Archive for April, 2006

April 30, 2006


Andrew Marcus (with video camera), Juliette Ochieng (aka baldilocks) and I will be covering the immigration demonstration in LA tomorrow for PJ Media. If you are a blogger or just a concerned citizen who would like to help us, we will be rendezvousing in the lobby of the New Otani Hotel (120 S. Los Angeles St.) at 8:30AM. Bring your digital camera and/or tape recorder. Spanish speakers especially welcome.

And let me know what you find.

April 30, 2006

STRATEGYPAGE REPORTS THAT AL QAEDA, despite powerful allies, is being defeated by the Internet.

April 30, 2006


Or, in the case of the mumps, which is now tearing through the heartland for the first time in decades, nine plane rides away. That’s how many connecting flights it took for just two infected airline passengers, one flying out of Arizona, the other from Iowa, to apparently kick-start a new eight-state epidemic that has so far sickened 1,165 people. The outbreak serves as a grim reminder that vaccines aren’t perfect and that despite modern medicine’s advances, germs commonly associated with the early 20th century are still very much in the world. Right now several of the mustiest-sounding diseases—whooping cough, anyone?—are spiking again. “When fewer people start getting diagnosed, there’s a premature declaration of victory,” says Kenneth Castro, of the CDC. “Then we let our guard down, and the diseases come back and bite us.” . . .

As if they didn’t have their hands full with mumps and whooping cough, doctors are also starting to worry about other blasts from the past. National statistics haven’t been collected, but many papers in the medical literature argue that rickets—a vitamin deficiency long thought to be a relic of the 19th century—is increasing among African-American and Hispanic kids, particularly in the North. Doctors blame it on everything from an increase in breast-feeding (breast milk doesn’t contain much vitamin D) to the overuse of sunscreen (the body needs ultraviolet light to produce the vitamin). Another vintage ailment, scarlet fever, the scourge of “Little Women” and “The Velveteen Rabbit,” though easily treatable with antibiotics now, also endures. It infects hundreds of kids each year, but pediatricians will usually say those kids have “a symptom of strep throat,” not scarlet fever, if only so as not to scare the parents. Finally, though tuberculosis is at a record low, a nasty drug-resistant strain has emerged. Seems like old times.

Related item here.

April 30, 2006

BETTER ALL THE TIME, The Speculist’s regular roundup of (mostly) technological good news, has been posted. Check it out.

April 30, 2006

BOB HERBERT gets repetitious.

April 30, 2006

GERARD VAN DER LEUN on United 93: “The film I saw by myself tonight expands that meaning and brings a human face to the acts by the passengers of United 93 that endure only in that rare atmosphere that heroes inhabit. What I know in my heart, but what always escapes my understanding until something like this film renews it, is that heroism is a virtue that most often appears among us not descending from some mythic pantheon, but rising up out of the ordinary earth and ordinary hearts when the moment calls for actions extraordinary.”

I also like what Wesley Mullins wrote:

The film also refuses to use hindsight in determining which facts to emphasize and has total ambivalence for the cultural impact of some people/events. No special significance is given to Beamer’s “let’s roll” direction that became a rallying cry for America and no reference is made to the group being lead by a hulkish homosexual who helped redefine the image of effeminate gays in a pre-Brokeback world. Even though those have been two important stories to come from Flight 93, nobody on the flight that day knew it…so the film doesn`t revise reality to acknowledge them.

The brilliance of a film like this can be understood by comparing it to the film many would have made instead. A lesser film would have Brad Pitt or Eric Bana playing Mark Bingham and Matt Damon or Tom Cruise playing Todd Beamer. The action would have slowed for the characters to capture the focus of the audience and build cliched subplots about lifelong struggles to overcome adversity. Their final rush to glory would have been a moment of catharsis, as they were able to overcome some fault that haunted them for years.

Thankfully, “United 93” is not that film. It is an unflinching, unromanticized account of the events of 9/11.

More at ShrinkWrapped and The American Thinker.

April 30, 2006

JOHN HINDERAKER looks at conflicts of interest and the New York Times.

April 30, 2006

DARFUR UPDATE: On the way home from the studio I passed a big Darfur rally, starting in front of the synagogue and continuing quite some distance down Kingston Pike. I don’t know how many people were there, but it was certainly more than I’ve seen at any antiwar protests in Knoxville.

Those are going on all over the place, with support from people like George Clooney. I’m happy to see it, but I agree with Tim Cavanaugh’s point:

I don’t want to make the umpteenth cheap shot about Hollywood stars and their political campaigns. I think military intervention in Darfur is a non-starter, and I’m glad about that. But what’s the clear categorical distinction between intervening in Iraq (which I think it’s fair to say Clooney and many other Darfur hawks opposed) and this one? Why does it always seem like progressives support any intervention that clearly does not advance any American interests?

Why, indeed?

UPDATE: Jose Guardia emails: “Yeah, it’s great that some people are marching against the genocide in Darfur; and no, I can’t understand either why for them for them it’s OK to intervene militarily in Darfur and it wasn’t in Iraq. Anyway, just wait until -if- Bu$Hitler starts making plans for an intervention. You’ll see how fast they start chanting ‘No War.'”

