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December 03, 2005

GREG DJEREJIAN IS correcting Maureen Dowd on Iraq. That's kind of the Bunny Slope of blogging, but he handles it with panache.

UPDATE: In a similar low-challenge vein, Rand Simberg notes dishonesty about the war at the Los Angeles Times. Easy, but as always, worthwhile.

WHEN ZOMBIE SOLDIERS ATTACK: The Mechanical Eye looks at the latest in over-the-top anti-Bushiana from Joe Dante. The Insta-Wife is also writing about the veteran Zombie voters some folks fantasize will get Republicans out of office.

One of her commenters isn't impressed with Dante's originality: "Dead people voting for Democrats? That's just art imitating life." Heh.

Zombies do seem to be making a comeback lately. I don't know if Dante's follow the rules laid out here, but I'm planning to be prepared, just in case. You can't be too careful!

Meanwhile, for the opinions of actual, living soldiers, try starting here.

UPDATE: Will Collier doesn't like the Slate review by Grady Hendrix much.

ANOTHER UPDATE: If the dead start rising over the Iraq War, a lot of them will be rising from Saddam's mass graves. Why not a movie about that? And who would they be haunting, if they did . . . .

MORE: We'll be seeing this clip on Fox News, I'll bet. I think Dante's leading with his chin, here!

STILL MORE: An email from reader Sam Wilkinson suggests that Max Brooks will be the big winner in all this. And reader Michael Becker writes:

My son is a recently retired Marine. My inner circle includes about a zillion Marines (all of the "door kicker, combat" variety) and the families of those Marines. My point here is to note that should Iraqi Freedom fallen show up as zombies the list of people who should be screaming in the streets does not include Bush. Kerry, Clinton (both), Boxer, Pelosi, Reid, Dean, Murtha (especially him) will find themselves in a world of hurt. I don't have the time or space to pass along the venom that those people, and their fellow traveling ilk, are subject to from the military folks. It's kind of a shame that active duty military are prevented from expressing their real opinions about politicians.

Actually, I think it's a good thing. I do wonder, though, how a movie in which zombie soldiers attacked antiwar types for "betraying" them would play in the Village Voice and Slate. Well, okay, no I don't.

MORE STILL: Okay, there are zombies in this film, but at least there's sex.

SONY'S DRM-SPYWARE -- not just bad for business and consumers, but bad for national security:

A high-ranking Bush administration official weighed in Thursday on anti-piracy efforts domestically and abroad, indirectly chastising Sony BMG Music Entertainment for its digital rights management (DRM) software, which computer security analysis say uses tactics typically employed by virus writers to hide its components and resist their removal. . . .

Seated on a panel that featured entertainment and technology executives Mitch Bainwol, chairman and chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), as well as Susan Mann, director of intellectual property policy for Microsoft, Baker wrapped up his opening comments with the following admonition for the industry:

"I wanted to raise one point of caution as we go forward, because we are also responsible for maintaining the security of the information infrastructure of the United States and making sure peoples' [and] businesses' computers are secure. ... There's been a lot of publicity recently about tactics used in pursuing protection for music and DVD CDs in which questions have been raised about whether the protection measures install hidden files on peoples' computers that even the system administrators can’t find."

In a remark clearly aimed directly at Sony and other labels, Stewart continued: "It's very important to remember that it's your intellectual property -- it's not your computer. And in the pursuit of protection of intellectual property, it's important not to defeat or undermine the security measures that people need to adopt in these days.

"If we have an avian flu outbreak here and it is even half as bad as the 1918 flu, we will be enormously dependent on being able to get remote access for a large number of people, and keeping the infrastructure functioning is going to be a matter of life and death and we take it very seriously."

It's the new Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Homeland Security, Stewart Baker. Follow the link for video. And I love that line: "It's your intellectual property -- it's not your computer." People need to be reminded of that.

FOR CUTTING AND PASTING FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE, it's the press plagiarist of the year award. Some of it seems more like idea-lifting than true plagiarism, but it's amusing.

IT'S A VENEZUELAN QUAGMIRE: "Blasts from small explosives injured three people at a Venezuelan military base and outside a public office as the South American country prepared for a congressional vote Sunday amid a boycott called by opposition parties, Venezuela's government news agency reported."

DON'T PANIC YET, but this is bad avian flu news if it turns out to be true.

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE has interesting posts on matters military. Read this one and this one.

HDTV UPDATE: Reader Thomas Wharton emails:

Any progress on an HDTV search? Your posts from March mentioned the waiting game, have you or are you closer to making a move?

This could be the season for my wife and I, but information overload keeps me from pulling the trigger. We are of modest means so a good old CRT seems our best option.

Any info would be appreciated.

I'm afraid I'm still waffling. However, I was at Circuit City the other day with the InstaWife, and looked at the HDTV display, and was much more impressed with the quality of the pictures that I saw than the last time I did so. I don't think this is because the TVs were better, necessarily, but because Circuit City was doing a better job of getting a high-quality HDTV signal to each one.

If you've got the room, and you don't want something absolutely huge, CRTs are still a good deal. I'd really like one of these, or even (thinking bigger still) one of these, but I'm still surfing the price-performance curve.

Anybody got any suggestions for Mr. Wharton?

Meanwhile, while I was at Circuit City I did see Sony's new super-compact HD camcorder, which is just amazingly small for its quality and felt good in my hand, though I didn't really get a chance to try it out. That's another one I'm holding off on (we've got enough video equipment as it is), but if I had a new baby and anticipated shooting miles of video right now I'd consider it, as that's going to be the new standard.

And while I'm on the subject of TV-related stuff, let me whine just a bit. I've got one of these Sony DVD players. It was fairly inexpensive, but what I like is the almost iPod-like front-panel control setup, which makes it easy to control without a remote. (Click on "larger image" to see what I mean). It's discontinued, and I can't find that on the newer models. I guess Sony (and other manufacturers) want to save a buck or two by not putting that kind of functionality on the front, but I really like that. I hate appliances, TVs or whatever, that can only be run by a remote control. And I actually think it's a mistake for manufacturers to pursue a rock-bottom price point on this stuff. DVD players have gotten so cheap that I doubt a few dollars' price makes much difference, and -- to me at least, and probably to others -- an easy user interface is worth a lot. It's disappointing to see how often manufacturers miss that.

More thoughts on that subject here and here.

UPDATE: Reader Rick Giovanelli emails:

Check out the Panasonic HDTV plasmas -- TH-xx50U, where xx is for the size -- 37, 42 or 50. Consumer Reports and CNET both have it very highly rated. The 42 inch is available at Best Buy for under $3000, and you can probably finance it for free for 12-18 months, which makes it not much more expensive than a fully-loaded cable bill. Samsung DLP seems to be the next best option, moving down the cost-curve, but this Panasonic is really fantastic. I've had it for less than a month and it's already incredibly disappointing when the football game I want to see isn't on in HD.

As for DVD players, I feel your pain. Most of the new ones don't have the dang "enter" button on the front, so you have to find the remote simply to play a DVD. It's ridiculous -- something's got to give. It makes you really appreciate the Disney Fast Play feature that you noted a while back. Either DVDs need to be set up to automatically play, or you've got to give me a way to make them play from the unit itself.

Yeah, these people need to think about, you know, the user. Some readers warn that Samsung is among the less reliable HDTV manufacturers in their experience. I never know how much to make of stats like that, given that different models can vary widely in reliability anyway.

Reader Tom Provost emails:

I just bought this one a couple of months ago: Link

and I could not be happier. I am a total movie nerd (I work in film) and the picture with both DVD's and, say, watching football or 'Lost' in high def, is simply incredible.

I also like it because only one set of cords comes from the back, to a separate box all your other devices plug in; you can situate the box somewhere you can access easily.

That's nice, I guess. (See Tom's film company website here). Meanwhile, Kevin Murphy emails:

One of the odd things about HDTV is how abysmal most of them are at regular NTSC display. The new 1080p sets are generally no better than the old ones. Now, in a perfect HDTV world this wouldn't matter, but so much programming, especially non-network and live, remains 480i. I was particularly disappointed in the Sharp 1080p LCD set you link, as well as the new 1080p Mitsubishi DLP sets which are, if anything, worse.

If you really want to test a set for NTSC display, ask the salesguy to put up an NTSC basketball game. Seems to be the utter torture test of the set's scaler. Football will work, too. The salesguy will, of course, not want to do it, mainly because he knows most of the sets are mediocre to horrid at live action 480i.

Only one set was A-rated at NTSC by Consumer Reports: The Panasonic 50" plasma TH-50PX50U. Some say the new Sony 1080p SXRD set is pretty good. I've not seen either in that mode, however.

All HDTV sets seem to show HDTV and DVDs fairly well. And that's really all they want to show you at the store.

Go figure. Reader David Barlin wants to help:

Good afternoon and happy holidays from a long time reader.

I have a suggestion for Mr. Wharton - my company has a new site that makes product recommendations for people suffering from information overload - www.activebuyersguide.com.

Our engine asks 4 or 5 questions about how the visitor wants to use a product, and then suggests products that best match what the visitor needs.

Right now we have these active buying guides for two types of products:

Televisions: Link

Digital Cameras: Link

Then, like many other sites, we offer a comparison pricing engine so the visitor can find the best price.

Just thought Mr. Wharton and your readers might find it a useful tool.

He might! I tried it out and found it hard to navigate by preferred screen size, but it does have some useful information.

MORE: James Lileks emails:

That Sony HD camera is sweet indeed; I've been using it since August. The difference between the HD camcorder and the low-res predecessors is stunning, - instead of seeing trees, you see trees and leaves; instead of lawns, you see blades of grass. Also, nose hairs and small, indelible wine stains. But it's still worth it.

Apple's entry-level movie-editing app, iMovie, handles HD, so anyone can start making crappy, plotless home movies with a heretofore unimagined level of detail. Provided they have the storage space - one hour of HD, edited, takes up about 75 GB.

