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December 25, 2004

VERONICA KHOKHLOVA is posting more Ukraine updates. More on tomorrow's elections here, from the BBC, and here, from Reuters.

POWER LINE: "Am I missing something, or has the AP now admitted everything it was charged with by Wretchard?" Wretchard, meanwhile, has another question. And Roger Simon is unhappy.

It's interesting that intelligence agencies like the CIA have come under a lot of fire by the media for using individuals with, um, questionable associations in order to get the story, but that news media organizations themselves seem to be doing something not too different.

IT'S A MILBLOGGERS' CHRISTMAS ROUNDUP over at The Mudville Gazette, and there's a poem, too.

JONATHAN LAST is defending The American Prospect.

THE WASHINGTON POST GETS IT BACKWARD ON PELL GRANTS: At least they admitted the error:

The headline on a Dec. 24 article about the Education Department's new formula for federal college scholarship aid incorrectly said that fewer students will be eligible for Pell Grants. Although 80,000 to 90,000 grantees at the higher-income end will be dropped from the Pell program in the 2005-2006 academic year, the department expects more students to be eligible overall because of a rising number of low-income high school graduates.

But, of course, the correction isn't as prominent as the error.

A CHRISTMAS COLUMN from Austin Bay.

ZEYAD has numerous posts about the Iraqi elections.

UKRAINE UPDATE:

A Ukrainian court says a key change to the country's election law violates the constitution, in a dramatic ruling on the eve of Sunday's presidential vote.

A reform limiting voting from home was passed by parliament amid the crisis generated by November's disputed poll.

Viktor Yanukovych's backers challenged the law, saying it would discriminate against the disabled and housebound.

Their solicitude for the less-fortunate is commendable. Meanwhile a reader sends this, from Dick Morris:

The stakes for global liberty couldn't be higher. In Russia's bid to come back as an imperial power, the Ukraine struggle is the equivalent of Hitler's bid to remilitarize the Rhineland. A determined stand here will keep Russia (145 million) and Ukraine (50 million) separate and cripple Putin's imperial ambitions. With Ukraine inevitably drawing closer to the EU and further away from Moscow, its chances for prosperity and freedom will increase.

But all depends on forcing the country's powers-that-be to count the votes accurately.

Indeed.

JAY MANIFOLD HAS MORE on the asteroid threat mentioned below. And here's an article, though the risk has been revised upward since.

UPDATE: Some further discussion on Slashdot.

And it's worth noting that what we are missing is in some ways as troubling as what we're seeing.

DAVID BROOKS looks at the best political essays of 2004. I particularly agree with his choices regarding the Stuntz and Longman pieces.

IT'S NOT FEELING MUCH LIKE CHRISTMAS at the U.N.: "A longtime confidant and adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan abruptly resigned this week, while two senior management and budgetary experts indicated they plan to leave shortly. The exodus reflects a period of uncertainty among senior U.N. management as Mr. Annan enters the final two years of his current term, a time that is likely to be focused in large measure on the oil-for-food scandal."

LONDON CALLING ASKS WHERE'S THE GLOBAL BLOGGER? Good question. I do what I can to encourage bloggers elsewhere, but there's only one of me.

UPDATE: Read this post by Joi Ito, too.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Here's a Christmas song by Audra and the Antidote.

December 24, 2004

HERE'S A FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT OF RUMSFELD'S IRAQ VISIT, from a soldier. Thanks to reader Richard Mattson, the brother of the author, for sending the link.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT? I don't know what the folks at The American Prospect are thinking, but this legal threat sounds like a bad idea to me. And I say this as someone who's no particular fan of Steve Sailer's positions on immigration (and, I believe, he thinks rather less of mine, and of me, though I seem to recall that he once complimented my typing skills).

WELL, I'VE NEVER SEEN JAMES WOLCOTT AND WILL COLLIER photographed together, but this post suggests that they're really the same person.

MORE DISHONESTY from the AP, according to Power Line.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

MORE to worry about: "So, in summary, there's a 1-in-233 chance of the worst disaster in recorded history happening on April 13, 2029, and a 232-in-233 chance of nothing happening. Have a nice day!"

Related thoughts here.

UPDATE: Uh-oh. The risk is now upgraded to 1/62.5, with a Torino scale of 4. (Via Liberty's Blog). This is moving out of the "isn't that interesting" range, and into the "isn't that worrisome" range.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The risk has been upgraded again, to 1 in 42.

IT PAYS TO BE VIOLENT IN BRITAIN: No doubt this lesson will be heeded by many.

FORGET TIREBLOGGING, says Ann Althouse -- the big thing is cabbage-blogging!

ROGER SIMON HAS UNLIMBERED HIS cool digital camera and brings us photos of a Mexican Christmas in L.A.

A Jewish blogger uses a Japanese camera (made in Thailand, I think) to bring us pictures of a Mexican Christmas. Now that's America!

UPDATE: These pictures from James Lileks, on the other hand, are downright psychedelic.

ANOTHER UKRAINE UPDATE at Le Sabot Post-Moderne. And Veronica Khokhlova is posting regularly, too.

RUMSFELD WENT TO IRAQ: I suspect that President Bush will be visiting some troops over the weekend, too.

UPDATE: More on Rumsfeld in Iraq here:

"How do we win the war on the media?" asks a soldier. "How do we win the propaganda war?"

That sounds like a question that was planted by the press [perfect comedic pause, appreciative audience laughter]. That happens sometimes.

Read the whole thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Michael Young looks at Syrian involvement in Iraq.

