November 30, 2004
TOM MAGUIRE has a Plame update.
TOM MAGUIRE has a Plame update.
BACK BEFORE THE ELECTION, Tony Pierce was a bit, er, uncharitable where I was concerned. But that won’t stop me from mentioning his new book. I haven’t read it, but I liked the last one.
I got interviewed by a reporter who’s doing a story on blogs and the election, and who seemed anxious to gin up more conflict between me and Jeff Jarvis than I thought was really there. I do think that a few people got a bit excited for a while. But I see blogs as intensely personal. And just as you’d forgive a friend or relative a bit of overexcitability on a key subject or two, I think you should do the same with fellow-bloggers.
DANIEL DREZNER NOTES that immigration is driving up the demand for goat meat. Good, because goat is yummy, and good for you.
I remember one of my brother’s friends (who was Namibian, I believe) in Boston complaining that “you just can’t get a good goat’s head in this town.” Maybe that’ll change!
THIS SEEMS LIKE GOOD NEWS:
Strong consumer spending and business investment and a slightly lower than previously reported trade deficit meant the US economy grew at a 3.9 per cent rate in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said.
The upward revision from the 3.7 per cent advance estimate was above consensus expectations and represented a rebound from 3.3 per cent growth in the second quarter.
Core personal consumption expenditures inflation, excluding food and energy, the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, was unchanged at a 0.7 per cent rate in the quarter – the lowest reading since the 1960s.
Interest rates are expected to rise, though.
ED CONE EVALUATES John Edwards’ ongoing campaign.
KOFI ANNAN MUST GO: That’s Sen. Norm Coleman in tomorrow’s WSJ. It’s a free link.
UPDATE: Interesting article from the Asia Times, too:
Secretary General Annan had a blessed first term, but a second term that is turning into a nightmare. The mismanagement of the return of the UN to Iraq, alleged corruption in the oil-for-food program, and reported sexual harassment within the UN have coalesced in an unprecedented degree of staff antagonism toward Annan. The crisis has been compounded by what some have interpreted as an attempt by Annan to woo the John Kerry team with the hope of obtaining a third term if the Democrats had won the November US presidential election. . . .
While Annan has unambiguously stated that he will finish his term, in the shadowy world of diplomatic doublespeak, the fact that the statement on Iraq was made at all raised eyebrows. Ultimately, all will depend on the Bush administration, on what the current investigation of the oil-for-food program will unearth and to what use the information will be put.
I think that the investigation will unearth some devastating stuff. As to what happens next, well, that depends on whether Kofi Annan’s personal interests, or the United Nations’ institutional interests, are foremost.
IRANIAN ASSAULT ON BLOGS CONTINUES:
Reporters Without Borders has strongly protested against the Iran’s relentless efforts to stifle free expression online after the arrest of five webloggers in less than two months, the latest on 28 November 2004.
“The government is now attacking blogs, the last bastion of freedom on a network that is experiencing ever tighter control,” said the worldwide press freedom organisation. “At the same time, an Iranian delegate is sitting on a UN-created working group on Internet governance. The international community should condemn this masquerade,” it added.
Yes, it should. Perhaps Kofi Annan will rebuke the Iranians for this.
“BLOG” IS THE NUMBER ONE WORD OF THE YEAR according to Merriam-Webster.
THE ANCHORESS has a prediction on Tom Ridge’s replacement.
BRIAN WILLIAMS IS DISSING BLOGGERS:
According to CBS Marketwatch, at a post-election wrap-up session, when a fellow panelist “mentioned that bloggers had had a big impact on the reporting on Election Day, Williams waved that point away by quipping that the self-styled journalists are ‘on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem.'”
And yet, they’re kicking your ass.
UPDATE: Terry Heaton: “It’s a scary time for people in television news, because the blue smoke and mirrors has been revealed for what it is.”
Not a surprise, but always good to be reminded of the culture of arrogance in the Mainstream Media that underlies the lack of concern over facts, truth, and (occasionally) basic, rational self interest.
Meanwhile, at Power Line, a personal reminiscence involving Brian Williams.
MORE: This photo is pretty funny.
MORE ON EFFORTS TO REFORM THE U.N.: Half-measures, I think, but it’s a start.
STEVE GARDNER’S FIRING: Here’s a response from his former employer.
MILITARY RECRUITERS AND YALE LAW SCHOOL: An insider’s report.
TOM RIDGE RESIGNS.