April 30, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: This Washington Post piece on pork says that the PorkBusters approach is wrong:

Congress often seems to have devolved into a policy-free zone, where pork not only greases the wheels of legislation, but is the very purpose of legislation. Last year’s energy bill, enacted the same day as the transportation bill, did not reduce high gas prices or U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but it did shower billions of dollars on well-connected energy firms.

As former GOP Senate aide Winslow T. Wheeler detailed in his legislate-and-tell book “The Wastrels of Defense,” Congress even turned its post-Sept. 11, 2001, military bills into receptacles for pork, including gyms, chapels, parking garages and museums. “What was once a predictable but part-time activity has become a full-time preoccupation that permeates Congress’s activities and decision-making processes,” Wheeler wrote.

Egregious earmarks are certainly a symptom of this phenomenon, such as the largesse that Cunningham stashed into military bills for a contractor who bribed him and the economically and environmentally dubious water projects that the Army Corps of Engineers was building in Louisiana when it should have been protecting New Orleans. That’s why some proposed earmark reform makes sense, especially rules that would identify their source, require votes on them and prevent them from slipping into huge bills at the last minute.

But it is hard to see how preventing individual members of Congress from proposing individual measures — even measures designed to benefit their constituents or contributors — would serve the cause of democracy.

I think the key here is transparency. If wide attention weren’t bad for pork-related efforts, Congress wouldn’t try so hard to hide them.

April 30, 2006

I’M SCHEDULED TO BE ON RELIABLE SOURCES TODAY, about 10:30 Eastern, talking about various events in the news.

UPDATE: Ian Schwartz has the video.

April 30, 2006

AS I PREDICTED, Bill Hobbs’ defenestration has made him more of a thorn in the side of Tennessee’s political establishment, rather than less.

April 30, 2006

THE CLEARSTREAM SCANDAL IN FRANCE is threatening to overflow its banks.

April 30, 2006


April 30, 2006


“From 1986 to 2003, using 2004 dollars, the real national annual average price for gasoline, including taxes, generally has been below $2 per gallon,” noted the Federal Trade Commission in a 2005 report absolving the industry of collusion. “By contrast, between 1919 and 1985, real national annual average retail gasoline prices were above $2 per gallon more often than not.”

In other words, gasoline prices were lower than at anytime since 1919 for much of recent history. Some conspiracy! Maybe somebody should have been investigating consumers for “gouging” the oil companies.

And just who is the profiteer here? While the average profit on the sale of a gallon of gasoline is nine cents, the average state and federal tax on that same gallon of gasoline is about 45 cents (and 52 cents in Michigan). And if we must have an investigation, how about investigating the extent to which government regulations drive up prices and block new production?

Management guru Peter Drucker once remarked, with his usual drollery, that profit is “whatever government lets a company keep.” But most folks have a vastly inflated view of corporate profits. One regular survey of Americans found that the majority believes the average corporate profit is between 30 percent and 40 percent of sales, while the real figure is closer to 4 percent.

Washington should cool its carburetors. The pursuit of profit is one of the main engines of Western progress and prosperity. And as people in my neck of the woods are fast learning, it is only out of profit that we can afford to pay for a comfortable retirement. As profits in the steel, airline and auto industries erode or even vanish, so do pensions and health care benefits, not to mention jobs.

(Via NewsAlert). Yes. As I’ve noted before, a lot of the people commenting on this stuff need some remedial education.

April 29, 2006


I stopped living the “road warrior” life in 2000. In my time as a road warrior, I have witnessed passengers in the midst of a psychotic episode being subdued by the crew as the person tried to open the door in flight. I’ve missed other flights that have crashed, killing other co-workers, but nothing has effected me like the story of United 93. To me, it is not an abstract story of other peoples suffering. It is the sense of guilt that comes from the surviving of it all that eats at my soul.

United Flight 93 claimed the lives of several of my company’s employees. They were people just like me, who were doing business one day and returning home the next, doing by air what most people do with the crosstown bus. But for a small change in my career decisions and personal desires during the preceding 12 months before 9/11/01; one of the September 11th flights might very well have been a flight that, I too, would have been on and most certainly would have died like all the others. I cannot look at any pictures from that day without thinking, “it could’ve been me on that plane”. Its very unsettling to see your potential death scene replayed over and over.

I once missed a flight that a co-worker had managed to catch, on which he was later killed. Yes, that event bothers me too, but September 11th is something else altogether. . . .

I do not know yet if I can go into a theater this weekend and watch a movie like United 93, but I do know that whether I choose at this point to see the movie or not, I will be buying a ticket to ensure that the legacy of that story is given the respect that it deserves by popular culture.

Read the whole thing. The audience reviews sound a similar note — see especially Mark Whittington’s review.

April 29, 2006

CIRCUMCISION FOR AIDS PREVENTION? I remember seeing studies on this over a decade ago; apparently it’s panning out.

April 29, 2006

THE LIMITS OF TECHNOLOGY: In light of my video appearance at the Harvard blog conference yesterday, some people are asking if I think that videoconferencing will replace in-the-flesh presentations at academic conferences. In a word, no.

I very much appreciate the conference organizers letting me do it that way, because I just couldn’t make the trip. But for me — and, I suspect, for the people at the other end — it was a distinct second-best. The fun of conferences is meeting people and schmoozing, and I missed out on that. And my delivery was probably off: I like to get direct feedback by watching the audience, and though there was a two-way camera hookup, the camera was facing the stage, meaning that I got to see a somewhat unnerving image of me as a Big Giant Head (delayed by about a second due to two-way Internet latency) instead of the audience. It was nice that I could do it that way, and it was an interesting experience, but it was no substitute for being there.