MORE: Here's the CNN transcript, which has the passage as follows:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, how do we win the war in the media? It seems like that is the place where we're getting beat up more than anybody else. I've been here -- this is my third tour over here, and we have done some amazing things. And it seems like the enemy's Web sites and everything else are all over the media, and they love it. But the thing is, is everything we do good, no matter if it's helping a little kid or building a new school, the public affairs sends out the message, but the media doesn't pick up on it. How do we win the propaganda war?

RUMSFELD: That does not sound like a question that was planted by the press.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: That happens sometimes. It's one of the hardest things we do in our country. We have freedom of the press. We believe in that. We believe that democracy can take that massive misinformation and differing of views, and that free people can synthesize all of that and find their way to right decisions. . . .

I was talking to a group of congressmen and senators the other day, and there were a couple of them who had negative things to say, and they were in the press in five minutes. There were 15 or 20 that had positive things to say about what's going on in Iraq, and they couldn't get on television. Television just said we're not interested. That's just sorry.

Yes, it is.

I WAS ON CANADIAN RADIO LAST NIGHT, talking about Kofi Annan and the U.N. (Bad news for Kofi -- the Canadians seem to be losing faith in him. When you lose the Canadians, well. . . .) David Janes has audio, along with more from Canadian blogger Kate MacMillan of SmallDeadAnimals. The audio was recorded using his new tool, Blog Matrix Sparks, which lets you record streaming audio from the Internet. I haven't tried it, but it sounds cool.

DARFUR UPDATE: Rajan Rishyakaran has posted another Sudan genocide roundup, where -- among other things -- we learn more about Chinese oil interests in the region.

I'M NOT GOING ANYWHERE over Christmas weekend, so blogging will continue, though probably at a reduced pace. Thanks to the folks who suggested that I take the weekend off, but honestly as long as I'm around a computer it's not that much trouble.

Since portability is less of an issue, I've started reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and so far (I'm about 100+ pages into it) I'm liking it very much. That may serve as a bit of a distraction, too.

UPDATE: Polipundit's Lorie Byrd seems to be posting up a storm. And Mickey Kaus looks at the ongoing Fannie Mae scandal, which I suspect deserves more attention than it's getting.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES is up!

December 23, 2004

JEFF JARVIS IS AGREEING WITH MICHELLE MALKIN on questions of religion.

MORE PROBLEMS with the U.N.'s Congo operation:

The expert was a Frenchman who worked at Goma airport as part of the UN’s $700 million-a-year effort to rebuild the war-shattered country. When police raided his home they discovered that he had turned his bedroom into a studio for videotaping and photographing sex sessions with young girls.

The bed was surrounded by large mirrors on three sides, according to a senior Congolese police officer. On the fourth side was a camera that he could operate from the bed with a remote control.

When the police arrived the man was allegedly about to rape a 12-year-old girl sent to him in a sting operation. Three home-made porn videos and more than 50 photographs were found.

The case has highlighted the apparently rampant sexual exploitation of Congolese girls and women by the UN’s 11,000 peacekeepers and 1,000 civilians at a time when the UN is facing many problems, including the Iraqi “oil-for-food” scandal and accusations of sexual harassment by senior UN staff in Geneva and New York.

Kofi's "annus horribilis" continues.

UPDATE: Richard Aubrey emails: "Do you think we'd be seeing more play made of this if Bush were Secretary General?"

Possibly.

UKRAINE UPDATE: "Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has said an attack on him by Russian President Vladimir Putin was 'unfair'."

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL lists 15 people to watch in 2005. One of them is Nick Denton -- but then, he always bears watching . . . . (Free link).

PUTIN'S TONGUE SLIPS: Not a complete shock. But read this probably not-unrelated item. Yushchenko -- a Jew!

Next they'll be calling him a Likudnik! Or even a Neo-Con!

CATHY SEIPP looks at the McCarthyism of the Left -- which seems to be where a lot of it is to be found these days.

A MUST-READ CHRISTMAS-SHOPPING POST from Tony Woodlief: I was going to excerpt it, but, really, you should just read the whole thing.

CBS POLITICAL WRITER DAVID PAUL KUHN seems to have dropped the ball again.

UPDATE: More here: "What do you think, is it time for Kuhn to start advocating that CBS be regulated?" But who would believe him if he did?

KOFI ANNAN UPDATE:

UNITED NATIONS - One of the biggest power players at the United Nations abruptly announced his retirement yesterday in what may signal the beginning of a Turtle Bay shake-up, just one day after Secretary-General Annan said that the scandals and attacks from outsiders had "cast a shadow" on the institution.

In an announcement that surprised even the U.N. spokesman, Fred Eckhard, who made it at a regular press briefing after a note was passed to him from upstairs, Mr. Annan said that he accepted a request from his chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, to retire "with very mixed emotions." His retirement will take effect on January 15, Mr. Annan said in the statement. . . .

Mr. Riza, 70, who has been chief of staff since January 1997, is considered the most influential policy adviser to the secretary-general, and many feel he was a leader in a policy that is perceived as adversarial to Washington, especially on issues related to Iraq and Israel. A U.N. insider said Mr. Riza leads a group of advisers who have called on Mr. Annan to take a hard line, urging him to refuse to share information with the congressional oil-for-food investigations.

Are the dominoes falling?

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN has an article on exploding the self-esteem myth. Bottom line: "Boosting people's sense of self-worth has become a national preoccupation. Yet surprisingly, research shows that such efforts are of little value in fostering academic progress or preventing undesirable behavior." This isn't a big surprise. The Insta-Wife has noted for years that inflated self-esteem is often associated with negative behavior among teenagers, while teens with low self-esteem often behave well. (Here's a chapter from her book that discusses some of those issues.)

UPDATE: Contrary view here.

