Archive for November, 2005

November 30, 2005

MY EARLIER POST ON THE POTATO GUN produced this email from reader George Putnam:

Minor comment on today’s entry that you want a potato gun for Christmas…What is REALLY fun is a potato cannon. You can find directions to build one here:

I built one a couple of years ago based on this book, and it is a blast! Who knew that hair spray was such an effective propellant?

(I have one of the potato guns, too. They’re OK, but not nearly as much fun as a potato cannon.)

Okay, now I know what I really want for Christmas.

November 30, 2005

KOS COMPLAINS that Kerry stole the limelight after Bush’s speech, screwing up the Democrats’ PR plans. Soxblog observes: “haven’t I been telling you all that everyone who knows him dislikes him?”

UPDATE: More problems with Kerry’s response here. And others’!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more, here.

November 30, 2005

SOME INTERESTING THOUGHTS on different styles of blogging.

November 30, 2005


Even in this election off-year, the potential perils of electronic voting systems are bedeviling state officials as a Jan. 1 deadline approaches for complying with standards for the machines’ reliability.

Across the country, officials are trying multiple methods to ensure that touch-screen voting machines can record and count votes without falling prey to software bugs, hackers, malicious insiders or other ills that beset computers.

Still missing the obvious solution.

November 30, 2005

I’LL BE ON HUGH HEWITT’S SHOW (listen online here) about 8:30 Eastern time talking about hybrid cars, and Holman Jenkins’ dismissive Wall Street Journal article (sorry, subscription-only, but you may be able to read it at this link) on them. Jenkins was definitely wrong in saying that the hybrid Highlander doesn’t get better mileage than its gas equivalent. In fact, it gets about double the mileage in town. Read this report, too.

November 30, 2005

IS this report from New Orleans by Deroy Murdock an example of the mainstreaming of blogstyle? I’d say so.

November 30, 2005

SUMMER LAW STUDY IN RIO? Why didn’t I think of that? One of my colleagues will be teaching there, and I’m jealous.

November 30, 2005

THE MOVEON PHOTO STORY just gets funnier.

UPDATE: More: “The liberal political group has yanked a video ad from its website after being criticized for using images of British soldiers to represent Americans in Iraq.” (Via The Officers’ Club).

November 30, 2005

STRATEGY VS. TACTICS IN IRAQ: Jon Henke has some thoughts.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse contrasts Bush’s language to Hillary Clinton’s.

November 30, 2005


“You can always turn the television off and, of course, block the channels you don’t want,” Martin said, “but why should you have to?”

Um, so that other people can watch the shows they want to, maybe?

UPDATE: Reader John Vasut thinks I’m misreading this:

I think that Martin was talking about a la carte programming choice. Why should you be forced (if you wish to receive certain channels) to have to pay for channels whose content you find objectionable (much less go to the trouble of blocking if you don’t wish for your children to watch it). I personally refuse to subscribe to cable/satellite (except for the Basic/local channel and some Chinese channels for my in-laws) until they provide a la carte service.

Hmm. I didn’t read it that way, but if that’s what he meant it wasn’t stupid. I actually like the idea of a la carte cable pricing, though I’m not sure how the economics work out.

UPDATE: More on cable TV economics, here and here.

November 30, 2005

THE AD TO THE RIGHT was a little premature, but Claudia Rosett’s report on the U.N. and the Internet is now posted.

November 30, 2005


November 30, 2005

I TRY TO LINK TO A LOT OF BLOG CARNIVALS, but tries to link to all of them. It’s got search tools and a lot of features to help you organize and find blog carnivals, too. My cousin-in-law Brad Rubenstein set it up.

November 30, 2005

JEFF GOLDSTEIN SAYS THAT THE LOS ANGELES TIMES doesn’t understand the role of propaganda in wartime. I’m not so sure about that.

Stephen Green has more.

UPDATE: Bill Hobbs thinks the Los Angeles Times understands propaganda pretty darn well.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More on the L.A. Times’ latest here.

MORE: Rusty Shackleford has thoughts, too.

November 30, 2005

IN THE MAIL: Peter Schweitzer’s Do As I Say (Not As I Do) : Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy.

The back cover, on Michael Moore’s Halliburton stock, is amusing. I can’t tell you more, though, as the InstaWife immediately swiped it. She’s bad that way.

November 30, 2005

THE CARNIVAL OF THE LIBERATED IS UP, with links to posts from Iraqi and Afghan bloggers.

UPDATE: Also there’s the Carnival of Liberty and the Carnival of Classiness.

November 30, 2005

ADS: Yes, those are PJ Media ads on the right sidebar, which have replaced the BlogAds I used to run. The PJ Media ad folks want to test reader reactions, so if there’s something you like, or don’t like, about the look of the ads, email me with “New Ads” in the subject line and I’ll pass it on. (Hit “refresh” and the ads’ll change.)

