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May 07, 2005

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DAVE WINER lectures on civility, at what seems to be the most contentious of the sessions so far.

John Jay Hooker suggests that blogging is "inherently adversarial," but stresses the need to use good manners and disagree without being disagreeable.

Dave took offense at this remark, though I'm not sure why.

UPDATE: I left just after Dave sat down and refused to continue as moderator. I imagine that things sorted themselves out later, though.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Les Jones stayed and blogged the whole session.

Meanwhile, on a calmer note, Blake Wylie blogged the protecting bloggers session with Mark Glaser.

MORE: Here's a report on the faith-based blogging session.

STILL MORE: Here's Dave's take on the session: "We're going to have to work hard if we want to work together."

MORE STILL: The civility discussion was captured on video for posterity, here.

HERE'S LIVEBLOGGING OF Dan Gillmor's talk on citizen media.

LES JONES is liveblogging Hossein Derakshan's talk on Iranian bloggers.

I MISSED IT EARLIER, BUT THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES is up.

LOCALBLOGGING: Sitting next to me is a guy who runs this site in Paulding County, Georgia. There's no daily paper there, but if there were this site just might kill it. He's got classified ads, news stories, and even TV (well, web video) commercials. This is just the beginning of something that I think we'll be seeing a lot more of, soon.

MICHAEL SILENCE is blogging from the conference. And Bill Hobbs notes that it's getting a good deal of coverage.

LINKS FOR IRC, VIDEO, ETC. are at the BlogNashville homepage.

I wish I had video of Dave Winer leading the crowd in a stirring rendition of America the Beautiful this morning, but I was up at the lectern and couldn't take any. I'm sure somebody did.

YOU CAN SEE STREAMING VIDEO HERE: Log in with any name, then click on "Blog NASHVILLE."

I'M AT HENRY COPELAND'S PANEL ON MAKING MONEY, and the discussion is very interesting. (Best line: "Bloggers are the garage bands of the Internet.")

The two themes of this conference seem to me to be making money, and video. There are lots of videobloggers here, and the place is overrun with video cameras.

The big question from Henry: What do bloggers give people that other media outlets don't? Lots of interesting answers. The best one from John Cox of Cox and Forkum is that "we're having fun!"

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Another line from Henry: "There are more political page impressions in the blogosphere than in the Washington Post and the New York Times put together."

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UPDATE: Yes, the woman in the red sweater with the webcam is Tara Sue Grubb, the blogger who ran for Congress in North Carolina last time around.

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IF YOU'RE AT THE BLOG CONFERENCE, you want to use "nashvilleblog" as your SSID.

JOSEPH BRITT THINKS ABOUT DARFUR:

Does Tom Friedman during all his earnest chin-stroking about the problem of terrorism and Arab culture pause to consider that this might be related somehow? Saudi imams get young men inspired to blow themselves up in the middle of Iraqi crowds, but we sure don't hear too many reports of young Saudi men risking death to stand between Muslim villagers in Darfur and the janjaweed.

What about Nick Kristof, who has access to the same maps of Africa that the rest of us do? Does he wonder that the largest Arab country, directly north of Sudan with a large army and an air force hundreds of planes strong, has never made a move toward establishing, say, a no-fly zone over any part of Darfur? Demanded UN sanctions against Sudan, or imposed any of its own? To be honest, I doubt the idea has even crossed his mind.

Read the whole thing.

MICHELE CATALANO LOOKS INTO THE FUTURE and finds things, er, colorful.

A SWELL AFTER-PARTY at the not-yet-opened Gaylord Center, where I met lots of cool bloggers I hadn't met before.

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Above: Unidentified T-Shirt person, Hossein Derakshan of Hoder.com. Below: Eric Scheie of ClassicalValues.com, J.D. Lasica with review model of Nikon D70s. Why didn't Nikon send me one of those?

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May 06, 2005

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I'M ON THE CAMPUS OF BELMONT UNIVERSITY, where the BlogNashville conference is going on. Donald Sensing is sitting next to me, and I had a beer with Ed Cone and Chris Nolan. So far it's a success -- but I'll start talking soon, and then things will probably go downhill . . . .

UPDATE: Comments on the panel, here.

CNET HAS AN FAQ on the "Real ID Act."

I'm skeptical that this will have significant anti-terrorist benefits.

IN NASHVILLE NOW, blogging from the parking lot of the studio where I'm going to do Kudlow & Company along with some mystery guests later, before heading over to the BlogNashville conference -- it'll be on at about 5:40 Eastern. It was an odd drive; the blog documentary producers put a producer in the back seat of the RX-8 (at 5'2" she fit just fine) and a cameraman in the passenger seat and interviewed me while I drove, with the director following in their truck and asking questions via the producer over a wireless intercom.

Kind of like William Gibson, except that nobody made him drive while he answered questions. . . .

Still no takers on the Lileks documentary idea, though.

UPDATE: Video of the Kudlow appearance here.

RYAN SAGER notes that Democrats are catching on to the problems with campaign finance "reform:"

Three years after the passage of McCain-Feingold (a.k.a. the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, a.k.a. the End of Free Speech As We Know It), a smattering of Democrats and liberal activists are slowly coming to the conclusion that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to let the government decide who can and cannot engage in political speech.

After all, what would prevent incumbents in Congress from passing laws to secure their jobs by making it harder for their opponents to criticize them? And what would prevent a political party -- holding, say, power in both houses of Congress and the White House -- from using election laws to try to smother the opposition?

Right: Nothing.

Better late than never, I guess.

PEAKTALK REMEMBERS the third anniversary of Pim Fortuyn's murder.

THE D.C. CIRCUIT HAS REJECTED THE BROADCAST FLAG. Ernest Miller -- who's been on a roll lately -- has the story covered.

MICHAEL TOTTEN is back from Lebanon and, by popular demand, has posted a gallery of Lebanese protest babes:

A few words, though, before we begin. If any of you think only the Christian women of Lebanon walk around without their own portable tents, forget that. It’s isn’t even close to true. My hotel was on the Muslim side of Beirut and I saw almost as many modern-looking women on that side of the city as I saw in the Christian areas. Even Hezbollah doesn’t mandate the veil or the hijab.

