Archive for December, 2005

December 23, 2005

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO DUBYA: Rasmussen’s robots show Bush’s approval breaking fifty percent, and investor confidence at a 17-month high.

Consumer confidence, and approval of how the war is going are also up. (Via Red Vee-Dub.)

December 23, 2005

ORIN KERR AND EUGENE VOLOKH look at the question of warrantless radiation surveillance. And read this, too.

December 23, 2005

MYSTERY POLLSTER writes on open-source polling and links to a new article of his in Public Opinion Quarterly that would otherwise be pay-only.

December 23, 2005

A DIEBOLD CRACK-UP? There’s an easy solution.

UPDATE: More here.

December 23, 2005

ACCORDING TO THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION’s report, the story of a U. Mass. Dartmouth student visited by Homeland Security agents because he requested Mao’s Little Red Book from the library appears to be a hoax. Can’t say I’m surprised.

December 23, 2005

ADS: By the way, the PJ Media folks are still testing ads, and your feedback is still welcome. We quickly established that people don’t like ads with annoying, repetitive audio clips though I probably could have told them that up front . . . .

December 23, 2005

STEM CELL GOOD NEWS: Don Ho says he’s feeling “100% better.”

UPDATE: Good news for autologous stem cell transplants, but bad news for embryonic stem cell research:

Scientists fretted Friday that a spectacular cloning fraud that hid in plain sight has set back legitimate stem cell work around the world.

Cloning experts and stem cell scientists said research in the potentially revolutionary field of regenerative medicine will continue unabated. But they said public confidence in their work had been weakened by a sham branded by experts as the most visible case of scientific fraud they could recall.

Scientists also struggled to explain how they didn’t earlier catch the charismatic South Korean veterinarian’s claim in a Science paper published in May that he cloned 11 human embryos to produce stem cells.

This is very unfortunate.

December 23, 2005

AMAZON UPDATE: The Serenity DVD I mentioned below showed up on time today. I guess it was just the notification email that was wrong.

UPDATE: And, on a different truck a few minutes later, came the book I ordered yesterday.

December 23, 2005


There are many criticisms one can make of Washington, and most of them, the result of the intended imperfection of our politics, fall under the heading of “it was ever thus.” But the men and women we send to the nation’s capital have always purported a certain pretense to seriousness on things that mattered–foreign policy and the larger domestic issues. The year 2005 was a large fall from seriousness.

Charles Krauthammer:

2005 was already the year of the demagogue, having been dominated for months by the endlessly echoed falsehood that the president “lied us into war.” But the year ends with yet another round of demagoguery.

Read the whole thing(s).

December 23, 2005

MORE ON THE IRAQI ELECTIONS from Omar at Iraq the Model, and also at Publius, who seems to be taking charges of fraud seriously.

December 23, 2005

CASS SUNSTEIN was on Hugh Hewitt’s show talking about the NSA intercepts. The transcript is here.

December 23, 2005

R.I.P., JIM HAWKINS: Yes, blogging has been light — and somewhat distracted — the past few days. That’s because Jim Hawkins died last weekend. A friend of mine, and an even closer friend of my brother’s, he was a fine human being. He raced cars and snowmobiles, skydived, and played guitar in rundown blues bars. (In Knoxville, he played with the late Sara Jordan of The Jordan Project.) But he died not from any of those activities, but from lung cancer at the age of 40. It was a sad ending to a good life, and more proof that in this world you don’t always get what you deserve.

I remember him as always cheerful, even when things were going badly. At the memorial service, it was obvious how many lives he had touched, and how much he meant to many people. (I found out last night that he went out Christmas carolling every year with the family of a friend from Junior High School, something that I never would have guessed about him).

Jim developed very serious and aggressive lung cancer, fought it through the entire round of chemotherapies, and died with grace and dignity, leaving his wife, family and friends sad, but with memories of his strength and courage that are an obvious comfort to them (and us) even now, and that will be more so with the passage of time. We should all go out so well, if not so soon.

His death is a reminder that we should live life well, while we can. Jim certainly did.


December 22, 2005

THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE responds on the NSA matter. (Via The Corner).

December 22, 2005

ENTROPY MANOR WILL BE HOSTING the next Digital Camera Carnival.

December 22, 2005

HEH, indeedy.

December 22, 2005

IT’S NOT FUNNY, but it is kind of fitting, somehow: “Three men were stabbed and three were shot during the New York release party for slain rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s CD, ‘Duets: The Final Chapter.'”

December 22, 2005

KOFI ANNAN LOSES IT: Claudia Rosett talks about why.

December 22, 2005

CORY MAYE UPDATE: Radley Balko has posted transcripts.

December 22, 2005


Are you hearing anything about Amazon having an awful Christmas season for delays and cancellations? I have 2 shipments that still haven’t left them and 1 in transit – all ordered at the beginning of December. Our daughter-in-law is in the same situation, even though she ordered at the end of November. I have heard the these sorts of complaints from a couple of other moms, though I don’t know their details of ordering. It has been years since I went “to the mall” for Christmas shopping, because on-line with Amazon and others has always been so satisfactory, but anecdotally at least something is bad wrong.

PS If they would quit filling my in-box with e-mails suggesting that I order by the 23rd for Christmas delivery, I might be more tolerant, LOL.

