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January 14, 2006
PEAKTALK: "One of the key factors in this ongoing federal election campaign has been the extraordinary about-face of the Canadian mainstream media."
OVER AT MONDO HOLLYWOOD, Andrew Marcus and Clay Champlin interview Gary Sinise about his aid program, Operation Iraqi Children, and why supporting the troops shouldn't be seen as a "conservative" phenomenon.
UPDATE: Vik Rubenfeld is blogging from the festival, too.
MORE DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAQ, from Iraq the Model. (Via PJM). Related post from The Belmont Club here.
DO I GET ANY OTHER CHOICES? Phil Bowermaster looks at Singularity literature and asks if God is more like Zeus, or Bill Joy.
MONDO HOLLYWOOD is another PJ Media blog covering Hollywood, and it's hosting the ongoing reporting from the American Film Renaissance by Andrew Marcus.
GREYHAWK AT THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE is flexing absolute moral authority.
I agree that Murtha's Vietnam record isn't the issue, and shouldn't be. Rather it's his behavior regarding the current war that's the disgrace.
UPDATE: Afghanistan Veteran Sgt. Mark Seavey punishes Reps. Murtha and Moran, and gets a rather limp response.
MICHAEL TOTTEN reports: "Egypt doesn’t do many things better than Lebanon, but it does do the Internet better. Free wi-fi is both fast and ubiquitous. So I went to a cozy restaurant and pub, ordered a four-cheese pasta from the waiter, flipped open my laptop, and poked around the Web for contact information for the Muslim Brotherhood."
STRATEGYPAGE on Algeria:
The most able and active Islamic terrorists have apparently fled the country, and they are being detected, and sometimes arrested, in Europe, Canada and some Arab countries. Some have been found (usually dead) in Iraq and Afghanistan. These Algerians overseas often operate as part of the Algerian GSPC, or the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group. The GSPC has more success recruiting among Algerians in Europe, where memories of the atrocities and terrorist tactics of the GSPC in Algeria are dim. In Algeria, GSPC is seen as a bunch of bloodthirsty fanatics.
Islamic terrorists: To know them is to despise them.
PENNSYLVANIA LEGISLATORS, angry about publicity that required them to forego a self-awarded 16% pay raise, are striking back with punitive new taxes that single out media organizations. The Steel City Cowboy is unimpressed: "You work for us, you sons of bitches, and don't forget it."
And maybe the media folks will acquire a bit of sympathy for Wal-Mart.
BLOG DOCUMENTARIAN ANDREW MARCUS is at the American Film Renaissance festival, and is shooting video with his partner, Clay Champlin. Here's their first video report from the event.
UPDATE: Link above changed -- I direct-linked the video on Andrew's site, which I thought he wanted me to do, but I was wrong. Hope I didn't cause any server problems.
January 13, 2006
WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT?
2006 is already shaping up to be a weird year. But as a commenter says, "When you live under the same roof as Dennis Rodman and manage to out-weird him, it may be time to consider professional help."
UPDATE: More on Greg Gutfeld's double-secret hidden blog. (Via Kaus).
"SO THEN, Condi's running, right?"
CATHY SEIPP writes on Richard Feynman, who is one of my wife's heroes because (1) Her father knew and liked him; and (2) She admires anyone who stands up to stuffed shirts. And here's a nice Feynman reminiscence: "I sat next to him at dinner once, and (since it was expected of those in such a setting) I asked him a physics question. Which, by the way, I now realize was not a very smart question, and I'm too embarrassed about that to repeat it. He answered my dumb question, however, with grace, clarity, and detail. One of life's high points."
THE COUNTERTERROR BLOG has a roundup on reports of Zawahiri's death. I hope they're true, but I'm not popping any corks just yet.
BIG DEVELOPMENTS WITH IRAN: Publius has a roundup on the end to negotiations. Meanwhile, The Officers' Club speculates on what's to come. Nothing very pretty, is a safe bet.
I'LL BE ON HUGH HEWITT in a few minutes, talking about PorkBusters, Shadegg, etc. You can listen online here.
UPDATE: Ian Schwartz has audio.
NATIONAL REVIEW is endorsing John Shadegg for House Majority Leader:
There are three imperatives for the House GOP in the current environment that threatens its majority: Can it clean up its image? Can it reform practices that have at best made for sloppy governance and at worst contributed to corruption? And can it pursue policies that restore the trust of its political base and restore a purpose to an often direction-less majority? Shadegg is the best candidate on all counts.
He also gets some grudging praise from the Left, as AZCongressWatch writes: "They could do a hell of a lot worse than Shadegg." Which, based on experience, means they probably will . . . . But maybe not. (Via Blogometer).
SONIA ARRISON on nanotechnology regulation: "Not only can too many regulations strangle innovation in the cradle, but over-regulation can ironically cause under-regulation, leading to safety hazards." Couldn't have said it better myself!
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Here's a joint statement by a number of bloggers on the House leadership election:
We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.
We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.
But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.
As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.
N.Z. Bear, The Truth Laid Bear
Hugh Hewitt, HughHewitt.com
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.com
Kevin Aylward, Wizbang!
La Shawn Barber, La Shawn Barber's Corner
Lorie Byrd, Polipundit
Jeff Goldstein, Protein Wisdom
John Hawkins, Right Wing News
John Hinderaker, Power Line
Jon Henke / McQ / Dale Franks, QandO
James Joyner, Outside The Beltway
Mike Krempasky, Redstate.org
Michelle Malkin, MichelleMalkin.com
Ed Morrissey, Captain's Quarters
Scott Ott, Scrappleface
John Donovan / Bill Tuttle, Castle Argghhh!!!