Read the whole thing.

JIM LINDGREN: "I have been struck by the difference in treatment accorded Martha Stewart and the runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks."

May 05, 2005

helendocstill2.jpgYES, BLOGGING HAS BEEN LIGHT, but I was working with the Insta-Wife on a video project (no, not one of hers -- we were interviewed for a blog documentary).

Back tomorrow -- though I'll be travelling to the BlogNashville conference in the afternoon. More blogging from there, though.

READER BRAUN TACON EMAILS:

The world (English speaking world at least) has spoken:

John Howard

George Bush

Tony Blair

Seems to me those that oppose Iraq are in the clear minority, at least on the one particular topic of the war in Iraq.

What's more, Meryl Yourish emails to note that George Galloway lost to war-supporter Oona King. I wouldn't make too much of this, but you can bet that had these elections gone the other way, people would be making a lot of that.

[LATER: I think that Meryl is wrong about this -- at least The Scotsman says Galloway is set to win it, and this report shows a Galloway victory. LATER STILL: Iain Murray says Yourish is wrong.]

Meanwhile, Jim Bennett emails:

What the media just isn't picking up on is that this election is between the party that invaded Iraq because it wanted to enforce international order, versus the party that wanted to invade Iraq because Saddam needed to be taken out. Where else is that the case? The openly anti-war party is running a distant third -- anywhere else, they'd be the govenment or the main opposition.

That's not how it's being reported, of course. There's loads of electionblogging at England's Sword. But Jim Geraghty is less sanguine on Blair's account:

Summary at this hour: Labour wins majority, but greatly reduced. Blair's political legacy is tarnished; the handover to Gordon Brown is just a matter of time. The Tories look set to have a surprisingly good night. And while the Liberal Democrats may do better than the exit poll, they may have increased their vote where they need it least (safe Conservative or Labour seats).

Stay tuned. I don't know what to think -- I like Blair for his support on the war, but not much else. The Tories, on the other hand, seem rather lame.

UPDATE: Bennett's comment notwithstanding, it looks like bad news for Blair, and I suppose that war was part of the reason -- though I wonder if it would have been different if it hadn't been for the constant, and frequently dishonest, BBC coverage. But reader Hale Adams observes:

Blair's reduced majority is probably due to: 1) the fact that his party's been in power for eight years now, which is a pretty long run by modern standards (since, say, 1950); and 2) the fact that Labor's majority was so lopsided at the start in 1997 as to constitute an elective dictatorship-- even the loonier stuff Labor wanted could get through Parliament . . . . Both factors increase voter dissatisfaction because people get tired of governments (or Administrations, in American parlance) that have been around since "forever", and because Labor has indeed passed some truly goofy laws in what is best described as a fit of absent-mindedness due to its huge majority.

If I were British, I'd be tempted to vote against Blair in spite of the war, based on other things. As an American, I of course would like to see him do well for diplomatic reasons. I guess there were a lot more British than American voters in this election . . . .

ANN ALTHOUSE: "Carpeting ≠ religion."

Anti-carpetist bigot!

ORIN KERR TESTIFIED BEFORE CONGRESS on the Patriot Act today, and has posted some afterthoughts here.

AUSTIN BAY delivers a brutal Fisking to a Washington Post piece on war and history by Eugene Robinson. "Here’s the grand history Eugene Robinson et al are missing. It’s why I pity them."

Better still, let us pity them not at all.

EXIT POLLS show a Blair victory, though with a reduced margin.

Stay tuned to see if the coverage matches my prediction.

UPDATE: Steven Den Beste notes that my prediction is already bearing out. Can I call 'em, or what.

I'LL GIVE UP WORDPERFECT when they pry it from my cold, dead hard drive. Randy Barnett seems to agree.

GEORGE WILL is offering much the same advice to the Republicans that I offered a while back. And it remains good advice.

BRIAN NOGGLE notes that there were surveillance cameras outside the British Consulate, but that they don't seem to have helped much.

PRESSURE ON SYRIA MAY BE WORKING:

Syrian authorities have detained 137 Saudis after they attempted to cross into Iraq from Syria to take part in the anti-US insurgency there, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The would-be infiltrators are held in various Syrian prisons, said Al-Watan, which published the names of 17 of the detainees.

Via USS Neverdock, which asks: "Now, when is Bush going to start getting tough with the Saudis?"

IS THE SOLOMON AMENDMENT CONSTITUTIONAL? Lawprof Marci Hamilton says that it is, and adds:

While we're being real, let's face this reality: This suit is all about the will to power of political majorities in the law schools. They don't like the "don't ask, don't tell" policy - and therefore, they don't like the Solomon Amendment (because God forbid that they should sacrifice free federal money in order to honor their principles).

Read the whole thing.

ARE BLOGS PART OF A GREAT HIDDEN TECH BOOM? ("If all that sounds nuts — I mean, we're talking about blogs here — you weren't around for the early meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club. Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds and Kos have a lot more going for them than those nerds clutching homemade motherboards in 1976.")

There's certainly some sort of a boom going on.

UPDATE: More evidence of a boom:

U.S. Internet advertising surged 33 percent in 2004 to a record $9.6 billion, surpassing levels seen during the early Web boom, and will grow at a similar rate in 2005, according to data released on Thursday.

(Via Ed Driscoll, who has further thoughts.)

UPDATE: Still more evidence that there's something going on: "Almost two out of three advertisers want to spend money on blogs."

IN THE MAIL: John Ringo's Into the Looking Glass, yet another science fiction story involving demons, etc., explained by quantum-mechanical stuff, kind of like Charles Stross's The Atrocity Archives. I was just thinking that I had an original thought about the return of science fiction to a Lovecraftian vibe when I realized that it was already explained by the essay appended to Stross's book, in which Stross compares the Cold War spy thriller to Lovecraft's work. We're in another shadow war at the moment, so perhaps that explains what's starting to look like a trend.