Former Prime Minister José María Aznar spoke for eleven hours yesterday before the Parliamentary commission investigating the March 11 bombings in Madrid. It was all televised live on TV2; I watched some of it, especially the part where he chewed up the Esquerra Republicana guy and spit him out. Aznar was devastating.
Read ’em both.
STARTED READING JOHN SCALZI’S NEW BOOK today in the waiting room, where I had ample time to read. So far, I like it a lot; I’ll post a full review when I’m done.
MORE ON THE TERM “LIKUDNIK” and anti-semitism.
SORRY FOR THE LIMITED BLOGGING: Had to take the InstaWife to the doctor this morning, as she’s still feeling ill. She’s now, however, watching HGTV and learning how to “accessorize” a dining room.
IN THE PAST I’VE MENTIONED bizarre remixes of Lawrence Welk and Henry Mancini, (you can hear samples online by following the links) — but now John Scalzi is pointing the way to an entire, streamable online album of remixes of white-bread ’70s pop, with the remixes done by people like The Supreme Beings of Leisure. It’s cool, and it’s free. Which is even cooler.
HEALTHCARE BLOGGING: This week’s Grand Rounds is up, with entries from health-care professionals on all sorts of topics.
ADVICE TO OLD MEDIA:
Too many people in newspapers speak as if there is going to be a straight migration from newspaper to its websites, albeit with traumatic commercial consequences. Ideally, they think, we will all be sitting on trains with digital versions of newspapers broadcast wirelessly to digital paper (think Minority Report/ Harry Potter). They have built their websites – often as fortresses, cut off from the rest of the net – accordingly.
This, methinks, is optimistic – and that’s putting it politely.
IVORY COAST UPDATE:
A colonel of the Ivorian gendarmerie interviewed by Agence France Presse (AFP) has affirmed that French forces on November 9 fired directly and without warning upon the crowd of protestors gathered in front of the Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan. Colonel Georges Guiai Bi Poin, who was in charge of a contingent of Ivorian gendarmes dispatched to control the crowd and coordinate with the French troops, says that the order to fire came from the commander of the latter, colonel D’Estremon.
If these were American troops, this would be getting worldwide attention.
MORE UKRAINE UPDATES HERE, from King Banaian.
UPDATE: John O’Sullivan looks at winners and losers so far:
The final losers are the U.N. and Kofi Annan. The U.N. has been invisible. As Kofi Annan has been trying to keep his head above oil, he has issued his usual appeal for restraint. But this crisis has brought forth the heroes of the Cold War from retirement — Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa and Margaret Thatcher — to encourage the orange revolutionaries. And Annan cannot begin to compete with their moral authority or the legitimacy they can bestow.
And read this piece, on lessons from Georgia and elsewhere, too.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More here, including a link to video.
JIM LINDGREN: “If the news accounts are correct, the new study distinguishing the brain scans of liars from truth-tellers has a serious design flaw that goes beyond the small sample size. Indeed, it is such an obvious flaw that I wonder whether the researchers really made it, or whether instead the reporters got the story wrong.”
ONLINE SHOPPING IS UP:
U.S. online shoppers, who set spending and traffic records on Thanksgiving Day and the “Black Friday” that followed, were expected to break new ground again as they returned to work on what some are calling “Blue Monday.” . . .
While Black Friday refers to the bustling shopping day that starts brick-and-mortar retailers’ move from “the red” to “the black,” Blue Monday — a name inspired by the Web’s blue links — is one of the biggest days for online retailers as workers return to their jobs, and fast Internet connections.
Businesses: Let your employees surf at work. The economy depends on it!
CLEANING UP THE U.N.: Is it time for Helms-Biden again?
One of the tragic things I see developing is that the Western media narrative seems to be falling into a US vs. Russia play. And I’m seeing more and more commentary in that vein on the web. So few seem to grasp that this is about an entire system, not about an election. Yes, the people are rallying for Yushchenko, but it goes so, so much deeper than that.
The events in Ukraine are about a people fighting free of the grayness, corruption, abuse and fatalism of the post-Soviet era. All of you, Right or Left, need to see them as people. Yes, there are geopolitical ramifications. But they should be so incredibly secondary to the humanity of the Ukrainian people — these are flesh and blood human beings who are fighting to be free of a vicious, grinding system. People are proud to be Ukrainian, proud that their country is now known for something other than mafia, dead journalists, and corruption. People who a week ago were convinced of their own powerlessness are now standing fearlessly, singing together, “We are many, we are one, we can’t be stopped!”