If you're interested in signing on, go here.
UPDATE: It's already got a mention in the National Journal Blogometer.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Thinking Things Through has posted a list of Republican House members and their phone numbers, for those who would like to weigh in.
And there's more coverage of this statement at The Hotline blog: "Last week On Call speculated about whether the GOP leadership elections could 'inflame a Miers-like trigger point in the ligaments connecting GOP bloggers to the party establishment,' and as of this afternoon, that might be happening."
MORE: Professor Bainbridge has signed on, and makes a good observation: "Leaders who believe in small government would be a plus. Big government, after all, was the root cause of the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal."
Overall, the effort seems to be getting a lot of attention already.
AND MORE: Still more coverage, via Daniel Glover.
And Jon Henke thinks it represents an insurgency by the libertarian right.
A SHADEGG ENDORSEMENT over at RedState.
CATHY YOUNG: "But in fact, while I'm sure that Alito is a highly qualified jurist and an intelligent and decent man, I think that concerns about his attitudes toward individual rights, civil liberties and state power are justified."
(Via Mondo Alito).
SHORTER ZHIRINOVSKY: "Make that scary woman stop scaring me."
JAKE TAPPER: "For Alito, it's all over but the votin'....It does not appear that the Democrats inflicted any real damage on the Supreme Court nominee, excepting of course his wife's mascara." Austin Bay has related thoughts.
SCIENCE FICTION UPDATE: I'm reading Ken MacLeod's Learning the World: A Scientific Romance, and liking it a lot so far. In its smart-but-low-tech aliens it's vaguely reminiscent of Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky. One difference: The heroine is a blogger, though they call it "biologging" in the story. Is this a trend or something?
JOHN SHADEGG IS NOW IN the House leadership race. I don't know a lot about him, but I think it's good that the race is opening up.
I'd like to see the candidates talking about how they're going to reform the House to make it more transparent and accountable. So, I suspect, would a lot of other people. More on that later, but these suggestions from Mark Tapscott are a good place to start, and I'd like to see the candidates talking about them.
UPDATE: Here's more on Shadegg from the Post, and here's an AP story on the race.
DEBATING THE "FAIR TAX" at the Washington Post. (Via TaxProf).
Beneath the rumble of the Abramoff scandal and the Alito confirmation, a pretty spirited argument is taking place within the Democratic Party: not just the usual soul-searching about finding a winning message for 2008, but about the war and national security and the essence of what the party stands for.
You can't build a successful party around Bush-hatred, even though it's good for fundraising.
CONSERVATIVES MAY BE HEADING FOR A MAJORITY in Canada, according to Ed Morrissey.
CALIFORNIA -- The one-cow state: "Now taxing the hell out of the Malibu Mafia to pay for improving healthcare for the poor emotionally hits the all the right notes for me (I'm the Armed Liberal, remember). But I'm grown-up enough to notice that what feels good emotionally doesn't necessarily make for good policy."
MY RESPONSE TO JARON LANIER is up now, over at Cato Unbound: Coming up next: John Perry Barlow and David Gelernter.
RED ON RED in Iraq.
FORGET THE NSA: Look at what the USDA IS DOING:
While fewer than 100 cases have been prosecuted using satellite imaging since the RMA started its crackdown in 2001, data mining _ coupled with satellite imaging _ pinpoints about 1,500 farms annually that are put on a watch list for possible crop fraud, Hand said. Ground inspections are done on the suspect farms throughout the growing season.
The agency says its spot checklist generated by the satellite data has saved taxpayers between $71 million and $110 million a year in fraudulent crop insurance claims since 2001.
The agency stepped up its enforcement after the Agriculture Risk Protection Act of 2000 mandated it use data mining to ferret out false claims, Hand said. Every year, it ships claims data to the Center for Agriculture Excellence at Tarleton State University in Stephensville, Texas, where analysts look for anomalies in claims. They generate a list of claims for further investigation, with satellite imaging pulled on the most egregious cases.
Just as U.S. satellites kept track of things like the wheat harvest in the former Soviet Union, other countries have also launched satellites to monitor American crops. Germany, France and others have satellites monitoring crop conditions, and many other private firms sell those images in the U.S.
"Everybody spies on everybody. I was stunned to hear that myself," Edwards said. "Someday, I may have to rely on a French satellite to convict an American citizen."
David Brin's The Transparent Society is looking more prophetic all the time.
January 12, 2006
OVER AT CATO UNBOUND, ERIC S. RAYMOND has posted a reply to the Jaron Lanier essay on Internet openness that I noted earlier. My reply will be up tomorrow. Still to come: John Perry Barlow and David Gelernter.
BIDEN: The gift that keeps on giving. The sad thing is that he's one of my favorites on the Committee . . . .
(Via Mondo Alito).
A SHAKE-UP at the Boston Globe?
GUILTY AFTER ALL: A while back, I linked to a story about efforts to get DNA testing to find out if executed convict Roger Coleman was guilty after all.
Well, they've done the test, and here are the results:
A new round of DNA tests that death penalty opponents believed might finally prove that an innocent man was executed in the United States confirmed instead that Roger Keith Coleman was guilty when he went to the electric chair in 1992.
In a case closely watched by both sides in the death penalty debate, Gov. Mark Warner announced that testing on DNA taken from sperm proved Coleman committed the 1981 rape and murder of his sister-in-law, Wanda McCoy.
