Archive for December, 2006

December 25, 2006

CHRISTMAS DAY OR NOT, Ann Althouse is blogging up a storm.

December 25, 2006

THE OBAMA SURGE continues.

December 25, 2006

KOFI ANNAN: “The man, the myth, the Mercedes, and the apartment.”

Kofi’s evasions and derelictions can fill volumes — and in matters such as the multi-billion dollar Oil-for-Food scandal, some of them have.

And they’ve filled some Swiss bank accounts, too, I suspect.

December 25, 2006

MORE ON ROBERT HEINLEIN and bogus cries of “Fascism!” — from Richard Miniter.

UPDATE: Related Heinlein item here.

December 25, 2006

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

December 24, 2006

POLITICAL COURAGE in the Senate!

December 24, 2006

MERRY AL-CHRISTMAS!

December 24, 2006

MICKEY KAUS: “Hollywood Hates Obama? . . . As always, the entertainment community demands more policy details!

December 24, 2006

THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY: Bad for libertarianism?

December 24, 2006

SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR CONGRESSIONAL TRANSPARENCY in The New York Times. Further thoughts from Mark Tapscott.

December 24, 2006

IT’S TIME FOR THE (LAST MINUTE) Christmas Carnival of the Recipes.

December 24, 2006

EMBEDDED BLOGGER BILL ROGGIO posts a report on how the Iraq Study Group report played in Anbar. Plus an interview with a Milblogger. With video!

And read this, too.

December 24, 2006

SO RUDOLPH IS A GIRL’S NAME? Who knew?

December 24, 2006

TOYOTA NOW RULES THE AUTOMOTIVE ROOST: But for how long?

December 24, 2006

CATHY SEIPP: Old farts vs. bloggers:

I’d say that if it takes you a month to think of an idea for a blogging post you probably shouldn’t be blogging – or maybe even reporting or editing, at least not for the sorts of salaries they pay you at the Times, where indeed you can make a nice living while being almost completely bereft of ideas. That’s why I’m less sympathetic than many at the cost-cutting standoff going on now between the Tribune Company and its sometimes bloated L.A. outpost.

But maybe that’s me, and I admit this opinion may be flavored my general prejudice against writing coaches, which Baker was at the Times and now is on a freelance basis. From his own site: “Helping you is my calling. Getting there is your job.” Oh, dear. Journalists who want to help always strike me as better suited to social work or something, and unfortunately their earnest attitudes are one of the mainstream media’s biggest problems now in dealing with the rude new world of Internet journalism. . . . Some of blogging’s important elements include: regular and frequent posting, interactivity with readers, reaction and commentary to mainstream media news, links proving one’s point, and so on. You can get away with weakness in some of these areas if others are strong enough. But some perfectly fine journalists are just not bloggers, they don’t really get the Internet, and therein lies the basic problem facing newspapers today.

Read the whole thing.

December 24, 2006

THE MASK IS OFF THE MULLAHS: And it’s been pretty thin for an awfully long time.

December 23, 2006

TOM MAGUIRE: “Having read through the NY Times account of their interview with DA Mike Nifong, I Boldly predict that Mr. Nifong is planning to drop the remaining charges against the Duke Three at the Feb 5 hearing, or before.”

December 23, 2006

BLOGOSPHERE FAQs from Dean Barnett.

December 23, 2006

HAPPY FESTIVUS!

December 23, 2006

SOMALIA FALLING TO AL QAEDA: This is bad news.

December 23, 2006

SANDY BERGER: A rumination. “The more you read of the file the more you realize that there are many unanswered questions about Berger’s behavior.”

UPDATE: A Condi Rice thought experiment.

December 23, 2006

YES, WE’VE GONE SOUTH FOR CHRISTMAS: The Insta-Wife is posting pics.

December 23, 2006

IRAN HELD LIABLE FOR THE KHOBAR TOWERS BOMBING: A roundup.

December 23, 2006

JOHN SCALZI gets a writeup in The New York Times Book Review and I’m glad for him. However, the reviewer, Dave Itzoff, opens the review with the tired claim that Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is fascist. (Spider Robinson put that one to bed back in 1980). He does note the role of blogs in promoting Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and Ghost Brigades, though.

Our podcast interview with Scalzi is here. And see Scalzi’s comments here.

And I can’t help but observe that if Starship Troopers is fascist, then so is the “chickenhawk” argument favored by the antiwar left — with the added proviso that Heinlein was writing fiction, and the antiwar lefties are actually propounding a political position, of sorts.

UPDATE: More on Heinlein here.

December 22, 2006

SHOCKING BEHAVIOR: Urging law reform in Canada.

December 22, 2006

INDEED: “Pundits lose grip on reality when dealing with Internet.” “Bloggers should definitely be open to criticism by the mainstream media. That’s America. But lumping everyone together with the crackpots is neither fair nor honest. And the fact that so many reporters and pundits can’t seem to get the story right just proves the bloggers’ point that too many of them don’t know what they’re talking about on everything else.”

