March 06, 2004

THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE'S BLOG RADIO SHOW will be airing shortly, at 1 Eastern / 12 Central. Captain Ed will be live-blogging it.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has two interesting posts about science and the Kass Commission.


Mr. Bush's program will create a new American empire in space that will resemble the ocean-born empires of the European states in the 17th and 18th centuries. The United States will stake claim to new "open" territories, leverage their resources, and settle them on a small scale.

As in the first era of exploration, travel to new horizons will inspire some of the national virtues Mr. Bush extols: "daring, discipline, ingenuity, and unity in the pursuit of great goals." If the past is any guide, however, exploration also will bring its share of problems, even for a country as powerful as the United States.

In spite of the problems, I hope that this analysis is correct.

MICKEY KAUS offers some interesting news on how John Kerry's dating life impacts The New York Times.

As The Rainmakers put it, It's a little tiny world, just like a little tiny town.

DUKE UNIVERSITY has been at the center of a controversy involving its apparent lack of intellectual diversity (see posts here and here.) In response, Duke held a panel discussion on the subject.

Er, except it was a discussion on the subject of academic freedom and whether affiliation matters, and none of the student critics got speaking roles -- it was all Duke faculty and administrators.

Question: If a bunch of minority students challenged Duke for underinclusiveness, would the university put on an all-faculty-and-administrator panel, with most panelists suggesting that the race of faculty members isn't important?

It's not all bad by any means, and the very existence of this discussion is some evidence of progress. But the different treatment of different kinds of diversity challenges is striking, especially as intellectual diversity would seem more important to the university's academic mission than skin-color diversity, which we're always told is a proxy for the intellectual kind. And here's an interesting bit from the only speaker to take a different tack:

Here's a true statement: ... every conservative faculty member recommended for [tenure] by the literature department has been tenured. That's also true of every unicorn and every talking dog. . . .

When I first arrived at Duke, there was a party for new faculty. And when it was time to sit down, we were all told: "Since you've been hired at Duke, I'm sure that none of you is so foolish as to be conservative. So, please, spread yourselves liberally around the tables." Now, I wasn't offended. I wasn't worried. I would never have mentioned the incident except I recently heard several people who were at that dinner and who laughed at that joke loudly insisting that politics should never play a role in hiring. . . .

Now, let me emphasize, it's always unofficial, it's not a statement of policy, I don't think that there is any policy that takes that effect. It's just an expectation. The policy is for openness. The actual expectation is that we'll generally hire liberals.

It seems hard to justify such a policy, er, expectation, in light of the oft-stated importance of diversity in academic settings. It also suggests that many faculty members are unaware of their own prejudices, just as diversity consultants have been telling us, in other contexts, for years. Presumably, universities such as Duke will want to remedy this, as they have done in other contexts, with seminars for faculty on sensitivity, and guidelines for inclusiveness in hiring. . . .

(Thanks to Duke's PR office for forwarding this link.)

UPDATE: Eric Muller says that I give insufficient attention to William Van Alstyne's talk, which he says makes a similar point to the one above, but in a more understated way. Fair enough -- though I think the transcript must not convey the full character of Van Alstyne's talk, which seemed to me, from reading the transcript, to be understated indeed. But I couldn't see the visual aids, which sound as if they increased the impact. (I couldn't get any of the video links to play, and I guess that either Eric could, or he was there, though he doesn't say which.)

NATURE has a nice summary of the evidence for water on Mars.

March 05, 2004

GERMANS LOVE GEORGE BUSH! Why, just look at this online poll!

ROGER SIMON ASKS -- if Tony Blair were a Democrat, would you vote for him? I'm no fan of his domestic policies in Britain, but I'd vote for him based on his war stance.

FROM THE UNFORTUNATE HEADLINE DEPT: "Rosie weds longtime girlfriend, slams Bush."

CAN BLOGGING RUIN YOUR LIFE? Sure -- if you don't blog.

IS EUROPEAN-STYLE ANTISEMITISM coming to America? I rather doubt it, but I could be wrong.

WE DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS YET, but there's a Martha Stewart verdict. Halley Suitt is worried that suburban white women will riot. Message to the cops: Don't let 'em get too close to you with those Manolo Blahniks. But try to snag me one of those Williams-Sonoma saucier pans.

UPDATE: Guilty on all counts.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's what Martha has to say about it. A reader writes: "So, am I correct in assuming she has been found guilty of covering up crimes the government couldn't prove she committed?"

