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December 18, 2004

FAKE FAT FOR YUSHCHENKO?


Perhaps Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko should try an "Olestra diet" to rid his body of dioxin.

It wouldn't be the first time that the "fake fat" product was used as an emergency agent to flush out dioxin, one of a group of chlorinated hydrocarbons that are toxic, lipophilic (attracted to fat) - and persistent in the environment and animal tissues. About five years ago, two Austrian women suffering from dioxin poisoning were given olestra snacks, which resulted in removal of dioxin at 10 times the normal rate, according to some reports.

In an as-yet-unpublished study, researchers at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine, along with Trevor Redgrave at the University of Western Australia, treated a patient with PCB toxicity over a two-year period with olestra in the form of fat-free Pringles. The patient's chloracne disappeared and the PCB level in fat tissue dropped dramatically.

Somebody airlift a pallet-load of Dorito's Wow chips!

REALIST SCHOLAR DENOUNCES IDEALIST PRESIDENT: Which one will history vindicate?

HERE'S A MEMORANDUM from the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, concluding that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to arms.

UPDATE: A couple of articles by yours truly on this subject here and here. And read this, too.

SLASHDOT looks at comment spam and Movable Type.

THREE CHEERS FOR SPRINT, which has donated 2500 prepaid phone cards to wounded troops at Walter Reed.

MILTON FRIEDMAN: "After World War II, opinion was socialist while practice was free market; currently, opinion is free market while practice is heavily socialist. We have largely won the battle of ideas; we have succeeded in stalling the progress of socialism, but we have not succeeded in reversing its course. We are still far from bringing practice into conformity with opinion. That is the overriding non-defence task for the second Bush term."

UPDATE: Arnold Kling responds: "I do not think that we have have won the battle of ideas. The Left has not conceded defeat; it has merely become passive-aggressive. Simply by holding on to public provision of schooling, Medicare, and Social Security, those who distrust markets can ensure that government will play an ever-larger role in our lives."

SO I OPEN UP this Harry Turtledove book to take a break from the blogosphere, and the dedication is to . . . Patrick Nielsen Hayden, for being the best editor imaginable.

Undoubtedly true, but also proof that there's no escaping the blogosphere, these days.

HUGH HEWITT:

My point is that the talking heads of cable land know as much about the drug approval process as I do about monster trucks. And I don't know anything about monster trucks except what Ed Morrisey has told me (and I still think it is pretty odd that Ed owns one of those eight-foot tire jobs.) The last thing we need is a witch hunt that shutters the drug development process.

Media hysteria is probably killing as many people as bad pharmaceuticals. My wife has had a problem with patients -- scared by stuff they've heard on TV about anti-depressants causing suicide -- stopping their antidepressants and becoming . . . suicidally depressed.

Will Lou Dobbs take the rap for those deaths?

EMBARRASSING REVELATIONS:

The American Civil Liberties Union is using sophisticated technology to collect a wide variety of information about its members and donors in a fund-raising effort that has ignited a bitter debate over its leaders' commitment to privacy rights.

Some board members say the extensive data collection makes a mockery of the organization's frequent criticism of banks, corporations and government agencies for their practice of accumulating data on people for marketing and other purposes. . . .

The group's new data collection practices were implemented without the board's approval or knowledge, and were in violation of the A.C.L.U.'s privacy policy at the time, said Michael Meyers, vice president of the organization and a frequent and strident internal critic. Mr. Meyers said he learned about the new research by accident Nov. 7 in a meeting of the committee that is organizing the group's Biennial Conference in July.

He objected to the practices, and the next day, the privacy policy on the group's Web site was changed. "They took out all the language that would show that they were violating their own policy," he said. "In doing so, they sanctified their procedure while still keeping it secret."

With nonprofits, just as with for-profits, it's usually about the benjamins.

December 17, 2004

DANIEL HENNINGER:

We see where a curator at France's Pompidou Center says his museum is opening a branch in Hong Kong, because "U.S. culture is too strong" there, and "we need to have a presence in Asia to counterbalance the American influence." With the Pompidou Center?

"American influence" is the great white whale of the 21st century, and Jacques Chirac is the Ahab chasing her with a three-masted schooner. Along for the ride is a crew that includes Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Vladimir Putin, North Korea's Kim Jong-Il, Kofi Annan, the Saudi royal family, Robert Mugabe, the state committee of Communist China and various others who have ordained themselves leaders for life. At night, seated around the rum keg, they talk about how they have to stop American political power, the Marines or Hollywood.

The world is lucky these despots and demagogues are breaking their harpoons on this hopeless quest. Because all around them their own populations are grabbing the one American export no one can stop: raw technology. Communications technologies, most of them developed in American laboratories (often by engineers who voted for John Kerry), have finally begun to effect an historic shift in the relationship between governments and the governed. The governed are starting to win.

Not that long ago, in 1989, the world watched demonstrators sit passively in Tiananmen Square and fight the authorities with little more than a papier-mâché Statue of Liberty. Poland's Solidarity movement had to print protest material with homemade ink made from oil because the Communist government confiscated all the printers' ink.

In 2004, in Ukraine's Independence Square, they had cell phones.

Read the whole thing.

OVER AT ASYMMETRICAL INFORMATION, I'm accused of Nikon-centrism, and Mindles H. Dreck writes about the joys of the Canon EOS 20D digital camera.

Actually, I have blogged on that before.

JAMES LILEKS:

Maybe it's just me. Perhaps I'm overly sensitive. But when I wish a store clerk "Merry Christmas!" they often appear stunned and flummoxed for a moment, as if I've just blabbed the plans for the underground's sabotage of the train tracks in front of the secret police. I've said something highly inappropriate for the public square, and I almost expect a security guard to take me aside on the way out. . . .

I don't get it. There's this peculiar fear of Christmas that seems to get stronger every year, as if it's the season that dare not speak its name. Check out the U.S. Postal Service Web site: two different stamps for Kwanzaa. One for Eid, two for Hanukkah. Two for non-sectarian "Holiday," with pictures of Santa, reindeer, ornaments, that sort of thing. One for the Chinese New Year. One for those religiously inclined -- it features a Madonna and Child. But the Web site calls it "Holiday Traditional." The word "Christmas" doesn't appear on the site's description of the stamps. Eid, yes. Hanukkah, yes. Kwanzaa, yes. Christmas? No. It's Holiday Traditional.

I've noticed the same thing.

JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS: There's no better stocking stuffer for that special someone anywhere!

ANOTHER RESPONSE TO MICHAEL KINSLEY: They're everywhere!

THIS SEEMS LIKE GOOD NEWS:

Surgeons have used stem cells from fat to help repair skull damage in a 7-year-old girl in Germany, in what’s apparently the first time such fat-derived cells have been exploited to grow bone in a human. . . .

Roy C. Ogle of the University of Virginia, an expert in skull reconstructive surgery who has been studying bone regeneration from fat-derived cells, said he considered the new report to be the first indicating that any kind of stem cell had been used to grow bone in a human.

“It is a very big deal,” said Ogle, who called the study a landmark.