UPDATE: On the other hand, I was spared this.

April 29, 2006

ERIN CHAPIN videoblogs a burlesque show.

April 29, 2006

PODCAST-O-RAMA: Bill Frist is answering listener questions, including one, from Matoko Kusanagi, about his remarks on avian flu on one of our podcasts.

Plus, Atlas Vlogs!

April 29, 2006

RANDY NEAL (formerly SKBubba) offers an insider look at local TV news.

April 29, 2006

“EVERYTHING COULD EXPLODE AT ANY MOMENT:” Michael Totten reports from the Israeli / Lebanese border.

April 29, 2006

JOHN MCCAIN SEEMS TO BE taking his oath to defend the Constitution rather lightly.

April 29, 2006

GATEWAY PUNDIT looks at the Zawahiri video and wonders where he’s getting his talking points.

Sam Freedman looks at the Walt/Mearsheimer paper, and wonders where they’re getting their talking points.

April 29, 2006

BLOGGERS: “Digital Assassins?”

I thought that was a techno act.

April 29, 2006

JOHN HINDERAKER: “In quieter times, Latin America’s worsening political condition would have been a major concern. Now, it’s mostly overlooked, by the public, at least.”

April 29, 2006


April 29, 2006

MICKEY KAUS, in the course of offering anecdotal evidence that high gas prices are changing behavior in L.A., channels Sen. Hayakawa: “But, speaking selfishly, if I had a choice of a) paying $4 a gallon and getting where I want to go in as little time as it took 20 years ago and b) paying $1.50 a gallon but spending twice as much time to get there, it would be a no-brainer. $4 is a bargain! Will a secret base of support for higher gas prices emerge in the suburban upper middle class of previously frustrated drivers?”

April 28, 2006

THERE’S A NEW BLOG WEEK IN REVIEW PODCAST up, featuring Austin Bay, Tammy Bruce, Michael Ledeen, and Eric Umansky. Don’t miss it!

April 28, 2006

THE INSTAWIFE POSTS AN INTERVIEW with Mike LaSalle, the editor of Men’s News Daily.

April 28, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: More Mollohan developments:

The F.B.I. has notified three nonprofit organizations created by Representative Alan B. Mollohan and financed primarily through special federal appropriations he steered their way that they should expect subpoenas soon for financial and other records. . . .

The nonprofits at issue are the Vandalia Heritage Foundation, the Institute for Scientific Research and the Canaan Valley Institute. The F.B.I.’s notification to them has occurred over the last two days and signals that the bureau is looking deeper into the 500-page complaint, which among other things suggests ties between the special appropriations, or earmarks, and Mr. Mollohan’s personal real estate investments.

This sort of thing wouldn’t happen if appropriators like Mollohan didn’t enjoy so much untrammeled authority over government funds.

April 28, 2006

HOT AIR says that videoblogging is the future.

I still think there’s a future in plogging, though.

April 28, 2006

UH OH: “I have also contemplated the future of blogging and have concluded that single-author sites are the wave of the past.”

April 28, 2006

I’LL BE TALKING (BY VIDEO) at the Harvard Blog conference in a few minutes. My topic is libel and bloggers, and I just ran across this piece by Ed Cone entitled How Not to Fight a Web War that goes nicely with my theme. Excerpt:

A New York ad agency, Warren Kremer Paino Advertising, has filed a seven-figure lawsuit against a Maine blogger.

Here’s a version of events by the blogger, Lance Dutson of the Maine Web Report; here’s the lawsuit; here’s media-critic Jeff Jarvis’ take; and here’s how the Boston Globe reported it.

Even if the complaint has merit — and from my superficial understanding of the case, at least parts of it are questionable — is this a smart strategy for any company to take when confronted with a hostile blogger?

A relatively unknown gadfly was irritating the agency and its client, the Maine Office of Tourism. Now Dutson is a cause celebre in the blogosphere, and his allegations about the agency and the tourism department are headed for very wide distribution.

Already, the first Google page in a search for “Warren Kremer Paino Advertising ” shows entries from the Maine Web Report, but not the agency’s own homepage — and I’d guess that Google front page is going to get uglier for WKP in the weeks ahead.

The agency and its client look like bullies for trying to outspend and outlawyer an independent writer.

You’d think an advertising agency would be brighter than that. The Media Bloggers Association has much more on the subject. I suspect that a lot of bloggers will be looking closely at WKPA, and the Maine tourism office, in coming days and weeks, and perhaps we’ll learn a lot more about what’s going on.

UPDATE: Comments on my appearance as a Big Giant Head can be found here. They had me on a huge screen behind the panel, reminding me of the Big Giant Head character from Third Rock. Or, if you prefer, that 1984 Macintosh commercial.

April 28, 2006


Yahoo appears to have kowtowed to the Chinese government yet again and passed details of a fourth dissident writer’s email account to the security forces, brightening the spotlight thrown on the dubious compromises that western businesses are making to operate within the world’s second largest internet market.