December 22, 2006

DUKE RAPE UPDATE — or maybe I should say Duke Non-Rape Update: Rape Charges Dropped in Duke Case. Other charges remain, however — though mostly, I suspect, as a testament to D.A. Mike Nifong’s inability to admit that he never had a case to begin with.

More here. And K.C. Johnson observes: “There is absolutely no justification for any continued allegations against any of the players; I suspect this is the beginning of the end for the case against them–and the beginning of the ethical and perhaps legal case against Nifong.”

December 22, 2006

JOHN O’SULLIVAN’S NEW BOOK gets a rather positive review (“dazzling”) from Michael Beran.

December 22, 2006

THE INSPECTOR GENERAL’S REPORT ON SANDY BERGER is now available online.

December 22, 2006

LARRY KUDLOW likes John McCain.

December 22, 2006

NUTS! Remembering a historical event.

December 22, 2006

ANOTHER EMORY PROFESSOR is criticizing Jimmy Carter over Carter’s new book: “Carter’s bizarre book is a poisoned holiday gift for Jews and Christians, and a danger to Jews throughout the world.”

I think Carter hoped that this book would cement his reputation for history. And I think it has. (Via Will Hinton).

December 22, 2006

MORE IDIOCY ABOUT ELLISON taking the oath on a Quran. Jeez. Earlier thoughts here.

December 22, 2006

ERIC SCHEIE ON JAMIL HUSSEIN: “I soon noticed that there’s a downside to debunking fraudulent people or claims. The people who make them up — and most of those who agree with them — simply don’t care. Because the characters and claims are invented to support what they already believe fervently, debunking them does not ‘count.’ Lies presented in furtherance of a greater ‘truth’ are not really considered to be lies, at least not in the moral sense. The idea is to persuade people, and if fictional people or incidents have to be used, that’s OK, as long as it’s in the interest of the greater truth. The problem I have with this approach is that I don’t like being lied to.”

It’s an exercise that doesn’t sound much like what journalists say they’re doing when they practice their trade.

UPDATE: Jamil Hussein is still missing.

December 22, 2006

A MARINE’S VIEW on Haditha.

December 22, 2006

RICHARD EPSTEIN writes on the myth of the big bad drug companies:

Nonetheless, critics like Angell and Kassirer are absolutely wrong to portray the nation’s big drug companies as heartless, avaricious behemoths that act in whatever manner they choose and always get their way. The truth is, the pharmaceutical industry is too heavily regulated. Its big problem today is not that it’s free to run roughshod over the needs of consumers, but that it operates in a hostile and excessive regulatory environment that frustrates sound business decision-making and keeps down pharmaceutical company share prices in the stock market. . . .Because of its high-fixed, low-variable cost structure, the drug industry will never reach perfect competitive equilibrium. But in our second-best world, ponder carefully the different consequences of two strategies. The first seeks to expand supply by avoiding regulation and encouraging the entry of new companies into the business. The second seeks to hold down prices by direct controls.

The second approach leads to low prices today but systematic shortages tomorrow, while the first leads to greater innovation today and greater choice tomorrow. We must be careful not to mistake price controls for a cure when they are in fact a disease. Let our new reformist Congress beware.

Read the whole thing.

December 22, 2006

THE EXAMINER: “Nearly half of all traffic fatalities are caused by drunken drivers, according to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data. The NHTSA, along with help from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, tells us that fully 80 percent of all traffic crashes are caused in part by distracted drivers, mostly those talking on cell phones. So why do more drivers encounter radar guns during the holidays than breathalyzers or unsafe driving citations?” Because states and localities don’t make money from saving lives. They make money from writing tickets, and it’s easy to write speeding tickets.

December 22, 2006

HMM:

The nation’s largest police chiefs’ organization is calling on the federal government to re-establish a national law enforcement commission to help restore confidence in local public safety operations.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police said Thursday that recent incidents involving officers’ questionable use of force and abrupt increases in murder and robbery represent strong evidence for a panel, similar to President Lyndon Johnson’s Crime Commission, which would develop a national anti-criminal justice strategy. The panel would address a wide range of topics from police deployment to prison administration.

“We’re past the time when we’ve needed to do this,” IACP President Joseph Carter said Thursday. . . .

The IACP also cited “highly publicized” police incidents, such as the New York City shooting death of 23-year-old Sean Bell after his bachelor party and the death of an 88-year-old woman during an Atlanta drug raid.

I agree that someone needs to look at this problem. And I’ve suggested that we need legislation stripping officers and departments of official immunity in no-knock raids. I’m not sure what I think of this proposal, but at least someone besides Radley Balko is paying attention.