Yeah. I’ve been getting some deliveries very quickly — yesterday I got a DVD I had ordered the day before. And I just ordered a book that promised delivery tomorrow. On the other hand, I got an email today saying that the Serenity DVD I had ordered had shipped via UPS — but that I wouldn’t get it until 12/27. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a UPS problem, or maybe glitches are just inevitable this time of year. I haven’t heard anything, and their home page is still pushing 1-day “accelerated delivery.” What are you folks experiencing?

Anyway, to be safe I just bought one of these (the old one died, and this one has an iPod dock!) and chose to pick it up at Circuit City rather than have it shipped, just in case.

UPDATE: Mixed reviews so far. Reader John Pike emails:

hey, glenn….like a good instapundit reader I ordered serenity (for my geeky but sexy girlfriend) from amazon on 12/19 and specified 2-day delivery….received it yesterday on the 21st…see attached screen shot from Amazon…

I have probably gotten 12-15 packages from Amazon in the past 2 weeks; none took longer than expected (I also ordered a 32-inch LCD tv that made it here in 4 days).

Geeky but sexy? Geeky is sexy! On the other hand, reader David Hodges emails:

I ordered a Christopher Buckley book on December 6 and it still hasn’t come yet. I e-mailed them and said if I didn’t receive it by Friday that I would cancel my order. The only explanation I got was holiday glitches. I suspect they are having a lot of trouble with orders right now.

Reader Kevin Myers emails:

Regarding your post about Amazon shipping, I ordered a digital camera from them to arrive before Christmas. It was advertised to ship within 24 hours, after that time period they placed it in the dreaded “shipping soon” phase where I couldn’t cancel it. They charged my credit card, and it was still “shipping soon”. When I emailed to complain (after 4 days) they assured me it would arrive by the 23rd, even gave me a $15 gift certificate (which leads me to believe they know they’re having problems). The next day the item went back to “not yet shipped” and I was sent an email saying it wouldn’t ship until after Christmas.

As I told them, it would have been nice if I would have been told sooner of their problem in inventory as I could have purchased the camera somewhere else. I also checked the item again on their site, and it is still listed as shipping within 24 hours.

And reader Eric Owens emails:

I had ordered a ton of stuff for Christmas, on December 4. None had been delivered. I finally called, using the online call feature. The problem was that Amazon planned to ship all the items at once (an option I may or may not have selected) and one item (which shall remain unnamed lest the recipient be a reader of instapundit) was backlogged.

I canceled that one thing, causing everything else to get shipped pretty much immediately. Then, I ordered the backlogged item through a z-shop, and I am confident it will arrive on time since most of the z-shops are just little stores throughout the country, without huge warehouses.

Maybe others will have success with this method if they are having problems.

Good point. I’ve had that problem before, though since I got “Amazon Prime” with free shipping, I just set everything to ship as items come available, rather than consolidating orders to save on shipping.

And reader Ryan Kelley emails:

Hey Glenn. I had two shipments put in on the 13th and 15th that hadn’t shipped. One just went out this morning and they put it as 2-day UPS shipping (even though it was ‘Super Saver’). I’m betting the other goes out today too and both arrive on my doorstep tomorrow.

I had the same experience last year. I started to get concerned but they ended up getting it to me on time. Looks like they’re doing it again this year. I don’t think it’s particularly good marketing but this year I’m not freaking out. They did say it’d be here on the 23rd when I ordered them.

It doesn’t sound as if they’re having huge problems, but obviously if you’re ordering stuff today and absolutely have to have it tomorrow, well, you could be taking a chance. But then, it is December 22d.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lots more emails, reporting both good and bad experiences, in roughly equal proportions. Doesn’t sound like they’re having a big systemic problem, but some stuff is falling through the cracks, which I guess is no surprise. My email is proof that Amazon enjoys a lot of customer loyalty, but that you can lose that loyalty pretty fast if people have a bad experience.

December 22, 2005


As Ryan Sager noted this morning, the strike opened up a class war — just not the one the union was expecting. “[T]here is a class confrontation of a kind going on — but it’s not between rich and poor. It’s between the working class and what might be called the government-worker class. The gap between the two groups has been growing for a while.” He notes the impact of the quickly (but not quickly-enough) removed blog comments, too.

December 22, 2005

A HARD-HITTING INTERVIEW by Erin Chapin — though sitting in the interviewee’s lap probably violates some sort of rule of journalistic ethics.

December 22, 2005

THE BALTICS and the new Berlin-Moscow Gas Pact. Brussels Journal has the scoop.

December 22, 2005

IN THE MAIL: A new Harry Turtledove book, Every Inch a King. I swear, he’s the most prolific writer in science fiction and fantasy I can think of.

December 22, 2005


December 22, 2005


Fashioned by the state’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Nanotechnology, the report represents California’s second attempt in recent years to position itself at the forefront of a potential superscience, although the approach would presumably be different than in 2004, when voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 71, the $3 billion stem cell research initiative.

The report, obtained by The Chronicle, says the governor, state and federal legislators, and state bureaucracies must jump into nanotechnology, an emerging field that visionaries say could transform much of human life and be a major engine of the future world economy, generating hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars annually. While the report also addresses ethical, safety and environmental concerns, it urges California to act quickly or risk losing its nanotech edge to other states and nations.

True — though lowering real estate prices in Silicon Valley would help that, too.

December 22, 2005

PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW if I’m going to rerun the Digital Camera Carnival again this week. Nope! If anybody else wants to host one, go ahead.

