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Monthly Archives: January 2006

Midweek Reading

January 25th, 2006 - 12:30 am

The latest issue of The New Individualist is out. And, oh yeah, I’m in it.

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Rock the Casbah

January 25th, 2006 - 12:27 am

Ever wanted to know how to get down and boogie at Mecca?

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The Great Wall of China – and Elsewhere

January 24th, 2006 - 9:51 pm

We have here two seemingly unrelated stories. You probably have already read them, so I’ll give you just the headlines.

TimesSelect Draws About 156,000 Web-Only Subs in First 4 Months

Google Agrees to Censor Results in China

What these two event have in common is, they’re both about building walls. China

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So Much For “Don’t Be Evil”

January 24th, 2006 - 6:13 pm

A left-leaning friend of mine who didn’t exactly agree with this post just emailed me this story:

Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country’s free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet’s fastest growing market.

To obtain the Chinese license, Google agreed to omit Web content that the country’s government finds objectionable. Google will base its censorship decisons on guidance provided by Chinese government officials.

Although China has loosened some of its controls in recent years, some topics, such as Taiwan’s independence and 1989′s Tiananmen Square massacre, remain forbidden subjects.

Google officials characterized the censorship concessions in China as an excruciating decision for a company that adopted “don’t be evil” as a motto. But management believes it’s a worthwhile sacrifice.

They’re wrong. What they’re doing isn’t only evil in and of itself, it’s willingly acting in concert with the far greater evil of the Chi-Com dictatorship.

And my friend is quite right when he says, “This has got to be as bad as anything CNN’s ever done.”

Shame on Google. Shame on Microsoft. Shame on News Corp. Shame on anybody who even attempts to defend this in the name of making a buck.

Blood money isn’t worth it.

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Cathy Seipp vs. The New York Times

January 24th, 2006 - 2:38 pm

Cathy Seipp is probably my favorite “pro” blogger (meaning somebody who writes for a living and also blogs) these days. Her site is a particularly delicious treat at the moment, thanks in no small part to an ongoing fracas between Seipp and a couple of New York Times reporters.

In brief, Seipp was contacted by one Times-type, Sharon Waxman, who was doing a piece on pay-for-punditry, and had heard that Seipp was once contacted with an offer of $1,000 to write an op-ed with a particular point of view. Seipp confirmed to Waxman that she had once received such an offer–and turned it down flat–but refused to reveal the name of the go-between who’d tendered it.

Then things got interesting. Seipp’s account of her brief interview with Waxman was published by NRO as the lede to this column on punditola. As it happened, Seipp’s column hit cyberspace before Waxman’s story was “ready” at the Times (as far as I can tell, it still hasn’t seen print, or I guess I should say, pixels).

The day after Seipp’s NRO column came out, she received an email from another Times reporter, one David Cay Johnston (no, I’ve never heard of him, either). I’ll let Seipp describe his tone:

Over the years, various journalists — such as Alex Beam of the Boston Globe and Nikki Finke of the L.A. Weekly — have sent me emails that basically say this:

“Hello. Although you have not asked for my opinion, I would like to tell you what I think of you. But I suspect, on some level, that this makes me sound like a pompous git. So you are hereby ordered to keep my insults to you secret. If you disobey, you have violated our non-agreement and are therefore unethical.”

Johnston proceeded to scold Seipp for scooping Waxman–on a story that was so old, even Business Week had already managed to weigh in. Apparently in Times-land, mere mortals are not permitted to report on what reporters annointed at the Old Gray Lady are reporting on, even if said reporter calls them first.

It’s a marvelous, ongoing story, recounted in Seipp’s priceless voice, and I heartily encourage everybody to read the whole thing. Don’t miss the comments, in which Cay weighs in with Seipp’s readers with a manner so fussy and pretentious, it made me wonder for a while if somebody wasn’t assuming his name as a put-on (as you may imagine, he was treated about as well as he deserved). Seipp’s also posted a follow-up that’s just as much fun as the original post.

The whole thing reminds me a little of a common observation about militant atheists: “I don’t dislike them because they’re atheists. I dislike them because they act like jerks.” Seipp’s experience echoes James Lileks’ encounter with the aforementioned Alex Beam and the Powerline guys’ fun with Nick Coleman, as well as the Vodkasphere’s run-ins with Steve Lovelady; it’s enough to make one think the real problem with the MSM isn’t exactly bias, it’s just plain old pompous arrogance.

