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December 04, 2004

UKRAINE UPDATE: Nick Kristof has some advice to President Bush -- wear orange:

Here's a suggestion for President Bush from the protesters behind the democratic "orange revolution" here: Wear an orange tie.

"If he wore an orange tie, people here would be crying," said Yuri Maluta, a protester from Lviv. "It would show that the American president supports democracy here."

The request says something about the lighthearted and pro-American spirit on the streets. Since my father grew up in what is now southwestern Ukraine, I decided to come here to join my people - and I found that waging revolution has rarely been such fun.

Young people enveloped in orange scarves, hats and ribbons alternately chant slogans for freedom, boogie to rock music, eat oranges, warm up and flirt at McDonald's, and disappear into their downtown "tent city" to make love, not war.

I have a suggestion of my own as to what President Bush might wear. Hey, some of us have been wearing orange for years! In fact, here you can see about 100,000 people wearing orange. . . .

VIA GLENN FLEISHMAN'S WI-FI NET NEWS I found this Salon article by Linda Baker on how wi-fi and related technologies are revitalizing public spaces by getting people out of their offices.

I think that's right. In fact, it goes nicely with this piece of mine from a couple of years ago, and this one from last summer.

I wonder if this planned "lifestyle center" mall in Knoxville will take advantage of that sort of thing?

I THINK VACLAV HAVEL has a better chance of replacing Kofi Annan than this guy, despite his worldwide reputation.

LEARNED MEN ARE BLOGGING, OF WAR AND WAR'S ALARMS, but John Hinderaker is channeling Yeats.

RIPNREAD is a blogger podcast, featuring audio excerpts from a number of blogs every day.

WENT TO THE MALL with the Insta-Daughter and one of her friends. Build-a-Bear was absolutely jammed, providing still more evidence (if any were needed) of my inability to tell when a business is going to make it.

We saw the SpongeBob Squarepants movie, and while it didn't suck -- it was lightyears better than the last cartoon movie I saw, which I thought was pretty bad -- it doesn't say anything good about Oliver Stone's Alexander that SpongeBob beat him out at the box office last week.

I actually like SpongeBob, though I wouldn't have gone to see the movie on my own. But if you're not being dragged by a kid, I'd recommend one of the tv episode collections on DVD over the movie. SpongeBob is funnier in shorter doses.

UPDATE: Hey, here are some SpongeBob movie customer reviews from other people. Some liked it more than I did, some less. Best line: "If I were Sandy Cheeks' agent, I would be on the line for my client wanting to know what happened to my character's part."

PHIL CARTER writes in Slate that Kerik was a good choice: "Most of all, Kerik knows that the most likely person to stop or encounter a terrorist attack is not an FBI agent or CIA analyst, but a cop walking the beat or a transit worker who sees something suspicious."

VERIZON SHOULD GIVE ME A COMMISSION: Evan Coyne Maloney was inspired by my experience to get a Verizon wireless card for his PowerBook, and he's very happy with it so far.

UPDATE: Reader James Foster sends this link to a very positive review of Evan's new documentary, Brainwashing 101.

MEDIA ENRON UPDATE:

Just how deep is the newspaper circulation scandal of 2004? Combined with other substantial circulation losses, how damaging will it be to the bread and butter of advertising revenues for 2004, for 2005 and by extension in years to come? Is it yet another sign of the gradual but inexorable decline of the industry and the medium in which many of us practice journalism? . . .

Lately the party line in the industry is that the worst of the scandal part is behind us. Industry leaders say the tally of recent losses, while admittedly bad, is not quite as bad as some had predicted. Business is getting back to normal, they say.

Not so fast, we are here to tell you. We stumbled serendipitously on a set of facts suggesting that the impact to date is actually 50 percent worse than we and others who track the industry had thought.

If it were any other industry, the press would be all over this story. I wonder if there will be prosecutions.

UPDATE: A reader points out that Newsday deserves credit for covering this scandal aggressively in a way that other media, even those organs not involved in the scandal, haven't.

December 03, 2004

vodka.jpg
I SHOULD BE CELEBRATING events in Kiev with a shot of this Ukrainian "Presidential Vodka" from Bill Clinton's 1995 visit. (My brother had a girlfriend in the Embassy back then, and picked this up when he was visiting her.) That's Bill in the hat.

Maybe later.

HOWARD LOVY is back blogging on nanotechnology.

BIG CHEMICAL PLANT EXPLOSION in Houston. Right Side of the Rainbow is blogging it.

POWER LINE WONDERS "why oil prices seem to have risen and fallen in synchrony with the American campaign season?"

"SHOW US YOUR --TS:" Meryl Yourish obliges. Nice pair.

UPDATE: Another fine set from Kimberly Swygert.

MORE TROUBLE FOR KOFI: "U.N. worker accused of genocide in Rwanda."

RAND SIMBERG REPORTS that legislation to boost the commercial space industry is being held up by John McCain in a dispute over boxing-reform legislation.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES is up.

FROM MY EARLIER LINK to the short Web film Tooth Fairy, reader Robert Sterling emails: "Did you notice that the security guard was played by Jeff Bezos?" Not until he pointed it out, I didn't.

UPDATE: Here's a review of Tooth Fairy, and here's another review of an earlier Amazon film, Portrait, with Minnie Driver.

THERE'S LOTS OF GOOD STUFF at The Belmont Club. Just keep scrolling.

THE ECONOMIST has more on American academia's serious diversity problems. "Academia is simultaneously both the part of America that is most obsessed with diversity, and the least diverse part of the country." (Via Carl Frank).

UPDATE: More on that topic here.

THE BBC IS HOSTING A DEBATE ON LONGEVITY, between Aubrey de Grey and S. Jay Olshansky. I don't know who's right, but I know who I hope is right.

EUGENE VOLOKH: crazed egalitarian.

PEOPLE ARE STILL VOTING for the Weblog Awards.

UKRAINE UPDATE: "Ukraine's Supreme Court has nullified the results of the country's disputed presidential election and called for a repeat of the runoff in three weeks."

WHAT I'M READING: the new Harry Turtledove book, which is okay, but not his best. I'd like to see a point-counterpoint review by Eric Muller and Michelle Malkin. . . .

THE MARS BUG: As this article in the Times notes, life on Mars may not be a blessing:

The search for life on Mars, now more than a century old, is still not finally resolved. But the odds that life existed there and may still exist are shortening, according to planetary experts, Dr Kargel said.

Nobody any longer expects Martian life forms to be anything like those on Earth. But there remains a possibility that bacteria or other microscopic organisms may survive in regions where there is still water. On Earth, almost every imaginable habitat, including deep underground, has specialised bacteria — called extremophiles — living and thriving.

The risks are twofold: probes sent from Earth may contaminate Mars with terrestrial bacteria, wrecking future studies of Martian life; or, more important, bacteria brought back from Mars may contaminate the Earth with unpredictable effects.

Here's a column on the subject that I wrote a while back.

I WAS A COMMUNIST FOR DUTCH INTELLIGENCE: The WSJ has a story (subscription only, alas) on a phony Maoist group set up by Dutch intelligence, which has recently come out of the cold. Not everyone is happy:

Set up and run by spooks in 1969, his party, the MLPN, had its own newspaper, De Kommunist, written and edited by the secret service. As well as Mr. Boevé playing Chris Petersen, the secretary-general, it had a chairman (another fraud) and a Central Committee stacked with secret agents. To add authenticity, the party let Mr. Wartena and a handful of other true believers join its otherwise nonexistent ranks, telling them that they were part of a network of underground cells. . . .

