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January 08, 2005

MICHAEL SAVAGE, savaged from the right.

UPDATE: Does Savage have a hidden agenda?

THE SITZPINKLER PHENOMENON is explained as an artifact of German toilet technology. When we lived in Heidelberg, our house had those toilets. I remember thinking that when the Soviets looted Berlin at the end of World War II, and carried off thousands of toilets (as they did), it represented a sort of final revenge on the part of the Germans.

VISITED MY GRANDMOTHER at the rehab home, where we improved her evening by, among other things, bringing fresh barbecue. She's eaten barbecue at least weekly since some time in the Wilson Administration, and it seems to have done her some good.

UPDATE: Ed Cone emails to ask if it was North Carolina-style barbecue. As if! My grandmother's health and longevity probably stem from all the healthy lycopene in the tomato-based Alabama/Tennessee-style barbecue she's consumed.

And, jeez, going to that place is just proof of how well she's doing. At 90 she's one of the older folks there (though she's already found a friend in a feisty 93-year-old woman who, like her, is rehabbing from an orthopedic injury), but she's in so much better shape, physically and mentally, than most of the people there that it's amazing. Still, she likes to point out many touching scenes, such as an man who comes three times a day to feed his mostly-paralyzed stroke-victim wife, and who sits holding hands with her in the lounge "like newlyweds," she says.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Janet Nickell emails: "How about some grandmother blogging? She sounds like a wonderful woman." She is. I'll see what I can do.

And I'll see if I can dig up the picture of her in a swimsuit, on a motorcycle, in Daytona in 1932.

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY UPDATE: I mentioned a while back that I had given this compact photo printer to my brother for Christmas, but that he hadn't used it yet. They're now in the new house, and he reports that they've been printing out massive quantities of baby pictures, and that they're very happy with the quality and ease of use.

ROGER SIMON NOTES TWO VIEWS on bias and reporting.

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF ROUNDS UP STILL MORE DUMB TSUNAMI QUOTES: It's a tidal wave of idiocy -- and, sadly, the U.N. isn't trying to take a lead role in remedying this wave.

HERE'S AN UPDATE in the case involving Zeyad's cousin:

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- An Army sergeant took the stand and tearfully apologized to his family, commanding officers and subordinates Saturday, a day after being convicted of aggravated assault for ordering his soldiers to throw Iraqis into the Tigris River.

"If I had to go back, I would definitely do something different on those days," Army Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Perkins said, wiping away tears.

Perkins, 33, was convicted Friday of two counts of aggravated assault, a charge of assault consummated by battery and a charge of obstruction of justice. He was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter in the alleged drowning of one of the men. . . .

Perkins and another soldier were accused of ordering soldiers to push the two Iraqis into the river in Samarra in January 2004. Prosecutors say Zaidoun Hassoun, 19, drowned and his cousin, Marwan Hassoun, climbed out the river.

Marwan Hassoun testified that he tried to save his cousin by grabbing his hand, but the powerful current swept Zaidoun away. Marwan said the body was found in the river nearly two weeks later.

I don't know whether this verdict is just or not, but at least the matter wasn't swept under the rug. Directory of earlier posts on this subject here.

UPDATE: The story I link above has been updated, and says that the sentence is 6 months, which seems to me to be very light.

ANOTHER IRANIAN CRACKDOWN ON THE INTERNET: I'm really starting to dislike the mullahs.

MICKEY KAUS:

Boy, people at CNN do not like Jonathan Klein! Doesn't he realize it's hard to be a highly unpopular boss in the Web era, especially at a big media enterprise the press will pay inordinate attention to? Ask Howell Raines. ... Expect lots of anti-Klein anecdotes to be leaked to the obvious outlets in the weeks ahead.

I told you that Klein's selection was a blogger's full-employment act!

CATS AND DOGS, LIVING TOGETHER: Bill Adams notes that the Los Angeles Times is actually backing Arnold Schwarzenegger on his plan to eliminate gerrymandering.

YEAH, I WAS OFF THE AIR for a while. Hosting Matters was the subject of a DDOS attack that took down InstaPundit and quite a few other blogs. I noted that over at the backup site (which you should bookmark, since the link on this page won't work if InstaPundit is down), and went to bed. Things seem to be fixed now; no word on where the attack came from or why.

January 07, 2005

BLOGGING ETHICS: Alarming News writes:

The story of Armstrong Williams allegedly taking cash from someone in the Bush administration to promote the No Child Left Behind Act is bizarre. I have no doubt that Williams truly supports the Act, but taking money for publicizing it without disclosing it seems very wrong to me. I agree with Jonah Goldberg that if the Clinton administration did this, conservatives would be outraged. This is no different.

I'm somewhat struggling with similar issues in relation to my work and my blog.

Read the whole thing. I've never had anybody offer me money in exchange for blog posts (bogus claims regarding Wonkette notwithstanding), but I have been offered substantial amounts of money to author opeds furthering the agenda of some people. I declined; even if it were an opinion I already held, undisclosed third-party payola just seemed wrong to me. I think the same thing's true for blogs, which is why I think that the DaschlevThune folks should have disclosed the money they got.

On the other hand, payola for opeds of the sort I describe above isn't so unusual that people should think the blogosphere is more likely to suffer from undisclosed payments than other areas -- something that the Armstrong Williams case illustrates, too, of course. I'm rather skeptical of the notion of some sort of Official Blogger's Code of Ethics, with blogs that sign on displaying the seal of approval. Kind of reminds me of the Comics Code Authority, and I'm generally skeptical of those kinds of ethics codes anyway.

I think that overall, the best protection against that sort of thing is for people to read a lot of blogs. Astroturf blogging is likely to ring false, and at any rate a blogger, however popular, doesn't enjoy the kind of quasi-monopoly position that a newspaper journalist or a broadcaster does, making efforts to shape the debate via sub rosa funding far less likely to be successful.

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg notes an inappropriate response.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has a thoughtful response:

He screwed up and it's all the more amazing because it would have been so easy not to. It's all about transparency.

Yeah. Ethical flaps are very often contrived, and -- as noted at great length here -- we should be as skeptical of those making (or contriving) ethical charges as of their subjects. But this doesn't seem to be such a case. Jarvis also offers some excellent advice for businesses wanting to use blogs for PR:

If a marketer wants to get consumers to try a product and talk about it, everyone should be transparent about that as well: Send out samples of the product and if people like it -- or don't or don't care -- they'll say so. If you have a good product, you'll win. If you don't, you'll learn. I, among many bloggers, now get publishers emailing me asking whether I'd like review copies of books (which would be great if I weren't so busy reading and writing blogs that I don't have much time for books anymore). If I write about a book I got for free, I should say so.

Hmm. I do get books for free sometimes, but though I've mentioned that in general I don't always mention that in all of the the posts (I use "in the mail" to indicate that it came unsolicited, usually, but free review copies are such a well-established custom that it seems implicit). Generally the nonfiction books come from publishers, and the fiction I buy myself, though there have been a few exceptions (e.g., John Scalzi's book). Sadly, nobody sends me samples of digital cameras, iPods, etc.; when I blog about my new Sony digital camera or whatever, it's one I bought myself. If people did send me samples, I'd certainly mention that.

But free samples aren't the big question; it's outright payola. There's a lot of that out there in the Old Media (usually disguised slightly in terms of free travel or gifts, but not always) -- much more than is reported on by the Old Media, or even by bloggers -- but we should try to limit it in the blogosphere. But the ultimate lesson is that you've got to make up your own mind. Every successful system attracts parasites, as Thomas Ray once said, and the blogosphere is a successful system.

On the other hand, some people are embracing payola. Reader Rick Horvath writes:

If you have not already been offered money to post on your blog since your post last night, how about I make you your first offer?

What would it cost to post something like:

"As a customer service to all the single women out there, I wanted to point out that there is a stunningly handsome (okay, the stunningly may be an overstatement), intelligent and funny 27 year old attorney working in the Philadelphia area by the name of Rick Horvath. Right now, he's looking for a similarly funny and intelligent woman who would enjoy port and classical music, especially opera. Ladies, grab him while you can!"

Instapundit personal ads... the wave of the future!

I don't think so, but consider this one a freebie, Rick. Good luck!

MORE: Further thoughts from La Shawn Barber.

STILL MORE: Eric Scheie has a rant that is both amusing and informative.

MORE STILL: Just noticed this post by Mitch Berg on blogging, credibility, and ethics that's relevant, though it predates the Armstrong Williams business.

TSUNAMI HELP REQUEST: Reader Mike Weatherford emails:

I've been working since Saturday with the folks from the Southeast Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog, trying to do my bit to help reduce the suffering of the people suffering from the tsunami disaster. I don't have any loose cash, so I've been donating the only thing I can give - my time and my knowledge of imagery analysis. We're trying to do two major tasks with the Ground Zero Information page: provide a single reference point for information on the extent of damage - including photographs - of the tsunami impact areas, and to provide information on what's being done, and what still needs to be done, to help those affected. The one thing the group needs desperately is more willing hands, especially people knowledgeable in HTML, XML, and the Internet. We also need more imagery. I know the military is working on the same issues, but their imagery is classified (I know, I've worked enough of it!). Anything that you - or anyone - can do to give us a hand would be appreciated - not only by us, but by the thousands of people that our effort may help, even if it's a small amount.

If you can help 'em out, drop by and let 'em know.

ED MORRISSEY HAS AN EXCLUSIVE PHOTO of King County voters turning out in the last election. Something smells funny here . . . .

UPDATE: There's video, too!

JOHN HINDERAKER OF POWER LINE has been reading the Gonzales transcript and says that there's much more there than the news stories captured.

MORE BOOKBLOGGING: Just noticed that Mark Whittington, who has a blog and an alternative-history novel of his own, has a list of recommendations for readers of alt-history. I've read a lot of the books on the list and liked 'em, which suggests that (from my standpoint, anyway) his taste is good.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (free link) reports on the Bush Administration's second-term Second Amendment stance. It sounds somewhat promising, which would certainly represent an improvement over the rather weak efforts of the first term.

NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: Europe is getting serious about moving ahead of the Unted States in nanotechnology, according to items here and here.