In passing, I want to note that I never had any problems with Henry Copeland’s BlogAds operation. It’s a great boon to bloggers, and Henry is a great guy, blessed with smarts, good nature, and integrity. He and I have talked about this move, I left BlogAds with his blessing, and my experience with BlogAds was entirely positive. I moved to PJ Media because of what I hope it will eventually do to encourage firsthand blog reporting, especially from third-world countries and other areas that don’t get much media coverage now. I recommend BlogAds to anyone who’s interested in having ads on their blogs without joining an organization like PJ Media. It’s a big blogosphere out there, and there’s room for different approaches — and Henry’s is a good one.

UPDATE: Here’s a complaint that BlogAds is invitation-only now. Yeah, sorry, I forgot about that, and I gave away all my invitations already (guess who got the last one). If you really want in, you might ask some people with BlogAds on their site. But I suspect that any “open entry” model is going to wind up looking like Google’s AdSense, about which I hear mixed reports. I never tried it.

November 30, 2005


November 30, 2005

THE WHITE HOUSE has released its Iraq strategy document. I think it owes a bit of a debt to Steven Den Beste. But hey, you can’t always rely on bloggers to explain the war plan.

UPDATE: Some people are asking what’s new about this strategy. The answer — as Jon Henke notes — is nothing, really. (“Naturally—after having paid more attention to the critics claiming there’s no plan than to, you know, the actual plan—everybody is acting all surprised and confused. . . .This isn’t the ‘first time’ the White House has disclosed the strategy for victory in Iraq, and the strategy isn’t ‘new’. This is something reporters really should know. . . . Granted, the White House should have done a better job at spreading this message from the very start. But it’s sheer laziness and/or incompetence on the part of the media and critics to pretend that the Iraq strategy hasn’t been widely available for a long time.”)

What’s new is that the White House is forcing people to pay attention to the plan, and to the fact that there is, and has been, a plan even though the press has ignored it. That many media outfits, as Henke notes, seem to think this is all new is merely evidence that they’ve been providing lousy war coverage all along.

But the White House, if a bit late in the day, is doing something it needs to do. You can’t rely on bloggers to do it all.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Brian Dunn emails:

Nothing new for those who pay attention.

Perhaps the White House should have slapped a yellow cover on it and called it “Iraq Strategy for Dummies.” They could make quite a series what with the confusion over intelligence, WMD, Al Qaeda, the word “imminent”, etc.

Heh. More on Bush’s speech, including video, here.

November 30, 2005


November 30, 2005


UPDATE: Related thoughts here.

November 30, 2005

TOUGH TALK from Angela Merkel.

November 30, 2005

THE MOVEMENT FOR DEMOCRACY IN HONG KONG: Simon World notes Beijing’s dishonesty. There’s a march Sunday; more about that here.

November 30, 2005


UPDATE: A reader notes that this NPR story supports the notion, too.

November 30, 2005

HARRY REID: Osama is dead?

November 30, 2005

UNSCAM UPDATE — Shredding the Volcker Commission archives?

The most urgent implication of Mr. Volcker’s incomplete findings is that his huge and expensively assembled archives must be preserved intact well beyond the Dec. 31 deadline by which Mr. Volcker now plans to start disposing of them. Above all, they must not be handed back to the U.N., where too much related to the corrupt Oil for Food program has already vanished–including, to a fascinating extent, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s own powers of recollection. The former head of the program, Benon Sevan, alleged to have taken bribes from Saddam, was allowed to skip town, U.N. pension in hand. Mr. Annan is even now resurrecting, via a new $4 million U.N. program called the Alliance of Civilizations, the career of his former chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, who officially retired earlier this year after it came to light that during Mr. Volcker’s investigation Mr. Riza had overseen the shredding of three years’ worth of documents that might have better illuminated the oil-for-fraud shenanigans of the U.N.’s executive 38th floor.

As it happens, Rep. Henry Hyde, who has led the main investigation into Oil for Food in the House, introduced a bill on Nov. 17 urging that the U.S. withhold $100 million from its U.N. dues for each of the next four fiscal years, or until the secretary of state certifies to Congress that the Volcker investigation’s archives have been transferred, intact and uncensored by the U.N., “to an entity other than the [Volcker] Committee or the United Nations”–and made available for public inspection, at the very least by law-enforcement authorities.

I think they should go on the Web, in searchable form.

November 30, 2005

GRAND ROUNDS is up! So is the Carnival of Education.

November 29, 2005

A MILITARY DEFEAT for, at the hands of the British.

November 29, 2005

MORE PROBLEMS for the Los Angeles Times. Some people are enjoying their predicament(s), but I’d actually like to see them do better.

November 29, 2005

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE sets the wayback machine for 1998.

November 29, 2005


Let’s say that Joss Whedon, creator of Firefly, wanted to bring the series back to air. (Though “back to air” is a TV phrase now as anachronistically quaint as “switching the dial.”) Let’s say he found a million Firefly fans online—and, trust me, they’re not hiding—who were willing to pay, say, $39.99 each for a sixteen-episode season of Firefly. (Not an unreasonable price, given how many people pay about that amount for full seasons on DVD.) Suddenly, Joss Whedon’s got roughly $40 million to play with—and he doesn’t need a network. Or a time slot. Or advertisers. He can beam the damn shows right to your computer if he wants to.

