August 14, 2005
I’M OFF to a hot dish of sour cherry pie and a cushy bed. Thanks so much for letting us blog here this week, Glenn, and thanks to my co-bloggers, who made it look easy.
I’M OFF to a hot dish of sour cherry pie and a cushy bed. Thanks so much for letting us blog here this week, Glenn, and thanks to my co-bloggers, who made it look easy.
TAX PROTESTING: It’s not just for libertarian nutjobs any more.
Sheehan, who is asking for a second meeting with President Bush, says defiantly: “My son was killed in 2004. I am not paying my taxes for 2004. You killed my son, George Bush, and I don’t owe you a penny…you give my son back and I’ll pay my taxes. Come after me (for back taxes) and we’ll put this war on trial.”
Somehow, I don’t think the loss of this woman’s taxes is going to force the US out of Iraq.
WELCOME BACK, GLENN. Thanks for giving us the run of the place. It’s time for me to slink off and watch “Six Feet Under.”
YOU CAN HEAR IRAQ BLOG-JOURNALIST MICHAEL YON on the radio tonight at 9 Eastern. Link and info here.
TREY JACKSON is photoblogging pro-choice protesters.
THANKS, GLENN. I’m heading out of town for the rest of the evening so this is probably my last post at Instapundit for now. Thanks, Glenn, for giving me, Megan, and Ann a big audience and the power of the Instalanche. Thanks, also, to everyone else for putting up with us.
TIM BLAIR notes more provincialism in the media:
Ads on SBS for upcoming anti-US documentary Enemy Image refer to the US as “the world’s largest democracy”.
Er, that would be India. Well done, multicultural broadcaster.
Jeez. What do they teach in schools these days?
WELL, I’M BACK: Actually, I got back last night, but I had family stuff to do today, and my guest-bloggers were doing such a good job that I felt no need to jump right in.
Did my almost-annual dive trip to the Cayman Islands. They’re recovering nicely from the tremendous pounding that they took from Hurricane Ivan, but the tourist industry — except for the cruise lines, about which more later — hasn’t quite gotten the word yet. The reefs are in excellent shape. I had expected them to have suffered a lot of damage from Ivan, but (other than the tunnel at Round Rock, which had suffered a rockfall that left it a bit narrower at the entrance) I didn’t see a whole lot of damage.
I’ll be back later. And Ann, Megan & Michael: If you’ve got more posts coming today, don’t be shy about putting them up!
CALLIMACHUS compares the American propaganda of today with American propaganda during World War II.
SOME ADVICE to the West from Lebanon: “To stop a man who wants to oppress you is not a case of you oppressing him.”
HELPING PREEMIES Very premature babies have a lot of problems, both physical and mental; as many as 41% of very premature babies have learning disabilities. This week’s New York Times magazine profiles a psychologist who thinks that the way Neonatal units are set up could be contributing to that, and who is trying to make them more developmentally friendly environments.
“ON AUGUST 14, 1980, LECH WALESA ILLEGALLY SCALED THE WALL” – 25 years ago.
THE ERROL MORRIS SERIES “FIRST PERSON” just came out on DVD, and I’ve been greatly enjoying watching one episode at a time. Each episode is an interview with one person, done with Morris’s brilliant Interrotron technique. Yesterday, I watched “The Killer Inside Me,” about a woman who was quite pleased about the fact that she’d had a sexual relationship with one serial killer and then sought out a second serial killer (in prison) and got him to fall in love with her. This is a fabulous DVD set, but I have one big complaint. Every time you start one of the discs, before you can get to the menu to select an episode, you have to watch a long, jarring message about how pirated DVDs are stealing. I bought my DVD set, so this message isn’t aimed at me, but I’m forced to listen to crude, pounding rock music and have shaky flashing images and the word “STEALING” strobing at me each time I want to watch one of the 17 episodes. It was bad enough to have to watch it once, but 17 times? That’s just crazy!
IF I LINK TO THE BRITBLOG ROUNDUP, I’m going to feel awfully guilty about all the “carnivals” we guestbloggers failed to link to this week. The consistent carnival-linking is one of the many admirable things Glenn does around here. Today’s our last day of guestblogging, and I have a feeling that leaving Instapundit without linking the carnivals is like borrowing the car and returning it with an empty tank! So, please, if you’re looking for more things to read, consider these. There’s Blog Mela, from India, and the New Jersey Carnival, from New Jersey. There’s Carnival of Cordite. There’s the Hillbilly Carnival, the Carnival of Comedy, the Carnival of the Capitalists, the Carnival of Liberty, the Carnival of the RINOS, and the Carnival of the Clueless. The Carnival of the Liberated brings you the best of the Iraqi and Afghani bloggers. If you want to listen and not read, there’s the Carnival of the Podcasts. Did you know there’s a Carnival of Personal Finance? Nothing puts me in a less “carnival” mood then the whole topic of personal finance, but the list of links over there looks reasonably fascinating, so try it out. Michael linked the Carnival of the Recipes already, so I think we’ve hit them all now. The Insta-tank is refilled!
UPDATE: The easiest way to keep up with all the carnivals is to go to this page of the always-informative Truth Laid Bear.
ANOTHER UPDATE: (From Glenn) Here’s the Carnival of the Vanities, too!
“WHO HAS BENEFITED MOST – AND LOST MOST?” Joe Gandelman asks as he analyzes the debate about the Iraq war as re-organized around Cindy Sheehan.
BANKRUPTCY BOONDOGGLE Delta Airlines is setting up the financing it will need to declare bankruptcy.