WE'RE AT WAR AGAINST TERRORISTS, and the Oklahoma City bombing case is still unimpressive ("FBI agents searched the Herington home on March 31. Officials said agents found blasting caps and other explosive materials, apparently related to the 1995 attack, buried in a crawl space that hadn't been checked earlier." Good work guys -- missing explosives for ten years that had been hidden in a house they had already searched!). This makes me wonder if the agents looking for Al Qaeda sleeper cells might not need some additional resources -- and some remedial education. But instead, the Justice Department is devoting additional resources to stepping up obscenity prosecutions?

Someone tell Gonzales that there's a war on.

MAX BOOT:

How can you tell if a political party is brain-dead? Easy. It spends an entire campaign denouncing the incumbent as a smarmy, good-for-nothing liar, rather than outlining its own agenda. The Republicans tried it against Bill Clinton in 1996, the Democrats tried it against George W. Bush in 2004, and now in Britain the Conservatives are trying it, with equal lack of success, against Tony Blair.

Such a tactic is beguiling because, to True Believers, the other side's triumphs are never on the up and up; they must be the result of hoodwinking the hapless electorate. The problem with this approach was pointed out to me by a political strategist last week: "Voters think all politicians are liars. So telling them that someone is a particularly effective liar doesn't work."

It especially doesn't work for the Tories because they're accusing Prime Minister Blair of duplicity on an issue about which they actually agree with him. Conservative leader Michael Howard says he would have supported the invasion of Iraq even without weapons of mass destruction — the subject of Blair's supposed dissembling. By nevertheless making the L-word the centerpiece of today's election, Howard comes off as opportunistic and unprincipled.

Just as Kerry did, when he tried the same approach.

BOMBS EXPLODE AT THE UK CONSULATE IN NEW YORK CITY: A rather lame effort to affect the British elections, I imagine. Emphasis on the lame part: "After piecing together the shrapnel, police determined the devices were toy grenades that had been filled with gunpowder." As noted below, Al Qaeda isn't exactly flourishing these days.

UPDATE: A reader emails: "I would note that today is the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands as well." Good point, and there have been bombings to mark that anniversary in the past -- though if this is one of those, it merely underscores that the IRA isn't exactly flourishing, either.

ARTIFICIAL RETINAS: Bring it on.

IS GOOGLE LEANING LEFT? This is troubling, if true; Google, of course, is entitled to have its own politics, but to the extent that it does it may undermine the trust that a search engine requires.

OUR "FRIENDS" THE SAUDIS: Fighting Al Qaeda by torturing Christians.

HERE'S THE PREDICTION ABOUT THE BRITISH ELECTIONS that I made a month ago:

If Blair loses or does badly, the press will say that the election was a referendum on the Iraq war and Bush. If Blair does better than expected, the press will say that the election was about local issues of no greater significance. (Either way, resentment of the Blair government's position on the EU and immigration will be largely ignored.)

Let's see if I turn out to have been right.

May 04, 2005

JIM GERAGHTY has further comments on George Lucas.

MORE BELLICOSE WOMEN IN IRAQ: Very interesting.

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF OFFERS A PHOTO ESSAY "On the disadvantages of pissing off America."

Great minds think alike, as Rob Smith makes a similar observation, without the photos:

I am amused when Osama Bin Laden is referred to as a "mastermind." BWHAHAHAHAAA!!!! He masterminded his entire organization right into the shitter when he finally managed to piss off the United States badly enough to fight back. He never thought we'd do it. He was mistaken.

I think the State Department should make sure that the photos get wide distribution. Of course, if we'd had a State Department that thought like that all along, we might not have had this problem . . . .

UPDATE: Brian Dunn emails: "Regarding the befores and afters: I guess when you know you have 72 virgins lined up for you, you just let hygiene and personal grooming go all to hell."

This makes me feel even sorrier for those virgins than I was before.

SUBURBAN BLIGHT: "I brought up the bra, and now I have to live with the knowledge that he's proudly informed his entire class that his mommy is coming on Friday, that she's bringing juice, and that she's even promised to wear a bra! to boot."

MERYL YOURISH has a number of interesting posts, on everything from Holocaust remembrance to cats. And this post is like a mini Carnival of the Vanities.

JEFF GOLDSTEIN weighs in on Laura Bush's comments, and explains why he's not a social conservative.

UPDATE: Another defense of Laura Bush's remarks, here.

JEFF JARVIS: "NPR screwed up but when that's discovered it's the bloggers who are amoral?"

WHEN "PRO-FAMILY" IS PRO-CANCER:

DEATHS from cervical cancer could jump fourfold to a million a year by 2050, mainly in developing countries. This could be prevented by soon-to-be-approved vaccines against the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer - but there are signs that opposition to the vaccines might lead to many preventable deaths.

The trouble is that the human papilloma virus (HPV) is sexually transmitted. So to prevent infection, girls will have to be vaccinated before they become sexually active, which could be a problem in many countries.

In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.

"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus.

Okay, technically, I guess, they're just "anti-anti-cancer." Still, this seems to me to be a pretty weak argument -- don't prevent cancer, because fear of cancer might prevent premarital sex. Pardon me if I'm unimpressed. (Via The Corner).

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh weighs in:

This strikes me as a pretty wrongheaded attitude on the Family Research Council's part. I highly doubt that many women are now avoiding premarital sex because of the risk of HPV; I doubt therefore that more than a few women will start having premarital sex simply because they learn that they've been vaccinated. Moreover, premarital abstinence isn't a perfect way to prevent HPV: Mother Nature doesn't distinguish husbands from casual lovers for purposes of deciding whether a virus is communicated, and many an abstinent woman marries a man whose past isn't as chaste as hers. . . .

Finally, I wonder how far the Family Research Council would take this. The availability of antibiotic treatment for syphilis, gonorrhea, and other bacterial sexually transmitted diseases similarly decreases the cost of sex, and may thus increase people's tendency to engage in sex. . . . Would the FRC urge that people not be offered treatment for these diseases?

Before reading the above, I would have said no.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bart Hall emails:

I'm an evangelical Christian. What's really involved is this -- for several years the more extreme social conservatives have been trying to scare kids into abstinence by saying, "You know, condoms don't protect you against the most common STD, and it's one that could cause cancer." Having a vaccine takes away that club.