These are "adult," not embryonic, stem cells.

NASA READER ROGER MITCHELL EMAILS:

Since you write often digital cameras, I just thought I'd throw a bit more information out for you.

Last week, I had the Fuji Government representative down here at JSC to look at our photo lab (yes, that's where I work) and he also brought with him the new FinePix S3 PRO camera.

At the demonstration later that afternoon, I must say that I was impressed! This camera has such a wide dynamic range that it really does rival film. It does this by using two pixels in tandem, one for highlight detail and one for shadow. Comparing images side by side shot at the same ISO, aperture and shutter using a D2H, D100 and the S3 you can definitly see the difference. More highlight and shadow detail in the image. Also, they had a 30x40 enlargement (inkjet) that was fairly outstanding coming from a digital (we print digital camera files that large all of the time, but you can see some artifacts of the digital image when you look close - of course, most are from the Kodak DCS760 we still use onboard the station).

It's advertised as a 12MP camera, but this is because it counts all of the pixels, although it can output a full 12MB image (uses both pixels to fill in the dynamic range for each other). Also, for those of us out here with a big investment in Nikon glass, it uses all Nikon lenses and flash units (alas, no iTTL support - yet). At a street price about $2K, it is more pricey than a D100 or D70, but it does pack some pretty nice picture taking capability.

Still too pricey for me -- it shows at $2,499 at Amazon, and that's allegedly an 11% discount. But it does sound cool -- and the nice thing is that cameras this good will be a lot cheaper, soon. And when you compare it to $2000 for a Nikon D2H, I guess the price isn't bad. This just illustrates what I've said before about the quality of digital cameras going up, even as prices drop or stay stable. And as I've also noted, that's actually a reason for a working pro with a lot of film cameras to hold off on buying digital.

MICHAEL MALONE has some interesting thoughts on the future of the blogosphere, but I think he gets this bit wrong:

You see, the real problem of the blogosphere is not its content, but its structure. That is, it has yet to develop a viable business model. It is essentially a vast global movement of volunteers, most of whom are hoping for some kind of eventual payoff for their noble labors.

By "payoff" he means financial payoff. I don't think most bloggers are blogging away in the expectation of getting rich. Some will, and some larger (but still small) number will be comfortably well off, or at least make enough money to pay the hosting fees. But people blog so that they can express themselves -- to be producers, not consumers -- and we see this impulse across the world of new and alternative media. But it's not really new. Lots of musicians play music in spite of the fact that most of them won't get rich. (Most won't even do as well as my touring rock-musician brother, and believe me, he isn't rich). They do it because they like to play, and they want their music heard. I think the same kind of thing drives most bloggers, too. It's certainly what's driven me. And while some people will drop out after a while (heck, most people will drop out after a while) the blogosphere will remain.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT IN JOHN ASHKKKROFT'S AMERICA PHIL BREDESEN'S TENNESSEE:

A 29-year-old Nashville Scene employee, Nels Noseworthy, was handcuffed, arrested and hastily escorted without notice from his job at this alt-weekly newspaper today on charges that he accepted payment for advertisements in the Scene that police say were purchased to promote prostitution. . . . Police say the indictment stems from a yearlong investigation precipitated in part by complaints from citizens about ads in this newspaper's "Personal Adult Services" section. Police say that indictments stem in part from conversations between Noseworthy and undercover officers posing as advertisers.

Okay, Bredesen undoubtedly had nothing to do with this. But, then, John Ashcroft often got blamed for things he had nothing to do with, too. And how can anyone expect an alt-weekly to stay in business without sex ads?

WHERE WOULD THEY HAVE GOTTEN THIS IDEA?

Former "Golden Girls" showrunnershowrunner Mort Nathan and producer Brad Johnson are hoping to do for Iraq what "MASH" did for Korea.
As part of a busy development slate, Nathan is penning "Spirit of America," a half-hour comedy about staffers at a fledgling American-run TV network in Baghdad that's trying to bring Western-style programming to the locals.

I hope the MASH analogy isn't quite right, though.

REPORTING FROM BUENOS AIRES, Ron Bailey says that the Kyoto Protocol is dead.

I LINKED TO MOST OF THEM individually before, but here's a page with links and information on all the short web films that Amazon has released. I hope that they'll keep this up, and branch out into more indie stuff.

MICKEY KAUS on lowering the journalistic bar:

Somwhere, Jeffrey Toobin is turning over in his grave. Toobin argued absurdly that a politician's sex life is off limits to journalists' because it "tells you absolutely nothing about their performance in office". But Kerik wasn't even going to perform in office! He was out. ... The Times, a principled organization, will presumably apply the Kerik precedent in years to come when Democratic figures are involved. I especially look forward to the paper's multiple-reporter investigation of Hillary Clinton's erotic life when she runs for Senate in 2006. All of her housekeepers need to be produced, of course, and if she has any lovers other than her faithful husband we'll find that out too! ... P.S.: Plus, following the Kerik precedent, it will be enough if "someone who spoke to" Hillary about any relationship can vouch for it. Hearsay evidence about sex is good enough for the Times!

I think the Star has stricter sourcing rules. . . . But so does the Times, where stories about Democrats are concerned.

DON'T MISS THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES, full of mouth-watering bloggy goodness.

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF NOTES that Osama is sounding familiar. "bin Laden is moving one step further along the path of the great ideological - or at least rhetorical - convergence between the angry left and the angry Islamofascism . . . And thus Osama becomes yet another billionaire complaining about the growing gap between the rich and the poor, a sort of George Soros with a Closed Society Institute."

December 16, 2004

SPEAKING OF ALTERNATE HISTORY:

PARIS (Routers) Long-time critics of the Roosevelt administration declared themselves vindicated today, as the Germans began a renewed offensive yesterday in the Ardennes Forest, opening a huge hole in the "Allied" lines and throwing back troops for miles, with previously unimaginable US casualties.

Fire Secretary Marshall er, Stimson!

EARLIER, I LINKED A STORY about an ROTC comeback in the Ivy League. Advocates for ROTC is a group that's trying to help that process along.

MATT YGLESIAS FISKS DAVID SIROTA, but my favorite line is from the comments: "We Dems have bigger fish to fry now than each other."

JON HENKE NOTES A BIN LADEN FLIPFLOP:

One year ago, Al Qaeda believed they should work against the United States, rather than working to destabilize the Arab regimes. One year ago, Al Qaeda was focusing outward, rather than inward. One year ago, Al Qaeda believed in coexistence with the House of Saud.

One year ago, Al Qaeda believed the Caliphate could best be established by detente with the House of Saud, and War against the United States.

Today, Al Qaeda seeks detente with the US, and war against the House of Saud.

That's because they're losing.

OKAY, THIS STILL ISN'T GIZMODO, but in light of last week's post on photo printers, it's worth noting this BBC story saying that photos printed on home photo printers can be higher quality, and longer lasting, than those from professional photo labs.

