Archive for December, 2005

December 31, 2005

PATTERICO looks at the L.A. Times’ 2005.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has some blog-related highlights from 2005, too: “Judging from the thoroughly unhinged tone of the old media, I’d say bloggers had a fabulous year.”

December 31, 2005

CONSEQUENCES FOR “BAGHDAD KID” Faris Hassan — but I agree with K-Lo that letting him blog is a good idea.

December 31, 2005

WE’RE BACK, but I have to unpack and cook dinner. Regular blogging will commence later. Meanwhile, the latest Blog Mela is up, and so is Fairtax Friday and the Carnival of Knitting.

Also, Ed Morrissey notes some shocking news on renditions that ought to be getting more play.

UPDATE: On Morrissey’s post, Tim Worstall emails: “Hey, I think we know what Sandy Berger was stuffing into his pants now.”

December 31, 2005

STRATEGYPAGE:

In the two countries that Islamic terrorism was born in, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the terrorists are taking a beating. This is good news that doesn’t get much attention, but it says much about the future of Islamic terrorism. In Egypt, the majority of the population continues to be turned off by the seemingly random violence of Islamic terrorists. . . .

Islamic terrorists are aware of this image problem, and there is a, at times, public debate among the leadership over the need to avoid attacks that kill Moslems, especially women and children. Another tactic that works, is good works. Charity projects are good for the image of Islamic terrorists. This has worked in the Palestinian territories (Hamas), Lebanon (Hizbollah), and Pakistan (many groups). However, the “charity” tactic also limits your choice of targets. For the moment, Palestine, Lebanon and Pakistan remain the main training grounds, and support bases for Islamic terrorism. Getting at these bases is difficult, because of the protective “good will” the Islamic terrorists have created.

Read the whole thing.

December 31, 2005

NEW TAX BREAKS FOR HYBRIDS:

Hybrid cars are a good bet for tax breaks in 2006. The new year will bring more savings for buyers of at least 13 gas-electric vehicles, with those showing the most improvement in fuel efficiency securing bigger tax breaks for their new owners.

The breaks will come in the form of tax credits, and they range from $3,150 for buyers of the Toyota Prius to $250 for Chevrolet’s Silverado pickup truck, according to an analysis by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Maybe I should have waited until 2006.

December 31, 2005

MORE ON DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAQ, from Iraq the Model.

December 31, 2005

JONAH GOLDBERG: “A new contender for dumbest story of the year makes a bid. The AP reports that the White House’s Orwellian website technology — they use a traffic counter! — is not technically illegal.”

I agree with Ann Althouse that it would be nice to have a national discussion on surveillance laws in light of new technology. The kind of coverage these topics are getting from our increasingly dysfunctional press, however, makes me wonder if such a discussion is even possible.

UPDATE: More from Althouse here: “I wonder if those who screamed loudest about the Plame leak and national security are equally outraged about this new leak?”

December 31, 2005

DAN RIEHL looks at the year in military heroism.

December 30, 2005

THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT has opened a probe into the NSA leaks. My guess is that the New York Times editors are going to wish they hadn’t called so loudly for an investigation of the Plame affair.

Meanwhile, Charles Fried has thoughts on the underlying matter.

December 30, 2005

LIKE THE DIE HARD MOVIES, the sequels just keep coming: “Tropical Storm Zeta formed Friday in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, another installment in a record-breaking hurricane season that officially ended last month.”

I see this as Mother Nature’s way of marking hurricane-blogger Brendan Loy’s wedding.

December 30, 2005

BOB KRUMM: Impeach Bush now! “So, yes, bring forth Rep. John Conyers’ articles of impeachment. It should be Speaker Hastert’s first order of business in the new year. Rush it to the floor for a vote a la Rep John Murtha’s demand for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. And when the motion is overwhelmingly defeated, perhaps then we can put all this nonsensical talk about impeachment behind us and finally focus instead on the nation’s future.”

December 30, 2005

J.D. JOHANNES has thoughts on “the Baghdad kid.”

UPDATE: Some interesting thoughts from Iraq the Model, too.

And in a semi-related matter, check out the graphs on violent deaths in Iraq over at Gateway Pundit.

December 30, 2005

MICHAEL SILENCE has some year-end thoughts on blogs and the blogosphere.

December 30, 2005

GORE IN ’08?

December 30, 2005

FINISHED READING RESONANCE, by Chris Dolley and Timothy Zahn, the other day. A pretty good Singularity story, with an interesting quantum-mechanical / multiverse spin.

UPDATE: The Amazon page says Timothy Zahn’s a coauthor, but I don’t think he really is. I don’t have the book with me at the moment, so I can’t check.

December 30, 2005

IT’S BEEN MORE ABOUT VIOLENT VIDEOGAMES AND CONGRESS over at GlennReynolds.com all week. Start here and scroll up, if you’re interested.

December 30, 2005

AFTER PROBLEMS WITH POWERBLOGS, Volokh is back up, though I think some other sites are still down.