"I totally wasted 12 years of my life," says Paul Wartena, an ex-MLPN member who was so dedicated to the cause he used to donate 20% of his salary to the fake party. He says he "had some doubts now and then" about the MLPN but stayed loyal because "I was very naive and Mr. Boevé was such a good actor." Now a researcher at a university in Utrecht, Mr. Wartena wants Dutch intelligence to pay him back for all his donations.

Mr. Boevé, now 74, scoffs at his acolyte: "He was an idiot."

I wonder what some Al Jazeera fans will be saying in 20 years?

FOREIGN LESION: Sylvain Charat looks at French policy in The Ivory Coast.

UPDATE: Related thoughts here: "Forget ideology. The new divide is between the corrupt and the clean."

PIERCING TO THE TRUTH: The Tehran Times reports that Al Jazeera is actually a Zionist plot to make Arabs and Islam look bad:

But the actions of the network gradually revealed the fact that Al-Jazeera officials, on the orders of Zionist agents, are trying to divide Islamic countries and tarnish the image of Islam. . . .

By broadcasting abhorrent scenes of the beheadings of foreign hostages by the criminal agents of the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi terrorist group, the network succeeded in increasing anti-Muslim sentiment throughout the world, particularly in the West.

It's hard to argue with that. (Via Right-thinking).

IS HAMAS SOFTENING ITS STANCE toward Israel? This is big news if it pans out. But that's a big "if," too.

WIRELESS UPDATE: I took the InstaWife to the doctor's this morning, and I'm wireless-blogging from the waiting room using the Verizon wireless card I mentioned the other day. The signal's strong here, and it's about like using a really good dialup connection. Not bad. It'll be better, of course, when they roll out the wireless broadband here in a few months.

HOAXED? "LONDON (Reuters) - BBC World said on Friday that an interview it ran with a man it identified as a spokesman for Dow Chemical Co, in which he said the U.S. company accepted responsibility for India's Bhopal disaster, was wrong and part of an 'elaborate deception.'"

HERE'S STILL MORE on the shocking lack of diversity on many American campuses.

Somebody should make a documentary on this.

TOOTH FAIRY: The latest Web film is up over at Amazon. My daughter still pretends to believe in the tooth fairy, since I explained to her several years ago that you don't get money if you don't believe in her. It's become a running joke with us. Fortunately, though, I've never had to do what this dad does.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

Although the Iraqi elections on Jan. 30 will top her incoming agenda, the first real indicator of Condoleezza Rice's tenure as secretary of state will be how she handles something most in her new department would rather ignore: the U.N.'s oil-for-food scandal.

Yes, that's a major item.

THANKS for all the donations. I've thanked everyone who sent a paypal donation, and all the Amazon donors who clicked the button to send me an email. If you didn't do that, you're anonymous to me so this will have to be your thank-you note. Thanks!

OVER AT THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH, Greg Djerejian looks at the latest by Chris Hedges and ponders the New York Times / New York Review of Books echo chamber.

I got the promotional email for this issue of the NYRB, which states: "With the approaching commencement of George Bush¹s second term, the Holiday Issue serves as an engaging and necessary guide to start America thinking with the right foot forward." I don't think it's actually the right foot. . . .

December 02, 2004

LOTS OF COMPANIES ARE mining blogs for market research.

HERE'S MORE ON MARC RICH, whose activities don't sound very admirable, though they certainly are diverse.

BUTT SEX IS AWESOME: Xeni Jardin discovers holes in the MSN Spaces censorware. Other problems here.

THE WEBLOG AWARDS are online, and voting is underway.

MY EARLIER REVIEW of John Scalzi's forthcoming book, together with comments on some other science fiction, led Hiawatha Bray to email and recommend Orphanage, by Robert Buettner. I haven't read it myself, but here's what he sent:

Old Man's War sounds great. I haven't read much SF in recent years, and probably would have ignored your review. But by sheer chance, a few weeks ago I stumbled across another SF war novel in our book editor's discard bin. I started to skim it, and was immediately hooked. It's called Orphanage, and it's a real page-turner in the manner of classic Heinlein. By all means check it out.

I will.

I'M GLAD I DIDN'T BUY A VAIO, and I think I'll avoid buying any Sony products this Christmas. That's because Sony has been rather mean to Jason Kottke, and in a fashion that certainly seems quite unreasonable.

Jeff Jarvis thinks we need a bloggers' legal defense fund, and he may be right.

But Sony needs to be encouraged not to pick on bloggers.

JOHN DANFORTH HAS RESIGNED as Ambassador to the U.N.: "Danforth, who has been described as frustrated with the slow-moving U.N. bureaucracy, had recently told friends that he was running out of patience, especially with the Security Council, whose deliberations he considered difficult, Mitchell reported." He's also disappointed that Condi Rice got the nod for Secretary of State, a job he apparently wanted.

UPDATE: Hmm. Maybe all my talk about the growth in online shopping this Christmas season is right. Just saw a segment on Kudlow & Cramer saying that online shopping is way up, and that it may be partly responsible for the softness in other retail sales. And apparently a lot of women are shopping online for the first time this year, just like the InstaWife.

UPDATE UPDATE: Reader Mark Hessey emails:

The speed of order fulfillment seems unsurpassed as well. Of three orders placed with three different merchants; I've had UPS knocking within two days on two and three days on the third (and that includes Amazon's free shipping that they intimate will be considerably longer). In fact, now that I think of it, they were all free shipping.

I can't say I've noticed unusual speed -- but it hasn't been any slower, which is an accomplishment in itself.

ANOTHER UPDATE UPDATE: More on online shopping, with particular attention to WalMart, here.

A DEMOCRAT RESPONDS to Peter Beinart's essay in The New Republic.

Not out of the wilderness yet, and still worshiping the golden calf of McGovernism.

UPDATE: These thoughts by Patrick Spero are worth reading, too.

I'M ON CKNW radio, Vancouver, talking about problems with the U.N. You can listen live by following the link.

UPDATE: Er, well, I was on, but when they came back to me after the break I lost the connection.

BUSH VISITS CANADA, and a major Canadian grievance (mentioned here earlier) is addressed. Coincidence? Or more evidence that big corporations want to make Bush look good?

HEY, MAYBE I'M PART OF A SHOPPING TREND: "Web sales strong even as traditional retailers struggle."

"TRANSFORMERS" NOSTALGISTS will enjoy this commercial for Citroen.

UPDATE: Yes, this is who I had in mind.

IT LOOKS LIKE WAR between Keith Olbermann and Black Box Voting.

GAYPATRIOT is back from Australia and blogging up a storm.

GEORGE GALLOWAY has won a libel judgment against the Telegraph. Apparently his support for Saddam's regime was freely given, rather than bought.

UPDATE: Actually, it's not so clear that the charges were proved false; the question seems to have been whether the Telegraph was neutral not whether it was accurate, and truth is not a defense in British libel law if I recall correctly. But Galloway's certainly treating it as a vindication, and is already working on a comeback:

Fresh from his libel victory over the Daily Telegraph, George Galloway this evening announced his intention to challenge the Labour MP Oona King at the general election.

Mr Galloway - who was expelled from the Labour party over his opposition to the invasion of Iraq - believes the large Muslim community in Ms King's Bethnal Green and Bow constituency, in east London, would welcome his anti-war message.