THIS ISN'T GIZMODO, but judging from my email some people would like it to be. Reader Matt Lierman emails:

Since you're an expert of everything tech, what would you recommend for a good notbook PC. Something light, portable and just basic. Let's face it, irrespective of all the additional hardware thrown in, most people just use them for word processing and spreadsheets, maybe some websurfing via wifi. Just your basic notebook PC for word and excel....

Yeah, my ideal laptop would have a huge battery, wifi, and relatively few other bells and whistles. That pretty much describes my old NEC Daylite Versa 120, which had a huge secondary battery that let it run for 8 or 9 hours. Unfortunately, the built-in charger for the secondary battery died, and it would have cost over $500 to fix (on a computer for which I paid only $995). So I put up a post with some thoughts, and wound up buying a Dell Inspiron 700m that also offers long battery life (I get about 6 hours with the big battery, which isn't bad considering its bright, clear display). It was more expensive, but a reader turned me on to the $750-off Dell coupon code that was floating around one day and I ordered it for a song. I've been quite happy with it, and it has a better display and a CD/DVD burner built in. If you're looking, I'd recommend looking through the reviews at CNET, as well as the Amazon customer reviews.

I'm not an expert on everything tech, though. I'm just a geek with a lot of readers he can ask.

UPDATE: Reader Chris Greer emails:

When people are asking for laptop recommendations, you should also mention the Apple PowerBook lineup. The PowerBooks are heralded on slashdot and other serious technology sites, they are light, very thin, have DVD burners, industry-leading displays, and the tremendously stable OSX. I switched to a PowerBook from my Dell and have never looked back. Maybe your iPod will also turn you on to the superior quality of Apple products.

Yeah, they're swell computers though I don't use one. (I guess I could run WordPerfect under VirtualPC, but I hear it's kind of slow). Still the Apples are great, and nowadays they're even more reasonably priced than they used to be.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Meanwhile, it's a gadgetfest here.

I KNOW LANCE FRIZZELL mostly through his work playing guitar for Audra and the Antidote. (Audra interview here). But he's now on active duty with the 278th Armored Cavalry in Iraq. He's also blogging from Iraq now, and his latest entry slams Trent Lott, something that this blog has been doing for years.

MICKEY KAUS: "When exactly did support for gay marriage become an essential Democratic party principle akin to racial equality? Was it when Anthony Lewis' wife decided to impose it on Massachusetts? Seems like only a few years ago the concept was an entry on the New Republic's 'to be assigned' list. (Sullivan got the job.) Now we must embrace it or leave the party? Isn't that rushing things a bit?"

GETTING BLUER: Publicola reports that San Francisco wants a complete ban on handgun possession. I hope that the Federal government will step in to protect San Franciscans' civil rights.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh explains why this isn't just a local issue:

I take it that abortion rights activists in California wouldn't be persuaded by anti-abortion activists' arguments that "Oh, don't worry, we won't ban abortions in California, since obviously we wouldn't have the votes; we're just trying to ban them in Texas." Presumably the abortion rights activists would say that they care about what they see as the fundamental rights of people all over the country. Likewise, I would think, with gun rights activists.

Indeed.

FINALLY, THE U.N. is playing to its strengths.

IT'S NOT RUSSIA: Really.

RUMSFELD: "You go to war with the Senate you have." Heh. Related thoughts here.

My suggestion to McCain and Hagel: If you think we need more troops, then pass some legislation increasing the size of the Army. That's your job, right?

We could fund 'em by eliminating ethanol subsidies, and putting a special tax on the boxing industry.

HERE'S A REPORT that Tom Daschle had a blogger on the payroll during the election: "If I can find it, a 'professional' journalist can find it. Those 'professional' journalists went looking for Jason and Jon's payments to impugn their blogging. Where were the 'professional' journalists that were looking for Schuldt's payments?"

UPDATE: Hmm. As the update to the linked post indicates, there may be less here than initially met the eye.

SANDCASTLES AND CUBICLES is buying a defensive handgun and wants your advice. I'd recommend a Sig P239 myself, but do want to suggest that this celebration of the .38 revolver from The New York Times (yes, really) is worth reading.

Of course, being the Times it's about police carrying guns, and even notes -- in a classic unconscious blue-stateism -- something that Sandcastles and Cubicles' post belies:

More than anything else, it is carrying a gun - the daily familiarity of it, the expectation that it must be used on a second's notice - that most sets apart the police from the policed.

In New York, more than many other places.

ADAM PENENBERG has posted a Media wish list for 2005 over at Wired News. But one of his wishes -- that bloggers would start breaking news -- has already been granted. It was Bill Ardolino at INDCJournal who, by virtue of getting his own forensic document expert, presented the first strong evidence that the CBS RatherGate documents were forgeries. (He interviewed CBS reporters and producers, too.) And don't forget Zeyad's many scoops, involving everything from anti-terrorist protests in Baghdad (picked up by the Weekly Standard) to his reports of war crimes by U.S. troops.

And, of course, there was lots of election-year reporting, not just punditry, from blogs like DaschlevThune and Power Line, or Ryan Sager's photos of antiwar protests at the RNC, or this firsthand report debunking the AP's bogus-boos story, or reports like this one from a 10,000-person pro-war rally that media outlets ignored, to name just a few examples.

I'm all for more original reporting by blogs, which is one reason why I'm constantly evangelizing for photoblogging and blog video, but if Penenberg wants to see more of that sort of thing, perhaps he should pay more attention to it when it happens. A little encouragement goes a long way, after all.

ROTC IS PLOTTING A COMEBACK in the Ivy League. About time.

SOME INTERESTING -- and, I think, encouraging -- poll numbers from Iraq regarding the coming election.

IF STEVEN DEN BESTE doesn't already own this, I'll be deeply surprised.

A LOW-CARBON FUTURE? Ron Bailey files another report from Buenos Aires.

MAX BOOT:

ISTANBUL — For most Americans, the most important day this month is Dec. 25. For Turks, it's tomorrow, Dec. 17. That's the day that the European Union will announce whether it will open full membership negotiations with Turkey.

In contrast to the ambivalence that surrounds the EU in most of its member states, Turks seem to be, almost without exception, enthusiastic about falling under the sway of a Brussels bureaucracy. EU membership is widely expected to deliver an economic windfall in the form of greater trade and subsidies. . . .

This might lead some Americans to wonder whether Turkish membership in the EU is such a good idea after all. It shouldn't. Notwithstanding numerous transatlantic squabbles, the EU is a positive force for integrating southern and eastern European countries firmly into the fold of the West, institutionalizing democracy and opening up their closed economies. EU membership may be a bad deal for Britain, whose free market is hampered by heavy-handed regulation from Brussels, but it would be a positive force for change in Turkey, which still has a long way to go before it can enjoy British-style prosperity or stability.

I think that this is a good thing.

SKY-HIGH WI-FI: The FCC is getting with the program. About time. Here's something I wrote in 2003.

UPDATE: Lots more from Glenn Fleishman.

"IPOD SHORTAGE ROCKS APPLE," reports the Wall Street Journal. (Subscriber only). Here's the most amazing bit: "The iPod line is now a crucial piece of Apple's business, accounting for 23% of Apple's $2.35 billion in revenue in its most recent quarter." Nearly a quarter of Apple's revenues. Wow.