POLITICALWIRE: Dead people were voting in Washington State.

IT'S ANOTHER UKRAINE UPDATE over at Le Sabot Post-Moderne.

STEPHEN GREEN IS BACK, and offering literary advice to Paul Krugman.

LIGHTER READING: Some people want to know what I'm reading since I finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Not enough, since I'm busy with getting ready for the new semester and various family duties. But I got the new Harry Turtledove book, Homeward Bound, the other day, and I've started it. I've read enough to be confident that if you liked the other books in this series, you'll like it.

A PRETTY GOOD YEAR FOR SPACE: Jim Muncy looks at two significant victories in 2004.

A CORDLESS PERCOLATOR? Well, not really when you read the fine print, but the most amusing part to me is where percolator-partisans hold forth on the obvious superiority of percolation over drip. It's like Mac vs. PC in a different setting.

Yeah, I know: From stew-blogging to coffee-blogging. But it can't all be about torture and deadly natural disasters, after all.

UPDATE: My secretary-turned-combat-engineer emails from Iraq with combat-coffeeblogging:

It is interesting the things that one is introduced to in a forward deployed environment. European coffee brewing techniques were not in the recruiting literature. I have been using a French press (freedom press?) while here in Iraq. I brew Community Coffee's (a brand from Baton Rouge) Dark Roast and it takes about fifteen minutes. The "3 cup" capacity fills my 16oz travel mug. Normally, in the field, I use a Coleman backpacking stove but on larger operations we have a member of my platoon who brings along a two burner white gas Coleman stove. (Who knew the many ways Scouting would prepare me for the Marine Corps!)

While waiting for instapundit to load, a dog-handler friend of mine noticed me playing "minesweeper." He remarked, "Don't you get enough of that?"

Heh.

TAXPROF REPORTS:

The House and Senate yesterday passed by unanimous consent legislation (H.R. 241) to permit taxpayers to claim charitable deductions in tax year 2004 for donations they make for tsunami disaster relief until January 31, 2005, instead of having to wait until next year's filing season. Only cash gifts made specifically for disaster relief are eligible.

That seems like good news.

JOHN COLE notices something odd from Ted Kennedy.

UPDATE: The Mudville Gazette offers a ten-question Abu Ghraib quiz that I'd like to see the Senators take. And, for that matter, a lot of the journalists writing on this subject.

And questions about line-blurring are raised here. Is wrapping someone in the Israeli flag comparable to rape?

COINCIDENCE? OR A SWIFT-ACTING PUBLICIST at Oxford University Press? I mentioned Sandy Levinson's new book, Torture: A Collection, (including essays by people ranging from Alan Dershowitz to Jean Bethke Elshtain) the other day, and yesterday a copy appeared via FedEx. Looks pretty interesting, and obviously topical at the moment.

COMPARE THIS POST by Chris Anderson on RSS feeds, with this post from Asymmetrical Information.

HERE'S A GUIDE to decoding CBS's forthcoming RatherGate statements.

THRESHOLD OF WORRY: Some thoughts on politics and risk assessment, over at GlennReynolds.com.

In a (somewhat) related development, Tom Hill suggests that it's time to revise the Torino Scale.

THE BELMONT CLUB: "How did we get to where the only choices are between the impractical and the inadmissible? Possibly by the route of partisan politics." I've also updated this earlier post rather extensively.

ALEC RAWLS notices a parallel between Ted Kennedy and Kiefer Sutherland that had not occurred to me.

UPDATE: This, on the other hand, is a perfectly natural confusion.

SOCIAL SECURITY: I haven't been blogging much on social security reform, but Tom Maguire has been covering the subject like white on rice. And Arnold Kling has more, including this: "In fact, a reasonable test to give each political party is this: what specific proposal do you have for eliminating the Social Security funding gap? If the Democrats propose a specific tax increase plan, such as the Diamond-Orszag proposal (see the analysis by Victor Davis), then they will be acting responsibly. Conversely, if the Republicans were to back away from their proposal to change the indexing formula, they will be acting irresponsibly."

January 06, 2005

HEH.

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF has posted another link-rich tsunami news roundup.

NOOO!!!

Just as we get rid of Scott Peterson -- well, once Matt Lauer stops airing his daily Amber Frey shows -- we will get the Michael Jackson trial and it will take over all available media, knocking the dead in the Indian Ocean off the front page and the lead story on the evening news. It will be all-Jacko-all-the-time and I, for one, am dreading it.

Me, too.

WIKIPEDIA, and its trustworthiness, has become a topic of considerable discussion. This entry on InstaPundit does little to inspire confidence. Okay, the picture with the "I had an abortion" t-shirt and the reference to blended puppies might be humor (is Wikipedia a Frank J. production now?) but InstaPundit was never hosted on UT servers, and I don't know where anyone would get that idea. [LATER: The entry has been changed; screenshot of original version here].

UPDATE: Hmm. In the discussion section are unsupported (and false) suggestions that I took money from Nick Denton to push Wonkette, thus paying for my sports car. Actually, Nick never gave me a dime to push Wonkette, nor did anyone else. (Wonkette, however, is married to somebody I know, and I like Nick, who's visited us in Knoxville.)

I didn't mean for the original post to be a big slam on Wikipedia, just a comment on a not-very-reliable post. And I realize that a wiki needs this "backstage" space for discussion, and that other posters cast doubt on these allegations. Still, I'm not pleased, or terribly impressed, with this treatment, which seems rather juvenile. I mean, it's not as bad as Frank J.'s filthy lies, and I'd certainly ignore stuff like this if it appeared on a blog somewhere, but on the other hand, it's not exactly encyclopedia material, either. Presumably it will be corrected in time, but unlike a blog, users are unlikely to engage in repeat visits to the same entry. In my case that's not terribly significant, I suppose, but still . . . .

THE BIG PICTURE:

THE tsunami's devastation on the Indian Ocean's shores offers a strategic lesson of incomparable importance. Whether or not the Pentagon's current leadership is capable of grasping that lesson is another matter.

The Indian Ocean and its adjoining seas and gulfs form one crucial, integrated strategic theater. The region has been critical to Western dominance for five centuries. Yet, when our intelligence services or military planners consider this vast, densely populated region at all, they poke at the different parts and miss the whole. . . .

We have failed to see the forest for the palm trees. Nature recognized what our government consistently fails to understand. The earthquake centered off the coast of Sumatra triggered deadly waves that struck Thailand and Somalia, India and Indonesia, Burma and the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Africa's Swahili coast.

The tsunami drew a strategic map of the 21st century. It took a tragedy to inspire serious American involvement in the region (apart from the Middle East, with which we remain rabidly obsessed). While cognizant of the horrors that brought them to Indonesia, U.S. Navy officers are relieved to have a mission at last. Largely excluded from participation in Iraq and Afghanistan because of the reactionary choices the service made, our Navy has suffered from a perception of fading relevance.

Read the whole thing. It seemed a bit indecent to focus on geopolitical matters in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, but those things don't go away just because I'm uncomfortable talking about them.

A "GOLDILOCKS ECONOMY?" I hope that Kudlow is right, though he seems a bit optimistic to me.

MAX BOOT IS REVIEWING MOVIES about the war on terror:

"Osama," the first film made in liberated Afghanistan, opens with a scene of Taliban enforcers breaking up a demonstration by burka-clad women upset about their inability to work. The action then shifts to a hospital that is being closed, throwing a female doctor out of work. Without a male wage earner in the family — both her husband and brother have been killed — starvation looms. So she cuts her 12-year-old daughter's hair and sends her out to work disguised as a boy called Osama. . . .

Ultimately, Osama's masquerade unravels, and she faces a gruesome punishment from an Islamic court. The ending, which I won't give away, is enough to make anyone shudder — and give thanks that U.S. troops have toppled the Taliban. Yet I don't recall a single Hollywood feminist expressing gratitude to the U.S. military or its commander in chief for the liberation of Afghan women. No doubt Streisand, Sarandon & Co. were too busy inveighing against the horrors perpetrated by John Ashcroft.

"Voices of Iraq" is one of the most gripping documentaries I have ever seen. Most of the footage was created by distributing 150 digital camcorders to let ordinary Iraqis record their own lives and thoughts from April to September 2004. . . .

While "Fahrenheit 9/11" presents antebellum Iraq as an idyllic place where children cavorted with kites, "Voices of Iraq" shows the grim reality: Hussein's henchmen throwing bound prisoners off buildings, raping girls, massacring Kurds. One horrifying video clip (shot by Hussein's own people) shows a man's hand being cut off for the crime of being caught with an American $5 bill.

Funny that these aren't getting more attention.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias says that Boot isn't giving the American feminists enough credit, though the gratitude he outlines seems to have been short-lived.

TOM FRIEDMAN gets it right, here:

It needs to be clear that these so-called insurgents are not fighting to liberate Iraq from America, but rather to reassert the tyranny of a Sunni-Baathist minority over the majority there. The insurgents are clearly desperate that they not be cast as fighting a democratically elected Iraqi government - which is why they are desperately trying to scuttle the elections. After all, if all they wanted was their fair share of the pie, and nothing more, they would be taking part in the elections.

We cannot liberate Iraq, and never could. Only Iraqis can liberate themselves, by first forging a social contract for sharing power and then having the will to go out and defend that compact against the minorities who will try to resist it. Elections are necessary for that process to unfold, but not sufficient. There has to be the will - among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds - to forge that equitable social contract and then fight for it.

In short, we need these elections in Iraq to see if there really is a self-governing community there ready, and willing, to liberate itself - both from Iraq's old regime and from us. The answer to this question is not self-evident. This was always a shot in the dark - but one that I would argue was morally and strategically worth trying.

Because if it is impossible for the peoples of even one Arab state to voluntarily organize themselves around a social contract for democratic life, then we are looking at dictators and kings ruling this region as far as the eye can see. And that will guarantee that this region will be a cauldron of oil-financed pathologies and terrorism for the rest of our lives.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Some people think Friedman's column is a bit derivative. That's okay. Better than being original, and wrong.