LONGEVITY UPDATE: Considerable progress for the Methuselah Mouse Prize, which seeks to do for longevity research what the X-Prize is doing for private spaceflight.

HELPING THE BLIND SEE: And we're not talking about variable font size, here.

And speaking of eyesight to the blind, here's another effort. But none are so blind as those who will not see.

UKRAINE UPDATE: Here's an interesting column by former Solidarity figure and Polish foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek.

STILL MORE TIREBLOGGING -- plus a long awaited photo of The Vulcanizer!

NOT OUT UNTIL JULY, but already number one on Amazon. The mind boggles.

TIREBLOGGING -- A WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON! Following up on yesterday's report from Nigeria, Manan Ahmed writes on tire changing in Pakistan.

DARFUR UPDATE: "UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says current attempts to end the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region are not working."

HAPPY FESTIVUS!

A CANADIAN CHRISTMAS MIRACLE: God bless us, every one, eh?

A CHRISTMAS CAROL, remixed by Doug Kern. Here's the Ayn Rand version:

The ruggedly handsome and weirdly articulate Ebenezer Scrooge is a successful executive held back by the corrupt morality of a society that hates success and fails to understand the value of selfishness. So Scrooge explains that value in a 272-page soliloquy. Deep down, Scrooge's enemies know that he is right, but they resent him out of a sense of their own inferiority. Several hot sex scenes and unlikely monologues later, Scrooge triumphs over all adversity -- except a really mean review by Whittaker Chambers. Meanwhile, Tiny Tim croaks. Socialized medicine is to blame.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Okay, I can't resist quoting the Richard Dawkins version, either: "Ghosts don't exist. Scrooge does whatever he wants. Tiny Tim dies. Later, Scrooge dies. No one cares. The Christmas Carol meme lives on indefinitely."

THANK YOU, STEVEN DEN BESTE. When I wrote that before, I was talking about stuff like this -- really, a tremendous contribution to the blogosphere.

But thanks again, because the Den Beste example -- with his complaints about the grinding effect of negative email, and how that contributed to his getting tired of blogging -- has led a lot of readers to send me nice notes, and even donations, in the hope that it'll encourage me to stick around.

They're much appreciated. Thanks!

FISH. BARREL. Ka-Pow. Easy, yet strangely satisfying.

YES, IT'S ALWAYS SEEMED THIS WAY to me, too:

Ok, so here we have little Rudolph with an unfortunate deformity. All of the other reindeer laughed and called him names, shunning him from the tightly-knit reindeer community -- right up until they have a use for the little mutant's deformity! Then they suddenly declare they "love" him. Yeah, right. Just so long as his honker lights up the night sky!

Indeed.

December 22, 2004

ANOTHER NEAR MISS: Not so troubling in itself, as for what it represents.

RUSH LIMBAUGH BUSTED for cigar hypocrisy.

I AM NOT CONVINCED by Gregory Djerejian's criticism of Rumsfeld and current troop-level policy in Iraq. But people in the Administration ought to be reading his blog because -- unlike many in the media and elsewhere -- he's an honest critic who wants our effort to succeed. And one of the dangers of an unrelenting media assault is that it can lead you to tune out all criticism, simply because some of it is dishonest. That tends to produce serious errors.

And this is certainly true: "Elections are not a panacea leading to stability." They'll help a lot -- and it's certainly clear that Zarqawi, et al., fear them -- but this is a lengthy process, not one of quick fixes.

IT'S A UKRAINE ROUNDUP over at Le Sabot Post-Moderne. And there's more from Veronica Khokhlova, who has a report, too.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

ARE YOU AN OP-ED COLUMNIST LOOKING FOR MATERIAL to fill the obligatory end-of-the-year roundup column? Don't stress yourself -- just go over to Tim Blair's, where he's rounded up the best material from 2004 by month, with links! The column will almost write itself. Just drop a few bucks in his tipjar to show your gratitude. [Tipjar? You're dreaming, right? -- Ed. Hey, maybe they'll be moved by the Christmas Holiday spirit! Oh, Puhleez. -- Ed.]

A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE from Martha Stewart.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Rachel Lucas is the recipient of a very different Christmas message.

BILL QUICK TRIUMPHS over blogger burnout.

ADVENTURES IN JOURNALISM: Pajamas are worn.

MY BROTHER IS REPRESENTING NIGERIA in the tireblogging Olympics! I think he takes the gold medal with this entry. (This post will help to illustrate the contrast he describes).

I've been encouraging him to write a book on West African automotive culture for quite a while.

I told you that tireblogging was the next big thing!

DREAMING EUROPE IN A WIDE-AWAKE WORLD: Jim Bennett has a very interesting review essay in The National Interest.

Shockingly, it's not, as such things often are, just a rehash of his recent book, but rather contains lots of actual new thoughts.

THE NEW YORK TIMES: A shamelessly pro-Bush rag?

GAYPATRIOT looks at the growing demographic clout of red states and suggests that gay activists need to tailor their message.

UPDATE: Related thoughts on demographics here.

KOFI ANNAN SAYS THE UNITED STATES NEEDS THE U.N. as much as the U.N. needs the United States: Ed Morrissey is unconvinced.

UPDATE: More thoughts on the U.S. and the U.N., with special attention to Darfur, over at GlennReynolds.com.

A BIT MORE ALTERNATE HISTORY from Rand Simberg. He's no Harry Turtledove, but it's definitely "heh"-worthy.

MORE ON BUSH'S STINGINESS REGARDING PARDONS at the Sentencing Law & Policy Blog. I can understand being gun-shy after the Clinton debacle, but using the pardon power to mitigate injustices in the system is part of the job. Being careful is one thing; shirking is another.