I haven't followed this case closely, but I think that's the gist of it.

VIA HARRY'S PLACE, a terrific speech by Tony Blair on the war and the various critics thereof:

But the key point is that it is the threat that is the issue.

The characterisation of the threat is where the difference lies. Here is where I feel so passionately that we are in mortal danger of mistaking the nature of the new world in which we live.

Everything about our world is changing: its economy, its technology, its culture, its way of living.

If the 20th century scripted our conventional way of thinking, the 21st century is unconventional in almost every respect.

This is true also of our security.

The threat we face is not conventional. It is a challenge of a different nature from anything the world has faced before. It is to the world's security, what globalisation is to the world's economy.

It was defined not by Iraq but by September 11th. September 11th did not create the threat Saddam posed.

But it altered crucially the balance of risk as to whether to deal with it or simply carry on, however imperfectly, trying to contain it. . . .

The point about September 11th was not its detailed planning; not its devilish execution; not even, simply, that it happened in America, on the streets of New York. All of this made it an astonishing, terrible and wicked tragedy, a barbaric murder of innocent people.

But what galvanised me was that it was a declaration of war by religious fanatics who were prepared to wage that war without limit. They killed 3000.

But if they could have killed 30,000 or 300,000 they would have rejoiced in it.

The purpose was to cause such hatred between Moslems and the West that a religious jihad became reality; and the world engulfed by it. . . .

This is not a time to err on the side of caution; not a time to weigh the risks to an infinite balance; not a time for the cynicism of the worldly wise who favour playing it long.

Their worldly wise cynicism is actually at best naivete and at worst dereliction.

This is what Blair gets, and the war critics don't.

JEFF JARVIS NOTES that Howard Stern will receive record fines from the FCC.

Do I care? I don't know. If I'm offended by anyone being fined for saying anything on the air I'm offended -- but not any more than I would have been offended in 1992, when:

In 1992 the FCC fined Infinity Broadcasting $600,000 after Stern discussed masturbating to a picture of Aunt Jemima.

Is that better or worse than asking a Nigerian woman if she eats monkeys, or hosting a discussion of whether, when you have sex with a black woman, it smells like watermelons? I guess you can argue that point, but I'd be a lot more impressed with Stern's defenders if they'd quote these comments verbatim in the process of defending him.

And, actually, I do oppose government regulation of broadcast content. But, on the other hand, if you agree that there are standards, then the only question is whether a "record fine" is appropriate in response to Stern's on-air conduct here. I'd say that, if there are to be standards at all, then Stern's conduct is over pretty much any line you're likely to draw. (And Rush Limbaugh would be off the air for much less than this -- in fact, he was taken off ESPN for much less than this, with no noticeable hue and cry from Stern's current defenders).

So while other people are upset about this (including Jeff Jarvis, a smart and generally reasonable guy), I have to say that I just can't muster much outrage. I'd like to see the FCC out of the business of regulating broadcast content entirely, but I'm resigned to the political reality that that won't happen. And, given that the American public seems to want regulation here by a huge margin, it's hard for me to call this particular exercise an abuse of regulatory authority.

I also think it's silly -- as the earlier example, which I picked up from Jeff's comment section, which has others showing that Stern got in trouble all through the Clinton Administration, illustrates -- to pretend that this is an example of Bush somehow crushing dissent. (And, as I noted earlier, Kerry supports the dropping of Stern from the Clear Channel stations). If you want to argue that Clear Channel's dropping of Stern was an example of a big corporation sucking up to Bush, well, maybe it is -- though I suspect that the Bush people would just as soon have avoided this issue entirely -- but then you've got to grapple with the media concentration issues that people like me, and Larry Lessig, have raised: If the airwaves are dominated by a small number of big companies, they'll always tend to reach an accommodation with the powers-that-be. That's how these things work, and it's why too much media concentration is bad.

In my ideal media world, we'd see a lot more low-power radio, and a lot less concentrated corporate ownership. We don't live in that world. But in the world we do live in, it's hard for me to see the Stern business as anything but more of the same Stern schtick, grown even more tiresome.