IN THE MAIL: Interesting new text, International Law and the Use of Force, by Mary Ellen O'Connell. I've just spent a few minutes looking through it, and you don't really know a book like this until you've taught from it, but it looks good, and is likely to find some interested readers both within and without the academy.

acehstretcher.jpg

TSUNAMI UPDATE: "Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia (Jan. 5, 2005) – Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jack Hooker helps transport medical patients in need of special attention, at the Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia airport. Medical teams from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) set-up a triage site located on Sultan Iskandar Muda Air Force Base, in Banda Aceh, Sumatra. The two teams worked together with members of the Australian Air Force to provide initial medical care to victims of the Tsunami-stricken coastal regions. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand in support of Operation Unified Assistance."

Lots more relief is flowing in, to the point where Kate McMillan emails: "I'm starting to think that the best place to send donations for Tsunami [relief] may be to the United States Department of Defense. Do you know if this is possible?" No, I don't.

Even more importantly, Diane Sawyer is on the job! "Journalist Diane Sawyer walks with Commander, Carrier Strike Group Nine (CSG 9), Rear Adm. Doug Crowder, on the flight deck aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Sawyer came aboard Abraham Lincoln to report on the aircraft carriers role in the humanitarian assistance efforts."

Journalist Diane Sawyer walks with Commander, Carrier Strike Group Nine (CSG 9), Rear Adm. Doug Crowder, on the flight deck aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Sawyer came aboard Abraham Lincoln to report on the aircraft carriers role in the humanitarian assistance efforts. Helicopters assigned to Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2) and Sailors from Abraham Lincoln are conducting humanitarian operations in the wake of the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements.

FRACTURED FAIRY TALES: An embarrassing correction for the Star Tribune's Nick Coleman.

THE GUARDIAN has an interesting article on the role of citizen journalism in a disaster.

DARFUR UPDATE:

Allied soldiers liberated Nazi concentration camps throughout Europe, bringing an end to the nightmarish Nazi system that utilized factories of mass death to eliminate enemies and despised ethnic and religious groups. The pledge "never again" was heard then, and various agreements were solemnly made by leaders to ensure genocide never occurred again.

Over the decades, much has happened to cheapen the lofty rhetoric of the victorious World War II leaders. Genocide or something close to it has happened in the Congo, Burundi, Uganda, East Timor, Cambodia, Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, and most recently the Darfur region of Sudan. In all but Kosovo, the international community ignored the horror of mass murder. The few interventions were thrown together haphazardly with peacekeepers whose hands were tied by weak-willed mandates that did more to aid the perpetrators of slaughter than the victims.

Darfur was supposed to be different. It came in the wake of successes by leading nations who intervened to halt conflict and potential mass murder in Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. President Bush had achieved more towards peace in Sudan than any previous leader. The United Nations, troubled over failures in the past, seemed eager to apply the painful lessons learned, and committed to true reform. The African Union appeared ready to accept the challenge of ending war on its territory, and the European Union claimed it was ready to support admirable goals like ending the slaughter in Darfur.

All have failed miserably.

Sigh. It's enough to make me want to start a blog about stew.

JOHN COLE FORGOT HIS ANNIVERSARY THIS YEAR. Er, actually it was his three-year bloggiversary.

GONZALES, ETC.: I kind of shot my wad with the 2000+ word post below, which has gotten me slammed as both an accomplice of modern Mengeles and a pointy-headed terrorist sympathizer. Besides which, I tired of confirmation battles after Bork (whom I opposed) and don't generally blog them. But, as always, Greg Djerejian offers a thoughtful take, with which I largely agree.

UPDATE: In a response, Andrew seems to think that I'm supporting torture. But I've never said that, and I don't; I keep saying that torture is wrong, and that it's counterproductive, and apparently that message has gotten through to the folks who think that opposing torture makes me some sort of weakling, if not to Andrew. I simply think that histrionics don't help, and partisan opportunism -- of which there's a lot here -- may actually make things worse, a point of mine that Andrew does not engage, though Greg Djerejian certainly recognizes it. I've certainly been happy to call attention to misbehavior where I thought it needed it, and wasn't getting enough attention. But I think that trying to make this question emblematic of the entire war effort -- one that Andrew supported at its inception quite vigorously, I should note -- strikes me as highly dubious. Opponents of the war are doing this, and Andrew seems to be perilously close to doing it, too. (As Roger Simon notes, "rendition" goes back to the Clinton Administration.)

As Eugene Volokh said quite some time ago: "This is a hard question that reasonable people can and should debate. But it seems to me that abstract arguments about moral high grounds or stooping to the enemy's level do more to weaken the argument against torture than to strengthen it."

And speaking of Volokh, today he points to this Scrappleface item, which seems to fit the facts all too well:

Alberto Gonzales, President Bush's Attorney General nominee, told the Senate Judiciary Committee today that he would state only his name, rank, date of birth and Air Force serial number, which is all that is required under the terms of the Geneva Conventions. . . .

Mr. Gonzales' refusal to answer Senators' questions did not affect the committee's inquiry, which consists primarily of speeches to a gathering of journalists.

That's pretty much what I feared. Likewise, this report suggests that we're getting the worst of both worlds: bad press over torture combined with ineffectual interrogation:

A master narrative—call it the “torture narrative”—sprang up: the government’s 2002 decision to deny Geneva-convention status to al-Qaida fighters, it held, “led directly to the abuse of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq,” to quote the Washington Post. In particular, torturous interrogation methods, developed at Guantánamo Bay and Afghanistan in illegal disregard of Geneva protections, migrated to Abu Ghraib and were manifest in the abuse photos.

This story’s success depends on the reader’s remaining ignorant of the actual interrogation techniques promulgated in the war on terror. Not only were they light years from real torture and hedged around with bureaucratic safeguards, but they had nothing to do with the Abu Ghraib anarchy. Moreover, the decision on the Geneva conventions was irrelevant to interrogation practices in Iraq.

No matter. The Pentagon’s reaction to the scandal was swift and sweeping. It stripped interrogators not just of stress options but of traditional techniques long regarded as uncontroversial as well. Red tape now entangles the interrogation process, and detainees know that their adversaries’ hands are tied. . . .

To read the techniques requested is to understand how restrained the military has been in its approach to terror detainees—and how utterly false the torture narrative has been. Here’s what the interrogators assumed they could not do without clearance from the secretary of defense: yell at detainees (though never in their ears), use deception (such as posing as Saudi intelligence agents), and put detainees on MREs (meals ready to eat—vacuum-sealed food pouches eaten by millions of soldiers, as well as vacationing backpackers) instead of hot rations. The interrogators promised that this dangerous dietary measure would be used only in extremis, pending local approval and special training.

I don't know which narrative is true, but I'm sure that the Gonzales hearings won't do anything to enlighten us. Which was, you know, my point.

MORE: From the boy-you-sure-can't-please-everyone-department comes this email:

You seem to agree with Andrew Sullivan that we should afford all terrorist prisoners Geneva Convention rules treatment.

To make the issue crystal-clear: if Mohammed Atta and say 5 of his co-terrorists (comrades in terror?) had been apprehended on say 2 September 2001, would you approve of the application of some duress on them to make him speak? To save those 2800 lives, I mean. There were 4, possibly 5 planes and at least 18 co-conspirators.

What do you say, then? If you truly want to follow the Geneva Conventions with non-military combatants, you would be sanctioning the planning for the WTC Memorial - by letting Mr Atta stay "heroically" mum.

Fortunately, I didn't start this blog in order to please everyone, and I've certainly succeeded in avoiding that. . . . Still, this email illustrates several problems. First, whether or not torture is okay doesn't depend on the Geneva Conventions; one might decide that torture isn't okay even regarding those to whom the Conventions do not apply, after all. I also wonder whether torture would be effective in getting the likes of Mohammed Atta to offer truthful information. I'm skeptical, which is one reason why I oppose torture.

I do not agree that the Geneva Conventions apply in all cases, of course, nor do I regard them as Holy Writ. They're international agreements arrived at among specific parties, at a specific time, for specific purposes, and whether either the agreements themselves or the principles they contain should govern in other circumstances is hardly beyond the bounds of reasonable discussion, as Andrew -- who in other circumstances seems less deferential to existing law simply as law -- seems to suggest.

Request for citations here.

MORE: Others weigh in:

Yet, at today’s confirmation hearing for Judge Alberto Gonzales, both of the two legal experts called by Senator Leahy to testify against Judge Gonzales conceded that al Qaeda fighters are indeed not POWs. Due to the extensive questioning of Judge Gonzales, the two legal experts did not begin their testimony until very late in the afternoon.

Following that testimony, Senator Cornyn asked the two professors: if someone is determined to be an al Qaeda fighter, “would they be entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention?”

Dean Harold Koh gave a somewhat wordy response that eventually concluded with this clear, unequivocal statement: “they are not POWs.” Following Dean Koh’s response, Dean John Hutson said: “I take the same view.”

This doesn't, of course, mean that torture is okay. Which illustrates why this is more than simply a legal question.

Meanwhile, Michael Totten observes: "Making this issue about a person (Bush or Gonzales) only turns the argument into a partisan bitch-fest." Yes.

SCHWARZENEGGER AIMS HIGH:

In his annual State of the State address on Wednesday night, the governor called on the Democratic-controlled Legislature to enact a fundamental overhaul that would include that most sacred of political cows, the way Congressional and legislative districts are drawn. . . .

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, noted that of the 153 seats in the California Congressional delegation and Legislature that were on the ballot in November, not one changed party hands.

"What kind of a democracy is that?" he asked in his address.

"The current system is rigged to benefit the interests of those in office and not those who put them there," he said. "We must reform it."

You know, it really is too bad that he's not eligible to run for President.

UPDATE: Here's the text of Arnold's speech.

"THE STRENGTH OF THE BLOGS IS THE STRENGTH OF THE FOX:" That's what I was talking about here.

UKRAINE UPDATE: Another roundup from Le Sabot Post-Moderne. Yanukovych is still refusing to accept the election results as valid. What a loser.

A QUITE DISTRESSING report about Duke University. Sadly, this sort of thing is common.

UPDATE: This post from Ed Cone illustrates Duke's double standard.