UPDATE: Brett Bellmore emails: "Shirking, indeed; One could equally ask, were there no bills in the last four years deserving of a veto? Bush seems strangely unwilling to exercise certain Presidential powers."

On the other hand, Bob Schneider emails: "I see a pattern here, with his frugal (indeed, non-existent) use of the veto. Despite protests from the Left of a president eager to usurp rights and power, Bush is a actually overly cautious about overruling the decisions of other institutions."

ANOTHER UPDATE: More on the pardons issue here.

FOR TRUE GEEKS ONLY: How to build an Apollo guidance computer in your basement! I admire people who do stuff like this, but I have no desire to join them.

DARFUR UPDATE:

The aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), has expressed shock at the killing of one of its local staff in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region.

The aid worker was shot in front of its warehouse in an attack on Labado last week, a spokesman confirmed.

MSF says it will continue its presence in Darfur, but called for aid workers' neutrality to be respected.

On Tuesday, UK charity Save the Children withdrew from Darfur after four of their staff were killed.

When you're trying to save people that others want dead, and to free people that others want enslaved, there's really no such thing as "neutrality."

IN THE MAIL: A copy of No End in Sight: The Continuing Menace of Nuclear Proliferation -- sadly, I think there is no end in sight, short of making sure that there aren't any countries likely to use them against us.

THE BELMONT CLUB HAS A MUST-READ POST on the attack at Mosul:

The enemy chose the weakest point he could find to attack; exploited the known limitations of the American response; and understood that he was to all intents and purposes exempted from the condemnation attendant to attacking the wounded and medical personnel. The chaplain and the medical personnel knew this and did not mill around expecting the Geneva Convention to protect them from those who have never heard of it, except as it applies to their own convenience. . . .

But the enemy ability to exploit the limits of American response and attack medical personnel with public relations impunity are examples of military advantages that arise from political restraints. To the extent the blogosphere can dispel the propaganda cover willingly provided by the Left, people on the home front can help the soldiers in the field. It is necessary to link the war criminal behavior of the enemy with the studied blindness of 'sophisticates' towards their most heinous crimes. They are twinned; with the former made possible by the latter. The Daily Telegraph describes how some European agencies actually refuse to look at mass grave sites to avoid being party to the punishment of war criminals.

Read the whole thing.

RICH, BLOGGY GOODNESS: This week's Carnival of the Vanities is up.

BLOGGING AND OPEN-SOURCE JOURNALISM: Jay Rosen notes an interesting development here and here. (Via Ed Cone).

It's also worth noting what James Lileks says in his syndicated column for today:

In a sense, blogging is so 2004. The next big thing will be videoblogs. You can fit a rudimentary TV studio in a suitcase -- a laptop, a camcorder, a few cables, and a nearby Starbucks with Wi-Fi you can leech onto to upload your reports. This too will be good. One hundred thousand pairs of eyes looking high and low, versus CBS' staring monocular orb. We'll all turn to the nets to see what they think we should think. And then we'll hit the blogs for the rest of the story.

It's the end of the old media, but only the start of the new.

Yeah, and you can actually fit that studio in a smallish briefcase, nowadays.

JAMES LILEKS DELIVERS A TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS FISKING to a beloved bird-blogger. I didn't know he was beloved . . . .

UPDATE: Related post here. My own take on Wolcott is "don't feed the troll."

I BEG YOUR PARDON:

The only two Presidents who completed a Term in office with fewer pardons than Bush are the first two Presidents — George Washington and John Adams — and that was only because at the time there was no one around to pardon. . . .

Presidential pardons can be politically risky; just ask Bill Clinton about pardoning Marc Rich. But it's the President's job to do the right thing regardless of what the pollsters say. There are currently 150,000 people in federal prisons, with another 50,000 or so on probation. Could it be that none of them deserve Presidential pardons?

Good point.

WHO IS NICK KRISTOF CHANNELING? Bill Stuntz? Or Jonah Goldberg?

2004: A GOOD YEAR FOR FREE SPEECH? My TechCentralStation column is up.

December 21, 2004

A BAD DAY FOR JOHN KERRY: And it seems as if quite a few people are having fun at his expense, though only Kos seems to want him shot. Actually, except for the "lined up and shot" bit, I think that Kos's critique of the Kerry campaign is pretty much spot-on. In fact, if you look through my archives you'll see that I was saying similar things before the election. But I think it's unfair to pick on Kerry now that the election's over.

UPDATE: The world turned upside down -- CrushKerry.com is defending Kerry from Kos's assault.

"EVERY SUCCESSFUL SYSTEM ATTRACTS PARASITES." Thomas Ray said it, and it's still true. It's pretty near a universal law, in fact.

UKRAINE UPDATE: At first I thought that this sounded like good news:

But in a conciliatory gesture, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has strongly backed Ukraine's prime minister, said Tuesday that he could work with an administration headed by Yushchenko, a former prime minister and head of the Central Bank.

"We have worked with him already and the cooperation was not bad," Putin said during a visit to Germany. "If he wins, I don't see any problems."

But then I read this:

If you are looking for a guide to the future of Russia, you need only listen to the words of President Putin. Listen carefully -- and then take it for granted that the exact opposite will happen.

Uh oh.

MARK GLASER: "For way too long, it has been the mainstream media (MSM) that's played God with the American public, telling everyone what's news and what's not, what to play up and what to downplay. But 2004 was the year the power started shifting, that the Little People, if you will, started to tell the gods of media what the public really wanted."

HUGH HEWITT:

I interviewed Mickey Kaus on the Washington Post takeover of Slate, and discovered that Mickey has a 30-day out in his deal with Slate. In other words, Kausfiles is as locked in to Slate/The Washington Post as Pedro was to Boston.