He is seeking the nomination of the anti-war Respect coalition, which he co-founded with the Socialist Workers party to capitalise on the recent renaissance of the peace movement.

If anybody knows more about the truth issues, send me a link. I've looked at several stories and none actually says the charge was disproved.

ANOTHER UPDATE: David M. has looked further, and believes that the charges probably were false, though the legal posture didn't require their truth to be proved or disproved. So I guess Galloway was giving it away, rather than charging for it.


MORE: Even more here, from someone who seems to have followed the trial closely: "It also looks like the judge also did not question the authenticity of the documents, although he didn't verify them either. His verdict was based upon the Telegraph making claims that supposedly went beyond what was contained in their evidence, such as calling Galloway a 'traitor'." Yes, it's certainly unimaginable that anyone would think Galloway disloyal.

Andrew Sullivan has more.

MAX BOOT: "What we won in Fallouja." Not the ability to agree on a spelling, apparently, but otherwise he thinks things went rather well.

HOW CLEVER IS TENNESSEE GOVERNOR PHIL BREDESEN? Bill Hobbs observes: "He has made cutting government spending on healthcare attractive to one of the state's largest liberal special interests."

CATHY SEIPP WRITES on Bill O'Reilly's odd defense of Dan Rather.

THE GRONINGEN PROTOCOL: It sounds like the title of a Robert Ludlum novel, but it's not. Hugh Hewitt writes on infant euthanasia in the Netherlands, or what some people are calling "post-birth abortion."

I don't know whether this is really illustrative of abortion "mission creep" as some pro-lifers (including Hugh) suggest -- I'm not familiar with the Netherlands' law on abortion, but in general abortion is somewhat harder to get in Europe than it is in the United States (it says here that there's a 5-day waiting period, and no abortion after 24 weeks, but I haven't researched the matter beyond a quick Google search). For the rest, I highly recommend Eugene Volokh's article on slippery slopes.

UPDATE: In a related post, Eric Olsen notes that current U.S. abortion policy is resulting in steadily falling numbers of abortions.

And here's more on the Dutch policy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Peter Singer takes another view, reportedly. So long as they're not animals!

And Diplomad observes a contradiction:

One of the "joys" we Diplomads overseas get to handle are the constant attacks on the USA at the UN and elsewhere from European diplomats, journalists, and NGOs (e.g., Amnesty International) because about 40 US states have the death penalty on their law books, and a few of them, e.g., Texas, Florida, Virginia, Alabama, actually use it . . . .

No country has been more firmly against the death penalty than the Netherlands.

Obviously we should relabel our executions "euthanasia." To relieve the psychic pain of murderers.

NANOTECHNOLOGY IS ANOTHER TOPIC THAT I HAVEN'T PAID ENOUGH ATTENTION TO lately. But Howard Lovy has an interesting piece on underground nanotechnology and the coming atomic age.

I'VE BEEN DISTRACTED with election stuff and so on, and haven't paid enough attention to the Iraqi bloggers lately. But luckily the Carnival of the Liberated has been rounding up their posts.

AS I MENTIONED EARLIER, I've done all my Christmas shopping so far right here, though I may venture to the mall today. The InstaWife, who's never shopped online in previous years, decided that she didn't feel well enough to go shopping and bought everything from Amazon, too.

I think that this is a trend, as I'm hearing the same from others. And here's some support:

Web sales doubled to $133 million on Thursday, Thanksgiving, from a year earlier and surged 40 percent to $250 million on Friday, according to ComScore Networks, an Internet researcher.

Chuck Davis, president of Shopzilla Inc., a Los Angeles- based operator of a site where shoppers compare prices, said more people with faster Web connections at their homes helped spur the increase, as did consumers wanting to avoid crowds.

``At a time when gasoline and traffic are at record levels, the convenience of online saves time, which is priceless,'' said Davis in an interview. ``Our Shopzilla sales shot up very heavily on Friday and Saturday.''

Traffic, etc., is worse every year. Or maybe not, soon, if more people are shopping online.

F.I.R.E. is strongly endorsing Evan Coyne Maloney's documentary, Brainwashing 101. I've seen it, and it's very good. You can watch it online for free, or order a DVD, by following the link.

MICROSOFT ENTERS THE BLOG MARKET with MSN Spaces.

U.N. NEWS: U.N. Panel affirms right to pre-emptive attack.

KERIK LIKELY TO REPLACE TOM RIDGE: If it happens, The Anchoress will claiming vindication.

Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns will be Secretary of Agriculture.

DON'T FORGET THAT CHRIS MUIR'S DAY BY DAY CARTOON IS BACK!

CNN DUPED BY PENTAGON: Heh.

UPDATE: Austin Bay says it's not just satire: "The thing is, when CNN gripes about the Pentagon using them, it's a pretty hollow gripe. . . . Didn't CNN dupe us, after a fashion? As I recall, Saddam let CNN keep its Baghdad bureau open in exchange for 'suppressing' or 'sugar-coating' stories that would have exposed the depravity and evil of his regime. Didn't a CNN executive admit this (though not so bluntly) in a NY Times op-ed?"

Yes. That was Eason Jordan, and CNN -- along with the rest of the institutional press -- would much prefer that you forgot about it.

THE TOY BATTLEFIELD IS as ethnically varied and diverse in its composition as any old war movie. Hell, it's more so! Even the ski troops aren't clearly caucasian.

I haven't paid close attention, but it seems to me that the militarization of the toy market -- which I noted shortly after September 11 -- has continued. Am I right?

WHAT'S WRONG WITH LIBERALISM, AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: Peter Beinart says that liberals need to take a lesson from the 1940s:

By 1949, three years after Winston Churchill warned that an "iron curtain" had descended across Europe, Schlesinger could write in The Vital Center: "Mid-twentieth century liberalism, I believe, has thus been fundamentally reshaped ... by the exposure of the Soviet Union, and by the deepening of our knowledge of man. The consequence of this historical re-education has been an unconditional rejection of totalitarianism."

Today, three years after September 11 brought the United States face-to-face with a new totalitarian threat, liberalism has still not "been fundamentally reshaped" by the experience. On the right, a "historical re-education" has indeed occurred--replacing the isolationism of the Gingrich Congress with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's near-theological faith in the transformative capacity of U.S. military might. But American liberalism, as defined by its activist organizations, remains largely what it was in the 1990s--a collection of domestic interests and concerns. On health care, gay rights, and the environment, there is a positive vision, articulated with passion. But there is little liberal passion to win the struggle against Al Qaeda--even though totalitarian Islam has killed thousands of Americans and aims to kill millions; and even though, if it gained power, its efforts to force every aspect of life into conformity with a barbaric interpretation of Islam would reign terror upon women, religious minorities, and anyone in the Muslim world with a thirst for modernity or freedom.

When liberals talk about America's new era, the discussion is largely negative--against the Iraq war, against restrictions on civil liberties, against America's worsening reputation in the world. In sharp contrast to the first years of the cold war, post-September 11 liberalism has produced leaders and institutions--most notably Michael Moore and MoveOn--that do not put the struggle against America's new totalitarian foe at the center of their hopes for a better world.