Industries such as airlines and telecoms with high fixed costs (i.e., it doesn’t cost them very much to carry an extra passenger or data byte; their costs are mostly concentrated in things that cost them money whether they have any customers or not, such as planes or switching equipment) tend to experience serial bankruptcies. The problem is that once one big player has declared bankruptcy, and emerged with its costs lowered, it can charge less than its competitors, who promptly start hemhorraging money until they are forced into bankruptcy. In the case of airlines, the problems are compounded by the legacy of high labour costs, left over from the days when airlines were highly regulated, and as a consequence, highly uncompetitive. They promised benefits and pensions that are not sustainable in a more competitive environment . . . and developed rather poisonous relations with their unions, which (along with cluelessness and greed on the union side) make it hard to profitably restructure unless a bankruptcy judge forces changes down the union’s throat.
Add to that what a general pain in the ass flying has become (security delays are making trains and automobiles highly time-competitive in my neck of the woods), and you can expect to see more companies follow Delta.
SUNNIS ARE BEING PRESSURED TO RATIFY THE CONSTITUTION. So far, they can’t quite admit that it is over: that they will never again enjoy unfettered control of their country.
For peace to come, I suspect that the Sunnis will need a Michael Collins–someone with the guts, and credibility, to tell his people that their dreams of glory are unrealistic, and it’s time to put down the guns and settle for what they can get. The Palestinians never had such a leader, which in my opinion is one of the main reasons they don’t now have a state. I don’t know who such a man would be in the Sunni community, but let’s hope one emerges before it’s too late.
ANOTHER THING TO HATE ABOUT HIGH OIL PRICES Airlines are hiking their fares.
BEATING THE DEADLINE FOR THE IRAQI CONSTITUTION. President Talabani predicts they’ll be done Sunday, a day early: “We have reached agreements on many points but I am not authorized to announce them because we want to make the declaration all together.”
ON NOT LISTENING TO THE 9/11 RECORDINGS, from Ambivablog. A small excerpt:
“One reason I don’t want to listen is that I’m familiar with an all-too-vivid account of what it’s like to be buried alive: my husband’s. As an 18-year-old slave laborer in a Soviet coal mine, in his third winter, weakened by cold and hunger, he was caught in a mine cave-in.”
Read the whole thing.
THE WORLD MEMORY CHAMPIONSHIP COMPETITION is going on now at Oxford University. The current champion is Ben Pridmore, 28, who can memorize a pack of cards in 32.13 seconds. I wonder if the people who actually have the best memories use their super power to do things like memorizing packs of cards. Shouldn’t they want to fill their heads with things that will be beautiful or useful to think about – volumes of great literature or the complete tax code and regulations, perhaps? But no. Competition is intrinsically rewarding. My question is like asking the fastest runner why he competes in the Olympics instead of running around looking at the trees and flowers or traveling back and forth to work.
“WE HAD NO IDEA CONDITIONS WERE GOING TO BE THIS GREAT,” First Lt. Taysha Deaton of the Louisiana National Guard said about life in Iraq.
She bought [a king-size] bed from a departing soldier to replace the twin-size metal frame that came with her air-conditioned trailer on this base in western Baghdad. She also acquired a refrigerator, television, cellphone, microwave oven, boom box and DVD player, and signed up for a high-speed Internet connection.
These quotes are from a front-page NYT article, interestingly enough. The golden-toned photograph on the front page of the paper NYT – the little click-to-enlarge square at the link – makes life in Iraq look like an idealized version of college dorm life. This contrasts with the many NYT articles on the difficulties of military recruitment. There is a mention of the dramatically different conditions when one leaves the base, but overall the article almost seems intended to encourage volunteers.
THE “POLITICALLY CORRECT CORPSE.” The proprieter of an eco-friendly cemetary: “Death goes in cycles… My best guess is we’re finished with the nihilistic ‘Let’s get it done quick and throw me into the sea thing.’ Now, it’s, ‘Return me to nature and help save the planet.’ ”
AUSTIN BAY, filling in for Glenn over at GlennReynolds.com, builds on what Christopher Hitchens told Washington Prism in a recent interview.
THE CARNIVAL THING: We’ve been remiss in posting links to the various carnivals this week. Sorry about that. Here’s a link to the first year anniversary of the Carnival of the Recipes. I’ve been looking for a good recipe for steak au poive. (The French really do have the best food.) Anybody have one?
EAVESDROPPING ON IRAQIS: Friends of Democracy publishes essays from the Iraqi Arabic language blogosphere translated into English. Iraqis who blog in English are aware that their audience is primarily Western. Iraqis who blog in Arabic are talking to each other in their own language. Reading Friends of Democracy is your chance to eavesdrop. (Disclosure: I’m the site editor.)
Here are some recent posts you may find interesting: Shirko declares Syria an enemy state and demands regime-change in Damascus. Ali Taha Al-Nobani thinks financial aid to Arab dictators must cease. Samir Hassan argues with Islamists by throwing his own Koranic verses back at them. Saad al Omari notes that Middle Eastern leaders and clerics condemned the bombing in London on 7/7 while cheerleading similar bombings in Baghdad.
FUNNY AS HELL, and funny enough to spend time in Purgatory for, says Stephen Bainbridge, so who am I not to link?
HE KNOWS HIS SPINTOS AND HIS ARIOSOS: Timothy Noah in Slate reports that Tom DeLay is an opera buff. “I’m not making this up, I swear,” he says.
WHO NEEDS HOLLYWOOD DISTRIBUTORS? Kamal Aboukhater released his movie Blowing Smoke directly to the Internet on a blog. Check out the trailer at the link and, if it looks interesting, why not order a copy? Help him and other independent filmmakers stick it to Hollywood’s tired gatekeepers by proving we do not need them.
