So now the DC cops, over-stretched by the absurd resources devoted to one of 120 missing persons in D.C. this year, have begun to curtail their search for Chandra Levy. Meanwhile Mike Isikoff helpfully debunks a few of the crazier lies peddled by the Condit lynch-mob in the past few weeks. Phone calls between the two seem to have petered out in April: “Either way, the available evidence points to no emotional crisis between Condit and Levy before she disappeared. Other widely circulated accounts are also inaccurate. The police have found no evidence that Levy was pregnant. Media speculation that a substance found in Condit’s apartment might have been Levy’s blood turns out to be entirely false, according to the FBI crime lab.” Thanks, Mike. But don’t tell Fox News. It would wreck their summer.
PINTER’S HATE: You may have seen all the glowing reviews of Harold Pinter’s latest play in New York in which he stars. And in the U.S., he is still revered for his extraordinary skills as a play-wright. But like many other brilliant literary types – the mind drifts inexorably toward the image of Gore Vidal – Pinter is also a full-bore political extremist. His hatred for anything to do with the United States is legendary. He backed Saddam Hussein against the West; now, he’s joining a campaign to free Serbian fascist war-criminal, Slobodan Milosevic. Pinter described the West’s belated attempt to restrain Serbian genocide as a policy of “kiss my arse or I’ll kick your head in.” If Milosevic is tried for war-crimes, Pinter argues, so should Bill Clinton, for promoting a policy that used “cluster bombs that cut children to pieces – from those brave bombers at 15,000ft. And this is an act which [Tony] Blair, with his moralistic Christianity, applauds.” What is it about the theater and movie industry that turns the minds of so many who work in it into paranoid, self-righteous mush?
PRIVACY ON THE BRINK: Fascinating mob crime case in the Times today. The mafia is apparently smart enough to record illegal dealings using encryption technology on the relevant files in their computers. Under court order, the police managed to infiltrate Nicodemo Scarfo Jr.’s computer and record every key stroke. Scarfo’s lawyers are arguing that this is unconstitutional. Scarfo’s encrypted files were private to him, even encrypted with a program called PGP or Pretty Good Privacy. The whole purpose of the bar on unreasonable searches and seizures came from state seizure of private diaries in the eighteenth century. Doesn’t even a mobster have a right to his own private documents – and not to have the password on them decoded? We had the Carnivore snooper; only recently a criminal was jailed for writing thoughts in his own private diary; in the Starr prosecution, Monica Lewinsky had all her personal emails examined; Chandra Levy’s privacy has also been trampled through. The Supreme Court has an excellent record in some of these matters. It recently barred the use of police technology to detect hear sources inside private homes. I hope they take up the Scarfo case and strike another blow for eighteenth century values over twenty-first century technology.
DEAR ANDREW: One of the best things about this new kind of journalism is the instant response of readers. If I screw up, you let me know. If I ask for suggestions, you send them in droves. If I write something more than usually boneheaded, many of you politely point out I’m full of it. But alongside these emails, there are dozens of others that just convey relevant experiences, thoughts, ideas, that I brazenly purloin or learn from. That’s why I read them all – they’re worth the time. I’ve included a few of them recently as emails of the week. But now, they’re going to have their own separate section. Click on the Letters icon down there on the right and you’ll get the letters page. If you want to contribute, a few rules: please keep emails short, i.e. under 400 words. Please tell me if you don’t want an email for publication if you don’t. Otherwise, they’re all fair game. To protect your privacy, I will routinely edit out any identifying details. I’ve also decided to keep all the emails anonymous. Why? The anonymity is one reason, I think, these emails are often so revealing and intimate. Like users of the web in general, email writers often use anonymity for new and fascinating purposes: mainly to make points rather than to posture or gain attention. The point of the email section is to provide a kind of running commentary on the Dish and pieces. I will only publish criticism – not praise – since praise rarely makes a new point. The point is to flesh out other sides to issues; relate real experience, and generate a deeper level of debate. Enjoy. And let me know if you have any bright ideas for the section as well.
WHAT’S SO WRONG WITH UNILATERALISM?: The latest assault on the Bush administration’s largely sensible response to the ill-conceived treaties and negotiations it inherited from the Clinton administration centers on one notion: that other nations are doing all sorts of things, while the United States is dangerously “standing by”. Before long, this “standing by” becomes something called “unilateralism,” which morphs imperceptibly into the notion of “isolationism.” This was the gist of Tom Daschle’s typically shrill attack on the president even as he left for a European tour. But hold on a minute. All this unilateralism means is that the United States is figuring out from case to case what is in its best interests. If it doesn’t make sense for the U.S. to back a Kyoto agreement that will send Europe and Japan into an extended recession for an elusive and unproven goal, why on earth should the U.S. go along? Ditto the ABM treaty. It is not the first role of the U.S. president to figure out what is in the best interests of the French or the Russians or the rest of the world. It’s great if our interests coincide – but not if they don’t. And it’s important to confer and communicate – but that doesn’t mean follow. Besides, being isolated in the world community is not in and of itself a bad thing. Remember out-of-step Ronald Reagan on arms control in the first few years of his presidency? The criticism of Bush’s foreign policy only makes sense if you start from the premise that international agreements are goods in themselves, rather than means to nationalist ends. I for one am relieved that the Bushies don’t share that premise.