He's right, and I think it's why Kerry lost. This is a problem that Anne Applebaum identified in yesterday's Washington Post:

At least a part of the Western left -- or rather the Western far left -- is now so anti-American, or so anti-Bush, that it actually prefers authoritarian or totalitarian leaders to any government that would be friendly to the United States. Many of the same people who found it hard to say anything bad about Saddam Hussein find it equally difficult to say anything nice about pro-democracy demonstrators in Ukraine. Many of the same people who would refuse to condemn a dictator who is anti-American cannot bring themselves to admire democrats who admire, or at least don't hate, the United States. I certainly don't believe, as President Bush sometimes simplistically says, that everyone who disagrees with American policies in Iraq or elsewhere "hates freedom." That's why it's so shocking to discover that some of them do.

I used to be shocked by it, but I'm over that. The real question is whether there's a figure in the Democratic establishment who's willing to take on the Michael Moore / MoveOn aspects of the party -- or whether those aspects have become, in some important ways, the soul of the party today. If the latter, then the Republicans will achieve the kind of decades-long dominance that Karl Rove seeks. And they'll deserve it. As for the Left elsewhere in the world, well, Theo Van Gogh's murder is just one of many wakeup calls that have left many still desperately hitting the snooze button.

UPDATE: Reader Chuck Fulner emails:

This particular passage from your blog resonates with my own thinking about the Democratic Party. I live in a Purple community (Louisville KY) in a Red State and run across a lot of elitist Democrats in my daily life. When they ask how I could possibly be a registered Republican, I generally respond by saying that I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me when Scoop Jackson died, Wendell Ford retired, the party dissed Bob Casey and then drove away Zell Miller. If any major Democrat tells Michael Moore, Move On, George Soros and the Holloywood elite that they have no place in the Democratic Party, then I might go back to my political roots.

Joe Lieberman has gone about as far as anyone has in telling the nut-wing elements that Anne Applebaum wrote about to kiss off and all it got him was an early exit in the last presidential primaries. He doesn't have a loud enough voice.

Here is my nominee: Hillary Clinton. In fact, I think she will do it because it is the best way to become President in 2008. If she tells the coastal cultural elites that they are the ones who are out of step with the country, then tones down her socialistic one payer health insurance scheme from 1993-4 and repeats her husband's line about abortion (safe, legal and rare) she could win in 2008.

I would not be happy with that outcome, because I wouldn't believe her if she said those things, but it is a distinct possibility she could say them and win.

UPDATE: Well, some have predicted that she would be "the most uncompromising wartime president in the history of the United States!" It's worth reading this column on future elections by Austin Bay, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Illustrative post here. Remind me never to get this guy mad at me.

"YOU CAN BLOG, BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE:" Eugene Volokh has an excellent op-ed in today's New York Times, on the First Amendment, confidential sources, and journalism today.

December 01, 2004

PERSPECTIVE, from King Banaian.

HEH: The Ten Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time: My favorites are Ayn Rand's A Selfish Christmas (1951) and The Lost Star Trek Christmas Episode: 'A Most Illogical Holiday' (1968) -- though you've got to love The Village People in Can't Stop the Christmas Music -- On Ice! (1980) ("in which music group the Village People mobilize to save Christmas after Santa Claus (Paul Lynde) experiences a hernia").

SOME THOUGHTS ON THERAPEUTIC CLONING AND LEON KASS, at The Speculist.

UPDATE: Daniel Moore has different thoughts.

UNSCAM UPDATE: LAST YEAR I WAS SKEPTICAL of claims that fugitive financier (and Clinton pardon-recipent) Marc Rich was involved in the oil-for-food scandal. But now ABC News is reporting that Rich was involved after all:

Former American fugitive Marc Rich was a middleman for several of Iraq's suspect oil deals in February 2001, just one month after his pardon from President Clinton, according to oil industry shipping records obtained by ABC News.

And a U.S. criminal investigation is looking into whether Rich, as well as several other prominent oil traders, made illegal payments to Iraq in order to obtain the lucrative oil contracts.

Sounds like there's something to it after all -- and this is bound to be a bit embarrassing for the Clintons.

UPDATE: Reader Pete Brittain emails:

I'll bet you dinner at your favorite Knoxville chow hall that the connection between Rich and the scandal dies a slow death...it'll get buried somewhere and forgotten. Heck, I'll even fork over dinner at any good restaurant of your choice
in the continental US if I lose. Deal?

Do I look like a sucker?

SIGH. There's always next year.

LEFTIES CALLING FOR THE DRAFT: I got the same email. But the facts seem a bit more, um, nuanced: "Hundreds re-enlist at Fort Carson:

FORT CARSON, Colo. — More than 400 soldiers of Fort Carson's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment re-enlisted in a mass ceremony Wednesday with another tour of duty in Iraq barely four months away. "I am doing it because of him," said Spc. Chad Mobley, pointing to Spc. Josh Soelzer. "He's like a brother to me."

Meanwhile, Phil Carter notes the military's new effort to accommodate disabled veterans who want to stay in the service.

BLACKFIVE REPORTS that Richard Daley's son Patrick Daley, who just enlisted in the Army, is a Republican.

UPDATE: Of course, Daley pere has some tough love for the Democrats himself. Hmm. . . .

I'M BLOGGING THIS VIA A NEW VERIZON DATA CARD that seems to be working pretty well so far. Knoxville is still a "national access" area, with 115kbps (really more like 80-90) speed but it's supposed to go broadband at 256-512kbps in the next few months. Anyway, lately I've been forced to hang out in places where there's no wi-fi, so I decided to give this a try.

FRITZ SCHRANCK got a fundraising appeal for the Washington gubernatorial recount that, er, has some problems.

READER IAN ROBERTS EMAILS: "I read your blog every day and I have often seen you recommend the Carnival of the Vanities blog. Well, it's taken me about a year, but I finally checked it out and it's great!"

But of course! Still, for anyone who hasn't checked it out, here's the link again. And for new readers, it's a collection of blog posts from all sorts of bloggers. The topics and participants vary from week to week, but it's a good way to branch out in your blog reading. And if you're just hanging out at InstaPundit and a few other blogs, you probably should branch out.

WINE WARS: Here's a paper on interstate wine shipment and the Commerce Clause from the Pacific Research Institute.

UPDATE: More here and here. The latter post mentions an issue that deserves more attention than the PRI paper gives it -- the role of the 21st Amendment.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a piece by Brannon Denning on the subject that's very much worth reading, too. And here's a much longer article by Denning on the same subject, from Constitutional Commentary.

LOOKS LIKE GOOD NEWS on the Ukraine situation.

UPDATE: For some reason, the permalink above is iffy. You can go straight to The Postmodern Clog too -- though the whole site has been up-and-down today.

ASHCROFT V. RAICH isn't a case about marijuana, really. As Jonathan Adler explains, it's really a test of whether the Supreme Court takes the constitution seriously.

CNN.COM wants to know if you read blogs regularly. There's a poll at the lower right corner of the page. Right now 19% say "yes," which actually seems like quite a few to me. Especially given that blog readers probably tend to follow links to individual stories, not go to the main homepage.

UPDATE: They've replaced it with a poll on U.S./Canada relations.

JUST FINISHED JOHN SCALZI'S OLD MAN'S WAR and liked it very much. It definitely did remind me of Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, -- along with a bit of John Steakley's Armor. If you like those books, you'll certainly like Scalzi's. I was quite disappointed when it was over, which is a good thing indeed. (It would also make a good movie -- something that occurred to me at several points, especially the ping-pong scene.)

