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January 15, 2005

"I MADE AN INDIAN GIRL CRY -- YOU CAN DO IT TOO!" The Times of India looks at racism in the anti-outsourcing movement. (Via Amit Varma). A reader wonders if any of these people are involved.

UPDATE: Related thoughts here.

N.Z. BEAR is asking for help with an Apache/PHP problem.

FRENCH TV: Praising the American military? It's bizarro-world.

"Canadian Minister in Pizza Scandal." You don't see headlines like that every day.

UPDATE: Some background on this scandal from Damian Penny.

PORN HAPPY IS THE TITLE of Susannah ("Reverse Cowgirl Blog") Breslin's new novel. It's also the name of the blog tracking its progress.

CASH FOR COMMENTS: No, it's not a blog scandal -- it's something good.

BIGWIG HAS THOUGHTS on politics and politeness.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis:

As I read all the sniping and snarking and bitchslapping among the ex-Deaniac bloggers at each others' throats, I'm mindful of one thing: If things had gone their way, these people would be running the country now. Yow.

: I keep reading more comments on the various ex-Deaniacs' blogs and I'll add this: No wonder they lost Iowa. No wonder Dean screamed.

Politeness actually does help groups of people work together effectively.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Zephyr responds -- politely -- to her critics.

SHUNNING IN THE ACADEMIC WORLD: Jim Lindgren looks at a sad episode:

In the 1960s, just AFTER Ronald Coase had done his Nobel Prize winning work in law & economics and AFTER James Buchanan had done his Nobel Prize winning work in public choice, a concerted effort was made by members of their department and the administration at the University of Virginia to drive them out of Virginia. The story has been often told and some reports say that some of the letters and memos showing that this was a conscious effort on Virginia's part survived to be seen by more open-minded members of the department in later years. A run-in with the Ford Foundation helped to crytallize university opposition to the best scholars that the department ever had and among the best ever to teach in any department at Virginia. One view was that they were on the wrong side of history. . . .

That this was done a few years after Coase and Buchanan had done their best work is just stunning. Virginia began the 1960s as the most innovative and creative among the world's great economics departments and ended the 1960s as just another pretty good department, no better or worse than a couple dozen other departments in the country.

Had it kept them, it might remain in a dominant position today. I'm happy to report that I'm not being shunned -- in fact the number of colleagues who came by to welcome me back from leave last week was quite gratifying. On the other hand, unlike Coase and Buchanan, I'm not a "right-wing extremist . . ."

UPDATE: Of course, academia isn't what it used to be, either.

SOMEWHAT TROUBLING NEWS:

The Defense Agency has prepared a plan to defend the southern remote islands off Kyushu and Okinawa from possible invasion amid rising security concerns about China, according to documents obtained Saturday by Kyodo News.

The agency compiled the plan in November on the assumption of an invasion of the islands located within a 1,000-km zone between the southern end of Kyushu and Taiwan.

(Via Paul Musgrave, who raises some interesting questions regarding why this is coming out now.)

LANNY DAVIS: Zell Miller was right.

MORE EVIDENCE OF INEPTITUDE IN HIGH PLACES:

Accusations by an FBI contract linguist fired after complaining about suspected security breaches and misconduct in the bureau's post-September 11 foreign language translation program "had some basis in fact" and are supported by documents and other witnesses, a report said yesterday. . . .

"The allegations, if true, had potentially damaging consequences and warranted a thorough and careful review by the FBI, which did not occur," said Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

This doesn't make her charges true, I guess, but it does make the FBI look bad. Maybe Porter Goss could go there next?

VIRGINIA'S FORNICATION LAW has been struck down:

The state Supreme Court yesterday struck down as unconstitutional a 19th-century Virginia law making it a crime for unmarried couples to have sex.

"We find no principled way to conclude . . . that the Virginia statute criminalizing intercourse between unmarried persons does not improperly abridge a personal relationship that is within the liberty interest of persons to choose," said the decision, written by Justice Elizabeth B. Lacy. . . .

The opinion did not deal with a separate Virginia law prohibiting sodomy. But attorneys for both parties in the case said it suggested that the court considers most laws regulating sex between consenting adults to be unconstitutional violations of the 14th Amendment's right to due process.

About time.

WEEKEND READING FROM THE CIA, with a troubling graphic.

UPDATE: There's quite a spirited discussion in the comments over whether the graphic in question is right or not. Personally, I hope it's wrong.

LOTS OF UPDATES to yesterday's WMD post. Scroll down or click here.

I'VE PRAISED CHARLES STROSS'S IRON SUNRISE AND SINGULARITY SKY. Now, via John Scalzi, I see that Stross has a new book coming out. I haven't read it, but Scalzi has seen an advance copy and thinks it's going to be the book to beat in 2005, which has him a bit depressed since his book is one of the ones that will have to beat it. Not having read the new Stross book, I can't say, but Scalzi's is very strong. And Scalzi's gotten a lot of blog-buzz, though he'd probably get more if, like Stross, he had a warblogger as a major character . . . .

TOM MAGUIRE continues to look at Social Security reform.

Okay, so we're not exactly talking Gordon Gekko here.

INSTAPUNDIT'S AFGHANISTAN PHOTO-CORRESPONDENT, Maj. John Tammes, sends this photographic evidence that the Afghan economy is booming.

UPDATE: Humor is lost on some people, who apparently also didn't put their cursor over the image . . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: D'oh! Reader David Block emails: "Your suggestion about putting the cursor on the image does nothing for me in Firefox." Dang. I didn't realize that "alt" tags aren't displayed in Firefox. You can read it if you click "properties," but it doesn't automatically appear as it does with Explorer. I didn't notice.

MORE: Thanks to reader David White, who explained how to make it pop up in Firefox (title="" is the tag).

January 14, 2005

I HAD HOPED that the hatemail would fade after the election, but that hasn't been entirely the case. Andrew Sullivan posts an example that, I'm sorry to say, invokes my name -- and misspells it. Sigh.

UPDATE: Actually, I think that Zephyr Teachout wins the "hate-filled missives of the week" award, with the comments to this post from angry Deaniacs. Excerpt: "I would not walk across the street to piss in your mouth if you were dying of thirst. Your are the most wretched scum I have ever seen. I remember meeting you in Iowa & thinking that you were not only harsh to look at but so full of yourself that you will probably always be single." It gets worse, but it sounds to me as if the writer probably hasn't experienced a lot of love himself.

Tim Blair observes: "These people seem unusually upset. Perhaps Canada rejected their immigration applications." I don't think that's the problem with Sullivan's hatemailer, though.

HERE'S A TRANSCRIPT of Hugh Hewitt's defense of blogs from a full-bore Bill O'Reilly attack.

UPDATE: Ed Cone says that Hewitt and O'Reilly misstated what was going on with the Kos/Teachout affair. I think he's right, though it's surprisingly hard to be nuanced on TV (and especially on O'Reilly's show in my experience.) As I've said before, though, I think that what's really interesting is what was going on in the Dean Campaign's thinking, not what was going on with Kos.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt has more. When was I on O'Reilly? Back in 2000 (yes, before InstaPundit). He let me get about three words in edgewise once he saw that I wasn't going where he wanted me to (basically, he wanted me to say that the Clinton Administration was the most unethical in history, bar none), which mystified me since I'd had long conversations with his producer and sent them a copy of the ethics book that the appearance was about. The book isn't exactly a robust defense of Clinton, but Lanny Davis has used it as a classroom text, so it's not exactly red-meat Clinton-bashing either.

MORE: Chris Suellentrop has an interesting piece on the Kos/Teachout affair over at Slate. One quibble: He says that some people call Kos a "liberal InstaPundit." That's true, people do, but as I wrote here, it's not really an apt analogy. Kos is a political activist, while I didn't even get invited to the inauguration (nor would I have gone if I had; I was invited to stuff at Clinton's first inaugural and didn't go even though I was single and living in Charlottesville at the time, just an hour or two away -- that stuff just bores me).

STILL MORE: Bill Quick weighs in, on Kos's side. Meanwhile, in an update to this post, Hugh Hewitt responds to Ed Cone's criticisms.

MATT WELCH VISITS the Center of Evil in the Modern World and returns to report that it wasn't that bad. That's actually been my experience, too.

BLACKFIVE OFFERS A WITHERING ASSESSMENT OF THE NEWS MEDIA'S IRAQ COVERAGE, from a soldier in Iraq: "Unfortunately, this sort of incomplete reporting has become the norm for the media, whose poor job of presenting a complete picture of what is going on in Iraq borders on being criminal."

UPDATE: Related post here, from Lance Frizzell.

MORE HUYGENS-BLOGGING, here:

We have seen the face of Titan and it looks...kind of like Santa Fe. So no laser-bearing quadripeds attacked the probe. Too bad.

I'm happier that way, personally. Scott Boone has much more.

THE FIRST ABU GHRAIB CONVICTION: One might think that these prosecutions would undermine claims of moral equivalence.

RUSSELL BERMAN HAS SOME THOUGHTS ON LESSONS FROM THE TSUNAMI:

First and foremost, the myth of Islamic solidarity has been shattered. Even though most victims in Indonesia, the most populous Islamic country on the face of the earth, are Muslim, the support flowing from Arab governments has been pitifully small. The decades of petrodollars and the years of high gas prices have apparently not put the oil-rich Middle East in a position to afford to offer much help to Muslims in distress.

But as Islamic victims receive support from the non-Islamic world, the already dubious claim that the general opinion of Muslims in the Middle East might be predisposed to rise up against the West becomes simply untenable.

In the face of a real disaster, neither the fundamentalists nor the Baathists nor the anticolonialists have done much at all. In contrast, the energy of the Western relief effort is likely to put a deep dent in the anti-Western — and especially anti-American — propaganda of the Islamicists.

Second, the generosity of the developed world has been considerable, especially from such regional neighbors as Japan and Australia but also from the United States and Europe. The tendentious suggestion that the United States was “stingy” failed to note that the “old European” powers initially proposed relatively low offers of aid as well. Only as the real extent of the disaster became clear did these amounts grow to many times their original size.

Moreover, the outpouring of support has highlighted the importance of private giving and therefore the role of society beyond the state, just as it has shed light on the marginal standing of the United Nations.

(Via Outside the Beltway). Read the whole thing. Meanwhile, Austin Bay has some thoughts on how to handle reconstruction.

UPDATE: Here's a claim that the Saudis have done more than they're getting credit for.

WE'VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY: Reader Jim Herd points to this interesting look at digital photojournalism ten years ago:

It was hard to know if the NC2000e was actually taking pictures properly. It had no LCD for playing back the images it was supposedly recording and, of course, no spinning film rewind knob, nor any way — or need — to open the camera back.

In the middle of the night, somewhere around 3:00am, the shutter blew out," Kurdzuk says, "but the camera kept working. There was no indication whatsoever that there was anything wrong. Everything I shot after three o'clock had a shutter blade straight through the middle of the frame. That kind of stuff happened all the time." (A different NC2000's blown shutter is shown at left.)

Kurdzuk pauses for a moment, and then figures out how to sum it all up: "The NC2000, in general, was a practice in masochistic anxiety." . . .

There's lots of interesting stuff. Read the whole thing.

VARIOUS LEFTY EMAILERS, mostly in rather nasty tones, have asked me to write about the shutdown of the Iraq Survey Group's search for WMD stockpiles. It didn't seem like big news to me, since I was actually under the impression that they had already given up. Still, I won't invoke Tim Worstall's remarks, because I suppose the issue still has some importance even if I have addressed it before.