TSUNAMI UPDATE: Thais still want tourists, and say that news reports are sensationalizing the damage:

Much to our dismay there are many unsubstantiated news stories about “total destruction” of Phuket’s coral reefs. Even our own effort to bring a CBS team to the Similans for a first hand look turned into a nightmare when they broke their promise and turned it into yet another “spectacular disaster” story. Our crew and passengers were quoted out of context and our underwater video footage used incorrectly. Never again!

CBS? Surely not. Follow the link for more. And on a more constructive note, Australia is pledging $1 billion for tsunami reconstruction. Compare that to Spain's rather bogus response.

UPDATE: From New Zealand's National Business Review:

While the United Nations appears to be adept at having meetings, the organisation is hopeless on the ground say career foreign service officers in tsunami-affected regions.

As news media are increasingly dominated by footage of US, Australian and regional military forces actually delivering aid to stricken survivors of the Boxing Day tsunami, UN officials are carping about housing in major cities far removed from the front lines and passing around elaborate business cards. . . .

A close reading of the UK's Department for International Development's (DFID) brilliantly detailed daily reports of activity in the affected regions also reveals that UN officials are working hard at planning to work -- and estimating the need for work -- rather than actually delivering aid on the ground.

All of which is a bit chilling, since the UN is positioning itself as the primary carrier of aid relief to the region and has been critical of the "core group" response led the the US and Australia.

Sigh.

OVER AT THE BECKER-POSNER BLOG, Richard Posner writes on the economics of catastrophes. "The Indian Ocean tsunami illustrates a type of disaster to which policymakers pay too little attention—a disaster that has a very low or unknown probability of occurring, but that if it does occur creates enormous losses. "

EVAN COYNE MALONEY tried Google AdSense and pronounces it not ready for primetime. I've been pretty happy with Blogads.

UPDATE: Bill Hobbs has related observations.

January 05, 2005

AND SOME OF THEM ARE DOOZIES: Arthur Chrenkoff rounds up the twelve most stupid tsunami quotes.

STEWBLOGGING: So yesterday I made lamb stew. (For those who followed the Great Cookware Discussion last year, I used this cheap-but-good Cuisinart pot.)

I wound up serving my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece, all of whom decided to have dinner with us when they heard the menu, and who were very excited to have stew -- moreso than lots of fancier stuff that I cook. Now, the lamb stew is pretty good, but it's still stew. But it got me thinking about relative scarcity.

A hundred years ago, nobody got excited about stew. Ingredients were expensive, but time was cheap, so cooking something that had to bubble on the stove all day was no big deal. Stew was a staple.

But now ingredients are cheap, while time is expensive. Stew isn't really a lot of work, but you have to be home all day. So now homemade stew is a delicacy, while, say, grilled salmon and other stuff that's expensive in terms of ingredients but can be cooked quickly is common. Go figure.

UPDATE: I woke up this morning to a torrent of stew-related email, surprisingly enough. (How much? I got more on stew than I got on my big torture post from the other day. Go figure.) Most of it, like this one from reader Richard Zeien, boiled down to "Get a CrockPot already!" (He sent the link to this one, so I guess he likes it, but I've never used one. Seems like cheating). But maybe I should lighten up. Another reader who asks to be anonymous (hiding from the stew police?) sends this:

If you want to eat great stew on a regular basis, the secret is Crock Pots.

Sainted Wife and I make stew about every 10 days. We both work and have a kid in day care. You throw the fixin's in the Crock Pot at night, set it on the "hi switch to lo" setting, and let it go. You get home the next night at six, and it's ready to go. It's easy and the stew always turns out great.

Here is our patented recipe for Booze Fighter Stew - prep time is 10 minutes, plus a day or so to allow it to cook:

1 bottle Guinness, or a couple cups leftover red wine. (a 12 oz bottle of barley wine works really well too) 2 lbs beef, lamb or pork - preferably a cut with good marbling, but without huge veins of fat. (hint: you need to leave a bit of fat in for flavor). Cube the meat, brown it really quickly in a dab of olive or vegetable oil (just sear the outside) and then throw it in the pot. carrots celery, 1 lb mushrooms (critical ingredient like the booze or meat) 3 - 4 appropriately flavored stock cubes spices - salt and fresh ground pepper - but also toss in a healthy whack of rosemary, cilantro, mint (with lamb), bay leaves, celery salt, and tarragon - all are excellent parsnips (optional) 2-3 medium onions, quartered couple cloves garlic 3-4 medium quartered potatoes (optional for low carb types - you can substitute a chopped up swede/turnip) plus a pinch of anything else your heart desires. Add enough water to just about cover the ingredients.

Turn the pot on "hi switch to lo" and let it cook for a day.

If the stew is a little thin when you get home the next day, throw in a cup or two of sour cream 20 minutes before you eat it to thicken it up and give it some tang. A dash of hot sauce when you serve it is also nice, and it goes great with a fresh stick of French bread or some dark rye. Best enjoyed with friends over a hearty red "peasant" style wine (Languedoc, Portuguese or Chilean), or a strong ale.

Sounds yummy. A lot of people wanted my recipe, but there isn't really one to give. I just throw things in the pot and taste 'em until it's good.

Reader Robert Kern, meanwhile, sends this economic analysis:

It's the Law of Competitive/Absolute Advantage at work.

As an example : Today my sewer is blocked. I can pay a plumber $100 to take care of the problem in 1 hour, or I can do it myself in 3 hours (including renting the equipment and travel time). So, if I make more than $33/hour, it makes sense for me to perform my regular activities and employ the plumber. It's a net gain for me, and it keep another person working.

That's why a good-old crock pot is and economic bonanza -- cheap ingredients and it cooks while you are making a living. And the consumption of cheap ingredients (flank, shoulder, chuck) makes the more desirable cuts more affordable, as it balances the supply & demand.

Gosh, it's practically my humanitarian duty to buy a CrockPot now!

ANOTHER UPDATE: There is controversy even in stew-land, as reader Jody Landis emails that I should stick to my guns on CrockPot avoidance: "I have a crockpot, and I'm disappointed every time I use it. Food doesn't taste at all the same as when it's cooked by conventional means." Sigh. No easy answers here, either, I guess . . . .

THE COMFY CHAIR REVOLUTION has its downsides, one of which is a voracious appetite for power:

She had work to do. But as she removed her materials from her backpack, it became clear that the energy she was seeking could not be found in a cup. She had a more pressing need: to find a power outlet for her laptop computer, whose battery had died. . . .

Every day, millions of people are finding themselves scurrying about in search of wells of electricity they can tap so their battery-powered mobile devices can remain mobile. Dependence is growing on laptops, cellular telephones, digital music players, digital cameras, camcorders, personal organizers, portable DVD players and the latest hand-held gaming devices - most of which operate on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries - and finding available electrical outlets away from home and office has become more urgent.

Starbucks and other establishments catering to wired customers appear to do little to discourage or regulate customers who plug in, either to work on AC power or charge up. In large part, the power seekers seem to negotiate their needs among themselves with cooperative grace, following a series of unspoken rules.

It's the blooming of a spontaneous order.

UPDATE: Several readers suggest a high-capacity external battery for laptop users. I bought an extra high-capacity battery for my Dell, but this has twice the capacity that it does, so it should be good for about 10 hours. Kinda cool, though it's one more thing to carry with you.

PIMP: But I mean that in a good way.

ALEX BEAM writes on tragedies and statistics:

There is an old, politically incorrect saying in newsrooms: How do you change a front-page story about massive flood devastation into a 50-word news brief buried inside the paper? Just add two words: ''In India."

But it hasn't worked out that way this time, has it? We had massive flood devastation in India, and it's made the front pages. And more, as Mickey Kaus notes:

By the side of the road yesterday in the non-rich Palms neighborhood of Los Angeles, earnest teenagers in the pouring rain covering themselves with plastic sheeting while they held up signs trying to flag down cars and raise donations to benefit the Asian tsunami survivors. ... The effort seemed futile on several levels, but also touching--and something new. I've never seen this sort of thing in L.A. before.

Or just look at the stunning response to Amazon's fundraising -- currently heading toward $15 million. Part of that's the new media effect, I think. As Neil McIntosh writes:

For the first time, powerful coverage of a huge news event was not brought to you purely by established media. An army of "citizen journalists" played a new role, perhaps all the more vital considering the effect vivid reportage, online and off, has had on the subsequent fundraising efforts.

It's not just blogs, of course, but all the new media -- making parts of the world that used to seem distant seem much closer. And so I think that Beam's analysis, while not entirely wrong, isn't nearly as right as it would have been ten or twenty years ago.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

NICK COLEMAN HAS cost the Star Tribune an advertiser.

VENEZUELA: Emulating Zimbabwe?

AND THESE STOLEN TURKEYS WEREN'T PLASTIC, EITHER:

The director of a Detroit food bank wants to know what happened to 60 turkeys -- 720 pounds of frozen birds -- that his charity gave to members of U.S. Rep. John Conyers' local staff two days before Thanksgiving to give to needy people.

Conyers' Detroit office promised an accounting of any turkey distribution by Dec. 27, but the Gleaners Community Food Bank had received no paperwork as of Tuesday, said the charity's director, Agostinho Fernandes.

Fernandes said he became suspicious that the turkeys didn't get to poor people after hearing from a friend that a federal court worker had said he was offered free turkeys from a member of Conyers' staff.

Sounds embarrassingly scrooge-like.

ANN ALTHOUSE: "Eve Ensler has a new play. I'd rather be strapped to a treadmill than sit through it."

UPDATE: Related post here.

JONATHAN LAST:

So goes it at the Columbia Journalism Review. The university's motto may still be "In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen," but over at the j-school they have a new slogan: You can't prove anything.

Ouch.

AMERICA: FULL OF STARVING FAT PEOPLE! Megan McArdle notes that Reuters has problems with math.

UPDATE: No, the link's not bad -- the site seems to be down at the moment.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES IS UP, with posts from all sorts of blogs and bloggers. Check it out -- you may find some blogs you like better than this one!

MY SECRETARY, a Marine Combat Engineer reservist, sends this report from Iraq. It's a bit long, so I'm putting it in the "extended entry" area. Click "read more" to read it.

Read More ?


SEX, MONEY AND HAPPINESS: Jim Lindgren looks at a popular study and finds it's been misrepresented.