December 22, 2006

A LOOK AT moneyball hiring in academia.

December 22, 2006

THE ECONOMIST: “Democracy grows from the barrel of a gun.”

December 22, 2006

BLOGGER 1, OLD MEDIA 0:

SHOCKING news – Shock is dead.

Hachette Filipacchi Media CEO Jack Kliger pulled the plug on the controversial picture magazine Shock yesterday after only eight issues. Eight people including Editor-in-Chief Mike Hammer were handed their walking papers.

“I’m still stunned,” said Hammer late yesterday afternoon. . . . The monthly Shock is based on weekly French magazine Choc, which was one of the more successful launches in France in years.

The American version became ensnared in controversy almost from Day One when it ran a picture of an American soldier cradling a wounded Iraqi girl who was fatally injured in a roadside ambush.

The photographer, Michael Yon, objected, claiming that the photo had been purchased from a photo agency that had never obtained the proper rights.

Hachette apologized and offered to make a settlement, but when talks broke down, the photographer launched a campaign that succeeded in getting the magazine yanked from some large retail chains.

That hurt the magazine, since it was designed to be supported mainly by newsstand sales.

Maybe it’s stuff like this that accounts for the sudden wave of anti-blogger sentiment from old media types? Or is it that beleaguered AP editor Kathleen Caroll, still stonewalling the Jamil Hussein case, is on the Pulitzer Prize Board? Surely the press is above that kind of sucking-up.

UPDATE: While the Wall Street Journal’s Joseph Rago was sneering at blogs, the WSJ’s Bill Grueskin was noting that he’s comfortable with them. I’ve corresponded with Grueskin a good deal over the past few years, and he’s always struck me as comfortable with blogs and willing to pursue opportunities for symbiosis.

Plus, a funny take on bloggers versus the Associated Press. Heh. Bet it won’t win a Pulitzer, though.

And read this from Stephen Spruiell, too.

December 22, 2006

“MUST WE TALK about Mary Cheney’s baby?” Plus: “An opinion pinata addicted to sticks.”

December 21, 2006

WHILE THE WALL STREET JOURNAL’S JOSEPH RAGO WAS SNEERING AT BLOGS, the WSJ’s Bill Grueskin was noting that he’s comfortable with them.

What’s the difference? I’m guessing it’s that Grueskin has responsibility for meeting a payroll, while Rago has worries about staying on one.

Plus, bloggers versus the Associated Press. Heh.

And read this from Stephen Spruiell, too.

December 21, 2006

GOOD NEWS:

Local Muslim leaders lit candles yesterday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to commemorate Jewish suffering under the Nazis, in a ceremony held just days after Iran had a conference denying the genocide.

American Muslims “believe we have to learn the lessons of history and commit ourselves: Never again,” said Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, standing before the eternal flame flickering from a black marble base that holds dirt from Nazi concentration camps. . . .

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad organized last week’s conference after Western countries protested his comment last year that the slaughter of 6 million Jews was a myth. The two-day meeting drew historical revisionists and such people as David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Major American Muslim and Arab-American organizations have condemned the Iran conference. The Muslim speakers at yesterday’s ceremony did not mention that event but called for recognition of the suffering Jews experienced in the Holocaust and condemned religious hatred. Asked afterward why they did not single out Iran, the Muslim leaders said the problem was broader than the recent conference.

“The issue here is: There might be somebody from X and Y country, a Muslim, saying the same thing,” Magid said. If anyone wants to make Holocaust denial an Islamic cause, he said, “we want to say to them: You cannot use our name.”

Good.

December 21, 2006

JONATHAN MARTIN debunks claims that Harold Ford, Jr. lost because of race. Also note Mark Blumenthal’s analysis at Pollster.com:

Ford did as well as any Democrat could have, adding that a candidate like Jim Webb won in Virginia only because Virginia is less Republican than Tennessee.

The exit polls for Tennessee and Virginia tend to support that point. Both Democratic candidates received exactly the same percentage of support from Democratic partisans. Ford’s race was certainly no unique barrier to those that identified as Democrats, although Webb did slightly better among independents (though one might quibble about the statistical significance of that difference. Similarly, in the Maryland Senate race, African American Republican Michael Steele did precisely as well among Republicans (94%) as Corker in Tennessee and Allen in Virginia.

Read the whole thing.

December 21, 2006

PANTS, SOCKS, TRAILER, TRASH: More on Sandy Berger, and the soft-pedaling the story has gotten from the press.

UPDATE: Jonathan Adler observes: “So, Berger stole and destroyed classified material on multuple occasions — some of which had hand-written notations that are permanently lost — and his only punishment was a fine, some community service, and the temporary loss of his security clearance. At the very least, Berger should never have access to classified documents again.”

At the very least.

December 21, 2006

A BIG YEAR-END war retrospective at The Mudville Gazette.