But I think that the whole "the war was all about weapons of mass destruction" meme is a bit dishonest. First, it's worth remembering (here's a list of resolutions on Iraq) that the burden was on Saddam to prove that he didn't have the weapons, and nobody thought he'd done that. Second, and more important from my standpoint, was that the war was about remaking the Middle East, helping to establish a democracy in a vital spot, neutralizing a longtime, and still-dangerous foe with ties to terrorists, and putting the U.S. in a position to threaten Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, not simply about getting rid of WMD stockpiles. (This was no secret. Even John Kerry said that he would have gone to war even knowing that there were no WMD stockpiles.)

The biggest criticism of the Bush Administration here is that (1) it made the mistake of listening to George "slam dunk" Tenet and the CIA on this issue; and -- bigger mistake -- (2) it made the mistake of trying to go through the United Nations, which required it to make more of the WMD business than was otherwise necessary. The former mistake is more forgivable, since it wasn't just the CIA, but pretty much everyone, who thought Saddam had the stockpiles. The second mistake is less so, since it was pretty obvious that the U.N. route was a mistake. The result: Saddam was in violation, but after all the U.N. speechifying the absence of big weapons stockpiles is a major PR failure.

The Bush Administration does seem determined to fix the CIA, which is clearly called for. Whether it has learned its lesson regarding the U.N. is less clear.

That so many of Bush's critics want to focus on the WMD issue, instead of on making Iraq work for Iraqis, and on freeing the rest of the mideast, is, sadly, typical. But the Bush Administration's excessive solicitude toward the U.N. (which is still manifest in its soft-pedaling of the oil-for-food scandals) was a dreadful mistake, for which both the Bush Administration and, ironically, the U.N. are both paying a price.

UPDATE: Reader Michael Grant emails:

I suppose this could be included under your claim (with which I agree) that it was a mistake to go to the U.N., or perhaps the mistake in listening to George "Slam Dunk" Tenet.

But perhaps the most interesting thing I read in Bill Sammon's book Misunderestimated was that we were originally intending to give three different presentations to the U.N. supporting our intention to go to war: WMD, human rights violations, and ties to terrorism. But for some reason the Bush administration decided somewhat late in the game to focus only on WMDs, and in hindsight that left us with nothing but Colin Powell's discredited presentation.

I'm not sure why that decision was made, but in hindsight, it would have been good to emphasize more these other two aspects of our warmaking decisions to the U.N, and to the public at large. I know the administration always said it was about more than WMDs, but apparently they decided that the WMD argument was their most compelling one and gave it the vast majority of airtime.

Yes, that was a mistake. I imagine that diplomats thought that human-rights arguments wouldn't have much sway at the U.N., which is probably true, but as subsequent events have demonstrated, the U.N. wasn't the real audience anyway.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More thoughts here:

The persons who are all jumping up and down in glee because no WMD were found in Iraq (thereby, in their opinions, vindicating their position) conveniently omit one inconvenient bit of information. Those same people argued that Iraq should not be invaded and Saddam should not be removed even if Iraq possessed WMD. Thus, the full argument is that the U.S should not have invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam regardless of whether it had WMD.

Want to test this? Ask any anti-war type or Bush-hater whether he or she would support the war or Bush if WMD were found in Iraq tomorrow.

Indeed, one of the arguments we heard against invading was that it would provoke Saddam into unleashing chemical and biological weapons.

MORE: Reader Terrye Hugentober emails:

Was it the UN weapons inspectors or the US military that ascertained no weapons were in Iraq? It seems to me that many of the Bush administration's detractors are not only ignoring the fact that most people believed the weapons were there but that most people would still believe it if we had not invaded.

We discovered the true state of our intelligence failures because of this. And it seems obvious as well that if the weapons are not there now then they might not have been there in 1998 when Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox and bombed Iraq.

So, does that make him a war criminal? I do not pretend to know where the weapon stock piles ended up. They could be destroyed or buried in Syria for all I know, but I do know that if Clinton had answered these questions and dealt with these issues effectively a decade ago we would not be having this discussion now.

After all if Bush were really as dishonest as some of the Bush haters say he is he could have planted the damn things, now couldn't he?

And if he'd found the real thing, a lot of his critics would have said they were plants. Meanwhile, Merv Benson emails:

The debate on this issue should have been framed on the issue of Saddam's failure to account for all his WMD, much of which he had earlier declared. If the war was about the US unwillingness to take a chance on his failure to account for weapons that would be incredibly dangerous in the hands of terrorist, then the US inablility to account for those same weapons after the war would only suggest that the dangerous weapons are still unaccounted for. The US would be in the same position as an auditor brought in to find missing money in a bank account. If it is still missing it does not mean that it was a mistake to audit the account.

Interesting analogy.

STILL MORE: Reader Joe Berkel looks on the bright side:

Someone likely has made this observation before, but it flows from Mr. Benson's comment.

One rarely gets a chance to field test a major intelligence issue; Iraq gave us the opportunity to do so on WMD. Like the past (missile gaps, Soviet economic strength, and others), the CIA and other intelligence agencies have come up woefully short. One hopes the Administration is truly serious about overhauling the intelligence community (afterwards, they can do the same with domestic law enforcement, starting with the FBI - just as dysfunctional).

Good point. And Barry Dauphin emails:

Another reason the UN route may have been a mistake is that the whole process gave Saddam and the Baathists more time to stash weapons, money and to plan for the counteroffensive that has been taking place. The UN process itself helped create the current conditions. And leaving Saddam in place after his clear abuses, bribes and lack of following resolutions would have itself weakened the UN as well as the WoT. The UN resolutions would still be sitting there in a further state of violation or they would have been lifted. In the event of the latter, Saddam would have bio and/or chemical WMD even as we speak. We wouldn't be arguing about the democratization of Iraq, we'd be wondering how the hell we can protect ourselves from biological attack. That much is
clear from the Duelfer report.

The most telling criticism of the Bush Administration on Iraq, I think, is the one that Bill Quick is always making -- that the "rush to war" was in fact too slow, robbing us of surprise and momentum.

YET MORE: James Hudnall calls this a "decent post," but says I'm leaving out some important stuff.

CHARLES PAUL FREUND notes the further decline of free speech in Britain, and notes this from Salman Rushdie:

The continuing collapse of liberal, democratic, secular and humanist principles in the face of the increasingly strident demands of organised religions is perhaps the most worrying aspect of life in contemporary Britain.

That's rather disturbing.

UPDATE: Justin Katz writes that Rushdie is being a bit euphemistic regarding "organised religions."

THE KOS/TEACHOUT STORY has made Slashdot, where it has inspired considerable discussion.

MORE CAMERABLOGGING: SKBubba responds to this post from Fletch on the virtues of Nikons vs. Canons. Bill Hobbs has thoughts, too.

TIM WORSTALL: " I must have missed that lesson at the Blogging Academy where it is pointed out that I have to respond to every passing crank, especially when there are other posts here which explain exactly my views on such matters."

Heh. Though I kind of like the idea of a Blogging Academy. Not quite as cool as the Starfleet Academy, it's true, but still . . . .

UPDATE: Reader Scott Llewellyn emails: "I assume someone already wrote in that the Blogger Academy should be named 'Blogwarts.'"

Heh.

HERE'S AN INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW BREITBART, coauthor of Hollywood, Interrupted, in which, among other things, we learn that Bush's inauguration isn't sitting well with most folks in Hollywood.

THE NEW "HISTORY CARNIVAL" is a roundup of, what else, history-blogging. Here's the first installment.

SCALIA, BREYER, AND INTERNATIONALIZING CONSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION: I mentioned a Power Line post on this yesterday. Now Prof. Kenneth Anderson has much more on the subject, and says that Breyer was misquoted by the press:

I was one of the organizers of the Scalia-Breyer debate - I'm a law prof at AU law school - and although the AP quote was, so far as I could tell, accurate, it was taken sharply out of context. Justice Breyer was speaking in a very specific exchange with Justice Scalia about the narrowly judicial act of interpreting legal texts, and it is quite unfair to take that remark about who participates directly in the process of interpreting legal texts that have already been informed by constitutional and legislative and other democratic institutions - judges, lawyers, law students (and it was obvious to the live audience that he included students as a courtesy to the audience of law students) - as being somehow antidemocratic. He was just noting the fact that legal materials, once they have been created through various democratic mechanisms, then become subject to interpretation by the interactions of lawyers and judges. It was nothing more insidious than that.

There's much more to his post, and I highly recommend it. He also has a post with comments by Prof. Jamin Raskin -- though I think that Raskin makes far too much of the Declaration of Independence's language about "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." In the context of the Declaration, that merely meant that we would explain ourselves clearly, even as we undertook an enterprise that the leaders nearly all "civilized" nations found horrifying.

Ann Althouse, meanwhile, TiVo-blogged the debate, (a specialty of hers) and also rounds up some press reports.

I'VE BEEN VERY LAME REGARDING SPACEBLOGGING OF LATE, but maybe this post will make up for some of my omissions. First, Jeff Bezos is coming out of the closet regarding Blue Origin, his commercial space operation:

Bezos' Seattle-based Blue Origin suborbital space venture is starting the process to build an aerospace testing and operations center on a portion of the Corn Ranch, a 165,000-acre spread that the 41-year-old billionaire purchased north of Van Horn, Texas. Over the next six or seven years, the team would use the facility to test components for a craft that could take off and land vertically, carrying three or more riders to the edge of space.

Blue Origin's team has been laying the groundwork for the hush-hush project from a 53,000-square-foot warehouse in Seattle, but this week's announcement fills out a puzzle that previously could only be guessed on the basis of isolated rumors. Blue Origin has been the most secretive of several space ventures bankrolled by deep-pocketed private backers — a club that also includes software pioneer Paul Allen (SpaceShipOne), Virgin Group entrepreneur Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) and video-game genius John Carmack (Armadillo Aerospace).

I love it that we're seeing competition -- and I hope that they all succeed. Meanwhile, the Huygens/Cassini probe is a success, with a landing on Titan. Miles O'Brien is blogging it.

This is a big deal, and deserves more attention than I've given it, but I've been a bit busy this week. Sorry. I'll try to have more later.

SOME THOUGHTS ON JOURNALISM, HUMILITY, AND RATHERGATE: Over at GlennReynolds.com.

ADAM PENENBERG looks at the problems of journalist bloggers.

MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT BLOGS: Frank J. offers a guide for the perplexed.

KRAUTHAMMER ON RATHERGATE

The independent investigation -- clueless, uncomprehending and in its own innocent way disgraceful -- pretends that this fiasco was in no way politically motivated. . . .

To what, then, does the report attribute Mapes's great-white-whale obsession with the story? Her Texas roots. I kid you not. She comes from Texas and likes Texas stories. You believe that and you will believe that a 1972 typewriter can tuck the letter "i" right up against the umbrella of the letter "f" (as can Microsoft Word).

Did Mapes and Rather devote a fraction of the resources they gave this story to a real scandal, such as the oil-for-food scandal at the United Nations, or contrary partisan political charges, such as those brought by the Swift boat vets against John Kerry? On the United Nations, no interest. On Kerry, what CBS did do was ad hominem investigative stories on the Swift boat veterans themselves, rather than an examination of the charges. Do you perceive a direction to these inclinations?

Read the whole thing.

CASHING IN on the tsunami.

ANN ALTHOUSE: "I hate fascism, too. You know like when Sylvester Stallone's mother, aka Brigitte Nielsen's ex-mother-in-law, shows up unexpectedly."

January 13, 2005

READER GINGER TAYLOR WANTS CAMERA ADVICE:

So I know that you are always reviewing them and I thought you might be a good source.

I am the mother of an absolutely beautiful autistic little boy. Getting pictures of him actually looking at the camera is difficult as his eye contact is poor and when he does look at the camera it is only for a second.

The digital I have, as well as every friends' camera I have used, all take too long to snap the pic. The only one I have tried that is quick enough was a friends Nikon D100 which I fell in LOVE with, but I don't have a grand or two to drop on a camera.