IT'S A SPECIAL TSUNAMI MEMORIAL BLOG MELA, with comments from all over the Indian blogosphere.

CHRIS ANDERSON:

The distinction between "professional" producers and "amateurs" is blurring and may in fact be ultimately irrelevant. We make not just what we're paid to make, but also what want to make. Both can have value. Once, with high barriers to marketplace entry, only the professional work found an audience. But now those barriers are dropping.

Indeed they are.

TSUNAMI UPDATE: The French resent the prominent American role.

OPTIMISM on the Sudanese peace agreement, at Blogicus. This has to do with the war in the South, not the other war in Darfur.

MICKEY KAUS: "The prestigious Columbia Graduate School of Journalism could use this meandering, weak piece--which fails to deliver the goods in support of whatever its vaguely delineated thesis is--as a case study of an article that desperately needs editing before it's published. ... Oh, wait. The piece was published. By the prestigious Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. "

That Corey Pein piece isn't getting much respect: "Pein thus joins Wonkette as the only commentators who, to my knowledge, have tried to argue that the bloggers' exposure of CBS's fraudulent documents was unfortunate. If the documents were fakes, their position is simply untenable. Recognizing this, Pein tries half-heartedly to show that the documents might have been genuine after all. But this effort is an utter failure."

January 04, 2005

HOWARD KURTZ IS SAFE, because he's got Tom Maguire on his side.

DON'T THROW ME INTO THAT TORTURE PATCH: Andrew Sullivan hopes for a public debate on torture, "coercive interrogation," and related issues. But I caught a few minutes of Limbaugh when I was out running errands today and my sense is that the GOP is thrilled with the idea of Congressional hearings in which Democrats can be characterized as soft on terror. It's the old "soft on criminals" routine revisited. How did that work out again?

I've been against torture since Alan Dershowitz was pushing it back in the fall of 2001. (Okay, actually I was against torture even before Dershowitz was pushing it). But I think the effort to turn this into an anti-Bush political issue is a serious mistake, and the most likely outcome will be, in essence, the ratification of torture (with today's hype becoming tomorrow's reality) and a political defeat for the Democrats. And the highly politicized way in which the issue is raised is likely to ensure that there's no useful discussion of exactly how, in terms of incarceration, etc., we should treat potentially very dangerous people who do not fall readily within the laws of war.

For more on this subject, I highly recommend this post and this post by Eugene Volokh. This post from Eve Tushnet is worth reading, too (actually, it's several posts, just keep scrolling). And for a contrary (more or less pro-torture) view, read this post by Radley Balko and this post by Oliver Willis, clarified somewhat here.

UPDATE: A reader sends a link to this post by Steven Den Beste.

Another reader suggests Sanford Levinson's new book on the subject, which I haven't read. It is, however, discussed here. Based on Levinson's other work, it's likely to be excellent, and highly useful.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Steve Sturm, who has criticized my anti-torture position in the past, is now saying bring it on regarding the torture debate, further underscoring my fears. Meanwhile reader James Somers emails:

The political reality is that the GOP would love to have a debate on this, with the New York Times, the Democratic Party, and assorted left-wing interest groups expressing deep concern about the use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists. Take a poll. How many Americans support harsh interrogation methods, including non-lethal torture, to get information from terrorists? I bet it's a majority. Oh, and for political bonus points, the debate on this issue will force the Democrats to oppose a GOP-nominated Hispanic candidate for Attorney General. Somebody get Ruy Teixeira on the phone.

That's how it looks to me. Bonus to Karl Rove if any Democrats connect Gonzales to the "Spanish Inquisition." I don't really expect that, but then nobody ever does.

MORE: A lengthy and thoughtful post at The Belmont Club:

The danger is that the confirmation hearings of Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales will in the end leave the entire question of interrogating prisoners undefined or stuck in the 19th century idealisms of the Geneva Convention. There must be definite guidance on whether it is permissible to require more than the name and rank and serial number of a captured terrorist; and if so how far one may go. It should be understood that any restrictions imposed must be carried out to the letter, even if these restrictions almost certainly result in the deaths of American soldiers and innocents, because that is what rules of engagement do. That realization should make policy makers craft their restrictions very thoughtfully; something alas, which they rarely do. Just as the torturer who claims that he serves a higher cause stands on false ground so too must the man who advocates gentleness with terrorists accept that the pursuit of his moral good will often be bought by the suffering of children. On every battlefield men have tried to strike a balance between saving their lives and saving themselves; and the choice though hard is before us.

Read the whole thing. And here's a post by Porphyrogenitus, that's worth reading:

Frankly, I'm against torture. But I'm not against harsh interrogation techniques, intimidation and the like. What's the degree? In some ways it's a matter of degree. It's a difference in the level of physicality. On the practical side, I'm not sure it's effective in getting accurate information - getting people to say what they know rather than just tell you what you want to hear. I'm certainly not sure it's better than other methods of getting them to talk, psychological pressure and tricks and the like. Sure, you can make anyone talk - almost anyone - and say what you want them to say. But that's not the same as getting them to tell you the truth.

Read the whole thing.

STILL MORE: So here I was feeling pretty good about the comprehensiveness and sophistication of this post, when I get this email from reader Jeff Cole that, I think, illustrates how the issue is likely to play out politically:

Leave it to a bunch of lawyers to get all tangled up in the Theory of Torture without addressing the facts on the ground. The ONLY previously proscribed interrogation techniques that have been sanctioned at the highest levels of our government post 911 are coercive in nature and specifically not intended to do bodily or psychological harm. Sleep deprivation, loud music, kneeling, withholding blankets. THIS is torture? Nowhere in any of your recent posts or links on the issue do you even qualify the many allegations of torture as being simply about these techniques of creating discomfort. Nor do you nor any of the linked legalists cite any case of actual physical torture. Abu Ghraib was an aberration. If anything, the internal memos produced during the Abu Ghraib “exposes” and erroneously cited as existence of a “smoking gun” showed that Rumsfeld et al were intent on keeping the threshold at the discomfort level. And about that Abu Ghraib “torture”, I can only hope that my Jihadi captors subject me to live sex shows while cloaking my head in a woman’s panties. Then if they would only put in solitary for a few minutes I could work out my frustrations about their horribly coercive techniques in private. If you know what I mean. And I think you do. Margaret Hassan was shot in the head, de-limbed, beheaded and disemboweled (not necessarily in that order). I think our non-Geneva captives can sustain a little Barry Manilow.

It's certainly true that many Administration critics are adopting a broad-brush view of "torture" that I think is likely to backfire. In fact, my fear -- as noted in the original post -- is that a big brouhaha will be made about torture, with various mild issues swept in to demonstrate the pervasiveness of the problem. Then, when those who raise the issue lose, as I suspect they will, we'll see people thinking that real torture has been, in essence, ratified.

And here's more evidence that the Democrats are playing into Karl Rove's hands.

MORE STILL: Sullivan replies: "The point is not 'an anti-Bush political issue.' It's about whether the United States condones torture of prisoners (many of whom have turned out to be innocent) in its care. Since president Bush shifted U.S. policy to one which allows what any sane person would call torture, any criticism of the policy, by its very nature, has to be 'anti-Bush.'"

Well, no. The tone seems to me to be quite partisan. And critics -- and I'm explicitly including Andrew in this -- don't seem very interested in outlining what conduct is appropriate and what isn't, but rather in blurring the lines. It's one thing to say -- as is correct -- that there's real torture here, not just frat-house hazing. It's another not to make the distinction between the two clear. And I fear that this will backfire, as the email quoted just above illustrates.

If members of Congress wanted to raise this sort of thing in a more constructive, less partisan, fashion, they might try introducing legislation to provide guidance on the subject. They could then discuss what sort of behavior is appropriate in what circumstances, when people deserve to be treated as "unlawful combatants," what the military should do with those who don't qualify, and so on. Doing that outside the context of a political nomination that was, for purely partisan reasons, sure to be controversial anyway would be considerably more constructive, it seems to me. This would, however, require members of Congress to take positions and draw distinctions, which they may find unappealing to do.

What would I do? Ban anything that causes injury or outright pain. I'm not so sure about sleep deprivation and things like that. I'd permit playing Barry Manilow, too.

Here are some thoughts -- going farther than I would -- on what should be in such legislation.

Nor need this be a partisan debate -- after all, the strongest proponents of torture linked above, Dershowitz, Balko, and Willis, are all anti-Bush. Which is why turning all discussion of this subject into disquisitions on the inherent degeneracy of the Bush Administration misses the mark so thoroughly.

AND EVEN MORE: Law Professor Kenneth Anderson has some useful observations:

One thing that is missing in the whole torture-interrogation debate is the question of who you are interrogating. Can you use a different level of interrogation on Zarqawi, for example - knowing it is Zarqawi - than you could on someone who might indeed turn out to be the peasant shepherd? In my view, the answer must plainly be yes. But this would require a regime that assigned different levels of possible roughness of interrogation - while remaining above an agreed-upon standard of torture - depending upon what is known about levels of involvement in terrorism. That, in turn, would really require a separate legal and intelligence regime for dealing with terrorists. Many countries have exactly such laws, and they are found extensively in Europe. I have reluctantly come to believe that the United States should enact such a regime for dealing with non-US citizens believed involved with terrorism. For the same reasons that many European states have enacted such special regimes, I believe that the United States needs such a special regime as well - although, among other limitations, I would confine it to non-US citizens.

I'm not sure whether I agree with that, though I definitely agree that if such a regime is created it should apply only to non-citizens. That removes the temptation to use it against domestic political opponents. Anderson has much more, and you should read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, a lot of readers think I'm a namby-pamby pointyhead lawprofessor type. Well, I'm at least one out of three. Here's a typical example:

I must confess, I don’t for the life of me understand your position on torture. While you are correct in saying that one must be careful not to torture someone so badly that they tell you what you want to hear, we are in a brave new world that requires re-thinking the old paradigms. The people we are talking about have no qualms about butchering innocent civilians, including women and children, in order to achieve their aims. If we have to do something that would heretofore have been considered barbaric in order to extract information that will save innocent lives, so be it. Why do you think that we should tie our hands in this regard when they operate in another universe entirely?