Can anyone be so dead of heart not to find this beautiful?
Some people, of the sort who confuse (or who like to pretend for propaganda purposes that they confuse) libertarianism with libertinism, might expect a libertarian like me to rejoice at any collapse in marital fidelity. But my libertarianism is about the right to choose what promises you make, not about the right to break them with impunity, to the point where you are not even to be criticised for such cheating. . . .
And if anyone mentions France, where, allegedly, they take a more mature and rational view of these things, my answer is: precisely. Cynicism about private life is directly to be associated, I would say, with cynicism about the more public side of things. French public life is relentlessly corrupt and cynical, and they are oh-so-rational about adultery. I do not think these facts are coincidental.
Read the whole thing, which is about the Blunkett affair and much more.
HOT FRENCH CHICKS WITH GUNS: The world is becoming a better place.
THOUGHTS ON DEMOCRACY IN THE UKRAINE, from Matt Spence.
IT’S NOT PLAGIARISM when you repeat stuff from a press release without checking it — but it’s not journalism, either. It’s not even very good punditry.
ECONOBLOGARAMA: This week’s Carnival of the Capitalists is up.
TOUR THE INDIAN BLOGOSPHERE at this week’s Blog Mela, where, among other things, Arundhati Roy receives unfavorable attention.
UNSCAM UPDATE: Here’s an interview with Jed Babbin that’s worth reading.
MY HAPPY EXPERIENCE with BellSouth’s robot-driven repair service this weekend led to a column, which will be up later in the week at TCS. But here are a couple of thoughts that didn’t make the column.
One is that when it comes to reliable phone service, you still can’t beat the Bells. One of the local cable companies, Knology, offers phone service, as do some other local-phone competitors. I’m glad they’re competitive, but I have serious doubts about the quality and reliability of their service compared to BellSouth’s. (I haven’t heard anything bad about Knology, to be fair, but my mother-in-law has local service from some other provider, and her service calls take, literally, months.)
Another is that the move to internet telephony as something more than a hobby or add-on is going to make reliability worse. Internet telephony seems to be on the verge of becoming a mass-market consumer item — but the Internet itself isn’t especially reliable, by phone standards.
Call me old-fashioned, or more concerned with reliability than most people (and I probably am the latter, at least) but I wouldn’t rely on a VOIP setup as my sole telephone connection. I gather that some people are, but they obviously feel differently about these things than I do.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
I concur with your assessment of VOIP and POTS; when hurricane Charley came through Orlando we lost power for 3 1/2 days, others lost it for over a week, some for longer. I have a good size UPS that supports my PC, cable modem and router, but I didn’t have internet access because the cable company didn’t have power to its boxes.
Being law enforcement and an emergency responder to the county courthouse, I’m on the “special” list for my county-issued cell phone, so I had cell access while my neighbors did not. They could receive calls but couldn’t make them because for the first day after Charley public cell access was restricted to ensure emergency service workers could communicate (911 calls would go through, others would not).
My “dumb” phone from Bell South worked the entire time because Bell has battery backup and generators, and their wired network is independent of everyone else’s.
I was seriously considering VOIP up until we became Hurricane Central. Now, I might add VOIP to get real cheap long distance, but it will be in addition to POTS because of the reliability.
That’s certainly my view. The Bells have a different attitude — and network setup — than most other people. On the other hand, reader Stan Davis emails:
As a Senior Engineer for a small, up-and-coming VoIP company, I can assure you that your fears about the unreliability of VoIP telephony are fast becoming unfounded. It very much depends on the company, of course, but our network has double and sometimes triple back-ups for every piece of mission critical equipment. Our goal is to not have a single dropped or choppy call and we are 99.9% successful in that. Our biggest obstacle lies, ironically, not with the Internet per-se, but with the Bell companies, and others, that provide the DSL (and cable) to the home. This piece is the weakest link and entirely out of the VoIP industries hands. You might be surprised to hear that a very large portion (sorry, don’t have exact numbers, but would guess 80%) of all domestic long distance telephone calls today travel over a VoIP network at some point! The same is true for mobile calls. I hope this will help you to understand the extent that VoIP has penetrated the telephony industry already, unbeknownst to the general public.