Too bad. If your encouragement of abstinence on SPIRITUAL grounds isn't strong enough to convince a person, then it borders on the reprehensible to try to scare them into the behaviour YOU desire. I believe it was Reinhold Niebuhr who said (paraphrasing from memory) "Frantic orthodoxy is a sign not of strength, but of weakness."

It's seemed that way to me.

JIHAD FEVER:

I have been looking at myself, and millions of my brethren, fellow evangelicals along with traditional Catholics, in a ghastly arcade mirror lately -- courtesy of this newspaper and the New York Times. Readers have been assured, among other dreadful things, that we are living in "a theocracy" and that this theocratic federal state has reached the dire level of -- hold your breath -- a "jihad."

In more than 50 years of direct engagement in and observation of the major news media I have never encountered anything remotely like the fear and loathing lavished on us by opinion mongers in these world-class newspapers in the past 40 days. If I had a $5 bill for every time the word "frightening" and its close lexicographical kin have appeared in the Times and The Post, with an accusatory finger pointed at the Christian right, I could take my stack to the stock market.

I come at this with an insider/outsider vantage and with real affection for many of those engaged in this enterprise. When the Times put me on its reporting staff, I was the only evangelical Christian among some 275 news and editorial employees, and certainly the only one who kept a leather-bound Bible on his desk.

Yeah. I disagree with the Christian Right on most of the hot-button issues, but I don't think that they're indistinguishable from the Taliban, though one hears such overheated rhetoric all the time. I can't help but think that the mainstream press would be far more sensitive to avoid stereotyping blacks, Muslims, or gays.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman is less sympathetic.

THEY CAN HANDLE SADDAM AND AL QAEDA, but the Pentagon is still flummoxed on how to handle bloggers.

RUSH LIMBAUGH is currently having an amusingly flustered discussion of anal sex in the context of marriage, gay and straight, with a female caller. One of Limbaugh's charms is his complete inability to pose as a convincing social conservative.

UPDATE: Got in the car right after posting this to go take the Insta-Daughter to the doctor and heard more. Limbaugh makes a poor defender of traditional marriage, but he gave it the old college try.

JACOB SULLUM: "[I]t's remarkable that the organizers of a major conservative conference apparently could not find a single person who was willing to publicly defend the war on drugs."

LOTS OF INTERESTING POSTS over at the Counterterrorism Blog. Just keep scrolling.

DARFUR UPDATE: Pictures of the genocide there, from children who survived:

Ala' drew a scene he had witnessed in which a rebel soldier was shot in the genitals by a Janjaweed. Ali, a teacher in the refugee camp, explained that rebels were killed that way to emasculate them. "They [the Janjaweed] know what they are doing," he said.

It remains a disgrace that so little is being done on this subject. There are some efforts to get NATO involved, but France is expected to object. Perhaps we should send the rebels some Special Forces trainers and a whole lot of guns? We could ship them direct from Saddam's armories . . . .

RICH, BLOGGY GOODNESS: This week's Carnival of the Vanities is up.

IN THE MAIL: My earlier post on fitness and weight training resulted in a care package from Dave Draper, including an autographed copy of Brother Iron, Sister Steel: A Bodybuilder's Book, and a nice note from his wife, Laree. Turns out they're InstaPundit readers. The book looks pretty good, combining a focus on traditional compound movements with good advice on diet, motivation and recovery from injuries; the Insta-Wife, who worked as a trainer at NYU during her grad-school days, liked it a lot.

STRATEGYPAGE notes that the Muslims-killing-Muslims strategy isn't working for Al Qaeda:

Even outside of Iraq, many Sunni Arabs were getting disenchanted with al Qaeda terrorism. In a war of symbols, blowing up Moslem women and children is not a winning tactic.

Another major difference between 2003 and 2004, was the shifting of al Qaeda support from people in Moslem countries to expatriate Moslems in Europe. Many al Qaeda members had fled their native countries, because of the increasingly hostile atmosphere, for the relative sanctuary of Europe. Going into 2005, al Qaeda is dying in Iraq and plotting in Europe.

Europe has become a safer haven. That's certainly consistent with this alleged Zarqawi letter, complaining about poor morale in Iraq. Yeah, guys, why would everyone there hate you? It's not like you keep blowing up their relatives and acting like thugs, is it?

Meanwhile, there's another big capture in Pakistan. I don't usually bother to mention those "senior Al Qaeda aide captured" stories, because individually they're not news. But over time, they make a difference, and they are. The terror war isn't over, but the strategy of making Al Qaeda fight it on their own turf, not ours, seems to have worked out pretty well.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting look at where terror attacks actually occur. And here's a useful Iraq roundup from the Christian Science Monitor.

UNUSUALLY, I've been doing some education-blogging of my own today. But for the real deal, check out this week's Carnival of Education.

SOMEHOW, I think that characterizing a wedding as "vicarious Tantric sexplay" may do more to promote marriage than all the efforts of James Dobson . . . .

BREVITY IS THE SOUL OF WIT -- but prolixity is the key to a high S.A.T. score:

In the next weeks, Dr. Perelman studied every graded sample SAT essay that the College Board made public. He looked at the 15 samples in the ScoreWrite book that the College Board distributed to high schools nationwide to prepare students for the new writing section. He reviewed the 23 graded essays on the College Board Web site meant as a guide for students and the 16 writing "anchor" samples the College Board used to train graders to properly mark essays.

He was stunned by how complete the correlation was between length and score. "I have never found a quantifiable predictor in 25 years of grading that was anywhere near as strong as this one," he said. "If you just graded them based on length without ever reading them, you'd be right over 90 percent of the time." The shortest essays, typically 100 words, got the lowest grade of one. The longest, about 400 words, got the top grade of six. In between, there was virtually a direct match between length and grade.

He was also struck by all the factual errors in even the top essays. . . .

How to prepare for such an essay? "I would advise writing as long as possible," said Dr. Perelman, "and include lots of facts, even if they're made up." This, of course, is not what he teaches his M.I.T. students. "It's exactly what we don't want to teach our kids," he said.

