Instapundit.com Instapundit.com

January 01, 2005

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS: There are lots of them, though it's always more fun making New Year's resolutions for other people. But some people want to know mine. And quite a few people have asked me for predictions.

As for resolutions, one of mine is, well, to spend less time at the computer, which may or may not involve cutting back on some of my other online writing activities. But I've been spending a lot of time at the computer these past three-plus years, and I think I may need to consolidate, especially in light of health issues with, seemingly, most of my family ranging from my wife to my father to my grandmother. (On the other hand, often as not those put me in situations where there's not much to do besides write and surf. . . .) I don't have any concrete plans, but I wonder if something or other may have to go. It's not likely to be InstaPundit, though. Hell, maybe I should just adopt this resolution and leave it at that . . .

Meanwhile, I don't really do predictions. But I think that 2005 is going to turn out pretty well. It's just a gut feeling, but I certainly hope so.

SOME VERY IMPRESSIVE tsunami photos.

UPDATE: Despite their being labelled as such, a reader suggests that these are not tsunami photos but tidal bore photos, and if you'll follow the link you'll see that one of them is there.

And, apparently, there's other bogosity going on.

A lovely day.
WE DIDN'T GET A WHITE CHRISTMAS, but on the other hand we got a green New Year, with temperatures getting well into the 60s today. I went for a walk on Cherokee Boulevard, and as you can see it was quite nice.

Snow is picturesque, but one of the nice things about the Knoxville climate is that even though it can get quite cold in the winter, it lacks the unrelenting character that I remember from places like Cambridge and New Haven. It always relents, at least for a few days, and that's really nice.

Of course, hard-core winter sports enthusiasts may feel differently. But I'm not one of those, and I never have been.

JESSE WALKER: "What was really astonishing was to remember that 14 years earlier, when the first Gulf War was underway, CNN was the amazing new innovation, not the dinosaur in the rear-view mirror."

And there's a lesson in that for all of us.

NORM GERAS profiles Donald Sensing.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING LIST of tsunami blog links.

IS EUROPE COMING AROUND? John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge (Economist writers and authors of The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America) think it may be:

Paradoxically, the very thing that neoconservatives detest most about European diplomacy — that Machiavellian willingness to cut deals with anyone — is now working in Bush's favor. But there is arguably more to this sea change than just a grumpy acceptance of the status quo. From a European perspective, three things are making it easier to warm to the Bush White House.

One is the death of Yasser Arafat. No issue divides Europe and the United States more keenly than the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. For the last few years, Europeans have criticized Bush for failing to put enough pressure on Israel to get out of the occupied territories and for refusing to deal with Arafat. But since Arafat's death, Europeans and Americans have been able to find common ground: supporting Ariel Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza, putting pressure on Israel to let the Palestinians hold elections and, covertly, backing Mahmoud Abbas to become the next Palestinian leader.

A second reason is Europe's growing worries about Islamic terrorism. The murder in November of Theo van Gogh, a provocative Dutch filmmaker, at the hands of an Islamic militant has been called Europe's 9/11. Though the two events are obviously not fully comparable, it is certainly true that American conservatives, such as Francis Fukuyama and Bernard Lewis, have found a wider audience recently for the idea that radical Islam is inimical to European traditions of tolerance.

The third force is the reappearance, albeit in a milder form, of the threat that kept the trans-Atlantic alliance together for half a century. The Russian bear is growling again. The Ukrainian election — complete with its KGB-style poisoning of the opposition leader and heavy-handed electoral fraud — has reminded European diplomats of Vladimir V. Putin's determination to control his "near abroad."

Very interesting. Read the whole thing. (Via Roger Simon).

LASER ATTACKS: This post from SgtStryker.com makes sense to me:

Lasers are not being used to blind pilots. Lasers are being used to measure straight line distance from the ground to an aircraft aircraft at its most vulnerable state - landing. An aircraft on takeoff would be a more difficult target - maximum power and maximum climb. But a landing ship slows down to a speed just short of a stall and follows a prescribed path of flight .

The information regarding an aircraft’s peak vulnerability would be invaluable. Documenting landing approaches and and straight line distances would be highly useful in target acquisition. That information is critical regarding available weapons systems. . . .

The laser activity is more than likely a target acquisition exercise.

And people are taking notes.

There are too many cities and too many locations reporting laser incidents. In my view, they are calculating maximum ranges, with no intent to blind the crew.

I'm no expert on this, but it seems plausible.

UPDATE: Several readers doubt this is right, as approach information is publicly available from the FAA anyway. There's more in the comments to the post above.

Reader Rich Willis, on the other hand, thinks that this is the explanation. But I wonder if you could target a moving plane accurately, and hold on target, with a handheld laser.

REPRESENTING THE DOWNTRODDEN:

Regarding being born into privilege, Nick Coleman's father was among the most powerful men in the state, including four terms as Senate Majority Leader, from 1973 to 1981. His step mother, Deborah Howell, worked at the Minneapolis Star from 1965 to 1979, rising to the post of City Editor. In 1973, Nick was given a job as city hall reporter, for the Minneapolis Star. In 1979, Deborah Howell moved to the Pioneer Press serving as Managing Editor, then Executive Editor, until 1990. In 1986, stepson Nick was given a columnist position, at, guess what, the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Well, that explains a lot.

HELP ARRIVES:

ABOARD THE USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN - Desperate, homeless villagers on the tsunami-ravaged island of Sumatra mobbed American helicopters carrying aid Saturday as the U.S. military launched its largest operation in the region since the Vietnam War, ferrying food and other emergency relief to survivors across the disaster zone.

From dawn until sunset on New Year's Day, 12 Seahawk helicopters shuttled supplies and advance teams from offshore naval vessels while reconnaissance aircraft brought back stark images of wave-wrecked coastal landscapes and their hungry, traumatized inhabitants.

"They came from all directions, crawling under the craft, knocking on the pilot's door, pushing to get into the cabin," said Petty Officer First Class Brennan Zwack. "But when they saw we had no more food inside, they backed away, saying `Thank you, thank you.'" . . .

More than a dozen other ships were en route to southern Asian waters, with the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault vessel carrying Marines, headed for Sri Lanka, which along with Indonesia was the worst-hit area. The mission involves thousands of sailors and Marines, along with some 1,000 land-based troops.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: More here:

Fueled by Internet donations from hundreds of thousands of individuals, the outpouring to help victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami is on track to surpass gifts for victims of previous natural disasters, and charities say contributions are even outpacing those of the first days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Americans are donating so much money — so fast — that relief agencies say the totals are rising dramatically hour to hour.

Stingy? Meanwhile, the United Nations seems to be better at taking credit than taking action. No surprise there.

"CHARITY IS GOOD, BUT COMMERCE IS BETTER:" N.Z. Bear suggests that people buy south asian goods and services.

BILL QUICK'S DAILYPUNDIT is now a group blog.

TSUNAMI UPDATE: There's some very interesting reporting from Tamil Nadu on Amit Varma's blog.

STINGINESS UPDATE: Tim Blair notes that some people are never satisfied, and that other people are quick to take credit.

LIBERAL IRAQI is another new Iraqi blog that's worth reading.

TSUNAMI UPDATE: Gary Leff explains how you can donate frequent flyer miles to the relief efforts.

MICKEY KAUS:

The Case for Paper Ballots, XXVIII: Electronic voting has turned North Carolina into the Ukraine! ... Because a malfunctioning electronic voting machine in one county lost 4,438 votes, the whole state plans a Ukraine-style re-vote for the office of Agriculture Commissioner (which was won, in the areas where the voting machines worked, by only 2,287 votes). ... Except that the do-over vote will be highly unfair--turnout will be minuscule (unlike in the Ukraine).

My response: I told you so!

TIGERHAWK LOOKS AT A NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE on the post-election stock market rally and spots a major error, as well as supplying some useful perspective.

And speaking of stocks, here's enthusiasm for Amazon: "Everyone is still expecting Walmart to eat Amazon’s lunch, but it isn’t gonna happen. The Walmart corporate culture is: lots of stuff, low prices. The Amazon corporate culture is: the user experience is all. On the web, the user experience is all." I like Amazon very much, but I hope that there's more competition in the online market than this suggests. On the other hand, I can't think of the last time I bought from Overstock.com, I forgot that Buy.com was even still in business until a reader mentioned it recently, and I've never bought anything from Walmart.com. I wish I owned Amazon stock.

HAD A DELIGHTFUL New Year's Eve. I let the girls (the insta-daughter and an insta-niece) stay up and watch the ball drop on TV. They found this extremely exciting, and their excitement was infectious. Happy New Year!