You'll need some of those terabyte external hard drives, I guess. And reader Billy Earle emails:

I've dealt with various flat tv/monitor technology over the past eight years. Along with being a video producer, I've also ben charged with selecting flat monitors for displays, etc. for Georgia's Technical College System and various other departments across the state.

This is what those eight years have taught me:

CRT - old technology but a perfected technology. CRT tv's are sharp, reliable and last a long time. Great angle of view. They're heavy and take up space. They do not suffer from burn in. Bright.

Plasma - suffer burn-in quite easily, regardless of what the marketing says. Poor angle of view. Average life - five years if you are an average television watcher. Getting brighter.

LCD - this technology has great potential. Image retention is a problem (it's very close to burn in). For the most part, image retention can be corrected. Average life is five to seven years for the average tv watcher. Bright.

DLP - If you want to go big, go DLP. No burn-in, no image retention. Great angle of view. Bright. I would strongly suggest the Toshiba Cinema Series DLP sets. Great boxes. They have a black border around the screen which, visually, increases the brightness. Down side is having to replace the lamp.

Personally, I wouldn't own a big (larger than 20") LCD or Plasma television as I've seen too many of them after real world use and the picture just doesn't hold up in real world use.

Look for a set that can display 1920x1080 - that is true HD resolution. If you're paying for HD (cable, the terrestrial receiver cost, etc.) you may as well be able to display it natively.

For me, I'm gonna get the biggest 1920X1080 CRT I can find - or get that sweet Toshiba Cinema Series DLP. Unless you don't mind replacing a $2K TV in five years, I'd skip the LCD and Plasma until the technology has matured a bit.

-CAVEAT- I am a video producer/still photographer so my judgement regarding a good quality image display may be too anal for most.

So noted. And several readers have found the CNET reviews helpful.

Several readers also like the Audio Video Science Forum.

And if you're looking for an excuse to wait, you can always hold out for SED TV.

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MAJOR JOHN TAMMES, an Illinois National Guardsman recently returned from Afghanistan, responds to Rep. Murtha's "broken army" comments, and he's not happy:

Unmitigated crap. And I don't say this out of defensiveness or service pride - I'll tell you about how far we have had to come in a bit. First, though, a little material for you to mull over. . . .

As anyone who has read this blog knows, The Inner Prop and I served in Operation Enduring Freedom V (Afghanistan, March 2004-March 2005). We stood at the end of the longest sustained supply line in the history of human conflict. We were in war-torn Central Asia. Af-frickin'-ghanistan. We had decent food, e-mail, phone (OK, sometimes they weren't always working, but almost all the time) excellent medical support, good pay, regular (if slow) mail. We had a PXs at most of the larger bases, and coffee places sprang up too. We had so damned much ammunition that we needed to build a bigger ammunition supply point at Bagram, AF. We had so many vehicles that we were constantly squabbling over where to put them all - and we had enough up-armored ones too. Our supply warehouses were stuffed with clothing, boots, body armor and the like. "Living hand to mouth" is the worst lie of the bunch.

The constant stream of re-enlistments was a revelation to me. When I was the Executive Officer of the garrison at Bagram Airfield (a job I gladly traded away after 5 months) I had to find room to more than double the size of the Retention Office. I personally administered the oath of re-enlistment to an E-5 and an E-7. The E-5 was a mother of two young children and the E-7 was eligible to retire when we got home!

Broken? Hardly. Is it difficult work? Yes.

Read the whole thing.

My own opinion is that Congress is "broken." But not, alas, living hand-to-mouth.

UPDATE: While Rep. Murtha doesn't have the time to get the facts right on the war, Congress does have the time to investigate the BCS system. Jeez. Did I say "broken?" Yes, I did.

IS THE WEST LOSING AZERBAIJAN? Of course, there's some question whether it was ever ours to lose. Here's an email that former InstaPundit Paris correspondent Claire Berlinski (now in Turkey) sent in response to my last Azerbaijan post. When I got it, I thought it was not-for-publication, and by the time I found out otherwise it was old news. But maybe it's relevant now:

Actually, my fiancé David Gross is in Azerbaijan right now taking photos for Zuma. He says the protests today were anything but massive. The opposition is apparently nominal, as well as "unprofessional, unthinking, and unattractive." (You can take the last adjective with a grain of salt, I suppose; he was after all writing to me.) He spent the day yesterday with the ADP, who seemed to him unprepared for the protests. He accompanied them to a neighborhood where fraud had been alleged, but no one wanted their leaflets. ("They're liars like the rest of them," said one of the women he spoke to.) "They [the ADP] are like a small business," he wrote to me last night, "with employees, a boss, and a product, and while they're not the best on the market, they're a little spicier and cheaper than the others ... if they were ever a serious opposition, they were crushed before the elections." They were hoping for 50,000 at the rally today; David thought there were 5,000 to 10,000 at most ("really, rather dull"). After the rally, he sent me this rather deflated SMS: "The opposition is a farce. This country is stable."

That's no reason to give up on freedom there, but it sounds as if an Orange Revolution isn't in the cards any time soon.

UPDATE: Nathan Hamm emails:

To add to the email you posted this morning, the weakness of the opposition should also give some food for thought to those who are very upset that the US (and Europe when people bother to pay attention to what they're doing) isn't making a bigger stink of things.

I don't think the situation has been particularly well-played on the part of the US, but we cannot will a healthy opposition and democratic revolution into existence (Guardian column writers and Kremlin officials might tell you otherwise...). And while we can let them know we think they got a raw deal in the vote, that we deplore violence used against protesters, and that we support their goals, is it worth putting all our chips behind them if their support is shallow? (Or if they can't keep up the protests? They cancelled this weekend's: Link.)

I think the answers are fairly straightforward, but people often get caught up in the excitement of "a new democratic revolution!" without paying enough attention to what opinion is in the country.

Watch for something similar after Kazakhstan's presidential vote in the next few days. It's even clearer there that the opposition's support is extremely shallow, and often looks to be made up of opportunistic former officials. In the past, they've been extremely savvy at playing Western media and NGOs to make them seem more relevant to Kazakh politics than they really are.

As I say, not a reason to give up, but we need to be realistic in our expectations. Remember, democratization is a process, not an event.

STRATEGYPAGE looks at Al Qaeda's media strategy in Pakistan.

December 02, 2005

GOOD NEWS FOR FREE EXPRESSION:

A federal judge ruled Friday that Illinois' restrictions on the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors are unconstitutional and barred the state from enforcing the law.

State officials "have come nowhere near" demonstrating that the law passes constitutional muster, said U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly.

Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other supporters of the measure argued that children were being harmed by exposure to games in which characters go on killing sprees or sexual escapades.

Opponents declared the law a restriction on free speech and pointed out that similar laws had been struck down in other states.

Don't miss this article by John Luik on the bogus nature of most anti-videogame claims. On the other hand, this complaint seems valid to me.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Reader Douglas Bass emails:

I ran into Heidi Frederickson, Congressman Mark Kennedy's staffer, in Keegan's Irish Pub, during the weekly caucus of the Minnesota Organization of Blogs. I mentioned that I had gotten her mentioned on Instapundit, and she told me that she had shown Rep. Kennedy all the Porkbusters web pages. Is it a coincidence that Mark Kennedy cast the deciding vote to cut $50,000,000,000 in spending? I think not!

Heh. Indeed.

MYSTERY POLLSTER offers a lengthy look at Iraq polling.

MICHAEL KINSLEY ON CORRUPTION IN WASHINGTON:

The brazenness of the DeLay-Abramoff circle has caused prosecutors to look past traditional distinctions, such as that between campaign contributions and cash or other favors to a politician personally. Or the distinction between doing what a lobbyist wants after he has taken you to Scotland to play golf and promising to do what he wants before he takes you to Scotland to play golf.

These distinctions don't really touch on what's corrupt here, which is simply the ability of money to give some people more influence than others over the course of a democracy where, civically if not economically, we are all supposed to be equal. So where do you draw the line between harmless favors and corrupt bribery?

It's not an easy question if you're talking about sending people to prison. But it's a very easy question if you're just talking: The answer is that it's all corrupt bribery. People and companies hire lobbyists because it works. Lobbyists get the big bucks because their efforts earn or save clients even bigger bucks in their dealings with the government. Members of Congress are among the world's greatest bargains: What is a couple of commodes compared with $163 million worth of Pentagon contracts?

Perhaps conceding more than he intended, former Democratic senator John Breaux, now on K Street, told the New York Times that a member of Congress will be swayed more by 2,000 letters from constituents on some issue than by anything a lobbyist can offer. I guess if it's a lobbyist vs. 1,900 constituents, it's too bad for the constituents.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: A modest proposal for reducing government corruption.

HILLARY CLINTON:

"The 'evidence' of weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda turned out to be false," Clinton wrote.

But just months after the bombs started falling, Clinton (D-N.Y.) called a Daily News reporter to insist she had no second thoughts about her vote for war.

The war was worth it just to remove Saddam Hussein from power, she said.

Clinton emphatically told The News in her 2003 call, "I felt that it was appropriate under the circumstances, which really went back to 1998 under the Clinton administration's conclusion that the regime had to change, that the President [Bush] had authority to pursue that goal."

"Why was the intelligence consistent from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration?" Clinton added. "The intelligence was consistent for over a decade."

On the eve of war, even the senator's aides echoed Team Bush's confidence in a swift victory, including one who boasted, "It's going to be a cakewalk."

(Via The Raw Story).

SKIPPY ASKS: Is Maureen Dowd really necessary?

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH has thoughts on the economy, and criticizes both the Bush Administration and the media.

UPDATE: Related posts from Ed Driscoll and BizzyBlog.

A SHOCKING SIGN OF INTELLIGENCE in the Homeland Security area:

Airline passengers soon will be able to take small scissors and screwdrivers aboard planes again, Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley announced Friday.

Hawley said the change will take effect Dec. 22 and is part of a broader effort aimed at having screeners spend more of their time searching for explosives rather than small, sharp objects that don't pose as great a risk. The small implements were banned after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Does this mean we can have real metal forks in airport restaurants now?