December 30, 2005

COOKIES ON WEBSITES? Heaven forfend! Ed Morrissey notes the fizzling of the latest “espionage” story, and Jeff Jarvis observes: “This is getting ridiculous: The AP is treating the NSA’s use of web cookies as if it is Big Brother spying. They’re just cookies.” Found in abundance, as many have noted, on Big Media sites themselves.

December 29, 2005

Me and my nephew William Glenn Uti Reynolds, age 1.
SORRY FOR THE NON-BLOGGING: We’re up visiting my brother’s family. Email response is also likely to be somewhere between slow and nonexistent. Back later.

December 29, 2005

THE CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES IS UP: So is the Carnival of Education. Don’t miss the Carnival of the Liberated. And there are lots more carnivals listed at BlogCarnival.com.

December 29, 2005

IN THE MAIL: Behzad Yaghmaian’s Embracing the Infidel : Stories of Muslim Migrants on the Journey West.

December 29, 2005

STEPHEN GREEN reports on the birth of a new baby boy: “Given Melissa’s and my genes, the question wasn’t if he would be born with hair. The question was: How would he have it styled?”

December 29, 2005

MICKEY KAUS IS GLOATING over L.A. Times fact-checking problems. Meanwhile, still no word from the Washington Post on the factual errors in the Jonathan Finer and Doug Struck story that misreported on Bill Roggio’s blogging from Iraq. I know it’s the holidays, but this is still an embarrassment for the Post.

December 29, 2005

TOTALITARIAN TOURISM: The L.A. Weekly runs a lengthy report by Michael Totten on what it’s like to roam around Khadafy’s country.

December 29, 2005

DR. TONY has thoughts on political ethics reform, and suggests that it’s all for show.

I tend to agree.

December 29, 2005

J.D. LASICA looks at the top ten ways technology has transformed our culture in 2005. Meanwhile, Professor Bainbridge looks at the top ten wines of 2005.

Well, wine was a transformative technology, in its day!

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis hates end-of-year lists.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I wonder how Jeff feels about the Top Ten sexiest geeks? Some of the choices were obvious, others, well, not so much.

December 28, 2005

ROBERT KAPLAN was on Hugh Hewitt’s show earlier tonight, talking about his new book, Imperial Grunts : The American Military on the Ground, which I haven’t read but which Hugh seems to like. You can read a transcript of the very interesting interview over at Duane Patterson’s RadioBlogger site. Excerpt:

Yes, one of the things that I think really kind of unnerved the elite, is that while there are all these conferences and discussions in Washington and elsewhere about should we support Afghan warlords or not, should we create an Afghan national army or not, what should our foreign policy be in Yemen or Colombia or in Iraq. I discovered a world of basically working-class people, who were operationally far more sophisticated and knowledgeable about all these issues, who spoke languages, who had personalities that didn’t fit into any one neat division. They were evangelical, but they spoke two exotic languages. People like that who…so while all these discussions are taking place, foreign policy is being enacted on the ground by majors and sergeants and lieutenants, who are utterly oblivious to most of these discussions. And you know what? They’re doing these things very, very well.

Read the whole thing. Now if we could just get Hugh podcasting.

December 28, 2005

BILL ROGGIO has more on post-election developments in Iraq. So does Omar at Iraq the Model.

December 28, 2005

AN UNUSUAL REVIEW: People usually send me books, but the folks at Sumo Lounge emailed to ask if I’d review a beanbag chair. That’s not the kind of thing I usually do, but the Insta-Daughter had just been asking for one anyway, so I agreed. They sent me a review version of the Omni and I put it upstairs and let my daughter and her 14-year-old cousin who’s visiting for the holidays test it out.

I found the nylon covering a bit stiff (though happily, it should be easy to clean) but the girls pronounced it “fabulous” and seemed to really like it. (“Give them a great review” my daughter said.) If you’re looking for a beanbag chair, and don’t mind that it isn’t soft and fuzzy, you might give this one a try.

December 28, 2005

HERE’S MORE in the Ed Cone / John Tabin debate over Al Sharpton and “marginal” lenders.

As someone who generally favors free markets, I’d normally side with Tabin, and Sharpton, here. But many of the deals offered by a lot of these loan outfits are so bad that it’s hard to believe anyone agrees to them understanding what’s going on. The interest rates are so absurdly high that merely spelling out the deal would seem to be evidence that the borrower probably didn’t realize what was involved. I certainly agree that there’s a need for people with bad credit and low incomes to get banking services, and credit. But, really, I don’t think you can defend these kind of operations except on the most abstract grounds.

December 28, 2005

TURNABOUT IN MISSISSIPPI:

Using the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the government has alleged that Brown and local elections officials discriminated against whites. It is the first time the Justice Department has ever claimed that whites suffered discrimination in voting because of race. . . .

The Justice Department says Brown and local elections officials disenfranchised whites — challenging their voting status, rejecting their absentee ballots and telling voters to choose candidates according to race.