December 31, 2004

UKRAINE UPDATE:

KIEV (Reuters) - Viktor Yanukovich said on Friday he was resigning as Ukraine's prime minister, but refused to concede defeat in a presidential poll as a vast New Year crowd feted liberal Viktor Yushchenko's victory in Kiev's main square.

Yanukovich has denounced his rival's victory in the re-run of last month's rigged election and is pursuing legal challenges to overturn the outcome.

But in a New Year's address, he admitted the appeals to election authorities and the Supreme Court stood little chance.

New Year's photoblogging from Kiev here. Let's hope 2005 lives up to this promise.

UPDATE: 2005-blogger Tim Blair reports from next year: "Welcome to 2005. From my futuristic Australian vantage point, I can exclusively reveal that 2005 is very similar to 2004; except, of course, for all the hover bikes."

LOOKS LIKE A BLOGGING SUCCESS for Stefan Sharkansky, whose work on the Washington recount is credited in the Seattle Times.

HAPPY NEW YEAR: Amazon tsunami relief donations have passed $10 million.

UPDATE: This sounds like a cool charitable venture involving FedEx and Operation Give. Donald Sensing offers advice on what to send, though money is always in good taste, too.

IF YOU'RE IN SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS and looking for something to do tonight, go down to The Warehouse and see my brother's band play!

WHEN REASON DIED AS A LIBERTARIAN MAGAZINE: It was at 1:17 p.m. Pacific Time today, with this post by Tim Cavanaugh, savaging a man who patronized the tourist industry in Thailand instead of donating money.

There's still a bit of life in the comments, but that's just the corpse twitching.

UPDATE: Kevin O'Meara emails:

My family had a tourist store in San Francisco that folded after the quake of '89. It wasn't the quake that did it - it was the fact that tourists avoided San Francisco for months after the quake, despite pleas from the city that things were basically fixed.

So, the argument is that the way you "help" Thailand after the tsunami is to boycott Thailand's largest industry by refusing to visit there?

It's not a boycott, exactly. Just a sort of sympathetic shunning, I guess.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tim Blair notes that the Thais are desperate for tourist dollars right now to finance rebuilding, and are asking tourists to come.

In fact, here's what the Thais are saying: "If you want to help Phuket and people living here, come back for holidays!"

But what do they know? Greedy capitalists!

MORE: Rajan Rishyakaran: "You don't help a people by boycotting their main industry . . . . Now is a really good time to vacation in other parts of Thailand - far less tourists! Bali's open too - it's far from Aceh. And trust me, most resorts in Penang are okay."


MUSIC RECOMMENDATION: My earlier music post generated a lot of email, most of which I haven't had time to digest. But I do like Chimera by Delerium, which was originally recommended to me by Steve Jurvetson, I think. Like Thievery Corporation, it's especially good music for driving or blogging. Or, as in the case of this week's trip, driving and blogging.

LA SHAWN BARBER says she's made it big.

PATTERICO HAS POSTED PART II of his 2004 Year-in-Review for the Los Angeles Times.

THANKS TO ALL THE PEOPLE who sent good wishes regarding my father and grandmother. My dad's at home now, says he feels great and hasn't needed even a single pain pill.

My grandmother's doing well, too. She was in the Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital in Birmingham. It was a terrific place, really. The rehab was excellent, and the people were extraordinarily nice. However, Lakeshore was originally a sanatorium for TB patients, and in fact it's the very place where my grandmother's mother died in 1928, when my grandmother was 14. She remembers going there with her brothers and sisters and seeing her mother wave from a window, since they weren't allowed to meet in person for fear of infection. (Once her mother went off to the sanatorium, she took charge of raising her four younger siblings). That, plus the absence of any close family nearby, made staying there a bit difficult for her, and I think she's better off here. The place she's staying now even has cats, which she likes very much.

And thanks to the people who sent donations, but don't send them on my account. I don't need them to pay medical bills and I'd rather you sent any donations to a tsunami-relief charity or something, not to me.

UKRAINE UPDATE: "Viktor Yanukovych announced Friday that he will resign as Ukraine's prime minister after losing to opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko in the rerun of the presidential election."

TSUNAMI UPDATE: Amit Varma is travelling around Tamil Nadu and posting reports on his blog. It's sobering reading.

Meanwhile, Craig Winneker reports from Koh Mook Island in Thailand.

STINGINESS UPDATE: Over $7.5 million raised by Amazon.com so far.

UPDATE: It's over $8.5 million now.

MORE: U.S. government aid is now up to $350 million.

ABC NEWS MAKES BLOGGERS people of the year. But there's something missing from the story . . . .

MY EARLIER MENTION OF MICHAEL WILSON'S NEW DOCUMENTARY ON MICHAEL MOORE expressed a hope that it would be shown on college campuses. Some people doubt that, based on allegations of leftist bias.

Leftist bias on campus is real, of course. But several things suggest that this film might find an audience on college campuses. The first is that people have noticed the heavy leftist tilt of things like speaker series and film committees, and there's pressure for balance. The second is that Michael Moore -- having quite possibly cost the Democrats the election -- is in somwhat bad odor even on the left these days.

But the most important is that Wilson's film is really about the ethics of documentary filmmaking, and the ease, and danger, of going over to the Dark Side by manipulating subjects and engaging in deceit; Wilson is quite forthright about his own struggles with temptation in that regard. That would seem to me to make Wilson's film an excellent teaching tool, and highly suited for a college audience, both within Film Studies programs and beyond them.

MICHAEL POLLARD WRITES:

Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber writes that "bloggers like Glenn Reynolds .... think that blogs should replace the mainstream media." I don't think you've written anything that can be fairly interpreted this way, but perhaps I've misread you?

I note that in this post you write that "the political blogosphere is to a large degree about media criticism," and you approvingly quote a reader's comment that "Blogs are the letter to the editor that the editor does not want to print." (Here's another post where you cast bloggers largely as media critics.) Doesn't sound like you regard bloggers as a replacement (or even potential replacement) for the MSM. On the other hand, you've also "pushed the concept of bloggers as news collectors". I don't get the impression that you think news collecting blogs will someday replace the Washington Post and New York Times, but like I said, maybe I've misunderstood you.

Care to address Farrell's post directly?

Well, okay. First, Farrell says that I "seem" to believe that blogs will replace big media, and maybe to him I do seem that way, at least to him, though I can't think of what I might have written to that effect, and apparently neither can he as he provides no link or quote. So maybe he's just characterizing my views that way so as to create an apparent contradiction that he can exploit. . . .

But I don't think I've ever said that that blogs will replace Big Media. (As I have said, it's possible to imagine some sort of distributed news-collective that would do the same kind of work that newspapers or TV networks do, but there's nothing like that in existence, and if there were it wouldn't be a blog). I've generally characterized the relationship between the blogosphere and the legacysphere as symbiotic, with the prediction that blogging would remain an amateur activity by and large. And it is, at least overall. Jay Rosen is right when he says the shift is as much tonal as structural, with blogs forcing a conversation. And as I've said repeatedly, the real threat to Big Media is not so much to their pocketbooks as to their self-importance.

My hope (not borne out as much as I'd have liked) has been that blogs would pressure Big Media to do a better job, both by criticism and by force of example. I also think that blogs do a lot to produce reporting of things that Big Media can't or won't report -- with the tsunami reportage and the AP bogus-boos story being examples from each category. I do think that blogs (and the Internet in general, via things like CraigsList) are pulling eyeballs from Big Media, for which there is considerable evidence. But that hardly boils down to a claim that blogs will replace Big Media, and I don't know where Farrell gets that idea. Neither, apparently, does he, as he provides no sourcing.

Farrell also conflates InstaPundit with the blogosphere as a whole, by suggesting that my statement that InstaPundit is not a news service somehow means that the blogosphere isn't up to news-gathering. InstaPundit is mostly about punditry (hence the name) but many other blogs are otherwise. Via this conflation, though, we get a claim of hypocrisy on my part: The argument is: Reynolds thinks blogs should replace Big Media; Reynolds admits he can't cover everything; Therefore Reynolds is a hypocrite.

So we have an unsupported mischaracterization of my opinion, followed by a duck-and-switch in which InstaPundit is equated with the blogosphere, leading to a charge of hypocrisy. Farrell's treatment of this issue -- in which he accuses me of engaging in a dodge when I say I'm not a news service -- is rather dodgy itself, and does him no credit.