And I can attest to the shortages. I wound up ordering this one, by HP, because the Apple model said it wouldn't ship until mid-January.

DARFUR UPDATE: FindLaw's Joanne Mariner reports:

No one stamped our passports when we entered Darfur, in western Sudan. There were no Chadian patrols at the border to stop our two-car convoy from crossing and, more importantly, no Sudanese troops on the other side to detain us. For many miles, there were simply no human beings at all, just desert, empty villages, and the occasional corpse of a camel or a sheep.

It was late July, and we had snuck into what the rebel groups that control the area like to call “liberated territory.” But the barren and depopulated landscape we saw before us suggested defeat rather than victory. It took a few hours of driving before we came upon people: a weary group, mostly women, with babies on their backs and random household goods on their heads, making the long trek toward Chad and safety.

Over the past year and a half, since the Sudanese government and allied militia began their scorched earth campaign against the black African population of Darfur, more than 1.5 million civilians have fled their villages.

(Via TalkLeft).

WHAT'S FUNNIER THAN mass slaughter of Republicans?

December 15, 2004

TIREBLOGGING: "Flat tire / bad rim. I haven’t gone anywhere." I told you it was the Next Big Thing.


TIME'S PERSON OF THE YEAR seems to be getting more attention than it probably deserves, with a lot of people in the blogosphere favoring, well, bloggers.

I'd love to see that, of course, but I don't think it's terribly likely. But hey, I could be wrong, and I guess I hope I am.

Jim Geraghty has a post on the subject, and there's more at Micropersuasion and the Hypergene Mediablog, where these two faux-cover images came from.

If we see either one of them become a reality, I'll be surprised. But pleased!

UPDATE: Halfway there, anyway, according to Betsy Newmark, who says she's got the inside dope.

ANOTHER RESPONSE TO MICHAEL KINSLEY, this one from Tom Maguire, who has been blogging on these topics a lot lately already.

UPDATE: Read this, from Todd Zywicki, too.

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE U.N. AND LEGITIMACY, over at GlennReynolds.com.

STILL MORE ON CAMERAS: I keep thinking I don't have more to say, but readers keep emailing. Martin Young writes:

I write to say how much I enjoyed your comments on the Nikon digital SLRs. I've owned a D70 and sold it because it began to malfunction within 6 weeks, a problem that Nikon would have been happy to correct. However, I found the camera to be a lightweight piece of work compared to my D100, which approaches the F5 in construction quality.

With all this, pursuant to a recent trip through Southwest New Mexico, I decided that I can no longer handle bulky cameras and a multitude of lenses while traveling. Accordingly, I took a flyer and bought a Nikon Coolpix 8800. I'm still in awe at what this instrument can do. The built-in vibration reduction device is a wonder, and the very moveable LCD (Monitor in Nikon Technospeak) satisfies my need for interchangeable viewfinders a la F3, F4 and F5. The 10x optical zoom is a treasure for all seasons, and the accessory lenses Nikon has made for this camera--still in the chain of delivery--are impressive.

One of the most important recent discoveries in my digital experience followed from getting a couple of high speed Compact Flash Cards. They really make a difference. I got a lot of great information on this subject from Steve's Digicam.

A lot of people seem to like the the Coolpix 8800, unlike its predecessor the Coolpix 8700, which didn't seem quite ready for primetime. There's a lot to be said for cameras of that sort -- yeah, they don't take interchangeable lenses, but the lens they come with can be quite good, and they're cheaper and easier to carry, and still capable of excellent quality, though not as good as digital SLRs, especially under demanding lighting and focus conditions.

Meanwhile, my earlier post on the Nikon D2H vs the D70 produced this email from reader Ryan Pederson:

You were talking about the difference between a 6 MP consumer camera and
a 4 MP pro camera. It has more to do with the size of the sensor. As you pointed out the pro's are usually tougher and do more cool stuff but really most of the price comes from the CCD.

He notes that pixel count is one thing, but that smaller sensors -- even with higher pixel counts -- tend to produce poorer results. That's certainly true, and it was a problem with the first generation of 8 megapixel cameras.

And reader Joanna Castillo emails about Internet purchasing:

A couple of years ago, I was in the market for a nice camera and went shopping around on the net. I found the best price (a listing for $500 on a MSRP of about $1000) and added it to my shopping cart. I was given an expected shipping time of 3-5 days and was then offered some "special deals" on rechargeable batteries and other accessories. The add-ons weren't at all impressive and quite expensive. I declined the add-ons and tried to complete my purchase. I then got a message that I needed to call a toll-free number to complete the purchase...for security reasons. I called and was give a *very* hard sell on the accessories. I again declined and was then told that upon further investigation, the camera really wouldn't be shipping for at least 3 weeks and I should just try to make my purchase again at that point. And, no, they could not add my name to a waiting list. It became clear that the online merchant was making up for the too-good-to-be-true price of the camera by selling add-ons at incredible mark-ups. So, I ended up buying the camera from J&R Music for $750.

Since then, I almost never bother with any merchant I'm not already familiar with.

I wouldn't go quite that far, but it pays to check them out. And, by the way, I highly recommend the forums at Steve's Digicams and DPreview, where you can learn a lot more from the experience of other users.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Just wondering: I have a really nice 1988 Minolta (although it's dying, I just took into the shop and had to take it into the shop 2 yrs ago for the same problem) and it takes beautiful pictures. I'm reluctant to get a digital camera. The pictures just aren't as good from what I've seen. I'm curious, what's your opinion on the quality of pictures? Do they now compare favorably to film? Are they getting close? Since you're a pretty techno-hip guy, I value your opinion.

I think that digital cameras are a match for 35mm now. Certainly I'm getting better results with the D70 than I got with 35mm cameras and film. On the other hand, I think that medium- and large-format film cameras still have digital beat. I've worked with some bigshot photographers who have gone strictly digital, and I've worked with some (like Baerbel Schmidt and Naomi Harris) who are still firmly attached to medium format film. I think that digital is bound to win eventually, as film has gotten about as good as it's going to get, while digital is still on a steep upward curve, but if I were a working professional with a big investment in film equipment, I think I'd hold off if possible because any digital equipment is likely to be obsolete soon anyway.

On the other hand, if I were an amateur -- which I am, and have been for all but a brief part of my photography career -- and I were looking for a new camera I'd definitely go digital. Er, which I did.

ANOTHER UPDATE: At the far end of the quality spectrum -- but definitely not of the usefulness-to-bloggers spectrum -- Donald Sensing is writing about cellphone cameras.

HUH? BUT I THOUGHT HE WAS HITLER! The Seattle Weekly asks, "Is Bush the Antichrist?"

UPDATE: Reader Zelda Aronstein thinks this is all wrong:

Bush ain't the anti-Christ; Santa is.

There are many structuralist alignments and axes between the two figures:

Santa is an anagram for Satan.

Both wear red.

Both have beards.

Both are associated with animals with cloven hoofs.

Santa is all about MATERIAL rewards for behavior - as an inducement for behavior; so is Satan.