I wish I could say the same for David Weber's The Shadow of Saganami, but although I've enjoyed earlier books in this series, this one just dragged -- because, I think, the politics were too realistic. It's space opera, and that means it needs action, and character development. This was like reading a Horatio Hornblower novel (on which the series is modeled) and having 3/4 of it taken up by diplomatic maneuverings surrounding the Peninsular Campaign. No, no, no. (But it made number 16 on the NYT Hardcover Bestsellers list, so I'll bet Weber doesn't care what I think. But bear in mind that I didn't find Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle too long and discursive . . . .)

UKRAINE UPDATE:

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's opposition scored a victory on Wednesday in its drive to overturn what it says was a rigged election, when parliament sacked the government of Prime Minister and president-designate Viktor Yanukovich.

Bravo. It's not over, but this is exceptionally good news. More here.

MICHAEL TOTTEN IS BACK FROM LIBYA, and although you'll have to wait to read his full account in the L.A. Weekly, he's posted a lot of interesting photographs.

JIM GERAGHTY slams Brian Williams for his put-down of bloggers:

Look, Human Chin, you work in a medium where you would still be doing the traffic report back in Elmira, N.Y. if you looked like Dennis Kucinich. In other words, you've got your job because you're pretty. I'm not sure you should be shooting your mouth off about other people's qualifications to do the news.

Ouch. By the way, I'm glad to see that Geraghty's blog is still running at NRO, and I hope they'll keep it even though the election is over. I guess it'll need a new name, though.

RICH, BLOGGY GOODNESS: Ashish Hanwadikar is hosting this week's Carnival of the Vanities. Check it out.

THE BLOGOSPHERE: An implausible, but amusing future.

AUSTIN BAY: "A Russian bid to return to super-power status is the truly big story behind Ukraine’s rigged election." Read the whole thing.

MAYOR DALEY'S SON, Patrick Daley, has enlisted in the Army. Interesting observations on the political implications here.

TARGET MYSTERY EXPLAINED: Earlier reports that Target.com was advertising blowjobs, and marijuana -- not to mention prostitution -- are explained as bad web management, rather than a sudden broadening of Target's lines of business. You can find same items on Amazon -- only with more information (here's the marijuana item) -- and the Target/Amazon sites are co-branded, or co-hosted, or whatever you call it. It's the complete lack of information on the Target site that makes it confusing.

Of course, several readers think it's just clever marketing -- just as the Christmas shopping season heats up, rumors about spicy content emerge to lure people to the Target website. Do you think?

DO AMERICA'S JEWELERS THINK ALL WOMEN ARE PROSTITUTES? Watching the commercials on TV, it seems that way to me. Jonah Goldberg has a similar take.

UPDATE: Of course, VISA thinks they're pathologically dishonest compulsive shoppers.

DUANE PATTERSON says that Michael Moore has proved him right.

BRIDGING THE RED-BLUE GAP IN ACADEMIA: A firsthand report.

THOUGHTS on homophobia among the progressives. It's more like contempt than phobia, really.

TALKING TO ROBOTS: My TechCentralStation column is up.

JESSE WALKER DEBUNKS conspiracy theories about the Ukraine uprising (Best quote: You can't simply parachute Karl Rove into a country and manufacture a revolution.") He also observes:

Still, the very experience of overthrowing a government this way—of building independent institutions, diffusing power through civil society, and learning first-hand that it's possible to say no to authority—unleashes something that's hard for any politician to control. Those tent cities aren't merely a demand for freedom. They're acts of freedom themselves: of men and women voluntarily assembled both to defy the old order and to build something new.

Indeed.

CHRIS MUIR'S DAY BY DAY CARTOON is back from hiatus!

November 30, 2004

TOM MAGUIRE has a Plame update.

BACK BEFORE THE ELECTION, Tony Pierce was a bit, er, uncharitable where I was concerned. But that won't stop me from mentioning his new book. I haven't read it, but I liked the last one.

I got interviewed by a reporter who's doing a story on blogs and the election, and who seemed anxious to gin up more conflict between me and Jeff Jarvis than I thought was really there. I do think that a few people got a bit excited for a while. But I see blogs as intensely personal. And just as you'd forgive a friend or relative a bit of overexcitability on a key subject or two, I think you should do the same with fellow-bloggers.

DANIEL DREZNER NOTES that immigration is driving up the demand for goat meat. Good, because goat is yummy, and good for you.

I remember one of my brother's friends (who was Namibian, I believe) in Boston complaining that "you just can't get a good goat's head in this town." Maybe that'll change!

THIS SEEMS LIKE GOOD NEWS:

Strong consumer spending and business investment and a slightly lower than previously reported trade deficit meant the US economy grew at a 3.9 per cent rate in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said.


The upward revision from the 3.7 per cent advance estimate was above consensus expectations and represented a rebound from 3.3 per cent growth in the second quarter.

Core personal consumption expenditures inflation, excluding food and energy, the Federal Reserve's preferred measure of inflation, was unchanged at a 0.7 per cent rate in the quarter - the lowest reading since the 1960s.

Interest rates are expected to rise, though.

ED CONE EVALUATES John Edwards' ongoing campaign.

KOFI ANNAN MUST GO: That's Sen. Norm Coleman in tomorrow's WSJ. It's a free link.

UPDATE: Interesting article from the Asia Times, too:

Secretary General Annan had a blessed first term, but a second term that is turning into a nightmare. The mismanagement of the return of the UN to Iraq, alleged corruption in the oil-for-food program, and reported sexual harassment within the UN have coalesced in an unprecedented degree of staff antagonism toward Annan. The crisis has been compounded by what some have interpreted as an attempt by Annan to woo the John Kerry team with the hope of obtaining a third term if the Democrats had won the November US presidential election. . . .

While Annan has unambiguously stated that he will finish his term, in the shadowy world of diplomatic doublespeak, the fact that the statement on Iraq was made at all raised eyebrows. Ultimately, all will depend on the Bush administration, on what the current investigation of the oil-for-food program will unearth and to what use the information will be put.

I think that the investigation will unearth some devastating stuff. As to what happens next, well, that depends on whether Kofi Annan's personal interests, or the United Nations' institutional interests, are foremost.

IRANIAN ASSAULT ON BLOGS CONTINUES:

Reporters Without Borders has strongly protested against the Iran's relentless efforts to stifle free expression online after the arrest of five webloggers in less than two months, the latest on 28 November 2004.

"The government is now attacking blogs, the last bastion of freedom on a network that is experiencing ever tighter control," said the worldwide press freedom organisation. "At the same time, an Iranian delegate is sitting on a UN-created working group on Internet governance. The international community should condemn this masquerade," it added.

Yes, it should. Perhaps Kofi Annan will rebuke the Iranians for this.

"BLOG" IS THE NUMBER ONE WORD OF THE YEAR according to Merriam-Webster.

SO YOU CAN BUY a blowjob at Target now? And yesterday it was marijuana. Then there's this, also, appropriately enough, in the "red hot shop."

I guess that explains Wal-Mart's slow sales. But I'm beginning to wonder if someone isn't hacking their site. . . . (Via Sheepdog).

THE ANCHORESS has a prediction on Tom Ridge's replacement.

BRIAN WILLIAMS IS DISSING BLOGGERS:

According to CBS Marketwatch, at a post-election wrap-up session, when a fellow panelist "mentioned that bloggers had had a big impact on the reporting on Election Day, Williams waved that point away by quipping that the self-styled journalists are 'on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem.'"

And yet, they're kicking your ass.

UPDATE: Terry Heaton: "It's a scary time for people in television news, because the blue smoke and mirrors has been revealed for what it is."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Heh. And here's another perspective:

Not a surprise, but always good to be reminded of the culture of arrogance in the Mainstream Media that underlies the lack of concern over facts, truth, and (occasionally) basic, rational self interest.