Now, if the New York Times wanted to mess with the Post, it would make Mickey an offer he couldn't refuse. Why suggest such mischief? Because as free agency helped all baseball players, so does this acquisition help all bloggers, and a Mickeystakes would be grand for all involved in the text business.

Heh. If I were the Post, I'd give Mickey a big raise, just to make sure he sticks around.

HERE'S A BLOG ACCOUNT from a chaplain in Mosul.

EUGENE VOLOKH'S NEW BOOK IS now available on Amazon! Eugene helpfully observes: "And remember, some people appreciate New Year's gifts as well as Christmas gifts." Or follow the second link to order an autographed copy. Also makes a tasteful gift for weddings or bar mitzvahs!

IRAQPUNDIT IS CALLING FOUL on media coverage again:

In an alternate universe that included Iraqis (and not just the disappointing raw security recruits), we might, for example, have the occasional headline about their "resolve." Fallujah's thugs have had "resolve" attributed to them in front-page headlines, but never ordinary Iraqis.

Yet ordinary Iraqis seem to be showing a great deal of resolve in the face of murder, and a great deal of commitment to the coming elections. I have discovered evidence of this in an obscure publication called The Washington Post, in a dusty edition that originally appeared on Monday, December 20, 2004.

Heh. Read the whole thing.

DAVID ADESNIK LOOKS AT THAT CHRISTIAN NUT in the White House.

RATHERGATE UPDATE: Jim Geraghty reports: "A little birdie familiar with discussions at CBS News tells me that the network suits will announce Dan Rather's replacement the day they release the report into the fake memos."

UPDATE: Maybe they'll name Keith Olbermann!

MORE CHRISTMAS ETIQUETTE:

When is it considered socially acceptable to joke to a stranger that people like you should all be dead?

Answer: When you find out someone is a lawyer. . . .

Now, you could substitute any group for lawyers in that joke, and I'm sure the joke has had many versions over the years, used to express hostility to all sorts of groups. But the only version I've ever heard is aimed at lawyers, because apparently it's just perfectly fine to say anything nasty you want about lawyers. But here I am, buying Christmas presents at the man's store. How about a little "Merry Christmas"? Or even "Happy Holidays"? What the hell, I'd settle for "Seasons Greetings"?

Indeed.

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF LOOKS AT SADDAM'S LEGAL TEAM.

READER BRUCE KLINK EMAILS: "The Cult of the iPod insists that you blog on when, and to what, that you upgrade to from the awful earbuds that Apple supplies..."

Actually, on the recommendation of several readers, I got a pair of Sennheiser PX-100 collapsible headphones. Pretty cheap, and better than the Apple earbuds -- though I don't like earbuds of any kind.

HE MAY BE ON VACATION -- or maybe it's a "workation" -- but Andrew Sullivan certainly found a truly delightful quote from Kos.

This one, though, is less delightful.

UPDATE: Frank J. is uncharacteristically unhumorous.

IN THE PAST, InstaPundit has been criticized for not paying enough attention to healthcare blogging. But I've outsourced a lot of that to the medical professionals at Grand Rounds, and this week's installment is up for your enjoyment. There's even an item on new treatments for baldness. Healthcare blogging you can use! Well, some of you, anyway.

LITTLE GREEN SQUEEGEE MEN? I linked to an earlier report of this phenomenon a while back, but it keeps happening:

An unexplained phenomenon akin to a space-borne car wash has boosted the performance of one of the two U.S. rovers probing the surface of Mars, New Scientist magazine said on Tuesday.

It said something -- or someone -- had regularly cleaned layers of dust from the solar panels of the Mars Opportunity vehicle while it was closed down during the Martian night.

The cleaning had boosted the panels' power output close to their maximum 900 watt-hours per day after at one stage dropping to 500 watt-hours because of the heavy Martian dirt.

I, for one, welcome our new squeegee overlords, and when they arrive on Earth I will entrust them with the care of my Passat wagon's windshield.

MICKEY KAUS: "Andrew Sullivan goes on vacation and his blog gets better!" Yeah, that happened to me, too.

BLOGCRITICS HAS A ROUNDUP OF HARRY POTTER NEWS, including more information on the forthcoming 6th book, and a review of the Prisoner of Azkaban DVD.

YES, THIS COUNTS AS A BAD DAY.

UPDATE: It's a fake.

THE WASHINGTON POST has bought Slate. I hope they won't screw with Kausfiles, which is perfect as-is, except for the lack of permalinks.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt's take:

Howard Kurtz reports that the Washington Post has bought Slate, which I think boils down to buying Kaus and some office furniture. Best first move for the Post management team: Put Dionne to work in some obscure corner of Slate and get a couple of print columns a week out of Kausfiles.

And give Kaus a raise!

LANCE FRIZZELL'S BLOG is the subject of a TV report. There's a video link at the lower left, but -- as is annoyingly common with such things on TV websites -- there's no way to link it directly. (Via Bill Hobbs).

IT'S LIKE JOINING A CULT: Yesterday's mention that the iPod had arrived has produced a deluge of email recommending accessories (this wireless transmitter looks kinda cool, but I think I'll hold off). I'm listening to the Crystal Method's Legion of Boom right now, and it sounds pretty good. Well, if you're going to join a cult, it should be one with good tunes.

THANK YOU, Steven Den Beste. Yes.

PERCENTAGE PACKING: Interesting blog post on the percentage of adults with gun-carry permits, by state.

It's 3.45% in Tennessee -- I guess the motto is "always outnumbered, never outgunned!"