Santa is short for "Santa Claus" which is another name for Saint Nicholas; Nick is an old name for Satan.

Santa lives in the North Pole - which is the exact opposite Hell; (opposites attract).

Santa is a distraction from the original purpose of Christmas; (gifts might be more properly associated with Three Kings Day - a practice which is common in Latin America).

That ole deceiver is at it again. Though, theologically, I think Satan and the Antichrist are distinct.

A NEW GROUP BLOG WITH ELEVEN MEMBERS! That's rather a lot, really.

THE BELMONT CLUB is defending Tommy Franks against charges of incompetence from Andrew Sullivan.

SHOCKING PHOTO FROM IRAQ: No doubt it'll be on all the Sunday talk shows.

UPDATE: I linked to it on The Corner, but now it's gone. That's how far the suppression has reached!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Go here.

THE WELCOME MAT IS OUT in honor of Kofi Annan's visit to Washington.

ARNOLD KLING answers Michael Kinsley.

JEFF GOLDSTEIN: Funnier than Margaret Cho. How's that for an endorsement?

DON'T MISS THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES, a collection of blog posts from all sorts of bloggers.

IT'S NOT TOO LATE to donate to the Spirit of America blogger challenge, which is worthy of your support.

"The air of corruption that clouds the United Nations these days cannot simply be fanned away by forcing the resignation of Kofi Annan as Secretary-General . . . Annan bristles at the insinuations of corruption in his ranks, but, in truth, his tenure was tainted from the beginning. In the mid-nineties, when he was head of peacekeeping, he presided over catastrophically failed missions in Bosnia and in Rwanda, where he ignored detailed warnings of genocide, then watched them come true, while the world did nothing to stop it. Those world leaders who later hailed him as a moral exemplar at best ignored that history, at worst regarded it as a kind of credential: since Annan was a compromised figure, they did not have to fear his censure."

Indeed. And it wasn't me who wrote the above, but someone you might find surprising.

UPDATE: It's worth noting that Philip Gourevitch, who wrote the above, wrote a searing book on the Rwandan genocide.

HOWARD LOVY notes that nanotechnology's medical payoff is beginning to appear.

YEP, as my column yesterday suggests, you can take care of all your holiday, um, needs online. I don't think that the "used or refurbished" model should sell very well, though. . . . Eew.

INDIA UNCUT is a blog on India, by Indian journalist Amit Varma.

ANOTHER DIVERSITY NARRATIVE FROM ACADEMIA, in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

My new tenure-track digs include a large office in a historic building with leaded-pane windows, sills deep enough to stack files on, and shelves on three walls filled with my own books, departmental gems, and junk from years past.

All the signs point to it: I'm finally a bona-fide member of academe.

Yet I'm gradually coming to realize that my membership card should read "in but not of" -- something the 2004 presidential election set in stark relief. Maybe I should have seen it coming all along.

Interesting observations on "a clear semiotics of inclusion and exclusion."

RON BAILEY writes on adapting to climate change. Shockingly, it's easier when you're rich.

THE PRESSURE, THE PRESSURE: Reader Steve Hill emails:

Since YOU are now my digital camera connection . . . How about discussing the differences between the [Nikon] D2H and the D70 as you see them. Why is a 4MP camera higher priced than a 6MP camera? Is it that much more capable?

Thanks for writing about all this - it's been really useful.

Well, it's apples and oranges to a degree. The Nikon D2H is a pro-level camera, with much more robust construction, and a variety of features (especially very fast autofocus) aimed at sports photographers.

On the other hand, the D70 is aimed more at people like me -- serious amateurs who won't knock the camera around nearly as much, and don't need quite the speed of operation.

That said, I recently had my picture made by a very serious professional photographer who used a D70, and it's hard for me to see why very many people would spend $2000 on the D2H at this point, with far more capable equipment coming down the pike. (For example, here's a review of the forthcoming Nikon D2X, a 12-megapixel digital SLR that I mentioned earlier. But this review, by Ken Rockwell, notes that the D70 is superior in some ways.)

So there you are. Pro cameras are tougher and will last longer, but that construction comes at a price. With 35mm equipment it was worth it -- I got over 20 years out of my 35mm SLRs, and they never wore out. But with the technology curve as steep as it is right now for digital SLRs, I'm not sure that longevity is as important. In 20 years, or even 2, that D2H will be woefully obsolete. So is it worth $2000? Only if you really need what it offers, and need it right now.

AUSTIN BAY:

Mark it on your calendar: Next month, the Arab Middle East will revolt.

However, generals with tanks and terrorists with fatwas won't be leading the revolution. This time, Arab moderates and liberal reformers -- the Middle East's genuine rebels -- are the insurgent vanguard. . . .

enforced by terror) kept Arab moderates and democratic reformers in the Arab alley or the Arab jail. The Arab street also has served as a theater for choreographed displays of anger, usually directed at Israel and America. Addressing the real sources of Arab deprivation and degradation, autocratic oppression and systemic corruption, was verboten.

America's reaction to 9-11 -- specifically, its strategic offensive reaction -- is taking the gun out of hands of tyrants and terrorists. Removing Saddam Hussein began the reconfiguration of the politically dysfunctional Arab Muslim Middle East -- a dangerous, expensive process, but one that gives Middle Eastern moderates the chance to build states where the consent of the governed creates legitimacy and where terrorists are prosecuted, not promoted.

Let's hope. Read the whole thing.

December 14, 2004

KOFI'S CONTINUING CRISIS -- over at GlennReynolds.com, where there's also streaming video of my Kudlow & Cramer appearance earlier tonight.

READER THOMAS POCHE sends this link to a rather cheap Nikon D70 -- but it's possible that it's a gray-market import, which may get in the way of the rebate, among other things. Still, it's well below the the going price.

UPDATE: Matthew Cromer emails that the low price may not be such a good deal, judging by these low customer ratings.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Don Plunk notes that Pricegrabber gives 'em a lousy rating, too. That's one reason why I tend to link to places like Amazon, that I use myself and trust. There are cheaper places out there, and they're often OK, but often not.

WHAT'S MORE AMAZING: That according to the latest Sitemeter count 19% of my readers are using Firefox -- or that I found this out first from Colby Cosh?

HOWARD OWENS has returned to the blogosphere. Who's next? Steven Den Beste?

LOTS OF INTERESTING POSTS over at Ed Morrissey's place. Just keep scrolling. Tom Maguire, too.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Jefferson Morley writes in the Washington Post:

There was noticeable reticence to pursue certain leads in the story. Annan is the most recognizable figure to catch heat for the scandal that occurred on his watch. But according to the Duelfer report, former French Interior Minister turned businessman, Charles Pascua, received oil vouchers from the Hussein regime that enabled him to sell more than 10 million barrels of oil on the international market. If you enter Pascua's name in the French language version of Google News, the search engine is unable to find a single mention of Pascua's name in the French press in the last 30 days.

Morley notes that the Americans involved in this scandal aren't getting much attention either, though he doesn't mention Marc Rich by name.