Great idea. But it’s a hypothetical. I actually asked Firefly executive producer Tim Minear about this kind of thing the other day, and he said there’s nothing like this in the works.

Maybe he should have added “yet.” Read the whole article, which has lots of interesting insights. (Via Bill Adams).

And this bit certainly describes my experience to a tee:

This summer, Universal did something kind of weird: It released Serenity, a sci-fi movie based on a poorly rated TV show, Firefly, that had been canceled after eleven episodes. Making movies of hit TV shows has a self-explanatory logic, but there aren’t too many movies based on TV flops. But I saw Serenity and liked it a lot, so I went out and bought the entire run of the Firefly TV series on DVD, watched it, and liked it a lot as well.

I bought the DVD set and enjoyed it too. I’d actually rather watch DVDs than regular TV.

And here’s a Blogcritics review of Firefly.

November 29, 2005


In fact, here’s the InstaPundit policy:

InstaPundit strongly supports the use of violent force to save lives of its workers (er, that’s me), readers, advertisers, or unrelated onlookers should they be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a conflict situation. The use of grossly excessive or gratuitous violence, while not exactly encouraged, isn’t exactly deplored, either.

If it saves just one life, it’s worth it.

November 29, 2005

CONGRESSMAN JACK KINGSTON is blogging about his trip to Iraq.

November 29, 2005

HOMELAND SECURITY UPDATE: “Efforts to train thousands of federal agents to protect commercial flights during heightened terror alerts were quietly abandoned more than a year ago because Congress objected to the cost, government investigators said Tuesday.”

November 29, 2005

BLOGGER / REPORTER MICHAEL TOTTEN is photoblogging Hezbollah-occupied Lebanon.

November 29, 2005


November 29, 2005

SOME ANTI-SCIENCE LAWMAKING that has nothing to do with “Intelligent Design.”

November 29, 2005


November 29, 2005


November 29, 2005

GOOD NEWS: “South Korean cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk’s embarrassing ethical lapses have stalled his ambitious expansion plans in the United States and England, but leading scientists in both countries say stem cell research won’t be seriously disrupted by the scandal.” I still think the scandal is overblown anyway.

November 29, 2005


November 29, 2005

DOES THIS MEAN IT’S A BUBBLE? OR THAT IT’S NOT A BUBBLE? New home sales hit record highs. My guess is that it’s a bubble, but my judgment in these matters doesn’t deserve much weight.

November 29, 2005

IN THE MAIL: Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre’s Spychips : How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID. Bruce Sterling calls it “a masterpiece.”

Some people would probably like to see us all wearing these.

UPDATE: Tech reporter Hiawatha Bray emails:

I know and like Katherine Albrecht. I’ve covered her for years and think she’s often rather more paranoid than the facts justify. But in Spychips, she and McIntyre have done their homework and rely almost entirely on actual documents from the companies and trade organizations working on RFID chip applications. The book makes a very persuasive case that some of America’s biggest companies want to embed tracking technology into virtually everything we own, and then study our usage patterns 24 hours a day. It’s a truly creepy book and well worth reading.

Yeah, this is a topic that has attracted its share of paranoia. But sometimes the paranoids are right!

November 29, 2005

BAD REVIEWS FOR BUSH’S IMMIGRATION SPEECH: Neal Boortz: “There was nothing in his speech we haven’t heard before, and his new immigration policy is just as contradictory as the old one. . . . I’m sure representatives of Al-Qaeda are preparing to apply for their guest-worker permits as we speak.”

Michelle Malkin is unhappy, too. And Joe Gandelman has a roundup of reactions.

UPDATE: Bush is charged with rewriting history on the Reagan Amnesty.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Prawfsblawg weighs in: “Yet liberal principles require a drastic reduction of immigration controls. Foreigners flock to our shores because there is demand for their labor. The same principle that supports free trade of goods and services — the law of comparative advantages — applies with equal force to freedom of movement.”

Responses here and here.

November 29, 2005


I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood–unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn. . . .

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America’s bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

A colossal mistake, but one that quite a few seem ready to make, if allowed.

November 29, 2005

IN TODAY’S WALL STREET JOURNAL (free link) a look at John Bolton at the U.N.:

What has confounded John Bolton’s abundant detractors, both American and foreign, is how little he has lived up to their caricature of him as the fire-breathing, unilateralist, neo-conservative pit bull during his first four months as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. . . .

Some call what the U.S. is trying to achieve — with significant support from other countries, notably Japan — the GE-ization of the U.N., that is, introducing the modern management mechanisms of global companies. Together the U.S. and Japan provide more than 40% of U.N. funds (the U.S. 22% and Japan 19%). Among the leading opponents are Pakistan, Egypt and India.

Shockingly, much of the opposition appears to revolve around patronage, perks and pork.

November 29, 2005

CLIVE DAVIS looks at changing media attitudes toward Kyoto.