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT US: My new Tech Central Station column is up:
Islamists have killed thousands of Westerners over the past couple of years — thousands in New York City alone. But they have killed far more of their own fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, and too many other places to list. The Terror War, or whatever we ought to call it, is not about us. It’s a war waged by totalitarian Islamists against the rest of the world. We aren’t targets because of what we do or even because of who we are. We are targets because we are not them. They hate everybody and we’re part of “everybody.”
KEVIN DRUM thinks that he can make the NARAL anti-Roberts ad better:
when you cut through the thousands of words of chaff written about it, there appear to be two main complaints. First, that the ad doesn’t make clear that Roberts’ brief was filed seven years before the Birmingham bombing, and second, that it’s outrageous to say that Roberts was “supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber.”
Well, is that outrageous? Sure. Roberts was defending a legal principle, and the beneficiaries of legal principles are frequently pretty odious characters. Defending the principle doesn’t mean you’re defending a particular person or group, a distinction the ACLU makes all the time.
However, on the overall scale of outrageousness, I have to say that this ad ranks pretty low compared to conservative benchmarks like Willie Horton and the Swift Boat lunatics. In fact, here’s what I think is weird: NARAL could have addressed both these complaints and made the ad better in the process.
Take the timeline issue first. Wouldn’t it actually be more effective to put this front and center so that the 1998 bombing appears to be the inevitable result of Roberts’ winning 1991 argument to the Supreme Court? Sure it would.
As for “supporting violent fringe groups,” why say it that way in the first place? Why not take the high road and acknowledge that Roberts was defending an abstract principle, but then condemn the ivory tower ideology that they believe produced such appalling real world results?
But this makes no more sense than the original ad. The 1998 clinic bombing didn’t happen because John Roberts argued against prosecuting Operation Rescue, a group which as far as I know isn’t even rhetorically in favour of clinic bombings, and which definitely didn’t set this particular bomb, under the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act. Clinic bombers are already liable for prosecution under a host of statutes much more fearsome than the KKK Act, notably those against murder. Implying such an implausible causal link is only marginally less mendacious than the original ad.
Similarly, Mark Kleiman’s attempt to excuse NARAL’s ad by calling Operation Rescue a terrorist group is an abuse of the word. Is Operation Rescue attempting to keep women from having abortions by making them feel shame and public humiliation at an extraordinarily vulnerable time? Undoubtedly. Have they attempted to physically block women from entering clinics? Indeed they have. But speaking as one who used to form a human chain in front of clinics to help women through the protesters, I’ve never seen anything from Operation Rescue that even remotely qualifies as terrorism, nor seen anyone physically threaten a woman (shoving a picture of a fetus in her face does not count). There may have been isolated incidents (as, to be honest, there were isolated cases of overzealous young men on our side itching to get busy with the opposition). But instilling fear for a woman’s physical safety–the definition of terrorism–did not seem to me to be one of the organization’s goals, and indeed, at clinics where OR is protesting there are so many police, barricades, and counterprotesters that it would not be a very effective organisation if that were the goal. I disagree with Operation Rescue about nearly everything, but comparing it to the Ku Klux Klan’s campaign of lynching free blacks is grotesque.
Such ads are undoubtedly effective, but each one contributes to a political culture in which scoring one for the team is the only important consideration. Honest pro-choicers who feel that it’s all right because this is important should have a good long think about what kind of country they want to live in.
RECORD INFLATION Steve Verdon points out that current “record” oil prices are only records because inflation has raised prices across the board. In real terms, oil’s record price was reached shortly after Iran took hostages in the US embassy, way back in 1979, when a barrel of oil cost roughly $90 of today’s dollars.
You see these sorts of “records” everywhere. The highest grossing movie of all time in real terms was, I’m told, Gone With the Wind; it’s only the eroding value of our money that lets Hollywood set new records every few years. Something to keep in mind when you read those headlines.
Update Yup, Gone With the Wind.
Quote of the Day comes from James Joyner:
Airborne school is basically a couple hours of training interspersed with two weeks of harassment and then five hours of proving that gravity still operates over eastern Alabama interspersed with forty hours of sitting around in heavy equipment.
TIMOTHY BURKE REPORTS THAT at least one South African politician thinks that South Africa should look to Zimbabwe for lessons on how to give their land reform “oomph”. Oomph is certainly one way of putting it:
The government’s land redistribution policy, which led to the invasion of the country’s white-owned farms in the past few years, has contributed to the economic catastrophe that now grips Zimbabwe. On top of a drought and the devastation of HIV/AIDS, the land grab has made food production plummet. The UN’s World Food Programme reckons that 3m-4m people will need food aid this year. Cooking oil, sugar and Zimbabweans’ staple maize porridge have become very hard to come by in Harare, harder still in the countryside. Unemployment is probably over 70%; inflation, at last count, was 129%. There is not enough foreign exchange to cover basic imports. Long lines of cars wait in front of petrol stations rumoured to be expecting a delivery.
According to Peter Kagwanja, Southern Africa director of the International Crisis Group, which focuses on conflict prevention, pushing people out of the cities has several advantages from the government’s perspective. Reviving agriculture cannot be done without labour, and most of it left the countryside as commercial farming collapsed. So far, only a fraction of occupied land has been put to good use. Without more labour, even subsistence agriculture cannot pick up. The governor of the central bank, Gideon Gono, has suggested that “progressive-minded” white farmers should come back and work in selected sectors, such as horticulture and dairy farming. But as many were driven off their farms in the first place, that offer may have limited allure. The ruling party has recently talked of amending the constitution to end private land ownership altogether.
[Curt Weldon, R-Pa. said] “They put stickies on the face of Mohammed Atta on the chart that the military intelligence unit had completed, and they said you can’t talk to Atta because he’s here on a green card.”
Lee Hamilton, co-chair of the 9-11 commission, said the commission “did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9-11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell . . . Had we learned of it, obviously it would’ve been a major focus of our investigation.”