What's more -- and Farrell really knows too much to make this sort of mistake, I would think -- individual blogs aren't the unit of analysis, the blogosphere is. Unlike Big Media, who until recently could black out a story with the agreement of a very small number of players, bloggers can't do that. If I had ignored the tsunami, or RatherGate, other people would have covered them, and my omissions would have made little difference. That's a fundamental difference in media, and hence in responsibilities in terms of inclusiveness. (And it cuts both ways, as I suggest in a response to Chuck Divine in the comments to this post by Rand Simberg.)

Farrell wants to carve out a niche as a scholar of the blogosphere, and he's done some interesting work together with Daniel Drezner. Posts like this one, however, make me wonder how reliable his insights are likely to be.

UPDATE: Reader Randy Beck points out this from last summer, which I had forgotten. Fortunately, not everyone had. That's another thing about Big Media and the blogosphere. In both cases, our readers are smarter than we are. But bloggers both know it and, more importantly, admit it!

Admit it? Heck, I rely on it. Meanwhile, Power Line notes Farrell's use of the term "slavering right-wing hacks," but also observes:

I think Farrell is missing the distinction between particular blogs and the blogsphere as a whole. No one blog can cover everything and many blogs, such as ours, deal primarily in opinion. But one can envisage a blogosphere that readers rely on to obtain essentially everything they now get from a newspaper or a newscast. The basic facts of a story would come from links to news services. The analysis would come from specialized blogs or non-specialized blogs that happen to have expertise in the subject area. The op-ed type opinions would come from the opinion blogs. I actually think we're pretty close to having such a blogosphere, although that's clearly a matter for debate.

I still think, as I indicated here, Big Media organizations have an enormous advantage in gathering hard news. But that advantage obtains, of course, only to the extent that they choose to employ it, and are trusted when they do.

ANOTHER UPDATE: In an update to his post, Farrell accuses me of being "characteristically evasive." This assumes that he has a point worth evading, which doesn't seem to be the case. Farrell says that it is hypocritical of bloggers, like me, to criticize Big media for failing at comprehensiveness and objectivity when we bloggers are neither comprehensive nor objective.

If I were running a newspaper, he might have a point. But for a blogger to criticize a newspaper surely doesn't require that the blogger run his or her blog as if it were a newspaper. InstaPundit's tagline is "Making even the dumbest sh*t interesting," not "All the news that's fit to print." Farrell seems to be straining awfully hard to find a basis for criticism here.

However, treating Farrell's point as worthy of engagement -- it is the holiday season after all -- I'd say that it fails on its own terms. We've seen how little the Big Media standards that Farrell invokes amount to -- just look at the response of the Star Tribune's ombudsman in the Nick Coleman affair, for the most recent example in a long and sad series. Newspapers, etc., claim to be comprehensive and objective, and are not. Bloggers do not claim to be comprehensive or objective, and are not. Who's being hypocritical here, again?

MORE: Hugh Hewitt suggests, correctly, that Farrell is being rather ungracious. ("Rather than graciously admit how perhaps he might have 'overwritten' a bit ('slavering right wing hacks'), Henry has doubled down, and it isn't pretty.") No, it's not -- and it really is going to make it hard for me to take Henry seriously as a scholar of the blogosphere, now that he's written off half of it so unpleasantly.

But it's not just Henry. I've noticed that others among the lefty bloggers have been rather down on the blogosphere lately, uttering complaints about partisanship and the like, and I strongly suspect that it has a lot to do with the election results.

What's funny is that the reason why they hate us -- Kerry's defeat in spite of overwhelming and underhanded support from Big Media -- is misplaced. The power of the non-lefty blogosphere is, as I've written before, largely an artifact of Big Media's bias in favor of the left.

Meanwhile, King Banaian thinks I'm wrong:

I disagree with Reynolds that "Big Media organizations have an enormous advantage in gathering hard news" unless he means the first AP reports from places like Aceh about tsunamis. On that he'd be right. But blogs get a huge payoff for gathering a piece of information that helps shape stories other bloggers and the MSM are gathering. It does so in an efficient fashion: Spontaneous order occurs because those blogs able to gather good information draw eyes, Technorati rankings and NZ Bear love. In contrast, the marginal value to an MSM organization of getting a particular piece of data is small; ad rates and subscriptions will not be affected by coverage of one particular story nearly as much. As the mainstream media comes to understand that order in the blogosphere, it will rely on blogs more and more to help with the information gathering -- rather than compete, there will be some desire for cooperation between the blogosphere and the MSM. See, for a current example, the reliance on Sharkblog's coverage of the Washington governor's race by the Seattle Times. I think this absorption will only grow.

Hmm. I think that's more like the symbiosis I was describing.

Eric S. Raymond has a somewhat different take.

LAST UPDATE TO THIS POST: Jay Rosen weighs in with much more in an update to this post -- you'll have to scroll to the bottom: "Farrell did something I have seen many journalists (Nick Coleman is one) do: refute an argument that isn't out there about blogging and Big Media. I'm sure someone somewhere has said something like it, but it is extremely rare to encounter any regular observer of the scene, blogger or not, right or left, who thinks the major news media's army of reporters is about to be "replaced" by bloggers. I just don't find anyone claiming that, probably because it's an absurd and overblown idea that falls apart after about a minute of thought."

TSUNAMI UPDATE: Is Burma hiding something? It's likely that casualties there are much higher than reported, alas.

Meanwhile, here's a report that some expect the death toll in Aceh province of Indonesia alone to reach 400,000, which is absolutely mind-boggling.

DNS PROBLEMS AT BELLSOUTH.NET: Rand Simberg notes a problem that BellSouth hasn't noticed yet.

Actually, I just started experiencing this during the worm outbreak last week; before that everything was fine and pages loaded quickly. But since then (and, perhaps not coincidentally as I supposed, since Bellsouth rolled out some new web features around the same time) I've had the problem of transient DNS failures, intermittent slow page loads, etc. just as he describes.

December 30, 2004

ANOTHER REMINDER not to take tsunami charitable appeals at face value when you don't know the background. On the other hand, don't be too suspicious: I came back to a mailbox stuffed with emails from people worried that Amazon is taking a cut off tsunami donations. Er, but the front page says that 100% of the money will go the the Red Cross, so I believe the answer to that is "no."

POOR MICHAEL MOORE: First, he loses the election for the Democrats, and now Michael Wilson's documentary on Michael Moore is out. (Yeah, it says it was out Nov. 1, but I pre-ordered it, and I just got my copy this week.)

The Insta-Wife and I have seen it, and it's very good. I hope it'll be showing on HBO, and on college campuses around America, soon.

HERE'S A LOOK AT The Los Angeles Times' performance in 2004. Less than stellar.

ARE AMERICANS STINGY? Daniel Drezner and Bruce Bartlett look at the numbers.

Day by Day has its own take, too:

123004dbd.jpg

UPDATE: Many more numbers crunched here, by Chuck Simmins.

MADE IT HOME, with my grandmother dropped off at the new rehab center. Adding to the complications, my dad had a pacemaker installed today on short notice (I found out about it when he called my cellphone last night in the car) but he's doing fine now and says he feels well enough to drive himself home. Back later, but I'm not sure when.

In the meantime, read this story on podcasting by Dan Kennedy, and this piece on exporting the Ukraine miracle by Max Boot: "The triumph of the Orange Revolution should dispel the quaint notion still prevalent in many Western universities and foreign ministries that democracy is a luxury good suitable only for rich countries with a tradition of liberalism stretching back centuries."

Kaus has a lot, too.

HERE ARE SOME LINKS to people blogging from Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

RADLEY BALKO writes that there was actually a lot of good news in 2004. There's a lot of it, and the column is a must-read.

BILL WHITTLE'S NEW BOOK, Silent America: Essays from an America at War, is now available on Amazon. It's doing quite well in the rankings already. If you haven't bought it yet, well, why not?

JOURNALISTIC STANDARDS AT THE STAR TRIBUNE:

Among other things, the editor advised me that Coleman's attack on us involved no reporting, and that the column's factual misrepresentations were to be read in that light. Moreover, certain of the misrepresentations were to be construed as sarcasm rather than taken at face value.

Finally, according to the editor, Coleman's false assertion that he didn't know and we didn't say whether we might be on the take from some campaign, political party or anonymous benefactor, appeared to violate no Star Tribune standard.

Jeez. And these guys dis blogs?

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty writes:

Brent Bozell or other media critics could not have written a scenario that makes the mainstream media look worse.

Imagine that you are writing a novel. You write a scene in which a newspaper columnist wrote that his Internet-based critics had no "professional standards" and then got one of his central arguments wrong because he didn't bother to check what he assumed about his critics. After the errors are revealed, neither he nor his editor can say what "professional standards" his column is held to.