Plus, this British observation:

IT IS now becoming common to hear anti-war Americans point out that “Iraq has now lasted longer than World War II.” . . .

Beg pardon, cousin, but by my count World War II lasted from 1939 to 1945. Those of us who arrived for the fight on time put in several years of hard work before you intervened. Iraq still has a while to run yet before it outstrips the Big One.

Good point. We were late to that one; we were early to this one.

December 21, 2006

JONAH GOLDBERG FEEDS THE TROLL: I know, it’s hard to resist sometimes.

December 21, 2006

THE ECONOMIST ON BUSH and free trade.

December 21, 2006

ANCHORESS TO ERIC BOEHLERT: “Sir, that’s not quite what I said.” More on this phenomenon here. And is it just me, or have the Big Media folks been in a real circle-the-wagons mode the past couple of weeks? What gives? It can’t all be about the Jamil Hussein scandal, can it?

UPDATE: Michael Silence writes: “It’s called corporate profits.”

Or the lack thereof.

December 21, 2006

DUKE RAPE UPDATE: Another call for DA Nifong to be taken off the case, this time in the previously Nifong-friendly News & Observer.

Maybe they’re still being friendly, as a lot of people think Nifong should be fired, and prosecuted himself.

December 21, 2006

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It’s a Martha Stewart Christmas at the Glenn and Helen Show! Well, it’s a show about Martha Stewart at Christmastime, anyway. We interview law professor Joan Heminway about her book, Martha Stewart’s Legal Troubles, which comes out next week. We’re joined by Professor Ellen Podgor and talk not only about Martha Stewart’s legal troubles, but about the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, white-collar crime, and the criminalization of nearly everything.

You can listen directly — no downloading needed — by going here and clicking on the gray Flash player. You can download the file by clicking right here, and you can get a lo-fi version suitable for dialup, cellphones, etc. by going here and selecting the “lo-fi” version. And, of course, you can always subscribe via iTunes so that you’ll never miss an episode.

As always, my lovely and talented cohost is taking comments and observations.

This podcast is brought to you by Volvo Motors USA. Christmas music by Audra and the Antidote. They rock! Check out their new website. And here’s the promised cookie recipe. . . .

UPDATE: In connection with this podcast, it’s worth reading Michael S. Malone’s column in today’s Wall Street Journal. (Subscription only, but this link should work for a week.) And thanks for the kind words from Stephen Bainbridge: “It’s a very nice discussion of the problem of over-criminalizing agency costs, which in turn provides a really nice example of how new media can treat issues with a depth that the MSM usually won’t.” Hey, that’s what all this technology stuff is for, and that’s why it’s so cool.

December 21, 2006

BEACH READING: Just got Dean Esmay and J.A. Eddy’s book, Methuselah’s Daughter: It looks very interesting. And while I’m mentioning blogger novels, let me once again plug Arthur Chrenkoff’s novel Night Trains.

December 21, 2006

JOSH GERSTEIN HAS MORE on the new developments in the Sandy Berger classified document-theft case:

A leading authority on classification policy, Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, said Mr. Berger’s behavior was reminiscent of a “dead drop,” when spies leave records in a park or under a mailbox to be retrieved by a handler.

“It seems deliberate and calculated,” Mr. Aftergood said. “It’s impossible to maintain the pretense that this was an act of absentmindedness.” . . . At that time, Mr. Berger insisted that he accidentally removed and destroyed the records. When he pleaded guilty last year, the former national security chief admitted he acted intentionally.

I still wonder what we’re missing, here. This was extraordinary behavior for someone at such a high level.

December 21, 2006

BLOGGER ANDREW OLMSTED is going to Iraq, where he’ll be training Iraqi troops.

December 21, 2006

CONSUMER COMPUTING goes corporate.

Makes sense. My UT email has been down for 2 days. Google is never that unreliable.

December 21, 2006

“HURRY — IT’S NOT TOO LATE!” I notice that Amazon is pushing overnight delivery — and Saturday delivery in some places — pretty hard, to try to squeeze in some last-minute orders today. But I wonder if having Christmas on a Monday has been bad for online sellers, since it more or less ends the Christmas shopping season today, four days before Christmas. I guess the longer than usual season makes up for it to some extent, but procrastinators who miss today’s deadline may have to — shudder — actually visit a mall! ( I also suspect that the plethora of gift cards and online gift certificates means that the “Christmas season” will really extend into January in some sense.)

Here’s a bit more on the subject. It’s very interesting to see how much sellers and shippers have managed to speed up the process in the past couple of years.

UPDATE: Jay Caruso emails: “Saw your entry about Amazon and shippers speeding up the process. Include Dell in the mix. I ordered a new computer this past Saturday afternoon with ground shipping which is supposed to be 3-5 business days. It was at my door by Tuesday.”

Cool. And here’s a good Amazon experience, too.