Along those lines, I’ll leave off (for the moment) with my own comment at Seipp’s site–mostly because it’s the last one in a long thread. Be happy to hear all of your thoughts on the subject, as usual:

Um, what about the much-ballyhooed “public’s right to know?” Since when does a poo-bah of “journalism” have the right to demand that people they’ve contacted don’t report on them? Does collecting a paycheck from the New York Times Corporation magically endow one with the right to not have their own actions reported on?

How novel.

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Fight the Future

January 23rd, 2006 - 10:39 pm

Joseph Epstein asks, “Are newspapers doomed?

To begin with familiar facts, statistics on readership have been pointing downward, significantly downward, for some time now. Four-fifths of Americans once read newspapers; today, apparently fewer than half do. Among adults, in the decade 1990-2000, daily readership fell from 52.6 percent to 37.5 percent. Among the young, things are much worse: in one study, only 19 percent of those between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four reported consulting a daily paper, and only 9 percent trusted the information purveyed there; a mere 8 percent found newspapers helpful, while 4 percent thought them entertaining.

As we know them now, certainly. And that prediction has little (but not nothing) to do with media bias. Mostly, newspapers are doomed by technological change. Papers which embrace the new technologies (The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal come to mind) will remain in existence, albeit in new forms.

The rest had better hop on board or prepare for doom.

(Hat tip, Mike Daley.)

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Evil Genius

January 23rd, 2006 - 10:20 pm

OK, this explains a lot.

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Land of Confusion

January 23rd, 2006 - 9:34 pm

Results as of 11:35pm ESTBob: Good day, eh, and welcome to the Great White North. I’m Bob McKenzie, and this is my brother, Doug.

Doug: How’s it goin’, eh?

Bob: All you hosers out there don’t know what’s going on in Canada’s elections. And you’re asking us, eh?

Doug: Like we know.

Bob: Yeah. Like we know, eh?

Sorry for the Early Eighties flashback, but Canada’s election was so screwed up, all I could think of was SCTV. Be glad I didn’t try to work Count Floyd or Johnny LaRue in there somewhere. Anyway, let’s see if we can make some sense out of what happened Monday.

Let’s congratulate Conservative leader Stephen Harper for doing the impossible: pulling in more than a third of the vote and (probably) becoming the next PM. From there, things get complicated.

The countries two lefty parties, the Liberals and the NDP, together garnered about 48%. If you think that sounds like a victory for the righty parties, think again. Ten percent of the vote went to Bloc Qu

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I Have a Bad Feeling About This

January 23rd, 2006 - 10:41 am

The Canadian election, that is. My gut tells me to expect an inconclusive result, like Germany had last year.

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Going All the Way with Condi

January 23rd, 2006 - 10:15 am

Condi Rice’s tenure as SecState has been competent, if lackluster. Until now. Last week, Condi announced some sweeping changes at State:

* Diplomats can no longer build careers by hiding behind desks in comfy capitals. They’ll have to accept dangerous assignments and serve in hardship posts; develop regional expertise in at least two areas; and speak at least two relevant foreign languages (French waiters need not apply). That ain’t going to make Rice popular with diplos accustomed to rotating between Rome and Northwest D.C. on their way to ambassadorships. Yet, it’s vital if we’re going to convert our failed, 19th-century- model State Department into a useful tool for the 21st century.

* Ouch! Condi really put Paris and Berlin in their places

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One-Party System

January 22nd, 2006 - 10:40 pm

Alexandra von Maltzan accuses DailyKos of being a mouthpiece for the Kerry ’08 Campaign – among other things.

Me, I think Kerry (or some other Democrat) will position himself to be a mouthpiece for the DailyKos ’08 bid to finally and fully take over the Democrat Party. Markos can rally the troops and raise lots of money, and it would take a stupid pol not to at least take a look at what Kos has to offer.

Wow – from blogger to kingmaker in six short years. That’s quite a feat for Kos, and a disaster-in-the-making for the Democrats. Look at the state of the party today, as witnessed by the hypocritical-yet-hapless Alito hearings. It’s pretty obvious what the Democrats need is less condescension and more common sense – two things they’re unlikely to find from the DailyKos crowd.

