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Monthly Archives: November 2007

VEGAS — The Nearly Dead Blog!

November 9th, 2007 - 11:20 am

The second day is the rough one, especially after two nights of over-enthusiastic wining & dining. Today, more panels to attend. Tonight, more food & drink to attend to.

But what a thing to wake up to, is this Peggy Noonan piece in this morning’s Wall Street Journal. Read:

Margaret Thatcher would no more have identified herself as a woman, or claimed special pleading that she was a mere frail girl, or asked you to sympathize with her because of her sex, than she would have called up the Kremlin and asked how quickly she could surrender.

She represented a movement. She was its head. She was great figure, a person in history, and she was a woman. She was in it for serious reasons, not to advance the claims of a gender but to reclaim for England its economic freedom, and return its political culture to common sense. Her rise wasn’t symbolic but actual…

Then Mrs. Clinton changed tack a little and told a group of women in West Burlington, Iowa, that they were going to clean up Washington together: “Bring your vacuum cleaners, bring your brushes, bring your brooms, bring your mops.” It was all so incongruous–can anyone imagine the 20th century New Class professional Hillary Clinton picking up a vacuum cleaner? Isn’t that what downtrodden pink collar workers abused by the patriarchy are for?

But even better, and more startling, people began to giggle. At Mrs. Clinton, a woman who has never inspired much mirth. Suddenly they were remembering the different accents she has spoken with when in different parts of the country, and the weird laugh she has used on talk shows. A few days ago new poll numbers came out–neck and neck with Barack Obama in Iowa, her lead slipping in New Hampshire. There is a sense that Sen. Obama is rising, a sense for the first time in this election cycle that Mrs. Clinton just may be in a fight, a real one, one she could actually lose.

Read the whole thing.

VEGAS — The Liveblog! Part V

November 8th, 2007 - 3:42 pm

Nice convention hall. Unless you’re trying to find a proper martini. Overpriced Heineken in a can? No problem.

But it’s not the same.

VEGAS — The Liveblog! Part IV

November 8th, 2007 - 3:02 pm

Enjoyed lunch earlier with Matt Welch and his bride, Emmanuelle. Matt is just as relaxed and cool as you’d think, and Emmanuelle is even prettier in person.

VEGAS — The Liveblog! Part III

November 8th, 2007 - 2:49 pm

Sitting in on the Milblog conference, including Bill Roggio and Jim Hanson and others. OP-FOR‘s John Noonan as supposed to be here, but got called up on alert. So it goes without saying that having your own nuclear missile to tend to isn’t always a good thing. Later, Michael Yon will check in via satellite from Iraq.

Best question so far: Do you have to be pro-mission to be a milblogger. Best answer: No, but we pretty much all are.

Later, PJ Media (Booth 101, 3pm) will sponsor a series of 30 second speed debates. Yours truly will be judging. I can’t promise to be impartial, but I can promise to at least be loud and maybe amusing. Assuming Roger L Simon comes through with that promised martini.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds landed safely and, amazingly, on time. Vegas is a busy town, especially this week, but this town has a real genius for moving large numbers of people from Point A to Point B very quickly. And separating them from their money at both A and B and in-between.

UPDATE: Roggio joked that he wants to start a blog on his blog. The funny part? He wasn’t actually joking.

VEGAS — The Liveblog! Part II

November 8th, 2007 - 11:52 am

Those milblogging guys? Yeah, they can drink. I mean, like pros. And that was just the first night — I expect things to get worse. By which I mean “better.” By which I mean “worse.”

Heading over to the Convention Center now, camera and laptop in hand.

VEGAS — The Liveblog!

November 8th, 2007 - 2:36 am

Because what I really want to do in Vegas at 1:30am is blog.

S’yeah, right.

A Pat on the Head

November 7th, 2007 - 7:51 am

At least one major figure on the religious right likes Rudy Giuliani enough to endorse him. Of course, I’m not sure anyone would actually want Pat Robertson’s endorsement…

Travel

November 7th, 2007 - 7:31 am

I’m off to Vegas in a couple hours for Blog World Expo. Already I know I’ll finally get to meet Michael Totten, and that’s worth the trip right there.

If you’re going, leave a comment and we can try and get together for some drinks. Or perhaps cocktails.

Yet another Stephen — but this one sings!

November 6th, 2007 - 4:28 pm

Had an enjoyable evening recently while attending an opera recital at the Austin Lyric Opera. The highlight for me was listening to a young American tenor named Stephen Costello perform an aria or two, including

Obliquely Angling for the Job–Very Obliquely

November 6th, 2007 - 7:10 am

In a PJ Political radio interview, I called Fred Thompson “the anti-candidate.” I didn’t know how right I was:

Trying to encourage his studio to hurry up so an interview could start, Carl Cameron of Fox News said into his microphone:

Another Disgruntled Stephen

November 5th, 2007 - 4:09 pm

Stephen Bainbridge lists ten reasons he’s a Republican, and discovers that he isn’t one any more.

A Few More Semi-Random Thoughts on Pakistan

November 5th, 2007 - 1:06 pm

Rather than bury the lede, I’ll come right out and say it: If Pakistan isn’t already a failed state, wait a minute.