December 22, 2005

HMM: “[T]he UK will start recording the movements of all vehicles on the roads, upgrading the already existing CCTV network so that they can automatically read license plates numbers as they pass by, and keeping that information for two years. And with no FISA court authorization.” This gives me an idea: Perhaps Bush should simply say that he’s surrendering to critics’ demands that we take a “more European” approach to national security.

December 22, 2005

I’LL GIVE UP MY IPOD AND MY XM2Go when they pry them from my cold, dead hands. Which this guy thinks might not be such a bad idea:

“Our culture is about distraction, numbing oneself,” said David Greenfield, a Connecticut psychologist who specializes in high-tech issues. “There is no self-reflection, no sitting still. It’s absolutely exhausting.” . . .

“Part of the reason is the hype, the commercial selling of it,” he said. “Some people feel the products will improve the quality of their lives. But do we really need to be connected in every way, shape or form?”

So are we numbed, or connected? Either way, I think he’s wrong. I think the gadgets really do improve my life, and I’d hate to do without laptops, iPods, etc.

December 22, 2005

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ: “Why American Muslims Stay Silent.”

December 22, 2005


New York commuters began Day 3 without subways and buses Thursday, and union leaders faced a court date to explain why they shouldn’t be held in criminal contempt for halting the city’s mass transit system.

As legal and financial pressures mounted on the union, State Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones ordered Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Roger Toussaint and his deputies to appear in court Thursday, warning jail time was a “distinct possibility.”

Many will cheer, I suspect, if this happens.

December 21, 2005

ARE BLOGGERS a sickly lot?

December 21, 2005

MEGAN MCARDLE has more on the NYC Transit strike:

The people being hurt by the strike, unfortunately, are mostly people who make less than the transit workers do. Small businesses are being gutted by this; the last few days before Christmas is the busiest time of the year for most retail establishments, and their customers can’t get to them. One of the news shows had small businessmen complaining that this was going to bankrupt them, and I’ve no doubt that it’s true for at least some of New York’s retail stores, which often operate on a shoestring.

Meanwhile, poor workers, who tend to work hourly, are losing salary that they can ill-afford.

Read this, too.

December 21, 2005

NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: If you’d like to donate to the Foresight Institute before year-end (disclosure: I’m on their board) you can go here to do it — donations are being matched 1-1 up to $40,000.

And here’s a link to Foresight’s nanotechnology roadmap project.

December 21, 2005


The U.S. economy grew at the fastest pace in 1 1/2 years in the summer as booming auto sales offset the adverse effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But the year is expected to end with much slower growth.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported Wednesday that the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic health, grew at a 4.1 per cent annual rate from July through September.

That was down from a 4.3 per cent estimate made a month ago but it was still the fastest pace since early 2004. The gain was even more remarkable considering that the country was hit by devastating hurricanes and gasoline prices that topped $3 US per gallon.

Let’s hope this lasts.

December 21, 2005

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Mark Tapscott has two pieces of interesting news.

December 21, 2005

DAN DARLING: “CIA Director Porter Goss and FBI Director Mueller’s visits to Turkey received extremely little attention in the Western press, but from the stuff that’s leaked out in the Turkish press, there is reason to think that it might do well for all of us to pay attention to what’s going on there.”

December 21, 2005

LUTTIG SLAPS THE ADMINISTRATION in the Padilla case, suggesting that claims that the Fourth Circuit is a “constitution-free zone” were, um, premature.

December 21, 2005

OMAR has more on the Iraqi elections.

UPDATE: Still more from Omar here, and worries from Publius. I’m not sure what to make of events so far, but Kaus’s argument that more, closer-together elections would be better is looking pretty good.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Michael McFatter thinks Publius’s concerns are premature:

But this is precisely the point at which democrats don’t exchange blows and instead follow the law. His characterization of “real liberal democracy” being composed of groups who are genuinely “working for the better of the whole country” is I think a little Pollyannish. What distinguishes real liberal democracies from psuedo-democracies is that when a crisis has arisen, like now, leaders seek a resolution which involves compromise on both sides within the rule of law. We have yet to see what Iraqis will do, but this was always going to be the riskiest part of the plan. Will they truly reject quasi-fascist tribalism for peace and prosperity or will the region persist in the road to self-destruction. It’s always been in their hands. Our invasion and assistance has only made the choice explicit and more immediate.

Democratization is a process, not an event. We’ll soon see just how far along in the process we’ve progressed.

MORE: Tom Friedman and Greg Djerejian share guarded optimism, and a cab.

December 21, 2005

MAX BOOT wonders what happened to concern about leaks hurting national security?

December 21, 2005

JOHN SCHMIDT, who was Associate Attorney General under Clinton, says that the President has inherent authority to wiretap suspected terrorists for national security reasons.

President Bush’s post- Sept. 11, 2001, authorization to the National Security Agency to carry out electronic surveillance into private phone calls and e-mails is consistent with court decisions and with the positions of the Justice Department under prior presidents.

This may or may not be right as a matter of law, but as with the Jamie Gorelick testimony I noted below, it undercuts the silly notion that this argument is a novel creation of the out-of-control Bushitler regime.