Brown says he has merely tried to keep white Republicans from voting in Democratic primaries. He says the lawuit is all political — an attempt to discredit him because the Democratic Party in eastern Mississippi has been doing so well at bringing new voters to the polls, which may mean someday soon that Mississippi, a red state, could turn blue.

“The Justice Department’s become an arm of the RNC,” Brown said.

The Justice Department would not comment, but county prosecutor Ricky Walker is a potential witness for the government. Walker was surprised when Brown recruited a black candidate who didn’t even live in the county to run against him. Walker, after all, is a Democrat.

Interesting development.

December 28, 2005

I’LL BE ON HUGH HEWITT’S SHOW in a few minutes, talking about various events including, I suspect, the Bill Roggio story. You can listen live online here if you’re so inclined.

December 28, 2005

POLITICIZING PTSD?

December 28, 2005

AUSTIN BAY declares the big story of 2005.

December 28, 2005

I GUESS KAUS WAS RIGHT:

Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 23% disagree.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans say they are following the NSA story somewhat or very closely.

Just 26% believe President Bush is the first to authorize a program like the one currently in the news.

(Via Ace).

December 28, 2005

GALILEO, GALILEO:

A European satellite shot into space Wednesday to launch the EU’s $4 billion US planned rival to the United States’ Global Positioning System. . . .

The European Union started the program out of concern that GPS, because of its military focus, could be cut off in some cases. Last year, U.S. President George W. Bush ordered plans for temporarily disabling GPS satellites during national crises to prevent terrorists from using the technology.

The European Space Agency says it will guarantee operation at all times, except in case of “the direst emergency.” It also says users would be notified of satellite problems within seconds.

A bit more background, here.

UPDATE: E.U. Referendum has much more:

This was Professor Heinz Wofis, former head of the European manned space programme, who cast doubt on the validity of the project, dismissing it as a “largely political” exercise, reflecting the nascent anti-Americanism of the EU, and arguing that costs had been underestimated. He suggested that the real cost could be as much as five times the headline figure.

Where, of course, the EU plans to make the system work financially is by using its regulatory power. It plans to make the system compulsory for its Single European Sky project, railway signalling systems and for road charging. Irrespective of the fact that an upgraded US system will be provided free of charge, the EU plans to levy users and thereby recover its costs though these means, effectively imposing a user tax on EU member states and their commercial enterprises.

Then there is also the payback in sales of military technology using GPS, which explains why, in particular, French aerospace contractors are so keen on the system, attracting the support of French defence minister Alliot Marie.

None of this, perforce, finds its way into today’s media coverage, which emphasises the “touchy feely” aspects, such as the mobile phones that “will enable people to determine their exact position, down to the very meter (sic), free of charge,” without also stating that such systems have their “big brother” aspect in that they will enable the authorities to keep track of everyone using such a system.

Read the whole thing.

December 28, 2005

MICHAEL TOTTEN is photoblogging Istanbul.

December 28, 2005

AN OLD MEDIA OUTFIT THAT GETS IT: That’s the analysis of Baen Books. Seems right to me.

December 28, 2005

BLOGS: “more popular than pizza, college football, guns, the National Football League, the mainstream media (no surprise), President Bush (ditto) and online poker combined.”

December 28, 2005

D’OH! A battery recall on the XM portables. Is it just me, or are we seeing more battery recalls lately?

December 28, 2005

PASSENGER-PHOTOBLOGGING the Alaska Air incident while it happened. Now that’s blogging. (Via Jarvis, who suggests a comparison with the big-media coverage.)

Meanwhile, I’m listening to the BBC on XM, interviewing a French blogger about continued car-burnings in Paris, and how they’re not getting much coverage from French media.

UPDATE: Uh oh.

December 28, 2005

ROSS DOUTHAT WRITES that movies have gotten small. I agree.

Last night, my sister-in-law and I watched The Stunt Man, a Peter O’Toole / Barbara Hershey film from 1980 that I’ve heard O’Toole call the best work of his career. The funniest line in the film (which isn’t at all the slapstick comedy that its title suggests, but which has its funny moments) is when a stunt man complains about all the runaway-horse scenes and explosions that won’t be in the film “Those people,” he sneers, “only care about the story.” Well, that’s not a problem with filmmaking these days. . . .

UPDATE: Hey, Max Boot is writing about Hollywood, too, though in a different vein. And yet, I think these criticisms are connected, somehow.

December 28, 2005

MELANA ZYLE VICKERS has more on colleges’ gender diversity problems:

At colleges across the country, 58 women will enroll as freshmen for every 42 men. And as the class of 2010 proceeds toward graduation, the male numbers will dwindle. Because more men than women drop out, the ratio after four years will be 60–40, according to projections by the Department of Education.

The problem isn’t new-women bachelor’s degree–earners first outstripped men in 1982. But the gap, which remained modest for some time, is widening. More and more girls are graduating from high school and following through on their college ambitions, while boys are failing to keep pace and, by some measures, losing ground. . . . The consequences go far beyond a lousy social life and the longer–term reality that many women won’t find educated male peers to marry. There are also academic consequences, and economic ones.