Any suggestions for me? I want to be able to get a good picture of my boy more than a few times a year.

She sends a picture, and he is very cute. Here's the reply I sent:

Sadly, speed pretty much equals price. But all cameras are getting faster. My Sony DSC-93 is MUCH faster than my earlier camera, and it's about $300. I suspect that newer Sony cameras (like the DSC100) are faster still. If you visit the DPreview or Steve's Digicams sites on the right of my page under "recommendations," they have a lot of reviews and usually mention speed.

But I don't really know a cheap and especially fast digital camera that's especially good for taking pictures of kids. Anybody got any special recommendations?

UPDATE: Reader Greg Stasiewicz writes:

I got the Canon PowerShot S1 for Christmas, and have been experimenting with it quite a lot. With the right settings it is quite good for quick shutter shots. I don't know how it compares with the cameras you mentioned, but priced between $300 and $400, it also has excellent resolution, zoom, and image stabilization as well as the ability to record movies with sound as well which I think Ms Taylor might also appreciate for taking pictures of her son. I picked up a 512 MB flash card as well, and at 2048x1036 superfine, I'm still able to store over 300 pictures.

And another one reader sends:

I sell cameras (among other things) for a living, and this is the, hands down, number one request. Most of the newer generation of cameras are very very fast compared to even last years models. Therefore, in no particular order, my recommendations: Fuji E550 (but not the E500 or E510, which are much slower) Casio Exilim EXZ55, Konica Minolta X50,, Konica Minolta Z3, (if an ultrazoom is required), and one of the sleeper hits of the century, the Sony DSC-W1.

The Fuji is my favorite, but it was real battle of the features between that and the Sony. The Fuji won out mainly on dynamic range and lens issues, (being both wider angle and more telephoto) but the Sony has a low light focus assist lamp and a 3:2 aspect ratio mode, plus it's a bit easier to carry around and feels slightly better built.

The best advice for her is to go to a camera shop and try them all out. Most good shops will keep a powered display with memory, ready for use.

Sorry for the absence of links to all of these; I'm going to bed now and just don't feel up to finding and adding them. I'll try to add them tomorrow.

UPDATE: Links added now; sorry, but I was just wiped out last night.

Several readers email to suggest that she try a film camera -- still widely available, cheap, and with no lag. And you can get the pictures put on disk at the one-hour place when they're developed. Not a bad thought.

DEROY MURDOCK:

Name the greater risk to national security: patriotic military translators who happen to be homosexual or anti-American Islamofascist terrorists who happen to be homicidal. If you picked the latter, thanks for putting U.S. safety first. Alas, the Pentagon disagrees.

According to new Defense Department data, between fiscal years 1998 and 2003, 20 Arabic- and six Farsi-language experts were booted from the military under President Bill Clinton's 1993 "don't ask/don't tell" policy. These GIs trained at the elite Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. Had they graduated _ assuming 40-hour workweeks and two-week vacations _ they could have dedicated 52,000 man-hours annually to interrogate Arab-speaking bomb builders, interpret intercepted enemy communications or transmit reassuring words to bewildered Baghdad residents.

Read the whole thing. As with Lincoln, I just don't care where they put their wing-wangs. I wish the Army didn't, either. (Via Evan Coyne Maloney).

UPDATE: Message to Andrew: After this post, I don't want to hear any more complaints about "wing-wang."

POWER LINE NOTES some troubling comments by Stephen Breyer about foreign sources of law.

Breyer may or may not be accurately quoted, but I'll note a more general point. The "internationalization" of constitutional law is often seen as a liberal project, but it shouldn't be. Even if "international" is a synonym for "European," the consequences of importing, say, European law on abortion wouldn't be so liberal as the rules there are much stricter. I think that it's a bad idea in general, but I don't think we'll see much more than rhetoric in this area.

A RATHERGATE POP QUIZ from WizBang.

I'VE OPENED THE BLOG ETHICS POST BELOW for comments.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has picked up on the Teachout/Kos story. It's a free link.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Closed now. I deleted the worst comments, but the trolls were getting out of hand. Lots of excellent thoughts, though, from a lot of people.

LARRY KUDLOW SURE IS OPTIMISTIC about the economy. I certainly hope he's right.

YOU KNOW, THIS is actually worse than my hatemail. That's no small accomplishment.

UPDATE: On the other hand, I got this today, in response to my "thank you" for an Amazon donation:

It was long overdue. I've loved your blog for awhile now. You wrote previously that donations offset a lot of hate mail that you get, and considering how outrageous and hateful the posters at thepoorman.net were in response to your post about Iran contra/El Salvador, I hope my donation makes a difference (almost halfway there to the new iPod Shuffle!).

Best,

Bryan Smith
Stuck in Madison, WI and eternally grateful for you and Althouse!

Stuff like that makes it worthwhile.

I LINKED TO SOME POSTS CRITICIZING JOHN LOTT over at The Volokh Conspiracy a while back. Now Eugene Volokh has posted a response by Lott.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Greg Djerejian points to this Financial Times story saying that the U.S. was aware of oil-for-food fraud in early 2003 but did nothing. (Well, not exactly nothing -- we invaded a couple of months later . . . .)

Greg is somewhat skeptical about this story, but I guess we'll just have to see what turns up. Was Marc Rich involved somewhere?

JEEZ, HOW LAME: Charles Johnson reports that CBS has altered the PDF on their report to prevent copying and pasting. I suppose this could be a technical glitch of some kind (some bloggers have an HTML bug that does that) but it's kind of hard to give those guys the benefit of the doubt at this point.

UPDATE: More from Captain Ed.

MORE: Jonah Goldberg: "Maybe there's some other explanation, but if someone actually told a web-lackey 'make it harder for the blogs to make fun of us' then, well, then that's just sad."

STILL MORE: Wizbang has a handy HTML version that's easy to link and to cut-and-paste.

MATT DUFFY writes that the Columbia Journalism Review is "hopelessly out of touch."

UPDATE: Jay Currie agrees.

PRIVACY SPOT is a blog about privacy.

"REALITY-BASED" MEANS NOT REAL, according to the Linguistic Society of America. Sort of like the difference between "grape juice" and "grape drink," I guess.

THE ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS SCANDAL is sending shock waves through the PR world.

MORE ON RATHERGATE: From Hugh Hewitt, in The Weekly Standard.

I MENTIONED GM BEFORE, but now it's Apple that's having problems with the blogosphere:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said yesterday it would defend bloggers' right to protect anonymous sources who disclosed that Apple would release a product code-named "Asteroid." A lawyer for the group said it's one of the first cases nationwide, if not the first case, that would address whether Web loggers, or bloggers, can protect confidential sources. Apple filed the suit last week in California.

I think that bloggers should have the same rights (no more, no less) that other journalists possess under applicable law. But I'm pretty sure that Apple wouldn't have subpoenaed bigshot journalists at all.

This has Bill Hobbs rethinking his computer purchases. He's looking at a Dell Inspiron 700m in place of an Apple. I have one of those, and as I noted earlier, I've been quite happy with it. But now when people ask me why I don't own a Mac, I can blame Apple's heavy-handed tactics.

UPDATE: Some readers think I'm being unfair to Apple when it was just "defending trade secrets." But Bigwig sent a link to what he says is the post in question, and it looks like the same kind of thing, only without photos, that GM was upset about. It's just a leak of a product announcement ahead of Apple's PR schedule; I guess that you could call that a "trade secret," but it hardly seems to justify such a vigorous response, and it makes Apple look bad to me even if (as isn't at all clear to me) they were entirely within their legal rights to do so.

Robert Tagorda has more thoughts.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Eugene Volokh looks at the California shield law and remarks:

So if a blog is considered a "periodical publication" -- which most blogs are (the exact "period" in the sense of interval between posts isn't fixed, as it is for a newspaper, but they are "periodical" in the sense that they publish repeatedly, and are usually expected to have new material at least as often as many standard periodicals) -- then it sounds like they have an open-and-shut case. We don't even have to ask whether bloggers are "journalists"; so long as they are "person[s] connected with . . . [a] periodical publication," they are entitled to disregard subpoenas that call on them "to disclose the source of any information procured while so connected . . . for publication in . . . [a] periodical publication."

I'm not at all sure that I approve of such privileges, but if they exist, then bloggers should benefit just as much as bigshots. Here, by the way, is an article from last month's New York Sun on how bloggers threaten special privileges for journalists simply be existing. Maybe -- or maybe they broaden the constituency for such privileges.

MORE: A contrary view:

And really, does a "free society" really depend on getting out Apple's latest product developments ahead of when they want it to get out? Not even a little. Even if PowerPage is a blog, do bloggers want to push this point as far as the EFF is doing and demand full press shield privileges? I'll tell them the same thing I tell trademark attorneys who keep push, push, pushing their ever-growing bundle of rights on the rest of the world: Be careful what you wish for.

Hmm. I want parity, but I'm not crazy about press shield laws. And an awful lot of what the Big Media folks report is just as trivial as Apple's latest product developments.

Meanwhile, Shannon Love says that I'm wrong to criticize Apple here.

MORE STILL: Here's an article from the WSJ on the lawsuit (free link). Excerpt:

It will be difficult for Apple to prove that Think Secret's coverage violated its trade secrets, says Robert E. Camors, an intellectual property lawyer at Thelen Reid & Priest LLP in San Jose, Calif. Trade secrets usually deal with the formula behind products -- not simply the details about the products' release, he says. Secondly, it would be difficult for an Apple rival to benefit from the news the site has reported. "No competitor can design and market a product in two weeks," he says.

Seems weak to me, too, but that's not my field.

DAVID HARSANYI:


Here's some advice on bribery: If you're out to corrupt a journalist, bribe one who doesn't already agree with your position. It's just sinful to squander tax dollars on paying off a supporter. Good press should be free.

True, Armstrong Williams is hardly a journalist, but rather a commentator with a self-described conservative agenda. He was dropped by his syndicate (as well as The Denver Post) for accepting $240,000 from a public relations firm hired by the Department of Education to promote No Child Left Behind.

Williams was greedy. The Department of Education was flat-out wrong. And the whole affair is tawdry.

Indeed. He has some thoughts on RatherGate and blogs, too.

IN THE MAIL: Varieties of Conservatism in America, a volume edited by Peter Berkowitz and containing essays by a rather broad assortment of thinkers.

Or, for a somewhat less-sophisticated example of brawling within the Big Tent, you can read this post and follow the links!

There's also a companion volume, Varieties of Progressivism in America, that looks interesting, too.

NOBODY EXPECTS the Oxford Inquisition.

(Original story here.)

BLOGFLUENCE: Here's something from Zephyr Teachout that I didn't know:

In this past election, at least a few prominent bloggers were paid as consultants by candidates and groups they regularly blogged about. . . .

On Dean’s campaign, we paid Markos and Jerome Armstrong as consultants, largely in order to ensure that they said positive things about Dean. We paid them over twice as much as we paid two staffers of similar backgrounds, and they had several other clients.

While they ended up also providing useful advice, the initial reason for our outreach was explicitly to buy their airtime. To be very clear, they never committed to supporting Dean for the payment -- but it was very clearly, internally, our goal. . . . Imagine Howard Dean hiring Maureen Dowd!

Somebody tell Oliver Willis! Meanwhile, apparently, I've missed out on yet another gravy train. (Thanks to Ed Cone for the tip).

UPDATE: Here's Kos's disclosure post, sent to me by a reader who thinks it's inadequate. I'm not so sure, but the interesting disclosure to me is the one above, about what the campaign thought it was doing by hiring Kos, rather than what Kos thought.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tim Blair has thoughts.