Should we just throw up our hands and accept the deaths of thousands, perhaps millions of innocent people because we don’t want to “descend to their level,” or out of some quaint adherence to outdated (when it applies to this issue) norms of civilized behavior? I forget which justice said that the constitution is not a suicide pact, but that sentiment is eminently applicable here.

We need to figure out that we are in a different reality, and steel ourselves to do the work that needs to be done to save our civilization from the very real threat of Islamic extremism.

I think the threat is real, but I don't think that torture is the way to deal with it. On the other hand, I don't think that turning the question into a partisan political weapon (or an opportunity for posturing) helps either -- and, what's more, I think that the people who are doing that are likely to produce an environment in which torture is more, not less, likely.

FINAL UPDATE: Greg Djerejian has thoughts on this subject which are very much worth reading. He echoes my point that the Gonzalez confirmation hearings are unlikely to be a good place to raise these points. And I have a bit more here in response to a later post from Sullivan.

I'VE UPDATED THE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY POST BELOW with lots of reader comments. Scroll down or click here.

I GOT MY HAIR CUT TODAY, but I wasn't clever enough to photoblog the process. Then again, I doubt it would have turned out as well if I had.

VIA VANITY FAIR, a collection of links to New York City photobloggers.

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF has another massive roundup of tsunami news, with many, many links.

THE RIAA HAS LOST ANOTHER CASE, which is always welcome news. (Opinion here).

IRAN WANTS NANOTECHNOLOGY. Just in case the nukes weren't enough to worry about.

KRUGMAN: Save Social Security last!

GET THIS GUY SOME PAJAMAS!

A FLY, SWATTED.

EUGENE VOLOKH FACT-CHECKS HARRY REID.

STINGINESS UPDATE: Mark Steyn observes:

If America were to emulate Ireland and Norway, there'd be a lot more dead Indonesians and Sri Lankans. Mr Eddison may not have noticed, but the actual relief effort going on right now is being done by the Yanks: it's the USAF and a couple of diverted naval groups shuttling in food and medicine, with solid help from the Aussies, Singapore and a couple of others. The Irish can't fly in relief supplies, because they don't have any C-130s. All they can do is wait for the UN to swing by and pick up their cheque.

The Americans send the UN the occasional postal order, too. In fact, 40 per cent of Egeland's budget comes from Washington, which suggests the Europeans aren't being quite as "proportionate" as Mr Eddison thinks. But, when disaster strikes, what matters is not whether your cheque is "prompt", but whether you are. For all the money lavished on them, the UN is hard to rouse to action. Egeland's full-time round-the-clock 24/7 Big Humanitarians are conspicuous by their all but total absence on the ground.

So I hear.

MORE HEALTHCARE BLOGGING: This week's Grand Rounds is up.

AMAZONIAN COMPASSION: Jackson Kuhl and Nick Schulz do a country comparison.

HOW TO BLOG: Joe Carter has posted the latest in his series of posts on how to start a blog and get readers. However, I'd like to add a caveat to his "don't bother Glenn" post. I don't mind being bothered! But so often people send me email that says "I've started a new blog -- check it out!" and when I do check it out there's not much beyond an introductory post. As Eugene Volokh says, sell the post, not the blog. I love to hear about new blogs, and I love to call attention to them. But it works best when there's an interesting post about a currently hot topic. Sometimes I'll link to a specialty blog in an interesting area (e.g., nanotechnology) just because of its subject matter. But generally it's the post that's linkworthy. That's how I feel, anyway, and I think it's how most other bloggers feel.

JEFF JARVIS:

Mark Cuban, my favorite billionaire blogger, has called for the cancellation of the presidential inauguration festivities so that funds can be diverted to tsunami relief. Huh? Why not call for the cancellation of the NBA season and take all the dollars advertisers have committed for broadcasting it and send those funds to tsunami relief? What, the advertisers won't do that? Have you asked?

Sounds like a good idea to me.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis emails that he was quoting Rex Hammock, but because of a formatting error you couldn't tell until he fixed things. Follow this link for the original.

CANADA'S SHORT REACH:

There's little to say about the tragedy of Canada's response to the tsunami tragedy that hasn't already been said. A lot of excuses have been bandied about for why Canadian soldiers weren't sent, when Australia, Taiwan, Israel, and other countries despatched forces early, and the American military launched its largest operation in the area since Vietnam to try to save lives.

In the end, though, the answer's pretty simple: 600 tonnes.

That's the amount of airlift required to move the DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team). Since Canada only has the 4 CC-150 Polaris (modified Airbuses) for strategic airlift, with a cargo capacity of 13 tonnes each, rapid deployment of DART anywhere outside the effective ferry range of our 30-odd additional short-range Herc transports (ie, off this continent) was a mathematical impossibility, without civilian airlift... and civilian airlift is in pretty short supply at the moment. . . .

The lack of airlift was a conscious decision, based on the little remarked-upon shift in the tail-end Chretien period, during John McCallum's time as defence minister. . . . "The world needs more Canada," Bono said. Well, it's unlikely at the moment to get it, at least not in the uniformed variety.

Read the whole thing.

AMERICA: LESS FREE IN 2004?

BLOG ROUNDUPS: The latest Canadian Blog Roundup, the Red Ensign Standard, is up. So is this weeks' Carnival of the Liberated, a roundup of Iraqi blog posts. And though I was distracted and neglected to link it, the recipes from last week's Carnival of the Recipes are just as tasty this week.

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY FOLLOWUP: Reader Ted Armstrong emails:

As digital camera central, you have not addressed those of us with hundreds of slides that would like to convert them to digital. Any services you can recommend?

No, and as one of those people myself (make it thousands, not hundreds) I'd like to know. There are slide and negative scanners that can do that, but I haven't used one and don't know anyone who owns one. I'm sure that there are services (here's one that I found via google, but I don't have any experience with them) but I can't attest to the results. If anyone knows, let me know.

Meanwhile, reader (and frequent source of photo links) Jim Herd emails that the Nikon Coolpix 8800 has gotten an in-depth review at DPreview.com (the real digital-photography central). Much as I love my Nikon D70 SLR, there's a lot to be said for these all-in-one cameras. They've got limitations, but for the size and price they're ferociously capable, really.

Finally, my earlier post on printers led some people to ask about smaller and cheaper printers for cranking out snapshots. I gave my brother -- who has a new baby and needs it -- this little HP for Christmas. Unfortunately, he just moved into a new house and I don't think he's even unpacked it yet, so there's no report from him yet. But it got a good writeup in Consumer Reports and it looks good: reads cards directly, has a small built-in LCD screen, doesn't take up too much room.

UPDATE: Reader Mark Bridger emails with this link to some scanner reviews and reports:

I use an older Canon FS2720U and am in the process of scanning a couple hundred old slides I found when cleaning out my Dad's house after he died. Most of them are 50+ years old. There are two problems scanning slides: Dust, and dust. Can't get rid of all of it. The better scanners have hardware and software (Digital ICE or FARE) that greatly reduce it. Polaroid has a free plug-in for Photoshop that does a great job as well.

The consensus seems to be don't use flatbeds for 35mm slides or negatives, but the do work pretty well for medium format or large format transparencies.

Scanning the slides is slow, and fairly tedious, but I'm having a great time seeing my older sister and brother as babies, my grandparents young and healthy, and my parents so young. I ultimately intend to create a book at mypublisher.com and send copies to my siblings and my aunts.

That's cool.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Wow, this generated a lot of email. Whenever I think that I'm being self-indulgent by blogging on digital photography, the massive amount of email that posts like this generate serves as a reminder that plenty of people care about it.

Professional photographer Rick Lee emails:

I was reading your post on the chore of slide scanning. I was also thinking about this the other day when Lileks was talking about the huge chore of scanning a bunch of material out of books.

The best scanner you'll ever own is in your camera bag. How do you like the idea of completing a scan in 1/30th of a second?

To "scan" flat material such as photos... Just get a copy stand.. Such as:
Link

To "scan" slides, get some sort of slide-duping device....Link

This works really well. I've even shot negatives before... In Photoshop I just reverse the image and hit "Auto-balance" and voile... A pretty darn good image. The other day I shot a page out of a book and ran the JPG through character-recognition software and it worked perfectly.... Turned the jpg into a Word doc.

That's pretty cool. Photographer-reader Jim Hogue emails:

I’ve been scanning slides since Christmas into my Christmas present the Pacific Image 1800 AFL slide and negative scanner. It was, literally, a surprise gift from my not-so-tech oriented wife who’d got it on sale at Fry’s Electronic.

It uses Adobe Photoshop elements 2.0 with a Pacific Image import software utility.

I’m impressed with the scanner and the job Adobe PS Elements does in enhancing 45+ years-old slides. The auto color correction and auto level corrections are very good. I’m certainly no expert but the pictures look better to me now after that green age tint is removed.

I have my father’s family slides he began taking in 1957 and my own family slides I started taking in 1979 and so far the results have been very gratifying. have a total of almost 6,000 slides.

The downside it the scanner is it manpower intensive. Only one slide at a time and it can be a bit tedious. With practice, I’m now scanning and enhancing 40-45 slides in a little over one hour, to be fair, I find myself reminiscing over slides of my sons or my parents, so that time might be a little on the high side. Personally, I’ve set a goal of 40 - 80 slides a day to avoid burnout.

Also, the saved images are 12.5 Megs apiece and that might bump up against memory on lower end computers.

Yeah, that's a bit labor-intensive if you've got a lot of slides. Reader Harvey Schneider writes:

Please see the attached links. One is for Microtek scanners, the other is an adapter that hooks to a Microtek flatbed scanner to scan slides. Mine works great. Full disclosure, I worked for Microtek in the late 90’s, which is how I obtained the scanner and the adapter. They scanners sold well, the 35 MM adapters not so well. Good product, limited market. I have visited Microtek’s factory in hsinchu science park, in Taiwan on several occasions. It is a world class facility. They do OEM for H-P and other major brands.