November 29, 2005

HMM. RETAIL SALES DOLLARS weren’t as good as hoped over the weekend due to heavy discounts, but online sales are up. Are we seeing a shift to shopping online? Certainly in my household, but we’re probably not typical

November 29, 2005

MICKEY KAUS offers lessons for the New York Times from Cable TV.

November 29, 2005

AN IMPORTANT QUESTION to ask those seeking office in 2006 and 2008.

November 28, 2005

BUSH AND BOMBING: A shocking revelation.

November 28, 2005

LOOKING FOR BOOKS? Lots of lists at the Brothers Judd site.

November 28, 2005

G.M. ROPER is taking submissions for a blog carnival on German-American relations.

November 28, 2005

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ offers good advice to the Congressional Republicans: “Get clean or meet your electoral doom, guys. I wouldn’t care so much (about Republicans losing–taking bribes and lying about it we can all hate) if it weren’t ideas that are ultimately the casualties.”

I’d like to see more ideas and less bribery, please. I have to agree with Ralph Peters’ rather limited case for the GOP: “There’s plenty I don’t like about the Bush administration. Its domestic policies disgust me, and the Bushies got plenty wrong in Iraq. But at least they’ll fight.” They’ve been better than the Democrats on the war, all right. But the Republicans have managed to disappoint even my quite low expectations on many other fronts.

UPDATE: Bill Quick is unhappy, too, but draws a lesson.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Steve Galbraith offers this take on today’s political situation:

The current political situation often reminds me of an old saying by Casey Stengel about how to successfully manage a baseball team.

“The key to managing is keeping the 50% of the players who hate you from talking to the other 50% of the players who aren’t quite sure they hate you.”

Right now, both parties are trying to prevent that roughly 50% of the electorate who hate them from convincing some of that other roughly 50% to join with them in their enmity.

And it’s a pretty close race to the bottom, so to speak.

It would be funny, if it weren’t tragic. Meanwhile, read this lengthy post by Joseph Britt.

MORE: GayPatriot is unhappy, too.

Big Cunningham-resignation roundup here.

November 28, 2005

CANADIAN GOVERNMENT FALLS: “A corruption scandal forced a vote of no-confidence Monday that toppled Prime Minister Paul Martin’s minority government, triggering an unusual election campaign during the Christmas holidays.”

UPDATE: Damian Penny has been liveblogging it.

And here’s more from Ed Morrissey, who’s been on this story from day one.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Canadian MP Monte Solberg liveblogged the vote from the floor. (Via Kate McMillan).

Austin Bay has more.

MORE: Reader T.J. Marshman thinks that Ed Morrissey deserves credit for bringing down the Candadian government, by breaking the publication ban on the Gomery investigation. Could be! I started to say that before, but didn’t want to be accused of blogger triumphalism.

MORE STILL: Reader Crash Ringenberg emails:

Conservative bloggers have now taken down Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, and the fricken Canadian Government.

Liberal bloggers have taken down Jeff Gannon and Jim Guckert—oh wait, that’s the same person.

Advantage: Conservatives!

Okay, that’s definitely too much triumphalism, even for a guy named “Crash.”

STILL MORE: On the other hand, Richard Riley says that Crash isn’t triumphalist enough: “Crash left out Trent Lott, Harriet Miers and The Bridge to Nowhere.” Though, contra Crash’s point, it’s worth noting that all of those — especially Lott — were bipartisan efforts.

November 28, 2005

LT. SMASH reports on an anti-war protest that he says was more “anti-victory” than anti-war.

UPDATE: A look at the recruiting numbers. Hey, they’re better than these numbers! I guess it’s more of that reverse-Vietnam phenomenon. . . .

November 28, 2005

SOME FOOL TRIED TO INTIMIDATE MICHELLE MALKIN: The results are about what you’d expect. . . .

Sending legal threat letters to bloggers seldom seems to work out well for the threateners.

November 28, 2005

TOM MAGUIRE: “Is Andrea Mitchell the next Bob Woodward?” Plus, keeping an eye on Tim Russert! And he’s got lots more interesting stuff. Just keep scrolling.

November 28, 2005

CLAY CONRAD offers advice on how to help displaced New Orleans musicians.

November 28, 2005

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE has an item on “self-plagiarism” in law reviews. You can read my views on plagiarism in this chapter from the ethics book I wrote with Peter Morgan. But the short version is that I don’t think that there’s any such thing as “self-plagiarism.” Plagiarism consists in passing off someone else’s words as one’s own, so you can’t self-plagiarize. (Arthur Leff, one of my scholarly heroes, had one passage he repeated in almost everything he wrote. But it always worked. Why change perfection?)

At any rate, like many issues, this is better dealt with by contract than by rule. If law reviews think that too much work they get is repetitive and unoriginal, they’re entirely free to require that no part of any work they publish can have been published before. Problem solved, if problem it is.

November 28, 2005

JOHN FUND says that Democratic and Republican politicians are standing in the way of sensible energy policies.

I’ve had some thoughts on the subject here, and I’ll have some more later on.

November 28, 2005

EUGENE VOLOKH LOOKS AT BLOGS AND BIG MEDIA and makes some useful observations.