HOW ARE THINGS GOING IN IRAQ? The Opinionated Bastard, who you may recall had the troop-rotation schedule nailed before it was a big media issue, has looked at the latest numbers from Brookings and has an analysis. And here's another one from Security Watchtower. Both contain more analysis -- and actual data -- than you're likely to see in most press reports.

UPDATE: Hmm. Reportedly, Americans are now more confident in how things are going than they've been all year. Guess the whole "pushback" business has done some good, though the numbers aren't so great that the Bush Administration should let up.

THE CARNIVAL OF COMEDY is up.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? Er, yes. But it's already sold out, anyway, which suggests that not everyone agrees.

(Via who else? I'm embarrassed to say I thought he was making it up until I checked myself.)

UPDATE: Holy crap -- reader Matthias Shapiro emails:

File this under "Reading Instapundit for Fun and Profit"

Thanks for your post on the Star Treck Ultimate Collection. Thanks to you, I was able to snap up one of the last two copies I could find on ebay for what I'm sure will end up being a relative bargain at $2499.99. Now the only choice is to cough up $3908.98 for the one and only remaining set. And only a crazy person would do something like that.

Apparently there are more of those out there than I imagined. And as one of the reviewers says: "[Y]ou should know that the average Star Trek fan is more affluent than any other fan base. AND you can bet your favorite tricorder that Paramount knows that too." I guess so.

ELECTIONS IN THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Women will vote.

MORE CARNIVALS: The Carnival of Recipes is up! So is the Carnival of Satire. And the Poetry Carnival.

Most people seemed to agree that the About.com Carnival of the Digital Cameras wasn't worth linking to. Should I host my own?

HEH: "Barbara Walters' 3.5 most fascinating Negroes of 2005."

UPDATE: Link was bad before. Sorry -- fixed now.

DOCUMENTARY-O-RAMA: I have a weakness for documentary filmmakers, for obvious reasons, and I've gotten a bunch of documentaries in the mail. I sat down last night and watched the Galloway Brothers' documentary Why Wal*Mart Works: And Why That Drives Some People C-R-A-Z-Y! and thought it was pretty good. (My wife would say it has too many talking heads, and she'd be right, but I don't mind talking heads that much, and one of them was me.) My favorite bit was when he interviewed a bunch of anti-Walmart types in the boutique district of Boone, N.C., then it became clear that the boutique district did well because (1) Wal-Mart attracted shoppers to the area, and (2) People could afford to shop in the boutique places because they were getting the necessities of life cheap at Wal-Mart. That's the sort of Big-Small synergy that I talk about in my book.

I haven't had a chance to watch them, but I've also gotten Steven Greenstreet's This Divided State, and Brian Flemming's anti-Jesus film The God Who Wasn't There. I'll bet Penn Jillette has a copy!

Meanwhile, I eagerly await the documentary on Samuel's: An American Phenomenon! Narrated by James Lileks, of course.

UPDATE: A more valid criticism of Wal-Mart: "The problems I have with Wal-Mart have nothing to do with wages, health benefits, non-union workers, et al. If they end up losing me as a customer it’ll be due to the fact that a majority of their stores are unkempt and disorganized. Their aesthetic is severly lacking, and in my opinion, that is eventually going to deal a severe blow to their business."

Yes. If they were minions of Satan, wouldn't they be more, um, seductive?

MORE: Unlike me, Michael Demmons has seen Flemming's film, and posts a review.

STILL MORE: Another Flemming review here.

ANOTHER GEEK GIFT GUIDE, this one from Make magazine, and featuring items considerably cheaper than those in the Wired item I linked earlier. Plus, Megan McArdle has a list of recommendations, and you can find more here.

THIS WEEK'S History Carnival is up!

THE "COSTLIEST ENGINEERING MISTAKE IN AMERICAN HISTORY:"

The floodwall on the 17th Street Canal levee was destined to fail long before it reached its maximum design load of 14 feet of water because the Army Corps of Engineers underestimated the weak soil layers 10 to 25 feet below the levee, the state's forensic levee investigation team concluded in a report to be released this week.

That miscalculation was so obvious and fundamental, investigators said, they "could not fathom" how the design team of engineers from the corps, local firm Eustis Engineering and the national firm Modjeski and Masters could have missed what is being termed the costliest engineering mistake in American history. . . .

"It's simply beyond me," said Billy Prochaska, a consulting engineer in the forensic group known as Team Louisiana. "This wasn't a complicated problem. This is something the corps, Eustis, and Modjeski and Masters do all the time. Yet everyone missed it -- everyone from the local offices all the way up to Washington."

This will cause a lot of conspiracy theories to unravel.

AVIAN FLU UPDATE:

Most U.S. companies haven't planned for how to stay in business during a flu pandemic, or even if they'll follow federal advice that potentially contagious employees should stay home, a survey suggests.

Public health specialists and the government are pressuring businesses to prepare for a worldwide outbreak of the bird flu or some other super-strain of influenza, a crisis that could bankrupt many companies if their workers are too sick or scared to show up and their supply chains disappear.

The concern isn't just because of economics, but because many companies provide products and services that people literally can't live without, explained Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota, who advises the government.

Avian flu may come to nothing, of course. But people should be thinking of this, because the likelihood that some sort of epidemic will strike is too hight to ignore.

UPDATE: Reader Jason Davis emails:

I work for a U.S. consulting firm and I am currently working in Asia. We are assuming that at any point within the next year many borders could be shut down during brief periods. We are particularly planning for a closed border between Hong-Kong and mainland China and are positioning our people appropriately in case of a border crossing freeze. We have estimated the costs and delays to our projects, and it isn't pretty. I am confident we are not the only organization taking concrete steps, and I imagine the trend will grow and stay with us for a long time to come.

-J

P.S. - I personally am currently sitting in a suburb just outside Jakarta, Indonesia called Tangerang where several of the bird flu cases have been diagnosed. I'm not panicking just yet ;-)

Good. But I'm glad to hear that people are planning for this. Sooner or later, regardless of what happens with avian flu, we'll need to be prepared.

MICKEY KAUS on economic reporting at the New York Times: "It's indeed deeply disturbing to learn that higher gas prices have held down demand, causing those prices to fall back to a level at which demand begins to rise again! It's almost as if some insidious law was at work--as prices rise, demand declines! As supply increases, prices fall! You can't win!"

Others were similarly amused: "How can anyone read that and not laugh?" Apparently, by being an editor at the NYT!

UPDATE: More here:

During a quarter century of analyzing and forecasting the economy, I have never seen anything like this. No matter what happens, no matter what data are released, no matter which way markets move, a pall of pessimism hangs over the economy.

It is amazing. Everything is negative. When bond yields rise, it is considered bad for the housing market and the consumer. But if bond yields fall and the yield curve narrows toward inversion, that is bad too, because an inverted yield curve could signal a recession.

If housing data weaken, as they did on Monday when existing home sales fell, well that is a sign of a bursting housing bubble. If housing data strengthen, as they did on Tuesday when new home sales rose, that is negative because the Fed may raise rates further. If foreigners buy our bonds, we are not saving for ourselves. If foreigners do not buy our bonds, interest rates could rise. If wages go up, inflation is coming. If wages go down, the economy is in trouble.

I suspect this reflects the bad economic conditions at newspapers, rather than in the nation as a whole. Workers at GM, Ford, and other uncompetitive companies probably have an unrealistically negative view of the economy, too.

December 01, 2005

DISCO BEAVER from outer space.

JEEZ, IT'S LIKE THEY'RE ALL CROOKS or something:

The top Senate Democrat investigating Jack Abramoff's Indian lobbying met several times with the lobbyist's team and clients, held a fundraiser in Abramoff's arena skybox and arranged congressional help for one of the tribes, records show.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (news, bio, voting record), D-N.D., acknowledges he got Congress in fall 2003 to press government regulators to decide, after decades of delay, whether the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts deserved federal recognition.

Dorgan met with the tribe's representatives and collected at least $11,500 in political donations from Abramoff partner Michael D. Smith, who was representing the Mashpee, around the time he helped craft the legislation, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Amusing diagram here. The problem is that corruption is bipartisan. The Republicans seem worse now, but that's because they're in power, and power provides more opportunities.

Of course, if the government had less power, there would be less corruption. Or at least, the corruption in question would matter less.

IF YOU LIE TO GET A STORY, is it wrong? Or is it just good reporting?

JEFF JARVIS IS GLOATING OVER LOW GAS PRICES: He bought the non-hybrid Highlander.

Hey, I'm glad that gas prices aren't such that my hybrid is a great deal. But my reason for buying it was more aesthetic than economic. I wanted something big, didn't want a minivan, and didn't want to get 14 mpg.

One upside -- the hybrid Highlander is really very quick, moreso than the gas model if you goose it. I don't do that much, since jackrabbiting in a truck is kind of silly, but when I've needed to merge and floored it I've been impressed with the power.

HEH.

OUCH:

Well, I suppose self-pity and bellyaching and sour grapes coming from a dead-tree media outlet over the success of a slick and widely-loved new media outfit like Craigslist really doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

But, holy cow, to make a COVER STORY out of the fact that you and your fellow dead-tree Old Media outlets are getting whupped by better service and greater efficiency (and more timeliness and accuracy)? And then to expect media savvy readers to cry big splashy tears over the fact that you can’t seem to adapt your performance and business models to the new reality? That takes real chutzpah and brings navel-gazing to a whole new level.

Not all old media folks are that dumb. I guest-taught a journalism class on Tuesday with Bob Benz, who runs Scripps' web operation. He seemed quite aware of the problems newspapers face -- which he characterized as more organizational and cultural than technological -- and had some good thoughts about what to do with them. I really don't think that newspapers will die as a result of the web. Well, except for the ones that waste their energies on whining. (Link via Bill Quick.)