In other words, I overestimated Kos when I called him a “kingmaker.” Nominee-maker, perhaps, but that’s as far as his candidate is likely to travel.

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A Worthy Cause

January 22nd, 2006 - 10:27 pm

Sexy Denver bartenders strip down to raise money for baby adoptions.

That’s good in so many ways, I can’t even count.

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Monday Morning Quarterback

January 22nd, 2006 - 10:15 pm

Today, my three-week old son evaluates Jake Plummer’s performance in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

The Dean Scream for Plummer

“Dude, you throw like a girl.”

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The Dictators’ Favorite Network

January 20th, 2006 - 9:16 am

In the same vein as the Blogfaddah’s admonition today to keep an eye on CNN (following the network’s groveling before the Iranian thugocracy to regain media access), let’s recall this interview with our old pal Eason Jordan, regarding CNN’s relationship with fellow axis-of-evil butcher Kim Jong Il of North Korea.

Fair warning, it’s nauseating, but you ought to read it anyway. It’ll remind you of just where CNN’s priorities really lie (pun certainly intended).

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Stephen King Can Take His Spam And Shove It

January 20th, 2006 - 5:38 am

Gizmodo ran a blurb yesterday about a promotion Stephen King’s publisher is running for his next book, titled “Cell” (as in phone).

Unfortunately for me, I already knew about the promotion. I learned about it at 1 AM Tuesday morning, when my phone woke us up with a cheery “you have a text message!” bleep. A couple of “hey, wake up, you have a text message!” bleeps later, I groggily opened the phone to find a spam “offer” to sign up for the King material.

This on a cell phone whose number has never been given out to any company–and I course, had to pay for receiving the text message. I called my provider the next day and had any future messages from “cellthebook.com” blocked. King’s publicists have slipped a gear on this one; cell-phone spam the receiver gets charged money for is much worse than email spam, and they ought to be raked over the coals for this one.

No thanks for the spam, Stevie. You’re on the boycott list now.

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In the Midnight Hour

January 19th, 2006 - 10:25 pm

Wilson Pickett has died.

Oddly enough, it was a group of pasty-white Irish kids who first turned me on to Pickett almost fifteen years ago. He’ll be missed.

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Required Reading

January 19th, 2006 - 10:11 am

Blackfive visits Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and says, “If you can’t pick up a rifle, then do something.”

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Playing to Lose II

January 19th, 2006 - 9:39 am

Maybe I’ve just gotten too cynical over the last couple of years, but when I read this

In an audio tape broadcast on Aljazeera, Osama bin Laden has warned that al-Qaida was preparing an attack very soon, but also offered Americans a “long-term truce”.

…all I can think is, “How will the press spin this as a loss?”

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Fun with Photoshop

January 18th, 2006 - 11:41 pm

My eyes, my eyes!

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Caution: Naughty Words

January 18th, 2006 - 11:29 pm

Cool video of American mercenaries in action.

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Short Cuts II

January 18th, 2006 - 11:18 pm

Big penis news from Belgium:

The condition of a 39-year-old man who was found last Thursday in Antwerp with a stab wound to the throat and dismembered penis is stable. Antwerp public prosecution authorities now think the man’s injuries are due to self-mutilation. After a Linkeroever resident found the man, the victim was admitted to the Sint-Vincentius Hospital. Police later found the severed penis and rushed it back to the hospital. The exact circumstances of the incident remain unknown.

I’d comment, but I already wrote the world’s funniest severed penis story four years ago.

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Playing to Lose

January 18th, 2006 - 10:05 pm

Matthew Yglesias puts the blame for our troubles with Iran, naturally, at the feet of President Bush. Here’s the meat of his argument:

Immediately after 9-11 it was apparent that it would be good to change our energy policies so as to make it harder for oil-rich radicals to hold the world economy hostage. The administration has done nothing to change things.

Immediately after 9-11 it was apparent that the non-proliferation treaty contains large loopholes that it would be in the American interest to close. The Bush administration, irrationally averse to treaties and hard work alike, did nothing to change things.

Immediately after 9-11 it was apparent that it might be possible to achieve rapprochement with Iran, based on our cooperation against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Bush administration rejected this approach, hinting instead at regime change in Iran.

