw up your hands and capitulate.

    5. Missile Defense will take needed resources away from other necessary weapons, like more helicopters and ships.
    This is the argument the Democrats have been floating, and it's the most palatable argument today when no one wants to be seen as soft on the war. This way, you can oppose missile defense in the name of military strength.

    But this argument is also a red-herring. It turns strategic planning on its head. If missile defense is necessary, and if more helicopters are necessary, then the correct solution is to increase the budget of the military and fund both. After all, if we lost a carrier group to a nuclear blast today, and had to replace it at the cost of a hundred billion dollars, would we say, "Oh well. I guess we won't buy fuel for the bombers this year?" No. We'd come up with the money to meet all the commitments that military planners have convinced us we need.

    Missile Defense has a budget of 7.8 billion dollars for FY2003, compared to 37 billion for homeland defense. It's clearly something we can afford without touching the rest of the military's budget needs, if the will is there. Farm subsidies alone cost 20 billion dollars a year, and will double within five years if Congress gets its way. So instead of framing the question as a tradeoff between helicopters and missile defense, how about framing it as a tradeoff between missile defense or throwing a pile of money at Archer Daniels Midland?

    Missile defense should be an urgent priority. North Korea has a missile today that can hit the west coast of the United States. They are selling missile technology to Iran and Iraq. Within 2-5 years Iran will have a missile that can hit Europe, and as early as 2010 they will have one that can hit anywhere in the continental United States. Iran is also on record as saying it sees nothing wrong with using nuclear weapons against its enemies and has recently advocated their use against Israel. This is a threat that MUST be addressed.

    Monday, March 18, 2002

    Bye Bye, Politically Incorrect

    It looks like ABC is finally Cancelling Politically Incorrect.

    I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I used to love the show back when Bill Maher was still a Libertarian and was willing to give airtime to people like P.J O'Rourke, Dave Barry, Harry Browne, John Stossel, and Andrew Sullivan. Back then, Bill played an honest game, pitting genuine intellectual leaders against each other in a forum that provided the only access many of them had to a mainstream audience. Back in the 'good old days', a typical PI lineup would be someone from Congress, an intelligent dissenter from the fringes, and then a couple of Hollywood clowns to rev up the entertainment factor.

    Some time ago, Bill went wobbly. His libertarianism started to give way to Naderite doo-gooding. One suspects that exposure to 'big Hollywood' probably did him in. The Road To Serfdom goes right past the Playboy Mansion, and Bill hopped off and frolicked with the bunnies. Ever since, he's been caught up in a weird mixture of exuses for personal excess and hypocritical pandering to the left. The only thing he ever stayed libertarian on was his right to party in any way he chose.

    Once Bill found himself floundering in the ideology department, the show quickly followed suit. Instead of bringing on intellectual heavyweights from the conservative and liberal camps, he brought on the people that could be counted on to simply boost the ratings. The conservative voice was routinely provided by whatever attractive, leggy female with a shrill voice he could find in the Republican party, and the left was represented by half-wits like Michael Moore and Alec Baldwin. Throw in a couple of Hollywood gadflys for comic relief, and let them all shout at each other for 22 minutes. This is what Politically Incorrect has become. This is a random quote from Friday's episode, in which they discuss President Bush's qualifications for office:
    Bill Maher:
    He didn't know who Leonardo DiCaprio was.
    He didn't know what a vegan was.
    He had never heard of "Sex and the City."

    Frank Bruni: The television show "Friends." The list goes on and on.

    Bill: And about Al Gore, he said, "The man dyes his hair.
    What does that tell you about him?"

    Frank: I don't know for a fact, by the way, and I don't know that he knew for a fact that Al Gore dyes his hair. It was kind of a curious thing, and I once pointed out that we did know that Ronald Reagan dyed his hair, and that kind of --

    Michael: What?
    [All talking at once ]

    Michael McKean: Yeah, I'm sorry -- I'm sorry to break it to you. I just thought he was prematurely orange.

    Alec Baldwin: I thought he was prematurely eggplant.

    What can ABC be thinking, cancelling quality television like that?

    So hoist a glass for the old Politically Incorrect, which for a short year or two looked like it might give a voice to those outside of the mainstream, and do it in an intellectually honest and entertaining way. But while you're at it, congratulate the management at ABC for pulling the plug on the 22-minute crapfest it has become.

    Sunday, March 17, 2002

    Beware the Deadly Bra

    Recently, there have been a number of articles such as this one detailing the abuses people are having to put up with at airports. And a couple of days ago, a woman caused a scene when her underwire bra tripped a metal detector and she refused to be felt up in public to prove she wasn't a terrorist.

    The big story that the media has missed, though, is that women are being allowed to go through security with underwires in their bras. How come? In an age of confiscated nail clippers and files, why do underwires get a pass? After all, it would only take about five minutes with a grinding wheel for a terrorist to turn two underwires into a pair of rapiers that would be more deadly than a pocketkknife.

    The inconsistency of allowing underwires while prohibiting nail clippers just illustrates how silly our security measures have become. We are spending billions of dollars and helping to destroy the airline industry in a completely misguided attempt to remove every possible threat from an airplane. This is flatly impossible, and we shouldn't try. Any terrorist with half a brain can hide a dozen weapons in his baggage or on his person in a way that will pass even the closest scrutiny.

    I've said this before, and I'll say it again: The heroes of flight 93 did us all a great service by sending an unequivocal message to terrorists that Americans will NOT allow themselves to be turned into flying bombs. Instead of this insane snarl of useless regulation, we should build on the example of those brave people and set up a security policy that is inexpensive, sustainable for years, and enhances freedom instead of diminishing it. Give passenger briefings on how to resist, provide flight attendants with non-lethal restraint devices like handcuffs and pepper spray, and give them the authority to distribute those to passengers in emergencies. Designate especially athletic or trained passengers as voluntary security helpers much in the same way we put able-bodied volunteers in front of exits. Arm the pilots, and put reinforcing bars on the door. And that's enough.

    Airport security should aim to prevent handguns and bombs from getting onboard, because that is something that is feasible. The rest is just an annoyance and counter-productive.

    Yesterday, Tom Daschle said that Tom Ridge should have to brief Congress on homeland security measures and allow a full debate in Congress. For a change, I agree with him completely. It seems to me that homeland defense is going seriously awry, and Congress has a responsibility to oversee it.