Most book editors and readers would shake their heads at that scene — it's not believable, stacking the deck too much. Newspaper columnists aren't that sloppy or reckless with the facts. Editors don't just let them write whatever they feel like - they edit.

Like the story of the CBS memo, this is turning stranger than fiction.

And, like the CBS story, it's not over yet.

HURRICANE ROOTERS vs. tsunami buddies. Smackdown!

LASER ATTACKS ON COMMERCIAL JETS? Quite possibly.

December 29, 2004

MADE IT HERE IN ONE PIECE, but I think I'll give blogging a rest, chat with my mom (who came, too) and maybe read a bit of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell before bed. Enjoy the many other fine bloggers (and check out these excerpts from Donald Sensing's forthcoming book), and I'll be back tomorrow.

DER SPIEGEL: "Blogs are at the forefront of the tsunami recovery effort. While traditional media drags awaiting publication, and government hotlines jam or go unanswered, bloggers have hopped into the fray, providing needed information to relatives desperate to find loved ones and those hoping to join the rescue efforts."

THE ECONOMIST SURVEYS NANOTECHNOLOGY:

For America, nanotechnology is the largest federally funded science initiative since the country decided to put a man on the moon. In 2004, the American government spent $1.6 billion on it, well over twice as much as it did on the Human Genome Project at its peak. In 2005, it is planning to shell out a further $982m. Japan is the next biggest spender, and other parts of Asia as well as Europe have also joined the funding race (see chart 2). Perhaps surprisingly, the contenders include many developing countries, such as India, China, South Africa and Brazil.

That's not so surprising, really, as nanotechnology research is relatively inexpensive, and offers an opportunity to leapfrog countries with strong positions in established technology. (Via Howard Lovy, whose blog is a must-read for nanotechnology enthusiasts).

EUGENE VOLOKH offers some additional criticisms of Nick Coleman's rather lame assault on Power Line. And Evan Coyne Maloney notes a rather dramatic admission by Mr. Coleman. As Volokh asks: "Where are those professional standards when you need them?"

MORE PROBLEMS FOR NEWSPAPERS: A reader sends this link to a story from Barron's:

IN RECENT YEARS, online job site Monster.com has been gobbling up listings from newspapers, once the go-to place for employment ads.

And the beast is still hungry.

After eating newspapers' lunch–the vital classified job listings posted by larger businesses – Monster now wants to grab listings taken out by small and mid-sized businesses seeking to fill blue-collar positions.

"People want to spend dollars where they can get the best employee pool, and a larger and larger percentage of that is on the Internet," says Mark Mahaney, an analyst with American Technology Research.

What's sad is that newspapers have seen this coming for 20 years -- they went out of their way to get the Bell system breakup done in a way that kept phone companies out of electronic classified ads -- but are still getting clobbered.

TRULY MOBILE BLOGGING: I'm blogging from the car, thanks to the Verizon wireless card. No, I'm not the one driving. Why am I doing this? Mostly because I can, I guess. But it's pretty cool.

BLOGGING MAY BE somewhat light, as I'm off to Birmingham. My grandmother (aged 90) had a fall. She's not doing too badly, but I'm going to bring her up here so that she can be closer to the family while she recovers and goes through rehab. I won't be completely offline, as I have the Verizon card now, but I'm likely to be posting somewhat less, and harder to reach via email, than usual.

AMAZON TSUNAMI DONATIONS have now broken $2 million.

MUSIC UPDATE: Yesterday's music mentions led to requests for more. Well, I got two cool CD's from my rock-musician younger brother for Christmas, and they're both pretty cool. One is The Killers' Hot Fuss, and the other is Jeff Buckley's Grace. I don't know how they'll hold up under repeated listening yet, but they're both worth looking at.

JOSH TREVINO RESPONDS TO CLAIMS OF "STINGINESS" -- but face it, there's no pleasing people whose chief desire in life is to bitch.

DIGITALGLOBE HAS SATELLITE IMAGERY OF THE TSUNAMI and it's pretty dramatic stuff.

THEY'RE ACTUALLY FIRING PEOPLE FOR POOR PERFORMANCE AT THE CIA:

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency's analytical branch is being forced to step down, former intelligence officials say, opening a major new chapter in a shakeup under Porter J. Goss, the agency's chief.

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency's analytical branch is being forced to step down, former intelligence officials say, opening a major new chapter in a shakeup under Porter J. Goss, the agency's chief.

This should have been done three years ago, as I said at the time, and as I suspect the Bush Administration now agrees.

SOME GOOD NEWS: We could use it, today.

IN THE MAIL: An advance copy of Eric Posner and Jack Goldsmith's The Limits of International Law, which argues that the utopian (and perhaps hubristic) view of international law held by many in the chattering classes is not borne out by the way nations actually behave, or can be expected to behave. It looks quite interesting.

DON'T THESE GUYS HAVE EDITORS? The Star Tribune's Nick Coleman has an end-of-year meltdown in which he savages the Power Line guys. Compare his hysterical column with the measured responses here and here and it becomes plain that Hugh Hewitt's point is right: Lots of bloggers are just better writers than lots of people with cushy column sinecures at monopoly papers.

Ed Morrissey has further thoughts.

UPDATE: Reader Bryant Stone emails:

The ironic point about your link to Nick's article is that I am unable to read the article in its entirety unless I subscribe to the Star Tribune online. The fact that powerline, instapundit and others are free and without subscription only serves to reinforce my belief (and to use a banking term) of how "out-of-market" msm has become in its methodology of reporting.

Indeed. Meanwhile, Betsy Newmark comments on Coleman: "He is remarkably vicious and personal in his attack. What he isn't is substantive. He has no real complaint about what they've written and doesn't even address any of their many fact-based posts. Instead, he just fills his column with ad hominem attacks and praise for himself."

If I were a higher-up at the Star Tribune, I wouldn't want Nick Coleman as my public face. Dave Friedman has further thoughts.

MORE: Jim Geraghty writes that this is the blogging equivalent of Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfields's ear, and comments, "I'm sorry, did a mainstream media columnist just allege that his blogger critics are... deficient in their reproductive organs? This guy makes Dan Rather and Bill O'Reilly look like the epitome of class and cool." Meanwhile reader Brian Faughnan emails:

The other interesting thing to me about Coleman's attack on Powerline is what it means as a milestone for how far the Internet has come. One of the nation's leading papers now has an opinion writer who has picked a fight with a leading blog. It's practically incidental that the columnist appears to be losing. One of the rules of politics is that you try not to give your adversary any publicity, unless you have to. You don't mention the fellow's name. Even just a year ago, no one in the MSM would have entered into a debate with a blogger. Today, Coleman seems to feel threatened enough by Powerline that he has to attack them. How much does that say about the extraordinary growth of the Internet - and bloggers - as sources of news? To me, it seems that we've reached another major marker of the decline of the MSM.

And certainly of its standards . . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader John Raynes emails:

I'm really confused . . . . First MSM told me that you guys all wore pajamas. Now they tell me that you work out of "paneled bank offices". So do you guys blog from bank offices in your pajamas? The public has a right to know.

Yes, but they're Brooks Brothers pajamas.

STILL MORE: Thomas Lifson says it's a case of career suicide by blogger:

We have an extended holiday weekend coming up, one in which many poeple were already poised to pontificate on "the rise of the blogs" or "the year of the blog." Coleman has just handed the year-end media pundits a late Christmas gift.

Ouch. Hugh Hewitt adds: "Coleman's just the first to lose control --and dignity-- but watch for others as the pressure of instant accountability wears on folks unused to scrutiny and ridicule. . . . What a year. 2005 will be even better."

TWISTING-THE-KNIFE UPDATE: A reader points out that an ad at the bottom of Coleman's column reads:

Start Your Own Blog Now!

Publish, be read, and get paid. Start writing instantly!

Conclusion: "He's toast."

Finally, several readers note that the "subscription" needed to view Coleman's column in full is just a free registration. But it still sucks, like all such registrations, and the point that blogs don't require such things is certainly still true. *cough*bugmenot.com*cough*

STEVE STURM says that the Washington Post is trying too hard to find an anti-Bush angle on the Tsunami story, with this piece by John F. Harris and Robin Wright.

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty has more on this:

What a lame story. The only on-the-record anti-Bush quotes come from Gelb, Abramowitz, who uses very careful words; and Wes Clark, who is not even quoted directly in his criticism of Bush. Instead, we are told Clark "urged Bush to take a higher profile."