Read the whole thing.

December 28, 2005

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Bush didn’t lie!

On Nov. 20, the Tribune began an inquest: We set out to assess the Bush administration’s arguments for war in Iraq. We have weighed each of those nine arguments against the findings of subsequent official investigations by the 9/11 Commission, the Senate Intelligence Committee and others. . . . After reassessing the administration’s nine arguments for war, we do not see the conspiracy to mislead that many critics allege.

Read the whole thing. (Via Steven Antler).

December 28, 2005

MORE ON RECRUITING, from StrategyPage:

The U.S. Congress is giving the U.S. Army a recruiting edge over the other services. Thus Congress is finally recognizing something that everyone else has known for over 60 year; the army has a harder time recruiting people than the other services. All through the period of the draft, the army took most of the draftees, with the other services often taking none. People would rather volunteer for the navy, air force, or even the marines, rather than go into the army. As a result, the other services (which are in the process of laying off people), are not making much of a stink over all this.

Good.

December 28, 2005

MICKEY KAUS: John Murtha saved Bush’s presidency!

December 28, 2005

MORE ON DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAQ, over at Iraq the Model.

December 28, 2005

JONATHAN FINER AND DOUG STRUCK of the Washington Post weren’t available, but Hugh Hewitt did interview Bill Roggio regarding the problems with the Post story on his blogging. The transcript is online here.

UPDATE: LaShawn Barber has related thoughts.

December 28, 2005

UNSCAM UPDATE: Oil-for-food figure Benon Sevan makes a surprise appearance. Claudia Rosett has the story. My favorite bit: “There stood Benon Sevan. As one of the investigators describes it, Mr. Sevan came to the door ‘In shorts, no shirt, and sandals, smoking a cigar.’ Apparently everyone was surprised to come thus face-to-face.”

December 28, 2005

SPACE:2005 — not as exciting as Space: 1999, but at least there are no hostile aliens and bad 1970s haircuts. My TCS Daily column for this week looks at some major happenings, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin project.

December 27, 2005

ADVICE FOR AMAZON, reflections on digital stardom, and more: Jeff Jarvis is on a roll today.

December 27, 2005

POLISH TROOPS are staying in Iraq.

UPDATE: Here’s a roundup of blog reactions from PJ Media. Most people feel we owe the Poles some gratitude here, and they’re right.

December 27, 2005

I’VE BEEN MEANING to order Battlestar Galactica ever since Virginia Postrel wrote that it “may very well be the best show on TV and is certainly the most philosophical.” I don’t know why I never did — I guess the memory of the earlier, Lorne Green-based series from the 1970s (which wouldn’t fit Virginia’s description at all) got in the way.

But now James Poniewozik, writing in Time, ranks it his number one show of the year, and observes: “Most of you probably think this entry has got to be a joke. The rest of you have actually watched the show.” Okay, okay, I give.

And, yes, I could watch it on TV when it airs, but that never seems to work for my schedule. I could also break down and buy a TiVo, I guess, but I haven’t.

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg agrees on Battlestar Galactica.

December 27, 2005

RICH, FUTURISTIC GOODNESS: The Carnival of Tomorrow is up!

December 27, 2005

AUSTIN BAY is asking readers what were the big stories of 2005.

December 27, 2005

JUST BACK FROM IRAQ, Bill Roggio responds to a Washington Post article by Jonathan Finer and Doug Struck. Excerpt:

There are three problems with this article which require a response: the use of incorrect facts which could have been easily checked; the portrayal of my embed as an information operation; and equating U.S. military information operations with al-Qaeda propaganda efforts.

Read the whole thing. I hope the Post will run a response and correct the errors.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt and Paul Mirengoff are unhappy with the Post.

Bill Quick, meanwhile, says the Post reporters are afraid of competition.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Post is accused of engaging in a FUD campaign. “This is fascinating stuff because the production of FUD is a sign of an organization whose product is facing a competitive threat that it can’t beat head to head.”

Meanwhile, another freelancer who covered Iraq on his own initiative, J.D. Johannes, weighs in, too.

And Mark Tapscott writes that this will be a test for the Post in terms of handling major errors regarding the blogosphere. He also wonders how the mistakes that Roggio outlines made it past all those layers of editors and fact-checkers we hear about.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: The Belmont Club has more thoughts.

And Ed Morrissey writes: “I have to express some disappointment with the Post in this instance.”

MORE: Dymphna has further thoughts, though I don’t endorse her John-Lennon-inspired vision.

And Gateway Pundit notes that Egyptian bloggers are unhappy with the Post, too.

As Ed Morrissey notes, in general the WP has been much fairer than most American outlets. I’m a bit surprised by this, and I hope they’ll make it right.