But they did learn of it. The New York Times reports that the 9-11 commission staff had the Able Danger data but decided not to share it with the panel members because the information sounded inconsistent with what they thought they knew about Atta.
Commission staffers plan a trip to the National Archives to retrieve their notes on Able Danger’s findings. Yes, the same National Archives where Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger was caught stuffing classified documents about terrorist threats down his pants, presumably to remove them from public scrutiny.
And this is the same commission that included one Jamie Gorelick, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton Justice Department. She’s also architect of the policy that established a wall between intel and law enforcement, making “connecting the dots” before 9-11 a virtual impossibility.
THE MEANING OF AUTONOMY Great post from Catallarchy:
Consider two men: one a lone nomadic hunter on some primitive savanna thousands of years ago, and one an ordinary, downtrodden citizen of a modern totalitarian but non-genocidal dictatorship, say the Soviet Union of Brezhnev’s time. Who has more autonomy?
On Bill’s account, it’s gotta be the Soviet. He has a wider range of professions and life-paths available to him by far; he can travel much further and know much more; he can expect to live much longer. It is true that the Soviet is heavily constrained in the sense that there are numerous innocent things which, if he does them, will result in severe pain or violent death. But that’s true for the hunter too; the only difference is that for the hunter the pain/death will come at the hands of animals, diseases, and other natural forces, where for the Soviet it will come from the officials of the State.
But I think it quite obvious that this doesn’t accord well with most people’s intuitive notion of autonomy. The hunter’s life has a distinct romance to it, a sense of open-ended adventure; the Soviet’s does not. The hunter has a degree of dignity and self-possession which the Soviet is denied. The hunter, within the admittedly heavy but morally neutral and unchangeable constraints of physical reality, may do as he pleases without asking the leave of any man. The Soviet is a slave of other men who clearly are morally wrong to enslave him, and could have chosen not to. A notion of autonomy which does not capture these differences and declare the hunter the more autonomous one is a ridiculous notion.
On the other hand, consider what result you would get if you asked people whether they would rather live in the Soviet Union under Brezhnev, or on the Savannah? Autonomy-loving libertarian that I am, I would find this a tough choice. Being eaten by a lion, dying of appendicitis, and slowly expiring from malnutrition after your teeth fall out are way no fun. So of the two competing notions of autonomy, which should we build a society on, if we had to choose?
That’s the magic of the market, actually; we don’t have to choose. For which I humbly thank God every day.
SYSTEMATIC SILLINESS Lynn Kiesling quotes one of my favourite passages from Adam Smith:
The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.
Click through for a very interesting discussion.
SLATE CHRONICLES the Israeli army’s preparations for the evacuation of Jewish settlers from Gaza.
“LOOKED LIKE IT WAS INTENTIONAL. Inform all units coming in from the back it could be a terror attack.” The 9/11 recordings. Listen here.
THERE’S A GOOD ARTICLE in the Wall Street Journal (subscription, alas, required) on how refinery problems are contributing to the recent spike in oil prices. People in America don’t like having refineries near them, or indeed, anyone else; the last time America built a new refinery was in 1976. Refiners have done amazing work increasing throughput with technology, but there are limits. Especially because they are hamstrung by the patchwork of local regulations, which mean that gasoline destined for Dubuque can’t be sold in Chicago. Oil must be processed in smaller batches, limiting efficiency, and worse, making the system vulnerable to bottlenecks: if something happens to a Chicago refiner, gas stations can’t buy “foriegn” gas to fill the gap, so consumers get sudden price spikes at the pump. Next time you wince at the cost of a gallon of regular unleaded, don’t just curse OPEC; curse the environmental regulators (and special-interests lobbying local officials for their particular brand of fuel additives) for making the market less efficient.
MARRIAGEE MINDED Two men are planning to get married in Canada. I know, yawn. The twist: they’re straight.
In response, a gay rights spokesman sounds downright old-fashioned:
Words of warning came from Toronto lawyer Bruce Walker, a gay and lesbian rights activist.
“Generally speaking, marriage should be for love,” he said. “People who don’t marry for love will find themselves in trouble.”
Meanie! Trying to restrict marriage to his tired, outworn definition!
Seriously, I find it difficult to phrase an objection to this that does not basically hew to the anti-gay-marriage line: i.e. marriage in the west has traditionally been between two people who want to have sex with each other. The objection to this argument is the same one that pro-gay-marriage forces employed against those who claimed that marriage was for child-rearing: we allow all sorts of people who cannot have sex with each other (certain classes of parapalegics, for example) to wed, so how can you exclude these people on this grounds? I think it’s funny, but if this sort of practice becomes more than a stunt, it seems very likely to me to weaken an already ailing institution.
On the other hand, it doesn’t seem very likely to become widespread. Most people who get married will continue to do so for the good, old fashioned purpose of having frequent sexual intercourse. God bless ‘em.
“Don’t you get attacked all the time?”
“So what’s changed?”
“Well… there’s nothing left to watch. I’ve seen all the DVDs out there and there’s nothing left to do.”
I started naming off movies followed by all sorts of TV series on DVD that I could think of, and, sure enough, he had watched them all.
“Frank, there’s nothing left to watch! I wanna go home now.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There seemed to be only one appropriate response. “Chickenhawk!”
THE PERFECT FAMILY VACATION BY THE LAKE… but doesn’t this campfire have WiFi?