UPDATE: Ryan Blitstein, the article of the SF Weekly piece in question, emails:

I really enjoy your blog so I felt compelled to write in response to the post about my story on Craigslist. I think if you read the whole story on Craig (yes, all 6000+ words) you'd see that thegoldengate and dailypundit oversimplified the argument I make in order to attack it.

The story is not about old media getting "whupped" by Craigslist. It describes how Craigslist -- in addition to being a great public service for millions -- is having an *unintentionally* negative effect on an already-strugging newspaper industry (including independent, local community papers). It then describes how Craig Newmark is personally working to address the problem, and makes the argument that while blogs and citizen journalism are important, for now, they aren't mature enough to replace the mainstream media, even despite its many faults.

I didn't see it as a whine -- I saw it as a description of a problem, and an argument that the solution is far more complex than many bloggers, citizen journalists, and mainstream reporters make it out to be. I hope when you read it, even if you don't agree with my arguments, you don't dismiss it as simply whining.

Well, I did read the whole piece, and I guess "whining" is arguably unfair. But it's very dismissive of citizen journalism, and takes some cheap shots at Craigslist. Example:

That "category" allows Newmark to keep the domain Craigslist.org, a name that gives the false impression that the site is a nonprofit, by using ".org," an extension almost exclusively used by nonprofit companies and foundations.

"Almost exclusively?" Not hardly, not for years. Likewise, the reference to Craigslist's "hush hush profits" seems a bit much.

Craigslist is hurting classified ad revenues, that's true. And classified revenues are important to newspapers. But the decline of newspapers began long before the Internet threat (read Andrew Krieg's Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Oldest Newspaper for a story from the 1980s illustrating the origins of many practices now blamed on the Internet). And while newspapers suffer, people who use Craigslist -- and get apartments, or jobs, that they might not have gotten if they relied on newspaper classifieds -- are benefiting. The article notes that every time someone advertises on Craigslist instead of in a newspaper, they're hurting news coverage. But turn it around: Should they be unemployed, or have trouble finding apartments, so that newspapers don't have to change?

What's more, I was a telecom lawyer in the 1980s when the American Newspaper Publishers' Association fought tooth-and-nail (and successfully) to keep phone companies out of the electronic classified ads business. That means they knew this kind of competition was coming and had two decades to get ready for it, and they still lost out to an ad-hoc Internet startup.

The article's not a waste by any means. There's lots of interesting stuff in it, including this about Jeff Jarvis's new venture:

Newmark is extremely guarded about his own ventures. He reveals only that he's working on three major projects -- advising two new foundations and investing in one start-up company -- all in stealth mode. The East Coast start-up was founded by Upendra Shardanand, a creator of Firefly (now Microsoft Passport), software that collects individual user information based on behavior, then recommends appropriate content. Its editor in chief, Buzzmachine.com blogger Jeff Jarvis, created Entertainment Weekly and was a journalist and executive at the New York Daily News. Next spring, they'll release technology that identifies the most important stories and most "trusted" versions -- a computerized or computer-aided "editor."

Sounds more like a Pajamas Media competitor than I realized. Very interesting.

But on the newspaper front, I think this quote is applicable here:

There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.

No, they don't. They can complain to the court of public opinion if they like, but there's no reason why it has to listen.

I agree that citizen journalism won't replace newspapers. But I think they're being hurt far more by technological, cultural, and organizational problems than by technology. And I don't think the article reflects that at all.

Ed Driscoll has related thoughts. And congrats to Blitstein, anyway, for engaging the criticism, both here and over at Bill Quick's.

MORE: Thoughts from an insider:

During the whole time I was there I constantly pleaded with the powers that be to do the online version of the classifieds right, the way it could be done with all the power of the web. At that time, 1995, craigslist was still a gleam in Craig Newmark's eye. The Chronicle owned the classified space for the Bay Area. I created a classified section on sfgate, but it was just an online version of what was in the newspaper, no more, no less. I argued that we should add interactivity, let people purchase ads online cheaply, have pictures and links, make sfgate.com the goto place for everybody in the bay area to buy, sell, rent, and know everything.

But this was utterly impossible. It was a question of turf. There was a large department that sold and processed classified ads. It was a major source of revenue, employed a lot of people, and had a big budget. No way they were going to yield that turf to a bunch of weirdos over at the six person, unprofitable, experimental web site crew. Besides, online ads would cannabalize the whole business. Even as time went on, and craigslist grew and the sfgate website traffic and personnel grew, there was never any possibility of going up against the entrenched bureaucracy. Newspapers are the most old-fashioned organizations left alive in the marketplace. Even book publishing companies are more with it.

Yes, that does seem to be the case.

STILL MORE: Jeff Jarvis emails to say that his startup really won't be competing with Pajamas Media, but that he can't say more about the business plan at this point because it's a startup.

HMM: "Kerry blames election loss on Sept. 11 attacks," according to The Raw Story.

I'm not sure what to make of that. Would Kerry have won in 2004 if there had been no 9/11 attacks? Possibly. On the other hand, if there had been no 9/11 attacks, Kerry might never have gotten the nomination -- his war record, remember, was supposed to immunize him on national security issues, and that was his biggest attraction to many Democrats.

I'm no Harry Turtledove, but in my alt-history version, I think John Edwards or Howard Dean would have been more likely to have gotten the nomination. Of course, if that had happened, Kerry wouldn't have lost the 2004 election, since he wouldn't have been running, so I guess in a way he's right!

MATT WELCH, like a lot of people, has lost perspective over the propaganda-in-Iraq story, but commenter "Tom" restores it:

Good God! We're talking about propaganda, right?!? Not carpet-bombing, or summary executions, or napalm, chemical and biological weapons, concentration camps, forced marches, slave labor...??? Propaganda!! PROPAGANDA!!!! Are you people insane? Tell me one war where both sides didn't use propaganda as much as possible. No, no, NOOOO! We don't want to win using PROPAGANDA! We'd much prefer having to kill thousands more than to win anyone over with PROPAGANDA!

Propaganda is a part of war, and it's not run according to Poynter Institute seminar standards. One might argue that what the U.S. military was doing is a bad idea -- I don't know one way or another on that -- but the howls of outrage seem rather forced. As is so often the case these days.

UPDATE: Reader Don Wolff reminds us that there are worse things in recent Baghdad media history. Perhaps that memory, or a desire to erase it, explains the excessive outrage now.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan, seldom accused of stinting in his Bush criticism these days, comments:

So we're spinning the Iraqi press by planting propaganda in its pages? BFD. The only problem with this scheme, it seems to me, is not that somehow it's unethical to use propaganda in wartime, especially in occupied areas where local support is crucial. This is war, as some people still refuse to understand. The problem is that media is now global, the free citizens of Iraq can access information from almost anywhere on earth, and these stories will leak and backfire. We're adjusting to war in a new media universe. We haven't adjusted swiftly enough.

This seems to me to be a plausible criticism, unlike Welch's.

AUSTIN BAY REPORTS on military training simulations.

JOHN LEO NOW HAS a blog. Check it out!

THIS SEEMS LIKE GOOD NEWS: "Iraq suicide blasts at lowest level in 7 months."

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE held to be a right by South Africa's Supreme Court.

PETER SCHUCK WRITES that America's law schools have a diversity problem:

Elite law schools cherish robust debate, iconoclasm, and arguing issues from all sides, right? Wrong. The dirty little (not-so) secret about these faculties-that they care much more about diversifying their skin colors, genders, and surnames than about diversifying their points of view-has finally come to the attention of the general public.

Now that the truth is out, law school faculties are likely to come under increased pressure to surrender some of their hiring autonomy. But this pressure would be misguided. If these faculties know what is good for them, they will acknowledge the dearth of dissenting voices within them-and work earnestly to correct the problem from within.

Indeed. By the way, I've read Schuck's new book, Meditations of a Militant Moderate, and I thought it was quite interesting. There's a small excerpt here.

I DON'T PAY NEARLY ENOUGH ATTENTION to the computer/video game world, and I guess my plans to buy an XBox 360 are on hold . . . but the Carnival of the Gamers is up, and they're paying a lot of attention.

ETHAN WALLISON is very unhappy with the New York Times.

ALEX TABARROK explains why you should donate to bloggers. Like Megan McArdle, I find it entirely persuasive!

A SOLDIER IN IRAQ: responds to Bush's speech: "Please, America, listen to the man."

A SNAG IN THE PADILLA TRIAL: This does undercut some people's claims that the Fourth Circuit is a "Constitution-free zone."

PUNISHING SUCCESS in the oil business.

IN THE MAIL: Robert Bruegman's Sprawl : A Compact History. A very interesting book, reporting that people have been worrying about "sprawl" for centuries, and that most efforts to reduce it make things worse -- though they do tend to enrich incumbent landowners.

DE VILLEPIN: The riots in France weren't riots! They were merely "social unrest."

WHY AREN'T UNIVERSITIES BOYCOTTING CONGRESS over "don't ask, don't tell?"

Because that's where the money comes from!

N.Z. BEAR HAS questions for Russ Feingold.

I'M GUESSING THAT PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE won't think much of this development:

The next big thing for the wine industry could be small, screw-capped and shatterproof.

Single-serve plastic bottles are starting to show up on supermarket shelves in a bid to win over new customers by moving wine beyond posh white-tablecloth dinners to the informal ease of a picnic.

I haven't ever bought a plastic bottle, but I usually keep some of the single-serving airplane bottles of merlot, shiraz, etc. around. I often have a glass of wine at night, but it's usually just one, and I hate to open a bottle for that -- especially as the resveratrol and other beneficial antioxidants go bad within 24 hours of opening. And hey, if Bainbridge is open-minded about box wines, maybe he won't be upset after all.

UPDATE: A reader in the wine business emails:

Wine in non traditional containers is growing rapidly and will continue to grow. I see it changing year by year. Many people have the same issues you do with opening a bottle during the week and having it go bad before it's consumed. Smaller containers and 3L boxed wine are filling the need. A 3L boxed wine can last 5-6 weeks without degradation and contains like 18-20 servings. Many of these offerings are vintage dated Napa and Sonoma wine like Black Box. It's not all cheap valley plonk anymore.