UPDATE: Somewhat different demographic information in this map.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE LIBERATED, a roundup of posts from Iraqi bloggers, is up. And don't miss this post from Iraqi bloggers Omar and Mohammed, who are now back in Iraq after visiting the United States:

Those days were very special ones and we never felt like strangers there; we were surrounded with love and respect where ever we went. We were amazed by the endless support and good will that the American people have for Iraq.

Everyone was saying "we're praying for your people and your country". It's been a great opportunity to meet many of our dear readers and respectable bloggers like Jeff Jarvis and Roger Simon and many other friends who kept following and supporting "Iraq the Model" throughout the past 13 months.

I wish that I had been able to meet them.

HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE MUBARAK? Joe Katzman has a roundup on Egypt over at Winds of Change.

DAVID BROOKS WONDERS why prospects in the Middle East look so much better than people expected:

After all, here is a man who staffed his administration with what Juan Cole of the University of Michigan called "pro-Likud intellectuals" who went off "fighting elective wars on behalf of Tel Aviv." Under Bush, the diplomats agreed, the U.S. had inflamed the Arab world and had forfeited its role as an honest broker. . . .

And yet here we are in this hopeful moment. It almost makes you think that all those bemoaners and condemners don't know what they are talking about. Nothing they have said over the past three years accounts for what is happening now. It almost makes you think that Bush understands the situation better than the lot of them.

Surely not. He's from Texas.

THE NEXT HARRY POTTER BOOK, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is finished, and will be out in July. They're not taking orders yet, but it's already showing a sales rank on Amazon, which is odd.

FREEDOM HOUSE has downgraded Russia from "partly free" to "not free."

December 20, 2004

BUSH GOT A LOT OF FLAK FOR THE DEFICIT: Now he'll get more for trying to cut it. In fact, it's already started. I hope he succeeds, though his ambitions seem rather modest to me.

LEGISLATION MATTERS: That's the recurring theme of this interview with Michael Powell in Reason. But there's lots of interesting stuff.

THE BAZEE.COM SCANDAL: An Indian blogger looks at the arrest and its implications for e-commerce. Just keep scrolling.

ONE OF THE FUN THINGS ABOUT BLOGGING: Saying I told you so!

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF has more underreported news from Iraq. "The latest poll of 5,000 people in and around Baghdad suggests that an overwhelming majority are prepared to make a clean break with the past and pursue democracy--now." Read it all.

Meanwhile, here's an interesting article from The Guardian on the explosive growth of Iranian blogs -- and guess who's involved:

In September 2001, a young Iranian journalist, Hossein Derakhshan, devised and set up one of the first weblogs in his native language of Farsi. In response to a request from a reader, he created a simple how-to-blog guide in Farsi, thereby setting in motion a community's surreal flight into free speech; online commentaries that the leading Iranian author and blogger, Abbas Maroufi, calls our "messages in bottles, cast to the winds".

With an estimated 75,000 blogs, Farsi is now the fourth most popular language for keeping online journals.

Very impressive, and it bodes well for the new Arabic blogging tool being supported by Spirit of America, and Iraqi bloggers Omar and Mohammed.

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE compares the United States and the European Union and suggests that Timothy Garton Ash is overstating the case for E.U. primacy. "If Ash were right, and the EU really were equal in power to the US, I would argue that that would be cause for great concern. I'm not convinced that the EU is a force for good within its own borders, let alone in the wider world, where appeasement and coddling of dictators seems to be the order of the day. The good news therefore is that the EU is not equal to the US in power. The even better news is that the trendlines are in our favor; not theirs."

I'm concerned not about power balances as such, but about cultural issues. Even phenomena that some Americans like to make fun of -- such as the sitzpinkler phenomenon -- are unfortunate in themselves, and are likely to produce a rebound that is even less fortunate.

DAVID ADESNIK: "I guess the United States doesn't really have to promote democracy in Iraq -- the insurgents are already doing that for us."

PROGRESS TOWARD ARTIFICIAL LIFE:

The soft cell walls are made of fat molecules taken from egg white. The cell contents are an extract of the common gut bug E. coli, stripped of all its genetic material.

This essence of life contains ready-made much of the biological machinery needed to make proteins; the researchers also added an enzyme from a virus to allow the vesicle to translate DNA code.

When they added genes, the cell fluid started to make proteins, just like a normal cell would.

Very interesting.

THE BELMONT CLUB has tough questions for the Associated Press.

KOFI, GENOCIDE AND INCOMPETENCE: Discussed over at GlennReynolds.com.

TIM BLAIR NOTES REVISIONIST HISTORY from Michael Moore. If you can imagine such a thing.

UPDATE: And, shockingly, Tom Maguire finds that Maureen Dowd is doing something similar.

THE NATIONAL NANOTECHNOLOGY INITIATIVE has released its strategic plan. Howard Lovy has more.

I STILL HAVE ALL OF LIVE AID ON VIDEOTAPE, and the tapes still worked fine the last time I played one, a few years ago. There's now a Live Aid DVD out, too, and I imagine it's pretty good since it's the same stuff.

But Ed Driscoll notes that while the concerts were good, where the money went was another question, with a less satisfactory answer. (Via Lance Frizzell).

JEFF FOUST looks at the year in space and asks, "Is 2004 the breakout year for space entrepreneurship?"

SO, I ORDERED THIS IPOD because it would get here before January. And I guess it will, but it was supposed to come Friday. The package-tracking indicates, though, that it's had something of a journey. Click "read more" to see it. Why it took the side trip to Doraville, Georgia is a mystery to me.

UPDATE: It's here, and charging, now. So is the Laura Ashley dollhouse that inspired last week's TCS column. Unfortunately, Roger Simon informs me that I am now crosswise with the Pope. Hey, at least I didn't order the iBod!

