Bloggers on Steven Levitt, Pervez Musharraf, and Baby Einstein.

Bloggers on Steven Levitt, Pervez Musharraf, and Baby Einstein.

Bloggers on Steven Levitt, Pervez Musharraf, and Baby Einstein.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Aug. 9 2007 5:53 PM

Thinking Like the Enemy

Conservative bloggers take Freaknomics author Steven Levitt to task for giving terrorists ideas. Bloggers also react to the latest developments in Pakistan and the bad news about Baby Einstein.

Thinking like the enemy: Freakonomics authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt moved their blog of the same name  to NYTimes.com this week, and Levitt kicked up a firestorm by posing this question: If you were a terrorist, how would you attack? Levitt, a la the D.C. snipers, would "arm 20 terrorists with rifles and cars, and arrange to have them begin shooting randomly at pre-set times all across the country. Big cities, little cities, suburbs, etc." Conservatives aren't buying that Levitt wants to help "terror fighters … plan for these scenarios before they occur."

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Righty Lord Crimson at Castle Walls won't be getting a print subscription to the NYT anytime soon. The newspaper "reached bottom long ago and now just wallow[s] in … self-loathing and foul stench," he writes, and Levitt "displays all that is wrong with the guilt-ridden liberals seeking to relieve their feelings of inadequacy by destroying the country and in the process taking everyone else with them." Fellow righty Ian Schwartz simply responds that if he were a terrorist and looking to attack the United States "the first thing I would do is read the New York Times!" 

"You get the sense that conjuring up ways to kill Americans on American soil is really tickling Leavitt's neurons," writes conservative pundit Michelle Malkin, who is "less concerned that terrorists will get ideas than about the message Levitt's flippancy sends. … This is not a freaking intellectual game." Capitalist blogger Adam Ostrow agrees that terrorists won't get new ideas from Levitt's readers because "carrying out terror is their full-time job, and I assume they would be better at it than me." What rankles Ostrow about Levitt's post is that it is "far too playful way to deal with the most important issue of our time."

Gary Cornelisse at the aptly named Moderate Press doesn't see the post as flippant. He contends it is an appeal to "start thinking about how our apathy and lack of real action in this war on terror will ultimately impact our daily lives and our families.  We've got to get serious about this threat and start thinking like the enemy instead of wondering why they don't think like us." ChrisfromCT at Economics and Outrage proclaims Levitt's entry is "pure genius" and, like Cornelisse, believe it will help "take our heads out of the sand and think rationally" and "determine where best to spend the millions of dollars that are currently being absolutely wasted."

The Huffington Post's Jonah Peretti can't resist submitting a tongue-in-cheek response. Levitt's snipers "should take out pet dogs" instead of people, since "most people have trouble identifying with human victims they have never met but everyone with half a heart falls in love with a puppy the moment they see a cute photo."

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Read more about Steven Levitt's blog entry. Slate excerpted Freakonomics here and here. In June, Denis Seguin reported on the second annual Movie-Plot Threat Contest.

Emergency no more: Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf has announced that he will not declare a state of emergency in response to escalating political opposition. Such a declaration would allow him to limit freedom of speech and to suspend the upcoming elections.

Ennis at South Asia blog Sepia Mutiny reviews Musharraf's motives, saying they were "purely domestic: a state of emergency would postpone upcoming elections, and sideline that pesky supreme court before it decides that he cannot be both President and head of the army at the same time. He also could have used rising domestic insecurity, including a wave of suicide bombings, as a pretext, but that would have made him look weak."

Conservative Ed Morrisey at Captain's Quarters interprets Musharraf's new stance: "It looks like Musharraf wants to start building a case for his re-election now and has accepted that as his only long-term chance at legitimately remaining in power. It's also the only chance of forming a large enough coalition to beat the radical Islamists looking to kill him at the first opportunity." India-focused blog Me myself and my fingers doubts Musharraf's intention to back down, asking, "How many assurances has MUshy given to the US in the past? And how many of those assurance have been proven to be lies?"

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Conservative blog Sweetness & Light faults the media for even covering the Musharraf debacle, noting that "[o]f course the media will say anything to try to undermine the government of Pakistan and help their allies the Taliban" while they give "barely a peep" when "heroes like Hugo Chavez blithely declare martial law."

Read more about President Musharraf's plans for a state of emergency.

Over for Einstein? A Journal of Pediatrics study claims that watching Baby Einstein videos limits the vocabulary of babies ages 8 to 16 months. Bloggers either say "duh," or point out that sometimes parents just need a sanity break.

Derek Cabrera at educational resource ThinkBlog acerbically states "it's not rocket science" that "Baby Einstein videos don't make your kid smarter. Unfortunately, if people are willing to say a product helps (even if it does not) and if they slap some fancy marketing on it we are prone to believe the hype."

Angela at progressive parenting blog RaisingX didn't resist the hype, but she's glad her baby didn't like the videos: "I was bombarded with ads and advice telling me that Baby Einstein was the best option. … I couldn't get [my baby] to sit through 2 minutes of any of them. With the lack of dialog and moving characters people, they bored her." Librarian Lisa at Lisa's Blog, another parenting site, gleefully claims "another score for books (and not tv!)."

At the New Republic's staff blog, the Plank,Jonathan Chait speaks  for tired parents everywhere: "But when you're alone with your baby for hours on end, and especially when you haven't been able to sleep more than three hours withing being woken up in months, sometimes you want to eat a meal or read the newspaper. You need something to occupy the baby, and a Baby Einstein video -- which tends to make the babies smile and coo -- is better than making them stare at the ceiling for twenty minutes."

Read more about the Baby Einstein study. In Slate, William Saletan offered his interpretation of the study, and Timothy Noah criticized President Bush's nod to Baby Einstein founder Julie Aigner-Clark in his State of the Union address.

Morgan Smith, a former Slate intern, is a law student in Austin, Texas.