UPDATE: Doh! Several readers point out that Morley would have done better if he had spelled Charles Pasqua's name correctly . . . .

RACHEL LUCAS IS BACK. And she's pissed.

But will she be tireblogging? 'Cause that's the big thing now, in the blogosphere.

I'LL BE ON KUDLOW & CRAMER at about 5:50 Eastern today, talking about the U.N., Kofi Annan, etc.

MORE ON WOMEN AND PORN: This time from Michele Catalano.

GREYHAWK ON THE GROWTH OF THE BLOGOSPHERE:

First: appreciate the subtlety of Omar's wry humor, that's satire worthy of Swift from a man from a culture most likely far from yours for whom English is a second language. Your reading of such a thing from such a source would have been impossible a few short months ago when neither the technology nor the freedom were available to him.

Then ponder this: An American GI in Iraq just linked to and commented about an Iraqi citizen, who was linking and commenting on a post from an ex-pat from Poland now living in Australia and providing information to the world on the situation in Afghanistan.

What does it all mean? That's entirely up to you.

Well, mostly.

SOME DISTURBING THOUGHTS about women and porn.

MY EARLIER POST on alternate-history produced a lot of email of the "how can you not mention ____?" variety. Hey, it wasn't meant to be exhaustive. But by popular demand, I will mention H. Beam Piper, whose stuff holds up pretty well. And although it's not exactly on point, I have to mention that this Cyril M. Kornbluth collection is probably the single best science fiction purchase I've made recently. Kornbluth was one of the "Futurians," along with Isaac Asimov, Fred Pohl, etc., and died young, but had more impact than many realize. (His "would you buy it for a quarter" line from his The Marching Morons reappears as "I'd buy that for a dollar!" in the Robocop movies). His stories are more disturbing than I had recalled -- The Marching Morons, though amusing, is actually monstrous -- but they're also even better than I remembered.

UPDATE: I think I may have linked to this before, but the Today in Alternate History blog is worth looking at.

THANKS, GUYS: But actually, Instapundit is growing less and less important each year. And that's a good thing.

UPDATE: I'm blushing at this, but I'm no Burt Rutan.

OUTLAWING BLASPHEMY? I blame John Ashcroft!

More here.

SANTA IN THE SKY, WITH DIAMONDS: Or something like that.

HEY, THE S&P500 SEEMS TO BE GOING LIKE GANGBUSTERS when you value it in Euros, judging from this chart. I'm not sure what that means.

TIM BLAIR IS CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS.

LIVEBLOGGING THE SPIRIT OF AMERICA at Chapomatic. You can support the Blogger Challenge here.

THE ENGINEERS WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS: My TechCentralStation column is up.

And for those who asked, I wound up buying this one.

MICHAEL TOTTEN sums up the election, and the left's problems:

Juan Cole would rather align himself with anti-American Iraqis like the blogger Riverbend. Okay, whatever. But I have no idea why he expects conservatives and centrists to do any such thing. Most people in this world don’t reflexively side with those who hate them. One reason he is in the political wilderness and I’m not is because he does and I don’t. . . . It's not the right's fault that it has come to this.

Indeed. Jeff Jarvis has further disagreements with Cole, and expresses them in his usual forthright fashion.

GOTCHER HEALTH CARE BLOGGING RIGHT HERE: This week's Grand Rounds is up.

JAMES BOND DIED FOR OUR SINS: Jim Dunnigan looks at why the intelligence agencies shied away from human intelligence, and why they're trying to move back into the field now.

You can, however, count on hostile media whenever anything goes wrong.

December 13, 2004

RON BAILEY WILL BE COVERING the global warming negotiations. And don't miss his review of Michael Crichton's new book, State of Fear.

GOOGLE MEETS THE HARVARD LIBRARY: This is cool.

MEDPUNDIT RESPONDS to the CodeBlue claim that Yushchenko wasn't poisoned. "Here's a description of acute dioxin poisoning which fits Yushchenko's symtpoms to a tee . . . As for the possibilty [of] Yurshchenko having acne rosacea, it's unlikely. Acne rosacea usually has a much slower progression."

UPDATE: Photos here. And even more here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Sean Doherty emails:

George Soros has a long history of manipulating elections in eastern europe (as he tried to do here in the US).

Soros loves Yushchenko.

The media is duping you, Reynolds, and you're falling hook, line and sinker. Don't fall for it.

Well, I certainly disagreed with Soros on the U.S. election. But it's not as if I disagree with him on everything -- we both favor drug legalization, for example. But if Soros is fooling me, he's fooling a rather diverse group of people.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Treacher emails with the bottom line: "I don't think you're getting duped about Yushchenko. There's no way a guy goes from George Clooney to Joe Don Baker overnight without some shenanigans." (Upsetting photo here.)

IT'S NOT SELF-PARODY: It's being comfortable with your inner geek! Er, and the outer one, too.

MORE MPAA LAWSUITS PLANNED, this time against BitTorrent and eDonkey.

PATTERICO HAS EXTRACTED A FAKE-TURKEY CORRECTION from the Los Angeles Times:

Joel Stein — Stein's Dec. 5 column said a photo showed President Bush holding a fake Thanksgiving turkey during his 2003 visit to U.S. troops in Iraq. The turkey he was holding was real.

It was? Who knew? (Well, Tim Blair knew. But where are the permalinks on his new blog?)

MICKEY KAUS:

Even if the latest allegations about Marc Rich--that he helped broker Saddam's oil-for-food deals--prove accurate, that won't be the main reason Clinton's pardon of the fugitive financier was scandalous. Saddam could presumably always get someone to broker his lucrative schemes--if not Rich, then another high-level operater. The Marc Rich pardon was scandalous mainly because it taught a generation of young Americans that you could buy your way out of punishment. ... But buy with what? ...

What, indeed? Or whom?

GEORGE W. BUSH AND U2: A surprising connection.

UPDATE: Yeah, I guess I have to link to this, too.

BLACKFIVE SPENT THE DAY with Iraqi bloggers Mohammed and Omar.

I DON'T CARE, BUT YOU MIGHT: There'll be a Peterson verdict in a few minutes.

UPDATE: Death penalty. Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft is unhappy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Randy Barnett:

I have not been following the Peterson trial very closely, if for no other reason than that I lack all confidence in the competence of California prosecutors to competently handle high-publicity murder trials. But listening to comments of the three jurors now being interviewed live by the networks, my faith in the jury trial system for criminal cases is reinforced. They are intelligent, careful, clear, conscientious and emotionally moved by their experience.

That's an encouraging note.

MORE: Ann Althouse's feelings are mixed:

At some point I was overcome with admiration for these people, who had devoted so much time and energy to the trial and were so thoughtful and sensible and human. . . . I admire the jurors and think they did their job properly. Their outrage at the defendant is justified. Nevertheless, quite without meaning to, I found myself reaffirmed in opposition to the death penalty.

Read the whole thing.

SO FAR, the falling dollar doesn't seem to be hurting too much. At least, Jim Herd sends this link noting that Nikon is slashing the price of their D2H camera, and another link demonstrating that it's showing up already at retail. Still a bit pricey for me.