In a way this is a "dog bites man" story, but on the other hand, there's this bit from the same report:
Coleman went to his death proclaiming his innocence, and a finding that he was unjustly executed would have been explosive news that almost certainly would have had a powerful effect on the public's attitude toward capital punishment.
Not this time, though.
A TIMELINE for nanotechnology development. I can't vouch for its accuracy (who could?) but it looks plausible.
NIKON is dropping its 35mm cameras almost completely. This will bum a lot of people out, but it was inevitable.
BRIAN ANDERSON warns of efforts to crush dissent in America.
PROTESTS in Mongolia. Registan has a roundup with links and photos.
THE KOS crowd isn't happy.
UPDATE: They're not alone.
I WROTE ABOUT ANYA KAMENETZ'S Generation Debt here a while back. Now Daniel Gross gives it a thumbs-down in Slate:
Look. It's tough coming out of Ivy League schools to New York and making your way in the world. The notion that you can be—and have to be—the author of your own destiny is both terrifying and exhilarating. And for those without marketable skills, who lack social and intellectual capital, the odds are indeed stacked against them. But someone like Kamenetz, who graduated from Yale in 2002, doesn't have much to kvetch about. In the press materials accompanying the book, she notes that just after she finished the first draft, her boyfriend "proposed to me on a tiny, idyllic island off the coast of Sweden." She continues: "As I write this, boxes of china and flatware, engagement gifts, sit in our living room waiting to go into storage because they just won't fit in our insanely narrow galley kitchen. We spent a whole afternoon exchanging the inevitable silver candlesticks and crystal vases, heavy artifacts of an iconic married life that still seems to have nothing to do with ours." The inevitable silver candlesticks? Too much flatware to fit in the kitchen? We should all have such problems.
APPLE HAS PUT UP a series of podcasts on how to podcast. You need iTunes to listen, though it's free.
MICHAEL FUMENTO looks at the dark side.
GOOD NEWS FROM NEW ORLEANS:
If you drive into New Orleans from the airport the back way, down Jefferson Highway to St. Charles Avenue, everything on the river side is as gorgeous and decadent as ever. Some live oaks have toppled, and many magnolias have died, but all the way to the French Quarter, the shops and restaurants are open, and people have come home.
It's not that good everywhere, though.
UPDATE: Several readers say that this paints an overly rosy picture of New Orleans' recovery, even along this route. Not having been there, I can't say, but certainly the overall picture isn't as rosy as this bit, as noted. Here's an extensive blog report, with some photos, from earlier this month.
IRANIAN NUCLEAR BRINKSMANSHIP: Austin Bay offers link-rich commentary.
SOXBLOG ON ALITO: "From a tactical point of view, this has been the Democrats’ worst week since John Kerry saluted and said 'Reporting for duty.'"
MERYL YOURISH crunches the numbers on terror attacks in Israel.
HERE'S A LIST OF ABRAMOFF POLITICAL DONATIONS: He got around.
HEH: "Evan Coyne Maloney, the thinking teenybopper's heartthrob."
The InstaWife: "Well, that's true!"
SOME DRUG-RELATED ADVICE for German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
German firms once dominated the biopharmaceutical field. Known as the “medicine chest of Europe,” German drug makers spawned U.S. divisions that are now multinationals in their own right. But today, as The Philadelphia Inquirer detailed in a recent series, there is not one German company among the top ten drug-makers.
German medical and biopharmaceutical firms are now lagging far behind their younger cousins in the U.S. when it comes to developing the new “wonder drugs” that are shaping the 21st century: By some estimates, U.S. labs are churning out 70 percent of all new drugs.
A range of shortsighted government policies did much of the damage.
I hope that doesn't happen here. People tend to take innovation for granted.
THE INSTA-WIFE AND I watched this Ann Coulter documentary yesterday. Here's her review. I find Coulter rather over-the-top, though she comes across much better in the documentary than in her columns or TV appearances.
A SERENITY SEQUEL?
"We did so well on [Amazon.com] with the Firefly box set and the performance of that helped us get the movie made. We wish the audience would get up and go to the theater, but it shows that they like to keep coming back and revisiting the world Joss created." Serenity made $25 million at the domestic box office after it was released Sept. 30.
Whedon and his crew are waiting to see how well the DVD numbers go before proceeding with a Serenity sequel, Peristere said. "We really hope to return to this work," he said. "We love the characters. It's fun storytelling, and we all love using our talents. ... It all depends on Joss. He's not giving up on the characters. He had incredible writers who had a million stories to tell, and we're all just hanging out and seeing what the world has to give us, and given the opportunity we'll make more."
I'd like that to happen. (Via Dean's World.)
HE'S DOOMED, THEN: "The only thing standing between Joe Biden and the presidency is his mouth."
The Bush Administration would be well-advised to let these hearings run on as long as possible.
THE BELMONT CLUB looks at Venezuela and "Peak Oil."
THE CARNIVAL OF TOMORROW is up!
January 11, 2006
SOME INTERESTING PORKBUSTERS SUGGESTIONS from Mark Tapscott. Applying the Freedom of Information Act to Congress seems like a no-brainer, though Congress may well disagree . . . .
FROM THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER, a report on regulation of nanotechnology.
My thoughts can be found in this article from the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology. Also, here are some thoughts from the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, and here's my report from the EPA's Science Advisory Board meeting that I attended a while back. Meanwhile, interestingly, here's a polling report saying that the public in the U.S. and Canada trusts nanoscientists more than regulators.
A DESIRE NAMED STREETCAR: That's about as cool a title for a policy paper on mass transit as you're ever likely to see.