UPDATE: Orin Kerr has more thoughts on the story. In answer to one of his concerns, the question of U.S. jurisdiction over satellites does not depend on whether they are over the United States, but rather on whether they are carried on the U.S. registry. Whether this impacts the Fourth Amendment analysis is not clear; the argument as to whether the constitution “follows the flag” onto U.S. spacecraft is unsettled, though the answer is probably “not necessarily.” That topic gets more discussion here; should it become more important I’ll post something on it.

Meanwhile, via the comments to Orin’s post, here’s a post by Cass Sunstein that also supports the Bush Administration’s position:

It is therefore reasonable to say that the AUMF, by authorizing the use of “all necessary and appropriate force,” also authorizes surveillance of those associated with Al Qaeda or any other organizations that “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks” of September 11.

The reason is that surveillance, including wiretapping, is reasonably believed to be an incident of the use of force. It standardly occurs during war. If the President’s wiretapping has been limited to those reasonably believed to be associated with Al Qaeda and its affiliates — as indeed he has said — then the Attorney General’s argument is entirely plausible.

Read the whole thing; we don’t know, of course, exactly who was being wiretapped, which matters. Regardless, the Bushitler claims seem quite ill-founded.

UPDATE: Bill Quick says the press doesn’t care about the history here.

December 21, 2005

ERIC UMANSKY writes that the New York Times is unfair to a pro-democracy program.

December 21, 2005

WILL THE ’06 ELECTIONS BE LIKE ’02? The Hotline blog thinks they might.

UPDATE: James Somers emails:

If you’d asked me (and you didn’t) three months ago, I would have said ’06 is looking like ’94. But it is indeed heading towards the ’02 paradigm now instead. The “domestic spying” issue reinforces this. I expect CNN, CBS, etc, will be too frightened to actually commission a poll on the NSA wiretap issue. They know what they’ll find – a solid majority of Americans is going to have no problem with what the Administration has done here. In fact, they probably already assumed it was doing exactly this sort of thing.

But for some people, it’s always 1972 – you know, back when George McGovern won in a landslide because Americans were anti-Vietnam war.


December 21, 2005

A SUCCESS FOR DEMOCRACY ACTIVISTS in Hong Kong, according to this report from Gateway Pundit.

December 21, 2005

IN THE MAIL: Tobias Buckell’s Crystal Rain. The cover art, as I think you’ll agree, is delightfully retro, and it gets an excellent blurb from Cory Doctorow.

December 21, 2005

DAVID WHITE says the White House has finally woken up.

December 21, 2005

DAN GILLMOR is launching a nonprofit and nonpartisan Center for Citizens’ Media: “We need a thriving media and journalism ecosystem. We need what big institutions do so well, but we also need the bottom-up — or, more accurately, edge-in — knowledge and ideas of what I’ve called the “former audience” that has become a vital part of the system. I’m also anxious to see that it’s done honorably and in a way that helps foster a truly informed citizenry. I think I can help.”

I’m a fan of Dan’s, and I hope to help too.

December 21, 2005

DENSITY IS DESTINY: An interesting look at sprawl, urbanization, and the red-blue divide.

December 21, 2005


December 20, 2005

TIGERHAWK looks at victory conditions.

December 20, 2005


December 20, 2005

ARS TECHNICA has more on the technology angle to the NSA story. Note the lengthy history.

December 20, 2005

BLOGGING: Bigger than sex? Maybe. But is it bigger than sex with apes?

And who knew that when Bart Simpson said “God, Schmod, I want my monkey-man!” he was channeling Joseph Stalin?

UPDATE: N.Z. Bear has thoughts on blogging and sex that mirror my own.

But whatever you think about ape sex, ape art rocks!

December 20, 2005

JONAH GOLDBERG = HITLER? They both like dogs.

December 20, 2005

PLAME UPDATE: BOB WOODWARD says that Novak’s source wasn’t in the White House. Hmm. Was it Jay Rockefeller?

Oops, wrong leak scandal. (I think). Meanwhile, Tom Maguire has a candidate.

December 20, 2005

GOT THE XM antenna/headphone combination that I mentioned last week, and it works very well. Definitely an improvement over the clipon that comes with the set.

December 20, 2005

DARFUR UPDATE: Alas, it’s more bad news.

December 20, 2005

PROF. TOM SMITH on the NSA flap: “There probably is a law review article here (though one a top 20 review would never publish, because they would not be able to understand it) about how to adapt the law of search to technologies that depend on much more sophisticated treatments of probability than ‘probable cause.'”

The Belmont Club has related thoughts.

December 20, 2005

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Mark Tapscott reports that the Alaska “Bridge to Nowhere” is a family matter for Alaskan Republican Rep. Don Young:

Whatever the policy grounds underlying Young’s determined advocacy of the projects, evidence has emerged that the issue is also a family matter, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

The Alaska paper reports that Young’s son-in-law, Art Nelson, is a minority participant in a partnership that owns a prime 60-acre tract of land near the Knik Arm project. Nelson, who is also Chairman of the Alaska Board of Fisheries, owns a 10 percent share of Point Bluff LLC, which has four other members.

I’m shocked, shocked to hear this.

UPDATE: Reader Steve Wells emails:

The benefits of Young’s family are not disputed, but a quick correction: that’s not the bridge to nowhere. The bridge to nowhere would link Ketchikan, a city in the extreme southeast of Alaska, with Gravina Island, which has a population of 50 people. It also is where the Ketchikan airport is. The bridge that would benefit Don Young’s family, though, is across the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet. It would be a bridge across a tidal inlet right next to Anchorage and would open up a great deal of acreage in close proximity to Anchorage as well as cut substantial commute time from some outlying communities. It really is not a bridge to nowhere and would be beneficial.