Doing business in China has always involved a heavy dose of realpolitik – a senior mobile phone industry executive, desperate to get into the world’s fastest growing mobile market, once described operating in China to me as akin to walking into a room and taking down his trousers. But what makes Yahoo’s flagrant co-operation and the recent self-censorship carried out by search engine rival Google so shocking to web users, is that the internet has been sold to the world as a tool for free speech not for maintaining or even strengthening the political status quo.

And it’s certainly caused me to think less of both organizations, and the people behind them.

April 28, 2006

YES, THERE’S A DOS ATTACK that’s screwing up a lot of HostingMatters blogs, including this one. At the moment I can post, and see the blog, but I’ve been posting at my backup site too. It’s been quite a while since this has happened, but you might want to bookmark that location. Yes, it’s linked above under “backup,” but that won’t help you if this site is down.

April 28, 2006

TOM MAGUIRE: “I’m not worried that reporters currently spend too much time with Google and Nexis.”

April 28, 2006

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ROUNDS UP critics’ views of United 93 (free link). Meanwhile, the audience reviews so far look pretty good.

April 28, 2006

JOHN SCALZI offers advice to teenaged writers.

April 28, 2006

“WELCOME TO THE INTERNET: First Class, or Coach?

April 28, 2006

JOHN TAMMES ROUNDS UP more news from Afghanistan that you probably haven’t heard.

April 28, 2006


April 28, 2006

THIRD PARTY UPDATE: Mickey Kaus notes some interesting poll data from Rasmussen. “The border-centric third-party candidacy actually takes more votes from the Democratic side than the Republican side!. But it draws heavily from both parties, and as heavily from ‘moderates’ as from ‘conservatives.'”

UPDATE: More on the third-party prospect here.

April 28, 2006

I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A JAMES WEBB FAN, but this combat boots campaign gimmick seems reminiscent of “John Kerry, reporting for duty.” Yeah, you can get away with more in the way of gimmickry in a state race, but I expect that this one won’t last.

April 28, 2006

JAMES PINKERTON looks at United 93 and asks: “what’s the world going to be like when two things are ubiquitous: high technology and high-intensity religion?”

April 28, 2006

OKAY, WHEN I SAID that higher gas prices weren’t changing people’s driving habits, I may have spoken too soon. . . .


April 27, 2006

ALAS, FAMILY ISSUES kept me from joining other bloggers in dining at the Harvard Faculty Club and hanging out at the Zephyr Lounge. I’m delivering my paper tomorrow via video hookup, which will be different.

April 27, 2006


April 27, 2006

DAN RIEHL says that Dana Priest was channeling 2002 in 2005.

April 27, 2006

DRUDGE / KOS UPDATE: I was a bit skeptical about the Drudge numbers on Kos’s book, and it turns out I was right to be. A publishing insider sends me some info that makes Drudge look kind of bad. Click “read more” for it. The gist is that Kos isn’t doing all that badly — and that Drudge isn’t in any position to point fingers.

UPDATE: On the other hand, Radio Equalizer claims that Drudge understated Air America’s problems.

ANOTHER UPDATE: An apology to Kos (but not from Drudge).

Continue reading ‘DRUDGE / KOS UPDATE: I was a bit skeptical about the Drudge numbers on Kos’s book, and it turns out…’ »

April 27, 2006

OBVIOUSLY A TOOL OF BIG OIL, and hence hostile to alternative energy:

As record oil prices turn attention to the need for renewable fuels, momentum is building in Congress to buck Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s bid to block the proposed Cape Cod wind energy project, potentially reviving efforts to construct the sprawling windmill farm in Nantucket Sound. . . .

”Are we going to be for developing alternative energy or not?” said Representative Charles Bass, a New Hampshire Republican who helped persuade House leaders to table the bill until at least mid-May. ”The longer you delay it, the longer there is for people to examine the issue, and to determine what’s going on here.”

The efforts to move the wind farm forward occur amid growing attention to Kennedy’s role in the secret, behind-the-scenes maneuvering to stop it. Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska, the senator who inserted the wind-farm provision into the Coast Guard bill, has acknowledged discussing the matter privately with the Massachusetts Democrat.

Environmental groups have launched an aggressive advertising and lobbying campaign to persuade Democrats to abandon Kennedy and back a promising source of renewable energy. If the wind farm becomes a reality, advocates say, it could provide three-fourths of the Cape and Islands’ energy needs and could set an example for the nation.

The maneuver to stop the wind farm ”is clearly a backroom deal, and they’re going to get called publicly on it,” said John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA. ”The Democrats are going to kill the first big offshore wind farm in the United States because of their relationship with Ted Kennedy.”

It won’t be the first to be killed because of a relationship with Ted Kennedy.

UPDATE: Matt Stoller emails that the folks at MyDD have been mad at Kennedy for a while: “Here’s a leading member of the party that claims to be pro-environment trying to shut down an environmentally responsible project because it would take away from his scenic views. It’s classic NIMBYism. John Stossel couldn’t make up a better narrative if he tried.” I think that’s right.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Aleta Jackson sends this email:

There are over 8,000 graceful, slender bright white windmills just west of my house, in the Tehachapi hills. They are quite nice to look at; some would even say lovely. They ATTRACT TOURISTS. People come from all over the world to take photos. They spend money at the hotels and restaurants, then leave. Foreign film makers come here to use the wind farms as backdrops for weird movies or music videos. They rent stuff, take photos, spend money at the hotels and restaurants, then leave.