November 28, 2005

CHRIS ANDERSON: “The TV broadcasting business stinks.”

November 28, 2005

JON HENKE on the Democrats’ latest Iraq pronouncements:

So, after 2 years of debating Iraq policy, the Democrats have decided that training Iraqi security forces to take over and reducing US deployments as they do—”as Iraq stands up, we will stand down”—is the best course in Iraq? And this epiphany, Richard Cohen writes, may have “pointed the administration and the country toward a realistic and modestly hopeful course on Iraq.” . . .

This was the strategy Bush enunciated in August of 2003, September of 2003, May of 2004, and many other times. It was the strategy outlined in this May 2004 “Fact Sheet: The Transition to Iraqi Self-Government”.

The Democrats have not come up with a new Iraq Policy. They’ve jumped onboard the Bush administration’s existing policy, with the novel new suggestion that we stay the course…but try harder.

Personally, I think that letting them pretend they’re suggesting something novel is a small price to pay for bringing them onboard, if that’s what it accomplishes. I suspect the White House will feel the same way.

Unfortunately, the Democrats’ efforts to look as if they’re presenting something new have led them to wrap their proposals in Vietnamesque language, which has the potential to do damage in and of itself. As I said earlier: “I think that an agreement to withdraw as a democratically elected Iraqi government wants, and in a fashion that ensures it can handle the insurgents, is very different from an immediate unilateral withdrawal at the behest of U.S. politicians who say the war is ‘unwinnable.'”

That kind of language — the “unwinnable” comes from Rep. Murtha — makes a difference, as do the tiresome and inaccurate Vietnam references and “Bush lied” claims, a product of partisan politics and Boomer narcissism.

UPDATE: Reader Rick Skeean emails:

You should say”some narcissistic Boomers”. The way you phrased it makes you guilty of “Boomerism”, a form of bigotry no less pernicious than any “ism.”

Fair enough. Though the narcissist Boomers seem heavily overrepresented in politics and the media. Then again, that makes sense . . . .

MORE: Joe Lieberman, back from Iraq, says he’s encouraged by what he saw.

November 28, 2005

ACCORDING TO THE BBC, the Canadian Government is “set to fall.”

November 28, 2005

A WALKWAY with solar-powered lighted tiles? That’s kind of cool.

November 28, 2005


A federally funded study suggests U.S. farmers, veterinarians and meat processors have a markedly high risk of infection from flu viruses spread by pigs.

Scientists conducting the study, funded in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the fact pigs can be infected by swine viruses, bird viruses and human flu viruses means they act as virtual virus “mixing bowls.”

“The worry is if a pig were to become simultaneously infected with both a human and an avian influenza virus, genes from these viruses could reassemble into a new virus that could be transmitted to, and cause disease in, people,” said NIAID Director Anthony Fauci.

So we need to worry about sanitation on pig farms, not just poultry farms.

November 28, 2005

COCK CROWS, SUN RISES: Donald Sensing predicted it last week, and David Broder writes it this week.

Of course, if Broder weren’t so predictable, he wouldn’t be David Broder.

November 28, 2005

IN RESPONSE TO THE EARLIER REVERSE-VIETNAM POSTS, Armed Liberal Marc Danziger sends a link to this post on the L.A. Times’ antimilitary bias.

UPDATE: Read this post, too.

November 28, 2005

MICHAEL TOTTEN REPORTS from the Lebanese-Israeli border, where things have been hot again. We’re certainly seeing more bloggers-turned-Mideast-reporters lately.

November 28, 2005

EVERYBODY’S DOING CHRISTMAS-GIFT SUGGESTIONS, and Wired offers its “Ultimate Geek Gift Guide.” But I’m not terribly impressed.

Sure, I’d like one of these, but it’s awfully pricey. Unless Bill Gates takes a shine to me, I’m not going to get one for Christmas, and unless I hit the lottery (which would require that I, like, enter the lottery first) I’m not likely to give one, either.

I like their sorting of universal remote controls into “tricky,”complicated,” and, of course, “nightmare”. That certainly seems about right. But it’s not selling me!

And I already got the complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus collection for Christmas last year. (Or was it the year before? At any rate, “I’ve already got one.”) Sorry; I’m a geek, but this doesn’t do it for me.

But hey, Serenity comes out on December 20th. Too bad I’ve already pre-ordered it. Now I actually do need a new blender . . . .

Several readers have emailed asking for gadget recommendations, but my gadget-blogging is mostly about gadgets I’ve bought myself (nobody’s lining up to send me free digital cameras or Xboxes), and the whole book-writing thing has kept me too busy to do much of that lately. If you’ve got any ideas that look better than Wired’s pass ’em on.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

For us broke geeks who cannot afford pricey toys, Think Geek ( has the greatest assortment of mindgames, geeky cubicle toys, and other assorted to goodies guaranteed to light up the geekiest heart.

Yeah, I’ve been boycotting them since a supersmall digital camera I bought was no good. But that’s probably silly on my part — I do tend to be highly loyal to people who give me good experiences, and the contrary to those who don’t — and certainly shouldn’t extend to anyone else.