AN OUTBREAK of ABS dependency among drivers?
IT'S AS IF THEY'RE ALL CROOKS, or something.
MONDO ALITO is a special all-Alito-all-the-time blog at PJ Media.
UPDATE: If I'd watched the whole thing, I'd be crying, too. Er, if I were still awake . . . .
ANOTHER UPDATE: A bad review from Ann Althouse:
Durbin accused of Alito of seeking out ways to decide cases against the little guy and even tried to connect a decision of Alito's to the recent mining disaster. Alito defended himself in his usual way: I decide cases according to the law. That case relating to mining was about the statutory definition of "mine," and the above-ground pile of coal at issue in the case did not fit the definition.
"Pile of coal" = "mine," eh? I've seen stranger legal arguments, but it's hard to imagine that this played well on TV.
MORE: David Corn: "It doesn't appear to me that the Democrats are striking fear into the hearts of Alito supporters."
Meanwhile John Cole notes a missed opportunity by the Democrats.
STILL MORE: Kaus is unimpressed with Adam Nagourney's coverage in the NYT ("embarrassingly, coccooningly wrong") but thinks that John McIntyre of RealClearPolitics has it right. Dog bites man!
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Larry Kudlow weighs in on the House Majority Leader's race: "In my opinion, the Blunt posse’s incestuous, backroom exchange of favors and money is the last thing Republicans need right now. What the GOP does need is a House majority leader with integrity and a passionate, fiery commitment to righting the wayward ship."
Evan Coyne Maloney and Stuart Browning on Independent Documentaries
IT'S ANOTHER PODCAST: We were going to run this later, but with the American Film Renaissance happening this weekend, we decided to go ahead and post this new podcast interview with independent documentarians Evan Coyne Maloney and Stuart Browning of On the Fence Films, talking about looking for the Men's Center on campus, how technology is changing the documentary-film business (and maybe reducing its leftward tilt), and the difference between Canadian hopitals and Canadian veterinarians. They've got two films coming out soon: Indoctrinate U., about politics on campus, and Dead Meat, about the Canadian healthcare system, both of which you can read about by following the link.
You can listen to the interview by clicking here, and it's also available via iTunes or the InstaPundit RSS 2.0 feed. I think you'll also find the interview audio better on this episode than on the previous one. (The producer, as always, is soliciting comments.) And check out Evan's blog, too.
AVIAN FLU UPDATE: Good news or bad news? I'm not sure:
Two young brothers, ages 4 and 5, who have tested positive for the dreaded A(H5N1) avian virus but shown no symptoms of the disease were being closely watched at Kecioren Hospital here on Tuesday. Doctors are unsure whether they are for the first time seeing human bird flu in its earliest stages or if they are discovering that infection with the A(H5N1) virus does not always lead to illness.
In any case, the highly unusual cluster of five cases detected here in Turkey's capital over the last three days - all traceable to contact with sick birds - is challenging some of the doctors' assumptions about bird flu and giving them new insights into how it spreads and causes disease. Since none of the five have died, it is raising the possibility that human bird flu is not as deadly as currently thought, and that many mild cases in Asian countries may have gone unreported.
Curiouser and curiouser.
DO IT YOURSELF: "The ugly reality of being energy independent hit today. Some gunk got into our generator’s carb, rendering it inoperable on a day when we really needed it." On the other hand, a guy accidentally dug up our gas line the other day, and there was nothing I could do about that except wait for the gas company to fix it.
FACES FROM THE FRONT looks at the New York Times' "amour for Armour."
UPDATE: A related post from The Mudville Gazette.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Where should PorkBusters go next? I just got off the phone with N.Z. Bear, and we have some ideas, but we decided that we should take advantage of all the smart folks in the blogosphere. You can post comments in his post soliciting suggestions.
STIFF COMPETITION: If you're watching the Alito hearings, Daniel Drezner is offering a prize for "finding the single dumbest thing a Senator says during the hearings."
UPDATE: It's "Whack-a-Pol -- the sport of bloggers!" Meanwhile, Orin Kerr and Howard Kurtz round up reaction to yesterday's hearings.
OKAY, THIS IS COOL: Via a big double-page ad in BPM magazine, I noticed the Numark iDJ iPOD DJ Mixer. I guess vinyl really is dead. Numark's site has a (somewhat cheesy) video of the iDJ in action.
UPDATE: Reader Jim Carmignani emails: "This product was in Target’s ad in my Sunday Chicago Tribune! My oldest daughter is already begging for one." That's good news for Numark, I guess, though it's pretty cheap -- the big beneficiary may actually be Apple, since everyone who gets a iDJ will need two iPods. . . .
MORE ON AVIAN FLU over at GlennReynolds.com. And here's a small bit of good news:
World Health Organisation (WHO) officials said that the 14 cases of avian flu recently discovered in Turkey were contracted through contact with infected animals and that there is absolutely no evidence that human-to-human transmission is occurring.
It'll stay that way, of course, right up until it doesn't.
RADIOBLOGGER is serving up Joe Biden Princeton waffles.
JOHN MERLINE writes on media distortions and the Sago mine disaster.
Heck, you can't even trust those guys to get a flaming mouse story right, though as far as I know nobody managed to blame that on lax Bush Administration standards for small-rodent ignition safety.
AN ARMY OF Clyde Tombaughs.
January 10, 2006
OVER AT BLACKPROF.COM, Shay Riley writes: "If left to parental choice, I'd bet money that one would be hard-pressed to find a secular school in black communities."