MORE: Jeff Jarvis has much more on this subject, including this observation:

The campaign used these guys. The campaign knew that. But the bloggers didn't. The bloggers thought their wisdom was being sought out; they were paid to consult. No, they were paid to market, to flack.

Read the whole thing, which is about culture and trust. Meanwhile, Markos sends this email:

The problem with Armstrong Williams is two-fold: 1) he did not disclose the arrangement, and 2) he was paid taxpayer dollars. If Williams wants to be paid by Scaife or any other right wing think tank or funder, then It would be whole different matter.

The problem with Zephyr is that she fails to note that Jerome and I (mostly Jerome) set the Dean campaign on the path of blogging and MeetUps. Jerome had the first Dean site up on the web, the first Dean-specific blog, set up MeetUp for them, and was the catalyst for the netroots pro-Dean movement. THAT'S why we were hired by the campaign, to offer more such suggestions. Given that our relationship was with Trippi and not Zephyr, I'm not sure what jealousies or internal politics we ran afoul with Zephyr.

Note that Jerome quit blogging after he joined their campaign (at a time MyDD got more traffic than Daily Kos), so if they were paying for favorable blogging from us, that didn't quite work out. Remember, he was the biggest Dean booster online. Instead, he worked as their Director of Internet Advertising. As for me, I disclosed the arrangement and had a link to that disclosure post up on the site for the entire duration of the arrangement, even though we were being paid essentially for Jerome's work, not for anything I was doing.

So 1) I disclosed the arrangement, and 2) I didn't take taxpayer dollars. If this isn't enough to satiate you and other critics, so be it. But really, I'd like to hear what more you'd think was appropriate.

In any case, given that Daily Kos is self-sufficient now, I quit the consulting biz. Though I reserve the right to go back in if I want to help a candidate I believe in, with full-disclosure as I did before.

And Jerome emails:

I was on blogging hiatus during the time I worked on the Dean campaign getting paid, Aug to Dec, 2003. Actually on hiatus from much earlier to much later.

As I say above, I'm not actually convinced that Kos or Jerome did anything especially wrong here -- not withstanding my tweaking of Oliver Willis, who seems a bit overexcitable these days -- but the dynamic with the campaign interests me. I think that Jeff (and Zephyr) are right that the issue is a cultural one more than a legalistic or formally "ethical" one. I don't want a Code, which people will promptly lawyer to death. (Trust me on this one). I want attitudes and norms.

On the other hand, Kos may want to be a little embarrassed about writing this. Or at least a bit slower to take that kind of tone in the future.

STILL MORE: In response to my comment just above, Kos emails:

What's your point here? The administration is using tax dollars to pay conservative pundits (and crazy amounts at that). Williams says there are more. Until people own up to who is on the take, I'm willing to assume they all are.

Why that should be embarrassing is beyond me.

Indeed.

The point, however, is that Kos is being treated rather more generously above than he's treating others (and, I suspect, more generously than he would treat me were our positions reversed, though I hope I'm wrong about that), and yet he is happy to presume the guilt of, basically, everyone who disagrees with him. I could just as easily ask how many other lefty bloggers (since Zephyr says there were more, too) were on campaigns' payrolls, and pronounce the entire lefty blogosphere suspect.

YET MORE: Zephyr Teachout posts an update in a separate post:

This has to do with OUR motives, not some contract, and no compromise on their part. Instapundit gets it right -- this is about the market that's created.

Furthermore, I'm not claiming that Kos didn't have a disclaimer -- he did, we've talked about this for over a year, there's no revelation here. I don't think the disclaimer was what I'd like to see, and I really wish he -- and every other blogger/consultant -- had an easy to find, prominent client list of all clients at all times.

But this isn't about Kos or a few thousand bucks, and its certainly not about a $240,000 contract to shill for the federal government. As one commenter said, c'mon, that was wild west days -- this will all calm down.

My interest--and where our focus needs to be, whether you're a little green football or a kossack -- is in collectively building a culture online where we figure out norms for people who both consult and write online so that readers can have the tools to be skeptical, active participants.

I'd like to see that, too. And Kos emails to say that I'm wrong, and that he wouldn't jump on me if the situations were reversed -- in fact, he doesn't think there's anything wrong with what the DaschlevThune bloggers did. We disagree about that; I think they should have disclosed.

Anyway, in the interest of getting some reader feedback on these issues, I'm opening comments for a while, until the trolls or the spammers get out of hand, anyway. Your comments on how these things should be handled -- civil and free of unnecessary point-scoring, please -- would be appreciated.

MICHAEL MOORE: A Karl Rove Mole? Might as well be:

The film maker may be a big hero to Hollywood, but the legacy of his films has been to discredit the causes he champions. Just ask John Kerry.

Fahrenheit 9/11 was timed to coincide with the 2004 presidential election for the sake of maximum interest and box office -- but its publicity and controversy was a distraction to the Democrats at the moment they were trying to get their message out. Taking a stance against the Iraq war became more difficult, not less, after the movie was released, forcing Democrats to distinguish their criticisms from those of the silver screen conspiracy theorists.

Who can forget how Gen. Wesley Clark's Democratic primary campaign had to spend several days extricating their candidate from the bear hug of the radical filmmaker? In the general election, John Kerry was likewise forced to walk the Fahrenheit tightrope -- distancing himself from Moore without alienating the party's liberal anti-war base that was turning out in droves and filling movie theatres with applause.

Indeed. Cui bono?

ROGER SIMON has some tough questions for Dick Thornburgh.

BALLISTIC FINGERPRINTING FAILS, and SayUncle says "I told you so."

January 12, 2005

I'M NO FAN OF THE SENTENCING GUIDELINES, but I don't really have a lot to say besides "jeez, can't the Supreme Court answer this kind of thing with a single, clear opinion?" Previous courts seemed to manage. . . .

But this is Doug Berman's moment to shine. Just head over to his Sentencing Law and Policy blog and keep scrolling.

TOM MAGUIRE IS DEEPLY UNIMPRESSED WITH BUSH'S SOCIAL SECURITY RHETORIC. Meanwhile, Nick Gillespie offers some advice on message:

The one powerful selling point to me about private accounts is that they might keep some money within families, to be passed down to kids or grandkids as an inheritance. I know from personal experience (or, rather, lack of personal experience) that an inheritance of even $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000 at the right time in a young person's life can make a huge difference in all sorts of ways, from clearing out debt to providing a car (and hence employment opportunities) to a down payment on a house, and more.

It seems to me the inheritance angle is the best way to sell any reform--and it should be, because that is the one that can actually change and improve people's lives, which is really the point of the reform effort. Nobody cares that the system is going "broke"--there are always ways to "fix" that (and we will, through pushing back benefits most likely). The whole government, despite any recent surpluses, is impervious to accounting rigor and standards. Nobody seems interested in attacking the morality of a mandatory savings system, either.

But what I think most people can get around is that a system that allows people, especially lower-middle- and lower-class people to conserve some capital over time is a good thing, regardless of any other ideological/political affiliation. . . .

Oh, and it would help to offer some specifics.

Read the whole thing, especially if you're Karl Rove.

RAINING ON THE "DEATH SQUAD" PARADE: David Adesnik dissects the story that had some of the more excitable sectors of the blogosphere excited. So does Greg Djerejian and -- interestingly, defending Rumsfeld in the process -- Matthew Yglesias.

UPDATE: Here's more from Jonah Goldberg:

Okay now, let's clear a few things up. First of all, the "El Salvador Option" was used in — hold on, let me get my map, yes, yes, that's right — El Salvador, not Nicaragua. Whatever the merits or demerits of American policy in El Salvador or Nicaragua, the effort in El Salvador did not lead to the Iran-Contra scandal. Newsweek seems to think that piling on negative associations with Latin American foreign policy will help dramatize a story they might not even have in the first place. After all, the substance of the initial story is that people inside the Pentagon are discussing their options. Someone reorder my adult diapers, that is scary!

What is particularly piquant — that's right I used the word piquant — about the conflation of Nicaragua and El Salvador is that it suggests America's entire effort "down there" was nothing but folly, hubris, and imperialism. That is, after all, what the Left believed at the time and still believes today. That's fine, I suppose, but it should help remind all of us that the Cold War was not exactly an issue that received a lot of bipartisan consensus in the 1980s, despite the efforts of liberals today to pretend otherwise. We've heard a lot from liberals in recent months about how the Cold War was marked by a consensus across the ideological spectrum and how George Bush's greatest failure is not pursuing a similar consensus on the war on terror. All of this is ahistorical and dishonest twaddle. . . .

What united opponents of American policy in Central America was a vague sense that we were on the wrong side. They tittered at Reagan's declaration that the Contras were freedom fighters. They made movies that turned the leftists into the good guys in El Salvador. John Kerry, Pat Leahy, Tom Harkin, and other titans of international statesmanship actively worked against American foreign policy. "I see an enormous haughtiness in the United States trying to tell them what to do," Kerry said about American relations with the Soviet client Sandanista regime. He lent his name to support groups aiding the Communist-controlled regions of El Salvador.

I have no doubt that opposition to the "death squads" was also based on revulsion at some of their excesses. But there can be no doubt that they were also vexed that we were fighting Communists at all. Moreover, our special forces were not sent to El Salvador to train anybody to murder people. They were sent to help stop the widespread civil chaos and murder being perpetrated by others. They largely succeeded.

He continues in the same vein, which makes me wonder if making comparisons to Central America will help the Left, or simply bring up a lot of things that a lot of people would rather gloss over today.

MORE BOOKBLOGGING: John Scalzi's book, Old Man's War, gets a very positive review from Prof. Bainbridge: "I was absolutely blown away; it literally was one of those 'you can't put it down' books. I started reading it at lunch and had to force myself to break away two hours later in order to get some work done."

I told you it was good. Judging by its still-high Amazon rank, a lot of people agree.

AUSTIN BAY has a RatherGate question: "If it was common knowledge that Mr.Burkett was something of a Bush-hating crank, why would someone of Ms. Mapes/Mr. Rather [ed: ilk? position?] accept information passed to him? Both people know the Texas political scene intimately; know the legitimate mantel bearers and the pretenders. It is understandable that they could have been hoodwinked by an insider, but by Burkett? "

UPDATE: Much more in a roundup from Tom Maguire.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Norm Geras looks at Kofi's new fix-it guy, who seems to have some grasp of reality, at least.

NOEL SHEPPARD WRITES that if the past few years have been a depression, as some have claimed, he'd like another, please.

THE DOWNSIDE OF THE lovely weather mentioned below is that my seminar room was roasting this afternoon. If my "cancel class at 80 degrees" rule applied to indoor temperatures, that would have been it.

IT WAS AN AWFULLY NICE DAY for January. I have a rule that I cancel class if it breaks 80 in January, and that won't be triggered. But it hit the 70s and I had to take some time off to walk around campus. And, being a good geek blogger I had my digital camera with me. Here are a few pictures for the Knoxville expats and UT alumni who are always requesting such.

If you're cold and miserable up in the dreary north, well, I'm sorry. But you can console yourself that, given the changeable quality of East Tennessee weather, we'll probably have a blizzard next week.

But what I like about the weather here is that it is changeable. The thing I disliked about living in northern climes -- like New Haven, Cambridge, or, especially, Heidelberg, was the absolutely unrelenting quality of winter once it set in. Here, it relents, and we appreciate the break.

A lot.

(Other pics moved to the extended-entry area to speed loadtimes; click "read more" to see them).

Read More ?


GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THE DRUNKEN GARDENER: An interesting case of contracting around the problem.

EXTREME BLOGGING: Andrés Trevino is blogging his son's stem-cell transplant.

SOME VERY GOOD PHOTOBLOGGING FROM IRAQ.

RATHERGATE CONTINUES: More on developments at GlennReynolds.com.

HEH. All I can say to IowaHawk is, "We're not worthy!"