Meanwhile, Will Collier emails about the “tricky” universal remote:

I bought one of the Logitech Harmony 880 remotes a few weeks ago. The wife had had it with multiplying remote controls, and demanded something simple.

The 880 was, as noted in the Amazon reviews, not a piece of cake to set up. It took me about an hour with the thing plugged into my iBook, loading settings, trying the remote, re-loading settings, and re-testing. That was not fun. Since then though, it’s been no trouble at all. Bottom line: if you get one, be prepared to spend some time getting it configured, but once you do have it set up and tweaked for your system, it’s great. One-button turn-ons for multiple devices and a nice bright color screen with simple labels like “Watch ReplayTV” or “Watch DVDs” are a nice change from the cryptic buttons on most other universal remotes. And the wife likes it.

Of course, I would be even happier if the thing were $150 cheaper, but like Steven Wright once noted, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

Er, everywhere? And here’s a list of book recommendations, from the NRO folks.

November 28, 2005

THE CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS is up! So is the Carnival of Personal Finance.

November 28, 2005

CONTINUING THE REVERSE-VIETNAM THEME, here’s an article from the Christian Science Monitor on how the troops see the war. It’s quite different from what’s on the news:

Like many soldiers and marines returning from Iraq, Mayer looks at the bleak portrayal of the war at home with perplexity – if not annoyance. It is a perception gap that has put the military and media at odds, as troops complain that the media care only about death tolls, while the media counter that their job is to look at the broader picture, not through the soda straw of troops’ individual experiences.

Except that for the most part, what we get from the Big Media is just a different (and utterly predictable and negative) soda-straw view. You want perspective, you have to go to places like StrategyPage. Or blogs like The Belmont Club.

November 28, 2005

THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT is attacking Islamist terrorism by letting the terrorists talk. Experience indicates that the more people know about those guys, the less they like them. (Via ATC).

November 28, 2005

JIM PINKERTON looks at Maureen Dowd and Hugh Hefner.

November 28, 2005

MORE ON GENERAL MOTORS’ PROBLEMS, over at And I wish I’d read this Michael Barone column on the failure of the UAW/GM postwar economic vision.

November 28, 2005

BRUCE WILLIS, inspired by Michael Yon’s blog-reporting from the front, wants to make a pro-war film about Iraq.

November 28, 2005

BLOGGER-TURNED-REPORTER BILL ROGGIO reports back from a patrol on the Iraqi/Syrian border. He also sends this, by email: “My internet access has been limited but I’m having the time of my life in Iraq. I’ve had great access to all of the Marines and soldiers out here, and am being treated like royalty. These guys are extremely frustrated with the media and make no bones about their distaste for those who are undermining the war effort by calling for withdrawal.”

Bill also has a report on Operation Steel Curtain.

UPDATE: Reader Jack Lifton emails:

You had a link this morning to a report from an embedded newsman in Iraq who said that the troops were frustrated by the lack of support from the folks at home (at least from the MSM) and by the operational advice being given to them by strategists from deep in their armchairs.

I worked in military research and development during the Vietnam era. Many of my friends served in Vietnam and some didn’t come home. At no time during that period do I remember morale being as high as it is now in the ranks. In those days a lot of the boys (there were very few girls) didn’t have much education or exposure to high tech. My group designed, manufactured, tested, and trained them in the use of night vision equipment. I remember well our quiet pride and admiration for a soldier who had jumped into a river from a helicopter under fire to retrieve the latest starlight scope that had been lost by an injured comrade, so the enemy would not have access to it. This was at the same time as we all had a good laugh listening to Robert MacNamara tell the country that an electronic fence would keep the enemy at Bay and therefore the boys would be home by Christmas. Those of us working on the “electronic fence” knew that the junkyard dog smart Viet Cong wouldn’t be stopped by this toy or MacNamara’s strategic imagination. I appreciate that MacNamara was frightened by how close we came to nuclear war with the Soviet Union during the amateur hour nightmare of the Bay of Pigs, and that is the only reason I respect him.

Today’s troops are light-years ahead of Vietnam in education and technical awareness. Morale is high. They are fighting an army of thugs who cannot face them one-to-one and so try to “terrorize” the people on whose behalf our soldiers are fighting into asking them to leave. The thugs are in fact doing a good job on the self-absorbed opportunist seekers of power we call our elected representatives. They may have schemed themselves into and paid for some elections, but they don’t represent those of us who know that you need to fight for freedom.

Just another way it’s a reverse Vietnam.

November 27, 2005

HOLIDAY-TRAVEL HELL: I remember seeing the New York Air desk at Washington National literally overrun by a mob once. They deserved it, too. Read this story and see if you think it was deserved here. Excerpt: “One thing for sure is that I’ll remember this Thanksgiving experience long after US Airways is out of business.” Kind of like I remember New York Air . . . .

November 27, 2005

THE CARNIVAL OF THE CATS is up. So is Haveil Havalim.