MORE ON THE "ANNOYING INTERNET SPEECH" STATUTE, by Eugene Volokh, who thinks there's reason to be troubled after all.
ANGRY ALUMNI at UCLA. Angry legislators in Pennsylvania.
PUBLIUS NOTES big events in Ukraine, plus coffee chaos in Caracas.
JACK SHAFER NOTES that American media organizations value the lives of their colleagues more highly than the lives of other Americans:
Sitting on newsworthy information is an unnatural act for most reporters—some would say unprofessional—and nobody can argue that the kidnapping of Jill Carroll isn't newsworthy. By effortlessly banding together across several time zones to squelch information in the name of protecting one colleague in Baghdad, American journalists placed themselves in a hypocritical position. Didn't their leading newspaper just publish national security information over the objections of a White House that protests that the story endangers the lives of millions of Americans?
Why yes, it did.
CORY MAYE UPDATE: Radley Balko reports:
As I've mentioned before, Cory Maye's lawyer on appeal is Bob Evans, who also happens to be the public defender for Jefferson Davis County. For ten years, Evans has also served as the public defender for the town of Prentiss, the seat of Jefferson Davis County.
It now appears that the Prentiss Board of Aldermen have fired Evans as the Prentiss public defender. His transgression? Representing Cory Maye. Evans told me last month that he'd been warned that if he agreed to take this case, he could well be fired. Looks like whoever warned him was correct.
The whole thing smells.
BARONE ON RISEN: Ouch. (Via RWP).
VIRGINIA POSTREL has thoughts on bloggers and books.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Sean Davis of Senator Coburn's office sends this argument against pork:
Pork projects, sometimes referred to as earmarks, are wasteful spending projects that are directly requested by members of Congress and are not subject to competitive bidding requirements. One of the most well-known examples of these projects is the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska. However, Congressional spending bills are littered with these types of projects. According to Citzens Against Government Waste, a government watchdog that tracks federal spending, the number of pork projects in 2005 totaled nearly 14,000 at a cost of more than $27 billion, up from 1,439 projects in 1995. Thus, in only ten years, the number of wasteful pork projects increased by 970 percent! . . .
The problem with pork, however, is not just its size. The entire earmarking process corrupts Congressional decision-making and erodes the confidence of the American public. To give you a recent example, last June Senator Coburn offered a series of amendments to strike entirely unnecessary pork projects from a spending bill to fund the departments of Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development. Specifically, Senator Coburn questioned the propriety of spending taxpayer dollars on a parking garage in Nebraska and a sculpture park in Washington. Senator Patty Murray of Washington, who is also the highest ranking Democrat on the relevant appropriations subcommittee, took to the Senate floor and threatened those who were inclined to eliminate her sculpture park. “What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” she said. “And I tell my colleagues, if we start cutting funding for individual projects, your project may be next.” Her threat apparently worked, as Senator Coburn’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 86 to 13.
At times, however, Senators never even have the option or ability to vote for or against specific earmarks. In a practice that has become all too common, brand new earmarks and pork projects that were never voted on or considered are often added in a conference report, long after a bill has passed each chamber of Congress – and Senators never have the chance to strike the new projects. To make matters worse, it is not uncommon for Senators to have mere minutes to read a spending bill that may be hundreds of pages long and chock full of pork.
The effect of this process is that high-paid lobbyists who get their project requests inserted at the last minute end up with more power than those who are actually elected to be caretakers of taxpayer dollars. John Fund wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Jack Abramoff “bragged that appropriations committees were ‘earmark favor factories.’” Relatives of elected officials even benefit from their proximity to power. The wife of Tom Daschle was an airline lobbyist while he was Senate Majority Leader, the sons of Minority Leader Harry Reid work as lobbyists in Nevada, and the son of Senator Ted Stevens (a senior member of the Senate appropriations committee) is the chairman of an Alaskan marketing organization that received $500,000 in federal appropriations to paint a salmon on a Boeing 737. The Los Angeles Times reported in June 2003 that “at least 17 senators and 11 members of the House have family members who lobby or work as consultants on government relations, most in Washington and often for clients who rely on the related lawmakers' goodwill.”
Todd Purdum, a former reporter for The New York Times, recently wrote that the lobbying problem is “broader than Mr. Abramoff” and added that “it also has to do with the astounding growth of the lobbying industry, a growth that has tracked the growth of the federal government itself.” Representative Martin Meehan, quoted later in Mr. Purdum’s article, added, “The scandal here is not that the rules were broken; the scandal is the rules themselves.” When a government spends $2.6 trillion a year, inserts itself into nearly every facet of daily life, and few rules exist to effectively curb (or even illuminate) untoward behavior, should the current lobbying scandal surprise anyone?
Lobbyists can get questionable earmarks inserted into bills at the last minute and elected members of Congress have no ability to amend or strike the earmarks. Through earmarking, members of Congress have the ability to steer taxpayer money to whomever and whatever they wish regardless of the merits. But shouldn’t elected officials also have the ability to strike wasteful earmarks that are added to conference reports under the cloak of night? Shouldn’t members of Congress have more than a few hours to review legislation that spends hundreds of billions of dollars? Shouldn’t taxpayers know which members Congress inserted which earmarks into federal appropriations bills? As they say, sunshine is the best disinfectant.
He's right -- it's not just the waste, it's the corruption. See this earlier post, too.
I THOUGHT that getting people's library records was supposed to be beyond the pale.
THE AMERICAN FILM RENAISSANCE festival is this weekend, a mecca for filmmakers who don't march in lockstep with Michael Moore. Here's the lineup.