December 27, 2005

A COUPLE OF INTERESTING ITEMS on military personnel matters, from StrategyPage. First overwork is a problem in retaining NCOs:

The U.S. Department of Defense has found that the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan is causing many troops to leave the service, but not for the reasons you would think. The biggest complaints involve the heavy work load, and the time spent away from families, and time to relax and recuperate. Danger and physical risk is not a major factor. As a practical matter, the losses from the heavy work load are not a major problem, because the reenlistment rate has gone up since the war began. But numbers are not everything, because it’s the experienced NCOs and officers getting out that do the damage.

Second, sexual harassment isn’t much of an issue:

Ever since American women were first recruited for regular military service 90 years ago, there were fears that sexual harassment would be a disruptive influence. Because the military is a very disciplined organization, this has proved not to be the case. There is sexual harassment, but much less than in civilian jobs. A recent Department of Defense survey of 76,000 members of the military reserves found that 53 percent of men and 33 percent of women believed there was less sexual harassment than in civilian jobs. In addition, 44 percent of the women saw no difference in the degree of sexual harassment at military and civilian workplaces. . . .

Because the troops are no longer allowed access to booze or prostitutes in the war zone, and about fifteen percent of the troops are female, there is a lot of sexual activity among the troops. This is largely against the regulations. But enforcing a ban on consensual sex is seen as counter-productive, and the hanky-panky is tolerated. For the moment.

That seems wise.

December 27, 2005

GRAND ROUNDS is up!

December 27, 2005

COOL AND CHEAP: I remember being impressed with a — hellishly expensive — 10MB HardCard, back in about 1984. Now I just “installed” one of these 60 GB shirt-pocket hard drives, powered by USB, and cheap enough that it was pretty much an impulse buy; I wanted something easily portable to back up laptops. (It really is as small as it looks in the photos, too — only a little bigger than a deck of cards or a pack of cigarettes.) I use the quotation marks around “installed” because all I had to do was plug it into the USB port and it was ready.

Six thousand times the storage, at (if I recall correctly) about one-third or one-fourth the price, in a much more convenient package. If only everything got better as fast as computers and electronics do.

UPDATE: Reader Kevin Murphy emails: “Moore’s Law states that performance/price doubles every 1.5 years. Given 21 years, that would be a factor of 2^^14 or 16,384. Which is pretty close to 6000 times performance at 1/3rd the price. Pretty good long-term validation of Moore’s Law if you ask me.”

Meanwhile, Jim Skrydlak emails:

Your post today about your new shirt-pocket disk drive and the steadily declining cost of technology was right on (as usualy for your posts). I thought that it might interest you to know that, in the mid-1970s, disk drives came two to a box. The box was approximately the size of a washing machine. Eight boxes were, in turn, attached to a controller, which attached the whole string to a channel (I’m talking IBM 360/370 here). An individual drive (Model 3330-1) held 100 MB (200 MB for a box). The cost, including a pro-rata share of a controller, wa in excess of $1 per MB. We used to refer to the disk storage for a computer room as the “disk farm”, and a farm would, in fact, cover an acre or more.

None of that is even to mention the electric power consumption both to run the disk drives and to dissipate the heat nor the frequency with which there would be a problem with a drive, a controller or a (removable) disk pack, which was a stack of ten (I think) platters, each 13″ (I think) in diameter.

That’s before my time, though my computer-science Explorer post in high school used a Univac 494 (already obsolete then) that employed drum storage, which I think was even more primitive. It was big, loud, and impressive, though, something that few computers really are now. My washing machine, however, probably has more computing power.

Meanwhile, Jeff MacMichael reflects on how he used to carry his PC, uphill, to school in five-foot-deep snow. Me too. And not just on the way to school — it was uphill both ways!

Finally, reader Michael Yancey emails:

Oh, man, that brings back memories.

I sold a motorcycle to get money to buy a 20meg Hardcard. I remember its logo and graphics being a minty green. I remember I got $400 for the bike and the drive was every bit of that plus maybe $25. But, boy, that was speed, in those days.

Yeah, I had a Kaypro 4 — a CP/M machine with not one, but two floppies – which were both double-sided and double-density. I couldn’t afford a hardcard, though I think you could get them for Kaypros. One of my friends had one on (I believe) a Northstar machine, then favored by programmer-types for some reason.

And, actually, the Kaypro, primitive as it was, was a very satisfactory machine to write on.

December 27, 2005

ED CONE: “Last night during the 7 o’clock Simpsons on UPN I saw Al Sharpton doing a LoanMax commercial. It made me ill.”

UPDATE: John Tabin is defending Al Sharpton.

December 27, 2005

RADLEY BALKO ON HOMELAND SECURITY: “the most bumbling, error-prone, embarassing government agency in town.”

Which is saying something, really. But, to their credit (er, or at least non-detriment), the story that they sent agents to harass a college student who requested Mao’s “Little Red Book” via interlibrary loan is a hoax.

Democrats should be making a big stink about problems with Homeland Security, but that would require criticizing big government bureaucracies. There’s also the problem that many of them supported creating the DHS, even though it seemed pretty obvious at the time that it was a lousy idea.