Meanwhile, at Power Line, a personal reminiscence involving Brian Williams.

MORE: This photo is pretty funny.

MORE ON EFFORTS TO REFORM THE U.N.: Half-measures, I think, but it's a start.

STEVE GARDNER'S FIRING: Here's a response from his former employer.

BUSH IN CANADA: Peaktalk has a link-filled post. Damian Penny reports on a protest that fizzled. Colby Cosh reports on a legitimate Canadian grievance. And a Canadian group is trying to bridge the gap.

But Jay Currie notes something missing in the Canadian blogosphere.

No antisemitism in the Canadian peace movement!

UPDATE: Photoblogged here.

MILITARY RECRUITERS AND YALE LAW SCHOOL: An insider's report.

TOM RIDGE RESIGNS.

MADRID BOMBING UPDATE: A roundup on Aznar's testimony here, from Franco Aleman, and also read this post from Iberian Notes:

Former Prime Minister José María Aznar spoke for eleven hours yesterday before the Parliamentary commission investigating the March 11 bombings in Madrid. It was all televised live on TV2; I watched some of it, especially the part where he chewed up the Esquerra Republicana guy and spit him out. Aznar was devastating.

Read 'em both.

STARTED READING JOHN SCALZI'S NEW BOOK today in the waiting room, where I had ample time to read. So far, I like it a lot; I'll post a full review when I'm done.

IS THE U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL BROKEN? Ruth Wedgwood and Frederick Rawski have a blog-debate underway over at Legal Affairs.

Some might say that this story answers the question.

MORE ON THE TERM "LIKUDNIK" and anti-semitism.

OVER AT GLENNREYNOLDS.COM, I explain to Bill O'Reilly that the Internet is a no-weenie zone.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman has more thoughts, and several readers emailed to wonder if O'Reilly's defense of Rather isn't really just a big-media suckup move, as he angles to replace Rather or Brokaw.

SORRY FOR THE LIMITED BLOGGING: Had to take the InstaWife to the doctor this morning, as she's still feeling ill. She's now, however, watching HGTV and learning how to "accessorize" a dining room.

IN THE PAST I'VE MENTIONED bizarre remixes of Lawrence Welk and Henry Mancini, (you can hear samples online by following the links) -- but now John Scalzi is pointing the way to an entire, streamable online album of remixes of white-bread '70s pop, with the remixes done by people like The Supreme Beings of Leisure. It's cool, and it's free. Which is even cooler.

HEALTHCARE BLOGGING: This week's Grand Rounds is up, with entries from health-care professionals on all sorts of topics.

ADVICE TO OLD MEDIA:

Too many people in newspapers speak as if there is going to be a straight migration from newspaper to its websites, albeit with traumatic commercial consequences. Ideally, they think, we will all be sitting on trains with digital versions of newspapers broadcast wirelessly to digital paper (think Minority Report/ Harry Potter). They have built their websites - often as fortresses, cut off from the rest of the net - accordingly.

This, methinks, is optimistic - and that’s putting it politely.

Indeed.

IRAQ UPDATES: Read this and this.

IVORY COAST UPDATE:

A colonel of the Ivorian gendarmerie interviewed by Agence France Presse (AFP) has affirmed that French forces on November 9 fired directly and without warning upon the crowd of protestors gathered in front of the Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan. Colonel Georges Guiai Bi Poin, who was in charge of a contingent of Ivorian gendarmes dispatched to control the crowd and coordinate with the French troops, says that the order to fire came from the commander of the latter, colonel D'Estremon.

If these were American troops, this would be getting worldwide attention.

MORE UKRAINE UPDATES HERE, from King Banaian.

UPDATE: John O'Sullivan looks at winners and losers so far:

The final losers are the U.N. and Kofi Annan. The U.N. has been invisible. As Kofi Annan has been trying to keep his head above oil, he has issued his usual appeal for restraint. But this crisis has brought forth the heroes of the Cold War from retirement -- Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa and Margaret Thatcher -- to encourage the orange revolutionaries. And Annan cannot begin to compete with their moral authority or the legitimacy they can bestow.

Indeed.

And read this piece, on lessons from Georgia and elsewhere, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here, including a link to video.

JIM LINDGREN: "If the news accounts are correct, the new study distinguishing the brain scans of liars from truth-tellers has a serious design flaw that goes beyond the small sample size. Indeed, it is such an obvious flaw that I wonder whether the researchers really made it, or whether instead the reporters got the story wrong."

ONLINE SHOPPING IS UP:

U.S. online shoppers, who set spending and traffic records on Thanksgiving Day and the "Black Friday" that followed, were expected to break new ground again as they returned to work on what some are calling "Blue Monday." . . .

While Black Friday refers to the bustling shopping day that starts brick-and-mortar retailers' move from "the red" to "the black," Blue Monday -- a name inspired by the Web's blue links -- is one of the biggest days for online retailers as workers return to their jobs, and fast Internet connections.

Businesses: Let your employees surf at work. The economy depends on it!

November 29, 2004

A MALE HOMECOMING QUEEN? Big deal. The University of Tennessee did that with Vince Staten back in 1970 (though, back in those analog days, we had a paper bag instead of a blue dot). Talk about being behind the times.

CLEANING UP THE U.N.: Is it time for Helms-Biden again?

BECAUSE THERE HAVE TO BE SOME LIMITS, DAMMIT: "I am not about to Photoshop tasteful wall decorations into an informal luncheon snapshot."

UPDATE: Not everyone appreciates the value of restraint.

AN IMPORTANT POINT:

One of the tragic things I see developing is that the Western media narrative seems to be falling into a US vs. Russia play. And I'm seeing more and more commentary in that vein on the web. So few seem to grasp that this is about an entire system, not about an election. Yes, the people are rallying for Yushchenko, but it goes so, so much deeper than that.

The events in Ukraine are about a people fighting free of the grayness, corruption, abuse and fatalism of the post-Soviet era. All of you, Right or Left, need to see them as people. Yes, there are geopolitical ramifications. But they should be so incredibly secondary to the humanity of the Ukrainian people -- these are flesh and blood human beings who are fighting to be free of a vicious, grinding system. People are proud to be Ukrainian, proud that their country is now known for something other than mafia, dead journalists, and corruption. People who a week ago were convinced of their own powerlessness are now standing fearlessly, singing together, "We are many, we are one, we can't be stopped!"

Can anyone be so dead of heart not to find this beautiful?

Apparently so.

BRIAN MICKLETHWAIT:

Some people, of the sort who confuse (or who like to pretend for propaganda purposes that they confuse) libertarianism with libertinism, might expect a libertarian like me to rejoice at any collapse in marital fidelity. But my libertarianism is about the right to choose what promises you make, not about the right to break them with impunity, to the point where you are not even to be criticised for such cheating. . . .

And if anyone mentions France, where, allegedly, they take a more mature and rational view of these things, my answer is: precisely. Cynicism about private life is directly to be associated, I would say, with cynicism about the more public side of things. French public life is relentlessly corrupt and cynical, and they are oh-so-rational about adultery. I do not think these facts are coincidental.

Read the whole thing, which is about the Blunkett affair and much more.

INTERESTED IN STORYTELLING AND SCREENWRITING? If you are, you may be interested in this blog by Katy Wright. She's written a book on the subject, too.