However, having said that, I want to say that 1) I’m not at all surprised that Don Young’s family will benefit; and 2) Alaska has more than enough money to pay for the bridge itself and we should not rely upon Congress to pay for it. I would make this modest proposal: Alaska, whether through the State or through private enterprise (which would be much preferable to my libertarian/anarchist politics), builds both bridges and Congress lets us drill in ANWR.

Yes, that’s clear if you follow the link to read the story, but I guess not really from the excerpt.

December 20, 2005

THE NYC TRANSIT WORKERS’ UNION has an unofficial blog, and it’s getting an earful in the comments. Here are some excerpts:

[S]econdly, if i could meet the masterminds behind this strike, i’d personally spit in each of their faces. I know fifty people at my campus who now cannot return to their families for the holiday season, and are being forced to spend their break in a hotel off campus until the transit system is running again. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves doing something this stupid this time of the year. Every single worker participating in the strike is extremely selfish and short sighted.

December 20, 2005

MORE ON THE WHOLE NSA STORY: I don’t have much to add on the legal analysis linked to earlier, though I still wonder why, exactly, the Administration didn’t just go through FISA. Noah Schachtman continues to pursue the technological theory — that the methodology being used didn’t fit under the FISA umbrella.

Independent from the question of whether this is legal, of course, is the separate charge that the program represents a Bushitlerian departure from prior standards. That seems to be hard to maintain — in many ways, Bush’s policies are merely a continuation of those under Clinton, only with somewhat more vigor post 9/11. If you want to look back on the Clinton Administration as some sort of civil-liberties golden age, you probably shouldn’t read this report from the CATO Institute entitled “Dereliction of Duty: The Constitutional Record of President Clinton.” But here’s a relevant excerpt:

The Clinton administration has repeatedly attempted to play down the significance of the warrant clause. In fact, President Clinton has asserted the power to conduct warrantless searches, warrantless drug testing of public school students, and warrantless wiretapping.

The Clinton administration claims that it can bypass the warrant clause for “national security” purposes. In July 1994 Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick told the House Select Committee on Intelligence that the president “has inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches for foreign intelligence purposes.” [51] According to Gorelick, the president (or his attorney general) need only satisfy himself that an American is working in conjunction with a foreign power before a search can take place. . . .

It is unclear why the president made warrantless roving wiretaps a priority matter since judges routinely approve wiretap applications by federal prosecutors. According to a 1995 report by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, it had been years since a federal district court turned down a prosecutor’s request for a wiretap order. [68] President Clinton is apparently seeking to free his administration from any potential judicial interference with its wiretapping plans. There is a problem, of course, with the power that the president desires: it is precisely the sort of unchecked power that the Fourth Amendment’s warrant clause was designed to curb. As the Supreme Court noted in Katz v. United States (1967), the judicial procedure of antecedent justification before a neutral magistrate is a “constitutional precondition,” not only to the search of a home, but also to eavesdropping on private conversations within the home. [69]

President Clinton also lobbied for and signed the Orwellian Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which is forcing every telephone company in America to retrofit its phone lines and networks so that they will be more accessible to police wiretaps.

Whether this view is right or not is a separate question from the easy-to-refute claim that it’s an entirely unprecedented creation of the power-mad Bushitler Administration. It’s odd, then, that it’s the easy-to-refute claim that’s being pushed.

If you’d like more on this topic, Jeff Goldstein has a huge, link-rich roundup.

UPDATE: Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for 1979!

December 20, 2005

GOOD NEWS FROM FREEDOM HOUSE: “The number of electoral democracies around the world rose from 119 to 122 this year, setting a new record as freedom made inroads in the Middle East and Africa, an independent monitoring group said.”

December 20, 2005

I THINK MICHAEL KELLY would have loved Michael Yon. What do you think?

December 20, 2005

IN THE MAIL: Lincoln’s Wrath: Fierce Mobs, Brilliant Scoundrels, and a President’s Mission to Destroy the Press, by Jeff Manber and Neil Dahlstrom. Some of the rhetoric sounds, um, familiar.

Also a new documentary, Saddam Hussein: Weapon of Mass Destruction. It’s got a very positive blurb from Ben Stein: “I watched it and was overwhelmed. You are a saint to have made it.”

The house documentarian was anxious to watch it, so perhaps she’ll post a review, too.

December 20, 2005

INTELLIGENT DESIGN found to be a “pretext” for religious instruction in public schools. You can read excerpts from the opinion here, courtesy of AP.

UPDATE: Via Howard Bashman, here’s the opinion in full.

December 20, 2005

A MESSAGE from someone with “absolute moral authority.” I eagerly await Maureen Dowd’s reaction.

December 20, 2005

EVEN THOUGH I put up the big book recommendation post last night, people keep sending stuff in. I’ll see what I can do with it.

December 20, 2005

MARSHALL WITTMAN thinks the Democrats are blowing it on national security. “Rather than the 2006 election being about the GOP’ s weak ethics, it may be about the Democrats’ anemic defense credentials.”

Personally, I wish the two parties were both good on defense, so I could pay more attention to other issues.