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THIS KINDA MAKES ME FEEL SORRY for John Ashcroft:

When Attorney General John Ashcroft was lampooned for shrouding the bare-breasted statue at the Department of Justice, many expected he would reverse the eight-year decline in obscenity prosecutions under former President Bill Clinton.

But today, as Mr. Ashcroft prepares to vacate the highest law enforcement office in the land, anti-porn advocates are deeply disappointed with the Bush administration's record — under Mr. Ashcroft's guidance — for pursuing peddlers of smut.

That suggests to me that, in a time of war, he's got his priorities straight. But boy, you just can't please everyone, can you?

RED ENSIGN has posted another roundup of Canadian bloggers.

WELL PUT:

The United Nations is the pre-eminent trade association for people involved in the business of government power. Actually, it is more focused than that. The United Nations is the trade association for the world's executive branches -- the place where executive branches come together to promote their individual interests to one another, and to promote the expansion of executive authority in general. This point is often missed by UN critics who dismiss the organization as nothing more than the world's greatest debating society. These critics confuse being voluntary with being powerless. Organizations like The American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the International Tobacco Growers' Association are all voluntary -- but certainly not powerless.

Once it is understood that the United Nations is a trade association for the promotion of executive authority, its behavior becomes almost rational. The trade association extends professional courtesy to its members -- its cardinal rule is not to step on the toes of another executive.

Indeed.

DARFUR UPDATE: "Sudan has said it is unconditionally suspending military operations in its Darfur region with immediate effect." Fighting does not, however, appear to have actually stopped.

JEFF JARVIS AND HUGH HEWITT are debating religion in society.

HOWARD KURTZ INTERVIEWS Iraqi bloggers Omar and Mohammed.

LA SHAWN BARBER has an article in National Review Online noting a lot of unsung contributors to the blogosphere. She's right.

ECONOBLOGARAMA: This week's Carnival of the Capitalists is up.

DAVID HACKETT FISCHER UPDATE: Here's Virginia Postrel's review of the latest David Hackett Fischer book. And scroll down, or click here, for a lot of book recommendations.

December 19, 2004

MICKEY KAUS:

Michael Kinsley's piece--on the speed with which he got useful reponses to his Social Security argument from the blogosphere--skirts an obvious point. It's not just that Kinsley got more helpful criticism from the blogosphere (when Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall posted it on their sites) than he got from the bigshot economists he sent it to. Kinsley got more overall attention for his argument by making it in the blogosphere than it would have gotten if he'd printed it in the rather large conventional paper whose opinion pages he runs. And I'm not just talking "more attention" in the sense that the blogosphere is big--bigger than the conventional print-centric media elite. Kinsley's thesis got more attention not just in the blogosphere but within the conventional print-centric media elite, even from those who pay little attention to blogs, because he got it posted on some blogs. ... Crudely put, Tim Russert and Al Hunt and William Safire and Bob Shrum and Sen. Harry Reid are more likely to know about Kinsley's idea because Kinsley bypassed his own LAT op-ed page.

Excellent point -- and with implications that some people should find deeply worrisome.

MERLE HAGGARD: Poet Laureate? You can do worse. And we usually do.

SOME THOUGHTS ON CONGOLESE PROBLEMS, and U.N. peacekeeping in general, over at GlennReynolds.com.

A NICE BIT OF HISTORY.

LAW SCHOOL MEETS REAL LIFE, with a fact situation tailor-made for a Torts exam.

THE SPACE ELEVATOR WEBLOG has lots of cool stuff about space elevators.

And here's an interesting article on space tourism from The Economist, though Rand Simberg notes an error or two.

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE OF THE BLOGOSPHERE, from Joe Gandelman posting at Dean's World. He's right to stress the self-renewing nature of the blogosphere, and the way in which the blogosphere is much more important than any individual blog.

MORE ON THE IVORY COAST: But it's nothing very pretty.

LARRY KUDLOW: "Bush has never before commented on Fed policy. Linking the Fed’s recent restraining move – which hopefully drains excess dollars as well as raising the target business rate – is therefore a significant Presidential statement. It hints that the period of floating exchange rate benign neglect is coming to an end."

THOSE MARYLAND FIRES MENTIONED EARLIER were apparently not ecoterrorism after all.

TVNEWSER REPORTS ON A Tucker Carlson move to MSNBC -- which I think would be a good thing for MSNBC, and another sign of how CNN's Crossfire has slipped.

THE IRAQ ELECTIONS BLOG is all about -- you guessed it -- the Iraq elections. (Via Charles Paul Freund -- who also notes a child sex abuse scandal in Pakistani madrassas).

WAS THE ARMORED-HUMVEE STORY A HOAX? Power Line is calling it one, and has this: "At the time the question was asked, the planted question, the unit had 784 of its 804 vehicles armored." Reading the followup, I think the number was more like 810 out of 830, but the ratio is still colossal, and it's rather shocking that we're just now hearing this.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Jason van Steenwyk is busting Dick Durbin for phony numbers. ("What's the deal with the idiots on the pentagon beat? Why are they just taking the claim at face value?Why does it fall to me to dig this obvious crap out?")

ANOTHER UPDATE: Donald Sensing has more, and observes:

My long-term readers may recall that I am no member of the Donald Rumsfeld fan club myself, but the calls for his head from US Senators over the phony armor shortage is absurd - especially from Republican Sen. John McCain; I increasingly wonder whether he knows he often seems to disconnect brain from tongue when making the talk shows. McCain's Senate duties have included direct oversight of DOD expenditures since the years of the Clinton administration.