By the way, if you missed 'em this weekend, lots of stuff on digital photography here and here.

FOR THE LAST HOUR OR SO I've been blogging from the tire place. Found a flat tire on the Passat, pumped it up with a hand pump (no small job) and drove it over to get it fixed. There's no wifi here, but the Verizon wireless card has worked great, letting me post to the blog and do research for a law review article I'm finishing up.

UPDATE: It was a big, nasty screw that was responsible for the flat. On the hand-pump angle, some readers wrote that I need to buy one of these. Actually, I own one, but I wanted the exercise since I've spent the rest of the day at a computer writing. It was, however, plenty of exercise as it takes a lot of pumping on a bicycle pump to inflate a big automobile tire.

Meanwhile, one reader emails to say "The reason we like Instapundit – besides the fact that you make even the dumbest sh** interesting – is that you are crazy like the rest of us, blogging from the tire shop and suchlike places. Keep it up. You’ll really grab our attention if you manage to blog from the middle of a U2 concert this spring." Hmm. . . .

ROGER SIMON WRITES on meeting Iraqi bloggers Omar and Mohammed:

One thing I would like to say at the outset is that they were terrific people and I was instantly comfortable with them in the way you are with old friends. This is one of the miracles of the blogosphere. We all know each other to an extraordinary degree before we meet. . . .

Omar and Mohammed, who are Sunnis themselves, said that many would, that the impression we get of the Sunni Triangle is skewed by reporting. I hope they're right. These people are incredibly courageous. When you meet them it's hard to understand why some of us could be rooting against them, but the not-so-sub subtext of many of the war's opponents is just that. You see, they keep saying, look how bad it is-it's our fault. I wish they could talk to Mohammed and Omar. I think even the Michael Moores of the world would have trouble saying it to them face-to-face. These men are the hope of democracy. I hope some day to meet their brother Ali... in Baghdad.

Indeed. But, sadly, some people are rooting against them.

UPDATE: A response to the rooters, from Iraqi blogger Ali.

PLAGIARISM IN THE ACADEMY: Here's an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Here's an earlier post on the subject. I've written about the subject (along with Peter Morgan) at more length in The Appearance of Impropriety, in a chapter that you can read for free online in slightly different form here. My sense is that people are often quick to claim plagiarism on fairly spurious grounds, but that there's also a lot of real plagiarism out there.

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH has thoughts on natural law.

ECONOBLOGGING TO THE STARS: This week's Carnival of the Capitalists is up.

MY EARLIER POSTS on Harry Turtledove led to requests for other recommendations in the alternate-history vein. That's a genre I enjoy, so here are some others you might like if you enjoy Turtledove.

Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt looks at a world in which Christianity never amounted to much once the Black Death wiped out 2/3 (instead of 1/3) of Europe. A bit mystical in places, but well-written. Interestingly, fundamentalist Islamists are still a problem in the new world.

Steven Barnes' Lion's Blood (and its sequel, Zulu Heart) also takes place in a world where Islam was triumphant, this time in an America colonized by African Muslims. The battle is between Sufis and fundamentalists.

Steve Stirling (S.M. Stirling) has written a lot of good alt-history. His Island in the Sea of Time (along with its sequels) is one of my favorites. Americans wind up back in the Bronze Age, with interesting results. I also liked his Conquistador, and his The Peshawar Lancers is pretty good, though a bit too British-Empire-revivalist for my taste. His most recent book, Dies the Fire, isn't exactly alternate history, but it's good.

As I mentioned before, I liked John Birmingham's Weapons of Choice, and look forward to the sequel.

Meanwhile, though only some of his stories were of the alt-history variety, I have to put in a plug for classic space-opera writer A. Bertram Chandler, whose stuff is being reissued now in collected form. (The first installment is John Grimes: Survey Captain). When I was in Australia a few years ago, I met some people who had known Chandler, a merchant sea captain who wrote his novels at sea, and they told me that he had a lot in common with his main character, John Grimes.

UPDATE: Reader Richard McEnroe writes about Chandler:

What a great old character he was! I had the pleasure of meeting him in NY a couple of years before he passed. Very much a figure out of one of his books, in the best way.

I wish I'd met him. McEnroe also recommends Eric Flint's 1632 -- which I should have remembered. And, of course, I highly recommend Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle books. Here's my review of those, from the Weekly Standard's Christmas book issue.

MORE: Reader Frank LoPinto notes that Steven Barnes has a blog.

MORE STILL: But this alternate-history stuff can be dangerous.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

Billionaire Marc Rich has emerged as a central figure in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal and is under investigation for brokering deals in which scores of international politicians and businessmen cashed in on sweetheart oil deals with Saddam Hussein, The Post has learned.

Rich, the fugitive Swiss-based commodities trader who received a controversial pardon from President Bill Clinton in January 2001, is a primary target of criminal probes under way in the U.S. attorney's office in New York and by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, sources said.

"We think he was a major player in this — a central figure," a senior law-enforcement official told The Post.

It seems that my initial skepticism regarding this story may have been misplaced. (More recent post here.)

MICHAEL TOTTEN thinks that some people are too ready to blame the Jews for, well, everything.

UPDATE: Related post here.

CODEBLUEBLOG is skeptical of the Yuschenko-poisoning story, and thinks his problem is rosacea. I don't know about the substance, of course, but the tone isn't entirely persuasive, at least to someone, like me, who isn't a regular reader of the blog.

UPDATE: MedPundit disagrees with CodeBlue.

I LIKE THIS SLOGAN: "Instapundit — where the New York Times looks for big ideas."

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY REPORT on gun coverage in the media is up, with lots of interesting items including the story of a professor in Oklahoma who was demoted for expressing pro-gun views. More crushing of dissent in John Ashkkkroft's Alberto Gonzales' America!

ARNOLD KLING: "Many professors speak as if the opportunity cost of working in academia is a high-paying job in the private sector. However, talent is not quite so interchangeable. It is not just that there are very few CEO's who could do high-caliber scholarly work in chemistry or linguistics. There are equally few academics who could function as CEO's."

That's true, though I took about a 60% pay cut when I left law practice to become a law professor. And although I do fairly well now (I actually make more money than when I quit practicing law back in the first Bush presidency!) I noted last year that one of my former colleagues at the old firm, who stayed on and made partner, was making over a million dollars a year. His bonus was bigger than my salary. On the other hand, since then he's quit and gone to graduate school. What does that tell you?

I think that Arnold's overall point is valid, though. Law professors, like those in other professional schools, have closer ties to their professions, and hence to the real world, than academics in general. And if taking academic jobs were a huge, public-spirited personal sacrifice there probably wouldn't be so many applicants for every academic job.

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE has posted its quotes of the week.

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF has more underreported news from Afghanistan.

DAVE KOPEL:

This weekend was the celebration of the Virgin of Guadeloupe, and if you don’t know who she is, you might as well learn, because she is well on the road to becoming as an all-American icon like St. Patrick and Saint Nicholas.

Read the whole thing.