DEREK CATSAM IS IN SOUTH AFRICA, and blogging on South African politics. Here's his latest.
SCIENCE FICTION UPDATE: Just read Jeff Duntemann's nanotech-gone-wrong thriller, The Cunning Blood, and liked it. Much of it takes place on a prison planet called Hell, where new arrivals are greeted with: "Welcome to Hell. Here is your accordion." I hope he sent a copy to Gary Larson.
MICHAEL TOTTEN wants you to send him to Iraq. I just sent him fifty bucks, as I think his reporting is worth at least that much to me.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: George Will writes:
The way to reduce rent-seeking is to reduce the government's role in the allocation of wealth and opportunity. People serious about reducing the role of money in politics should be serious about reducing the role of politics in distributing money. But those most eager to do the former -- liberals, generally -- are the least eager to do the latter.
He also has some thoughts on the Majority Leader contest:
Roy Blunt of Missouri, the man who was selected, not elected, to replace DeLay, is a champion of earmarks as a form of constituent service. If, as one member says, "the problem is not just DeLay but 'DeLay Inc.' " Blunt is not the solution. So far -- the field may expand -- the choice for majority leader is between Blunt and John Boehner of Ohio. A salient fact: In 15 years in the House, Boehner has never put an earmark in an appropriations or transportation bill.
Read the whole thing. Those interested in cutting pork may want to let their Representatives know.
MORE ON AVIAN FLU PREPAREDNESS, from Henry Miller.
See also my TCS column on what we've learned from avian flu already.
UPDATE: Lou Minatti emails with what he says is unreported good news: "There is very good news about avian influenza. It is far more widespread than previously thought, and few people infected by it are killed." Here's his post on the subject. I hope he's right, but I still think we need to prepare for the possibility that he's wrong. Most of the preparation, after all, will be equally useful in the face of other disease outbreaks.
MORE INTERESTING DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAQ, from Iraq the Model.
BLOGS THAT SHOULD BE TV SHOWS: But, really, "sweatshop" is such a pejorative term. I prefer to think of it as an "opportunity facility."
REUEL MARC GERECHT on propaganda in war:
Once again we are confronted with stories about how the Pentagon and its ubiquitous private contractors are undermining free inquiry in Iraq. "Muslim Scholars Were Paid to Aid U.S. Propaganda," reports the New York Times. Journalists, intellectuals or clerics taking money from Uncle Sam or, in this case, a Washington-based public relations company, is seen as morally troubling and counterproductive. Sensible Muslims obviously would not want to listen to the advice of an American-paid consultant; anti-insurgent Sunni clerics can now all be slurred as corrupt stooges.
There is one big problem with this baleful version of events. Historically, it doesn't make much sense. The United States ran enormous covert and not-so-covert operations known as "CA" activities throughout the Cold War. With the CIA usually in the lead, Washington spent hundreds of millions of dollars on book publishing, magazines, newspapers, radios, union organizing, women's and youth groups, scholarships, academic foundations, intellectual salons and societies, and direct cash payments to individuals (usually scholars, public intellectuals and journalists) who believed in ideas that America thought worthy of support.
It's difficult to assess the influence of these covert-action programs. But when an important Third World political leader writes that a well-known liberal Western book had an enormous impact on his intellectual evolution -- a book that, unbeknownst to him was translated and distributed in his country at CIA expense -- then it's clear that the program had value. It shouldn't be that hard for educated Americans to support such activity, even though one often can't gauge its effectiveness.
Read the whole thing.
THE MAZDA KABURA: I'd like one, please.
BILL HOBBS calls it quits.
GRAND ROUNDS is up!
January 09, 2006
SOME ADVICE FOR BUSH, from Iraqi blogger Alaa.
DECLAN MCCULLAGH: "Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity. . . . This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison." Based on Declan's description, this seems absurd, and almost certainly unconstitutional, to me. (And where does it fit within the federal government's enumerated powers?) Naturally, we have Arlen Specter to thank for it.
UPDATE: Kaimi Wenger says that Declan has misread the statute. There's some interesting discussion in the comments.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Orin Kerr, posting at 1:12 A.M., parses the statute and informs us that Declan is wrong. "It looks funny if you don't know the relevant caselaw, but in practice it simply takes the telephone harassment statute we've had for decades and applies it to the Internet." It's aimed at VOIP, apparently.
TIM BLAIR is rounding up the best quotes of 2005.
THE INSTAPUNDIT / DR. HELEN PODCAST is now on iTunes.
So, by the way, is the last Mobius Dick album, Embrace the Machine, thanks to a digital-distribution deal with Disgraceland Records. This deal consisted of me having beers with Disgraceland's Paul Noe, and having him say "want me to put your music on iTunes?" and me saying "yes."
THE CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES is up!
IDEABLOG SINCESLICEDBREAD, where I'm a guestblogger, has opened up voting on the reader-suggested ideas.
I WAS BUSY, but SCOTUSBlog liveblogged the Alito hearings today.
UPDATE: More here.
AVIAN FLU: READY, OR NOT? My TCS Daily column is up.
BOTH BARRELS ON THE GOP'S PROBLEMS: The WSJ editorializes that the GOP Congress has favored incumbency over ideas, with predictable results. Meanwhile, John Fund notes that pork is now political poison: "Republicans face being outflanked if they don't get ahead of the earmark scandal." And John McCain has jumped on the PorkBusters bandwagon with Tom Coburn, meaning that it will get a lot more media attention.