Actually I did know that the numbers are big. I’m delighted to hear that people are taking this seriously, because I think that peoples’ primary phone lines should be extremely reliable. Of course, the local-loop segment is the most important, and I don’t think those are treated as carefully for Internet access as for Plain Old Telephone Service, meaning that POTS is still likely to be more reliable.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader John Steele emails:
Further to your item about POTS vs VOIP I can second some of your correspondents comments. We were without power for 5 weeks after Hurricane Andrew and NEVER lost phone service. Without power for that long no matter how reliable they make a VOIP backbone there is no UPS available to mankind that will last that long :-)
SPEAK OUT AND BE FIRED: More McCarthyite crushing of dissent in
John Ashkkkroft’s Alberto Gonzales’ America!
ALPHECCA’S WEEKLY ROUNDUP of media bias regarding firearms is up.
FACULTY CLUBS AND CHURCH PEWS: Harvard law professor Bill Stuntz tries to bridge the gap:
The past few months have seen a lot of talk about red and blue America, mostly by people on one side of the partisan divide who find the other side a mystery.
It isn’t a mystery to me, because I live on both sides. For the past twenty years, I’ve belonged to evangelical Protestant churches, the kind where George W. Bush rolled up huge majorities. And for the past eighteen years, I’ve worked in secular universities where one can hardly believe that Bush voters exist. Evangelical churches are red America at its reddest. And universities, especially the ones in New England (where I work now), are as blue as the bluest sky.
Not surprisingly, each of these institutions is enemy territory to the other. But the enmity is needless. It may be a sign that I’m terminally weird, but I love them both, passionately. And I think that if my church friends and my university friends got to know each other, they’d find a lot to like and admire. More to the point, the representatives of each side would learn something important and useful from the other side.
Yeah. I’m not terribly religious myself, but I grew up as a preacher’s kid and I don’t find religious people, or symbolism, as threatening as many university folks do. On the other hand, as someone who has spent most of his life around universities, I don’t think they’re the centers of evil that many non-university people do, either. Read the whole thing, as Stuntz makes these points much better than I do.
KING BANAIAN has a Ukraine roundup.
MY EARLIER WAL-MART POST produced a lot of email from readers saying that Wal-Mart’s drop in sales was probably more reflective of Wal-Mart’s problems than of Christmas shopping generally. Judging by this story from the WSJ (unlike the link to my column, below, this one’s subscriber-only — sorry) the readers are right:
A Shopping Frenzy, but Not at Wal-Mart
Near-record crowds turned out for the holiday shopping season’s Thanksgiving weekend kickoff, bringing with them unexpectedly robust sales gains to many malls and retail chains across the country.
Except, surprisingly, at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
I’ve never understood the fashionable Wal-Mart hatred, but I’ve never liked shopping there very much. I also think that a lot of people are doing their shopping online, like I am, though I haven’t seen a lot of numbers on that yet. But there’s less traffic, no crowds, and you don’t have to haul the stuff to or from your car.
I’m sure I’ll do some shopping at the mall, too, but I’ll bet I wind up spending more than half my Christmas budget online.
UPDATE: Hmm. Even some loyal Wal-Mart customers may be shopping online at Walmart.com since its prices can be lower than the stores’. Wonder how they’re counted?
KOFI UPDATE: I’ve got a column in today’s Wall Street Journal on the notion of replacing Kofi Annan with Vaclav Havel.
UPDATE: William Safire has more on Kofi’s troubles: “This marks the end of the beginning of the scandal. Its end will not begin until Kofi Annan, even if personally innocent, resigns – having, through initial ineptitude and final obstructionism, brought dishonor on the Secretariat of the United Nations.”
SOME PEOPLE ARE CALLING for the arrest of Jean Chretien for war crimes prior to Bush’s Canada visit.
Seems a bit silly to me, but then there’s a lot of that kind of silliness up north lately.
“THE NEWS WARS OF 2010 WERE NOTABLE for the fact that no actual news organization was involved.” A short, and somewhat cautionary, history of the media future.
MICHAEL JORDAN’S BIG BROTHER is going to Iraq.
AS I SAID EARLIER, I’ve done all my Christmas shopping so far right here. Now I see that Wal-Mart sales have been disappointing this weekend. Are lots of people shopping online, or are people just buying less?
I’d report on how crowded the parking lots at the malls are, but I haven’t been there, so I can’t. But there may be a tie-in to this column from last year, too.