Link 1
Link 2

Reader James Martin sends this link to an info-rich page on scanning and sends this link to a discusison of bulk scanning of slides. Jonathan Gewirtz of ChicagoBoyz, who's a superb photographer emails:

I've successfully scanned thousands of slides and negatives using an obsolete HP S20 film scanner (1998-ish technology). My scans are more than adequate for Web use and printing to 8x10. Newer scanners are more capable and typically include dust-correction software that works with most color films (though not with B&W negatives, and perhaps not always with Kodachromes).

The good news is that there is some art to scanning, and one can learn how to produce good scans using even less-than-best equipment. The bad news is that scanning is a time-consuming nuisance that is difficult to automate (though I think Nikon offers a film-roll feeder). I don't know enough to recommend a modern scanner, but they must all be better than mine so I doubt that you can go far wrong. Minolta and Nikon are frequently recommended in online photography discussions.

Some of my best photo experiences were associated with scanning long-forgotten slides of family events. Kodachromes are durable, but IMO it's prudent to scan other types of slides ASAP, before major deterioration sets in. You can always touch up the dust marks later.

I guess I'd better get to it. Meanwhile, reader Scott Gonyea sends this:

I am a former retail sales associate for Epson. I'll divide my e-mail into two sections: printing and scanning.

I'll accept that you want to do photo printing, despite the outstanding costs associated with it. You're basically looking at either Epson or Canon to do your consumer printing. Two types of ink exist in the consumer printing world: dye and pigment, or solid. Dye ink is a liquid that strikes a coating on the paper and gets absorbed below it. The alcohol inside the ink dries the liquid and bonds it with the coating to form light and gas resistance.

The problem with dye ink is that it is water based, so if you leave your print in a humid climate then it will eventually lose its vibrance. Dye inks are easy and cheap, which makes them popular in a competitive, consumer market. But they're not long lasting or resilient. Epson R2/300 and the Canon i9900 are both dye based.

Pigmented inks, such as the Epson R800, PictureMate, and 2200 are much more resistant to physical disturbances. The reason is because you have tiny particles (think: microscopic laser toner) that form a bond within the fibers of paper. They don't bond to everything, but when they do they are not coming off unless you break down the paper itself.

Now, were you to make a decision this very moment between the i9900 and the Epson 2200, I would suggest the 2200. The pigmented inks a large advantage.
The paper optimized black inks have a significant improvement on output quality, as does the gray scale cartridge. But what makes the 2200 so great is that it has 3 paper paths: you can do panoramas (13x44) and also do a straight feed of foam board through the back. The 2200 has more bang for your buck.

The other advantage that Epson has is that professional papers are manufactured with Epson printers in mind first. Not only does Epson make great quality paper, but Ilford specifically designs their paper around the Epson print engine.

As for scanners, they depend on your price range. If you have the money, I suggest the Canon CanoScan 9950, because you can scan 32 film negatives at a time. It also has lots of built-in hardware features such as restoration, Digital ICE (bend and scratch repair), and a Matrix CCD. If $400 is out of your price range, the Epson 2580 is also a very good buy at $150, namely for its auto-feed film scanner. Word is that it has difficulty with black and white 35mm, but I can't personally confirm this.

The scanner is a great investment, and the CanoScan is nothing but wonderful. Photo printers are a bad investment; if you want to share photos then get an Epson PictureMate. It's guaranteed $.29 per photo and is pigment based. You can mail vacation photos to your nephew and know they'll hold up. For your larger printing, go to a place like Costco. They have exceptional printing facilities at dirt cheap rates. The quality is professional and nowhere near the cost of doing it yourself. You just lose a little flexibility. But for that, have it done over the internet.

And that's probably enough on this subject for now!

FINISHED READING JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL last night. I liked it very much. Kind of like Dickens-does-Harry Potter.

BILL STUNTZ FOLLOWS UP AN EARLIER COLUMN, which David Brooks listed among the top ten essays of 2004, with more on the Christian right and the academic left.

IS IT A MAINSTREAM MEDIA MELTDOWN? Certainly some people are losing it.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Mickey Kaus notes an exit-poll smoking gun: "It wasn't the dumb bloggers who didn't understand on Nov. 2 that they were being leaked 'complex displays intended for trained statisticians,' as Mitofsky would have it--or the dumb Kerry aides and dumb Bush aides who believed the same numbers. It was that the weighted results Mitofsky's statisticians put out were full of it!"

STRATEGYPAGE WRITES ON IRAN'S STRATEGY: Bully the Bloggers and Pretend for the Europeans.

TSUNAMI UPDATE: China's limited role in the relief effort shows that it's not ready for prime time when it comes to superpower status:

BEIJING China's new and growing influence in Asia, which some analysts say has come at the expense of the United States, is showing its limits as the aspiring superpower plays an active but secondary role in responding to the tsunami disaster.

The Chinese response is significant by even the recent standards of its inward-looking history. But it is also a reminder that the world's most populous country is far from being the dominant power in Asia.

On the other hand, that's now. Some people think we're not worried enough about where China is headed.

JAPANESE PHOTOGRAPHER SHOTO SHIMOMURA travelled the world in 1934-35. You can see some of his photos online here.

January 03, 2005

HIGHER PRAISE THAN I USUALLY GET, OR DESERVE:

The best editor in America today isn't a journalist. He's Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, also known as the "Instapundit." He's endangering my livelihood.

I don't think so.

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF HAS A massive tsunami news roundup.

JIM LINDGREN: "The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) has a story by Corey Pein on Rathergate that seems to leave out quite a lot that might seem relevant to his argument. CJR came under early criticism for sticking its head in the sand when the story was breaking, thus missing one of the biggest stories of the year about the media and its coverage--what would seem to be CJR's beat. Now CJR is dismissing those who got the story essentially right."

Not very impressive.

HERE'S A UKRAINE UPDATE, plus notes on Putin's Fifth Column in the West. A singularly ineffectual Fifth Column, if that.

I'LL BE ON HUGH HEWITT'S SHOW shortly, along with Jeff Jarvis. You can listen live here.

And don't forget to buy the book! It's blogerrific! (In case you missed it over the holidays, my review is here.)

DON D'CRUZ WRITES IN THE AUSTRALIAN THAT TRADE IS BETTER THAN AID:

Setting aside the emergency relief being rushed to tsunami survivors, which is vital and absolutely necessary, foreign aid has, in general, not been very effective. Indeed, if the aid industry's effectiveness was judged by its success in poverty alleviation, it would have been shut down years ago. . . .

Aid is only a part of the development picture. For instance, while ODA flows stand at about $US63 billion ($80.8 billion), foreign direct investment has in recent years been twice the level of aid flows. Even remittances from workers employed abroad are worth about $US80 billion to the developing world. Moreover, most capital accumulation comes from domestic sources rather than from abroad. Indeed, economic growth is largely about freeing up local equity and getting locals to invest locally.

The true insignificance of aid is revealed by the fact that trade contributes almost $US1.7 trillion to the developing world, making free trade an imperative – hence the emergence of the slogan "trade, not aid".

Yes, emergency relief is necessary, but long-term aid is often destructive. In that light, it's worth reading this piece from the San Francisco Chronicle, too:

According to a recent study by the World Bank, 2004's growth reflected "an expansion without precedent over the past 30 years." Equally encouraging, the report notes that "the rapid growth of developing economies ... has produced a spectacular, if not historic, fall in poverty."

Amazingly, the World Bank report did not get much coverage in our mainstream media. It seems the press was more interested in covering the evils of globalization than in taking notice of how world trade -- which grew by an astounding 10.2 percent this year -- is driving economic growth. . . .

It is undeniable that 2004 was a great year for the poor. The World Bank's prediction that global poverty will continue plummeting is particularly encouraging. But if we are ever to wipe poverty from the face of the Earth, our next generation of leaders must first understand what makes the global economy tick -- the fundamental relationship between free trade and economic growth.

Read the whole thing.

ANTIWAR SAILOR SHIRKS RESCUE DUTY, LETS HELPLESS DIE UNHELPED: Power Line has an interesting item:

One of the ships helping is the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault vessel carrying U.S. Marines. This is the same ship that [critical phrase deleted] Navy Petty Officer Third Class and darling of the anti-war left, Pablo Paredes, refused to board back in Decemeber because his ship was aiding in the "illegal" war in Irag. This sailor went AWOL back in December and staged a little media party in San Diego back in December. This is a wonderful irony.

Indeed it is.

ALI, FORMERLY OF IRAQ THE MODEL, offers an explanation for his departure.

KEVIN AYLWARD says the Columbia Journalism Review is rewriting RatherGate history.

UPDATE: Corey Pein, the author of the CJR piece, was voted most likely to bring down a Presidential administration by his Columbia classmates. Really, that says it all about what's wrong with contemporary journalism, doesn't it?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis:

In this, The Times is trying to marginalize blogs -- making them look like the domain of nuts -- without realizing that they are only marginalizing their own readers. See this weekend's Pew study: The people are reading blogs. And I'll just bet that Times readers read blogs disproportionately.

I could be wrong, but I smell the fine hand of a grizzled, old, grouchy, change-hating editor in this. When a story is mangled in such a way, when the facts in the story don't back up the spin of the headline and lead, that's often the case, from my experience: An editor sent a reporter out to create a story with a prefab spin and didn't want to be bothered with the actual reporting that came back.

At the Times? Shocking.

MORE: Typographic expert Meryl Yourish calls Corey Pein's article "utterly clueless." Ouch.

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

DISASTERS AND DISTRIBUTED RESPONSES: My TechCentralStation column is up.

AN INTERESTING DEBATE on the whole "Constitution-in-Exile" question.

GREYHAWK OFFERS A ROUNDUP OF SUCCESSES IN IRAQ that haven't gotten much mention because of the tsunami story. And, of course, Arthur Chrenkoff's regular feature of underreported stories from Iraq is up, over at OpinionJournal.

UPDATE: Bin Laden's nightmare approaches.

BLOGGING IS LIGHT because my leave is over, and I'm back in the office. Actually that's kind of nice. Classes don't start until next week, but quite a few of my colleagues are in, and people stopped by all morning to say hello, and we had a nice lunch where tsunamis, changes to the grading system, and holiday DVD purchases were discussed. (The Simpsons Fifth Season is the big hit in our household.)