HOT FRENCH CHICKS WITH GUNS: The world is becoming a better place.

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE has further thoughts on Wal-Mart.

UPDATE: This take is closer to my own: Wal-Mart is just an unpleasant place to shop.

THOUGHTS ON DEMOCRACY IN THE UKRAINE, from Matt Spence.

IT'S NOT PLAGIARISM when you repeat stuff from a press release without checking it -- but it's not journalism, either. It's not even very good punditry.

ECONOBLOGARAMA: This week's Carnival of the Capitalists is up.

MAYBE THIS IS WHY WAL-MART'S SALES ARE OFF: Target is offering marijuana! Well, it's easier than competing with Toys R Us! (Via Volokh).

Maybe they've got an idea of how the Raich decision is likely to come out . . . .

IT'S NOT ON THE WEB YET, if it's going to be at all, but I've got a review of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle novels in the "Holiday Reading" issue of The Weekly Standard.

UPDATE: Hey, it's on the Web now.

TOUR THE INDIAN BLOGOSPHERE at this week's Blog Mela, where, among other things, Arundhati Roy receives unfavorable attention.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Here's an interview with Jed Babbin that's worth reading.

MY HAPPY EXPERIENCE with BellSouth's robot-driven repair service this weekend led to a column, which will be up later in the week at TCS. But here are a couple of thoughts that didn't make the column.

One is that when it comes to reliable phone service, you still can't beat the Bells. One of the local cable companies, Knology, offers phone service, as do some other local-phone competitors. I'm glad they're competitive, but I have serious doubts about the quality and reliability of their service compared to BellSouth's. (I haven't heard anything bad about Knology, to be fair, but my mother-in-law has local service from some other provider, and her service calls take, literally, months.)

Another is that the move to internet telephony as something more than a hobby or add-on is going to make reliability worse. Internet telephony seems to be on the verge of becoming a mass-market consumer item -- but the Internet itself isn't especially reliable, by phone standards.

Call me old-fashioned, or more concerned with reliability than most people (and I probably am the latter, at least) but I wouldn't rely on a VOIP setup as my sole telephone connection. I gather that some people are, but they obviously feel differently about these things than I do.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

I concur with your assessment of VOIP and POTS; when hurricane Charley came through Orlando we lost power for 3 1/2 days, others lost it for over a week, some for longer. I have a good size UPS that supports my PC, cable modem and router, but I didn't have internet access because the cable company didn't have power to its boxes.

Being law enforcement and an emergency responder to the county courthouse, I'm on the "special" list for my county-issued cell phone, so I had cell access while my neighbors did not. They could receive calls but couldn't make them because for the first day after Charley public cell access was restricted to ensure emergency service workers could communicate (911 calls would go through, others would not).

My "dumb" phone from Bell South worked the entire time because Bell has battery backup and generators, and their wired network is independent of everyone else's.

I was seriously considering VOIP up until we became Hurricane Central. Now, I might add VOIP to get real cheap long distance, but it will be in addition to POTS because of the reliability.

That's certainly my view. The Bells have a different attitude -- and network setup -- than most other people. On the other hand, reader Stan Davis emails:

As a Senior Engineer for a small, up-and-coming VoIP company, I can assure you that your fears about the unreliability of VoIP telephony are fast becoming unfounded. It very much depends on the company, of course, but our network has double and sometimes triple back-ups for every piece of mission critical equipment. Our goal is to not have a single dropped or choppy call and we are 99.9% successful in that. Our biggest obstacle lies, ironically, not with the Internet per-se, but with the Bell companies, and others, that provide the DSL (and cable) to the home. This piece is the weakest link and entirely out of the VoIP industries hands. You might be surprised to hear that a very large portion (sorry, don't have exact numbers, but would guess 80%) of all domestic long distance telephone calls today travel over a VoIP network at some point! The same is true for mobile calls. I hope this will help you to understand the extent that VoIP has penetrated the telephony industry already, unbeknownst to the general public.

Actually I did know that the numbers are big. I'm delighted to hear that people are taking this seriously, because I think that peoples' primary phone lines should be extremely reliable. Of course, the local-loop segment is the most important, and I don't think those are treated as carefully for Internet access as for Plain Old Telephone Service, meaning that POTS is still likely to be more reliable.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader John Steele emails:

Further to your item about POTS vs VOIP I can second some of your correspondents comments. We were without power for 5 weeks after Hurricane Andrew and NEVER lost phone service. Without power for that long no matter how reliable they make a VOIP backbone there is no UPS available to mankind that will last that long :-)

Indeed.

SPEAK OUT AND BE FIRED: More McCarthyite crushing of dissent in John Ashkkkroft's Alberto Gonzales' America!

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY ROUNDUP of media bias regarding firearms is up.

FACULTY CLUBS AND CHURCH PEWS: Harvard law professor Bill Stuntz tries to bridge the gap:

The past few months have seen a lot of talk about red and blue America, mostly by people on one side of the partisan divide who find the other side a mystery.

It isn't a mystery to me, because I live on both sides. For the past twenty years, I've belonged to evangelical Protestant churches, the kind where George W. Bush rolled up huge majorities. And for the past eighteen years, I've worked in secular universities where one can hardly believe that Bush voters exist. Evangelical churches are red America at its reddest. And universities, especially the ones in New England (where I work now), are as blue as the bluest sky.

Not surprisingly, each of these institutions is enemy territory to the other. But the enmity is needless. It may be a sign that I'm terminally weird, but I love them both, passionately. And I think that if my church friends and my university friends got to know each other, they'd find a lot to like and admire. More to the point, the representatives of each side would learn something important and useful from the other side.

Yeah. I'm not terribly religious myself, but I grew up as a preacher's kid and I don't find religious people, or symbolism, as threatening as many university folks do. On the other hand, as someone who has spent most of his life around universities, I don't think they're the centers of evil that many non-university people do, either. Read the whole thing, as Stuntz makes these points much better than I do.

KING BANAIAN has a Ukraine roundup.

MY EARLIER WAL-MART POST produced a lot of email from readers saying that Wal-Mart's drop in sales was probably more reflective of Wal-Mart's problems than of Christmas shopping generally. Judging by this story from the WSJ (unlike the link to my column, below, this one's subscriber-only -- sorry) the readers are right:

A Shopping Frenzy, but Not at Wal-Mart

Near-record crowds turned out for the holiday shopping season's Thanksgiving weekend kickoff, bringing with them unexpectedly robust sales gains to many malls and retail chains across the country.

Except, surprisingly, at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

I've never understood the fashionable Wal-Mart hatred, but I've never liked shopping there very much. I also think that a lot of people are doing their shopping online, like I am, though I haven't seen a lot of numbers on that yet. But there's less traffic, no crowds, and you don't have to haul the stuff to or from your car.

I'm sure I'll do some shopping at the mall, too, but I'll bet I wind up spending more than half my Christmas budget online.

UPDATE: Hmm. Even some loyal Wal-Mart customers may be shopping online at Walmart.com since its prices can be lower than the stores'. Wonder how they're counted?

KOFI UPDATE: I've got a column in today's Wall Street Journal on the notion of replacing Kofi Annan with Vaclav Havel.

UPDATE: William Safire has more on Kofi's troubles: "This marks the end of the beginning of the scandal. Its end will not begin until Kofi Annan, even if personally innocent, resigns - having, through initial ineptitude and final obstructionism, brought dishonor on the Secretariat of the United Nations."