December 21, 2006

ADOLF HITLER ON FEDERALISM: He was against it.

December 21, 2006

MARIO LOYOLA:

For those convinced that “more is better” when it comes to U.S. force levels in Iraq, Rumsfeld was a favorite target, because it was inconceivable that the generals on the ground really didn’t want more troops. Well now, with Rusmfeld gone, and the head of Central Command speaking his mind, it emerges that the generals really don’t want more troops.

One unintended effect of the Baker-Hamilton report has been to so thoroughly politicize issues of strategy, operations, and even tactics, that the military is getting increasingly sidelined in the decision-making. President Bush is in danger of committing the one mistake of the Vietnam era that he vowed never to commit—to allow military decisions to become politicized. Recent reports describe the widening rift between political appointees in Washington and the generals on the ground.

That is an ill omen. The generals know what they are talking about: There is no reason to believe that an increase in force levels will have any effect at all on the levels of violence in Baghdad. . . . But political pressure creates politicized strategies. The president has a problem: all the violence in Baghdad makes it look like we’re losing the war, regardless the pace of reconstruction or political progress. Now the violence in Baghdad has become the political determinant of victory and defeat—and hence the primary focus of military strategy.

As I’ve said before, I’m an agnostic on the “more troops” question. But I’m pretty sure we’ll get farther by addressing the problems that Bill Roggio identifies than by adding 20 or even 40 thousand more troops.

Jed Babbin asks some useful questions, too.

And in a related post, Don Surber observes: “Congress authorized the war in Afghanistan 5 years ago and the war in Iraq 4 years ago. This is not “M*A*S*H.” Wars are not sitcoms. You cannot cancel them after a few seasons because they are unpopular.”

UPDATE: On the Army-size issue, John Barton sends this link to a table of military size over time. We’re well below the average for recent decades even though we’re at war.

December 21, 2006

ADAM BELLOW: A pamphleteer for the 21st century.

December 21, 2006

NOT EVERYONE’S AGAINST PORK: A look at lobbying and higher education:

Colleges and universities and others with a direct interest in higher education — including associations, accrediting groups and lenders — reported spending nearly $94.6 million on lobbying Congress and top executive branch officials in 2005, an Inside Higher Ed analysis shows. That is about $15 million, or 18 percent, more than the $80 million they reported spending in 2004. . . .

But most of the growth in recent years in higher education lobbying – particularly that done by individual colleges and universities – has been in hot pursuit of federal earmarks, known popularly by the less generous term of pork barrel projects. Institutions that hire outside firms to lobby for them, rather than hire their own in-house lobbyists, are almost always primarily seeking earmarks, says Savage of UVa, because “private firms are all about earmarking.”

How noble.

December 20, 2006

WELL, I SHOULD HOPE SO: Most Americans have had premarital sex.

December 20, 2006

WHO SAYS MARXISM CAN’T BE PROFOUND? “Money frees you from doing things you dislike. Since I dislike doing nearly everything, money is handy”.

December 20, 2006

I WAS NEVER VERY IMPRESSED with the various “science court” proposals, going back at least as far as Arthur Kantrowitz. (Though the notion of a “science court” has a certain Planet Krypton sort of appeal.) But Tom W. Bell has an interesting look at the use of prediction markets where science claims are concerned. (Via Larry Solum).

December 20, 2006

A GIULIANI-GINGRICH ticket?

December 20, 2006

RUDY GIULIANI HAS LAUNCHED his exploratory committee website.

December 20, 2006

THIS IS INTERESTING: “Obese people have more digestive microbes that are especially efficient at extracting calories from food, the researchers said, and the proportion of these super-digesting organisms ebbs as the people lose weight. Moreover, when the scientists transplanted these bacteria from obese mice into lean mice, the thin animals start getting fat. This provides more support for the provocative theory that the bacteria that populate the intestine play an important role in regulating weight.”

December 20, 2006

DEREK LOWE on the Tripoli Six: “Speculation is that all of this will come down to paying Libya some sort of ‘compensation.’ That’s a nice word for what’s really just an ugly, immoral shakedown – the sort of thing that the better class of gangster might feel is beneath them. Not the government of Libya, however. The Libyan people deserve better. The medics in this case, for their part, deserve to be freed immediately.”

Healthcare providers should boycott Libya — and Libyan bigshots who travel abroad.

December 20, 2006

VARIOUS PEOPLE have been emailing me about Ms. Dewey.

It’s sort of cute, though the degree of interactivity isn’t very high. They’ve obviously got a few custom responses — try searching “condom helmet” or “librarians are sexy” or “bloggers” or “janina gavankar” (the actress who plays Ms. Dewey) or “ricardo” — but most of the chatter is pretty formulaic. it’s designed to generate buzz for Microsoft’s new search system.