050102-N-9293K-157 Indian Ocean (Jan. 2, 2005) – Seahawk helicopters, assigned to the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Two (HS-2) and the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light Squadron Four Seven (HSL-47), depart USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) en route to Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia. The helicopters are transporting supplies, bringing in disaster relief teams and supporting humanitarian airlifts to Tsunami-stricken coastal regions. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Jacob J. Kirk (RELEASED) <br />

PHOTOS OF THE TSUNAMI RELIEF EFFORT, released by the U.S. Navy, are available here. Such efforts are, as U.N. representative Jan Egeland noted this weekend, worth their weight in gold. More or less literally.

050101-N-1229B-116 Sumatra, Indonesia (Jan. 1, 2005) - Sailors from USS Abraham Lincoln with the help of military members from Indonesia and Australia load United States Navy Seahawk helicopters with supplies to be distributed throughout the island. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Patrick M. Bonafede (RELEASED)

UPDATE: Reader Phil Beckman notes that Dan Rather is on the scene, which is surely a tremendous relief to the victims. And he's wearing a flightsuit!

WALTER SHAPIRO IS BACK, with a Los Angeles Times oped that is, as always, worth reading in full.

(Via the National Ledger, which observes: "It's still hard to fathom why the collective brain trust at the USA Today would dump veteran scribe Walter Shapiro. His nine-year run was full of interesting musings and he rarely disappointed." Indeed.)

BELLESILES UPDATE: Jim Lindgren reports that Garry Wills is calling Bellesiles a "con man."

AUSTIN BAY is on C-SPAN right now.

NOTE TO THE NEW YORK TIMES: "Democratic Underground" is, as reported, often loony. It is not, however, a blog. It is a bulletin board.

Is the NYT going out of its way to try to make blogs look bad, or are their reporters just that clueless?

UPDATE: James Joyner notes more problems with Big Media reporting on blogs.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Rand Simberg emails:

During Rathergate, many of the MSM stories were calling Free Republic a blog as well, and "Buckhead," (who kicked the whole thing off there) a blogger. Given their abysmal performance in so many other areas of knowledge, my vote is for clueless, with the making-blogs-look-bad thingie as virtuous side effect.

Good point. Perhaps to some, "blog" is a synonym for "things on the Internet that we don't read or understand, but feel compelled to write about."

MORE: The Times dissed Wizbang (which is, at least, a blog), too. Wizbang's response is here. And in another post, Wizbang observes: "In the last 90 days Wizbang has been mentioned by the AP, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. In every story -including the one that focused on how errors are corrected in the blogosphere- the big media outlet made significant errors of fact." Get used to it, guys . . . .

JOHN HAWKINS OFFERS the 40 most obnoxious quotes of 2004.

RAJAN RISHYAKARAN NOTES that some people were agitating for an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system back in 2003.

I'VE BEEN PREDICTING FOR QUITE A WHILE that multimedia and video would be a big deal in the blogosphere soon. Judging by this Wall St. Journal story, (free link) the time has come. (Via Pundit Guy, who's mentioned.)

January 02, 2005

BEATS ME: Rand Simberg notices that a policy paper he wrote years ago is now listed as an out-of-print book on Amazon, even though it was never published as a book. He wonders how it got there. The only thing I can guess is that somebody gave it an ISBN, and Amazon's computers picked that up.

HERE'S A UKRAINE UPDATE at Le Sabot Post-Moderne.

I SUPPOSE I COULD BE WRONG, but this seems dodgy to me:

Administration officials are preparing long-range plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries, according to intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.

The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions, including for hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts. The outcome of the review, which also involves the State Department, would also affect those expected to be captured in the course of future counterterrorism operations. . . .

One proposal under review is the transfer of large numbers of Afghan, Saudi and Yemeni detainees from the military's Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center into new U.S.-built prisons in their home countries. The prisons would be operated by those countries, but the State Department, where this idea originated, would ask them to abide by recognized human rights standards and would monitor compliance, the senior administration official said.

Assuming that these people are "unlawful combatants," they don't really have any rights under international law that would stand in the way of this sort of scheme. I'm skeptical, however, as to whether these prisons, operated by the Saudis or the Yemenis, will be either secure or humane. (Via TalkLeft).

Joe Gandelman has more thoughts, also negative. I read this as (1) a trial balloon; and (2) a not-so-veiled warning to U.S. courts not to deal too intrusively with the treatment of foreign combatants. But I'm not entirely sure about that.

UPDATE: Sean Hackbarth has a different take.

SUPPORTERS OF THE UNITED NATIONS have reportedly staged an intervention with Kofi Annan at Richard Holbrooke's home:

At the gathering, Secretary General Kofi Annan listened quietly to three and a half hours of bluntly worded counsel from a group united in their personal regard for him and support for the United Nations, but deeply concerned that lapses in his leadership over the past two years had eclipsed the accomplishments of his first term and were jeopardizing chances of making the remaining two years of his term meaningful. . . .

Holbrooke said that the talk, while unalloyed, was not confrontational. "There was nothing adversarial about it," Holbrooke said.

"Kofi knew he was in a meeting with people who cared deeply about him and about the institution."

Admitting that there's a problem is the first step. (Via Rob A.).

HERE'S AN IMAGE of Saturn's moon Iapetus, taken from up close by the Cassini probe. More images here, and you can see the Cassini raw image gallery here.

INDIAN BLOGGER AMIT VARMA has thoughts on successful and unsuccessful approaches to disaster relief.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse rounds up information on the logistical difficulties facing the relief effort.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More on the relief effort here:

In this part of the tsunami-wrecked Far Abroad, the UN is still nowhere to be seen where it counts, i.e., feeding and helping victims. The relief effort continues to be a US-Australia effort, with Singapore now in and coordinating closely with the US and Australia. Other countries are also signing up to be part of the US-Australia effort. Nobody wants to be "coordinated" by the UN. The local UN reps are getting desperate.

I'm glad that someone is getting it right, but I'm sorry to hear that the U.N. is getting it wrong.

MORE: Interesting observations on how the media failed on the aid story.

TSUNAMI UPDATE: Tim Blair has a huge roundup of news.

Meanwhile, Perry de Havilland writes: "This disaster makes me doubt the existence of the Archbishop of Canterbury."

UPDATE: Several readers say that Perry's post misrepresents what the Archbishop actually said, though not the headline that accompanied it.

EXPLOSIVE GROWTH IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Jeff Jarvis notes a study by the Pew Internet Trust showing truly astounding growth in both blogs and -- even more explosively -- in blog readers. Perhaps this will make Henry Copeland a rich man.

If nothing else, it should help sell more copies of Hugh Hewitt's book. Is that guy a master of timing, or what?

Jeff has a lot of information, and a nice digest. If you missed my earlier link, you might also want to check out this article from Fortune this week on the growth of the blogosphere and what it means for businesses.

UPDATE: Hewitt is pleased. I knew he would be.

YES, I'M SCARED: Wouldn't you be?

TSUNAMI UPDATE:

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao are among the world leaders who will attend an international summit in Jakarta this week to discuss distribution of more than $2 billion in pledged aid to tsunami victims.

Powell and Florida Governor Jeb Bush, brother of President George W. Bush, left the U.S. today to visit devastated areas in southern Asia, where 150,000 people perished after a magnitude-9 earthquake triggered tsunamis seven days ago.

Stay tuned.

MORE THAN $12 MILLION raised via Amazon so far. More on the Internet and tsunami relief here.

WINDS OF CHANGE looks at the "Toyota Taliban," who are doing rather better for themselves than the original Taliban.

IT'S A TSUNAMI ROUNDUP over at GlennReynolds.com. Meanwhile, Tim Blair discovers an almost Wolcottian enthusiasm for the disaster in some quarters.

DAN GILLMOR HAS PUBLISHED HIS LAST COLUMN, as he's moving on to citizen-journalism.

But he's got his new blog, where he explains what comes next. And the blog -- unlike the column -- is popup-free!

RATHERGATE UPDATE:

It 's been nearly 3 1/2 months since former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and retired Associated Press chief executive Louis D. Boccardi were named to an independent panel to investigate the "60 Minutes" story that used forged documents to allege Bush shirked his duties when in the Texas Air National Guard in the 1960s and 1970s.

CBS's Andrew Heyward promised we'd hear in "weeks not months." As Tim Blair comments: "Inasmuch as weeks are a component of months, Heyward's statement could possibly be considered 'fake, but true'."

NORM GERAS TURNS THE TABLES on the traditional year-in-review feature.

OVER AT VOLOKH.COM: Jim Lindgren ponders a Bush Administration "Secretary of Symbolism," while David Bernstein reviews Philip Roth's latest novel, though not very positively: "Usually, when I read a Roth novel, every several pages I feel compelled to interrupt my traveling companion, and read aloud some brilliant prose I've just come across. This happened not once with the The Plot Against America."

THE EXPIRATION OF QUOTAS UNDER THE MULTIFIBER ARRANGMENT isn't big news, but it ought to be. Aaman Lamba has more. I spoke with an expert on this last year, and he said he thought it would mean devastation to the textile industries of Cambodia and Bangladesh, and probably pretty much everyone else besides India and -- especially -- China, who would clean up.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel emails that it's gotten a lot of attention in the business pages. Not much of that seems to show up on this Google News search, but I confess that I didn't go any further than that in looking to see how much play it's gotten. I had actually meant to write a TCS column on this before the end of the year, but events intervened.

ED MORRISSEY NOTES a Washington Post story saying that Iraqis are quite enthusiastic about the upcoming elections, and wonders why the Post buried it on page A12.

THE DISCOUNTED PREPAID ITUNES CARDS that I mentioned last week came, and I used some last night. It took me a while, as the card says to click the "prepaid card" button on iTunes, but there wasn't one. (Maybe there is on the Mac version?) I had to go to my account information, and treat them as gift certificates, but that worked.

Ordered a few tunes, though I passed on buying Jennifer Garner's playlist. Her taste in music isn't bad, but it's not mine.

UPDATE: Yeah, yeah, as about a gazillion readers have emailed, the "prepaid card" button -- it's actually more like a link -- is over on the lower left. It's not very conspicuous, but I'm still surprised I missed it. Oh, well, I made it work anyway.

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