UPDATE: Reader Frank Lucco emails:

I read your blog regularly and agree with 99% of your viewpoints, but you are so wrong on the Howard Stern issue. First, how do you know what Howard Sterns politics are now, or what they were back during the Clinton administration. Stern is well known for being all over the political spectrum in his viewpoints. He has only come out recently as favoring the Democratic candidate in this election. Furthermore, he has supported numerous onservative candidates and held many conservative viewpoints over the years. Secondly, he fact that Kerry supports the dropping of Stern means absolutely nothing. Its just smart politics on his part. He's not going to pick up any more votes by coming out as the defender of Howard Stern and free speech. Please learn a little more about whats going on here before spouting off with analysis which is clearly being affected by your own personal dislike for Stern.

I don't have any special personal dislike for Stern. I don't listen (he doesn't air around here, as far as I know) but what I've heard seems lame and juvenile.

But Lucco misses my point -- it's "smart politics" for Kerry to back this because the overwhelming majority of Americans believe in some sort of broadcast decency standards. You may disagree with the idea of having those standards -- I do, actually -- but you can't call them undemocratic, or the product of some sort of Bush-inspired right-wing cabal, when they're so widely supported. This is what the Stern supporters can't seem to grasp.

Frankly, the whole thing reeks of a manufactured issue, designed to give some people an excuse to bash the Administration. Where were these folks when The Greaseman was canned?

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, my former student Rob Huddleston, who sits well to my right, politically, sends this:

I happened to hear Stern this morning on his D.C. affiliate this morning. I don't usually listen to him, although I did regularly when I lived in Chicago. By listening to a few minutes of his rant this morning, a few things were clear:

1) He believes he will be fired today after the fines are announced.
2) He believes that the Christian Right have undue influence over Clear Channel.
3) He agrees with your statements regarding Clear Channel sucking up to Bush, although he blames the Religious Right even more.
4) He is no big fan of Colin Powell's son.
5) He really seems to understand that the FCC continues to make itself relevant through its fining practice.

I am no big Stern fan. Occasionally he is funny, but most of the time he's just a waste of effort. However, I am a bit disturbed by the FCC's actions in this case. What did Stern do recently that deserves this sanction? I can't help but come to the conclusion that this is some sort of retroactive fine for lifetime achievement. Stern is being served up as the sacrificial lamb when the real people who should be on the alter are Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake (who have weathered the storm and will come out of this as heroes to the Left). The whole thing is starting to show the FCC's fundamental weakness in the eyes of the public - it is THE censor in America, and the public does not like censorship as a theme.

Hmm. A "retroactive lifetime achievement award?" Interesting characterization. I agree that the public doesn't like censorship, but I'm not sure that fines for the sort of thing Stern is in trouble for will seem that way in the public mind.

MORE: Reader Lawrence Theriot says that the market is taking care of everything already -- we just haven't noticed!

Yes a lot of what Stern does could be considered indecent by a large portion of the population (which is the Supreme Court standard) but in this case it's important to consider WHERE those people might live and to what degree they are likely to be exposed to Stern's brand of humor before you decide that those people need federal protection from hearing his show. Or, in other words, might the market have already acted to protect those people in a very real way that makes Federal action unnecessary?

Stern is on something like 75 radio stations in the US and almost every one of them is concentrated in a city. Most people who think Stern is indecent do not live in city centers. They tend to live in "fly-over" country where Stern's show does not reach.

Rush Limbaugh by comparison (which no one could un-ironically argue is indecent in any way) is on 600 stations around the country, and reaches about the same number of listeners as Howard does (10 million to 14 million I think).
So in effect, we can see that the market has acted to protect most of those who do not want to hear the kind of radio that Stern does. Stern's show, which could be considered indecent is not very widely available, when you compare it to Limbaugh's show which is available in virtually every single corner of the country, and yet a comparable number of people seem to want to tune in to both shows.

Further, when you take into account the fact that in a city like Miami (where Stern was taken off the air last week) there may be as many as a million people who want to hear his show, any argument that Stern needs to be censored on indecency grounds seems to fly right out the window.

Anyway, I think both sides are making some decent points in this argument, but I hadn't heard one up until now that took the market and demographics into account until last night, and we all know how much faith I put in the market to solve a lot of society's toughest questions, so I thought I'd point this one out as having had an impact on me.

Hmm. Interesting argument. I think, though, that it's better understood as an argument against decency standards at all, rather than an argument against enforcing them where Stern is concerned.

RALPH NADER IS AT SIX PERCENT in the polls. I wonder how his online contributions are going?

UPDATE: CJR thinks the poll is wrong.