Er, and how did you know about the aviary and the smoking jacket?

IN THE MAIL: A copy of R.F. Laird's The Boomer Bible. Ten thousand years from now, scholars will still be confused.

Laird's also at InstaPunk, a site that, like Tom Perry's IsntaPundit, has a similar name to this one, but very different content. Er, and attitude.

DANIEL DREZNER OFFERS A VERY IMPORTANT POST for your consumption. It's meaty and substantial.

I'VE BEEN MEANING TO DO A POST on great blogs that I haven't, for one reason or another, linked to lately, and high on my list of blogs to include was Derek Lowe's Pipeline. Then I saw where Malcolm Gladwell was praising it. And rightly so.

SANDY BERGER UPDATE:

Former Clinton White House Mr. Fix-It Bruce Lindsey emerged tight-lipped yesterday after testifying before a federal grand jury probing whether top-secret documents were illegally removed from the National Archives. The grand jury probe, reported exclusively in The Post Tuesday, is digging into why another former Bill Clinton aide, Sandy Berger, sneaked the national security documents out of the Archives — possibly in his socks.

Lindsey denied any inside knowledge about Berger's sticky fingers.

Stay tuned.

RATHERGATE UPDATE: The "we were just hasty, not biased" argument isn't flying:

If there is one line in the 224-page report on CBS News that has set critics aflame, it is that there is no "basis" for concluding that Dan Rather and his colleagues had a "political bias" in pursuing their badly botched story about President Bush's National Guard service.

What, they say? No evidence?

"In any fair-minded assessment of how CBS performed and why they so badly butchered their own standards, that has to be part of the explanation," said former New York Times reporter Steve Roberts, now a professor at George Washington University. "It's not just that they wanted to be first, they wanted to be first with a story that was critical of the president."

Indeed.

ED MORRISSEY fact-checks Nick Kristof and finds him guilty of "obscene" errors.

HOWARD FINEMAN ANNOUNCES THE DEATH of the mainstream-media-as-political-party, an entity that he says came into being when Walter Cronkite announced against the Vietnam War and ended this year when it turned out that nobody trusted them anymore: "It's hard to know now who, if anyone, in the 'media' has any credibility."

Fineman says that "Blogger Nation" has arisen. One example of that is Stefan Sharkansky and SoundPolitics.com, which is covering the Washington recount in a way that Fineman's colleagues are not. Some people have noticed:

Meet Stefan Sharkansky -- "The Shark."

His efforts show how one small blog -- a Web log site with updated entries -- can deliver quite a sharp bite.

I was interested in knowing more about Sharkansky because if a new election is ordered, he just might be remembered as the guy who made a huge difference.

More evidence, if it were needed, that Fineman is right.

UPDATE: More evidence still -- driving the Insta-Daughter to school just now, I heard an NPR story on the Washington State recount. Nothing at all on the allegations of fraud in King County, but a lot on Democrat Christine Gregoire's admirable qualities. She was the first in her family to go to college!

January 11, 2005

HUGH HEWITT has repeatedly noted this new blog by GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz as evidence that General Motors "gets" blogs.

Naw. Lutz does, maybe, but a company as big as GM doesn't get anything that fast. And for proof, all you need to do is to read this article from the Wall Street Journal on GM's response to blog leaks regarding the new Corvette:

The Z06 snafu is a high-profile illustration of how Detroit's decades-old tactics for generating buzz around a new model don't always mesh with the realities of the digital media universe. Information about products can be passed around the world instantly by Web sites and blogs that don't always honor news-release embargoes designed to suit the publication schedules of print magazines. . . .

A Texas computer consultant said he stumbled upon photos of a silver-blue Z06 on the Internet and posted them that afternoon on a Corvette online discussion forum he frequents. Five days later, on Nov. 14, two men from Securitas, GM's contract security firm, knocked on the door of his Houston home demanding to know who gave him the pictures. He said he refused to let them in, and their parting shot was "We'll see you in court."

As soon as the security men left, the 36-year-old computer consultant, who requested his name not be used, posted details of the visit from the "two goons," as he described them, on two Corvette Web sites. He also posted scanned images of their business cards.

Trust me, that's not the action of a company that understands the Internet. Somebody needs to educate them! Maybe Lutz will spring for a few copies, and see that they get into the right hands.

UPDATE: Reader Jeff Nolan emails with this observation, which carries an important lesson:

Your mention of GM and blogs, specific to the new Corvette launch, may actually underscore a point that it's not blogs that GM doesn't understand, but rather the power of small parts loosely joined in the form of camera phones.

Most of the spy photos that showed up on fan websites (technically not blogs) were from people who snapped pics of them on car carriers, or driving (with body panels disguised) around the Detroit area, with their camera phones.

Blogs played a big part in this, but were it not for individuals with camera phones who were in the right spot at the right time the blogs would have had nothing to publish.

And that's one reason why I want as many InstaPundit readers as possible to be carrying digital cameras at all times!

WELL, I CERTAINLY MISSED THIS STORY:

WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. government ran a $1 billion budget surplus in December, helped by a rise in corporate tax payments, the Congressional Budget Office said in its latest budget report released on Friday. The surplus, which compared with an $18 billion deficit in the previous December, helped create a smaller fiscal deficit for the first three months of the 2005 fiscal year, than in the same quarter of the prior year.

Fortunately, there are blogs.

STRATEGYPAGE:

Can the anti-government forces in Iraq win? Some pundits think so. But do you really think the Shia and Kurds will allow Saddam's thugs to bully their way back into power? The Kurds and Shia Arabs have 80 percent of the population, control of the oil, and American troops to back up their efforts. Iraqis indicate, to anyone who will listen, that they have no intention of folding under Baath pressure, and a growing desire to come down hard on the Sunnis who support the violence. The Kurds and Shia have names, because Saddam's thugs didn't wear masks when they ran things for three decades. Guess who is going to lose? But that thought is what is driving the resistance. The Baath Party thugs know what they will have to face eventually, if they don’t regain control of Iraq.

The Baath and al Qaeda campaign against the police and government officials results in spectacular and newsworthy attacks each day. But there are still 7,000 new police and National Guard undergoing training, and another 25,000 waiting to start their training. The attacks are concentrated in two provinces; Anbar (where Fallujah is) and Nineveh (where Mosul is). Because the attacks are killing mostly Iraqis, the attackers are not very popular, even among Sunni Arabs. The police are getting more tips about anti-government activity. This includes information about where roadside bombs are planted, or where gunmen are hiding out. Although the Arab media makes a big deal about how impossible it will be to run the elections, the Iraqi people don’t think so.

Read the whole thing. I've found StrategyPage to be pretty reliable, and I certainly hope they're right about this.

UPDATE: Brian Dunn has related thoughts.

SOUNDS LIKE GEORGE W. BUSH will probably want an iPod Shuffle.

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF has another (and perhaps the final) link-rich tsunami news roundup.

Arthur does a great job with these roundups, and deserves a lot of praise for pulling so much interesting stuff together so well.

ROGER SIMON has some interesting things to say about James Wolcott, which is no small feat. But two items from his comments strike me as especially sharp:

(1) Roger, I think you're missing the most fascinating thing about James Wolcott's adorable rottweiler puppy attacks on the legs of various leading lights of the blogosphere. By every measure, Wolcott is an established figure in the white hot center of the mainstream media, as a Vanity Fair columnist for some ten-plus years. This is a man who has one of the most envied megaphones in the New York and national magazine publishing scene. Yet for some reason, he now spends most of his time gnawing away at, say, a law professor from an obscure Tennessee college, a part-time columnist from the Midwest, and a moderately successful (no offense!) mystery novelist from Los Angeles. This reversal of polarity would have been unthinkable even a year or two ago.

----------

(2) I subscribed to Vanity Fair for many years. I found that I was always finished reading what Wolcott had to say long before he was finished saying it.

Heh. Indeed.

FREE SPEECH AND ANTI-SEMITISM ISSUES AT COLUMBIA: F.I.R.E is involved.

F.I.R.E. has also released its guide to free speech on campus, which many students, professors, and journalists will find useful. (Via Eugene Volokh, who calls F.I.R.E. "a group whose work I've much admired." Indeed.)

UPDATE: Nat Hentoff has some advice for Columbia University President Lee Bollinger.

THE COUNTERTERRORISM BLOG has a title that makes further explanation superfluous.

A "RACIAL FIRESTORM" at a Boston paper? More here. Surprising.

TWO DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ON THE RATHERGATE REPORT: Patrick Ruffini writes:

To worry that CBS will be able to successfully whitewash Rathergate by trotting out two scions of the establishment unfairly diminishes the blogosphere's signal accomplishment. They can no more whitewash this than they can sell the idea that John Kerry was a great candidate who just fell a little short, or the notion that some good violin playing was just what was needed after the iceberg opened a huge gash in the Titanic.

On the other hand, Ed Morrissey writes:

The mainstream media would have us believe now that the corruption of CBS and 60 Minutes Wednesday was self-evident and needed no impetus for discovery. They do not want to come to terms with an activist and energized readership, one that refuses to act like sheep any more. These media leaders cannot face their own biases and their desperate grip on the spigot of information, and so they attempt to simply ignore the critical role that the blogosphere played in bringing this debacle to light.

When we talk about whitewashes, let's remember that history can also be rewritten to hand defeats to the victors and acquittals to the guilty. We can see this process happening before our eyes in the media right now -- and the blogosphere had better react to it.

I'm more inclined to agree with Patrick, but there's no harm in making sure that Ed's fears don't come true.

BUT WHAT WILL THE CULT SAY? The iPod Shuffle seems kinda cool, but I'm not sure its appeal would last. On the other hand, the Mac Mini just might.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis puts into words my vague discomfort with the iPod Shuffle, though he seems to feel it a bit more strongly: "The entire point of the iPod is that it gives you control. Hell, the entire point of media that succeeds these days is that it gives you control. But the new, cheap, cute iPod takes that control away by shuffling the cuts you put on it."

I agree. But for some people, the highest form of control is giving up control. I guess they deserve an iPod of their own, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Several readers say that the Shuffle offers a "play in order" mode that lets you pick. Okay, so much for the gimmick. Don't all flash players have a shuffle and a play in order mode? As reader Diane Pettey emails:

Your objection to the iPod Shuffle is based on a flawed impression that is almost entirely based on what I think is a very poor marketing decision. The "Shuffle" gimmick is just that: a marketing gimmick. In fact, if you want to play your songs in a particular order, you just need to create an ordered playlist first in iTunes, then download the songs from the album you created. . . .

Given that one has to really dig for this information only after thinking "they CAN'T be THAT insane!" - from a marketing standpoint the team that has performed so well for Apple may have slipped up this time.

On the other hand, we're talking about it, I guess.

LITTLE GREEN FOOTBALLS IS BACK ONLINE.

JOHN HINDERAKER: I told you so.

THIS IS INSIDER SPACE STUFF, but Glen Wilson has died.

WAS LINCOLN GAY? Andrew Sullivan cares, and so do the folks at The Weekly Standard. I can't seem to, though. The guy saved the nation, and I'm supposed to care about where he put his wing-wang?

But if he was, you can't blame Vanna White.

UPDATE: My use of the term "wing-wang" is criticized.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan doesn't like it, either: "This, apparently, is Glenn Reynold's view of what being gay is. And Glenn is on the side of the angels in this. It's enough to make you despair."

Andrew is despairing a lot lately, I'm afraid. But if I was dismissive above (and I was) it's because I'm just not that interested in other people's sexuality. I don't even care about Brad and Jen's split, and not only did they not save the Union, as near as I can tell their whole reason for existence is to promote such interest. (Something that I, by contrast, have done only once, as far as I know . . . .) I'm actually a bit surprised by Andrew's reaction, as many people who find other people's sexuality fascinating seem fascinated with the idea of controlling it, which I'm certainly not. Your sexuality is your own, as Lincoln's was his own, but don't expect me to be fascinated.