Before we get to picking apart Yglesias’s points, I’d like to mention one other thing he said:

If liberals have any intention of playing politics to win, it’s absolutely vital to start making sure that when the broad public catches wind of the finger-pointing and recriminations, the fingers wind up pointing in the right direction — squarely at the face of George W. Bush.

Feet, face – whatever. Yglesias has made it clear he’s more interested in playing to win for liberals than he is in playing to win for America. But even if I’m guilty of reading too much into a single clause, his arguments don’t stand scrutiny.

Let’s take this point-by-point, starting with Yglesias’s assertion that things would be better if only Iran didn’t have so much oil money. He claims that after 9/11 it would have been “good to change our energy policies so as to make it harder for oil-rich radicals to hold the world economy hostage.”

I’ll pause here a moment. I’d like to give everyone with any understanding of the economics of energy, a chance to have a good, loud, long laugh at Matt’s expense.

Does he have no idea how much energy this country uses? Does he have any idea how long it takes to change consumption patterns? Is he really so clueless about the time and expense involved in switching energy sources? Does he really have no knowledge of how little we can change all those things in four years? Does he really believe the President, even a liberal one, can wave a magic wand and take billions of oil dollars away from the Middle East?

To be even more cruel, Yglesias seems to think that President John Kerry could have diverted Hurricane Katrina by pissing into the wind.

Given that we can’t radically alter our oil use over the course of a single Administration (or even an entire generation), maybe it would make sense to increase our domestic oil production. Bush has tried just that, time and again, by getting ANWR opened for drilling. But if Matt wants to play partisan politics, it’s probably best that he compounded his ignorance on one issue with silence on another.

***

Now let’s go to Yglesias’s Non-Proliferation Treaty boogeyman. Does Yglesias really want to point out, for partisan advantage, the holes in a treaty negotiated by the Johnson Administration and approved by the then-overwhelmingly Democratic Senate? In any case, the problem with the NNPT isn’t that it looks like thinly-sliced Swiss cheese – more holes than nutrition. The problem lies in enforcement. Enforcing the NNPT requires the member states, including China, to get serious with the offending party.

Fat chance.

Yglesias makes the mistake of so many well-meaning fools that treaties, by themselves, make facts on the ground. The loophole he refers to is the one allowing signatory states to enrich uranium for “peaceful” purposes. For states like Iran, determined to get nukes, closing that loophole would do little more than encourage them to hide even bigger parts of their weapons programs.

And if Iran got caught violating Yglesias’s dream-world NNPT? Well – so what? It’s not like the UN (or the EU) is going to do anything anyway. Iran is violating one version of the NNPT, so there would be nothing keeping them from violating another.

Before we get on to Matt’s final point, I’d like to apologize for calling him a “well-meaning fool.” By his own admission, Yglesias’s motives are purely partisan and not at all well-meant. We regret the error.

***

Finally

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Now What?

January 18th, 2006 - 9:51 pm

“Give diplomacy a chance,” Europe pleaded before, during, and after Operation Iraqi Freedom. “You need world opinion, as defined by us, to get anything done.” We’ve given Europe the lead on dealing with Iran. And while we might not be the smartest kids in class, right now Europe is looking pretty dumb:

“If we are referred to the United Nations Security Council, the Government has no other choice but ending all engagements it concluded concerning the voluntary suspension of its nuclear activities, as approved by the Majles (Iranian Parliament)”, Foreign Affairs Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced on Thursday 12 January 2006.

You read that right. Europe’s force-free diplomacy put the EU in a box – and Iran a box of nails and a big ol’ hammer.

Which leads to this:

France, with the support of the United States, rejected Iran’s request for more negotiations on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying Wednesday “there’s not much to talk about” after Iran resumed atomic activities.

As European countries pushed ahead with efforts to have Iran brought before the U.N. Security Council for its nuclear activities, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused them of trying to deprive Iran of peaceful technology.

And this:

The United States and Europe, seeking Russia’s help in bringing Iran’s nuclear activities before the United Nations Security Council for review, have assured Russian officials that they are not pressing for sanctions against Iran right now, American and European diplomats said Wednesday.

And digging deeper, we find this:

Iran and China signed here Wednesday an agreement in excavation Wednesday.

The agreement was signed between Managing Director of Iran’s North excavation Company Heydar Bahmani and Deputy Managing Director of China’s COSL, Jo min Goa.