Yet the Tennessean reported,

The Pentagon is spending $4.1 billion over the next year to add armor to vehicles in Iraq. [Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey] Sorenson said 35,000 of them need armored protection, of which 29,000 have been funded by Congress.

Got that? The Army's funding for armor is 6,000 vehicles short because John McCain won't choke up the money.

All of which is to say that it's business as usual on Capitol Hill: to seem rather than to be.

Indeed.

MORE: Greg Djerejian thinks I'm letting Rumsfeld off too easily. Well, possibly -- though that's because most of what I've seen aimed at Rumsfeld has looked like a cheap shot to me. McCain is guilty of flaming hypocrisy and obvious showboating, and I wanted to point that out. (And even bloggers who usually know better have launched some unfair attacks, like this from Andrew Sullivan: "Now that Powell has gone, Rummy will see it as a matter of cojones that he stay for a while, if only to prevent sufficient manpower being deployed to win the war in Iraq." So Rumsfeld doesn't want us to win? Puhleez. Rumsfeld might be wrong, of course, but the notion that he simply has an irrational aversion to having enough troops because he wants us to lose is absurd, and merely serves to diminish the credibility of those who make the claim.)

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IF A DRUG COMPANY DID THIS it would be a huge scandal. But it's the government, so it's okay!

UPDATE: Vik Rubenfeld says it really is okay, and that this story is deeply misleading: "Dr. Tramont’s actions got the drug to the people sooner and saved lives. But in less honorable hands the procedures he used could have been used for wrongful purposes. Do we sanction Dr. Tramont? Or do we give him credit but keep a more watchful eye out for such things in the future?"

WIRED lists some recommended books for holiday gift-giving.

And here are some InstaPundit recommendations:

For fiction, go here -- and also check out John Scalzi's Old Man's War, which I liked very much, and which is now shipping.

For nonfiction: James Webb's Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. (My capsule review here.) I also recommend David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, from which Webb (as he freely admits) gets a lot of his stuff.

James Bennett's The Anglosphere Challenge makes an interesting companion to the above. Follow the link to read a review by Lexington Green of the ChicagoBoyz, or read excerpts from the Times Literary Supplement review here.

George Dyson's Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship, discussing the interesting work his father Freeman did. (My column on the book -- with video of an Orion test -- is here). Another cool space book is Bob Zubrin's Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization.


Joe Trippi's book, The Revolution will not be Televised. Still the best blogs-and-politics book to date -- though I haven't read Hugh Hewitt's forthcoming book on the same topic, which will be out next month. Dan Gillmor's We the Media is also a must-read in this department.

Derrick Story, Digital Photography Hacks. Also Scott Kelby, The Adobe Photoshop CS Book for Digital Photographers. (Though I took Kelby's advice on recalibrating the auto-color-correction and regretted it until I restored the default settings. But the book's otherwise good.)

And, though it's pre-digital, Photography, by Phil Davis, is still an excellent text.

And, finally, for the HGTV crowd there's James Lileks' must-read Interior Desecrations -- full of stuff that will no doubt be back in style in the near future.


Happy reading! And if reading's not your bag -- er, then what are you doing here? -- but there's always this complete Star Trek video collection. Woohoo!

UPDATE: Reader Douglas Williams emails: "If you liked Albion's Seed, you're going to love Washington's Crossing. I envy you not having read it." No envy needed -- here's my post. And Hackett Fischer fans may also like his most recent book, Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas, which I haven't reviewed -- but here's a post from ChicagoBoyz. Meanwhile, post-surgical reader Jim Martin responds to my "what are you doing here?" question:

I would love to read the books on your list, but, unfortunately I can not.

I have had glaucoma for 25 years and, Thursday, I had laser surgery on my right eye for the second time in 23 years in an effort to save what vision is left, about 20%. I also have double vision which makes print reading almost impossible.

Two hours following the laser surgery I could not watch televison due to the anesthesia and a gel they put on the eye so a lens isn't painful. The surgery is somewhat painful even with anesthesia, seventy shots around the optic nerve.

What I could do was read your blog with no discomfort at all. The font is large and easy to see and the subjects far more interesting than TV anyhow.

I wish books could be posted on Web pages, not just the classics.

Well, you can read the stuff at the Baen Free Library on the web for free, and it includes some of the fiction works I've recommended. And I'm glad that InstaPundit is reader-friendly for people with eye problems, which was part of the design philosophy (including the text-size menu). But it makes me feel guilty for not posting more often!

MICHAEL KINSLEY ON THE BLOGOSPHERE:

Some of my best friends are bloggers. Still, it's different when you purposely drop an idea into this bubbling cauldron and watch the reaction. What floored me was not just the volume and speed of the feedback but its seriousness and sophistication. Sure, there were some simpletons and some name-calling nasties echoing rote-learned propa- ganda. But we get those in letters to the editor. What we don't get, nearly as much, is smart and sincere intellectual engagement -- mostly from people who are not intellectuals by profes- sion -- with obscure and tedious, but important, issues.

Indeed. (Via Robert Prather).

TIME NAMES BUSH "MAN OF THE YEAR," and Power Line blog of the year. Sounds about right to me!

UPDATE: Here's an excerpt from the Power Line story:

The story of how three amateur journalists working in a homegrown online medium challenged a network news legend and won has many, many game-changing angles to it. One of the strangest and most radical is that the key information in "The 61st Minute" came from Power Line's readers, not its ostensible writers. The Power Liners are quick, even eager, to point this out. "What this story shows more than anything is the power of the medium," Hinderaker says. "The world is full of smart people who have information about every imaginable topic, and until the Internet came along, there wasn't any practical way to put it together."

Indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Thanks, guys, but I've had my Time article already.