Sigh.

UPDATE: More criticism here:

The new writing tests that have been added to both the SAT and the ACT:
A. Are unlikely to predict success in college writing.
B. Will send high school writing instruction in the wrong direction.
C. Reward those who write “conventional truisms and platitudes about life.”
D. All of the above.

According to the National Council of Teachers of English, the answer is D. The council released an analysis of the new writing tests Tuesday, and it found little to like and much to dislike.

On the other hand, I think it's very important that actual writing ability be tested, somehow, and I hope that this criticism doesn't cause ETS to abandon the effort. Reading further in the article, I see that some of the critics are basically hostile to the idea of a short, extemporaneous writing assignment. I completely disagree with that position; the ability to write quickly and well about all sorts of topics is only going to become more important in coming decades.

UPDATE: Kimberly Swygert defends the test and critiques the critics, in particular the NCTE:

Given that the essay section was developed because young men and women were graduating from high school with no writing skills whatsover, it's disheartening to see the NCTE latch onto this essay - which has been operational for a grand total of two months - as though it, and it alone, can really bring down writing education in the US. . . .

I'd say there are plenty of other people doing that.

SOCIAL SECURITY: David Henderson and Charles Hooper say that Al Gore was right.

INSTAPUNK is defending Laura Bush against charges of unladylike behavior.

Personally, I think she was just channeling Pat Buttram.

MORE ON FILIBUSTERS, over at GlennReynolds.com.

BUREAUCRATS AND BAD LAW are frustrating space tourism efforts:

It is not the technical issues, or even the financing, that is causing concern. It is uncertainty about US licensing requirements.

"At this point we are not able to even view Scaled Composites' designs for the commercial space vehicle," Mr Whitehorn testified before the House committee.

"After US government technology-transfer issues are clarified, and addressed if deemed necessary, we hope to place a firm order for the spacecraft," he said.

Mr Rutan added that the regulations have already affected financing for the project, which originally was to come from Mr Branson's London-based Virgin Group. . . .

Mr Rutan saved his harshest criticism for another branch of the US government, the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, which oversaw the flights of SpaceShipOne.

"The process just about ruined my programme," he said. "It resulted in cost overruns, increased the risk for my test pilots, did not reduce the risk to the non-involved public, destroyed our 'always question, never defend' safety policy and removed our opportunities to seek new innovative safety solutions."

Mr Rutan said the problems arose because the same rules that applied to unmanned, expendable boosters were being applied to passenger spaceships.

The good news is that Congress seems to be paying attention.

May 03, 2005

JIM GERAGHTY ON GEORGE LUCAS:

I’m being warned about the dangers of capitalism from a man who made perhaps more money from merchandising than any other man in history. I’m getting lectured about the dangers of greed from man who authorized, “C-3POs” breakfast cereal, “The Star Wars Christmas Special” featuring Bea Arthur’s musical number, and not one but two Ewoks made-for-TV movies.

I’m being warned about the dangers of technology, and the glory of primitive cultures like the Ewoks, who are able to defeat the ‘technological terror’ of the Empire, in what is supposedly an allegory of Vietnam. Technology is bad, soulless, dangerous, and dehumanizing. Mmm-hmm. This from a man who replaced a tall man in a hairy suit, a projecting the human-eyed loyalty and sadness of Chewbacca, with the CGI cinematic war crime that is Jar-Jar Binks. A man who tossed aside the Yoda puppet, the spaceship models, the stop-motion animation of the Imperial walkers to go all-computer-animation-and-green-screen, all-the-time.

I’m being warned about the dangers of a “you’re either with me or against me” attitude, and the viewing of the world in a black and white morality, from a filmmaker who has his villain dress entirely in black, choke the life out of helpless pilots, and blows up entire planets. This from a man whose nuanced moral view required an edit to make Greedo shoot first.

Ouch.

UPDATE: Steve Silberman thinks that Geraghty is being unfair to Lucas:

Ouch, indeed. But what is strangely missing from Geraghty's ostensible bitch-slapping of Lucas is any link to Lucas' statements along these lines, which I assume were extrapolated from my cover article in the May issue of Wired, "Life After Darth" (Link ) and an accompanying online only Q&A (Link) . Instead, Geraghty links to Jason Appuzo's post on Libertas, which excoriates Lucas for not condemning Michael Moore strongly enough. What's unnerving is that Lucas was certainly drawing a line between his own storytelling methods and Moore's in my interview -- Lucas' statements were critical, not praising of Moore, as you can see -- but apparently because Lucas doesn't share Apuzzo's opinion of Moore as a modern-day Goebbels (that's Appuzo's word), the readers of Libertas quickly branded Lucas a "Moore-loving liberal." They were way offbase, but such overheated rhetoric is *so* much easier to maintain when Lucas' actual statements are absent from the debate.

I don't have an ewok in this fight. I haven't even seen the last two Star Wars movies (and I own Phantom Menace on DVD, still unopened) because, I don't know, I just felt that the first trilogy was too good to equal.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Chris Blanchard emails:

know this is a little late, but I thought it only fair to note that Jim Geraghty’s discussion of George Lucas is a comparison of the messages in the Star Wars
films and Lucas’s own life, not a critique of Lucas’s statements in the Wired story or Q&A. Geraghty need not bring up statements Lucas made about Michael Moore (which I agree were over-interpreted), because that
wasn’t really the substance of the critique - although it probably informed the underlying motivation for writing it.

Good point.

HMM. MAYBE BIG MEDIA OUTFITS really are getting better. It took the NYT eight years to correct an article calling me "Glenn Harlan Roberts," while the Philadelphia Inquirer took only one day to correct an article calling me "Glenn Simpson."

And kudos to the Arizona Star, which emailed to check.

BILL HOBBS is trying to get Tennessee politicians blogging. He's set up a new site, VolPols.com, to make it happen.

WHEN PROFESSORS LOSE IT: An interesting article from Inside Higher Education.