UPDATE: The Wal-Mart story seems to be much ado about not much, according to Kevin Brancato’s Wal-Mart blog. He links this story, too, suggesting that many people expected slower sales this year because last year people had tax rebate checks in hand.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader James Wink emails:
I have an alternate idea of what is happening to Wal-Mart. They have devalued their brand: Wal-Mart is a place to go for the necessities of life. Target has pulled a brilliant move in placing itself as a more prestigious and higher quality brand covering the same economic demographics. While people would be more then willing to buy milk at Wal-Mart, they would prefer to buy the better quality jewelry at Target considering the cost factor is reasonably comparable. I managed to do no shopping on Black Friday (like you Amazon got a majority of my money) and spent my morning walking that trails at Great Falls and then meeting my wife in DC for lunch.
Two years ago I did a considerable amount of shopping at Wal-Mart in the Norfolk area where their Super centers are comfortable places to shop. When I moved to the Northern VA area, where there are no Super Wal-Mart, my one trip to Wal-Mart was an exercise in claustrophobia and crowd control (and this was in September not Dec). Target represents an place that is far more comfortable to shop in: the aisles are clean and wide and there are usually enough cashiers to ensure a speedy experience. The cost is marginally more but is more then worth the psychic cost of going to Wal-Mart.
Yeah. I’ve never understood the fashionable hatred of Wal-Mart, but I’ve also never really liked shopping there.
MORE: This article from Forbes suggests that Wal-Mart’s problems are Wal-Mart’s problem: “In an effort to defend its profits, the world’s largest retailer did not discount as deeply on a wide array of products as it has in the past. That hurt sales the day after Thanksgiving, the official start of the holiday shopping season, as other competitors like Sears, Roebuck and Co. lured shoppers with deeper price cuts. Customers tend to be price-sensitive and go to Wal-Mart to take advantage of the blitz of deals.”
A CRACKDOWN AGAINST PRO-DEMOCRACY PROTESTERS IN UKRAINE? King Banaian has a roundup at the SCSU Scholars site.
UPDATE: Veronica Khokhlova: “I wished Bono had come over here – man, wouldn’t that be cool…”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has a lengthy and disturbing roundup on the geopolitics involved.
HUMAN TELETUBBIES: This is just wrong.
MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT in Canada.
UKRAINE UPDATE: David Warren writes:
The damage that has been done to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, should not be overlooked. He invested more political capital than was wise by heavy-handedly supporting both President Kuchma in the Ukraine, and Alexandr Lukashenko, the authoritarian president-for-life of Belarus — the two “Little Russias” from the old Soviet Union.
Ukrainian events remind Russians of how much fraud was involved in their own last election.
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: More on fraud here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more, with photos, here:
WHAT HAS MADE THE SITUATION an international crisis is the heavy-handed Russian interference in the election. Russia’s involvement is so beyond the pale that two former presidents who led revolutions against Soviet-installed puppet governments in their own nations–Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and Lech Walesa from Poland–have waded in on the side of Yushchenko.
Havel sent a letter which was read by Yushchenko at an evening demonstration in which he urged Yushchenko and his followers to continue their fight. Walesa arrived in Kiev two days later to support Yushchenko. He spoke twice to the crowds at Independence Square. The situation reminded him “of the struggle that we carried on with Solidarity in the 1980s,” he said.
Read the whole thing.
I AGREE: Tom Brokaw is giving bad advice.
HERE’S AN INTERESTING TIDBIT ABOUT ALEXANDER: It was subsidized by the French government:
Jeunet had pointed out that director Oliver Stone’s Alexander the Great received funding from the French government despite not being filmed in France or in French.
Judging by the reviews, I don’t think the return on that investment is going to be very good.
UPDATE: Hmm. I wonder if this Barbie movie — and matching robot cat, Serafina — got French subsidies: “Whenever her on-screen counterpart appears during the DVD film ‘Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper,’ the $40 furball starts to purr and chat — and she can do it in French, too ..” reports PrestoPundit. Hey, it would be a better investment than Alexander — Barbie’s a proven performer.
HERE’S MORE ON THE LACK OF DIVERSITY IN AMERICAN ACADEMIA, and its consequences:
When John Kennedy brought to Washington such academics as Arthur Schlesinger Jr., John Kenneth Galbraith, McGeorge and William Bundy and Walt Rostow, it was said that the Charles River was flowing into the Potomac.