A little background. I always thought of Pakistan as the Indian Subcontinent’s half-retarded version of Turkey. Pakistan was never meant to be as thoroughly secularized as Turkey — quite the opposite — but otherwise it was politically similar. In other words, a democracy backed up by the Army. Whenever democratic politics got out of hand, the Army would step in, clean things up, then restore civilian government, until the next time.

There were, however, a couple important differences. First, the Turks could count on the Army to at least run a clean government, if not a democratic one. Second, Turkey might have the Kurds to worry about, but they never had the North-West Frontier Province. If you looked at the map, the NWFP is just another province of Pakistan. If you looked at the ground, Pakistan rarely maintained even notional control there.

Add two and two together, and you get, at best, three.

Let me try and be a bit more clear. The NWFP is an uncontrolled breeding ground for terrorists and tribalism. And Pakistan’s history of swapping corrupt civilian governments for corrupt military governments is turning the entire country into a frontier province. General Musharraf has already been in extra-legal power since 1999. The people were, rightly, expecting civilian control to return before too much longer. Well, Musharraf broke his end of the deal.

Now the people are mad, the Taliban/al-Qaeda complex is more or less running the show in NWFP, and the Army is suffering from low morale and even lower public esteem. Oh, and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has just been shown up as more-or-less useless. (That assessment may seem unfair, but that doesn’t make it less correct.)

If the Army can maintain control over an increasingly frustrated, ungovernable, and radicalized country, then… well, it can maintain control, but that’s all the Army will ever manage. And it can’t do so indefinitely. If civilian government can be restored, it will have to fight the Taliban/al-Qaeda complex with an Army even less equipped to do so than it is now.

And, oh yeah, they have some nukes.

It’s not the beginning of the end for Pakistan–it looks more and more like the end of the end.

Today’s Question

November 5th, 2007 - 9:46 am

For more than a century, India and Pakistan were ruled as one country – including Bangladesh and, sometimes, Burma and Sri Lanka, too. Both main parts of the old British Raj have similar ethnic hodge-podges, internal language barriers, basic unfamiliarity with democracy, etc.

Both India and Pakistan suffered tremendous human and political losses as the British pulled out all-too-quickly in 1947. In fact, all that really separates them is religion — India with Hindu and Pakistan with Islam. But neither religion was ever much geared to the modern democratic experience. Look at India today, modernizing and free-ish, and look at Pakistan, back under martial law. Again.

So why did democracy take root in India but not in Pakistan? What went wrong?

Discuss.

Travel

November 4th, 2007 - 6:38 pm

Back from Los Angeles, where we celebrated our friends Melenie’s & Ed’s 25 wedding anniversary. We had a blast, but to paraphrase Randy Newman backwards — I hate LA.

HD-DVD Swings For The Fences

November 2nd, 2007 - 9:53 am

The two-year-old format war between Blu-Ray (Sony) and HD-DVD (Toshiba, Microsoft, and many other partners) got very interesting today. In a “secret” sale (which was widely known about online), Wal-Mart put Toshiba’s HD-A2 HD-DVD player up for $98.87 plus tax at 8AM on Friday.

That’s a big deal.

When standard DVD players first came out a decade ago, their prices weighed in at around $1,000 each, as did the original compact disc players a decade or so before that. At those prices, only hard-core enthusiasts and dedicated first adopters would even think about buying in. It took a few years for mass production and growing acceptance among customers to drive prices down to normal-human levels–call it the $100 barrier–but once they did, the CD and DVD both quickly became the de facto standard for audio and video, resulting in billions of dollars in sales for both hardware and software.

The high-definition video disc world has been held up not only by price–true to form, the first players were all at or right around four figures–but also by a self-destructive format war. Sony, having failed time and again to corner format markets with flops like Betamax and MiniDisc (please, no emails on how either was a great product–they may have been, but they still failed), is trying mightily to own the next generation of video with their Blu-Ray, and thought they’d get there by including a Blu-Ray player in every Playstation 3. The problem is, the PS3 is so expensive, it hasn’t become the ubiquitous device Sony had hoped for. Blu-Ray is by all accounts a great technology, with more capacity than HD-DVD, and Sony’s stand-alone Blu-Ray players have been getting pretty good reviews– but they’re still around $500 each.

The HD-DVD side has been concentrating on price, and they’re taking a huge swing for the fences with today’s sale. It’s a gigantic risk financially. Either Toshiba or Wal-Mart or both are absorbing a very substantial loss by selling these units for $98 (I’d guess just Toshiba, Wal-Mart is too smart to take a hit this big). The HD-DVD drive inside the HD-A2 all by itself is worth more than $98, even without all the associated technology and packaging.

So why are they doing it? To capture the market. I heard people saying it in line this morning: “Hey, for $100, if Blu-Ray winds up winning, so what? This one’s almost disposable.” That argument certainly worked on me; after years of dissing both formats (or more specifically the format war itself), I was up early and at my local ‘Mart my own self.

They sold about 25 of them before running out; Wal-Mart’s sticker price on the player is $198, and many were obviously bound for eBay. That’s not so many in the big picture, but there are lots and lots and lots of Wal-Marts out there. Twenty-five times lots and lots means HD-DVD gets a nice big stake in the ground this fall, and Sony’s going to have to do something to answer, or they’ll be stuck with Son Of Beta.

Big risks. Small prices. Awesome picture. Ain’t capitalism great?

UPDATE: Per Gizmodo, BestBuy is matching Wal-Mart’s $99 price for the Toshiba HD-A2. Now it’s on.