MORE DUMB DELINKING from the Rittenhouse Review. Keith Berry links Wonkette, and is immediately delinked by Rittenhouse:

I'd like to be able to report that my link was removed because of a lack of space and not because Capozzola is a small, petty and cheap little man. However, as repeated e-mails to The Rittenhouse Review have gone unanswered, I simply can't say.

To be fair, as far as I know there's no actual evidence that he's cheap. But seriously, I thought that this whole thing had died down. Sheesh.

JOHN KERRY: The War Hawk Candidate? I continue my examination over at

Hey, the North Koreans like him!

THANKS to to the folks who've hit the tipjar lately! Somebody asked whether I prefer donations via PayPal or Amazon. Honestly, I'm just delighted that anyone would donate at all. But all things equal, I prefer PayPal -- I've kind of dedicated its proceeds toward the purchase of whatever fancy digital camera I wind up buying.

UPDATE: BTW, here's an interesting set of comparison photos among the Sony DSC-F828, the Nikon Coolpix 8700, and the Canon Powershot Pro1. Main lesson -- boy are there a lot of good digital cameras coming out now.


The deletion of the molecular manufacturing study came as a major blow to those who hoped the Drexler version of nanotech was on the verge of getting a fair hearing. Several of them took to the Internet to blame the study’s deletion on the NanoBusiness Alliance, the industry organization that represents the companies now engaged in mainstream nanotechnology. In response to the online criticism, F. Mark Modzelewski, the president of the Alliance, wrote an article mocking the “bloggers, Drexlerians, pseudo-pundits, panderers and other denizens of their mom’s basements” who had developed “an elaborate fantasy about how molecular manufacturing research work was pulled from the bill by some devious cabal.” In fact, another NanoBusiness Alliance official had already admitted to a reporter that the Alliance had approached the staff of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, to have the study removed from the legislation. . . .

Very few technologies have been as feared in advance as nanotechnology has been. If Mark Modzelewski and Richard Smalley really think Drexler’s ideas are just frightening fantasies, then they should quit the name-calling and welcome the chance to disprove those ideas. The government’s feasibility study of molecular manufacturing should be reinstated, and the matter should be put to rest once and for all. If Drexler’s ideas can be proven definitively wrong, then we can relax in our comfortable nano-pants. But if Drexler is correct, there is much work to be done. If the stakes are as high as Drexler and his allies suggest, the world needs to get this right the first time, for there is very little room for mistakes.

Read the whole thing. Modzelewski's email habits get a mention, too.

OUR PREWAR SUSPICIONS have been proven correct:

A group of Russian engineers secretly aided Saddam Hussein's long-range ballistic missile program, providing technical assistance for prohibited Iraqi weapons projects even in the years just before the war that ousted him from power, American government officials say. . . .

Because some of the Russian experts were said to have formerly worked for one of Russia's aerospace design centers, which remains closely associated with the state, their work for Iraq has raised questions in Washington about whether Russian government officials knew of their involvement in forbidden missile programs. "Did the Russians really not know what they were doing?" asked one person familiar with the United States intelligence reports.

They knew. And this is another example of why multilateralism has its limits -- you can't let your security be held hostage by "allies" who are actually on the other side.

UPDATE: More on Putin and Russia here.

March 04, 2004

TED RALL BLAMES BLOGS for getting his cartoons pulled from the NYT website:

My trouble with the Times website dates back to the "terror widows" controversy. That cartoon, which appeared in March 2002, became the target of a coordinated email attack by right-wing "warbloggers."

I suspect that a lot of people will be happy to take credit.


Venezuela's U.N. ambassador resigned Thursday to protest threats to human rights and democracy in the South American nation, blaming President Hugo Chavez for promoting confrontation instead of reconciliation.

More Venezuela news here, here, and here.

POLITICIZING 9/11? LT Smash looks at who's complaining about the Bush commercials and discovers that they've been doing that themselves for quite a while. (You can see the ads here.) [LATER: More detail here on what's not being reported about who's doing the complaining: "So they're quoting a 'co-chair of the Kerry for President campaign' in the article without even telling their readers about it? Could they be any more deceptive?" They'll try!]

Personally, I think it's fine for Bush to remind voters what this is all about. There seems to be a -- quite political -- movement to make them forget, after all. Here's something I posted about forgetfulness, from Lee Harris's new book, Civilization and its Enemies, on 9/11/2003:

Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe. . . . They forget that in time of danger, in the face of the Enemy, they must trust and confide in each other, or perish.