Academics, such as the next secretary of state, still decorate Washington, but academia is less listened to than it was. It has marginalized itself, partly by political shrillness and silliness that have something to do with the parochialism produced by what George Orwell called “smelly little orthodoxies.”
Many campuses are intellectual versions of one-party nations — except such nations usually have the merit, such as it is, of candor about their ideological monopolies. In contrast, American campuses have more insistently proclaimed their commitment to diversity as they have become more intellectually monochrome.
They do indeed cultivate diversity — in race, skin color, ethnicity, sexual preference. In everything but thought.
UPDATE: A faculty reader emails: “We just hired a new vice president of diversity on campus and he’s about to start ‘diversity conversations.’ This could be a great opportunity to talk about diversity of thought, since they’re just now defining what diversity in Oregon means.”
Sounds like it could begin a useful conversation. I suspect that quite a few states will be having such discussions.
THIS STORY from the Baltimore Sun on the future of the news business post-Rather is worth reading in its entirety. Here’s a bit:
For Socolow, the rise of bloggers is the most exciting change in electronic journalism these days. And, he says, far from upending journalistic traditions, bloggers derive their greatest strength from a mainstay of the profession.
“For all the bad things that bloggers put out there [during the election], they have one really significant advantage over the dinosaur networks, which is their relationship to accuracy,” Socolow said. “The bloggers’ power is in their ability to fact-check mainstream journalism in a new way.”
The fallout from Rather’s Bush report is proof of that power: It was bloggers – not television or print journalists – who first questioned the authenticity of the documents on which 60 Minutes II based the segment.
“What’s more basic to journalism than fact-checking and accuracy?” Socolow says. “That’s what bloggers are providing, as the Bush-Rather story illustrates. CBS News – or The New York Times for that matter – never had to worry about its journalism being independently evaluated the way it is today on the Internet.”
That’s not as dramatic a story line as the end of network news. But another layer of checks and balances – even if ideologically driven – seems like a good thing for the public.
Yes. And if I were running a Big Media outlet I’d pay someone to surf the blogs (or check links to my own stories from blogs via technorati) and then make corrections when they found errors. It’s free, outsourced error-correction.
TOM HAYDEN SUGGESTS A GOAL FOR THE LEFT: Make sure we lose in Iraq! (“The anti-war movement can force the Bush administration to leave Iraq by denying it the funding, troops, and alliances necessary to its strategy for dominance. “) The good news is that, even on the left, not many people listen to Tom Hayden. Karl Rove hopes otherwise, though.
UPDATE: Hayden will no doubt be disappointed to discover that Zarqawi is running scared.
THOUGHTS ON BEING A PUBLIC UTILITY, at Ghost of a Flea.
UNSCAM UPDATE: The Belmont Club has an oil-for-food roundup. Kofi no, Havel yes!
DAVID EDELSTEIN: “With Alexander (Warner Bros.), Oliver Stone has done what I never thought possible: He has made me feel pity for him.”
UPDATE: Donald Sensing offers another negative report:
Nephew said the movie was “incredibly bad.” How bad? This bad:
With about 15 minutes left to go, the projection system broke. The screen went blank and the sound quit. After a few seconds, when the audience realized that it wasn’t just a sudden gap between reels or the like, they clapped and cheered.
I felt that way about Sorcerer.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Lots more bad reviews here.
DANIEL DREZNER has a Ukraine roundup, with links to earlier posts.
MUSIC REVIEW: I got a chance to give a good, thorough listen to John Fogerty’s new album, Deja Vu All Over Again last week, when I drove to pick up my grandmother. Overall, I didn’t think it was as good as I’d hoped. I’ve heard a lot of people compare it to Centerfield, but it put me more in mind of Eye of the Zombie, an album that was better than most people thought at the time, but not really up to Fogerty’s best efforts.
Deja Vu seems, like Zombie, to lack a theme. Some of the songs are good — I liked “In the Garden,” with its frankly retro approach, the best — but others, like “Nobody’s Here Anymore” (a somewhat geezerish rant against the Internet and cellphones), are just embarrassing. (There are streaming samples for all of these Fogerty albums — just follow the links). Overall, it’s worth buying if you’re a hardcore Fogerty fan and have to have everything, but otherwise I’d give it a pass. And if you’re looking for a first-rate post-Centerfield Fogerty effort, I recommend Blue Moon Swamp instead. It’s much better.