STANLEY KURTZ has responded to my earlier post on polygamy. His big worry: I'm too influential! Actually, there's a lot more to it than that, and I've got to get ready for a committee meeting followed by two classes, so further reply on my part will have to come later.
UPDATE: Well, the polygamy post generated considerable email. Reader Cameron Gressly sends a rather lengthy email, but here's the key part:
Polygamy may sound fairly innocuous to someone who has not lived in a polygamous culture, but if you were able to take a year or two off to live in say, Mali, you would not find it so impressive. The olygamous culture produces weak families with serious inter sibling and inter spousal rivalries - something that spills out into the society at large. Men marry, deceiving their first wives into believing that they will not do to them as their neighbors have done, then blithely bring home wife number two, then wife number three or more. The women, the wives, are expected to work to maintain their own offspring. African women have asked me why they should be expected to invest much in their marriage when the husband betrays them with co-wives. I have had African men tell me they did not understand why their father betrayed their mother with another wife. I have lived nearly 20 years in Africa, so this comes from first hand witness.
I've never been to Mali, but though my Nigerian family are not polygamous (Anglicans seldom are, with the quasi-exception of Prince Charles and his ilk), the stories I hear of polygamous wives asking how monogamous women can stand being the only one to look after a husband without help don't jibe with this. But there you are.
Clayton Cramer, meanwhile, sends a link to this post, arguing that child abuse, etc., is common in "polygamous subcultures" within the United States, such as splinter Mormon groups and the David Koresh cult. Well,this is no argument: When polygamy is criminal, it makes sense that criminals will be polygamists. Cramer also links to an earlier post of mine on Rick Santorum, but seems to miss the point.
However, this passage of Clayton's pretty much matches my view:
If two (or three, or four, or five) adults want to live together in "plural marriage" or have a "polyamorous" arrangement, I don't see any strong argument for the government knocking on the door and asking them to explain their actions. But I also don't see that the government has an obligation to give them any recognition or financial support. If your argument for your sexual relationships is based on a right to privacy, don't demand public recognition or assistance.
But why does any relationship produce an obligation on the part of the government to provide recognition or support? It's certainly true, as some other readers pointed out (and as Clayton's linked Mormon story reports) that some polygamous arrangements now are basically welfare scams. But that's a welfare issue, not a marriage issue.
Kurtz, on the other hand, says that Western marriage is based on "companionate love." I certainly hope so, but I wonder whether the cultural concern that he describes forms an adequate underpinning for legal requirements. (And wouldn't that, in itself, be an argument in favor of gay marriage, so long as it was based on companionate love?)
He also writes: "For me, the key issue is polyamory." Well, that's been around since the '60s (and still is: someone was just telling me that "the Knoxville swinger scene is unbelievable") -- though in my observations of those many who tried it in in my parents' generation, it fails a lot more than it succeeds. Not being a polyamorist myself, I'll leave the practical details to Eric S. Raymond or someone who can say more. But I do remember a conversation I had with Saul Levmore years ago, when U. Va. was thinking about banning student-faculty relationships. I observed that in my observation those usually didn't work out. "So what?" he responded. "Hardly any relationships work out!"
Having watched my parents' generation make fools of themselves experimenting with open marriage, I'm not overenthusiastic about polyamory or polygamy. But on the other hand, my experience is that people can make the most unpromising relationships work out well, and the most promising ones turn out badly. I'm also not at all convinced that the state is better at picking winners in this field than in others.
Meanwhile, I'm happy to say that I've gotten no hatemail on this post. Pejman may not be so lucky.
MYSTERY POLLSTER: "Do blogs represent the Democratic 'base?'"
PODCAST UPDATE: Lots of people want to know how we recorded the podcast yesterday. My setup is overkill, since I already had a recording studio. I already had this Mackie mixer, and connected it to the computer through this M-Audio interface box. We used these AKG condenser microphones. And this telephone interface box, which I wrote about last week, was key to doing the phone interviews. (The trouble with phone interviews, though, is that lots of people don't have landline phones anymore, and cordless/cell/VOIP connections don't sound as good. Sigh.) The sound was recorded into Adobe Audition (successor to my beloved Cool Edit Pro) and then I assembled the segments in Sonic Foundry Acid -- I could have done that in Audition, too, but I'm used to working with Acid, so I did it there. There's a newer version of Acid from Sony, but I haven't upgraded.
As I say, this is all probably overkill, but the only new item I had to buy was the telephone interface box. Judging by the level of interest, podcasting is about to explode -- it's even a cover story in this month's Electronic Musician. You can always read Podcasting for Dummies for more background.
UPDATE: Reader Jeff Smidler sends this Gizmodo link, along with a link to this M-Audio page. I told you it was going to be big.
ANOTHER UPDATE: I haven't used it myself, but lots of people like Audacity, a free sound editor program in both Mac and PC versions.
MORE: And Skypecasting is pretty cheap!
IT'S ANOTHER RNC BLOGGER EVENT: RightSideRedux is covering it, and has a list of other bloggers who are there.
THE CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS is up!
THE IRANIAN BAHA'I: An example of religious persecution that isn't getting much attention.
"REAL WAGE" SLAVE: Jon Henke has thoughts in response to Paul Krugman. I confess that the Krugman/Dole parallel had previously escaped me.
AGORA AND ANTIGORA: Jaron Lanier has an essay on Internet openness and its opposite over at Cato Unbound. John Perry Barlow, Eric S. Raymond, David Gelernter and I will all be posting replies this week -- mine is scheduled for Friday the 13th, which should set your expectations at an appropriate level where I'm concerned . . . .