There is also a "senior career official" quoted anonymously. Anybody want to guess this senior career official was hoping to be working under a President Kerry come January? . . .

Notice all the dogs who didn't bark - no Harry Reid, no Pelosi, Biden, Kerry, Albright, Kennedy. No one who actually has to face the voters is taking this moment to criticize the president. And the argument is pretty lame - "Never mind all these concrete actions to help the victims, the president hasn't cried in front of the cameras to show he cares."

And yet the Big Media guys call bloggers "ankle-biters?"

More here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Terrye Hugentober emails:

I saw your post about the WaPo's article going after Bush' lack of sensitvity and I agree with you. I rarely wrtie a letter to the editor, but I did on this.

Tens of thousands of people are dead, millions more have lost everything and all these idiots can do is bitch about whether or not Bush is "sensitive". Silly unserious people.

Indeed.

A LOT OF READERS complain that the Amazon tsunami donation page sends money to the Red Cross. But a lot of their complaints are aimed at the ICRC -- the International Committee of the Red Cross -- and not the American Red Cross, a different organization, and the one that's actually getting the money. I donated to them, but if you're uncomfortable, there are lots of places you can give money to. What interested me most about the Amazon phenomenon was how quickly and dramatically it worked, raising lots of money without a lot of overhead.

Hugh Hewitt recommends WorldVision. I haven't ever donated money to them, and don't know a lot about them, but if Hugh is recommending them I'm sure they're okay. The Salvation Army -- which is generally regarded as especially efficient at getting relief money to actual recipients with low overhead -- is taking donations, too. And, as I've mentioned several times before, there's an absolutely huge list of places to donate at the South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog, though I can't vouch for most of these. There's also a big list at The Command Post.

As always, you should be careful about who you give money to. Most of these organizations are probably honest, but it's best to take a little effort to make sure that your money will really go where it's promised to.

UPDATE: Tim Blair emails:

I'm personally familiar with World Vision's work (via them we sponsor a Zimbabwean boy with the beautiful name of Obvious) and recommend World Vision without hesitation. Low overheads, lean, efficient, get things done. They're the opposite of the UN.

There's no higher praise!

HERE'S A REPORT that the tsunami death toll in Indonesia's Aceh province alone could reach 80,000. Mother Nature's fist of fury has struck hard.

MORE FROM THE CULT OF THE IPOD: A reader emails:

In case you've missed it, Amazon has a great deal - buy 4 $15 itunes cards - get 5th card free - so in essence you get 75 tracks for $60 bucks. I think it ends 12/31 so hurry.

Being newly inducted into the cult a new iPod owner, I didn't even realize that Amazon sold iTunes cards; I'm not sure I even realized that there were such cards to begin with. But here it is. And the deal's good until 1/2. (Yeah, I bought 'em myself. I figure I'm bound to buy that many songs sooner or later, so why not get the discount?)

On the other hand, a heretic doomed to feel Steve Jobs' wrath another reader says I should have bought the iRiver H320 instead. There are lots of good players (I've owned an iRiver flash media player for a while, and it's pretty good), but I bought the iPod so those suggestions come a bit late. And I'm quite happy with it. One thing I've learned about buying consumer electronics is that once you buy the thing, it's time to quit worrying about what other options were there.

HERE'S A ROUNDUP OF RESPONSES to Susan Sontag's death.

STINGINESS UPDATE: The Amazon tsunami relief total is now well over $1 million -- and several readers who were compulsively hitting "refresh" report that it crossed the million-dollar-mark at 6:38 Eastern. It is kind of hypnotic to see the numbers going up every time you reload the page.

Meanwhile, Tim Blair notes that France has sent $177,000:

That French figure seems impossibly low, but it checks out here and here (100,000 euros = $A177,000 = $US135,400). France is also sending rescue workers to Thailand and humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka, but please ... $177,000? Andrew Sullivan probably makes more during his Pledge Week.

And while amateurs outperform the French government, the United States government is sending $35 million plus two Naval groups. Not that that has stopped people from bitching about the United States' response. It's almost as if they're determined to find fault no matter what.

However, at this rate the Amazon donations will soon pass the German government's contribution of 2 million Euros (2.7 million dollars), too.

UPDATE: A USAF reader notes that the U.S. is sending much more than two naval groups, and note, "And, as is usually the case in our relief efforts, the first ones in are U.S. Air Force C-130s."

ANOTHER UPDATE: I wonder if ScrappleFace readers will surpass France?

FRANCE-DEFENDING UPDATE: The French Foreign Ministry puts France's contribution at a much-more-respectable 15 million Euros, or roughly $20 Million dollars. Who to believe: Reuters or the French Foreign Ministry? That's a tough one, but I think I'll go with the larger figure because, as Tim Blair notes, the smaller one is just too absurdly small.

December 28, 2004

MORE THOUGHTS ON THE INTERNET AND DISASTERS: Over at GlennReynolds.com.

UPDATE: Read this related post from Oscar Chamberlain.

RUY TUXEIRA GOES TO WAR?

I'VE MENTIONED IT BEFORE, but enough people have emailed me about it that I guess it's worth mentioning again: The South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog is a collaborative resource blog set up to provide news, and ways to help, regarding the tsunami and its aftermath.

UKRAINE POST-ELECTION PHOTOBLOGGING: Very nice.

GOTCHER HEALTHCARE BLOGGING RIGHT HERE: Grand Rounds is up.

BLOGGERS TORTURED IN IRAN: Spread the word. It helped last time.

UPDATE: Sorry for the typo. Fixed now. That's what I get for posting on the way out the door. But I didn't want to wait!

AMAZON.COM is accepting donations for Tsunami relief. The total is currently $112,000.00, but it's rising very rapidly. "Stingy," eh?

UPDATE: Reader Jared Phillips writes:

I am absolutely amazed at what I am seeing - if you go to the amazon site you'll see the click to donate. On that next page you see the amount collected and the number of donors.

Now click refresh on your screen.

It is increasing literally every single second. I am totally blown away. In the 5 minutes since I donated it has increased by 1,000 donors.

Yeah, I just looked and it's headed toward $400,000 already. Doesn't look stingy to me. I wonder if any of 'em were U.N. employees . . .

MORE: Jeff Jarvis says that Amazon is already sending more money for tsunami relief than the French government.

STILL MORE: Holy crap, it's just broken a half-million bucks, less than four hours after it was at $112,000. Donations are about fifty bucks each. Stingy, eh? Well, here's some more stinginess:

The Everett-based aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln is headed to the Indian Ocean to help with tsunami relief efforts.

And there's this:

More than 5,000 military personnel of the Navy's Expeditionary Strike Group 5 will skip their New Year's holiday on Guam to fulfill a humanitarian mission in Sri Lanka.

The USS Bonhomme Richard docked in Apra Harbor yesterday for what was originally planned to be a five-day stay, but was called to bring relief aid to the inhabitants of Sri Lanka who were devastated by a tsunami this past weekend.

Stingy, indeed.

BILL QUICK NOTES that there's a hasty cleanup underway in some Ukrainian circles.

LANCE FRIZZELL is photoblogging from Iraq, where he reflects on priorities and reports that the U.N., together with CNN International, is managing to inadvertently boost troop morale. Wow, and it was already pretty good!

TSUNAMI DEATH TOLL at 59,000 now. We'll never know the precise numbers, but I fear that it will rise considerably from this point simply because there are still affected areas that haven't been heard from at all yet.

ROGER SIMON wonders whether the Left only cares about "our people," and not those dadburned foreigners.

UPDATE: A reader emails that the author of the post, Ross Douthat, isn't a lefty but a righty. It's so hard to tell the difference, nowadays.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lengthy response from Douthat, who seems upset, here. Hey, it's not as if anyone's accusing him of putting puppies in blenders. . . .

ARE THE NEW MEDIA COSTING THE OLD MEDIA MONEY? Well, quite possibly:

Free community Web site Craigslist has cost San Francisco Bay Area newspapers up to $65 million in employment advertising revenue, according to a report released Monday.

Craigslist, which generates more than 1 billion page-views each month, also has cost the newspapers millions more in merchandise and real estate advertising, and has damaged other traditional classified advertising businesses, according to a report published by Classified Intelligence.

Classified advertising is the big moneymaker for newspapers, and it's the aspect most readily undercut by the Internet. But it's only one of many such vulnerabilities

UPDATE: And there's not much sympathy for 'em. Reader Greg Kane emails:

Boo hoo for the newspapers with their monopoly prices.