Convenience will win over many converts. Cork became a tradition by default because there was no other viable closure solution for many decades. That is changing now, and there's no going back.

Another advantage of plastic bottles/boxes if they ever get more widely adopted, is the weight advantage over glass. Most wine loads are shipped by truck or intermodal and are maxed out first by weight not by cube. You would need fewer trucks and consume less fuel per liter of wine shipped with either plastic or boxed wine vs traditional glass bottles.

Cool. Now if I could just order it over the Internet. Meanwhile, another reader emails:

I was alarmed to read your comment that wine loses all this good stuff after 24 hours. Here's a quote that I found on the Web that indicates all is not lost after opening:

Resveratrol is available in pill form, but it is reported to be unstable because the resveratrol molecule is destroyed by contact with air. However, Creasy's [Dr. Leroy Creasy, professor emeritus in the department of horticulture at Cornell University] tests show that resveratrol is preserved even in open wine, with only a 3 percent reduction after 17 days sitting open on a counter at about 70 degrees or refrigerated at about 35 degrees. He believes that resveratrol lasts longer in wine than in pill form because of the anti-oxidant properties in wine. However, wine will lose its resveratrol if it is exposed to light, so keep an opened bottle away from a window.

From:
Link

Please get to bottom of this.

Anybody know more?

BRYAN PRESTON OF JUNKYARDBLOG looks back on four years of blogging.

NANOTECHNOLOGY'S LEGAL RISKS: The actual risks are probably exaggerated, as I've reported before (read this, too), but the litigation risks may not be.

JIM HOFT LOOKS AT POLLS IN AMERICA, while Ed Morrissey looks at somewhat more immediately relevant polls in Canada: "A new poll by AP-Ipsos, based on a survey done during the debate over the no-confidence motion, shows that the Liberals have dropped into a dead heat with the Conservatives on a national basis. This data has not received wide release -- in fact, I had to buy a membership at Ipsos in order to see the data."

KATE MCMILLAN: "Why does mainstream media continue to stereotype political bloggers and our readers as 'tech savvy' twenty year olds?"

THE TANGLED BANK, a science blog carnival, is up.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has lots of new stuff. Just keep scrolling.

I'M A BIG FAN OF ROBERT FOGEL'S BOOK, The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death: 1700-2100, and I've written about it myself a time or two. Now Nick Schulz has a very interesting interview with Fogel, which is worth reading in full.

A FEMALE BELGIAN SUICIDE BOMBER in Iraq: "Mireille was a 38-year old woman born into a white, Christian family in the Southern Belgian town of Charleroi; she married to a Moroccan, converted to a radical form of Islam, and went to Iraq where she blew herself up in a suicide attack targeted against a US military convoy; she killed only herself."

Hmm. Does this mean that Al Qaeda has entered the Symbionese Liberation Army phase?

November 30, 2005

MY EARLIER POST ON THE POTATO GUN produced this email from reader George Putnam:

Minor comment on today's entry that you want a potato gun for Christmas…What is REALLY fun is a potato cannon. You can find directions to build one here:

I built one a couple of years ago based on this book, and it is a blast! Who knew that hair spray was such an effective propellant?

(I have one of the potato guns, too. They're OK, but not nearly as much fun as a potato cannon.)

Okay, now I know what I really want for Christmas.

KOS COMPLAINS that Kerry stole the limelight after Bush's speech, screwing up the Democrats' PR plans. Soxblog observes: "haven’t I been telling you all that everyone who knows him dislikes him?"

UPDATE: More problems with Kerry's response here. And others'!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more, here.

SOME INTERESTING THOUGHTS on different styles of blogging.

MORE ON ELECTRONIC VOTING:

Even in this election off-year, the potential perils of electronic voting systems are bedeviling state officials as a Jan. 1 deadline approaches for complying with standards for the machines' reliability.

Across the country, officials are trying multiple methods to ensure that touch-screen voting machines can record and count votes without falling prey to software bugs, hackers, malicious insiders or other ills that beset computers.

Still missing the obvious solution.

I'LL BE ON HUGH HEWITT'S SHOW (listen online here) about 8:30 Eastern time talking about hybrid cars, and Holman Jenkins' dismissive Wall Street Journal article (sorry, subscription-only, but you may be able to read it at this link) on them. Jenkins was definitely wrong in saying that the hybrid Highlander doesn't get better mileage than its gas equivalent. In fact, it gets about double the mileage in town. Read this report, too.

IS this report from New Orleans by Deroy Murdock an example of the mainstreaming of blogstyle? I'd say so.

SUMMER LAW STUDY IN RIO? Why didn't I think of that? One of my colleagues will be teaching there, and I'm jealous.

THE MOVEON PHOTO STORY just gets funnier.

UPDATE: More: "The liberal political group MoveOn.org has yanked a video ad from its website after being criticized for using images of British soldiers to represent Americans in Iraq." (Via The Officers' Club).

STRATEGY VS. TACTICS IN IRAQ: Jon Henke has some thoughts.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse contrasts Bush's language to Hillary Clinton's.

SORRY, BUT THIS IS INCREDIBLY STUPID:

"You can always turn the television off and, of course, block the channels you don't want," Martin said, "but why should you have to?"

Um, so that other people can watch the shows they want to, maybe?

UPDATE: Reader John Vasut thinks I'm misreading this:

I think that Martin was talking about a la carte programming choice. Why should you be forced (if you wish to receive certain channels) to have to pay for channels whose content you find objectionable (much less go to the trouble of blocking if you don’t wish for your children to watch it). I personally refuse to subscribe to cable/satellite (except for the Basic/local channel and some Chinese channels for my in-laws) until they provide a la carte service.

Hmm. I didn't read it that way, but if that's what he meant it wasn't stupid. I actually like the idea of a la carte cable pricing, though I'm not sure how the economics work out.

UPDATE: More on cable TV economics, here and here.

THE AD TO THE RIGHT was a little premature, but Claudia Rosett's report on the U.N. and the Internet is now posted.

INCREASING DIVERSITY at Harvard Law School.

I TRY TO LINK TO A LOT OF BLOG CARNIVALS, but BlogCarnival.com tries to link to all of them. It's got search tools and a lot of features to help you organize and find blog carnivals, too. My cousin-in-law Brad Rubenstein set it up.

JEFF GOLDSTEIN SAYS THAT THE LOS ANGELES TIMES doesn't understand the role of propaganda in wartime. I'm not so sure about that.

Stephen Green has more.

UPDATE: Bill Hobbs thinks the Los Angeles Times understands propaganda pretty darn well.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More on the L.A. Times' latest here.

MORE: Rusty Shackleford has thoughts, too.

IN THE MAIL: Peter Schweitzer's Do As I Say (Not As I Do) : Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy.

The back cover, on Michael Moore's Halliburton stock, is amusing. I can't tell you more, though, as the InstaWife immediately swiped it. She's bad that way.

THE CARNIVAL OF THE LIBERATED IS UP, with links to posts from Iraqi and Afghan bloggers.

UPDATE: Also there's the Carnival of Liberty and the Carnival of Classiness.

ADS: Yes, those are Pajamas Media ads on the right sidebar, which have replaced the BlogAds I used to run. The PJ Media ad folks want to test reader reactions, so if there's something you like, or don't like, about the look of the ads, email me with "New Ads" in the subject line and I'll pass it on. (Hit "refresh" and the ads'll change.)

In passing, I want to note that I never had any problems with Henry Copeland's BlogAds operation. It's a great boon to bloggers, and Henry is a great guy, blessed with smarts, good nature, and integrity. He and I have talked about this move, I left BlogAds with his blessing, and my experience with BlogAds was entirely positive. I moved to Pajamas Media because of what I hope it will eventually do to encourage firsthand blog reporting, especially from third-world countries and other areas that don't get much media coverage now. I recommend BlogAds to anyone who's interested in having ads on their blogs without joining an organization like Pajamas Media. It's a big blogosphere out there, and there's room for different approaches -- and Henry's is a good one.

UPDATE: Here's a complaint that BlogAds is invitation-only now. Yeah, sorry, I forgot about that, and I gave away all my invitations already (guess who got the last one). If you really want in, you might ask some people with BlogAds on their site. But I suspect that any "open entry" model is going to wind up looking like Google's AdSense, about which I hear mixed reports. I never tried it.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES is up.

THE WHITE HOUSE has released its Iraq strategy document. I think it owes a bit of a debt to Steven Den Beste. But hey, you can't always rely on bloggers to explain the war plan.

UPDATE: Some people are asking what's new about this strategy. The answer -- as Jon Henke notes -- is nothing, really. ("Naturally—after having paid more attention to the critics claiming there's no plan than to, you know, the actual plan—everybody is acting all surprised and confused. . . .This isn't the 'first time' the White House has disclosed the strategy for victory in Iraq, and the strategy isn't 'new'. This is something reporters really should know. . . . Granted, the White House should have done a better job at spreading this message from the very start. But it's sheer laziness and/or incompetence on the part of the media and critics to pretend that the Iraq strategy hasn't been widely available for a long time.")

What's new is that the White House is forcing people to pay attention to the plan, and to the fact that there is, and has been, a plan even though the press has ignored it. That many media outfits, as Henke notes, seem to think this is all new is merely evidence that they've been providing lousy war coverage all along.

But the White House, if a bit late in the day, is doing something it needs to do. You can't rely on bloggers to do it all.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Brian Dunn emails:

Nothing new for those who pay attention.

Perhaps the White House should have slapped a yellow cover on it and called it "Iraq Strategy for Dummies." They could make quite a series what with the confusion over intelligence, WMD, Al Qaeda, the word "imminent", etc.

Heh. More on Bush's speech, including video, here.

WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: A Potato Gun.

MORE THOUGHTS ON ENERGY-SAVING AND EFFICIENCY: My TechCentralStation column is up.

UPDATE: Related thoughts here.

TOUGH TALK from Angela Merkel.