UPDATE: They just corrected me on the air to say that King isn’t a guest — he’s an every-other-week cohost on the show. My mistake!
ANOTHER UPDATE: If you missed the broadcast, you can hear it here.
I HEART BELLSOUTH: Our fax line is down. I called and spoke to a robot, which tested our line and said a technician would come. Half an hour later, and the guy’s here. Pretty impressive.
BLACKFIVE suggests Pat Tillman for Sportsman of the Year, and tells you how to cast your vote.
A READER ASKS why I’m not blogging about the “disastrous economic news.” Trouble is, he’s not very clear on what he means. I don’t blog much about the economy (except on the micro, things-I’ve-noticed Andy Rooney level) because I don’t think I know enough. But I don’t see much disastrous news. The dollar has fallen against the Euro, which strikes me as potentially bad news, but probably worse news at the moment for the Eurozone than for the U.S. I believe this is bound up in an effort to force the value of the Yuan up (that’s the gist of this story, and an item (subscriber only) in the WSJ earlier this week suggested the same thing). Could it go bad? I guess so, but it’s not obviously disastrous, and I have nothing to say about it.
Is it “ballooning spending?” Spending’s a lot higher than I’d like, but it always is. Josh Bolten writes that the 2005 budget is under control: “Congress stayed within budget limits and met key priorities. While the appropriations bills are not perfect, they honor the goals President Bush set last February: Overall discretionary spending in Fiscal 2005 will rise only 4%, the same as the average increase in American family income.” Not exactly parsimonious, but not disastrous.
Then there’s global growth, which as David Brooks notes is quite rapid: “Some rich countries, like the U.S. and Japan, are doing well, but the developing world is leading this economic surge. . . . As even the cautious folks at the World Bank note, all developing regions are growing faster this decade than they did in the 1980’s and 90’s. . . . we’re in the 11th month of the most prosperous year in human history.”
Some of the commenters over at Pejman’s seem to think that the problem is that Americans are consuming too much and saving too little That’s probably right — just listen to Dave Ramsey’s show for half an hour — but on the other hand it’s probably behind a lot of that third-world growth, too. I’d certainly like to see us shift to a tax system that encourages savings and investment over consumption — but although such plans are out there, I doubt they’ll get much support from those commenters. But I won’t argue that, at the very least, the tax system should be neutral and that it probably ought to encourage saving and investment.
Is disaster looming somewhere? Maybe. But it’s not obvious enough that I can see it.
UPDATE: Social Security, of course, is a long-term problem, and Tyler Cowen notes that fixing it won’t be cost-free.
UKRAINE UPDATE: “Ukraine’s parliament on Saturday expressed no confidence in the Central Election Commission overseeing a disputed presidential election run-off. ”
The Democratic party’s National Democratic Institute, the Republican party’s International Republican Institute, the US state department and USAid are the main agencies involved in these grassroots campaigns as well as the Freedom House NGO and billionaire George Soros’s open society institute.
I hope Soros has more luck with this election than with the last . . . .
HOWARD DEAN: Bringing people together. He’s a uniter, not a divider!
PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE notices what’s really going on. I think the Saudis have, too. . . .
PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH is wondering why the organizers of “buy nothing day” want poor people to starve.
THIS WEEK’S CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES is up.
FOREIGN POLICY LESSONS FROM THE FRENCH: Read this, especially if you’re Condi Rice.
ERIC OLSEN looks at double standards on racism.
ANN ALTHOUSE: “If a legend is used as leverage to change the law, we need to be willing to think about whether the legend is true, and if it is not, we need to be willing to rethink our analysis. . . . Justice demands that we think clearly about criminal responsibility and not let our minds be clouded by evocative stories that mesh with our assumptions about the world and our social policy aspirations.”
UKRAINE UPDATE: Timothy Garton Ash writes: “If we, comfortably ensconced in the institutionalised Europe to which these peaceful demonstrators look with hope and yearning, do not immediately support them with every appropriate means at our disposal, we will betray the very ideals we claim to represent.”
Well, New Europe has done pretty well on this front, with active and vigorous support from Poland, Lithuania, and the Czechs. Old Europe, not so much.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. Jonathan Steele, author of the second piece, may not be on Putin’s payroll — though to borrow a trope from his article, we haven’t seen conclusive evidence that he’s not — but he appears to be on Putin’s travel budget. This pre-election article by Steele contains the following disclaimer:
Jonathan Steele was a guest of the Russian Club in Ukraine at an expenses-paid conference in Kiev last weekend.