They forget, in short, that there has ever been a category of human experience called the Enemy. And that, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very concept of the Enemy had been banished from our moral and political vocabulary. An enemy was just a friend we hadn't done enough for -- yet. Or perhaps there had been a misunderstanding, or an oversight on our part -- something that we could correct.

And this means that that our first task is that we must try to grasp what the concept of the Enemy really means.

The Enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the Enemy always hates us for a reason -- it is his reason, and not ours.

The attacks on Shiites in Iraq have brought that point home to a lot of Iraqis. It only seems fair that we make sure Americans remember, too.

UPDATE: Tim Graham notes some hypocrisy here in the media coverage:

But who has exploited and profited more from 9-11? The news media -- the special editions of Time magazine, the hours of specials, reproducing in loving color every crying widow and orphan? Or President Bush, whose entire presidency has now been dedicated to preventing another heinous terror attack on the homeland?

It has been his headache, the bad feeling in the pit of his stomach, maybe a nightmare in the middle of the night, for more than two years. He’s done a good enough job that the media’s moved on to profit from the latest ratings-grabbing tripe – missing teens, Martha, Kobe, conjoined twin operations, and the gubernatorial campaign of Gary Coleman. And they turn around and throw this spitball at him? It's going to be a long, very biased campaign.

Yep. They want people to forget, so they'll think that stories like Martha and Kobe are actually important -- and so that they'll be more likely to vote for a Democrat.

ANOTHER UPDATE: James Lileks, as usual, nails it:

Well. It’s called running on one’s record. They get to do that. But now people who were secretly relieved that Bush was in the White House after 9/11 are complaining that Bush is reminding us . . . that he was in the White House after 9/11. . . .

By this logic, FDR should have run his '44 campaign on his domestic agenda.

Read the whole thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Elizabeth King emails:

What do you want to bet that the Democrats had the firefighter union guy and the angry 9/11 relatives lined up and ready to complain before the Bush ads were even in the can?

It was obvious to anyone with a brain (or even just an ear, since the talking heads have all discussed it) that Bush would run on national security and the War on Terror. The Dems are doing their best to shut that issue down, from characterizing any criticism of Kerry's national security record as an attack on his patriotism, to smearing the President as a National Guard deserter, to now decrying any reference to 9/11 as insensitive to the victims and their survivors. The speed with which the chorus of complaints arose (before most people had even seen the ads) points to a war room rapid response team, rather than a genuine sense of outrage.

I don't blame the Dems for their strategy. What makes me angry is how the media just eat this stuff up without any kind of critical analysis, and how flatfooted the Bush team is in anticipating and responding to the Democrat attacks. The Bush campaign better get in the game, if they plan to win.

Actually, I think this just underscores the Democrats' sheer desperation and cluelessness on national security, and their accompanying desire to get the subject off the table -- which is truly pathetic since they've had two years to gear up. It bespeaks a cultural inability within the party to come to grips with dangerous realities. I think that Kerry is aware of the problem, but it's probably too ingrained to do much about.

Sadly, the press is largely in the tank for the Democrats on this, which is why that we have to have bloggers with Google looking into the backgrounds of these complainers instead of, you know, people who are supposed to investigate facts for a living. You know that if people with these sorts of connections to the Bush campaign were complaining about Kerry ads, we'd be hearing about it.

THE KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT has published its case study of bloggers in the Trent Lott affair online.

HAS THE LEFT LOST ITS TEEN SPIRIT? Yep. At this Bush appearance, anti-Bush protesters were outmatched by pro-Bush demonstrators. And check out this quote from the USC Daily Trojan:

"People don't support a war in Iraq, but if you look at it, we've liberated an oppressed people," said Ryan Reid, a business administration student at USC. "Saddam Hussein, thank God we caught him. He's killed over a million of his own people since the 1980s, and these people obviously wanted to keep him in power. I think we did the right thing."

Me too. But then, I'm in touch with the thinking of today's youth.

UPDATE: An anonymous emailer (no name, just the less-than-impartial email address of [email protected]) asserts that there were, in fact, a lot more anti-Bush protesters than the story above reports. Was anyone there?