UPDATE: Also the Carnival of Debt Reduction. And for something different, check out the Carnival of the Mobilists. There’s also the Carnival of the Insanities and the Carnival of Marketing.

And here’s a question: I love digital cameras, but is the Carnival of Digital Cameras just a cheap traffic-getting tool for a corporate pseudo-blog, or is it a genuine item worth linking regularly? Your opinions solicited.

November 27, 2005

IT’S A TWOFER: Don Surber hosts RINO Sightings (NSFW version) and the Carnival of the Vanities.

November 27, 2005


OAK RIDGE – When Oak Ridge High School Principal Becky Ervin ordered the seizure of the latest school newspaper, she unleashed a controversy that’s still unfolding.

An article detailing various birth control methods and a feature about students with tattoos and body piercings triggered the seizure.

School officials searched teachers’ classrooms and desks after hours to confiscate copies of the paper, a teacher and a student say.

If only they were this diligent about teaching math.

UPDATE: This comment on the AtomicTumor blog posts what it says is the article in question. Looks pretty harmless to me.

November 27, 2005

PLAME UPDATE: “A second Time magazine reporter has agreed to cooperate in the CIA leak case and will testify about her discussions with Karl Rove’s attorney, a sign that prosecutors are still exploring charges against the White House aide.” Or somebody, anyway.

November 27, 2005

IT’S A REVERSE-VIETNAM: On Reliable Sources I said that the Plame scandal was a reverse-Watergate, with the press, not the White House, keeping the important secrets about what happened. But looking at the transcript, I see that Iraq is also a reverse Vietnam, as made clear in this statement from UPI correspondent Pamela Hess:


Pam Hess, during Vietnam U.S. officials were often accused of distorting or even lying to the press to try to make it look like the war effort was going better than it was. When you were in Iraq did you feel like you were getting the straight story?

HESS: Certainly from the militarily I did. They have no interest in cooking the books, as it were, they — they understand that they were blamed for Vietnam and what happened, and they don’t want that blame again.

They want people to understand the kind of enemy that they are facing and how long it’s going to take. And frankly, most of them said to me, “Please go back and tell them not to pull us out because we are finally at a point where we have enough people here now on the ground between soldiers and Iraqis that we can actually start doing some good and start turning things around. And if you pull us out, we’re just going to be back here three years from now.”

KURTZ: More optimistic, at least than some of the journalists.

HESS: Yes.

(See it on video here.) In Vietnam, the brass talked happy-talk, the press talked to grunts and reported that the war was going worse than we were told. But now it’s Americans who are talking to the grunts, and, as StrategyPage noted last year, getting a different picture of how the war is going:

So you don’t have to wait for the official version of what’s going on, or for reporters on the scene to get their stories to the folks back home. The troops send email, or pick up the phone, sometimes a cell phone, and call. This has caused a lot of confusion, because the media reports of what’s happening are often at odds with what the troops are reporting. This has been particularly confusing in a year where there’s a presidential election race going on. The Democrats decided to attack the way the war on terror, and particularly the actions in Iraq, was being fought. Part of that approach involved making the situation at the front sound really, really bad. But the troops over there seemed to be reporting a different war. And when troops came home, they were amazed at what they saw in the newspapers and electronic media. Politics and reality don’t mix.

It’s not surprising, then, that the more connection people have to the war, the better they think things are going. That’s precisely the opposite of what we saw in Vietnam, of course.

By the way, I often link Dunnigan’s StrategyPage, but if you’re interested in this kind of stuff you should really check out his books. There are quite a few, but I particularly recommend his primer on all things military, How to Make War, and his book on special forces, The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of U.S. Warfare.

While I was in New York I managed to have breakfast with Dunnigan and Austin Bay, and enjoyed listening in on their conversation. I wish we saw more of that sort of thing in major media — but then it wouldn’t be a reverse-Vietnam, would it?

UPDATE: This seems different, too:

Seventy percent of people surveyed said that criticism of the war by Democratic senators hurts troop morale — with 44 percent saying morale is hurt “a lot,” according to a poll taken by RT Strategies. Even self-identified Democrats agree: 55 percent believe criticism hurts morale, while 21 percent say it helps morale. . . .

Just three of 10 adults accept that Democrats are leveling criticism because they believe this will help U.S. efforts in Iraq. A majority believes the motive is really to “gain a partisan political advantage.”

It’s just not 1969, however much some people might wish otherwise.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein has more: “I’d add that this latest poll—coming as it does on the heels of a forceful Administration counterattack against their critics—suggests what we’ve always known, anyway: down deep, most Americans are optimistic, and will treat with suspicion those who preach US weakness and failure and dishonesty.”

MORE: My colleague Tom Plank, who was leading a platoon in Vietnam while I was learning to ride a two-wheeler, emails:

I saw your post on Reverse Vietnam. I am deeply skeptical of the claim that the military misled the press or the American people about the Vietnam War. It may be that the top political leaders downplayed the costs of the war, and perhaps senior military officers went along with this, but I thought the reporting on the war was nevertheless much more negative than what was actually going on. The idea of the press reporting objectively on the war is I think another urban myth.