The point is, wind farms are an attraction, and can be an attractive attraction. All it takes is the proper attitude.

She sends this photo, too, from her office window. Nice view!


April 27, 2006

VANDALISM AND HATE SPEECH at the University of North Carolina.

April 27, 2006

FISK FISKS FISK: (Via The Corner).

April 27, 2006


April 27, 2006

MICHAEL TOTTEN: “After living in an Arab country for nearly six months, arriving in Israel came like a shock.”

April 27, 2006


At Hot Air, something less than praise for some commentators on the film.

April 27, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: N.Z. Bear emails that my linkage of the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll below was too coy, and that I should have trumpeted this bit:

Among all Americans, a 39% plurality say the single most important thing for Congress to accomplish this year is curtailing budgetary “earmarks” benefiting only certain constituents.

He’s right — controlling pork is the single highest-priority item identified in the poll, and I should have made more of that. Mark Tapscott summarizes the message to the GOP Congress:

You think the folks back home love those earmarks, right? Guess again, Bunko Boy! And Girl! New NBC survey puts ending earmarks on top public’s priorities!

So how about some action here?

UPDATE: “Pork Awareness Month!” I like it.

Much more on pork-related developments here.

April 27, 2006

MORE ON OIL over at — though mostly you should just go straight to this piece on “peak oil” theories by Ron Bailey.

And if you missed our podcast on the subject with Lynne Kiesling and Roger Stern, it’s here.

April 27, 2006

A CONSTITUENTS’ REVOLT against Dianne Feinstein over MP3 streaming?

April 27, 2006

SWEET JESUS, I HATE BILL O’REILLY: Okay, I don’t usually feel that way. In fact, I seldom think of O’Reilly at all. But I caught a bit of him and Chuck Schumer doing double-team demagoguery on gas prices last night and, well, the sentiment did cross my mind. Can somebody please send him a copy of this book, ASAP?

UPDATE: Evan Coyne Maloney is unhappy with Republican demagoguery on gas prices. Yeah, we expect it from Schumer, but . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: John Hinderaker asks: “Wasn’t there a time when Republicans knew something about economics?”

Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, is just dumb.

April 27, 2006

REPUBLICANS ARE SAGGING IN THE POLLS: Maybe, in part, it’s because Harry Reid is doing better than Bill Frist in fighting pork?

Here’s the kind of response that’s getting from former GOP supporters: “Okay, real conservatives, Republicans, and libertarians, stay home. Just…stay home in 2006. Or – what the hell – vote for a Democrat. We have to wake up the Stupid Party, before it completely merges itself into the Republicrat Statist Party.”

I think that a GOP disaster is now officially looming.

April 27, 2006

TOM MAGUIRE has lots of new stuff. Just keep scrolling.

April 27, 2006


Amid the many scandals at the United Nations, a new mystery now looms. What happened to the world organization’s unique and valuable postal archive — in effect, the U.N.’s own stamp collection, one of the crown jewels of its past and a popular point of contact with the global public? . . .

The postal archive sale may be yet another instance of what Paul Volcker’s investigation into the Oil-for-Food scandal described as “systemic problems in United Nations’ administration,” involving lack of accountability, oversight, or even basic clarity in the organization’s activities. Despite the historic importance of the postal archive, senior U.N. officials contacted by FOX News professed to know nothing about it — including some in departments specifically charged with approving or blocking the dispersion of U.N. historical material.

Can’t say I’m surprised.

April 27, 2006

MICKEY KAUS is saying “I told you so.” He did!

April 26, 2006

JONAH GOLDBERG: Let the Iraqis vote on whether we should stay in Iraq.

UPDATE: Jonah defends his idea on Blogging Heads TV.

April 26, 2006

I’m interested in the Singularity, and I’m a big fan of Vernor Vinge’s. He’s got a new book out next week called Rainbows End, set in 2025, and as I’ve mentioned before it’s pretty much an Army of Davids kind of world. He’s also the author of such previous classics as A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky.

We talk to him about the Singularity — and how it may come from the superhuman “ensemble behavior” of ordinary humans with powerful computers linked via the Internet rather than through the development of superhuman artificial intelligence — about signposts indicating how we’re doing, about humanity’s prospects for utopia or extinction, and related minor issues. We also discussed writing science fiction (the secret, he says, is “brain parasitism,” taking advantage of readers’ smarts), whether college is becoming obsolete, mind uploading, and the joys (or lack thereof) of virtual-reality sex, a question that perplexes Helen.

You can listen directly (no iPod needed) by clicking right here, or you can get it via iTunes. (We’d like it if you’d actually subscribe on iTunes, as that’s what pushes us up the charts there). There’s also an archive of previous podcasts here, and you can get this — and other — podcasts in a low-fi dialup version here.

Hope you liked it! Music is “Indistinguishable from Magic” and “Robosexual” by Mobius Dick.

Once again, my lovely and talented cohost is soliciting comments and suggestions for future episodes.

UPDATE: Vinge emails: “Wow! Such fast ‘time to press’ is a nice commentary on our times all by itself.”