THE MOVEMENT FOR DEMOCRACY IN HONG KONG: Simon World notes Beijing's dishonesty. There's a march Sunday; more about that here.

HAVE WE REACHED A BIPARTISAN CONSENSUS ON IRAQ? I explore this over at GlennReynolds.com.

UPDATE: A reader notes that this NPR story supports the notion, too.

HARRY REID: Osama is dead?

UNSCAM UPDATE -- Shredding the Volcker Commission archives?

The most urgent implication of Mr. Volcker's incomplete findings is that his huge and expensively assembled archives must be preserved intact well beyond the Dec. 31 deadline by which Mr. Volcker now plans to start disposing of them. Above all, they must not be handed back to the U.N., where too much related to the corrupt Oil for Food program has already vanished--including, to a fascinating extent, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's own powers of recollection. The former head of the program, Benon Sevan, alleged to have taken bribes from Saddam, was allowed to skip town, U.N. pension in hand. Mr. Annan is even now resurrecting, via a new $4 million U.N. program called the Alliance of Civilizations, the career of his former chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, who officially retired earlier this year after it came to light that during Mr. Volcker's investigation Mr. Riza had overseen the shredding of three years' worth of documents that might have better illuminated the oil-for-fraud shenanigans of the U.N.'s executive 38th floor.

As it happens, Rep. Henry Hyde, who has led the main investigation into Oil for Food in the House, introduced a bill on Nov. 17 urging that the U.S. withhold $100 million from its U.N. dues for each of the next four fiscal years, or until the secretary of state certifies to Congress that the Volcker investigation's archives have been transferred, intact and uncensored by the U.N., "to an entity other than the [Volcker] Committee or the United Nations"--and made available for public inspection, at the very least by law-enforcement authorities.

I think they should go on the Web, in searchable form.

GRAND ROUNDS is up! So is the Carnival of Education.

November 29, 2005

A MILITARY DEFEAT for MoveOn.org, at the hands of the British.

MORE PROBLEMS for the Los Angeles Times. Some people are enjoying their predicament(s), but I'd actually like to see them do better.

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE sets the wayback machine for 1998.

A DVD SECOND SEASON for Firefly?

Let’s say that Joss Whedon, creator of Firefly, wanted to bring the series back to air. (Though “back to air” is a TV phrase now as anachronistically quaint as “switching the dial.”) Let’s say he found a million Firefly fans online—and, trust me, they’re not hiding—who were willing to pay, say, $39.99 each for a sixteen-episode season of Firefly. (Not an unreasonable price, given how many people pay about that amount for full seasons on DVD.) Suddenly, Joss Whedon’s got roughly $40 million to play with—and he doesn’t need a network. Or a time slot. Or advertisers. He can beam the damn shows right to your computer if he wants to.

Great idea. But it's a hypothetical. I actually asked Firefly executive producer Tim Minear about this kind of thing the other day, and he said there's nothing like this in the works.

Maybe he should have added "yet." Read the whole article, which has lots of interesting insights. (Via Bill Adams).

And this bit certainly describes my experience to a tee:

This summer, Universal did something kind of weird: It released Serenity, a sci-fi movie based on a poorly rated TV show, Firefly, that had been canceled after eleven episodes. Making movies of hit TV shows has a self-explanatory logic, but there aren’t too many movies based on TV flops. But I saw Serenity and liked it a lot, so I went out and bought the entire run of the Firefly TV series on DVD, watched it, and liked it a lot as well.

I bought the DVD set and enjoyed it too. I'd actually rather watch DVDs than regular TV.

And here's a Blogcritics review of Firefly.

I DON'T AGREE WITH THIS POLICY AT ALL.

In fact, here's the InstaPundit policy:

InstaPundit strongly supports the use of violent force to save lives of its workers (er, that's me), readers, advertisers, or unrelated onlookers should they be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a conflict situation. The use of grossly excessive or gratuitous violence, while not exactly encouraged, isn't exactly deplored, either.

If it saves just one life, it's worth it.

CONGRESSMAN JACK KINGSTON is blogging about his trip to Iraq.

HOMELAND SECURITY UPDATE: "Efforts to train thousands of federal agents to protect commercial flights during heightened terror alerts were quietly abandoned more than a year ago because Congress objected to the cost, government investigators said Tuesday."

BLOGGER / REPORTER MICHAEL TOTTEN is photoblogging Hezbollah-occupied Lebanon.

IT'S NICE TO SEE THAT REPRESENTATIONAL ART hasn't died.

SOME ANTI-SCIENCE LAWMAKING that has nothing to do with "Intelligent Design."

SOME AIRLINES ARE ENGAGING IN OPEN PROFILING OF PASSENGERS, without even trying to hide it.

ADVICE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, from Lorie Byrd.

GOOD NEWS: "South Korean cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk's embarrassing ethical lapses have stalled his ambitious expansion plans in the United States and England, but leading scientists in both countries say stem cell research won't be seriously disrupted by the scandal." I still think the scandal is overblown anyway.

EXECUTIVE PAY AND GENERAL MOTORS: Some thoughts over at GlennReynolds.com.

DOES THIS MEAN IT'S A BUBBLE? OR THAT IT'S NOT A BUBBLE? New home sales hit record highs. My guess is that it's a bubble, but my judgment in these matters doesn't deserve much weight.

IN THE MAIL: Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre's Spychips : How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID. Bruce Sterling calls it "a masterpiece."

Some people would probably like to see us all wearing these.

UPDATE: Tech reporter Hiawatha Bray emails:

I know and like Katherine Albrecht. I've covered her for years and think she's often rather more paranoid than the facts justify. But in Spychips, she and McIntyre have done their homework and rely almost entirely on actual documents from the companies and trade organizations working on RFID chip applications. The book makes a very persuasive case that some of America's biggest companies want to embed tracking technology into virtually everything we own, and then study our usage patterns 24 hours a day. It's a truly creepy book and well worth reading.

Yeah, this is a topic that has attracted its share of paranoia. But sometimes the paranoids are right!

BAD REVIEWS FOR BUSH'S IMMIGRATION SPEECH: Neal Boortz: "There was nothing in his speech we haven't heard before, and his new immigration policy is just as contradictory as the old one. . . . I'm sure representatives of Al-Qaeda are preparing to apply for their guest-worker permits as we speak."

Michelle Malkin is unhappy, too. And Joe Gandelman has a roundup of reactions.

UPDATE: Bush is charged with rewriting history on the Reagan Amnesty.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Prawfsblawg weighs in: "Yet liberal principles require a drastic reduction of immigration controls. Foreigners flock to our shores because there is demand for their labor. The same principle that supports free trade of goods and services -- the law of comparative advantages -- applies with equal force to freedom of movement."

Responses here and here.

JOE LIEBERMAN:

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn. . . .

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

A colossal mistake, but one that quite a few seem ready to make, if allowed.

IN TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL (free link) a look at John Bolton at the U.N.:

What has confounded John Bolton's abundant detractors, both American and foreign, is how little he has lived up to their caricature of him as the fire-breathing, unilateralist, neo-conservative pit bull during his first four months as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. . . .

Some call what the U.S. is trying to achieve -- with significant support from other countries, notably Japan -- the GE-ization of the U.N., that is, introducing the modern management mechanisms of global companies. Together the U.S. and Japan provide more than 40% of U.N. funds (the U.S. 22% and Japan 19%). Among the leading opponents are Pakistan, Egypt and India.

Shockingly, much of the opposition appears to revolve around patronage, perks and pork.

CLIVE DAVIS looks at changing media attitudes toward Kyoto.

HMM. RETAIL SALES DOLLARS weren't as good as hoped over the weekend due to heavy discounts, but online sales are up. Are we seeing a shift to shopping online? Certainly in my household, but we're probably not typical

MICKEY KAUS offers lessons for the New York Times from Cable TV.

AN IMPORTANT QUESTION to ask those seeking office in 2006 and 2008.

November 28, 2005

BUSH AND BOMBING: A shocking revelation.

LOOKING FOR BOOKS? Lots of lists at the Brothers Judd site.

G.M. ROPER is taking submissions for a blog carnival on German-American relations.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ offers good advice to the Congressional Republicans: "Get clean or meet your electoral doom, guys. I wouldn't care so much (about Republicans losing--taking bribes and lying about it we can all hate) if it weren't ideas that are ultimately the casualties."

I'd like to see more ideas and less bribery, please. I have to agree with Ralph Peters' rather limited case for the GOP: "There's plenty I don't like about the Bush administration. Its domestic policies disgust me, and the Bushies got plenty wrong in Iraq. But at least they'll fight." They've been better than the Democrats on the war, all right. But the Republicans have managed to disappoint even my quite low expectations on many other fronts.

UPDATE: Bill Quick is unhappy, too, but draws a lesson.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Steve Galbraith offers this take on today's political situation:

The current political situation often reminds me of an old saying by Casey Stengel about how to successfully manage a baseball team.

"The key to managing is keeping the 50% of the players who hate you from talking to the other 50% of the players who aren't quite sure they hate you."

Right now, both parties are trying to prevent that roughly 50% of the electorate who hate them from convincing some of that other roughly 50% to join with them in their enmity.

And it's a pretty close race to the bottom, so to speak.

It would be funny, if it weren't tragic. Meanwhile, read this lengthy post by Joseph Britt.

MORE: GayPatriot is unhappy, too.

Big Cunningham-resignation roundup here.

CANADIAN GOVERNMENT FALLS: "A corruption scandal forced a vote of no-confidence Monday that toppled Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority government, triggering an unusual election campaign during the Christmas holidays."

UPDATE: Damian Penny has been liveblogging it.

And here's more from Ed Morrissey, who's been on this story from day one.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Canadian MP Monte Solberg liveblogged the vote from the floor. (Via Kate McMillan).

Austin Bay has more.

MORE: Reader T.J. Marshman thinks that Ed Morrissey deserves credit for bringing down the Candadian government, by breaking the publication ban on the Gomery investigation. Could be! I started to say that before, but didn't want to be accused of blogger triumphalism.