COSL will be responsible for maintenance, repairs, and management of semi-floating Iran-Alborz platform to be set up in the Caspian sea for a three year period.

To sum up: The EU is boxed in, Russia won’t play ball, and China is getting real cozy with Tehran.

Anyone else have any big ideas?

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Coming Soon

January 18th, 2006 - 9:40 pm

The crack young staff at The Hatemonger’s Quarterly look into the future, and see what Pat Robertson will be apologizing for next.

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Short Cuts

January 17th, 2006 - 11:23 pm

I understand that Hollywood awards shows are televised mutual back-patting displays. Even by that standard, however, Hollywood outdid itself with Left Coast Political Correctness at last year’s Oscars. And, I feel I should mention, ratings tanked.

What will happen this year? Only Ed Driscoll knows for sure.

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Good Question

January 17th, 2006 - 11:20 pm

John Noonan asks, “Has Europe lost her honor?

Well, like, duh.

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Early Handicapping

January 17th, 2006 - 11:16 pm

In the 2008 Presidential race, the nice guy will finish first.

Let’s take a quick & dirty & oh-so-glib look at every election since 1980 to see what I mean.

1980: Sunny Reagan vs. Prim Carter
1984: Quipping Reagan vs. Tax-Monger Mondale
1988: Happy (if clueless) Bush vs. Eat-your-peas Dukakis
1992: Good Ole’ Boy Clinton vs. Clueless (yet even more clueless) Bush
1996: Blow Job Billy vs. Cranky Dole
2000: Frat Boy Bush vs. Angry Martian Gore
2004: “Wanna buy some wood?” Bush vs. Corpse Kerry

1976 was an anomaly, since Gerald Ford got into the White House quite by accident. Even so, his loss to Carter was surprisingly slim. Going back to 1972 is pointless for two reasons. First off, 35 years ago in an eternity in Washington Time. Secondly, it would ruin my point. Seriously though, given all the rancor we’ve witnessed since 2000, I fully expect the Nice Guy to win in 2008.

Somebody on Team Gore had better slip their man some Percocet already.

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The Pity of Future Wars

January 17th, 2006 - 10:09 pm

It takes someone who wrote a history of WWI called The Pity of War to come up with a scenario like this one:

This [wasted diplomatic effort by the EU3] gave the Iranians all the time they needed to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium at Natanz. The dream of nuclear non-proliferation, already interrupted by Israel, Pakistan and India, was definitively shattered. Now Teheran had a nuclear missile pointed at Tel-Aviv. And the new Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu had a missile pointed right back at Teheran.

The optimists argued that the Cuban Missile Crisis would replay itself in the Middle East. Both sides would threaten war – and then both sides would blink. That was Secretary Rice’s hope – indeed, her prayer – as she shuttled between the capitals. But it was not to be.

The devastating nuclear exchange of August 2007 represented not only the failure of diplomacy, it marked the end of the oil age. Some even said it marked the twilight of the West. Certainly, that was one way of interpreting the subsequent spread of the conflict as Iraq’s Shi’ite population overran the remaining American bases in their country and the Chinese threatened to intervene on the side of Teheran.

That’s British author and Harvard historian Niall Ferguson writing for the Telegraph. I suggest you read the whole thing.

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“Europe needs to get scared.”

January 17th, 2006 - 12:05 am

Charlie Munn comments on Europe’s insecurity:

If war comes to the EU, it will not be akin to anything we

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The Swedish Empire Strikes Back

January 16th, 2006 - 11:43 pm

My precious is finally bringing some hurt on all those upstart vodkas:

“Our strategy of one source and just-in-time production gives Absolut a unique advantage in an increasingly crowded market,” says Bengt Baron, CEO of Absolut parent V&S Group of Stockholm.

A saturated market is more like it. Absolut pioneered the premium vodka segment in 1979, using stylish packaging and clever advertising to convince consumers to shell out an unheard-of $20 a bottle. After two decades as the undisputed king of the heap, Absolut is now feeling the pinch as a slew of new brands and flavors hit the market. In recent years, more than 100 vodkas have launched in the U.S. alone, helping knock Absolut’s share down from 58% in 1999 to 36.5% in 2004.

Neat.

(Hat tip to the GZ Expat.)

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