April 26, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Here’s an interesting report:

Senators Frist, McConnell, and Sessions just finished assembling over 34 Senate signatures on a letter backing the veto threat the President laid out yesterday on the groaning Senate supplemental. This plan—have the President say he will veto a fat bill, and have the Senate leadership deliver fiscal conservatives to that cause—should serve as a rallying point for those who have been horrified at the spending spree underway in Congress, for which the House, Senate, and White House all share responsibility. It’s time to rally to the fiscal conservative flag, and the sooner our friends in the conservative community know that there is a majority in the Senate worth listening too when it comes to spending matters, the sooner people can realize what the stakes really are in November.

I think that this should be a bipartisan issue — but it’s certainly true that Republicans have the most at stake in getting this under control at the moment, since they’re in charge.

April 26, 2006

NEWSBUSTERS has a massive Tony Snow roundup. Meanwhile James Taranto looks at some reports of previous Bush criticisms from Snow and comments: “Snow’s appointment suggests that President Bush is not afraid of constructive criticism.”

I tend to think of stories like this as mostly insider stuff. But I remember reading in Liberty magazine, back when Clinton appointed Mike McCurry as Press Secretary, that it was going to turn around Clinton’s fortunes with the press. And it kind of did. So who knows?

April 26, 2006

THE PICTURE OF HEALTH: Virginia Postrel reports that Sally Satel is doing well after their kidney donation.

April 26, 2006

THE HOUSE JUST PASSED A BILL ON CELL PHONE PRIVACY that was inspired by blogger John Aravosis.

April 26, 2006

IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, JOIN ‘EM: “Rather may blog after leaving CBS.”

UPDATE: Reader Doug Hart emails that we need a Dan-Rather-in-Pajamas photoshop contest.

April 26, 2006

I’M NOT SURE, but I think we may be reaching more people with our podcasts than Air America is reaching with its broadcasts. And our cost per listener is definitely lower!

UPDATE: Yes, my book is selling a lot better than Drudge says that Kos’s book is selling. But I don’t know whether to put any credence in those numbers or not. I haven’t read all of Crashing the Gate, but I thought what I read was pretty good, and given his audience and exposure I’d be surprised if the Drudge numbers were right.

April 26, 2006

MORE ON MOLLOHAN: Over at Hot Air.

April 26, 2006

IN THE MAIL: Joe Klein’s Politics Lost : How American Democracy Was Trivialized By People Who Think You’re Stupid. They sure seem to, and I think it accounts for the mixture of apathy and contempt with which people view politics now — and for falling newspaper and TV circulations.

April 26, 2006

L. SPRAGUE DE CAMP: “After forty, it’s just patch, patch, patch.” Michael Silence is living that phrase.

April 26, 2006

WRITING IN FORBES, NICK SCHULZ notes something I’ve been wondering about — if high gas prices are hurting consumers as much as news accounts say, how come consumers aren’t changing their behavior?

But what’s more interesting about these stories is what they don’t tell you. For example, the Associated Press reports that “surveys indicate drivers won’t be easing off on their mileage, using even more gas than a year ago.” Now why is that? If prices are rising, one would expect consumers would use less.

The answer might be in some of the long-term trends that the short-term media lens is too cramped to see. Energy prices may be rising, but energy itself is much less important to consumers and to the overall economy than it once was.

According to the Bureau of Economic Affairs ( see chart here), American consumer spending on energy as a fraction of total personal consumption has declined considerably since 1980. Whereas 25 years ago, one in every ten consumer dollars was spent on energy, today it’s one in every 16. In other words, what it takes to heat and cool our homes and drive to and from our jobs and vacation destinations is relatively less costly than it was then.

This goes a long way toward explaining why even when gas prices rise this summer–higher than they were throughout the 1990s–people will still be driving more; it’s much more of a value than it was a generation ago.

Heck, as I’ve mentioned before, people don’t even seem to be slowing down on the Interstate. Go less than 85 in the left lane and you’ll find some soccer mom in a Honda Odyssey flashing her lights behind you.

UPDATE: Check out this gas price chart that shows adjustments for inflation. (I’ve mentioned this before.)

April 26, 2006

PUSHING FOR TRANSPARENCY: Check out the new Sunlight Foundation website. Plus the Congresspedia. And here’s a story from the Washington Post. These people are lefties, which has engendered some suspicion (see the WP story), but I think that this stuff transcends partisanship.

April 26, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The Heritage Foundation’s Andrew Grossman notes that the White House is finally showing some backbone on the railroad to nowhere. It’s even making veto noises!

Let’s hope this amounts to something. There’s much more background here, including this observation:

Keeping spending down below the President’s initial request level is important, but how that money is spent matters, too. The President should therefore threaten to veto a bill that contains any extraneous spending items–that is, anything that is not truly emergency spending. Funding for the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq qualifies and is fair game for a supplemental bill. Hurricane-related funding that addresses immediate, on-the-ground needs qualifies, too. But not pork projects. Whatever its merit, the “Railroad to Nowhere,” for example, is just not an emergency need. Little, if any, of the junk that the Senate has thrown into the supplemental and is still considering adding makes the cut, either.

If it’s not an emergency need, it shouldn’t be in the supplemental. That’s a simple rule, and one that the President should enforce.

Yes. It would be political gold for the White House (which, God knows, needs it!) and it might win over some of those many disgruntled Republican voters who are otherwise likely to stay home in November.