A NEWLY DISCOVERED 400-FOOT WATERFALL in a Californian national park. “It wasn’t on a map, no one on the trail crew knew about it. People who been here 27 years had never seen it.” Amazing. We forget how big and wild this country is.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
Regarding that “undiscovered” waterfall in California, it’s important to take such news with a dose of salt. A few years ago there was a lot of hoopla over the supposed discovery of new waterfalls in a little-visited corner of Yellowstone. What really happened was that someone decided to publish their location, which had been a sort of insider’s secret, in a guidebook. The authors defined the waterfalls as undiscovered purely because information on them hadn’t appeared in print. (Basically, nothing’s real until it’s available on Amazon.com.) Local reaction ran from amusement to outrage.
I’m sure the California falls were less widely known than the Yellowstone ones, but they weren’t really undiscovered. Here’s a passage from that CNN story you linked to:
“A small band of loggers that harvested Douglas firs in the early 1950s left behind a choker cable and part of a bulldozer. A knife blade stuck in a nearby tree indicates that others have also made the trek.
But for park officials, the falls were merely a rumor for many years, said Russ Weatherbee, the wildlife biologist credited with the find.
A couple years ago, Weatherbee was cleaning out a cabinet of old maps when he stumbled across one from the 1960s marked with a note reading “Whiskeytown falls” near Crystal Creek.”
Now, officials are planning to build a trail to the falls and put them on the map. A perfectly valid response, but probably bitter news to whatever backpackers, etc., really did know about the area.
HEY, THAT’S OUR W! A reader notes this post from yesterday and writes:
“UW” has and always will be short for University of Washington, home of the Huskies. Go Dawgs.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
Ya, we get the same thing all the time There is one UT (THE University of Tennessee, Go Vols) founded in 1794, and we keep geeting confused with some johnny cum lately (1883) down in Texas (Hook em horns, what Kind of a mascot is that?). They even stole our School Colors. All this after we pulled thir Chestnuts out of the fire at the alamo.
IS THE NYT BOTCHING ITS COVERAGE of Air America’s problems? Brian Maloney marshalls the evidence. Clearly, the Times waited too long to report on the allegations of improper financial dealings, but did they reword what Al Franken said on the air? Maloney thinks so. He does have two different quotes. But Franken has a long talk show, and he does ramble on and repeat himself. Maybe he said both things.
From the NYT article:
[W]ord of the investigations ignited a firestorm of criticism on the Internet, especially among conservative-leaning blogs that have essentially accused the network of robbing from the poor to pay its bills.
To my ear, that sounds as though the Times did not appreciate bloggers pressuring it to report a story.
Amusingly, the NYT knocks the conservative bloggers for the robbery metaphor, but Franken himself used that metaphor on the air. He said, “I think he was robbing Peter to pay Paul.” The Times quotes Franken as saying “I think he was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.” Did they change the quote to jibe with their attitude toward the bloggers? Even if Franken said both things, the choice of the more mealy-mouthed of two available quotes would still seem to be based on a desire to make the bloggers look rabid.
“WHERE HAS THIS HOSTILITY COME FROM?” Clive Davis on anti-Americanism in England.
THE PERPETUALLY DOOMED DOLLAR David Altig poor mouths the dollar, pointing out that it fell on news that the Russian Central Bank decided to hold less of it, and that things are looking up in Japan and Europe.
Yes, well, when you’re at the bottom of a pit, there’s nowhere else to look but up. Japan is still struggling against deflation; EU GDP came in at an anaemic 0.3% in the second quarter (compared to 0.8% in America). There are a couple of bright spots in Europe, such as Ireland and Spain, but they are dwarfed by Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, which had no growth at all in the second quarter, and France, which posted 0.2%. Italy rebounded from recession with an unexpectedly strong 0.7%, but as traders like to say, even a dead cat will bounce if it falles from a great enough height. These numbers are encouraging only because analysts had expected them to be worse still.
Until GDP growth improves elsewhere, America will continue to be the destination of choice for capital looking to invest in the rich world. That will boost the dollar (and our current account deficit). China’s revaluation of the yuan was distinctly underwhelming (and as this article from The Economist explains, its currency peg is still heavily weighted towards the dollar), meaning that for the time being, it will continue to pour money into propping up the dollar.
Over the long run, of course, America’s gaping current account deficit is not sustainable, and the natural path of adjustment is a decline in the value of the dollar. But given the countervailing pressures in the world economy, I wouldn’t try to make any money betting against the dollar.
THE PERSEID METEOR SHOWER may be exceptional this year. It is supposed to peak at 4:18 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (1:18 a.m. Pacific Time) Friday morning. That’s slightly more than three hours from the time I posted this entry.
WHOOPS: Today The Guardian published an opinion piece by a man linked to Al Qaeda.
WENT TO DINNER TONIGHT with my co-blogger on my regular blog in Jersey City. I walked down a couple of miles from Hoboken, enjoying the oddness of it. Half of Jersey City looks like a “City of the FUTURE!!!” exhibit, ca. 1960–shiny glass skyscrapers and wide, empty boulevards. Most of the rest looks like a rotogravure spread on “The Tragedy of the Tenements”, ca. 1908. I find the juxtaposition aesthetically stimulating. But I had to laugh at the sign just south of the Holland Tunnel informing me that I was entering Historic Downtown. Judging from the area where it was located, the history of Jersey City was written in cinderblock.
NOT TURNING TAIL YET Bush says that the US will not prematurely withdraw our troops from Iraq.
THE MILITANT MIDDLE: Christopher Hitchens identifies the bipartisan militant middle in an interview with Washington Prism. He is asked “If there was a Democratic president on 9/11, would there have been a difference of opinion in the American left about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?”