HE'S NO LEFTY: John Derbyshire criticizes Intelligent Design:

Lots of scientists believe in God. Einstein seems to have, for instance. So do I; and so do a great [many] other people who think that ID theory is pure flapdoodle. It is possible to believe in God and not believe in ID; it is possible (as I pointed out in a previous post) to believe in ID but not God.

ID theory posits that certain features of the natural world CAN ONLY be explained by the active intervention of a designing intelligence. Since the entire history of science displays innumerable instances of hitherto inexplicable phenomena yielding to natural explanations (and, in fact, innumerable instances of "intelligent design" notions to explain natural phenomena being scrapped when more obvious natural explanations were worked out), the whole ID outlook has very little appeal to well-informed scientists. A scientist who knows his history sees the region of understanfing as a gradually enlarging circle of light in a general darkness. If someone comes along and tells him: "This particular region of darkness HERE will never be illuminated by methods like yours," then he is naturally skeptical. "How can you possibly know that?" he will say, very reasonably.

Indeed.

MORE THOUGHTS on Sandy Berger.

AND THE ANSWER IS NO: Reader Hale Stewart emails:

Have you at any time accepted money from the Bush administration or the Republican Party to promote their policies?

No, other than some Republican blogads, which I don't think count -- and anyway, I think I've run more blogads for lefty groups and Soros outfits. I think he's taking his cue from Oliver Willis here. And speaking of Oliver and Soros, where does Media Matters get its money from, again?

UPDATE: Reader Dart Montgomery emails: "You might want to point that blogads ‘don’t count’ because they by their very nature are fully disclosed to your readers." Yes. And on Media Matters I should note that Duncan Black emailed me a while back to claim that it's not Soros-funded as many have reported. But he didn't reply when I asked him where the money did come from. Does anybody know?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Oliver Willis emails that the money for Media Matters comes from "progressive donors," but not George Soros, and says that I should disclose my link to James Glassman's TechCentralStation. Er, like with the link that says "My TCS Columns" over there at the top right, Oliver?

Sean Doherty, however, has more on Media Matters funding and says that in fact it was set up with Soros money, but calls the funding situation murky. It's okay with me either way -- it's not like there's much doubt where Media Matters is coming from, really, so the rest is just details, and I'm already on record as to the pointlessness of too much nitpicking in that regard. Oliver's gradual transformation into Hesiod, on the other hand, does trouble me.

MORE: David Hardy emails: "I, for one, demand that you disclose your economic and/or emotional connections to any producers of films about murderous satanic lesbians."

Full disclosure: The blogad currently residing at the upper right was not purchased for cash.

FINALLY: A deal's a deal, Ace.

IN THE MAIL: Elliott Currie, The Road to Whatever: Middle-Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence. The Insta-Wife's take is that Currie is half-right, but that he drastically exaggerates the amount of discipline teenagers are actually subject to.

I wonder if there's even a "crisis of adolescence" going on at the moment, really. In fact, the kids seem to be alright, with dramatically lower rates of teen pregnancy, crime, etc. (I credit Internet porn and violent videogames!). Of course, there's always a crisis of adolescence when it comes time to sell books on teenagers, and as far as I can tell there always has been.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

Kofi Annan survived the disasters of UN peacekeeping in Srebrenica and Rwanda, the bitter Security Council divisions over the Iraq war and the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

But the man described by some as the "secular Pope" is now more vulnerable than ever, because of growing scandal over his organisation's mismanagement of sanctions and humanitarian aid to Iraq.

Calls for Mr Annan's resignation were once restricted to ideologically driven hardline US conservatives. Now diplomats in New York are openly asking whether the secretary-general can remain in office until the end of his term in December 2006.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Well stories like this certainly won't help:

Peacekeeping troops guarding refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo sexually abused girls as young as 13, giving out scraps of food or money in return for favours, the United Nations admitted yesterday. . . .

Many were orphans from a war that has claimed more lives than any since 1945.

Soldiers continued abusing children even after the onset of an internal UN inquiry.

Read the whole thing. And remind yourself of how much more attention this would get -- even from Kofi -- if American troops were involved.

MICHAEL SAVAGE, REMIXED: I wonder if it'll get an Yglesias review?

JONATHAN LAST CALLS THE CBS RATHERGATE REPORT A WHITEWASH:

And Mary Mapes understands it, too. "Indeed, in the end, all that the panel did conclude was that there were many red flags that counseled against going to air quickly . . ." she says now. "I am heartened to see that the panel found no political bias on my part, as indeed I have none."

Well, if the documents weren't forged and Mary Mapes acted with no political bias, then her firing would have been unjust and she really would be a scapegoat. But since there is abundant evidence that the documents were forgeries and that political attitudes were important in driving the story, the better conclusion is that the CBS Report is a whitewash.

Read the whole thing.

GOT YER HEALTHCARE BLOGGING RIGHT HERE: Grand Rounds is up.

I THINK THAT KEVIN DRUM has it right on the "not enough troops" claim:

Of course, no one seriously suggests that we should strip every last soldier from Europe, North Korea, and our other overseas deployments. Realistically, then, the maximum number of troops available for use in Iraq is probably pretty close to the number we have now: 300,000 rotated annually, for a presence of about 150,000 at any given time.

The only way to appreciably increase this is to raise the Army's end strength by several divisions, and this is exactly what Kagan and Sullivan think Rumsfeld has been too stubborn about opposing. But as they acknowledge, doing this would take a couple of years — and as they don't acknowledge, it would have made the war politically impossible. The invasion of Iraq almost certainly would never have happened if Rumsfeld had told Congress in 2002 that he wanted them to approve three or four (or more) new divisions in preparation for a war in 2004 or 2005.

In other words, when Rumsfeld commented that you go to war "with the army you have," he was exactly right. Kagan and Sullivan both supported the Iraq war, but it never would have happened if Rumsfeld had acknowledged that we needed 100,000 more troops than we had available at the time.

For that reason, conservative critiques of Rumsfeld on these grounds strike me as hypocritical. Would Kagan and Sullivan have supported delaying the Iraq war a couple of years in order to raise the troops they now believe are necessary? If not, isn't it a little late to start complaining now?

I'm not convinced that "more troops" is the answer in Iraq, but I'm perfectly OK with the idea of adding troops until the cuts of the 1990s are undone, though I presume that folks at the Pentagon -- usually not quick to turn down money -- would jump at this if they thought it would be useful. And those who think we ought to have more troops should start agitating to undo the 1990s cuts; I'd probably be happy to go along. But the notion that Rumsfeld is, out of some inexplicable stubbornness, refusing to send enough troops has never made sense with me. We clearly had plenty of troops to beat Saddam's army, and, as I say, it's not clear that more troops are the answer now -- read this post by David Adesnik for more on pre-invasion planning and post-invasion execution and you'll see that troop numbers aren't the big issue, and that critics seem mostly to be engaging in hindsight today. I think that calling for "more troops" is a way to criticize while not sounding weak, and that it thus has an appeal that overcomes its uncertain factual foundation.

UPDATE: Related thoughts here and, from Iraqi blogger Ali, here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here.

MORE: I found this post by Reid Stott a bit confusing, but perhaps that's because he found me confusing as well. We had enough troops to beat Saddam's army -- and, as some have pointed out, above, the only way to have had more would have been to either wait, or strip troops from everywhere else, a situation that remains true today. That was fairly obvious at the time of the invasion, which makes me, like Kevin, wonder why people are emphasizing it now.

To Reid's past-and-present tense, I'll add another: the future tense. That is, the real question is whether we have enough troops to do what we're going to do next. I think the answer to that is yes, and I think that if so, then the question of whether we should have more troops on occupation duty right now will turn out to be less important.

GAYPATRIOT SAYS THAT HE'S NOT "THE NEW ANDREW SULLIVAN:" I agree.

SANDY BERGER UPDATE:

WASHINGTON — The criminal probe into why former Bill Clinton aide Sandy Berger illegally sneaked top-secret documents out of the National Archives — possibly in his socks — has heated up and is now before a federal grand jury, The Post has learned. . . .

"It may have been off the front pages, but the investigation has been active," said a source with knowledge of the probe.

"[Berger] has been interviewed several times by federal agents — FBI and prosecutors."

Berger admits removing 40 to 50 top-secret documents from the archives, but claims it was an "honest mistake" made while he vetted documents for the 9/11 commission's probe into the Twin Towers attacks.

Berger has also acknowledged that he destroyed some documents — he says by accident. . . .

The documents include multiple drafts of a review of the 2000 millennium threat said to conclude that only luck prevented a 2000 attack.

That story conflicts with Berger's own testimony to the commission, in which he claimed that "we thwarted" millennium attacks by being vigilant — rather than by sheer luck, as the review reportedly suggests.

I'd been wondering what was going on with that case.

UPDATE: Lorie Byrd has more.

BILL STUNTZ:

Odds are, George W. Bush will soon appoint a new Chief Justice. More Supreme Court appointments will follow, along with hundreds of lower-court judges. The federal judiciary will soon be Bush Country, a fact that could have larger long-term effects than Social Security reform and the war in Iraq.

Unless something changes, the effects will be bad. Not because Bush's judges and Justices will be too conservative, but because they won't be conservative enough. Most conservative judges today believe in a theory that leads to very un-conservative results -- law that amounts to little more than judges' opinions, concentrated power in the hands of an allegedly all-knowing Supreme Court, and legal rules that reinforce the power of liberal interest groups like teachers' unions. The right has the wrong legal theory.

The theory boils down to three "isms": federalism, originalism, and formalism. The unifying theme behind this trinity is that all are things Earl Warren wasn't. Warren believed in broad Congressional power to regulate the economy and protect civil rights. Modern-day federalists believe in states' rights. Warren believed in a living Constitution that changes with the times. Originalists think the Constitution means exactly what James Madison thought it meant when he wrote it. Warren cared about the consequences of his decisions. Formalist judges follow legal forms and procedures and believe that worrying about consequences is a job for politicians.

All these theories are supposed to limit judges' power, so they can't "make law from the bench," as the President likes to say. But the holy trinity of conservative legal thought does not cabin judges' power so much as hide it. Judging, Scalia-style, is a little like a card trick: the audience's attention is drawn to one hand while the other does all the work.

Read the whole thing. I'm not at all sure I agree with this, but it's interesting how much Stuntz's analysis seems to overlap with what Larry Kramer says in his recent book, The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review, though I think it's fair to say that Stuntz and Kramer are not very close together politically.

UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru doesn't like Stuntz's essay. And John Tabin has thoughts about federalism and education.

And for more on originalism, here's a rather lengthy critique of Robert Bork's approach to originalism that I wrote some years ago.

THE CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES is up. Actually, it's been up for a while, but I was busy and forgot to link it.

BLOG TRAFFIC PRE- AND POST-ELECTION: N.Z. Bear analyzes the trends. It's worth comparing his patterns with this graph of overall annual traffic patterns from the Online Journalism Review. In part, it looks to me as if the election exaggerated an underlying pattern.

UPDATE: Why did InstaPundit peak in late September, instead of at the election like Kos and Power Line? InstaPundit's traffic peaked with RatherGate, and specifically on the day of CBS's press conference. It may have equalled that on Election Day (the server problems make that unclear) but InstaPundit is a media-criticism blog more than it's a political blog, and I think the traffic shows that. It's okay with me -- RatherGates don't happen every day, but there's always plenty of media stuff to criticize!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Michael Totten discovers that SiteMeter is undercounting his site. Lots of people say that. I've assumed that it's at least a useful standard of comparison, as I assume it undercounts everyone similarly. I wonder if I'm right about that, though? I don't care if it's wrong -- I'm long past obsessing over daily traffic -- but I always assumed that it was at least consistent.