And this article from the Washington Post notes that:
The Russian Club was opened in August by Viktor Yanukovych, Russia’s favored candidate for the presidency, and Dmitry Medvedev, chief of staff to Russian President Vladimir Putin. At first, officials said the club’s opening had nothing to do with the election, but lately it has been involved in little else.
Interesting. Thanks to reader Paul Horbal for the pointers.
MORE: I’m not the only one to notice the curious lack of attention from Old Europe — note this observation from Timothy Garton Ash’s piece in The Guardian:
Who says Europe is boring? Yet until Tuesday, many west Europeans probably did not even know that there was a presidential election going on in Ukraine. We were all focused on that other crucial presidential election, in the US. And, shamingly, Americans probably have done more to support the democratic opposition in Ukraine, and to shine a spotlight on electoral malpractices, than west Europeans have. Poles, Czechs and Slovaks have been more actively engaged, understanding how much is at stake.
That’s how it looks to me, too, though not everyone agrees.
A BLOG REVOLUTION sweeps across China?
Ever since the Communist party took power in 1949, the Chinese media has been tightly controlled by the government. Online publishing is a real threat to that control, and the government is clearly worried. A crackdown in 2003 closed websites and internet cafes and saw the arrest of dozens of online commentators.
Yet this is not proving enough to stifle the pluck and ingenuity of China’s bloggers. The rise of the blog phenomenon was made possible by blog-hosting services. Just as companies like Yahoo host email accounts, sites like blogger.com, based in the United States, host blogs. . . .
Blog services are now sprouting all over China. By the end of October 2004, China had more than 45 large blog-hosting services. A Google search for bo ke will return more than two million results, from blogs for football fans to blogs for Christians.
And while the larger hosting companies have become subject to censorship regulations, smaller companies and individuals do not face the same pressures. Any tech-savvy user can download and install blogging software themselves, bypassing the controls.
Blogs play an important role in republishing and spreading information as quickly as it is banned from official websites.
Read the whole thing.
One of the next big chapters in the United Nations oil-for-food scandal will involve the family of the secretary-general, Kofi Annan, whose son turns out to have been receiving payments as recently as early this year from a key contractor in the oil-for-food program.
The secretary-general’s son, Kojo Annan, was previously reported to have worked for a Swiss-based company called Cotecna Inspection Services SA, which from 1998-2003 held a lucrative contract with the U.N. to monitor goods arriving in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq under the oil-for-food program. But investigators are now looking into new information suggesting that the younger Annan received far more money over a much longer period, even after his compensation from Cotecna had reportedly ended.
The importance of this story involves not only undisclosed conflicts of interest, but the question of the role of the secretary-general himself, at a time when talk is starting to be heard around the U.N. that it is time for him to resign, and the staff labor union is in open rebellion against “senior management.”
What time is it? It’s Havel time!
ROGER SIMON has found the political party for him. Unfortunately, he’s not an Iraqi.
The first indication came when the falling price of computers crossed the point where the average programmer could afford to own a computer capable of producing the code from which he typically earned his living. This meant that, for the first time since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the ownership of the most critical tool of production in the most critical industry of the world’s leading economy was readily affordable by the individual worker. Throughout the first three decades of the Information Age, the individual worker was still dependent on his employer for his means of production, just as any textile worker in Manchester or Lawrence was in 1840.
Suddenly, this changed. Now it is as if a steelworker could afford his own blast furnace or rolling mill, an automobile worker his own assembly line. By strict Marxist definitions, capitalism ended sometime in the early 1990s. This is a development that has not received adequate attention.
There’s also this, which meshes with some things I’ve written on Web video:
The cost of a facility for Webcasting is far less than the cost of a facility for television broadcasting. At some point in the relatively near future the quality of the webcast will be as good as, if not better than, that of broadcast television, and the cost of a webcasting facility for high-quality production will be within the range of many individuals. Just as the personal computer capable of producing first-rate software is revolutionizing the work relations of software, the personal webcasting facility will change the nature of the broadcasting media. It also changes the dynamics of production.
I think that’s right, and the blogosphere is an early manifestation of this phenomenon.
UKRAINE UPDATE: Arthur Chrenkoff looks at a Kremlin conspiracy theory and observes: “All I can say is, I’m scared that this sort of thinking goes for a serious political analysis in Russia.”