December 20, 2005

WORKING AT HOME: The Wall Street Journal reports that telecommuters get less respect:

Many people seem to think that jobs that can be done at home aren’t real jobs. Never mind that home-office dwellers are their own cafeteria staff, shipping-and-receiving clerks and janitors. They never get credit for cutting an employer’s costs, or saving commuting time to do more work. Instead, managers believe that if they aren’t there to witness someone working, it can’t be happening. They envision homebound workers getting away with something, like lounging in their bathrobes and watching “General Hospital.”

It’s as if they believe that the people working under their noses don’t waste a tremendous amount of time talking about last night’s college basketball game, making bids on eBay, or reading only like-minded blogs while on company time. The misconceptions are yet another indication that vacuous symbols of productivity, rather than productivity itself, are all that really count.

Read the whole thing. This sounds funny, but it actually matters, in terms of energy efficiency and environmental cleanliness.

December 20, 2005

EARLY ELECTION RESULTS are coming out in Iraq. Omar has a report, and people aren’t happy about how well the religious parties did. Here’s more from Kerry DuPont.

Note that, as Omar reported yesterday, the preliminary results leaking out aren’t official, aren’t complete, and seem to be being leaked as an effort to stir things up on behalf of various factions. So stay tuned to see how things develop.

UPDATE: And, in fact, see Omar’s update to see how fast things change.

December 20, 2005

NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT WORKERS ARE ON STRIKE: This leads Evan Coyne Maloney to comment:

So, we should all give a big Christmas thank you to the Transit Workers Union, who in calling the strike, have become the Grinches for many New Yorkers. We should also reassess the wisdom of allowing our governments and transportation systems to be held hostage by unions.

Read the whole thing.

December 20, 2005

WHY A FEDERAL VIDEOGAME LAW is a bad idea: My TechCentralStation TCS Daily column is up.

December 20, 2005


December 19, 2005

THIS IS TROUBLING: “About 150 pounds of commercial plastic explosives has disappeared from a private storage site, along with 2,500 blasting caps and 20,000 feet of explosive detonation cord, authorities said Monday.” These things usually turn out to be just ordinary industrial theft, not terrorism. I hope this turns out that way.

December 19, 2005

BOLIVIA HAS ELECTED A SOCIALIST who promises to legalize coca production. I expect Evo Morales to be another tedious Latin American lefty disaster, but I don’t think the coca-legalization move is so dumb. The anti-coca program has been a disaster, and ineffective to boot. And contrary to what Gateway Pundit jokes, I think this is probably bad news for crack dealers.

Legalize the stuff, tax it like tobacco, and let the trial lawyers sue sellers for any product defects or dangers. Morales won’t know what hit him.

December 19, 2005


Montana Sen. Max Baucus, ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, is donating $18,892 he once got from Abramoff’s clients and associates to seven tribal colleges in his state. The committee is part of a wide-ranging congressional investigation of Abramoff’s activities.

Included in the total is an estimated $1,892 that was never reported for the use of Abramoff’s skybox at the MCI (NASDAQ:MCIP) Center in downtown Washington, D.C., in March 2001. . . .

North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, ranking Democrat on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, returned $67,000 in donations earlier this month. That committee is also investigating Abramoff.

Somebody was complaining that I haven’t paid enough attention to Abramoff. Hope this makes ’em happy!

December 19, 2005

TOM MAGUIRE explains all.

December 19, 2005

WANT TO DO SOMETHING FOR THE TROOPS this Christmas? Visit, Operation Gratitude, and

December 19, 2005

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS: I asked for ’em, and I got ’em! Here goes:

Reader Michael Gebert writes:

For good history, I would champion the author William Lee Miller, who’s written two books which knocked the cobwebs off a familiar era– America around the time of the Civil War. Arguing About Slavery is about the debates in Congress over slavery (and the debate over whether Congress even had the right to debate it, etc.); full of wonderfully overripe chunks of 19th century bloviation from the Congressional records of the day, it also shows how the South, by overplaying its hand, turned Northern public opinion toward abolition, a lesson in the excesses of extremism which certain members of Congress could certainly learn from today. And Lincoln’s Virtues is a terrific book about Lincoln the practical politician and how he balanced his ideals with what it took to win office and be effective; a great book about how you can achieve power without losing your soul and, indeed, accomplishing in the end exactly what you set out to do.

TigerHawk emails:

The three most interesting/entertaining books that I read in the last year:

The Right Nation, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. Two British reporters discuss the rise of the American right over 40 years. They are so balanced in their analysis that it is almost impossible to divine the political opinions of the authors. Simply the best book on American politics that I have ever read.

New Glory, by Ralph Peters. Beautifully written, Peters spares almost nobody in this analysis of American geopolitics. Whether on the inside of the Bush administration or to its left or right, there is something in this book that will challenge your assumptions and force you to confront your own biases.

Old Boys, by Charles McCarry. A very thought-provoking spy novel by a former spy, both literate and entertaining. How retired old cold warriors on the outside limber up to rescue a comrade and interdict an Islamist nuclear weapon, all in the same very black op. A stupendous thriller by an unheralded master of the craft.

Jefferson Perkins emails:

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Perhaps the most important philosophical work of the 20th Century, and I don’t think it’s going to be recommended by most of today’s faculty. One liberal friend of mine refuses to even read it, his mind might be poisoned or something — Written in 1957, it is as eerily prescient as de Toqueville in some matters, such as the expansion in size and power of the federal government.