December 27, 2005

CHRISTMAS RETAIL SALES look to have been pretty good, according to this article (subscription-only) from the Wall Street Journal. Excerpt:

Holiday spending climbed 8.7% ahead of last year, according to SpendingPulse, a retail-sales data service from MasterCard International’s MasterCard Advisors unit. Demand for flat-panel television sets, MP3 players and digital cameras helped spur gains, as did sales of home furnishings. But sales of jewelry fell this season following years of solid gains.

I blame that last on Jonah Goldberg’s relentless criticism of lame jewelers’ ads. But here’s the bigger news:

Online spending continued to explode this year, as retailers offered Web-only discounts and shipped gifts later than ever. Holiday retail sales on the Internet are expected to top predictions of $19.6 billion in sales this year, a figure that is 24% ahead of the $15.8 billion consumers spent online last holiday season, according to comScore Networks Inc., a Reston, Va., market-research firm.

I seem to remember some talking heads pooh-poohing online sales last week. Sounds like they were wrong.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt notes that this is an embarrassment for some.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Kevin Crosby sends this Reuters story, which is much more negative:

Online retailers’ shares fell in the first trading day after Christmas, as some said sales during the holiday shopping season were slower this year than in the past.

As Kevin notes, it would be nicer if we knew who the “some” were. The story also says that oil prices fell, dragging down the stock market. I’ve noticed that when oil goes up, it’s called bad for the market, and when oil goes down, it’s called bad for the market. Obviously, it should always stay exactly the same price. . . .

December 27, 2005

ROBERT BRUEGMANN’S Sprawl: A Compact History, gets a rather positive review in the Chicago Sun-Times. Excerpt:

Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman is equally enthusiastic.

“The intellectual perception of sprawl is a snobbish one that says it’s all crap, and Bob points out that it just ain’t that way,” Tigerman says.

“It’s not a black-and-white topic — in fact it’s terribly complex — and he goes through it all in a compelling argument that’s going to have a huge popular appeal. I’m not saying that Bob is a messiah and has all the answers, but it’s a really refreshing second look at what’s happening.”

Yes, it is. And, as NewsAlert notes, one nice thing about the suburban lifestyle is that “it beats having to rely on a transportation union to take you to work.”

December 27, 2005

BETTER ALL THE TIME: The Speculist’s roundup of under-noticed good news is up.

December 27, 2005

MICKEY KAUS: “Iraq the Model is telling me at least as much about what’s going on in Iraq as the New York Times these days.”

December 27, 2005

IN LIGHT OF THE “LITTLE RED BOOK” Homeland Security hoax, Jim Treacher is looking for a new synonym for “fake but accurate.”

December 27, 2005

THE INTERNET is increasingly affecting local politics according to this report. (Via Jeff Jarvis).

December 27, 2005

THE DIGITAL CAMERA CARNIVAL is up, over at Entropy Manor.

And if you’re in a Carnivalesque mood, also check out the Carnival of the Capitalists. Also the lawbloggers’ Blawg Review, where they’re passing out awards, the BritBlog Roundup, the Carnival of the Recipes, and, of course, the Carnival of the Cats.

And there are lots more carnivals here. Check ‘em out!

UPDATE: Haveil Havalim is up, too!

December 26, 2005

MORE REPRESSION in Egypt.

December 26, 2005

JIM LINDGREN notes that although the story of the “Little Red Book” incident has turned out to be a hoax, there’s a massive government censorship program on university campuses that has gone almost unnoticed.

December 26, 2005

THE SOUNDS OF silence. “Hillary Clinton. Has she said anything about the current domestic surveillance controversy?”

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus:

One reason the warrantless eavesdropping controversy may help, rather than hurt, Bush in the polls has more to do with the character of his administration than popular support for eavesdropping. . . . if the Bushies have really had the energy to secretly do all sorts of illegal spying against terrorists, it’s almost reassuring. At least they’ve been on the case, doing their job as they see it. The more thorough and secret the eavesdropping, the more reassuring on this score.

Maybe Hillary has figured this out.

December 26, 2005

TV FODDER: I mentioned earlier that Ray Kurzweil will be on Book TV at 10:15 Eastern tonight. Now David Boaz emails that Milton Friedman will be on Charlie Rose tonight at 11.

December 26, 2005

AMAZON’S PRICE DROP POLICY: I didn’t know about this:

Did you know that if the price on something you buy drops, within 30 days of your purchase date, Amazon.com will credit you the difference if you ask for it? It’s a not-advertised price drop policy that most people don’t know about and it’s saved me tons of money over the last few years.

It’s news to me. Thanks to reader Paul Engel for the tip.

December 26, 2005

PROFESSOR KENNETH ANDERSON: “Shame on Robert Kuttner for cheapening our collective heritage.”

I think that Lincoln’s reputation is beyond the poor power of Kuttner’s words to add or detract. That said, the notion that Kuttner would be guilty of partisan unfairness strikes me as less than shocking, though Anderson’s discussion suggests that bringing up the Civil War may have been a mistake on Kuttner’s part. But as Anderson says, “Charitably, Kuttner is out of his intellectual depth.”