Not from people like Michael Moore (the American film director and strong critic of President Bush), who makes a perfectly good brownshirt [fascist]. Or Noam Chomsky. No, it would not. To them it would have been further proof that the ruling class just has two faces and one party. But I think, in the mainstream of the democratic and Republican parties, you would have seen an exact switch. Richard Holbrooke’s position (Holbrooke was Clinton’s UN Ambassador and is a leading Democratic foreign policy thinker) would be Dick Cheney’s position. The ones in the middle would have just done a switch, finding arguments to support or criticize the war. In fact, I remember that people in the Clinton administration spoke of an inevitable confrontation coming with Saddam. They dropped this idea only because it was a Republican president. That is simply disgraceful. It is likewise disgraceful how many Republicans ran as isolationists against [former Vice-President] Al Gore in the 2000 elections. The only people who come out of this whole affair well are an odd fusion of the old left – the small pro regime change left – and some of the people known as neoconservatives who have a commitment to liberal democracy. Many of the neocons have Marxist backgrounds and believe in ideas and principles and have worked with both parties in power.
AL CAPONE REDUX: The Pinochet family is busted for tax fraud in Chile.
RUSTY SHACKLEFORD says everyone is wrong about the drug war.
THEY CAN HEAR YOU NOW: When I was in Beirut in April one of the leaders of the Cedar Revolution, Nabil Abou-Charaf, told me that Syrian intelligence agents used cell phones to “spy” on people.
“You mean they monitor your phone conversations,” I said.
“No,” he said. “They can listen to us all the time even when we’re not using the phone.” He could tell I didn’t believe him. “We know as a fact they can do this.”
The Middle East is notoriously paranoid. When your country is infested with secret police that will happen. Nabil had good reasons himself to be paranoid. He told me he had already been arrested and beaten for standing up to the Syrian puppet regime. Just a week before I met him someone ran his car off the road and left a message on his answering machine and said that was just the beginning.
Still, I didn’t believe what he said about spies using his cell phone as a bug. If the cell phone is off or just sitting there it isn’t transmitting a signal.
The main means of tracking terrorist suspects down has been the monitoring of mobile phone conversations. Not only can operators pinpoint users to within yards of their location by “triangulating” the signals from three base stations, but – according to a report in the Financial Times – the operators (under instructions from the authorities) can remotely install software onto a handset to activate the microphone even when the user is not making a call.
I’m sure the police love this feature. Police states apparently love it, as well.
LOVING SHORT WOMEN, DAMNING KEN RUSSELL, AND SITTING AT PETER JENNING’S TABLE – some miscellaneous and perfectly composed entries from Terry Teachout’s diary.
OH, THE THEME SHOULD HAVE BEEN LAMB! Remember the best episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” where the woman kills her husband by clubbing him with a frozen leg of lamb, then thaws it out, roasts it, and feeds it to the cops, who are looking for but can’t find the murder weapon? The woman was played by Barbara Bel Geddes. RIP. (Side note: that episode was written by Roald Dahl.) Bel Geddes also touched many hearts with her performance in “Vertigo,” as the woman who was not mysteriously glamorous (like Kim Novak). She’s quintessentially not sexy. We first see her, in Scene 1, discussing a bra with Jimmy Stewart:
What’s this doohickey?
It’s a brassiere! You know about those things, you’re a big boy now.
I’ve never run across one like that.
It’s brand new. Revolutionary up-lift: No shoulder straps, no back straps, but it does everything a brassiere should do. Works on the principle of the cantilevered bridge.
Later Jimmy will have a hot scene under a bridge, but with Kim, not Barbara.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
I first saw Vertigo when I was in high school in the 70s. I found it simply incomprehensible then (and still do today) that anyone (any male, I guess I should say) would have preferred Kim Novak to Barbara Bel Geddes. Not that anyone would turn their nose up at Novak (as if!); it’s just that Midge was so, so, so … hot. Those red glasses, her voice, the way she carried herself. It wasn’t a hot cha-cha-cha kind of thing; it was an understated attractiveness. You knew that if you had BBG as your girlfriend (as if!) she would be *yours* and not run off with the next guy along who was taller or better looking or richer or something (the way you knew Novak would). She was *solid*
Which is a long-winded way of saying (politely, I hope) that you are wrong, oh so wrong, when you say that BBG was “quintessentially not sexy”. I know, sexiness is in the eye of the beholder, but you’re wrong.
Aw! Half of this email reminds me of that cool old Jimmy Soul song “If You Wanna Be Happy” and half of it seems to express a genuine preference for a nice, hardcore nerdgirl.
THE VIEW FROM THE ICE BAR IN DUBLIN, from the always-wonderful Sheila Variations.
IN THE WAKE OF OUR BLOATED NEW TRANSPORTATION BILL, Robin Hanson suggests the government switch to diet pork. One-third less guilt than regular log-rolling!
WHY IS THE FUR OF UNBORN LAMB considered especially disturbing?
“That’s just a little too much,” said the designer Carmen Marc Valvo, explaining why he draws the line at using fetal lambs…
I love the use of the word “explaining” here. What’s explanatory about “too much”? Is there some connection to the sensitivity about fetuses caused by the abortion debate? Because that really wouldn’t make any sense at all.
SHARPLY INKED DOGS AND CAT-GIRLS – including these, purportedly drawn by foot. Found via the great illustration blog Drawn! The exclamation point is in the name of the blog, though I am actually pretty excited about the blog. And am I doing a foot theme today? Stick around and find out. The trick would be to get Megan and Michael to go with the theme. We shall see.
WHEN BLOGGERS MEET AT THE CAFE, they crowd the table with laptops. No, get that thing out of the way. And now the laptop’s on the floor and she’s blogging with her feet!
SITZKRIEG’S END: Marcus Cicero remembers the Cold War and wonders if, somewhat counter-intuitively, we’re in more danger now than we were then.