The Federalist Society’s little booklet containing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. Although it’s a little dated, as Hayek focussed on post WWII “Central Planning” rather than other governmental mischief.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the best fantasy series ever written, period. I don’t know whether these works have been elevated into “English Literature” as yet — but they should be.

Richard Kemmer writes, “This book about the Reformation is superb.”

Kirsten Mortenson emails:

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann. Very well-written survey of the latest research & analysis of pre-Columbian Native American culture. Couldn’t put it down.

Shakespeare: The Biography, Peter Ackroyd. This is what I’m reading now. I adore Ackroyd. I’ve also read “London” and have a couple other of his books on my Amazon wish list. Now if I can just get my dad to part with his complete Shakespeare that he claims to have in the attic :-)

Ernesto Suarez writes: “The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB And The Battle For The Third World. I read it. It’s an excellent and well documented book that definitely gives a different perspective about the history of international relations for the past almost 50. years. I highly recommend it.”

Mike Erickson writes:

If you are interested in the history of the space program may want to look at my brother’s book.

Since it was written on the government’s nickel, you can also download a complete and unabridged pdf.

It is quite interesting to read various expert’s opinion of the need (or lack thereof) for human space flight from an earlier era, and how it is echoed by many today.

Hey, if we’re going to plug brothers’ books, let me take a moment to plug my brother’s book, Trading Tastes : Commodity and Cultural Exchange to 1750 — or his other book, Africa in World History. Buy ’em both — they’re great stocking stuffers!

I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch, but there are lots more recommendations at the Big Tent history blog.

December 19, 2005

WANT A NIKON D200 for Christmas? So do a lot of people.

December 19, 2005


President Bush’s approval rating has surged in recent weeks, reversing what had been an extended period of decline, with Americans now expressing renewed optimism about the future of democracy in Iraq, the campaign against terrorism and the U.S. economy, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News Poll.

Bush’s overall approval rating rose to 47 percent, up from 39 percent in early November, with 52 percent saying they disapprove of how he is handling his job. His approval rating on Iraq jumped 10 percentage points since early November to 46 percent, while his rating on the economy rose 11 percentage points to 47 percent. A clear majority, 56 percent, said they approve of the way Bush is handling the fight against terrorism — a traditional strong point in his reputation that nonetheless had flagged to 48 percent in the November poll. . . . A solid majority (60 percent) agrees with Bush on his opposition to setting a timetable for withdrawing forces. Of the 39 percent who favor a deadline, 31 percent would like to see all U.S. troops removed by the end of next year. The poll also found Americans slightly more receptive to a candidate for Congress next year who opposes a timetable than to one who supports a timetable.

This poll predates last night’s speech and this morning’s press conference, of course.

December 19, 2005

BRENDAN O’NEILL: “Bin Laden’s script: ghost-written in the West.” Plus there’s this:

Is it that the dumbing down of public life is now so complete that even a loon like bin Laden can get five stars from literary pundits for saying things like ‘kill the Americans and seize their money wherever and whenever [you] find them’ (December 1998) and ‘My kidneys are all right’ (November 2001)?

I think he stole that last from The Who, with a slight translation error creeping in . . . . Read the whole thing, which is a pretty damning indictment of a lot of literary — and political — punditry.

December 19, 2005

ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR: Where I usually wind up . . . .

December 19, 2005

ORIN KERR has a big post on the NSA surveillance story. Excerpt:

My answer is pretty tentative, but here it goes: Although it hinges somewhat on technical details we don’t know, it seems that the program was probably constitutional but probably violated the federal law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. My answer is extra-cautious for two reasons. First, there is some wiggle room in FISA, depending on technical details we don’t know of how the surveillance was done. Second, there is at least a colorable argument — if, I think in the end, an unpersuasive one — that the surveillance was authorized by the Authorization to Use Miltary Force as construed in the Hamdi opinion.

Meanwhile, Marty Lederman also has a long post, and observes:

In his press conference this morning, the President focused on two things: (i) defending the legality of his Executive Orders authorizing eavesdropping of conversations involving U.S. persons (including citizens); and (ii) scolding Senators for refusing to reenact the PATRIOT Act.

What virtually no one is pointing out is the incongruity of these two arguments — that if the President is correct about the legality of his wiretapping protocol, then there is little need to reenact the PATRIOT Act.

Read the whole thing(s).

UPDATE: Daniel Solove has more.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ann Althouse observes: “Members of Congress were briefed about the program in the past and did not see fit to take a position about it one way or the other. They were content to let the President act and but feel pressured to do something now that the program is no longer secret. Let’s see what they do.”

She also notes that Bush seems awfully relaxed and confident when this topic comes up. I wonder why?

DefenseTech says it’s all about new technology — and has the coolest illustration so far on this topic!

And Tom Maguire looks at what Congress knew and when it knew it. The 1990s?

MORE: Tom Smith responds to Orin Kerr’s post. The blogosphere is certainly producing more erudite commentary by law professors than the MSM-osphere.

December 19, 2005

A PACK, NOT A HERD: Rand Simberg notices something in the Miami plane crash response.

December 19, 2005

MICHAEL TOTTEN has a long, and mostly depressing, interview with Egyptian blogger Big Pharaoh — but with one spot of good news.

December 19, 2005

I DIDN’T SEE BUSH’S PRESS CONFERENCE, but here’s a post at Dartblog. And both Michelle Malkin and AnkleBitingPundits liveblogged it.