December 12, 2004

MOST OF THE BLOGOSPHERE has been taking it rather easy this weekend, but the folks at RedState have been pretty active. So has Tom Maguire, who's blogging on everything from Brazilian beef to Social Security reform. [MMmmm. Brazilian beef. Churrascaria rocks! -- Ed. Stop that. You're making me hungry.]

SEAN O'KEEFE WILL RESIGN as NASA Administrator. Reportedly, at the top of the replacement list: "Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, who retired in September after three years as the director of the United States' effort to develop a system to shield the country and its troops from a missile attack. The other four men under consideration are former Congressman Robert Walker and former shuttle astronauts Ron Sega, Charles Bolden and Robert Crippen."

UPDATE: Rand Simberg has more.

COUNT OLAF HAS A BLOG! The Insta-Daughter has been consumed with reading Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, but it wasn't until I got this email from reader Daniela Dixon that I knew about the blog:

I am a librarian, and am familiar with the popularity of the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books; kids check them out voraciously; they are never on the shelf. The movie is coming out and all the kids are psyched. I was looking at the website and was very amused. You should check out Count Olaf's blog.

My mom is a children's librarian, and she reports the same phenomenon.

THE KERIK NANNY SCANDAL UNVEILED!

MICKEY KAUS: "If you paid real money for the L.A. Times, we have a word for you: 'Sucker'!"

I HAVEN'T READ MICHAEL CRICHTON'S NEW BOOK, State of Fear, but Steven Antler has a copy and he's blogging about it. And scroll for more. They're also Crichton-blogging over at The Corner. And though I haven't read Crichton's book, it sounds vaguely reminiscent of the Niven, Pournelle & Flynn novel, Fallen Angels, though I don't know if it features the same plot twist. In Fallen Angels, global warming due to greenhouse gases turns out to be real, all right -- but when the emissions controls go into effect, we learn that it's been masking an underlying ice age that swiftly descends, an angle that I found satisfyingly perverse.

UPDATE: Reader Jeremy Bowers points out that you can download Fallen Angels for free in multiple formats from the Baen Books Free Library.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a review of Crichton's book, by Ron Bailey.

FOR THE RECORD, the "SonicWall Content Filter" used by Panera Bread on its wi-fi sucks like a bilge pump. I just tried to check an article in Arms Control Today and the journal is blocked because it has to do with "weapons." Jeez. Who runs SonicWall?

UPDATE: More on SonicWall here. Sheesh.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Interestingly, SonicWall doesn't block the definitely not-safe-for-work Good Shit site.

I don't want to be too hard on Panera, whose reluctance to have customers sitting around looking at porn on widescreen laptops is understandable. And after all, they're making the service available for free, so who can complain? But SonicWall just seems to be a lousy product. I'm not impressed to see that libraries are using it.

MORE: Blake Hiatt emails: "We run a SonicWall at work, and they are configureable. More than likely, the person who manages the network has the settings on the SonicWall very tight, or, doesn't know how to configure it correctly." Somebody call the Panera IT department!

DARFUR UPDATE: There will be a candlelight vigil in New York tomorrow night. A reader says he'll send pictures. I'm not sure a candlelight vigil is the best way to get the U.N.'s attention, though . . . .

NO, I AM NOT THE AUTHOR OF THIS BOOK, though I can see why you might think so. Anybody know if it's any good?

THE TIP OF THE WEDGE: A look at the European blogosphere.

THE CBS ATRIOS SMEAR that I mentioned earlier puzzled some people, including me: Why is CBS going out of its way to slam a left-wing blog?

But actually, on reflection, I think it makes sense. If you assume -- based on, you know, the unrelenting nature of their coverage -- that CBS is a left-leaning, Democrat-boosting network, and if you think (as a lot of people do) that the demographic for such is shrinking even as the number of outlets is growing in the blogosphere, then it makes sense. Who's a bigger rival for Dan Rather's audience: Atrios or Power Line? Daily Kos or Hugh Hewitt? (Fans of Frank Herbert's Dune will remember the scene where Paul Atreides eats off his neighbor's plate as an illustration of this phenomenon.)

On the underlying issue of bloggers' codes of ethics and the like, well, I kind of feel that my thinking is pretty well covered at considerable length elsewhere. But I do think that bloggers should disclose payments and support (at least beyond de minimis levels) from candidates and campaigns, and that the Daschle v. Thune guys should have disclosed the support they were getting. I don't think it would have mattered -- it's not as if there was any doubt which horse they were backing -- and it's only fair. (This, by the way, is the good thing about blogads, since it's pretty transparent where they come from. Thus I don't have to disclose the money I got from George Soros separately, since it came in the form of ad buys. Thanks again, George! It was much appreciated.)

I'm still waiting, of course, for CBS to turn ethical scrutiny on its constant pimping of Viacom projects attacking the Bush Administration. But then, I'm still waiting for CBS's RatherGate report, now well past its promised-by date.

UPDATE: Jim Lindgren has more thoughts on the missing RatherGate report.

WILL WAL-MART TAKE OVER THE WORLD? They're reportedly looking at buying a big shipping line.

I don't care. I'm still shopping at Samuel's, with Hebrew Nationals and free wi-fi. Oh, wait. . . .

PERHAPS THE MIDDLE EAST WILL BECOME PART OF RED AMERICA:

Two months into my stay, the issue of pro-Bush Syrians suddenly re-emerged when I began teaching English classes to several dozen students. The students were, almost without exception, from the upper echelons of Damascene society: well educated, financially comfortable, with many hailing from important Syrian families involved in high-level economic and governmental decision-making.

One afternoon I was explaining the passive tense of verbs, and I used an example that came to mind from American culture. I asked them if they knew who was nominated by the two main parties to run for president. "John Kerry was nominated by the Democratic Party, and George Bush was nominated by the Republicans," replied one of the brightest in the class, a veiled Muslim engineering student named Rahaf. "Very good," I said. "Now, who do you think will be elected?" "Bush," cried several of the students at once, smiling. Abandoning my lesson plan for the moment, but curious at this sudden display of interest in the election, I ventured: "Who do you want to win?" "Bush," said Rahaf, while a number of others nodded in solid agreement. I pressed them further for a few minutes, asking individual students why they liked Bush. The same ideas came up again and again: he is a strong leader, an honest man, and, most of all, a believer. Like the winning margin of American voters this year, these Middle Easterners related to Bush's sense of religious conviction and his confident steering of a nation and culture they admired.

"But doesn't he scare you?" I asked finally, unable to contain my personal feelings and throwing the lesson plan out the window. "Because of Bush's ideas many people in my country think that all of you are terrorists." Rahaf and most of the others just shrugged. Maybe that was all true, they said, but he was still a good president.

I found these same sentiments expressed almost word for word in my two other classes.

Well, he did say he wanted to be a uniter, not a divider. (Via Clayton Cramer).

THE WASHINGTON POST EXPLAINS how to make it big as a blogger.

DAN GILLMOR is leaving the Mercury News to start a citizens' journalism project. Rumor has it that he's got venture capital behind him.

DON'T MISS THE CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES: -- and check out Cookin' with Google!

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