NANOPARTICLES TO TREAT BREAST CANCER: NanoPundit has the scoop.

TENNESSEE GOVERNOR PHIL BREDESEN has announced deep cuts in TennCare, the Tennessee health-care plan that was a sort of HillaryCare lite. There's a roundup on the subject here.

January 10, 2005

AUSTIN BAY has started a blog.

ROGER SIMON: "Anchormen should be extinct."

TVNEWSER interviews a CBS vice president.

MORE ON RATHERGATE -- over at GlennReynolds.com.

CONGRATULATIONS to Eugene Volokh, who's improving the gene pool once again.

"DEATH SQUADS" IN IRAQ: Armed Liberal notes that some of those who are decrying the topic today were calling for assassinations in place of an invasion.

And as I ask below, why are they "death squads?" I thought that people who did this sort of thing were called "insurgents," in the interest of neutrality, unless one chose to compare them to the Minutemen? Or is that only when they're on the other side?

THE CULT OF THE IPOD REALLY DOES RULE THE WORLD: "President Bush prepares his I-pod during a bicycle ride at a secure location outside Washington D.C. December 12, 2004." (Direct photo link here.)

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF rounds up more news from Afghanistan.

DAN RATHER offers thoughts on accountability. "I am responsible. I am accountable. I am not an excuse-maker. I am not someone who minimizes my own mistakes and those of CBS News."

I'LL BE ON HUGH HEWITT'S SHOW, in a few minutes, talking about RatherGate. You can listen live here.

MORE ON THE NAVY and tsunami relief, over at GlennReynolds.com.

STRANGELY, neither Kos, Atrios, nor Josh Marshall has anything to say about RatherGate so far, though Armstrong Williams gets rather more attention. Here at InstaPundit, on the other hand, both subjects are discussed. I'm just, you know, sayin'. . . .

UPDATE: Yeah, I don't usually comment on what people don't blog about -- that's their business. But even Richard Bennett has noticed this!

ANOTHER UPDATE: They're not silent over at Democratic Underground, though! M. Simon rounds up some choice reactions.

TOM MAGUIRE: "The Times editors continue to follow the Social Security debate; unfortunately, they fail to follow their own newspaper's reporting."

UNLIKE MOST OF US, John Hinderaker has read the entire CBS report and has some observations on what was covered and what was not.

WHILE LGF IS DOWN, Charles Johnson is posting here.

THOUGHTS ON GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA, Armstrong Williams, and the blogosphere: My TechCentralStation column is up.

UPDATE: Sean Hackbarth emails that I should have mentioned the daschlevthune scandal in that piece, and he's right. I had mentioned it in my blog post on Williams, and I thought I mentioned it in the article -- so much so that I went to look, only to find that I had somehow left it out. My mistake; sorry.

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

TENNESSEE GOVERNOR PHIL BREDESEN is expected to announce the fate of TennCare this afternoon.

HACK ATTACK: Yes, HostingMatters was down last night (I posted on it over at the backup site). It was a DDOS attack. I believe, though, that LGF remains down because of an unrelated (well, it's not directly related) hardware problem -- I saw where its server had thrown a drive on reboot.

The folks at HostingMatters seem to have done an excellent job dealing with multiple attacks recently. And although I've gotten a lot of emails from people upset about it, these things just happen. If there's important stuff going on, I'll keep posting over at the backup site. If it's late at night and there's not, as in the last couple of cases, I'll just read a book and go to bed, and I suggest that you do the same. It's only a blog, after all. A few hours' withdrawal won't hurt any of us. . . .

RATHERGATE UPDATE:

Four CBS News employees, including three executives, have been ousted for their role in preparing and reporting a disputed story about President Bush’s National Guard service.

The action was prompted by the report of an independent panel that concluded that CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece. The panel also said CBS News had compounded that failure with “rigid and blind” defense of the 60 Minutes Wednesday report.

Asked to resign were Senior Vice President Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs; 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard; and Howard’s deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy. The producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, was terminated.

Sounds good so far.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis reacts. Here's a link to the complete report, which is quite long even though the appendices haven't been added yet. (So I guess I should really call it the "incomplete report?") I think that many bloggers will be combing through it rather carefully in search of interesting nuggets, despite its length.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader notes that nobody from the press asked Bush about this at his morning Q&A, and suggests that they're covering up for their fellows. Maybe, maybe not. But as a public service, here's a "reconstructed" transcript that I just got by fax from a Kinko's in Washington. I'm sure it's authentic:

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, how do you feel about the firings and resignations at CBS, over the presentation of a show designed to influence the election, one based on documents that CBS's own experts said were probably bogus?

THE PRESIDENT: I feel pretty good.

Close enough for government CBS work.

MORE: TVNewser is all over the RatherGate story. So is Jim Geraghty. Both think that the panel pulled punches on the question of whether Rather and Mapes were politically motivated. Since it's obvious that they were, I have to agree.

So does SoxBlog, which calls the report "half a loaf:"

Here’s what I wanted to hear and I bet you did, too: Number 1, the documents were forgeries; and Number 2, The CBS apparatchiks involved in this sordid affair were animated by their black hearts’ desires to wound the President. Alas, the Report says neither.

But here’s what you do get. The Report lays out the factual case of what happened here better than anything else that I've read. And the factual case is incredibly damning to CBS News and the soon to be departing individuals involved in this endeavor. Yes, the Report doesn’t explicitly say that the documents were forgeries, but no sentient reader could make any other conclusion based on the evidence it offers. . . .

I have a feeling those of us in the right wing blogosphere will dismiss the Report because it declines to make explicit that which we “know” regarding CBS’ motives and the documents authenticity. To do so would be a mistake. The Report lays out the facts and those alone are damning enough.

Indeed.

MORE: Here's an observation that CBS is comfortable assigning political motivations to bloggers, but not to its own people. Meanwhile Hugh Hewitt says that the treatment of the political angle is a "whitewash." That might seem a bit strong, but the less-partisan TVNewser agrees:

CBS may not have been advancing a "political agenda" -- but it seems that Mary Mapes was.

I expect we'll hear more on this. In fact, we already are: Big roundup here.

STILL MORE: Jim Geraghty:

Does the panel really think that CBS would have acted in the same manner in a seemingly-great story that would have hurt John Kerry? Are we really to believe that it was solely “competitive pressures” that led to this, and that no one in this process had their thinking influenced by a desire to see Bush defeated in this year’s election?

It seems that CBS's unwillingness to admit this is turning into the big story.

I'm busy (classes start today) but Jeff Jarvis and RatherBiased.com have much more. Jeff's best bit:

I see that the report is calling for more commissions and committees and all that -- which is just the wrong thing to do: It puts yet more distance between the journalists and the public they are supposed to serve. They should be doing just the opposite: tearing down the walls, making journalists responsible for interacting with the public.

This is bigger than Dan Rather. This is bigger than CBS News. This is about the news and the new relationship -- the conversation -- journalism must learn to have with the public, or the public will go have it without them.

Indeed. But Dan Rather isn't backing down:

Rather informed the Panel that he still believes the content of the documents is true because “the facts are right on the money,” and that no one had provided persuasive evidence that the documents were not authentic.

Sheesh. Will Collier, meanwhile, notes several dogs that didn't, or won't, bark.

MORE STILL: Here's another CBS scandal:

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--A former columnist for CBS MarketWatch.com will pay more than $540,000 to settle charges he used his investment newsletter to make profits by promoting stock that he owned.

Thom Calandra, who wrote the Calandra Report for the company now known as MarketWatch Inc. (MKTW), settled the Securities and Exchange Commission charges without admitting or denying wrongdoing.

The SEC said Calandra made more than $400,000 in illegal profits by buying shares of thinly traded small-cap companies, writing favorable profiles of the companies, and then selling most of his shares after his columns had driven up the price of the securities.

Ouch.

And Johnny Dollar is rounding up the Rathergate-related TV punditry so that you don't have to, you know, watch it.

BUSINESS WEEK looks at the future of the New York Times, which doesn't seem terribly bright. Steve Sturm has further thoughts.

At any rate, the Bush Administration -- and Republicans generally -- should be overjoyed to hear that the NYT is considering turning its web edition into a pay-only site, a sort of oversized Salon.com:

Advertising accounts for almost all of the digital operation's revenues, but disagreement rages within the company over whether NYTimes.com should emulate The Wall Street Journal and begin charging a subscription fee. Undoubtedly, many of the site's 18 million unique monthly visitors would flee if hit with a $39.95 or even a $9.95 monthly charge. One camp within the NYT Co. argues that such a massive loss of Web traffic would cost the Times dearly in the long run, both by shrinking the audience for its journalism and by depriving it of untold millions in ad revenue. The counterargument is that the Times would more than make up for lost ad dollars by boosting circulation revenue -- both from online fees and new print subscriptions paid for by people who now read for free on the Web.

Sulzberger declines to take a side in this debate, but sounds as if he is leaning toward a pay site. "It gets to the issue of how comfortable are we training a generation of readers to get quality information for free," he says. "That is troubling."

I don't know whether it would make money, but the Times would lose a lot of influence if it made this move, since it would only be talking to the true believers. Send Pinch Sulzberger one of these, pronto! Maybe two . . . .

MICKEY KAUS on RatherGate: "I'm not alone in thinking that the potential Staudt libel angle may be playing a big part in CBS's Danron/'Memogate' response. My guess (which may be disproved within hours!) is that CBS would want to settle any disputes with Col. Staudt before releasing any report that could provide him with evidentiary ammunition." He has thoughts on gerrymandering and torture, too.

TSUNAMI UPDATE: Amit Varma, who has been touring Tamil Nadu for the last 12 days, offers some lessons learned: "I’m speaking in hindsight, of course, but before the next event – for no disaster is ever the last one."

Meanwhile, Malaysian blogger Rajan Rishyakaran has some related thoughts.

CLINTON AND BUSH: FAST FRIENDS?

For two men at opposite ends of the political spectrum, the relationship between the 43rd and 42nd presidents has grown surprisingly warm and personal over the last six months. Clinton endorsed Bush's approach to the tsunami catastrophe, defending him against criticism about his initial response as well as raising cash alongside the president's father. Friends and aides say the two men enjoy each other's company and, as fellow pros, respect each other's political talents.

Clinton has also been quite supportive of the terror war, especially before international audiences.

ARNOLD KLING looks at what Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong are saying about Social Security reform. Hugh Hewitt, meanwhile, says that the GOP is behind the curve, here: "The Social Security Debate: Somebody Tell the Republicans It Has Begun."

January 09, 2005

WHODUNIT? Crimlawprof looks at grand jury leaks in the baseball-doping probe and has some ideas.

You can make your car's hood look really, really long.

LENS-BLOGGING: My biggest Christmas gift was this 12-24 zoom lens for the D70. Sadly, a combination of bad weather and various family duties kept me from doing much with it until today. But just to experiment, I took it with me when I went for a walk on Cherokee Boulevard. As you can see, it's good for giving your car the long-hood look.

For anyone who's interested, I put up a gallery of photos over at Exposure Manager. Overall, it seems quite good. I've never been a huge fan of wide-angle lenses. Feature photographers like them because they make things look unnatural (the human eye sees things in a manner akin to an 80 or 90mm telephoto lens), and hence "interesting." And, of course, they're very useful shooting in cramped quarters. But I really wanted this lens, because I wanted to change my style a bit from my traditional telephoto-intensive approach to something different, and because I've been in a number of situations where I wished I had a wider lens. Anyway, it seems quite excellent, and I look forward to giving it a proper workout.

For those with more technical interests, here's a review by Ken Rockwell, and another by Bjorn Rorslett. And some related earlier posts can be found here and here.