April 26, 2006

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL declares an intelligence insurgency:

We’re as curious as anyone to see how Ms. McCarthy’s case unfolds. But this would appear to be only the latest example of the unseemly symbiosis between elements of the press corps and a cabal of partisan bureaucrats at the CIA and elsewhere in the “intelligence community” who have been trying to undermine the Bush Presidency. . . .

The deepest damage from these leak frenzies may yet be to the press itself, both in credibility and its ability to do its job. It was the press that unleashed anti-leak search missions aimed at the White House that have seen Judith Miller jailed and may find Ms. Priest and Mr. Risen facing subpoenas. And it was the press that promoted the probe under the rarely used Espionage Act of “neocon” Defense Department employee Lawrence Franklin, only to find that the same law may now be used against its own “whistleblower” sources. Just recently has the press begun to notice that the use of the same Espionage Act to prosecute two pro-Israel lobbyists for repeating classified information isn’t much different from prosecuting someone for what the press does every day–except for a far larger audience.

We’ve been clear all along that we don’t like leak prosecutions, especially when they involve harassing reporters who are just trying to do their job. But then that’s part of the reason we didn’t join Joe Wilson and the New York Times in demanding Karl Rove’s head over the Plame disclosure. As for some of our media colleagues, when they stop being honest chroniclers of events and start getting into bed with bureaucrats looking to take down elected political leaders, they shouldn’t be surprised if those leaders treat them like the partisans they have become.


April 26, 2006

MORE NOTEBOOKS ON THE GROUND: Bruce Kesler writes in Editor and Publisher

Journalists are reviled by many for alleged negativism and over-focus on bad news in Iraq. Or perhaps the problem is: Their employers are just trying to do it on the cheap. Ironically, the same media that criticizes the U.S. for sending too few troops to stabilize Iraq send too few reporters to cover much more than the dramatic bombings around Baghdad.

“I hope we keep out of the post-Vietnam thing that the press lost the war,” Joe Galloway, soon to retire military editor for Knight Ridder, recently told me in an interview. But discrepancies in what’s reported, or an imbalance, are daily highlighted by military bloggers in Iraq and conservative commentators here at home.

J.D. Johannes agrees with Kesler:

As one who has been an embedded reporter in Iraq, I would answer in the affirmative. . . . I can name all the other reporters I met last Summer–because there were so few of them. I actually met more radio talk show hosts than major media reporters.


April 25, 2006

ALTERNATIVE-FUEL-O-RAMA: Popular Mechanics crunches the numbers on various alt-energy schemes.

UPDATE: Mr. Bingley asks: “Is it me, or has Popular Mechanics quietly become the most respected news service in the country? My goodness, they do great in-depth research and present the facts on a variety of issues.” It’s a novel approach, but hey — maybe it’ll catch on!

April 25, 2006


April 25, 2006


Hamid Hayat, the 23-year-old Lodi man on trial for terrorist-related activities in Sacramento federal court, was found guilty Tuesday, just hours after a mistrial was declared in the related trial of his father, who was accused of lying to the FBI to cover up for his son.

Hayat was found guilty of providing material support to terrorists by allegedly attending an al-Qaida camp while visiting Pakistan in 2003 and three counts of lying about it. He faces up to 39 years in prison if convicted of all charges against him.

(Via John Stephenson. )

April 25, 2006

SO DOES THE FACT THAT BUSH IS HALTING DEPOSITS TO THE STRATEGIC PETROLEUM RESERVE mean that we shouldn’t expect a shooting war with Iran any time soon?

April 25, 2006

CARNIVAL-O-RAMA: The Carnival of Homeschooling is up! So is the Carnival of Liberty and the Blawg Review law-blogging carnival. And don’t forget the Carnival of the Recipes! (Plus, there’s a Kosher cooking carnival — and don’t miss this brisket recipe!)

More carnivals at

April 25, 2006

POLICE BRUTALITY — It’s Bush’s fault, of course. Especially that Rodney King thing.

UPDATE: But accusing someone of hurting puppies is over the line.

April 25, 2006

CONDOLENCES TO TERRY HEATON, whose wife died suddenly last night. Please send him your thoughts, prayers, and good wishes.

April 25, 2006


With gasoline prices close to $3 a gallon, President Bush this morning gave a disingenuous speech to an alternative fuels association about what he was going to do to stem the rising tide. There were a few flashes of candor and insight, but, on the whole, it was a sad example of political capitulation by a former Texas oilman who certainly knows better.

I heard part of Bush’s speech in the car, and the part I heard didn’t impress me much. Ethanol’s okay, though he talked mostly about ethanol from corn and I don’t see much future in that — corn’s expensive to grow, and depletes the soil. Ethanol from waste biomass, which he finally got around to mentioning just as I got out of the car, is better but not as easy.

Of course, there’s lots of loose thinking on energy and gas prices, as Ron Bailey recently noted:

With some headlines blaring about “record oil prices,” a bit of perspective is in order. It is true that in nominal dollars, the price of crude oil has never been higher. However, in inflation-adjusted terms, the picture looks somewhat different. It turns out that the price for a barrel of oil peaked at about $98 in December 1979.

Still oil prices have tripled in the past four years, but the economy nevertheless chugs along. . . . the price of oil would need to double from today’s $70 per barrel to have the same impact on the U.S. and world economy that prices had during the 1970s oil crisis.