The tenure process is, indeed, tough. I don't know anyone who's lost it as a result, but most people going through it are a bit stressed. It's hard not to be, when you're being judged -- according to not-entirely-clear criteria -- on pretty much your whole professional self, and a good deal of your personal self, too. The prize is a lifetime of intellectual freedom, though, at least in theory.

At my school we have post-tenure review (I just got mine for this year -- I 'exceed expectations' in all categories, and the blog got a favorable mention), and I think there's more attention, and peer pressure, for post-tenure performance than there used to be. But the all-or-nothing nature of tenure evaluations is stressful.

UPDATE: In a related post, Daniel Drezner says that David Horowitz understands the academy. In a Stanley Fish sort of way . . .

IRON TEAKETTLE: "It's Time To Sound The Death Knell For 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"

JOSHUA CLAYBOURN saw Kingdom of Heaven and has posted a review.

UPDATE: More reviews here and here.

VIA BEST OF THE WEB, I see that the town fathers of Pikeville, Kentucky are unhappy with the episode of City Confidential that focused on the Lillelid murders.

I found the episode -- like most City Confidential episodes -- to be a bit, um, dramatic. But in fact Pikeville has a lot to be embarrassed about where the Lillelid murders are concerned. As the Instawife's documentary illustrates (the online trailer hits some of the key points), there were significant failures in the schools, the justice system, and the community that allowed those murders to take place. That doesn't get the murderers off the hook, of course, but it does suggest that the Pikeville authorities should focus a bit on the beam in their own eyes, not just the mote in others'.

UPDATE: Not a lot of sympathy around the blogosphere.

STEPHEN BAINBRIDGE has thoughts on blogging as guerrilla marketing.

RANDY BARNETT has posted a Doug Ginsburg historical correction, and I join with Randy in wishing that Ginsburg had been confirmed to the Supreme Court.

THIS DRIVER'S LICENSE BILL may have constitutional problems:

Congress is moving quickly toward setting strict rules on how states issue driver's licenses, requiring them to verify whether each applicant for a new license or a renewal is in this country legally. . . .

Under the rules being considered, before granting a driver's license, a state would have to require proof of citizenship or legal presence, proof of an address and proof of a Social Security number. It would need to check the legal status of noncitizens against a national immigration database, to save copies of any documents shown and to store a digital image of the face of each applicant.

This sounds like the Printz case, in which the Supreme Court found that Congress could not similarly "commandeer" local officials by requiring them to do background checks before people were allowed to purchase firearms, even if Congress could regulate such purchases directly. The case may not be quite on all fours, as the penumbral effect of the Second Amendment may have influenced the Court in Printz, and as Congress has exclusive power over immigration, but I think the commandeering angle looks very much the same. As the Court said in Printz:

[L]ater opinions of ours have made clear that the Federal Government may not compel the States to implement, by legislation or executive action, federal regulatory programs. . . .

The Government also maintains that requiring state officers to perform discrete, ministerial tasks specified by Congress does not violate the principle of New York because it S 930does not diminish the accountability of state or federal officials. This argument fails even on its own terms. By forcing state governments to absorb the financial burden of implementing a federal regulatory program, Members of Congress can take credit for ‘‘solving’’ problems without having to ask their constituents to pay for the solutions with higher federal taxes. And even when the States are not forced to absorb the costs of implementing a federal program, they are still put in the position of taking the blame for its burdensomeness and for its defects.

I haven't read the bill, but based on the description in the story quoted above, this would seem to fit rather neatly.

I'm not opposed to the bill on its merits -- why should illegal aliens be able to get drivers' licenses -- but unless there's something missing from the story, this seems like a major, and fairly obvious, constitutional objection. Perhaps the federalists in the Republican Congress have noted this objection and addressed it, though I couldn't find any evidence that this was the case. If not, well, it's another example of "Fair Weather Federalism" from the GOP, I guess. Or am I missing something here?

UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Karen says that it's okay because it's in an appropriations bill. I thought of that. But -- at least as I read the story -- it's an unrelated amendment to the Iraq appropriations bill, perhaps done so as to ensure passage, and to limit White House opposition. ("They got a pledge from the leadership to include the driver's license measures in a must-pass bill this year.") But it doesn't seem to be a conditional funding rule, unless I'm missing something.

Congress would have the power, I think, to make such action a condition for receipt of federal highway funds -- it's no more absurd than the drinking-age requirement (thanks, Liddy!) imposed the same way and upheld in South Dakota v. Dole. But if that's what they're doing, it isn't at all clear from the story. And the Dole decision, which features a strong O'Connor dissent, is perhaps a bit shaky -- or so I optimistically hope.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Tom Hynes notes this report that suggests Congress is acting indirectly, and probably constitutionally:

If a state opted not to comply, its driver's licenses, even those issued to citizens and legal residents, would not be recognized as valid for federal identification purposes — such as boarding an airplane or opening a bank account. As a result, most states would probably adopt the new standards.

That would avoid the "commandeering" problem, if that's all the bill does.

HUGH HEWITT SAYS THAT TERRY NEAL NEEDS TO MASTER GOOGLE: And indeed he does, for his critics certainly have.

STUART TAYLOR says that Janice Brown is an extremist. David Bernstein, on the other hand, says that Taylor is wrong. Jim Lindgren, meanwhile, wonders whether the notion of teaching economics without scarcity is extremist.

That last question, at least, is answerable: It's outside the mainstream now, but it won't be in a post-nanotechnology age, though I rather doubt that's what Frank Michelman had in mind.

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH WRITES on the history of the filibuster, and says that it's not quite what many suppose.

WHAT WILL REPLACE THE SPACE SHUTTLE? Popular Mechanics has a sneak peek at a Lockheed Martin design.

I see a ghost of the old Dyna-Soar in the overall look.

GOTCHER HEALTH CARE BLOGGING RIGHT HERE: This week's Grand Rounds is up, with post from medbloggers on all sorts of topics.

nickdenton.jpgTHE UNBEARABLE RIGHTNESS OF NICK DENTON: My TechCentralStation column is up. Excerpt: "On the one hand, we've started to see a switch: Where an earlier generation of articles on employee-blogging warned the employees about the danger of retribution from the employers, a newer version of the story warns employers about the power of the bloggers in their midst. On the other hand, it's hard for organizations to operate when dissent becomes easier, and more popular, than actually running things or doing work."