UPDATE: Reader P.J. Swenson emails:

Well, you are going to hate me for this, but giving you a link to this photo/snorkling article will make you travel to this destination. All I ask for is a postcard.

Link

And this is a funny but oh-so-true travel story:

Link

I bought a 28-200G in part on your recommendation, in part because it is a very versatile lens. Now I am going to switch from a d100 to a d70 in part to the DSLR ratings by thom who wrote the articles above, and also because it has a 1/500 flash sync. I highly recommend his books on the d100 and d70.

And when I bought the lens, the adorama seller almost pressured me into buying the d70 at the same time because he said the rebate was expiring at Nikon on the last day of December. It turns out, Nikon extended the 100$ rebate for the d70, and they upped the d100 rebate to $200.

Link

The rebates are good until March 31, so if you wind up buying a camera, or one of several lenses, be sure not to let 'em slide. That's real money. And here's an interesting item on wide-angle photography.

ANOTHER UPDATE: David Nishimura emails:

If you haven't tried it, PTLens is an amazing freeware Photoshop plug-in (works with Elements, too) that will correct the distortion and vignetting so common in digital camera lenses -- though it can also be used with digitized images from film cameras. Installation and use is incredibly easy. Won't work with Macs, however, just Windows and -- by command line -- Linux.

I haven't tried it, but I guess I should.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING INTERVIEW WITH JEFF BEZOS from Wired.

Excerpt:

Do physical bookstores have anything to offer that Amazon doesn't?
One thing is face-to-face meetings with authors. And what Howard Schultz at Starbucks likes to call a third place, where people go and sit and spend time. We humans are a gregarious species; we like to mingle with other humans.

Indeed.

Read the whole thing, though I'm disappointed that they didn't ask him about Blue Origin. Meanwhile Ralph Luker offers a reason why some people might avoid Amazon -- or patronize it:

It's a little late for your Christmas shopping, but if you think that you should buy the way you vote, check out BuyBlue.org, which tracks corporate donations to American political parties. Hint: if George Bush wasn't your choice for president, you may decide to shun Amazon.com in favor of Barnes&Noble or Borders.

I'm rather skeptical of BuyBlue, though.

JON HENKE HAS LOTS MORE on the Armstrong Williams story mentioned below. And I'll have more still in my TCS column this week.

Indian Ocean (Jan. 9, 2005) - Crew members aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) fill jugs with purified water from a Potable Water Manifold. The Repair Division aboard Lincoln constructed the manifold in eight hours. The water jugs will be flown by Navy helicopters to regions isolated by the Tsunami in Sumatra, Indonesia. Helicopters assigned to Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2) and Sailors from Abraham Lincoln are supporting Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian operation effort in the wake of the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Seth C. Peterson (RELEASED)
VARIFRANK WAS UNPROFESSIONAL:

Today, during an afternoon conference that wrapped up my project of the last 18 months, one of my Euro collegues tossed this little turd out to no one in particular:

" See, this is why George Bush is so dumb, theres a disaster in the world and he sends an Aircraft Carrier..."

After which he and many of my Euro collegues laughed out loud.

And then they looked at me. I wasn't laughing, and neither was my Hindi friend sitting next to me, who has lost family in the disaster.

I'm afraid I was "unprofessional", I let it loose -

"Hmmm, let's see, what would be the ideal ship to send to a disaster, now what kind of ship would we want?

Something with its own inexhuastible power supply?

Something that can produce 900,000 gallons of fresh water a day from sea water?

Something with its own airfield? So that after producing the fresh water, it could help distribute it?

Something with 4 hospitals and lots of open space for emergency supplies?

Something with a global communications facility to make the coordination of disaster relief in the region easier?

Well "Franz", us peasants in America call that kind of ship an "Aircraft Carrier". We have 12 of them. How many do you have?

Heh. (Via M. Simon). You can see a larger version of the photo with caption here. What is it that some people have against people who can, you know, do stuff?

And before geeks email me, I think the 900,000 gallons is for the entire carrier group, as I seem to recall that the carrier itself can produce only about half that much. The point still holds, however.

CHUCK SIMMINS NOTES that George Soros appears to be missing in action on tsunami relief. So are some others you'd expect to be giving. (Via Bill Hobbs). On the other hand, it's worth pointing out that Soros' foundation did a lot of good work regarding the Ukrainian elections.

VIOLENT STORMS HIT EUROPE: "A fierce winter storm packing hurricane force winds that swept across northern Europe has left at least 13 dead several missing, officials said Sunday."

Here's a report from BalticBlog. Photos, video and commentary (in Estonian) here.

MALARIABLOGGING: I've been writing about malaria and DDT on InstaPundit since the beginning. So I should mention this column by Nick Kristof in which he calls for a return to DDT:

Mosquitoes kill 20 times more people each year than the tsunami did, and in the long war between humans and mosquitoes it looks as if mosquitoes are winning.

One reason is that the U.S. and other rich countries are siding with the mosquitoes against the world's poor - by opposing the use of DDT.

"It's a colossal tragedy," says Donald Roberts, a professor of tropical public health at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. "And it's embroiled in environmental politics and incompetent bureaucracies."

Indeed.

PATRICK RUFFINI has come clean on his hidden agenda.

WHAT WOMEN WANT: In Iraq, anyway:

94% of women surveyed want to secure legal rights for women.
84% of women want the right to vote on the final constitution.
Nearly 80% of women believe that their participation in local and national councils should not be limited.
.....
The most unexpected result of the survey is that despite increasing violence, particularly violence against women, 90.6% of Iraqi women reported that they are hopeful about their future.

Interesting stuff.

EVERY WEEK, NEWSWEEK SPAMS ME with press releases about its new stories. I usually ignore them because by the time they're out they're already old news to blogosphereans. But this piece, with its combination of blatant bias and factual inaccuracy, seems so typical that it's worth a comment. Excerpt:

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal.

Er, maybe because the Iran-Contra scandal had to do with overthrowing the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, rather than the guerrilla war in El Salvador? I mean, I know all those people look alike to the folks at Newsweek, but this is either inexcusable sloppiness, or simply a stretch to try to bring in more stuff that might make it look bad.

The whole piece is like that, and it's unfortunately typical. I don't know whether this sort of thing is a good idea or not -- I can see arguments both ways -- but this story goes out of its way, as usual, to get the digs in before getting around to mentioning the actual arguments.

I guess I should be glad, though: Usually it's all about Vietnam. At least this story is bringing things 20 years closer to the present.

UPDATE: This article from StrategyPage is, as usual, much more useful and complete than the Newsweek treatment, and suggests that the El Salvador parallel isn't really apt. And Silent Running offers more corrections. Finally, reader Ron Wright notes this rather different parallel with the El Salvador experience:

Conditions were horrible when Salvadorans went to the polls on March 28, 1982. The country was in the midst of a civil war that would take 75,000 lives. An insurgent army controlled about a third of the nation's territory. Just before election day, the insurgents stepped up their terror campaign. They attacked the National Palace, staged highway assaults that cut the nation in two and blew up schools that were to be polling places.

Yet voters came out in the hundreds of thousands. In some towns, they had to duck beneath sniper fire to get to the polls. In San Salvador, a bomb went off near a line of people waiting outside a polling station. The people scattered, then the line reformed. "This nation may be falling apart," one voter told The Christian Science Monitor, "but by voting we may help to hold it together. . . .

The elections achieved something else: They undermined the insurgency. El Salvador wasn't transformed overnight. But with each succeeding election into the early 90's, the rebels on the left and the death squads on the right grew weaker, and finally peace was achieved, and the entire hemisphere felt the effects.

As we saw in El Salvador and as Iraqi insurgents understand, elections suck the oxygen from a rebel army. They refute the claim that violence is the best way to change things. Moreover, they produce democratic leaders who are much better equipped to win an insurgency war.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Various lefty emailers, and some lefty bloggers are calling me an idiot for not recognizing that the struggle against communists in El Salvador and the struggle against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua were connected. Of course they were, and it's nice to see people admit that there really was a global struggle against communism, something that wasn't so readily admitted back in the day. But my point, as should be obvious, is that the Newsweek piece goes out of its way to drag in Iran/Contra, which had nothing to do with the El Salvador "death squads," which themselves have a rather tenuous relationship, at best, to what's going on in Iraq, so as to make Bush look bad. If the Newsweek story had offered that perspective, this defense might be worth something. But it didn't, because its goal was a cheap smear. Bad publicity relating to Iran/Contra has nothing to do with Iraq, except for Newsweek's effort to tie the two together.

I'll also note that guerrillas who kill people are called "insurgents" and compared to Minutemen when they're anti-American, and "death squads" when they're not. Typical.

MARK STEYN:

The path of the tsunamis tracked the arc of the Muslim world, from Sumatra to Somalia; the most devastated country is the world's most populous Muslim nation, and the most devastated part of that country is the one province living under the strictures of sharia.

But, as usual, when disaster strikes it's the Great Satan and his various Little Satans who leap to respond. In the decade before September 11, the US military functioned, more or less exclusively, as a Muslim rapid reaction force – coming to the aid of Kuwaiti Muslims, Bosnian Muslims, Somali Muslims and Albanian Muslims. Since then, with the help of its Anglo-Australian allies, it's liberated 50 million Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That's not how the West's anti-war movements see it. I found myself behind a car the other day bearing the bumper sticker, "War Is Costly. Peace Is Priceless" – which is standard progressive generic autopilot boilerplate, that somehow waging war and doing good are mutually exclusive. But you can't help noticing that when disaster strikes, it's the warmongers who are also the compassion-mongers. Of the top six donor nations to tsunami relief, four are members of George W. Bush's reviled "coalition of the willing".

Not surprising.

DAVID FRUM NOTICES the United Nations' lack of moral authority, and, for that matter, utility:

The helicopters are taking off and landing now in the tsunami-shattered villages and towns. The sick are being taken for treatment. Clean water is being delivered. Food is arriving. Soon the work of reconstruction will begin.

The countries doing this good work have politely agreed to acknowledge the "coordinating" role of the United Nations. But it is hard to see how precisely the rescue work would be affected if the UN's officials all stayed in New York - or indeed if the UN did not exist at all.

The UN describes its role in South Asia as one of "assessment" and "coordination." Even this, however, seems to many to be a role unnecessary to the plot. The Daily Telegraph last week described the frustration of in-country UN officials who found they had nothing to do as the Americans, Australians, Indonesians, and Malaysians flew missions.

It will be the treasury departments of the G-7 missions that make decisions on debt relief, and the World Bank, aid donor nations, private corporations, and of course the local governments themselves that take the lead on long-term reconstruction. And yet we are constantly told that the UN's involvement is indispensable to the success of the whole undertaking. How can that be? . . .

Nor finally is the UN really quite so hugely popular as supporters such as Ms Short would wish it believed. The Pew Charitable Trusts – the same group that conducts those surveys on anti-Americanism worldwide – reports that the UN carries much more weight in Europe than it does in, say, the Muslim world. Only 35 per cent of Pakistanis express a positive attitude to the UN, as do just 25 per cent of Moroccans, and but 21 per cent of Jordanians.

The UN's authority is instead one of those ineffable mystical mysteries. The authority's existence cannot be perceived by the senses and exerts no influence on the events of this world. Even the authority's most devout hierophants retain the right to disavow that authority at whim, as Ms Short herself disavowed its resolutions on Iraq. . . .

Whence exactly does this moral authority emanate? How did the UN get it? Did it earn it by championing liberty, justice, and other high ideals? That seems a strange thing to say about a body that voted in 2003 to award the chair of its commission on human rights to Mummar Gaddafi's Libya.

Read the whole thing.

I'LL HAVE A MCSHWARMA, PLEASE.