MORE STILL: Reader Crash Ringenberg emails:

Conservative bloggers have now taken down Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, and the fricken Canadian Government.

Liberal bloggers have taken down Jeff Gannon and Jim Guckert—oh wait, that’s the same person.

Advantage: Conservatives!

Okay, that's definitely too much triumphalism, even for a guy named "Crash."

STILL MORE: On the other hand, Richard Riley says that Crash isn't triumphalist enough: "Crash left out Trent Lott, Harriet Miers and The Bridge to Nowhere." Though, contra Crash's point, it's worth noting that all of those -- especially Lott -- were bipartisan efforts.

LT. SMASH reports on an anti-war protest that he says was more "anti-victory" than anti-war.

UPDATE: A look at the recruiting numbers. Hey, they're better than these numbers! I guess it's more of that reverse-Vietnam phenomenon. . . .

SOME FOOL TRIED TO INTIMIDATE MICHELLE MALKIN: The results are about what you'd expect. . . .

Sending legal threat letters to bloggers seldom seems to work out well for the threateners.

TOM MAGUIRE: "Is Andrea Mitchell the next Bob Woodward?" Plus, keeping an eye on Tim Russert! And he's got lots more interesting stuff. Just keep scrolling.

CLAY CONRAD offers advice on how to help displaced New Orleans musicians.

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE has an item on "self-plagiarism" in law reviews. You can read my views on plagiarism in this chapter from the ethics book I wrote with Peter Morgan. But the short version is that I don't think that there's any such thing as "self-plagiarism." Plagiarism consists in passing off someone else's words as one's own, so you can't self-plagiarize. (Arthur Leff, one of my scholarly heroes, had one passage he repeated in almost everything he wrote. But it always worked. Why change perfection?)

At any rate, like many issues, this is better dealt with by contract than by rule. If law reviews think that too much work they get is repetitive and unoriginal, they're entirely free to require that no part of any work they publish can have been published before. Problem solved, if problem it is.

JOHN FUND says that Democratic and Republican politicians are standing in the way of sensible energy policies.

I've had some thoughts on the subject here, and I'll have some more later on.

EUGENE VOLOKH LOOKS AT BLOGS AND BIG MEDIA and makes some useful observations.

CHRIS ANDERSON: "The TV broadcasting business stinks."

JON HENKE on the Democrats' latest Iraq pronouncements:

So, after 2 years of debating Iraq policy, the Democrats have decided that training Iraqi security forces to take over and reducing US deployments as they do—"as Iraq stands up, we will stand down"—is the best course in Iraq? And this epiphany, Richard Cohen writes, may have "pointed the administration and the country toward a realistic and modestly hopeful course on Iraq." . . .

This was the strategy Bush enunciated in August of 2003, September of 2003, May of 2004, and many other times. It was the strategy outlined in this May 2004 "Fact Sheet: The Transition to Iraqi Self-Government".

The Democrats have not come up with a new Iraq Policy. They've jumped onboard the Bush administration's existing policy, with the novel new suggestion that we stay the course...but try harder.

Personally, I think that letting them pretend they're suggesting something novel is a small price to pay for bringing them onboard, if that's what it accomplishes. I suspect the White House will feel the same way.

Unfortunately, the Democrats' efforts to look as if they're presenting something new have led them to wrap their proposals in Vietnamesque language, which has the potential to do damage in and of itself. As I said earlier: "I think that an agreement to withdraw as a democratically elected Iraqi government wants, and in a fashion that ensures it can handle the insurgents, is very different from an immediate unilateral withdrawal at the behest of U.S. politicians who say the war is 'unwinnable.'"

That kind of language -- the "unwinnable" comes from Rep. Murtha -- makes a difference, as do the tiresome and inaccurate Vietnam references and "Bush lied" claims, a product of partisan politics and Boomer narcissism.

UPDATE: Reader Rick Skeean emails:

You should say"some narcissistic Boomers". The way you phrased it makes you guilty of "Boomerism", a form of bigotry no less pernicious than any "ism."

Fair enough. Though the narcissist Boomers seem heavily overrepresented in politics and the media. Then again, that makes sense . . . .

MORE: Joe Lieberman, back from Iraq, says he's encouraged by what he saw.

ACCORDING TO THE BBC, the Canadian Government is "set to fall."

A WALKWAY with solar-powered lighted tiles? That's kind of cool.

YUCK:

A federally funded study suggests U.S. farmers, veterinarians and meat processors have a markedly high risk of infection from flu viruses spread by pigs.

Scientists conducting the study, funded in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the fact pigs can be infected by swine viruses, bird viruses and human flu viruses means they act as virtual virus "mixing bowls."

"The worry is if a pig were to become simultaneously infected with both a human and an avian influenza virus, genes from these viruses could reassemble into a new virus that could be transmitted to, and cause disease in, people," said NIAID Director Anthony Fauci.

So we need to worry about sanitation on pig farms, not just poultry farms.

COCK CROWS, SUN RISES: Donald Sensing predicted it last week, and David Broder writes it this week.

Of course, if Broder weren't so predictable, he wouldn't be David Broder.

IN RESPONSE TO THE EARLIER REVERSE-VIETNAM POSTS, Armed Liberal Marc Danziger sends a link to this post on the L.A. Times' antimilitary bias.

UPDATE: Read this post, too.

MICHAEL TOTTEN REPORTS from the Lebanese-Israeli border, where things have been hot again. We're certainly seeing more bloggers-turned-Mideast-reporters lately.

EVERYBODY'S DOING CHRISTMAS-GIFT SUGGESTIONS, and Wired offers its "Ultimate Geek Gift Guide." But I'm not terribly impressed.

Sure, I'd like one of these, but it's awfully pricey. Unless Bill Gates takes a shine to me, I'm not going to get one for Christmas, and unless I hit the lottery (which would require that I, like, enter the lottery first) I'm not likely to give one, either.

I like their sorting of universal remote controls into "tricky," "complicated," and, of course, "nightmare". That certainly seems about right. But it's not selling me!

And I already got the complete Monty Python's Flying Circus collection for Christmas last year. (Or was it the year before? At any rate, "I've already got one.") Sorry; I'm a geek, but this doesn't do it for me.

But hey, Serenity comes out on December 20th. Too bad I've already pre-ordered it. Now I actually do need a new blender . . . .

Several readers have emailed asking for gadget recommendations, but my gadget-blogging is mostly about gadgets I've bought myself (nobody's lining up to send me free digital cameras or Xboxes), and the whole book-writing thing has kept me too busy to do much of that lately. If you've got any ideas that look better than Wired's pass 'em on.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

For us broke geeks who cannot afford pricey toys, Think Geek (www.thinkgeek.com) has the greatest assortment of mindgames, geeky cubicle toys, and other assorted to goodies guaranteed to light up the geekiest heart.

Yeah, I've been boycotting them since a supersmall digital camera I bought was no good. But that's probably silly on my part -- I do tend to be highly loyal to people who give me good experiences, and the contrary to those who don't -- and certainly shouldn't extend to anyone else.

Meanwhile, Will Collier emails about the "tricky" universal remote:

I bought one of the Logitech Harmony 880 remotes a few weeks ago. The wife had had it with multiplying remote controls, and demanded something simple.

The 880 was, as noted in the Amazon reviews, not a piece of cake to set up. It took me about an hour with the thing plugged into my iBook, loading settings, trying the remote, re-loading settings, and re-testing. That was not fun. Since then though, it's been no trouble at all. Bottom line: if you get one, be prepared to spend some time getting it configured, but once you do have it set up and tweaked for your system, it's great. One-button turn-ons for multiple devices and a nice bright color screen with simple labels like "Watch ReplayTV" or "Watch DVDs" are a nice change from the cryptic buttons on most other universal remotes. And the wife likes it.

Of course, I would be even happier if the thing were $150 cheaper, but like Steven Wright once noted, "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?"

Er, everywhere? And here's a list of book recommendations, from the NRO folks.

THE CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS is up! So is the Carnival of Personal Finance.

CONTINUING THE REVERSE-VIETNAM THEME, here's an article from the Christian Science Monitor on how the troops see the war. It's quite different from what's on the news:

Like many soldiers and marines returning from Iraq, Mayer looks at the bleak portrayal of the war at home with perplexity - if not annoyance. It is a perception gap that has put the military and media at odds, as troops complain that the media care only about death tolls, while the media counter that their job is to look at the broader picture, not through the soda straw of troops' individual experiences.

Except that for the most part, what we get from the Big Media is just a different (and utterly predictable and negative) soda-straw view. You want perspective, you have to go to places like StrategyPage. Or blogs like The Belmont Club.

THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT is attacking Islamist terrorism by letting the terrorists talk. Experience indicates that the more people know about those guys, the less they like them. (Via ATC).

JIM PINKERTON looks at Maureen Dowd and Hugh Hefner.

MORE ON GENERAL MOTORS' PROBLEMS, over at GlennReynolds.com. And I wish I'd read this Michael Barone column on the failure of the UAW/GM postwar economic vision.

BRUCE WILLIS, inspired by Michael Yon's blog-reporting from the front, wants to make a pro-war film about Iraq.

BLOGGER-TURNED-REPORTER BILL ROGGIO reports back from a patrol on the Iraqi/Syrian border. He also sends this, by email: "My internet access has been limited but I'm having the time of my life in Iraq. I've had great access to all of the Marines and soldiers out here, and am being treated like royalty. These guys are extremely frustrated with the media and make no bones about their distaste for those who are undermining the war effort by calling for withdrawal."

Bill also has a report on Operation Steel Curtain.

UPDATE: Reader Jack Lifton emails:

You had a link this morning to a report from an embedded newsman in Iraq who said that the troops were frustrated by the lack of support from the folks at home (at least from the MSM) and by the operational advice being given to them by strategists from deep in their armchairs.