It turns out the Cold War amounted to an entire half century of having it all, creating nominal safety. The nothing part of M.A.D. — Armageddon — never came to pass. And so we did indeed create a playground of prosperity: Shopping malls, freeways, cheap global travel, and the Internet; the plethora of things, rock-n-roll, the rise of socialism and multiculturalism; baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet. We got very used to that. Three generations grew up in the soil of transparent global war.
M.A.D. conditioned us to have our cake and eat it too. But today’s WMD perils are unlike the days of M.A.D. In the Cold War, we could depend on the rationality of our adversaries, the Soviets. We could mutually agree on something, heinous as it was. M.A.D. created a sense of certainty out of nucler parity. That certainty was: if it happens, everyone dies. That’s it. No debate necessary. If you were alive, it meant everything was normal. If you were dead, well…
Weapons of mass destruction in the 9/11 era no longer represent the end of everything. The threshold to this brave new terror-nuke world is far lower than the threshold to M.A.D. Parity is no longer apparent. That makes catastrophe with a small ‘c’ far more likely to happen.
YOU’RE EITHER WITH US OR YOU’RE AGAINST US: James Wolcott is beating up on liberal hawks (he singles out Roger L. Simon in particular) for making common cause with conservatives by supporting the Terror War:
The fact is that by subscribing to Bush’s War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq with every corpuscle of your tired body you’ve made common cause with Republican conservatives, neoconservatives, and Christian fundamentalists who are dedicated to destroying those parcels of liberalism on which you stake your tiny claims of pride…Do you really think that conservative supremacy in the executive, congressional, and judicial branches of government means that gay rights and abortion rights will somehow be spared?
I can’t speak for Roger, but I didn’t vote for “conservative supremacy in the executive, congressional and judicial branches of government.” I voted for a Republican White House and a Democratic Congress. That’s the sort of thing liberal hawks and other centrist types do. I made “common cause” with the Religious Right, which as a social-liberal/left-libertarian isn’t much fun. At the same time I made “common cause” with Dennis Kucinich, which as a foreign policy hawk isn’t much fun.
Politics isn’t binary, James. It’s not a war between the white hats and the black hats — or the blue hats and the red hats for that matter. Tens of millions of Americans answer with “neither” when asked if they consider themselves liberal or conservative. Some of us vote for third parties. Some of us vote for both of the two major parties at the same time. It’s about tough choices and lesser evilism. If you’re a liberal I suppose the choice is an easy one. Some of us non-liberals see nuance and shades of gray. Maybe you’ve heard of those things.
UPDATE: On a related note, Harry Hatchett says many on today’s anti-war left strikingly resemble right-wing nationalists and isolationists. It begs the question then. Who, really, are the new conservatives? I couldn’t care less, personally, about being tainted with conservative cooties. But those who fear and loathe the idea might want to read Harry’s essay.
DON’T “STIFLE THE GENIUS.” Supreme Court nominee John Roberts shows some commitment to federalism values:
[Senator Ron] Wyden said that he asked Judge Roberts whether he believed states should take the lead in regulating medical practice, and that the nominee replied that “uniformity across the country would stifle the genius of the founding fathers.”
Roberts seems to have disapproved of Congress’s intervention in the Schiavo case. I have to say “seems to” because he’s speaking at a high level of abstraction — quite appropriately, as everyone is gathering material to turn against him.
“CANADA IS GOING THROUGH ANOTHER SPATE OF SEPARATION ANXIETY,” says Austin Bay (at GlennReynolds.com).
BAD NEWS FROM IRAQ: A municipal coup d’etat.
Armed men entered Baghdad’s municipal building during a blinding dust storm on Monday, deposed the city’s mayor and installed a member of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite militia.
The deposed mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, who was not in his offices at the time, recounted the events in a telephone interview on Tuesday and called the move a municipal coup d’état. He added that he had gone into hiding for fear of his life.
“This is the new Iraq,” said Mr. Tamimi, a secular engineer with no party affiliation. “They use force to achieve their goal.”
The militia that overthrew the mayor is an Iranian proxy.
I’d say this needs to be reversed, that he should be put back in office so this sort of thing isn’t rewarded and therefore encouraged. But he already tried to resign in June and it looks like he doesn’t even want to stay in Iraq.
If Tamini can’t be restored, the new mayor Hussein al-Tahaan must in turn be replaced. As quickly as possible.
JEANINEE PIRRO, currently the DA for Westchester, is running for the Senate against Hillary. This is a long shot, but yesterday I heard Dick Morris on the radio making a credible case that Pirro can make things uncomfortable for Hillary by demanding that she committ to serving out her term. He also argued that if Pirro gets enough money early on, and does moderately well in the polls, she will force Hillary out of the race, because Hillary will want to conserve money (and credibility) for her 2008 run at the presidency.
Pirro’s biggest weakness, that her husband was convicted of tax evasion (Pirro herself was cleared as an “innocent spouse) is harder for Hillary to capitalise on, since Pirro can always say “Why don’t we take the focus off my husband’s arrest and your husband’s lost law license, and talk about the issues”. I still think Hillary is probably the clear winner, but it will be an interesting race to watch. Pirro is a pro-choice, socially liberal and fiscally conservative Republican. She may well be able to take some of the shine off Hillary’s presidential campaign.
THE WASHINGTON POST DISCOVERS THAT high paying jobs are boring too. Having spent a summer as an investment banking intern during a mad moment in business school when I imagined that I could somehow shoehorn my personality to fit the pathologically detail-oriented, hyper-competitive, number-hugging world of Wall Street, this was not news to me.
While I would not go so far as to say that proofreading pitch books and tweaking capital asset models is as boring as the year I spent working a cash register at the Love Pharmacy Chain (no, it was a perfectly respectable chain of drugstores, and no, I have no idea what was going through the head of the fellow in marketing who decided that “Love Pharmacies” would look good on the letterhead), investment banking was nonetheless considerably more boring than most of my other jobs, including (prior to business school) building the computer systems that the investment bankers used to tweak their models.