UPDATE: Reader Jeff Govek emails: "If an organization is such that dissent is more popular than real work, then employee-blogging is the least of that organization’s problems."

I HAVE A REVIEW of George Gilder's new book, The Silicon Eye, in today's Wall Street Journal.

THOUGHTS ON THE LAST DAY OF LAW SCHOOL, by a graduating student at that other UT.

May 02, 2005

FILIBUSTERS AND THE NOSTALGIA OPTION: TigerHawk has further thoughts.

PAJAMA PARTY UPDATE: Roger Simon reports on the progress of Pajamas Media,.

A REMINDER of why Pat Robertson was one of the original models for the term "idiotarian."

THE FUNNY THING IS, the more people who visit this parody site, the more pageviews my blogads get. Thanks, whoever!

And Condi is hot. (Thanks to RightWingSparkle for the email tip.)

UPDATE: Yes, yes, I know that somebody is just using this toy by the redoubtable Ka-Ping Yee.

THE SUPREME COURT has agreed to hear the Solomon Amendment case.

FILIBUSTER UPDATE: Mickey Kaus thinks that the make-'em-talk proposal for filibuster reform won't work:

It might make sense, as Instapundit and others suggest, to require that Senate filibusterers really filibuster, with allnighters, cots and potlikker recipes, etc.. But it is a non-solution to the problem confronting the Senate today--which is whether a minority should be able to block a Supreme Court nominee supported by a majority (but less than 60%). It's true, as Instapundit notes, that the "real filibuster" requirement would

ensure that the filibuster-nuke is dropped only when the stakes are high enough that the minority is willing to pay a price.

But a Supreme Court nomination is just such a case. Democrats would clearly be willing to undertake a "real" filibuster to block Janice Rogers Brown, for example. So we're still presented with the question: Should they be able to do that? Allow "real" filibusters and the Democrats win (as I think they should).

I don't think that's so obvious. Allowing "real" filibusters means that you'll get a vote someday -- not even Ted Kennedy and John Kerry can talk forever; it just seems that way while they're talking. But the more important point is that it would require the Democrats to engage, not simply obstruct, Supreme Court nominations, and to do so at length.

Of course, what Bush really ought to do is nominate a quirky libertarian judge like Alex Kozinski, thus confusing the Democrats and completely undermining their "the Theocrats are coming!"TM campaign. Unfortunately, Kozinski -- though to my mind perhaps the best Court of Appeals judge of an age to be eligible for the Supreme Court -- is almost certainly too politically incorrect (read: libertarian) to fly with the Republican powers-that-be, a fact that gives the Democrats' sloganeering some shreds of credibility.

Which means that if the Democrats were smart, instead of just grimly obstructionist, they'd be out there floating names of judges like Kozinski as examples of candidates that they wouldn't filibuster (Eugene Volokh would be a good one, too!). This would put Bush in a tough spot, as he'd have to explain why his candidates were better than Kozinski or Volokh, which would be hard, as there aren't many candidates better than Kozinski or Volokh, or give more credit to the whole "Theocrats" thing.

Luckily for Bush, the Democrats aren't that smart.

UPDATE: I think it's worth stressing that my earlier invocation of this idea was based on this post by TigerHawk, and I don't think people should underestimate the impact of C-SPAN, etc., on these kinds of things. As TigerHawk notes, the prospect of seeing nonstop bloviation by Democratic Senators broadcast (and archived for use in future campaign ads) is sure to give the Democrats pause. At least it should, if they're smart.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Pierre Trepagnier emails:

I suggest the real difference with abandoning the current "two-track" rules and going back to a classical filibuster is that the true filibuster brings the Senate to a halt while it occurs; a two-track filibuster is not really one at all, because the usual Senate business goes on in parallel. Actually bringing the Senate to a halt is, as Newt Gingrich found out in a different case, a high-risk gamble. The country will get fed up in a hurry, but it is not obvious in advance who will get the blame. It could be the Republicans.

Possibly, and certainly the media would spin it that way. Then again, who's getting blamed now?

IN THE MAIL: Bevin Alexander's How America Got it Right: The U.S. March to Military and Political Supremacy. Some might hope, and some might fear, that a book like this represents a sure sign that American power is peaking.

All I can say is, "Great supremacy, kid! Don't get cocky."

VIRGINIA POSTREL is having an interesting conversation with readers on car aesthetics.

NEW BLOGGER? OR JUST INTERESTED IN STARTING A BLOG? This post from The Mudville Gazette is a must-read.

IS JOURNALISM GETTING WORSE, OR ARE PEOPLE PAYING MORE ATTENTION? YES! Well, Howard Kurtz inclines toward the more attention angle:

Has journalism become an ethical cesspool, or just been forced to adopt greater standards of cleanliness?

In the past month alone, four reporters for major newspapers have been ousted, and a columnist was suspended, for ethical missteps. The drip-drip-drip of disclosures about sloppiness, fabrication and plagiarism have further eroded the media's reputation, leading to a one-strike-and-you're-out policy at many outlets. . . .

Media bosses are getting tougher on wayward staffers not just because of a greater sense of professionalism, but because outsiders -- led by bloggers and other critics -- have stepped up the pressure. In the Internet age, there's no rug under which to sweep these problems.

"Because we are self-policing so much better, it makes it seem like there's a tremendous cascade of ethical violations," says Thomas Kunkel, dean of the University of Maryland's journalism school. "There used to be a lot more in the way of shenanigans and monkey business that we either didn't know about or, if it was caught, it was winked at. There was a boys-will-be-boys quality about it -- they were mostly boys -- and they would get a slap on the wrist at best."

I'd say there's less outright bribery, and more ideological bias than there was, say, 50 years ago. But I'm not sure it's possible to compare, since there was much less transparency then. I'm pretty sure, though, that things will continue to tighten up.

LARRY KUDLOW wonders why the media emphasize bad economic news? BizzyBlog responds.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

The United States Congress is demanding the right to hear from two investigators who quit the United Nations inquiry into the Oil-for-Food scandal because they felt that it was too soft on Kofi Annan. . . .