This year a three line ad in the Denver Post cost me $108 per week. How
come the MSM is only outraged at other peoples' greed?

Beats me.

CAPT. ED MORRISEY is trying to organize a demonstration of appreciation at the Pentagon, and wants your help.

FREE MUSIC! Earlier, I mentioned Joey Kingpin, and you can stream lots of stuff from his A Beat Down in Hell Town album for free at the Radikal Records site. They're still samples, but they're longer than the ones on Amazon.

Radikal is a label I like, and I've enjoyed a lot of their compilations, too, including the "Radikal Techno" series. There are streaming samples there, as well.

NORM GERAS rounds up theological and philosphical responses to the Asian tsunami. However, he leaves out the tacky responses.

UPDATE: More on the evolving (and rather pathetic) blame game, here.

NEW YORK TIMES: Blogs Provide Raw Details From Scene of the Disaster:

For vivid reporting from the enormous zone of tsunami disaster, it was hard to beat the blogs.

The so-called blogosphere, with its personal journals published on the Web, has become best known as a forum for bruising political discussion and media criticism. But the technology proved a ready medium for instant news of the tsunami disaster and for collaboration over ways to help.

Indeed. Nice to see people noticing. (Via Todd Pearson).

JUST THE ESSENTIALS, please. Wireless and breakfast!

BRUCE BARTLETT ON BLOGS:

What I have discovered in the past year is that there is increasing specialization among bloggers, with more staking out narrow areas of commentary. . . .

One disappointment this year in the blog area has been the weakness of some institutional blogs, those sponsored by newspapers and thinks tanks. They are often unreadable and seldom linked to. It confirms my view that blogs are necessarily idiosyncratic and need to be pretty independent in order to be successful.

I believe that the Internet has barely scratched the surface in using blogs to analyze and disseminate information. I look forward to their continued evolution.

Me, too!

DAN RATHER, PETER JENNINGS, and a Marine. Heh.

VARIOUS QUESTIONS FROM THE CULT OF THE IPOD, ANSWERED: Did I buy the wireless transmitter that I mentioned but said I wasn't going to buy just yet? Yes (how well some people know me!). How is it? It's . . . okay. If you get into the car and just turn it on, it sounds pretty good. If you switch to it after either listening to the iPod on headphones or the CD player in the car, though, you can hear the difference. It's probably best to think of it as a car charger with additional wireless capabilities -- OK for occasional use, but not high fidelity. And though it's not cheap, it's not really very expensive, either.

How do I like iTunes? I like it a lot, and I've bought a few songs (Paul Oakenfold's "Ready, Steady, Go!" is a winner, and I'm not usually a huge fan of his) and even the latest Thievery Corporation remix EP. It's cool, but there are strange omissions. For example, the latest Joey Kingpin album, Stereo Thriller, is available on iTunes, but the (to my mind superior) predecessor, A Beat Down in Hell Town, isn't. (You can listen here for samples from Beat Down (I recommend "Transylvania A-Go-Go) but strangely there are no samples online for Stereo Thriller. It's not bad, you know, I just like the earlier album better.) It's still not an Amazon.com for online music, but it's quite cool, and it's easy to imagine spending a lot more on music than I spent on the iPod.

Various non-iPod-cult members have told me that I should have bought other players (the Creative Zen Micro seems a favorite) but all I can say is Foolish doubters, you will be cast into the lake of fire!!! that having heard so much about the iPod from so many readers, and having observed the strong devotion it inspires in its owners, I wanted to check it out and I'm quite pleased so far.

UPDATE: Reader and cult-member Dave Whidden says that this armband is a must-have (picture here). And Brannon Denning says he's had trouble finding open stations for the tuner above, but he lives in a bigger city than I do.

PETS.COM LOST A LOT OF MONEY -- but dogblog Lab-Tested is still around. It pays to have low overhead, I guess.

THE NEWS COVERAGE HAS GOTTEN ALMOST THIS BAD:

Washington, DC - Pointing to the devastating weekend Indian Ocean tsunami that left over 24,000 dead, a international blue ribbon committee of climatologists and ecoscientists today issued a stark warning that man-made pollutants have increasingly "make water spirits angry."

The blunt conclusion prefaced a 2300 page meta-analysis of hundreds of scientific studies and computer models detailing links between human industrial activity and wrathful eco-deities. Entitled "Fire Bad: Fire Very Bad," the report warns that the planet faces additional catastrophies unless drastic regulatory action is taken to appease Earthen-furies.

Sigh.

OVER AT THE CRIMPROF BLOG, a look at the surprisingly common phenomenon of phony lawyers. Also, a bizarre death penalty deal: "Lopez got 10 years, Hutchinson was sentenced to death. Some people can afford to hire better lawyers than others, and the sentence can turn on that, but can it really be that death can turn on how much you have to pay the family?"

Weregild -- it's not just for Vikings anymore!

JASON VAN STEENWYK takes apart Bob Herbert. ("Again, Herbert seems wholly ignorant of some pretty basic facts here." And again, and again . . . .) And this related post by fellow military-blogger Baldilocks is worth reading, too.

THOUGHTS ON DISASTER PREPAREDNESS, DISASTER RESPONSE, and societal information processing, over at GlennReynolds.com.

December 27, 2004

MICHAEL BARONE LOOKS AT RAMPANT FOGEYISM.

ALAN BRAIN: "Save 'em all, and let God sort 'em out."

I LIKE HUGH HEWITT'S BLOG BOOK, and I think Hugh understands a lot about blogs, but I think that "intelligent design" theory is, um, highly unpersuasive. Rand Simberg critiques a recent post of Hugh's on that subject.

UPDATE: Over at Volokh (permalink not working), Jim Lindgren writes:

One thing that strikes me about Intelligent Design is that it must have been much more intuitively appealing before the failure of socialism. Socialism in the 1920s--1940s was in part based on the idea that the world had become so complex that central planning was necessary to deal with this complexity. Yet Von Mises was arguing just the opposite, that as the world became more elaborate, no one could plan it. ID seems to be based on an assumption that most conservatives reject in the economic sphere--that as the economy gets more elaborate, to work well it must be the product of the intelligent design of a master planner.

Heh. Indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt responds: "I do believe in Intelligent Design --in Christianity, actually-- but the point of my posts yesterday was not to wade into those battles, but to underscore the Washington Post's lousy reporting on the controversy in Dover, Pennsylvania."

MORE: Hugh's book is now up to #66 on Amazon, which to most authors would constitute sufficient proof that there is a God all by itself!

THE BELMONT CLUB:

In an abstract way, the information flows surrounding the Tsunami of December 2004 structurally resembled those preceding the Pearl Harbor and September 11 attacks. The raw data announcing the unfolding threat was there, yet the pattern so evident in hindsight was invisible to those who were not looking for it. But if tsunamis and asteroid strikes are rare events, they are comparatively more common than that still rarer object, the unprecedented event: the something that has never happened before. Threats like that can emerge suddenly out of chaotic systems, like WMD terrorism or new viral plagues. Against such events, specific precautions are impossible because no one can prepare for what cannot be foreseen. The real challenge is not so much to create a new dedicated network of staring systems against known threats but to tie current sensors to systems which are capable of cognition. The most valuable survival asset is situational awareness -- the ability to recognize threats you have never seen before and respond in an evolving manner -- and that capability has not yet come to the world as a whole.

Read the whole thing.

STATUTORY RAPE LAWS: WHAT A BUMMER! That was the title of a mock-article for the Yale Law Journal when I was in law school. But this post from The Volokh Conspiracy shows a strong degree of "progressive" support (back in the 1970s) for setting the age of consent at 12. That seems low to me, though I think 18 is likely too high. My thoughts here.

DIGITAL CAMERA ROUNDUP: Jeff Soyer has a review of a $19.99 digital camera -- "My conclusions... Well, I'm not throwing away my Sony Mavica." The pictures he's posted don't suck, though, especially when you consider the price.

Meanwhile, reader Steve Cooper emails that the photoblogging has done him some good: "Thanks for all the great info on the D70! I dropped my Nikon Pronea 6i on the sidewalk on Xmas Eve and I'm sad to say that it has taken its last picture (really was a GREAT camera). I ordered my D70 from Abe's this morning thanks to some furious research on Xmas day which included reading nearly everything you had on the subject."

The D70 rocks. Next, frequent source of useful links Jim Herd sends two interesting items: this story on Kodak designing its cameras to appeal to women: "The company's big decision was to focus on low-priced, easy-to-use cameras that would appeal to women, who take the majority of snapshots, rather than Sony's forte - shiny toys for gadget-loving men." Reportedly, it paid off. On the other hand, the Insta-wife thinks my Sony is very handsome. (But the Kodaks are certainly easy to use -- I gave this one to the 9-year-old insta-daughter for Christmas, and she's loved it).