Part of this is, of course, that while I obtain moderate enjoyment from reading balance sheets, I don’t enjoy it enough to spend days on end speculating about whether retail growth in Disney’s Latin American markets will average 2.4% or 2.6% over the next three years.
But even my friends who live and breathe finance find a large portion of their work intensely boring. They are doing it because they hope that if they spend long enough proofreading powerpoint presentations and scrutinising IPO prospectuses, they will one day be paid really gargantuan sums of money to fly all over the world and tell CEO’s how to finance their companies. This job is so fun and exciting that most of the people who do it retire by 50. But until they reach that halcyon horizon (and, with banking’s military-inspired “up or out” model, only a small fraction of freshly-minted MBA banker larvae will ever get to that level) most of them are bored for much of the time.
There is a tendency among liberal arts types to think that it is grossly unfair that investment bankers make so much money, when said artsy type’s clearly more socially valuable work is so pitifully renumerated. Having spent a summer doing it, I personally think that anyone who is willing to spend his Saturday night going over the fine print in an SEC prospectus until 2 am is welcome to all the filthy lucre they will pay him. I chose to become a journalist because I’ve only got forty or fifty years left on this planet, and if I’m going to spend the majority of my waking hours doing something, I’d rather do something I feel is worthwhile than something that will buy me a cushy place to sleep. It seems downright piggy for those of us with what my mother calls “English Major Jobs” to demand both fulfilling work and lavish renumeration.
GRAND ROUNDS is up, and full of interesting medical posts.
WHITHER OIL? If you’re driving one of this big, gas-guzzling American cars, these days you probably cringe every time you pull up at the gas station. Will price relief ever come?
Probably not soon. OPEC, scarred by the memory of $10 a barrel oil, is not bringing new capacity online as fast as it could, and consumers seem strangely reluctant to let higher gas prices affect their behavior (perhaps they too are under the spell of the halcyon days when gas was practically free and Saudi princes lined up at the gas station to beg you to accept a free toaster with your purchase of 1 gallon of regular unleaded). But eventually things will even out, and probably go the other way–the current shortage will eventually produce a glut.
Alas, probably not soon enough to ease your pain as you steer the family SUV onto the road for the annual trek to Yellowstone. This might be the year to think about renting a Mini.
THE ONLINE ARMS RACE CONTINUES The Wall Street Journal, to which I subscribe online, has apparently decided to prevent concurrent logons. Since I generally leave my login on at home when I go to work, I had to call them to clear that session so I could login here.
The object, obviously, is to prevent people from sharing their subscriptions, which quite a few people I know have been doing (and I bet they’re kicking desks and throwing things this morning). However, I’m not quite sure the folks at the Wall Street Journal have thought through what this means, at least if they have many subscribers like me. Absent-minded subscribers. Subscribers who never turn their computers off. Subscribers who use several computers each working day. Subscribers who will now be calling their technical support people two or three times a day to clear their other login so they can read the paper.
On the other hand, I suppose the typical WSJ subscriber is your type-A perfectionist who will have no trouble remembering to make sure that he logs off his WSJ account before moving to another computer. In which case, I demand to know why the folks at the WSJ haven’t quite thought through what this means for me.
SHOULDN’T JOURNALISTS APPLAUD the passing of “Jovian authority”?
TIRED OF ALL THAT MICKEY MOUSE ANALYSIS of the Disney opinion? (Oh, no, the judge let Disney pay Michael Ovitz $140 million for 14 months’ work!) The Conglomerate has a whole symposium going — 9 lawprofs strong.
WHEN BAD POLITICS HAPPEN to good bands.
IT’S A GOOD DAY to visit Day by Day.
COTTAGE INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE FICTION: Glenn Reynolds interviews science fiction author S.M. Stirling in his new Tech Central Station column.
“NOW I CAN MAKE THE BLOGS!!!” Oh, beautiful! Eggagog is back! Nothing is more certain to put a smile on my face than a new post from Eggagog!!!
YOU JUST CAN’T PLEASE SOME PEOPLE: Liberal hawks who are lumped in with conservatives by anti-war liberals may be amused to see that even anti-war lefties like Marc Cooper get the same treatment for being insufficiently anti-war.
IS IT FOR REAL, this suggestion — published in the Boston Globe — that Catholic judges be barred from participating in abortion rights cases?
BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T WANT TO DETRACT from the rest of the art exhibit, the curators removed the fetus head grafted onto the body of a bird.
“OH, LIVERMORE, THE TOWN THAT MISSPELLS STUFF.” For $6,000, an artist, already paid $40,000, returns to correct the 11 misspellings — like “Eistein” for “Einstein” — in the “educational” mural she made for the Livermore public library.
UPDATE: A reader emails that Livermore is also the town that lost its own time capsule. There’s a film documentary about it.
ANOTHER UPDATE: In Livermore’s defense, though it may not have the brightest bulbs, it does have the world’s longest burning light bulb.
AGAINST RACIAL PROFILING: You’re a news and politics junky. So you already know the usual arguments against racial (and perhaps gender) profiling. Here’s one I’ll bet you haven’t read yet at The New Criterion’s blog Armavirumque.
ZERO TOLERANCE FOR ZERO TOLERANCE: Radley Balko has a smart op-ed in the Washington Post about draconian zero tolerance measures against parents who wisely choose to supervise underage drinking.
RECREATING THE BAMIYAN BUDDHAS. By laser projection.
“WEARY AND INCREASINGLY PLAGUED BY SELF-DOUBTS”: How Der Spiegel sees us, as translated and analyzed by Davids Medienkritik.