UPDATE: A reader suggests searching “Frodo.” Heh. I got a pretty good result with “Jamil Hussein,” too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Cam Edwards emails:

Try typing in National Rifle Association, 2nd Amendment, or NRA and you’ll get a custom response. Actually I’ve seen three different gun-related responses.

Interestingly enough, no such custom response for an inquiry about the Brady Campaign.

That’s because Ms. Dewey is about the future.

December 20, 2006

DEAN BARNETT: “A mere 63 months after the 9/11 attack, the first steel columns for the Freedom Tower have been planted at Ground Zero. The fact that it took over five years to take this baby-step is a metaphor for a lot of things, none of them good. “

December 20, 2006

OKAY, MAYBE I’M MISSING SOMETHING, but this looks like a triumph of marketing over, well, everything: A breast self-exam kit? I saw one of these while waiting in line at the drugstore last night and thought, Isn’t that called “hands?”

UPDATE: Allen Thorpe emails that at least it’s better than this.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader named Sabrina emails: “Yeah, you’re missing something ;-) I tried one of these things once–they are kinda like a goo-filled pad, and they seem to magnify any lumps underneath while simultaneously making it easier to slide over the surface being examined. Plus, without getting too graphic about it different women have different “grainyness” of breast texture, which can seem like lumps when it isn’t. The aid makes it easier to figure that out too. I don’t know that it is $20 wonderful, but it is useful.”

I stand corrected. Many readers are also amused at what “Customers who bought this item also bought.”

December 20, 2006

WE’RE STARTING TO SEE SOME MEDIA PUSHBACK on the Jamil Hussein story and on criticisms of media reporting from Iraq in general — Howard Kurtz has a roundup. But I think the media’s self-justification misses the point. Just because things are bad in Iraq doesn’t justify false reports using phony sources, something that the AP’s defenders seem to be suggesting. “Fake but accurate” isn’t a standard to be raising, is it? The fact is that we’ve seen a massive institutional failure on the part of the media.

Here’s what I said nearly three years ago that still seems about right:

HERE’S A LETTER TO THE EDITOR from a recently returned Iraq vet. Like many other such letters, it says that thngs are much better there than media reports suggest.

I tend to believe that — things are better almost everywhere (except Cuba) than media reports suggest., But as I’ve said before, the biggest problem with the Iraq reporting isn’t that it’s too negative, though it is, it’s that it doesn’t tell us what we need to know. The CERP issue, for example, was probably the most important single thing going on last summer/fall but it got very little attention from the media. Likewise, the big media were slow to follow up on Zeyad’s war-crime scoop. And I ran an email regarding problems at the CPA that haven’t been addressed by big media much, but that are quite important if they’re as bad as my reader suggests.

Despite last week’s hysteria, which made factional fighting — ugly but limited — out to be a massive popular uprising, it’s clear that the real issues in Iraq are political, not military. Is our government doing a good job? It’s hard to tell. And the tendency, knowing that the media are overplaying some negatives, is to apply Kentucky windage and assume that things in general are better than they say. This may be true, but it may also be true (as the above examples suggest, and as I’ve noted before on multiple occasions) that there’s not just good news, but bad news, going unreported.

That’s especially unfortunate, because good reporting doesn’t just inform ordinary folks like us. It’s also a check on reports that flow up within the chain of command, making sure that real problems get noticed and not papered over. I’m afraid that the White House, understandably tired of the unrelenting negativity that has given us the Brutal Afghan Winter of 2002, the Invasion-Killing Sandstorm of 2003, and the Mass Popular Uprising of 2004, may have started tuning out negative reports.

I think that’s bad, but given that there are good reasons (like, you know, open admissions) to suspect an agenda in media reporting on Iraq, it was an understandable factor. Journalists like to assume a quasi-official status with all their “fourth estate” talk, but they haven’t done a very good job of living up to the responsibilities that implies. “Fake but accurate” claims won’t help them.

UPDATE: Reader C.J. Burch emails: “I think at this point the question is, is the media, consciously or no, designing its coverage to make a bad situation appear worse? I also think that’s a question the media, all of it, is desperately trying to avoid. Because they know the answer.”

And Ron Wright emails: “OK life is difficult for everyone in Iraq. However the bottom line is folks need to get the facts straight. Either we have charred bodies and six burned mosques or we don’t. ”

Jamil Hussein says we do. But the AP can’t seem to produce him. So I’m guessing the answer is “we don’t.” Does that mean things are going well for the war? Nope. It just means that they’re going badly at the AP. As Burch suggests, that’s a distinction the AP and its defenders want us to ignore.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More on Jamil Hussein here.

MORE: It’s bad to push back at bloggers by misquoting them.

More here and here.

STILL MORE: Heh: It’s those layers of editors and fact-checkers again! “Our co-blogger Major Leggett sends this story about his unit, from the LA Times. He’s quoted in the article, which you wouldn’t know from the article itself — since he is identified as ‘Maj. Joel Garrett.’”