Herd also sends this link to the first review of the Fuji Finepix S3 Pro DSLR. (I had posted a link to an informal review by a NASA photo guy here.) Still a bit pricey for me at $2,499 -- especially in light of the lukewarm review, which suggests that you just can't see a lot of difference in the actual images from all this better technology -- but the good news is that whatever technology is available at $2,500 this year will be available at $500 in 18 months. That's why I love this stuff. Well, that, and because I'm one of those "gadget-loving men!"

ASTEROID UPDATE: I'm not sure of the reason, but the risk of impact has been downgraded to negligible. Good! (More here.)

UPDATE: More discussion at Slashdot.

PHIL BREDESEN FOR PRESIDENT? The Democrats could do worse.

BLOGGING THE TSUNAMI: Over at GlennReynolds.com I observe: "Many of the blogs involved have been gathering first-hand reports from the affected areas, via telephone and email. First-hand reports, interviews, historical and scientific perspectives -- blogs are acting like news services."

I think we'll see more of that.

UPDATE: Here's a tsunami news blog set up by bloggers from the affected region. Lots of links to charities that accept online donations.

FORTUNE: "Why There's No Escaping the Blog." Lots of interesting stuff on blogs from a corporate PR and marketing perspective.

The only way this story could be better for selling Hugh Hewitt's new book on blogs, with its strong emphasis on blogs and business, would be if it, er, mentioned Hugh's book . . . .

UPDATE: Well, he doesn't really need the help, I guess, as he's already up to #98 on Amazon.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Now it's up to #88. And all without a review in the New York Times. Kinda proves his point.

DANIEL DREZNER NOTES that the Tsunami death toll has been increased to 24,000 and has links to various places you can contribute to help out.

Tim Blair has more, too.

A LAWYER IN BAGHDAD: Interesting article on the difficulties involved in applying occupation law in Iraq with a degree of fidelity never before attempted by an occupying power. Here's the author's bio.

ANTI-AMERICANISM doesn't even impress the hipsters anymore. Just listen to the dismissive treatment of Green Day in the December issue of Q Magazine, which I just noticed:

On the roof of a photographer's studio in a corner of Hollywood so drab it gives Slugh a good name, the three members of Green Day are discussing whether or not to desecrate the American flag. Singer Billie Joe Armstrong, who is dressed in black shirt and skinny red tie, is cautious but keen, while bassis Mike Dirnt, who is bleached blond and much more aloof, is keener still.

"It means nothing to me," he sneers. "Let's burn the f*cking thing."

Only drummer Tre Cool, who is normally the designated prankster of the three and who comes across like Bart Simpson made flesh, offers the lone cautionary voice. "Isn't it, like, illegal?"

It is reluctantly agreed that Cool has a point. It's all very well being punk insurrectionists but there is an album to promote, and nobody wants to face jail time. In the end, a compromise is reached. The matches stay intheir box, and instead Armstrong spraypaints the word IDIOT across the flag in large capital letters, grinning at this apparently considerable fate of derring-do.

"Apparently considerable feat of derring-do." Ouch. Johnny Ramone crapped bigger than these guys, and everybody knows it.

But it's not working with the fans, either, as apparently Green Day's anti-Bush songs don't go over as intended. From later in the same article:

The next night, Green Day perform their new album in its entirety at the Henry Fonda Theater in downtown Hollywood to a partisan crowd of heavily tattooed fans who, in truth, care more about some good old-fashioned slam dancing than any political rhetoric. Afterwards, one beery fan happily confesses that the track Boulevard of Broken Dreams brought tears to his eyes. "It's about a girl, right?" he asks. And 47-year-old maintenance specialist Gary Lansdon hasn't quite heeded their message either.

"I'm a Democrat myself," he says, beaming brightly.

So he'll be voting for Kerry?

"Oh, no," he says, the smile fading. "No band will tell me what to do. I voted for Bush last time, and I'll vote for him again. He's doing a fine job."

"No band will tell me what to do." The article was written before the election, but the handwriting was already on the wall.

UPDATE: Steve Sturm has comments, and observes: "And, for what it's worth, you three idiots, it is NOT illegal to burn the flag. How can you guys even pretend to be intelligent and informed enough to tell other people how to vote when you don't even know that?"

Well, I guess it just seemed like, you know, it had to be, since it was, like, John Ashkkkroft's Amerikkka and everything.

JIM LINDGREN LOOKS AT the National Research Council's assessment of John Lott's work and reports: "From the portions that I have read, I found the report sober, impressive, and fair, though there are substantial parts of this literature that I am unfamiliar with. As to Lott's work, I actually thought that the Council's report was too generous to his work in spots. In particular, I thought that it failed to point out just how much Lott's results are driven by poorly executed demographic controls, a point that Ayres and Donohue make effectively in their Stanford exchange."

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS is up!

RESISTANCE IS NUBILE: This is likely to impress me about as much as anything the anti-nanotechnology crowd tries to do.

AUSTIN BAY'S COVER STORY ON IRAQ for this week's Weekly Standard is now available online.

ASTEROID UPDATE: Leonard David has the scoop. And, by the way, the risk has been upgraded slightly, to about 1 in 37.

I HAVEN'T DONE A SURVEY, but here's commentary on a surprising lack of enthusiasm for events in Ukraine in some quarters.

CATASTROPHES AND CURES: My TechCentralStation column, about killer asteroids and tsunamis, is up.

I FINISHED HUGH HEWITT'S NEW BOOK ON BLOGS LAST NIGHT, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who's interested in blogs, new media, or public relations.

There's a history of blogs, an analogy between the changes blogs are bringing to the media priesthood and the Reformation (with which I heartily agree) and -- most significantly -- a lot of good advice to businesses, of both the media and non-media varieties, on how they can use blogs to help themselves, and how to avoid becoming, like Trent Lott or Dan Rather, the focus of a damaging "opinion storm." He also catches on (actually, I think Hugh was one of the first to make this point, in a post on his blog) to the importance of what Chris Anderson is calling the Long Tail -- that in the aggregate, the vast hordes of small blogs with a few dozen readers are more important than the small number of big blogs with hundreds of thousands of readers. (Here's an article on that topic by Anderson, from Wired.) I think that's absolutely right, and Hugh has some interesting things to say about it. (And journalists mostly don't get this point at all -- every time I get interviewed it seems that they want firsts, mosts, and biggests, when I keep telling them that the real story of the blogosphere is the day-to-day interaction and writing of a whole lot of blogs).

Cutting to the chase (which is what blogs do, right?): This is the best book on blogs yet, which isn't surprising since it's by a successful blogger who also knows a lot about communications and the world in general. I'm sure it will get a lot of attention within the blogosphere, but I hope that it will get a lot of attention elsewhere, because the people who really need to read it are the people who won't find out about it from blogs. Best quote: "Blogs are built on speed and trust, and the MSM is very slow and very distrusted."

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE rounds up military bloggers' posts on Mosul, including some first-hand reports from the scene. This is a must-read, and helps to illustrate just how valuable the blogosphere can be in providing multifaceted coverage in a way that the legacy media can't, or don't.

MICHAEL MCCONNELL AS CHIEF JUSTICE? I'd prefer Eugene Volokh, or Alex Kozinski, personally.

UKRAINE UPDATE: Yushchenko's victory is official. Photos here.

THE YEAR OF BLOGGING DANGEROUSLY: Ed Driscoll looks at the year's top ten blog-moments. And, speaking of blogging dangerously, Half-Bakered looks at the unfortunate fate of a journalist blogger.

TSUNAMI UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has more links and reports, some rather harrowing, and points to this country by country roundup from The Independent. And scroll down, or click here for links to posts from bloggers in the region

Joe Gandelman has another roundup of asian bloggers' resports.

Tim Blair has more, too, and so does Jay Manifold, including links to aid agencies that are accepting donations.

UPDATE: Phil Bowermaster has thoughts on warnings.

December 26, 2004

UKRAINE UPDATE, from the New York Times:

Monday, Dec. 27 - Viktor A. Yushchenko, the opposition leader, appeared headed for a resounding victory early Monday in a riveting presidential race marked by intrigue, charges of poisoning, fervent street demonstrations and widespread abuses of state power.

There were no independent reports of the egregious election violations that had discredited the previous round of voting. Mr. Yushchenko, addressing supporters at this headquarters, predicted an end at last to an extended and bitter election season.