Questions have been raised about Mr Volcker’s impartiality by the resignation of the two investigators and by his ties to a company once run by Maurice Strong, a Canadian tycoon and diplomat under investigation by the Volcker panel.

I don't think that the Volcker inquiry is going to satisfy the U.N.'s critics, nor should it.

WHY THE SUDDEN SURGE OF PRO-DEMOCRACY MOVEMENTS?

Many answers have been proposed. Some point to international causes: the military overthrow of authoritarian regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq was shock therapy for a stagnant Middle East and Central Asia; the Iraqi elections inspired others who are living without the benefits of democracy; the latest developments are just a continuation of the "third wave" of democratization that began at the end of the Cold War. Other answers to the "Why now?" question relate to the conditions within societies that lead to the successful mobilization of democratic sentiment -- the factors that allow unified oppositions and disciplined political movements to form.

There is, of course, no single answer to this question.

However, the role of information and communication technology in these recent revolutions is one prominent factor that is utterly new, as the amount of attention this phenomenon has received suggests. Indeed, the Internet, blogs, cell phones, and satellite television have been prominent players in democratic movements from Egypt to Ukraine, and these technologies have served as both international and intra-national catalysts for political change.

Read the whole thing.

DRIVING THE INSTA-DAUGHTER TO SCHOOL, I caught Bill Bennett complaining about Laura Bush's Chippendale jokes. Lighten up, Bill.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL looks at the accelerating decline of newspaper circulations:

Long stuck in a slow decline, U.S. newspapers face the prospect of an accelerated drop in circulation. The slide is fueling an urgent industry discussion about whether the trend can be halted in a digital age and is forcing newspaper executives to rethink their traditional strategies.

Rather than simply trying to halt the decline, which can be done readily through discounts and promotions, they're being forced to try to "manage" their circulation in new ways. Some publishers are deliberately cutting circulation in the hope of selling advertisers on the quality of their subscribers. Others are expanding into new markets to make up for losses in their core markets. Some are switching to a tabloid format or giving away papers to try to attract younger readers. Others are pouring money into television and radio advertising and expensive face-to-face sales pitches to potential subscribers. . . .

At the same time, many newspapers have undercut the print product itself, trimming staff and coverage. They also have failed to figure out how to attract younger readers to their pages.

I would suggest that reporting interesting news that people can't get elsewhere might help. I suspect, however, that we'll see more focus on "edgier" presentations and more colorful graphics.

THE BETTER THINGS GO IN AFGHANISTAN, THE LESS WE HEAR ABOUT THEM: Luckily, Arthur Chrenkoff is picking up the slack.

UPDATE: And it reappears! Peter Ingemi noticed:

Apparently there was a blast in Afghanistan today. CNN led with it at 8 when I woke up (late).

This is the first I’ve heard of the place in months on the TV. I wonder how CNN managed to find the place. If this doesn’t prove Arthur’s point about coverage nothing does. (As if we needed proof).

As if.

"YOU'RE A SELFISH BASTARD, PABLO:" LT Smash meets Naval deserter Pablo Paredes, and they discuss war and morality.

AUSTIN BAY LOOKS AT the leaked Giuliana Sgrena report and offers comments.

May 01, 2005

MIT IS ON THE CASE:

Technically, you would only need one time traveler convention. Time travelers from all eras could meet at a specific place at a specific time, and they could make as many repeat visits as they wanted. We are hosting the first and only Time Traveler Convention at MIT in one week, and WE NEED YOUR HELP!

I wonder who'll show up? . . .

SHOULD HOAXES BE TREATED AS CRIMINAL OFFENSES? CrimProf is asking.

DEEP THOUGHTS on rock, paper, scissors.

IF THERE'S A MASSACRE OF SUNNIS IN IRAQ, it will be because of the lack of a KPS Gill.

CATALLARCHY IS REMEMBERING MAY DAY by remembering the victims of Communism in all their millions.

FILIBUSTERING FRIST AT PRINCETON: TigerHawk has an interesting report, and what I think is a spot-on observation:

I think that these Princeton students have the right idea: If you are going to filibuster, then you should have to filibuster. Filibusters should come at some personal and political cost. We should abolish the candy-ass filibusters of modern times, and require that if debate is not closed it must therefore happen.

The prospect of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy bloviating for hours on C-SPAN would deter filibusters except when the stakes are dire, if for no other reason than the risk that long debate would create a huge amount of fodder for negative advertising. If Frist were to enact the "reform" of the filibuster instead of its repeal, he would sieze the high ground.

Filibusters, traditionally, were an expensive proposition for the filibusterers, and the recent rule changes that removed those costs fly in the face of the very Senate traditions that pro-filibuster folks are invoking. This reform makes sense to me, as it would ensure that the filibuster-nuke is dropped only when the stakes are high enough that the minority is willing to pay a price.

TIM WORSTALL HAS POSTED HIS BRITBLOG ROUNDUP: Check it out.

I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY about the "runaway bride" story, except that if I were the groom I'd be running away myself, now. But Single Southern Guy has much more to say.

UPDATE: And Manolo has more still. I hear that there will be no criminal charges, but I think she should be forced to read his entire essay aloud to everyone in the wedding party. And it wouldn't be a bad idea to reprint it in all the bridal magazines, as a useful cautionary note.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS REGARDING ROTC at Columbia University:

Emboldened by a high-turnout student referendum two years ago that put support for ending the R.O.T.C. ban at 65 percent, a politically eclectic group of undergraduates has raised the program's profile.

The debate has done more than expose predictable fault lines over the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" regulations and the war in Iraq. It has also signaled a shift in student attitudes toward the military and encouraged vigorous conversation on campus.

"From the point of view of a veteran of '68 here, which I am, it's a different world," said Allan A. Silver, a professor of sociology, referring to the year that student protests convulsed the campus. Mr. Silver, who has taught at Columbia for more than four decades, favors the R.O.T.C.'s return.

Read the whole thing, which certainly seems newsworthy. And note the byline.

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