December 20, 2006

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: “If, when reading an article about the debate over Iraq, you come across the expression ‘the realist school’ and mentally substitute the phrase ‘the American friends of the Saudi royal family,’ your understanding of the situation will invariably be enhanced.”

(Via Mike Rappaport).

December 20, 2006

MORE ON SANDY BERGER’S THIEVERY:

The report said that when Archives employees first suspected that Berger – who had been President Clinton’s national security adviser – was removing classified documents from the Archives in the fall of 2003, they failed to notify any law enforcement agency.

Berger, who pleaded guilty to unlawfully removing and retaining classified documents, was fined $50,000, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and was barred from access to classified material for three years.

The report said that when Berger was reviewing the classified documents in the Archives building a few blocks from the Capitol, employees saw him bending down and fiddling with something white, which could have been paper, around his ankle.

However, Archives employees did not feel at the time there was enough information to confront someone of Berger’s stature, the report said.

Brachfeld reported that on one visit, Berger took a break to go outside without an escort.

“In total, during this visit, he removed four documents … .

“Mr. Berger said he placed the documents under a trailer in an accessible construction area outside Archives 1 (the main Archives building).”

Berger acknowledged that he later retrieved the documents from the construction area and returned with them to his office.

I still wonder what he took, exactly. (Via Hot Air).

December 20, 2006

SCOTT ADAMS:

Al-Jazeera just broadcast the 15th recorded message from al-Qaeda’s #2 guy, al-Zawahri. He appeared in front of the same brown background as before, with his same rifle propped against the wall.

Am I the only one who thinks al-Zawahri has his own cubicle at al-Jazeera?

I imagine al-Zawahri coming to work every day with his turban and robe and plastic rifle, a cup of coffee in one hand, a copy of The Jihad Gazette tucked under his arm. The al-Jazeera station manager sees him and calls out, “Hey Showtime, we have a slow news day. Can you do one of those taped message thingees?”

So al-Zawahri takes his brown sheet and plastic rifle into the break room and tells the employees who are eating their figs to be quiet for a minute while he makes his recording.

Read the whole thing. Zawahiri: Doubleteamed by Scott Adams and Scrappleface. He might as well surrender now!

December 20, 2006

DOING DONUTS, instead of eating them.

December 20, 2006

BOTTOMS UP:

Moderate drinking may lengthen your life, while too much may shorten it, researchers from Italy report. Their conclusion is based on pooled data from 34 large studies involving more than 1 million people and 94,000 deaths.

According to the data, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol — up to four drinks per day in men and two drinks per day in women — reduces the risk of death from any cause by roughly 18 percent, the team reports in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Helen’s cardiologist is now encouraging her to have a glass of wine most days, which I think is good for most of us. Plus, it can add life to your years, which is important, too.

Hey, maybe this present isn’t just for Stephen Green!

December 20, 2006

ZAWAHIRI: “I imagine that this greeting may come as a surprise.” Heh.

December 20, 2006

ROBOT RIGHTS:

Visions of the status of robots around 2056 have emerged from one of 270 forward-looking papers sponsored by Sir David King, the UK government’s chief scientist. The paper covering robots’ rights was written by a UK partnership of Outsights, the management consultancy, and Ipsos Mori, the opinion research organisation.

“If we make conscious robots they would want to have rights and they probably should,” said Henrik Christensen, director of the Centre of Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The idea will not surprise science fiction aficionados. It was widely explored by Dr Isaac Asimov, one of the foremost science fiction writers of the 20th century. He wrote of a society where robots were fully integrated and essential in day-to-day life.

In his system, the ‘three laws of robotics’ governed machine life. They decreed that robots could not injure humans, must obey orders and protect their own existence – in that order.

Robots and machines are now classed as inanimate objects without rights or duties but if artificial intelligence becomes ubiquitous, the report argues, there may be calls for humans’ rights to be extended to them.

Yes. If you’d like a nice view of what such a world might look like, read Greg Egan’s novels, Permutation City and Diaspora. Or you can always visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Robots. Motto: “Robots are people too! Or at least, they will be someday.”

UPDATE: Hey, I had forgotten this column on the subject from 2003.

December 20, 2006

PEOPLE ARE STILL EMAILING ME about Joseph Rago’s rather embarrassing anti-blog screed. I thought that it was already pretty handily dealt with by today’s Day By Day cartoon, which I linked earlier. I notice that Rago has fixed the typo, though, after just a few hours, a speed that is only a bit slower than the average blogger.