UPDATE: John Rosenberg is also unimpressed with Kuttner.

More here, too.

December 26, 2005

HERE’S MORE on Jeff Bezos’ new space venture, Blue Origins. “The company is designing a spacecraft that will take off vertically like the classic sci-fi rocket, land the same way and carry three passengers. Depending on FAA approval, the earliest test flights in Texas could occur late next year.”

December 26, 2005

A LOOK AT bloggers and the information war.

December 26, 2005

MICHAEL YON has thoughts on truth and propaganda.

December 26, 2005

IRAQ THE MODEL has more on politics in Iraq, where things look to be heading in a positive direction.

December 26, 2005

SINGULARITY UPDATE: Ray Kurzweil was on NPR’s Talk of the Nation on Friday, talking about his book The Singularity is Near and technological change in general You can listen to audio here. Interestingly, the New York Times says that The Singularity is Near is one of the most blogged books of 2005. Read this article on Kurzweil and life extension, too.

Meanwhile, here’s evidence that a lot of people want to see progress in aging research: “Forget ’40 is the new 30.’ Now even twentysomethings are joining the quest for eternal youth by using anti-aging products and wrinkle treatments.” Think how big the market will be when the products actually work.

UPDATE: Reader Michael McFatter emails that Kurzweil will be on C-SPAN2′s Book TV tonight at 10:15 Eastern.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Michael Stevens emails:

My wife (who just turned 21 today) has been using anti-aging treatments for a couple years now. People always tell her she doesn’t need it, but she claims now is the time to start, before the wrinkles show up. Once they appear, it’s too late. I think that’s probably true. I think it’s also worth mentioning that the $100 products you can buy at Macy’s probably don’t work any better than the $10 ones they sell down at the drugstore.

Sunscreen and moisturizer help — though you don’t want to short yourself on Vitamin D, either. And you want to exercise, but not too much. “The more your race ‘em the less you trust — the less you drive ‘em, the more they rust.”

December 26, 2005

I FINISHED TOBIAS BUCKELL’S Crystal Rain over the weekend, and liked it. It’s somewhat reminiscent of some of Ken MacLeod’s stuff in the series beginning with Cosmonaut Keep — an interesting mix of high- and low-tech.

UPDATE: Via an email from Buckell, I see that he’s started a blog. Cool.

December 26, 2005

SOME GOOD NEWS:

The 17-year effort to eradicate polio from the world appears to be back on track after nearly unraveling in the past three years.

A new strategy of using a vaccine targeting the dominant strain of the virus appears to have eliminated polio from Egypt, one of six countries where it was freely circulating. That approach is on the verge of doing the same in India. Twenty-five years ago, India had 200,000 cases of paralytic polio a year. A decade ago, it was still seeing 75,000 cases annually. Through November this year, it recorded 52.

This would be going better still if anti-vaccine hysteria hadn’t slowed things down.

December 26, 2005

POLITICS ON CAMPUS — AND OFF: Having elevated “diversity” into a value that trumps all others — except, perhaps, the right of students never to be offended — universities are in a poor position to resist this campaign.

December 26, 2005

MORE TSUNAMI STORIES: Gaijin Biker notes that the U.N. seems to have blown a lot of relief money on overhead. (“No wonder it was so concerned that America and other nations might be ‘stingy’ with donations — any less, and the refugees might not have received any aid at all.”) Those Mercedes don’t come cheap! The Times notes that a lot of money given to British charities seems to have gone unspent. Well, it’s not like there’s anyone who still needs help:

But the pace of reconstruction has been criticized, and frustration has grown with 80 percent of the 1.8 million people displaced by the waves still living in tents, plywood barracks or with family and friends.

In Aceh, one survivor dismissively gestured at a jumble of scrap iron and plastic sheeting _ all that remains of his neighborhood.

“You want to talk about changes, we’ve seen nothing,” said Baihqi, 24. “Many promises of aid, but that’s all we get _ promises.”

Stormtrack, meanwhile, remembers the disaster with a collection of pictures and video, and there’s a roundup over at Blogs4God, too.

UPDATE: Heh. As usual, Chris Muir’s Day by Day cartoon was way ahead on this.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Did “Baby 81″ get the shaft?

MORE: Here’s a big tsunami roundup by Martin Lindeskog.

December 25, 2005

MERRY CHRISTMAS, IRAQ!

UPDATE: Christmas in space.

December 25, 2005

A TSUNAMI ANNIVERSARY ROUNDUP:

One year ago, a massive magnitude 9 earthquake ruptured the sea floor off Indonesia’s Sumatra island, sending 10-metre waves roaring across the Indian Ocean at jetliner speeds that crashed without warning into seaside communities in a dozen countries.

The disaster’s scale was overwhelming.

At least 216,000 people were killed or disappeared in the waves, the Associated Press found in an assessment of government and credible relief agency figures in each country hit. The United Nations puts the number at least 223,000, though it says some countries are still updating their figures.