January 08, 2006
A LETTER TO THE EUROPEANS from Victor Davis Hanson, and another one from Stephen Green. Plus, advice from Austin Bay.
They won't be able to say they weren't warned.
ALITO UPDATE: The New York Times editorial on Alito draws commentary from Ann Althouse and Keith Burgess-Jackson.
My position: I think that unlike Harriet Miers, Alito is clearly qualified. He'll probably be a good justice, but he certainly isn't my personal top choice. So if I've seemed unexcited here, it's because I am. Not opposed, or anything. Just unexcited.
UPDATE: I don't think that Senator Bernie Sanders will be much of a force in the confirmation hearings. If he is, it'll be the first time something like that has happened since the Goldwater presidency . . . .
And Professor Bainbridge has much more on the NYT editorial.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Read this post from TigerHawk, too.
BLOGGING AND LEGAL SCHOLARSHIP: Interesting account of an AALS panel on the subject.
The risk of distraction is certainly real, though it's perhaps overrated -- at least, plenty of people are equally distracted by email lists, public-service activities, political activism, etc. I think you're better focusing on outputs, making sure your scholarship and teaching are progressing. Then you can use your spare time for blogging or whatever. It's the pickle-jar theory of time management, and it works. Start with the big things, and you've got room for the little ones. Try to do it in the reverse order and you're screwed. At least that's how it works for me.
As for junior faculty worrying that their blogging may cost them tenure, well, it might -- but if you're seriously worried about that, it's probably a sign that your school has a major problem in the way of intellectual openness, and you should probably be thinking about going somewhere else.
UPDATE: More here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Christine Hurt weighs in on the women and blogging question.
MORE: Much more here and here. Both are must-reads, with links to lots of other posts.
JACK ABRAMOFF was a very busy man.
UPDATE: Read this post from Marc Cooper, too.
The InstaPundit - Dr. Helen Podcast
PODCASTING COMES TO INSTAPUNDIT: This was actually Helen's idea, and with the book done I finally had some time. The first InstaPundit/Dr. Helen podcast is online, and you can play it by clicking here.
Today's episode features an interview with blogger Michelle Malkin, talking about her book Unhinged, her life as a blogger, the Washington Post and the Bill Roggio affair, the Condi Rice presidency, and whether she plans to follow in the footsteps of Wonkette.
Also, a musical interview with Audra Coldiron, of Audra and the Antidote, about how the Internet makes it possible to be a mother, a musician, and a web designer, plus how her high school horrors led to adult creativity, and a surprising enthusiasm for homeschooling.
If you want to subscribe, the RSS 2.0 feed is here. (It's also in the right-hand column). Just copy the link and paste it into your podcast-listening software; then you'll get new episodes automatically.
If you've got suggestions for future shows, drop 'em in the comments over at Helen's blog -- she's the producer.
UPDATE: I guess podcasting is inherently unconservative. That's okay!
HELEN'S HEART T-SHIRT is mentioned in a story in the Chicago Tribune about the medical t-shirt company MedTees.com, run by Northwestern cardiologist Wes Fisher. Excerpt:
The MedTees T-shirts are the brainchild of Evanston Northwestern physician Wes Fisher and his wife, Diane. Fed up with a culture that they say resists the natural processes of aging and illness like leprosy, the Fishers' idea allows patients and people with illnesses to poke fun at their ailments.
"It's kind of a countercultural idea," Wes Fisher said in the kitchen of his home. "People in Western culture really don't think it's OK to have an illness or be sick. We have a media image of the perfect body."
The MedTees site has a number of different t-shirts, but they're happy to get suggestions for new ones. And Fisher has a blog, too.
HOWARD DEAN AND SAM ALITO: A musical dialogue.
WORRYING ABOUT POLYGAMY: There's been a lot of that on the right lately, much of it tied to questions of whether polygamy is being used to "normalize" gay marriage, or the reverse.
There's a pretty good argument that polygamy is usually bad for the societies it appears in, producing a large surplus of sullen, unmarriageable young men. On the other hand, those are usually societies in which women, especially -- but men, too -- are mostly poor and uneducated. If polygamy were ever to become popular in the United States, which seems unlikely to me, I doubt it would look much like polygamy in, say, Mali.
I'm occasionally amused by the implication that there's something unnatural about polygamy, though: It's quite possibly the most common form of marriage in human society, and certainly far too common to dismiss as some sort of perversion. (Heck, read your Old Testament). But I think that most of the polygamy-talk now is just a symptom of the gay-marriage debate, rather than a genuine freestanding concern.
The solution to all of this, of course, is to separate marriage and state. There's no reason why the government should be involved in this sort of thing (the origin of Tennessee's statute requiring marriage licenses, it turns out, was a desire to ensure that county clerks got fees, not exactly an overwhelming justification) and there's no reason why people's private living arrangements should be part of public debate. That's my take, anyway.
RON BAILEY: "Has science become politicized? A better question might be: When has it ever not been?"
THIS SOUNDS COOL: "The SkyScout is a revolutionary, one of a kind, patented handheld device that instantly identifies and/or locates any celestial object visible to the naked eye, providing educational and entertaining information, both in text and audio." Thanks to reader Paul Music for the link.
JOEL SHEPHERD: Liberté Chérie.
THE WASHINGTON POST has done the grudging minimum by running a correction on its Bill Roggio coverage. But while the correction notes that the story by Doug Struck and Jonathan Finer got the facts wrong, it doesn't make clear that those factual errors undermine the point of the story, which was an effort to paint Roggio as a stooge of the military/blogosphere complex.
Bill has more thoughts on the subject here.