As he notes, that could happen, as we haven’t had enough investment in additional capacity, but news reports and political sloganizing about “record high” gas prices are mostly evidence of sensationalism and innumeracy. Apparently, however, the public isn’t so dumb:

Consumers shrugged off higher gasoline prices in April and sent a widely watched barometer of consumer confidence to its highest level in almost four years, a private research group said Tuesday.

Somebody tell Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly.

UPDATE: Lynne Kiesling isn’t happy.

Neither is Pat Cleary.

April 25, 2006

TOM MAGUIRE REPORTS on a Washington Post online chat regarding Mary McCarthy.

UPDATE: “Promising confidentiality to a non-source?”

April 25, 2006


April 25, 2006

I’VE WONDERED why the Bush Administration hasn’t been more exercised about gas prices, but now I understand — it’s all been a devious Rovian plot to sucker the Democrats into supporting tax cuts. I should’ve seen that one coming!

April 25, 2006

AN ARMY OF MICHELLE MALKINS? I wrote her about Hot Air, and she replied:

The newscast is filmed in my basement with a Sony HVR-A1U Digital HDV Handycam and edited with Avid Xpress DV and Adobe After Effects. There’s a green screen behind me. Bryan does all the wizardry. We’re having fun and it is truly amazing how all this fairly inexpensive software and hardware is revolutionizing broadcast media. We’re living the Army of Davids dream. (Can’t count how many times someone has written and said “when are you going to have your own TV show?” Now, I don’t need to wait!)

Nope. None of us do.

UPDATE: Read this piece from The Economist, on new media, too. This piece on blogs is good, too.

April 25, 2006

TONY SNOW AS WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Joe Gandelman has some thoughts.

April 25, 2006

TOM MAGUIRE: “If It Is Worth Reporting, Isn’t It Worth Reporting Right?”

April 25, 2006

INSTAPUNDIT: The Oprah of the Blogosphere? Surely not. (Via Scalzi, who offers a minor correction).

April 25, 2006

IN THE MAIL: Carrie Lukas’ new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex and Feminism. I handed it off to the Insta-Wife, who was lukewarm: “I think this is just an ‘in the mail’ mention,” was her response. The reader reviews, however, seem to indicate stronger sentiments, pro and con.

April 25, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: USA Today reports:

Sen. Arlen Specter obtained a $200,000 grant last year for a Philadelphia foundation represented by the son of one of Specter’s top aides,the latest example of how the Pennsylvania Republican has helped clients of lobbyists related to members of his staff.

Bill Reynolds, Specter’s chief of staff, said an investigation found two lobbyists who sought financial favors and who were related to staff members. Specter has changed his office rules to ban lobbying by staffers’ relatives.

“The better practice is what we have now. We’re living and learning,” Specter said in an interview.

So are the rest of us. One lesson is that when members of Congress “help” people get grants, it’s a lure for people who want them to use whatever influence they can. And no, the Reynolds here is no relation.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Ed Cone notes a report from the WSJ:

Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, the West Virginia Democrat whose real-estate holdings and financial disclosures have drawn federal scrutiny, last year bought a 300-acre farm with the head of a small defense contractor that had won a $2.1 million contract from funds that the congressman added to a 2005 spending bill.

The joint purchase of the farm, which sits on the Cheat River in West Virginia, is the most direct tie yet disclosed between Rep. Mollohan and a beneficiary of the federal spending he has steered toward his home state. It raises new questions about possible conflicts of interest by Rep. Mollohan and his use of such spending. House ethics guidelines warn lawmakers to avoid business deals with those who benefit from their official acts. . . . Over the past five years, Rep. Mollohan steered more than $200 million to a network of nonprofit groups in West Virginia, including more than $20 million in the latest fiscal year, often through narrow spending provisions known as earmarks. The Wall Street Journal reported in an April 7 story that executives of these groups and companies had contributed regularly to Rep. Mollohan’s campaigns and to his family foundation. They included at least two people who were partners with the lawmaker in various real-estate investments.

I agree with Ed that the “Cheat River” part is priceless.

UPDATE: And don’t miss this enormous pork-news roundup from the Heritage Foundation.

April 25, 2006


April 25, 2006

STRATEGYPAGE says that while the media are focusing on retired generals, they’re missing the real story on the troops:

But the troops also exchanged information on tactics and techniques, as well as anything else they knew that could help keep them alive in combat. This alarmed the Department of Defense, which put some restrictions on active duty bloggers. The troops did not fight back, as, once reminded, they understood that, in public forums, anyone could read what they were saying, including the enemy. So a lot of this information continued to be exchanged email and private message boards. The military got into the act by establishing official message boards, for military personnel only, where useful information could be discussed and exchanged. All this rapid information sharing has had an enormous impact on the effectiveness of the troops, something that has largely gone unnoticed by the mass media.

This hierarchy-flattening effect is something that Tom Ricks got in his novel, though his portrayal was mostly negative, but it’s not getting that much media attention in general. It’s easier to interview retired generals, I guess.

Meanwhile, here’s a report on this weekend’s Milbloggers’ conference, which explores the same theme.

April 25, 2006

WARD CHURCHILL TO YALE? Roger Simon says why not?

April 25, 2006

BACKING AWAY FROM READER-REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS at the Scripps newspapers. I’m all for that, of course.