The true toll will probably never be known, as many bodies were lost at sea and in some cases the populations of places struck were not accurately recorded.

Hard to believe it’s been a whole year.

December 25, 2005

HERE’S AUSTIN BAY’S CHRISTMAS COLUMN.

He’s also got a blog post with a Christmas note from Iraq.

And it’s still Thank A Soldier Week. People certainly seem to be doing that.

Meanwhile, the Pope delivered a Christmas message on Darfur.

December 25, 2005

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MERRY CHRISTMAS, or whatever you’re celebrating today. And here’s a one-size-fits-all Christmas Carol from Audra and the Antidote.

December 24, 2005

SUCCESSFUL DEMOCRATIC BLOGGER finds blue state too expensive. Heh.

December 24, 2005

MICKEY KAUS: “Another spy scandal and Bush will be at sixty percent.”

More here and here.

December 24, 2005

IN THE “WAR ON CHRISTMAS,” CHRISTMAS HAS OPENED a second front:

Hundreds of young men decked with tinsel wander outside Senegal’s mosques, hawking plastic Christmas trees. Women pray to Allah on a sidewalk where an inflatable Santa Claus happens to be hanging.

Senegal may be 95 percent Muslim, but it certainly knows it’s Christmas. In fact, for this nation of 12 million it’s a national holiday.

Blame it on globalization, which has turned the West’s yuletide icons into a worldwide commodity. Or the Internet, or Hollywood, or the availability of travel that allows new generations of Senegalese to sample Christmas at close quarters. But mainly, Senegalese revel in the trappings of Christmas because they can and want to. . . . Secularism elsewhere may mean the freedom not to celebrate a religious holiday. In Senegal many interpret it to mean they should celebrate all of them.

Someone tell John Gibson!

December 24, 2005

BRIDGES TO NOWHERE: They’re not dead. They’re baaack!

And to think I was just blogging about zombies.

December 24, 2005

HOLIDAY WISHES from the Insta-Wife.

December 24, 2005

ANOTHER REASON, BESIDES CORY MAYE, why no-knock raids are a bad idea.

December 24, 2005

OMAR HAS MORE on on developments in Iraq, where there seem to be signs of progress.

UPDATE: Austin Bay’s take on what’s going on: “Jaw, Jaw Emerges Instead of War War and Terror Terror.” Let’s hope.

December 24, 2005

ANOTHER HOMELAND SECURITY HOAX:

It rocketed across the Internet a week ago, a startling newspaper report that agents from the US Department of Homeland Security had visited a student at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth at his New Bedford home simply because he had tried to borrow Mao Tse-Tung’s ”Little Red Book” for a history seminar on totalitarian goverments. . . .

But yesterday, the student confessed that he had made it up after being confronted by the professor who had repeated the story to a Standard-Times reporter.

The professor, Brian Glyn Williams, said he went to his former student’s house and asked about inconsistencies in his story. The 22-year-old student admitted it was a hoax, Williams said.

”I made it up,” the professor recalled him saying. ”I’m sorry. . . . I’m so relieved that it’s over.”

The student was not identified in any reports. The Globe interviewed him Thursday but decided not to write a story about his assertion, because of doubts about its veracity. The student could not be reached yesterday.

Williams said the student gave no explanation. But Williams, who praised the student as hard-working and likeable, said he was shaken by the deception.

”I feel as if I was lied to, and I have no idea why,” said Williams, an associate professor of Islamic history. He said the possibility the government was scrutinizing books borrowed by his students ”disturbed me tremendously.”

I’m disturbed tremendously that such a suspicious story was accepted so uncritically by alleged critical thinkers — and I’m a bit surprised that the student’s identity is still being protected. Why shouldn’t we know who’s behind this?

UPDATE: Tim Blair: “Molly Ivins and James Carville lied to the American people! Well, not really, but they did repeat information that was later shown to be false—which is the same thing, if you’re one of them Bush-hatin’ folks, yessir (must … stop … channelling … Ivins).”

December 24, 2005

MARK TAPSCOTT HOSTS a Carnival of the Cars.

December 24, 2005

CALIFORNIA’S VIOLENT-VIDEOGAME BAN has been struck down as a free-speech violation. I’m not surprised. As the Tech Law Prof notes: “So far, no law of this type has survived a challenge.” (Via PJM).

Here’s my column on this topic from last week.

December 24, 2005

HERE’S A FOLLOWUP on that missing-explosives case:

Authorities arrested four men and were searching for one more person in connection with the theft of 400 pounds of explosives _ enough to flatten a large building _ from a storage depot.

All of the explosives and detonating materials were recovered, and there was no evidence to suggest the theft was connected to terrorism, said Wayne Dixie of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Well, that’s a relief.

December 24, 2005

AUSTIN BAY has thoughts on Rumsfeld’s Christmas in Iraq.

December 23, 2005

INSURGENTS IN TIKRIT: A shocking interview.