November 28, 2004

SOME PEOPLE ARE CALLING for the arrest of Jean Chretien for war crimes prior to Bush's Canada visit.

Seems a bit silly to me, but then there's a lot of that kind of silliness up north lately.

"THE NEWS WARS OF 2010 WERE NOTABLE for the fact that no actual news organization was involved." A short, and somewhat cautionary, history of the media future.

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS BEATS OUT ALEXANDER: Of course, some people wonder if Spongebob is gay, too. . . .

UPDATE: Rather more sophisticated observations, here.

MICHAEL JORDAN'S BIG BROTHER is going to Iraq.

AS I SAID EARLIER, I've done all my Christmas shopping so far right here. Now I see that Wal-Mart sales have been disappointing this weekend. Are lots of people shopping online, or are people just buying less?

I'd report on how crowded the parking lots at the malls are, but I haven't been there, so I can't. But there may be a tie-in to this column from last year, too.

UPDATE: The Wal-Mart story seems to be much ado about not much, according to Kevin Brancato's Wal-Mart blog. He links this story, too, suggesting that many people expected slower sales this year because last year people had tax rebate checks in hand.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader James Wink emails:

I have an alternate idea of what is happening to Wal-Mart. They have devalued their brand: Wal-Mart is a place to go for the necessities of life. Target has pulled a brilliant move in placing itself as a more prestigious and higher quality brand covering the same economic demographics. While people would be more then willing to buy milk at Wal-Mart, they would prefer to buy the better quality jewelry at Target considering the cost factor is reasonably comparable. I managed to do no shopping on Black Friday (like you Amazon got a majority of my money) and spent my morning walking that trails at Great Falls and then meeting my wife in DC for lunch.

Two years ago I did a considerable amount of shopping at Wal-Mart in the Norfolk area where their Super centers are comfortable places to shop. When I moved to the Northern VA area, where there are no Super Wal-Mart, my one trip to Wal-Mart was an exercise in claustrophobia and crowd control (and this was in September not Dec). Target represents an place that is far more comfortable to shop in: the aisles are clean and wide and there are usually enough cashiers to ensure a speedy experience. The cost is marginally more but is more then worth the psychic cost of going to Wal-Mart.

Yeah. I've never understood the fashionable hatred of Wal-Mart, but I've also never really liked shopping there.

MORE: This article from Forbes suggests that Wal-Mart's problems are Wal-Mart's problem: "In an effort to defend its profits, the world's largest retailer did not discount as deeply on a wide array of products as it has in the past. That hurt sales the day after Thanksgiving, the official start of the holiday shopping season, as other competitors like Sears, Roebuck and Co. lured shoppers with deeper price cuts. Customers tend to be price-sensitive and go to Wal-Mart to take advantage of the blitz of deals."

A CRACKDOWN AGAINST PRO-DEMOCRACY PROTESTERS IN UKRAINE? King Banaian has a roundup at the SCSU Scholars site.

UPDATE: Veronica Khokhlova: "I wished Bono had come over here - man, wouldn't that be cool..."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has a lengthy and disturbing roundup on the geopolitics involved.

HUMAN TELETUBBIES: This is just wrong.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT in Canada.

UKRAINE UPDATE: David Warren writes:

The damage that has been done to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, should not be overlooked. He invested more political capital than was wise by heavy-handedly supporting both President Kuchma in the Ukraine, and Alexandr Lukashenko, the authoritarian president-for-life of Belarus -- the two "Little Russias" from the old Soviet Union.

Ukrainian events remind Russians of how much fraud was involved in their own last election.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: More on fraud here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more, with photos, here:

WHAT HAS MADE THE SITUATION an international crisis is the heavy-handed Russian interference in the election. Russia's involvement is so beyond the pale that two former presidents who led revolutions against Soviet-installed puppet governments in their own nations--Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and Lech Walesa from Poland--have waded in on the side of Yushchenko.

Havel sent a letter which was read by Yushchenko at an evening demonstration in which he urged Yushchenko and his followers to continue their fight. Walesa arrived in Kiev two days later to support Yushchenko. He spoke twice to the crowds at Independence Square. The situation reminded him "of the struggle that we carried on with Solidarity in the 1980s," he said.

Read the whole thing.

THIS SOUNDS LIKE GOOD NEWS:

A South Korean woman paralyzed for 20 years is walking again after scientists say they repaired her damaged spine using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.

I hope it pans out. (Via Pirate's Cove).

I AGREE: Tom Brokaw is giving bad advice.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING TIDBIT ABOUT ALEXANDER: It was subsidized by the French government:

Jeunet had pointed out that director Oliver Stone's Alexander the Great received funding from the French government despite not being filmed in France or in French.

Judging by the reviews, I don't think the return on that investment is going to be very good.

UPDATE: Hmm. I wonder if this Barbie movie -- and matching robot cat, Serafina -- got French subsidies: "Whenever her on-screen counterpart appears during the DVD film 'Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper,' the $40 furball starts to purr and chat -- and she can do it in French, too .." reports PrestoPundit. Hey, it would be a better investment than Alexander -- Barbie's a proven performer.

HERE'S MORE ON THE LACK OF DIVERSITY IN AMERICAN ACADEMIA, and its consequences:

When John Kennedy brought to Washington such academics as Arthur Schlesinger Jr., John Kenneth Galbraith, McGeorge and William Bundy and Walt Rostow, it was said that the Charles River was flowing into the Potomac.

Academics, such as the next secretary of state, still decorate Washington, but academia is less listened to than it was. It has marginalized itself, partly by political shrillness and silliness that have something to do with the parochialism produced by what George Orwell called "smelly little orthodoxies."

Many campuses are intellectual versions of one-party nations — except such nations usually have the merit, such as it is, of candor about their ideological monopolies. In contrast, American campuses have more insistently proclaimed their commitment to diversity as they have become more intellectually monochrome.

They do indeed cultivate diversity — in race, skin color, ethnicity, sexual preference. In everything but thought.

Indeed.

UPDATE: A faculty reader emails: "We just hired a new vice president of diversity on campus and he's about to start 'diversity conversations.' This could be a great opportunity to talk about diversity of thought, since they're just now defining what diversity in Oregon means."

Sounds like it could begin a useful conversation. I suspect that quite a few states will be having such discussions.

THIS STORY from the Baltimore Sun on the future of the news business post-Rather is worth reading in its entirety. Here's a bit:

For Socolow, the rise of bloggers is the most exciting change in electronic journalism these days. And, he says, far from upending journalistic traditions, bloggers derive their greatest strength from a mainstay of the profession.

"For all the bad things that bloggers put out there [during the election], they have one really significant advantage over the dinosaur networks, which is their relationship to accuracy," Socolow said. "The bloggers' power is in their ability to fact-check mainstream journalism in a new way."

The fallout from Rather's Bush report is proof of that power: It was bloggers - not television or print journalists - who first questioned the authenticity of the documents on which 60 Minutes II based the segment.

"What's more basic to journalism than fact-checking and accuracy?" Socolow says. "That's what bloggers are providing, as the Bush-Rather story illustrates. CBS News - or The New York Times for that matter - never had to worry about its journalism being independently evaluated the way it is today on the Internet."

That's not as dramatic a story line as the end of network news. But another layer of checks and balances - even if ideologically driven - seems like a good thing for the public.

Yes. And if I were running a Big Media outlet I'd pay someone to surf the blogs (or check links to my own stories from blogs via technorati) and then make corrections when they found errors. It's free, outsourced error-correction.

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