UPDATE: Meryl Yourish says that something was missing from Bush’s speech last night. And Laurence Simon notes that there’s a transcript — and video — of Bush’s press conference online already at the White House website. They seem to be getting quicker. Laurence observes: “Kinda makes you wonder when Presidents won’t bother asking ‘The Big Three’ networks for airtime and instead ask the wireless providers for videostreaming to wireless phones time.”

Sooner than the Big Three would like, I expect . . . .

December 19, 2005


The IECI stressed repeatedly that no results should be considered official until the commission itself announces the final results but still, numbers and percentages keep leaking from different sources, including people in the commission.

The worries of voters are being fueled by the announcements that keep coming from this or that list declaring “smashing victories” here and there.

Some lists are taking partial results that leak from a single polling center and generalize them over an entire province to give the impression that they have won. Of course none of this can be confirmed or denied until all votes are counted and sorted out.

Maybe one day Iraqi government officials will be as disciplined and leak-resistant as people are here. Come to think of it, they already are!

December 19, 2005

DOES THIS PHOTO mean that Valerie Plame is starting a blog? She’s wearing pajamas!

December 19, 2005

THE CARNIVAL OF TOMORROW is up! So is the first-anniversary Haveil Havalim.

December 19, 2005


So much for the popularly peddled view that anti-Americanism in the Muslim world is so pervasive and deep-rooted it might take generations to alter. A new poll from Pakistan, a critical front-line in the war on terror, paints a very different picture–by revealing a sea-change in public opinion in recent months.

Long a stronghold for Islamic extremists and the world’s second-most populous Muslim nation, Pakistanis now hold a more favorable opinion of the U.S. than at any time since 9/11, while support for al Qaeda in its home base has dropped to its lowest level since then. The direct cause for this dramatic shift in Muslim opinion is clear: American humanitarian assistance for Pakistani victims of the Oct. 8 earthquake that killed 87,000. The U.S. pledged $510 million for earthquake relief in Pakistan and American soldiers are playing a prominent role in rescuing victims from remote mountainous villages.

Read the whole thing.

December 19, 2005

PROF. LIONEL TIGER WRITES: “At my university as at countless others, one of the very first official greeting to students is a rape seminar predicated on the intrinsic danger males carry with them.” Read the whole thing, and read this, too.

December 19, 2005

FOLLOWING UP on my earlier post, an interesting look at casualty rates in various conflicts and settings.

December 19, 2005


The country has had no elected national assembly since 1973, when coups and a Soviet invasion plunged it into decades of chaos that left more than one million people dead. Civil war raged in the early 1990s, followed by the disastrous rule of the Taliban. . . .

The inauguration of the assembly formally concludes the political transition process agreed on by Afghan factions under UN auspices in December 2001, although Afghanistan is still a long way from stability.

Read the whole thing. And Gateway Pundit has much, much more.

December 19, 2005

THE NATIONAL JOURNAL’S DANIEL GLOVER looks at Cory Maye, “Tookie” Williams, and the blogosphere.

And Dave Kopel writes in The Rocky Mountain News: “After all the attention the mainstream media, including the Denver dailies, gave to the execution of the unrepentant quadruple- murderer Tookie Williams, it would be nice if the media focused on a man on death row who is actually innocent.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: John Leo looks at the Tookie case. But why not a column on Cory Maye?

December 19, 2005

IN THE MAIL: George Basalla’s Civilized Life in the Universe: Scientists on Intelligent Extraterrestrials.

The cover is pretty cool, and there’s a lot of interesting history on the topic of scientists’ thoughts on extraterrestrial life. I found Basalla’s technological relativism a bit unconvincing — alien science, if it exists, may look different from ours in some ways, but he almost makes it sound as if physical laws are cultural artifacts, which no amount of postmodern argument can make true, or even persuasive. What’s more, he doesn’t really engage the point made by Ernst Fasan years ago in his Relations With Alien Intelligences: While it’s possible to imagine aliens with whom we have nothing whatsoever in common, the aliens we’d be most likely to deal with — as competitors or friends — are those who are more like us.

December 19, 2005

ANNALYN HAS A CELLPHONE with a built-in flashlight. Great for power failures. In Nigeria, actually, people favor phones with bright screens so that they can be used as emergency light sources during the frequent outages, so I guess this is the next logical step.

December 19, 2005

ALEX KOZINSKI: “Call me a Panglossian.” I’d rather call him “Justice,” but oh, well.

December 19, 2005


With Christmas approaching, I’m thinking of giving some books. Would you consider posting what you regard as some kind of Top 5 or Top 10 books (to think about as gifts)? They needn’t be published in 2005, or limited to non-fiction. But it would be helpful and interesting. I fear that my nieces and nephews (at Cornell, Smith, Marlboro, and some outfit in Montreal) are not getting directed to important books or good history.

Who do I look like? Frank Wilson? But hey, send me some recommendations and I’ll post ’em.

December 19, 2005

CARNIVAL-O-RAMA: Check out the latest from the Indian blogosphere at Blog Mela, and don’t miss this week’s Carnival of the Capitalists. There’s also the law-bloggers’ Blawg Review, and the always-amusing Carnival of the Insanities. And if that’s not enough, there are lots more blog carnivals listed here.

December 19, 2005

CIVILIAN DEATH TOLLS AND WAR: A rather striking graphic. (Via Ann Althouse).

UPDATE: More here.