Two classic examples: the 1968 Tet Offensive, reported as a great defeat for the US, but which was a victory for the US and which was a devastating loss for the Viet Cong and NVA (essentially resulted in the destruction of the indigenous South Vietnamese Viet Cong).

The second example is the seige at Khe San. This was reported as a defeat for the US, with lots of comparisons to Dien Bien Phu, but the several month long seige at Khe San resulted in the destruction of several NVA divisions at the cost of several hundred US troops. By 1970, the US had defeated the NVA (the indigenous Viet Cong had long been pretty much out of the picture).

The real failure in Vietnam was not to invest in the development of a truly representative democratic government in the south and commit to protect that government from invasion from the north. Of course, then we were primarily interested in fighting communism instead of developing democracy and self determination. In Iraq, I think we have learned to foster self determination, local style.

Well, good point. I was referring to the conventional narrative above, and tried to be properly noncommittal in my phrasing: “the press talked to grunts and reported that the war was going worse than we were told.” But in truth, the extensive, and sometimes obviously deliberate misrepresentation of this war has caused me to revise my confidence in other reporting in the past sharply downward.

Another favorite bit from the Reliable Sources transcript, by the way, is this from Paul Krugman: “If Walter Cronkite were alive — sorry, he is alive.” Heh. Cronkite remains alive, and was most recently heard emitting Grandpa-Simpsonesque complaints about the Internet. Colby Cosh’s valediction: “he seems to lack the vestigial humility one might demand of someone whose preeminence in American life is long vanished, and was based mostly on the parts of his career spent reading other people’s words into a camera lens.” Krugman’s Cronkite-nostalgia is predictable, though, and predictably misplaced.

November 27, 2005

IRELAND VS. THE SCANDINAVIAN MODEL: Some interesting data at Brussels Journal.

November 27, 2005


November 27, 2005

THE MANOLO offers some holiday-shopping fashion principles.

November 27, 2005


November 27, 2005

I’LL BE ON CNN’S “RELIABLE SOURCES” in a little while, talking about the week’s events.

UPDATE: Ian Schwartz has the video.

November 27, 2005

APPARENTLY THE ATTACK DOCUMENTARY DIDN’T WORK — or maybe the counter-documentary did. . . . Anyway, there’s this news about Wal-Mart:

The world’s largest retailer said Saturday that it expects to post a solid 4.3 percent gain in same-store sales for November, helped by better-than expected sales during the post-Thanksgiving day shopping rush. That’s at the midpoint of its growth forecast of 3 to 5 percent. The sales results cover the four-week period through Friday.

Sales seem to be good in general. That’s good economic news, I guess.

November 27, 2005

PLAN B: I THINK THAT DRUG APPROVAL should be based on whether drugs are safe and effective, not on political considerations.

Here’s more from the GAO.

November 27, 2005

WHAT FRANCE NEEDS: More diversity.

November 27, 2005

MORE CIGARETTE PHOTOSHOPPING, courtesy of HarperCollins. Yes, it’s silly, but in a slightly creepy way.

November 27, 2005

HE WAS FOR IT BEFORE HE WAS AGAINST IT: Al Gore on “extraordinary rendition.”

UPDATE: More on posturing here. (Via Don Surber).

November 27, 2005

MADD PEOPLE STAFFING SOBRIETY CHECKPOINTS? Sounds like an abandonment of law enforcement responsibility for the sake of politics.

November 27, 2005

MIDGE DECTER, spiritual mother.

November 26, 2005

NAZIS. I HATE THOSE GUYS. But apparently the folks at Teen People are more flexible in their attitudes.

UPDATE: Dean Esmay isn’t surprised.

November 26, 2005

HERE’S AN AMERICAN EXPAT who’s blogging on the Harbin disaster in China. There’s also a roundup here.

November 26, 2005


November 26, 2005

SO I CAME DOWNSTAIRS and my sister-in-law was laughing out loud at this. Understandable, but that screws my plans to give her one for Christmas. . . .

UPDATE: That produced this email from (I assume — the email address is one of those that gives no information) Bryan Fuller Tim Minear*:

I know, I know, I know! Give her this! And though I was the exec producer, I swear I don’t make a dime. But I can promise she’ll dig it. If not, I’ll personally supply Firefly.

Firefly isn’t up her alley. More like stuff off the Independent Film Channel. Though the main thing that this seems to have in common with Firefly is that the fans liked it but Fox seemed to go out of its way to kill it.

* He emailed almost immediately to correct me.

UPDATE: Reader Mara Schiffren emails:

Tim Minear gives you excellent advice. Wonderfalls is wonderfully quirky and funny. And delightful and witty. And most of all, as is rare on tv, intelligent.

And it’s completely different from Firefly or Angel or The Inside, which are his other recent shows. Of all of them, it’s closest to the sensibility of both the IFC and Lileks (in its humor).

And if not for your sister in law, check it out yourself. The Instawife might like it as well, as it develops intelligent psychological portrayals of its characters.

Actually, I ordered it last night.