December 20, 2006

RACISM AT WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY:

First, the report tells us that Prof. Streamas “insists that he did not utter the phrase as an expression of racism, in part, because he argues that a person of color cannot be racist, by definition, because racism also defines a power differential that is not usually present when a person or color is speaking.” Yeah, right. He and others are redefining the term “racism” in a way that’s pretty far removed from its normal meaning — which is racial hostility — so as to give themselves a rhetorical break from the rules they’re imposing on others. And on top of that, he’s applying even his revised definition in a disingenuous way: Whatever may be “usually” so, there surely is a “power differential” between a professor of whatever race and a student of whatever race.

Read the whole thing.

December 20, 2006

HERE’S MORE, on the handover of Najaf to Iraqi forces.

December 20, 2006

THE NEW NIKON D40 gets a favorable review from Phil Askey at DPReview.com. And you certainly can’t complain about the price, which makes a digital SLR with a decent kit lens not all that much more expensive than a lot of pocket cameras. (Thanks to reader Jim Herd for the link).

December 20, 2006

DUKE RAPE UPDATE:

For the past several months, even as its reporters have broken story after story about Mike Nifong’s misconduct, the editorial page of the N&O has remained silent, except for an unfortunate op-ed by editorial page director Steve Ford.

This morning, however, the board published an editorial criticizing Nifong. The closing sentence summed up the editorial’s message: “But the more information that comes to light, the more questionable [Nifong's] conduct and judgment appear.”

Also, UNC law professor Joe Kennedy spoke out forcefully against Nifong to WRAL, saying that Nifong should be removed from the case and that “his actions with respect to nondisclosure of this DNA information needs to be investigated.”

Kennedy’s background is that of a strong civil libertarian: he’s a former public defender and homeless center advocate who has published on racially disparate sentencing in drug crimes.

Lots more on this topic at K.C. Johnson’s blog — just keep scrolling. And LaShawn Barber is all over the case, too.

December 20, 2006

ROMNEY HAS HIRED BILL FRIST’S ONLINE GUY, Stephen Smith, as his online director. I’ve dealt with Smith a fair amount in conjunction with Frist’s appearances on The Glenn & Helen Show, etc., and found him smart and easy to work with. It’s a good hire for the Romney campaign.

December 20, 2006

I THOUGHT I HAD LINKED THIS BEFORE, but I can’t find it if I did: The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook.

December 20, 2006

TIGERHAWK IS ROUNDING UP COLLEGE PROPAGANDA FILMS — I think that “promotional films” would really be more accurate, but maybe not — and invites you to submit your favorites.

December 20, 2006

SONY GETS OFF CHEAP for its rootkit/malware exploit.

December 20, 2006

THE NEXT BIG THING: ICBMs with non-nuclear warheads?

December 20, 2006

IN THE (E)MAIL: A link to the perfect get-well-soon present for Stephen Green. Hey Stephen, send me your address and I’ll send you one!

December 20, 2006

IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN PAYING ATTENTION to the Fannie Mae scandals, the Affordable Housing Blog has. Here’s an introduction, and here’s the latest post.

And reader Robert Schwartz emails about the news coverage: “The stories were on the business page. Would they have been on the front page, if the principals had been Republicans?”

Yes. Especially if there had been a Republican counterpart to this: “former vice-chair Jamie Gorelick had pay tied to flawed earnings and accounting.”

December 20, 2006

DAVE WEIGEL: “David Sirota is writing a book about anger? Uhn… isn’t that called an ‘autobiography’?”

December 20, 2006

NAJAF PROVINCE has been handed over to Iraqi control.

December 20, 2006

MORE ON THE ARMY SIZE / MORE TROOPS ISSUE, from Lawhawk.

December 20, 2006

BEWARE THE LOOMING ICE AGE!

What if Niven, et al., were right?

December 20, 2006

OVER AT POLLSTER.COM: A look at the GOP in 2008, plus a finding that race wasn’t a factor in Harold Ford, Jr.’s defeat. Yeah, Ford’s biggest problem was his famly baggage, the latest example of which can be found here.

December 20, 2006

MARY EBERSTADT: “As it turns out, a flight from political reality has indeed been underway on both the left and the right in America in the years since that event, as well as accelerating into more advanced forms in much of Europe. To switch metaphors, in the wake of the 9/11 attack — and later, related Islamist attacks on civilians, most notably in Spain and Britain — many Western observers have responded not by absorbing what we now know to be true about our world, but rather by transposing those brute facts into other, safer, more familiar keys.” (Via Austin Bay).

December 20, 2006

MICKEY KAUS: “Maybe I’m an old-fashioned Joe Kleinish Clintonian self-hating Dem. But I’m not swooning until I hear Obama to tell Democrats something they maybe don’t want to hear. Did I miss it?”

Plus: What The New York Sun missed about the Fannie Mae scandals.

December 20, 2006

LATIN AMERICA’S wrong turn. There’s pretty much nothing that a bad political system can’t ruin.

December 20, 2006

SERIOUSNESS. Heh.