"It has happened," said Mr. Yushchenko, his face still disfigured from dioxin poisoning this fall for which he has blamed his adversaries in the government. "Today we are turning a page of lies, censorship and violence." Ahead, he said, lay a "new epoch of a new great democracy."

With 74 percent of the votes from the Sunday election counted, Mr. Yushchenko was leading Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich by 55 percent to 40 percent, according to the Central Election Commission. The early results placed him within the range predicted by surveys of voters exiting the polls, which gave the opposition a 15- to 20-point lead.

This seems like excellent news, and it's certainly a black eye for Putin, whose heavyhanded interference not only helped win the election for Yushchenko, but has ensured that this will send ripples throughout other former Soviet states. Some useful observations here:

--The mild support we gave to the democratic forces in the Ukraine proved far more powerful than most of the experts expected. The revolutionaries required a bit of guidance in the methods of non-violent resistance, a bit of communications gear, and many words of encouragement. They did the rest. The same can and should be done elsewhere in the world (Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea...)
--Our democratic values are shared by the overwhelming majority of the people in the world, and are rejected, sometimes violently, by tyrants and their followers. We need to stick to our principles, which means that we cannot blindly and compulsively support all the policies of individual anti-democratic leaders just because they help us. That kind of support always gets us in trouble (as in the Middle East, where we are justly criticized for our many decades of support for corrupt tyrants). Sometimes we will have to make some compromises, but when we do, we must still support democratic forces--openly, unapologetically.

Read the whole thing.

MORE: Russian reaction here, along with these observations:

Ukraine has been a litmus test of Russia's capacity to influence events in the neighbouring countries.

And it appears that capacity is limited after the defeat of Mr Yanukovych, the candidate Moscow directly backed with money, moral support, advertising and TV airtime. . . .

One communist newspaper, Pravda, says the result means "the complete loss of our gas and oil export routes to the USA or the European Union". It also voices the fear that Mr Yushchenko's election means "Russia no longer exists as a world-class power". Pravda blames Washington for this.

Centrist commentators portray a very different situation.

A writer for business publication Kommersant claims the outcome of Ukraine's political crisis means "the Orange Revolution virus will now spread to Russia".

He writes: "It will not take long to dismantle the new Russian totalitarianism".

Media sources close to the Kremlin have stayed away from an assessment of Ukrainian exit polls. Instead, they have concentrated on the happy atmosphere in Kiev, and the apparent absence (so far) of reports of mass violations.

It's certainly good news, in my opinion.

DARFUR UPDATE: China's role is noted again. Perhaps we should Buy Cambodian!

POWER LINE is fact-checking Tom Friedman:

Friedman then recapitulates, in a sentence or two, ten recent news stories, all of which are intended to reflect badly the Bush administration; . . . There is a fundamental problem, however, with Friedman's attempt to show that our national priorities are wrong. The news stories he cites are largely either false, or mischaracterized by him. Let's take them one at a time.

And they do. Part of Friedman's problem is that he was suckered by the Post. Power Line concludes: "Actually, Tom, there is a debate going on. The New York Times just isn't part of it, because it operates at too low a level of information to be useful to knowledgeable news consumers." (Ouch! It's like they're channeling you-know-who!) But at least Friedman isn't living in Modopia!

UPDATE: Tom Maguire notes ironies for Okrent.

I guess this is just more evidence that "the Internet is helping."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Friedman's missed opportunity is discussed.

WHY THE TSUNAMI DEATH TOLL IS SO HIGH:

None of the countries most severely affected - including India, Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka - had a tsunami warning mechanism or tidal gauges to alert people to the wall of water that followed a massive earthquake, said Waverly Person of the USGS National Earthquake Information Centre.

"Most of those people could have been saved if they had had a tsunami warning system in place or tide gauges," he said yesterday. . . .

US seismologists said it was unlikely the Indian Ocean region would be hit any time soon by a similarly devastating tsunami because it takes an enormously strong earthquake to generate one.

"That's really what has created all of these problems - is that the earthquake is just so massive," said Dan Blakeman, a USGS earthquake analyst.

But Person said governments should instruct people living along the coast to move after a quake. Since a tsunami is generated at the source of an underwater earthquake, there is usually time - from 20 minutes to two hours - to get people away as it builds in the ocean.

"People along the Japanese coasts, along the coasts of California - people are taught to move away from the coasts. But a lot of these people in the area where this occurred - they probably had no kind of lessons or any knowledge of tsunamis because they are so rare."

Like an asteroid strike, it seemed too unlikely to be worth guarding against.

STRATEGYPAGE: Iraq: The War That Isn't Reported. A must-read.

UPDATE: The Belmont Club is standing up for the public's right to know. I think that it's further support for the thesis of Hugh Hewitt's new book.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Lindgren offers some perspective.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A followup to The Belmont Club's post, with a poll, from Egyptian blogger The Big Pharaoh.

LOTS OF UKRAINE ELECTION POSTS at Le Sabot Post-Moderne.

UPDATE: Much more here. Exit polls show Yushchenko winning by 15%.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Yushchenko supporters are claiming victory. And this passage should worry some people:

"Putin didn't manage to push Yanukovich into power because even Putin understands that you can't stop freedom," Mykola Tomenko, a deputy in Yushchenko's Our Ukraine coalition, told the cheering crowd.

"We have to help people in former Soviet republics carry out their revolutions."

This is starting to look like a major miscalculation on Putin's part.

MORE: Interesting background posts from Geitner Simmons, here and here.

IN THE MAIL: A copy of Hugh Hewitt's new book, Blog : Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World -- which is already at #924 on Amazon, I notice. Just glancing through it, it looks quite good and I'm sure it's a must-read for anyone interested in the blogosphere. I'll report back when I've finished it.

And no, I don't actually get mail on Sunday -- I just came into the office today. It arrived sometime last week.

REGGIE WHITE IS DEAD. Kevin Connors expects me to have a lot to say, but mostly all I have to say is that it's sad. Reggie wasn't perfect, but he was a good man and -- unlike some other University of Tennessee players I can think of -- did as much to boost the University's reputation off the field as he did when he was on it. I wish there were more people like him in professional sports.

YOU DON'T NEED AN ASTEROID: There's been an earthquake/tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The Command Post has a roundup; it seems quite horrific.

Malaysian blogger Rajan Rishyakaran is posting numerous updates, with links to bloggers from around the region. And here's more from Indian blogger Nitin Pai.

UPDATE: Historical perspective, from Amit Varma, who remembers the Maharashtra quake of 1993. And Malaysian blogger Jeff Ooi has more, and a huge roundup of links to other bloggers in the region. Fellow Malaysian blogger Peter Tan is posting regularly, too, with reports from the affected areas.

It seems clear that the scope of this disaster is enormous, and the death-toll figures are likely to rise considerably as we learn more.

MORE: Here's an extensive discussion thread from Slashdot, with lots of useful information.

STILL MORE: The United States is offering aid to affected nations. And quite a few readers want to know where they can send donations. I don't know, but Tim Blair is promising to post information on that as soon as he has some.

MORE STILL: Here's a first-hand report, with a photo.

WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY, and he isn't us.

MORE ASTEROID NEWS -- drawing the proper line between realistic concern and hysteria.

This asteroid, 2004 MN, is still unlikely to strike -- and it's not big enough to produce a Lucifer's Hammer kind of situation. It's more of a Krakatoa-level threat, which is bad enough, but not a civilization-ender. The big lesson, though, is that this sort of threat isn't just theoretical. Though the probability of a big hit is low, even a hit of this level -- which at 1/42 can't be called very low-probability at this point -- is serious. We're fortunate that nothing like this happened during the Cold War, when it might have triggered a nuclear exchange. But as nuclear weapons proliferate, there's more reason to try to ensure that we're not caught by surprise even by these smaller impacts.

THE UKRAINE ELECTION RE-RUN IS UNDER WAY:

Ukrainians are voting for a new president in a repeat ballot called after outrage over fraud led to the cancellation of the result.

Pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko is strongly tipped to defeat Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, whose 21 November win was widely discredited.

Correspondents say the margin of victory will be almost as important in a country with a sharp east-west split.

About 12,000 foreign observers are monitoring the vote across the country.

Let's hope that all goes well.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

GENEVA (AP) -- The U.N.-ordered probe into oil-for-food corruption is being seriously hampered by an elaborate system of ghost firms set up around the world to cover the tracks of bribes to Saddam Hussein as he cheated the $60 billion program, a top investigator said.

Not a surprise.