I worked in military research and development during the Vietnam era. Many of my friends served in Vietnam and some didn't come home. At no time during that period do I remember morale being as high as it is now in the ranks. In those days a lot of the boys (there were very few girls) didn't have much education or exposure to high tech. My group designed, manufactured, tested, and trained them in the use of night vision equipment. I remember well our quiet pride and admiration for a soldier who had jumped into a river from a helicopter under fire to retrieve the latest starlight scope that had been lost by an injured comrade, so the enemy would not have access to it. This was at the same time as we all had a good laugh listening to Robert MacNamara tell the country that an electronic fence would keep the enemy at Bay and therefore the boys would be home by Christmas. Those of us working on the "electronic fence" knew that the junkyard dog smart Viet Cong wouldn't be stopped by this toy or MacNamara's strategic imagination. I appreciate that MacNamara was frightened by how close we came to nuclear war with the Soviet Union during the amateur hour nightmare of the Bay of Pigs, and that is the only reason I respect him.

Today's troops are light-years ahead of Vietnam in education and technical awareness. Morale is high. They are fighting an army of thugs who cannot face them one-to-one and so try to "terrorize" the people on whose behalf our soldiers are fighting into asking them to leave. The thugs are in fact doing a good job on the self-absorbed opportunist seekers of power we call our elected representatives. They may have schemed themselves into and paid for some elections, but they don't represent those of us who know that you need to fight for freedom.

Just another way it's a reverse Vietnam.

November 27, 2005

HOLIDAY-TRAVEL HELL: I remember seeing the New York Air desk at Washington National literally overrun by a mob once. They deserved it, too. Read this story and see if you think it was deserved here. Excerpt: "One thing for sure is that I'll remember this Thanksgiving experience long after US Airways is out of business." Kind of like I remember New York Air . . . .

THE CARNIVAL OF THE CATS is up. So is Haveil Havalim.

UPDATE: Also the Carnival of Debt Reduction. And for something different, check out the Carnival of the Mobilists. There's also the Carnival of the Insanities and the Carnival of Marketing.

And here's a question: I love digital cameras, but is the About.com Carnival of Digital Cameras just a cheap traffic-getting tool for a corporate pseudo-blog, or is it a genuine item worth linking regularly? Your opinions solicited.

IT'S A TWOFER: Don Surber hosts RINO Sightings (NSFW version) and the Carnival of the Vanities.

I BLAME JOHN ASHCROFT:

OAK RIDGE - When Oak Ridge High School Principal Becky Ervin ordered the seizure of the latest school newspaper, she unleashed a controversy that's still unfolding.

An article detailing various birth control methods and a feature about students with tattoos and body piercings triggered the seizure.

School officials searched teachers' classrooms and desks after hours to confiscate copies of the paper, a teacher and a student say.

If only they were this diligent about teaching math.

UPDATE: This comment on the AtomicTumor blog posts what it says is the article in question. Looks pretty harmless to me.

PLAME UPDATE: "A second Time magazine reporter has agreed to cooperate in the CIA leak case and will testify about her discussions with Karl Rove's attorney, a sign that prosecutors are still exploring charges against the White House aide." Or somebody, anyway.

IT'S A REVERSE-VIETNAM: On Reliable Sources I said that the Plame scandal was a reverse-Watergate, with the press, not the White House, keeping the important secrets about what happened. But looking at the transcript, I see that Iraq is also a reverse Vietnam, as made clear in this statement from UPI correspondent Pamela Hess:

KURTZ: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

Pam Hess, during Vietnam U.S. officials were often accused of distorting or even lying to the press to try to make it look like the war effort was going better than it was. When you were in Iraq did you feel like you were getting the straight story?

HESS: Certainly from the militarily I did. They have no interest in cooking the books, as it were, they -- they understand that they were blamed for Vietnam and what happened, and they don't want that blame again.

They want people to understand the kind of enemy that they are facing and how long it's going to take. And frankly, most of them said to me, "Please go back and tell them not to pull us out because we are finally at a point where we have enough people here now on the ground between soldiers and Iraqis that we can actually start doing some good and start turning things around. And if you pull us out, we're just going to be back here three years from now."

KURTZ: More optimistic, at least than some of the journalists.

HESS: Yes.

(See it on video here.) In Vietnam, the brass talked happy-talk, the press talked to grunts and reported that the war was going worse than we were told. But now it's Americans who are talking to the grunts, and, as StrategyPage noted last year, getting a different picture of how the war is going:

So you don’t have to wait for the official version of what’s going on, or for reporters on the scene to get their stories to the folks back home. The troops send email, or pick up the phone, sometimes a cell phone, and call. This has caused a lot of confusion, because the media reports of what’s happening are often at odds with what the troops are reporting. This has been particularly confusing in a year where there’s a presidential election race going on. The Democrats decided to attack the way the war on terror, and particularly the actions in Iraq, was being fought. Part of that approach involved making the situation at the front sound really, really bad. But the troops over there seemed to be reporting a different war. And when troops came home, they were amazed at what they saw in the newspapers and electronic media. Politics and reality don’t mix.

It's not surprising, then, that the more connection people have to the war, the better they think things are going. That's precisely the opposite of what we saw in Vietnam, of course.

By the way, I often link Dunnigan's StrategyPage, but if you're interested in this kind of stuff you should really check out his books. There are quite a few, but I particularly recommend his primer on all things military, How to Make War, and his book on special forces, The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of U.S. Warfare.

While I was in New York I managed to have breakfast with Dunnigan and Austin Bay, and enjoyed listening in on their conversation. I wish we saw more of that sort of thing in major media -- but then it wouldn't be a reverse-Vietnam, would it?

UPDATE: This seems different, too:

Seventy percent of people surveyed said that criticism of the war by Democratic senators hurts troop morale -- with 44 percent saying morale is hurt "a lot," according to a poll taken by RT Strategies. Even self-identified Democrats agree: 55 percent believe criticism hurts morale, while 21 percent say it helps morale. . . .

Just three of 10 adults accept that Democrats are leveling criticism because they believe this will help U.S. efforts in Iraq. A majority believes the motive is really to "gain a partisan political advantage."

It's just not 1969, however much some people might wish otherwise.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein has more: "I’d add that this latest poll—coming as it does on the heels of a forceful Administration counterattack against their critics—suggests what we’ve always known, anyway: down deep, most Americans are optimistic, and will treat with suspicion those who preach US weakness and failure and dishonesty."

MORE: My colleague Tom Plank, who was leading a platoon in Vietnam while I was learning to ride a two-wheeler, emails:

I saw your post on Reverse Vietnam. I am deeply skeptical of the claim that the military misled the press or the American people about the Vietnam War. It may be that the top political leaders downplayed the costs of the war, and perhaps senior military officers went along with this, but I thought the reporting on the war was nevertheless much more negative than what was actually going on. The idea of the press reporting objectively on the war is I think another urban myth.

Two classic examples: the 1968 Tet Offensive, reported as a great defeat for the US, but which was a victory for the US and which was a devastating loss for the Viet Cong and NVA (essentially resulted in the destruction of the indigenous South Vietnamese Viet Cong).

The second example is the seige at Khe San. This was reported as a defeat for the US, with lots of comparisons to Dien Bien Phu, but the several month long seige at Khe San resulted in the destruction of several NVA divisions at the cost of several hundred US troops. By 1970, the US had defeated the NVA (the indigenous Viet Cong had long been pretty much out of the picture).

The real failure in Vietnam was not to invest in the development of a truly representative democratic government in the south and commit to protect that government from invasion from the north. Of course, then we were primarily interested in fighting communism instead of developing democracy and self determination. In Iraq, I think we have learned to foster self determination, local style.

Well, good point. I was referring to the conventional narrative above, and tried to be properly noncommittal in my phrasing: "the press talked to grunts and reported that the war was going worse than we were told." But in truth, the extensive, and sometimes obviously deliberate misrepresentation of this war has caused me to revise my confidence in other reporting in the past sharply downward.

Another favorite bit from the Reliable Sources transcript, by the way, is this from Paul Krugman: "If Walter Cronkite were alive -- sorry, he is alive." Heh. Cronkite remains alive, and was most recently heard emitting Grandpa-Simpsonesque complaints about the Internet. Colby Cosh's valediction: "he seems to lack the vestigial humility one might demand of someone whose preeminence in American life is long vanished, and was based mostly on the parts of his career spent reading other people's words into a camera lens." Krugman's Cronkite-nostalgia is predictable, though, and predictably misplaced.

IRELAND VS. THE SCANDINAVIAN MODEL: Some interesting data at Brussels Journal.

THIS WEEK'S BLOG MELA is up!

THE MANOLO offers some holiday-shopping fashion principles.

MORE ON GENERAL MOTORS' TROUBLES, over at GlennReynolds.com.

I'LL BE ON CNN'S "RELIABLE SOURCES" in a little while, talking about the week's events.

UPDATE: Ian Schwartz has the video.

APPARENTLY THE ATTACK DOCUMENTARY DIDN'T WORK -- or maybe the counter-documentary did. . . . Anyway, there's this news about Wal-Mart:

The world's largest retailer said Saturday that it expects to post a solid 4.3 percent gain in same-store sales for November, helped by better-than expected sales during the post-Thanksgiving day shopping rush. That's at the midpoint of its growth forecast of 3 to 5 percent. The sales results cover the four-week period through Friday.

Sales seem to be good in general. That's good economic news, I guess.

PLAN B: I THINK THAT DRUG APPROVAL should be based on whether drugs are safe and effective, not on political considerations.

Here's more from the GAO.

WHAT FRANCE NEEDS: More diversity.

MORE CIGARETTE PHOTOSHOPPING, courtesy of HarperCollins. Yes, it's silly, but in a slightly creepy way.

HE WAS FOR IT BEFORE HE WAS AGAINST IT: Al Gore on "extraordinary rendition."

UPDATE: More on posturing here. (Via Don Surber).

MADD PEOPLE STAFFING SOBRIETY CHECKPOINTS? Sounds like an abandonment of law enforcement responsibility for the sake of politics.

MIDGE DECTER, spiritual mother.

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