On the teen spirit angle, reader Ted Doukas emails:

I am a young man (24) who is about to ship off to Navy OCS in a little under a month (I am enrolled in the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program). My ambition is to drive subs. I have a couple of thoughts about the lack of youth support for leftists causes. Granted, I am pretty conservative, as are most of my friends (many of which have chosen to serve our country under arms), but I have made a few observations. First, there is a fair amount of disgust at the cultural wreckage which seems to be the legacy of left-wing boomers. The new Offspring single "Hit That" is an example; it is a sharp criticism of the culture of llegitimacy that has become so widespread in America today. Secondly, the Left has become so strident and irrational (especially on the campuses) that it is nearly impossible to take them seriously. Unless there are concentration camps in Iowa that I haven't heard about, Bush is definitely not Hitler. Lastly, though we are no angels, I suspect that per capita marijuana consumption among young people has fallen sharply since the peak years of 1968-1973. We are simply more clear-headed than our parents.

Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command. . . your order is rapidly fading. Meanwhile, the Dean Wormers of the world are on the left now:

A misdirected e-mail by a Bates College staffer - he replied to a message that he meant to forward - has stoked the debate over whether U.S. campuses give a fair shake to conservative points of view.

The e-mail, which referred to the College Republicans as a "bunch of thugs," was followed by a hasty apology, a formal reprimand and a high-level meeting about whether conservative voices are welcome on the Lewiston campus.

They're probably on double-secret probation.

GEORGE MEAGHER NEW YORK TIMES UPDATE: This quote-recycling-and-relabeling story, originally mentioned here, and with a followup here, has now drawn comment from New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent here. Excerpt:

I would have liked to have seen a less artful and more complete mea culpa. The subject of the correction was Mr. Meagher's political affiliation, but the larger issues were the propriety of using the same quote twice; using it in two different contexts; using it in two different versions (look at the phrases preceding "when I think about 500 people killed" ); and, most of all, not addressing the appropriateness of a single one of these points.

This was a correction written on the head of the pin. Readers have reason to expect The Times to be a little less defensive, a little more forthcoming, and a little more reflective.

Okrent is right, and I'm glad to see him acknowledge the Times' error more forthrightly than the original correction did. As I said before, though, the thing that bothers me most about this story was the way in which Meagher's quote was slotted in to fit an obviously predetermined story line.

UPDATE: Check this Los Angeles Times correction cock-up, too.

MY EARLIER POST on Bush and the war has generated a lot of email, but here's one that's especially worthy of note:

Bush seems to be falling victum to his own success. We have been so successful in the war on terror that the country doesn't see it as a war anymore.

Consider the following: If you were told on 9/21/2001 that by this date:

The Taliban have fallen

Iraq has fallen and has become a bastion of free press in the islamic world.

Libya had given up its WMD's

North Korea is in multi-lateral talks about WMD's

A majority of the leadership of Al Queda are dead or in custody

Pro-democracy rumblings are going on in Iran

Arafat is isolated

Many convictions of domestic sleepers or Al Queda members (Portland, NY etc...) and finally


And all of this has cost less than 1000 dead American soldiers.

You'd be thinking "not bad."

Bush said in his Sept. 20th speech that even if the country forgets he will not. He was right.

Good points. But what has he done for me lately?

UPDATE: Jim Bennett comments:

The anti-war types keep comparing Iraq to Vietnam. This has made me think...

If less than a year after US troops first landed in Vietnam, they had occupied all of North Vietnam, had Ho Chi Minh and General Giap dead or in custody, had an interim government in place, and were preparing for free elections (which of course in actuality Vietnam still doesn't have forty years later), all for under five hundred combat casulaties, that wouldn't have been such a bad outcome.

Of course people will say the situations aren't comparable. That's right -- they aren't comparable, so people should stop trying to make bogus analogies between the two situations.


MY COLLEAGUE BILL BASS is one of the world's leading forensic anthropologists, best known for the University of Tennessee "Body Farm." His new book, Death's Acre, is the subject of this review in Legal Affairs.

MOOSE BITES can be very dangerous, you know.

INTERESTING INSIDE DOPE from the Supreme Court.



Kerry did vote for the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the war in Iraq, even though he constantly trashes the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the war in Iraq. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which limited marriage to a man and a woman, but he now says marriage should be limited to a man and a woman. (Although he also points out that he once attended a gay wedding.) And those are just the better-known issues on which Kerry has "evolved."

There's a handy table of Kerry's shifting positions on various issues, too. But he's not waffling on everything:

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said radio stations are within their right to pull Howard Stern off the air if they object to the shock jock's racy show. . . .

Kerry said he disagrees that Stern faces repression.

"If you are working for somebody and they have a set of rules, that's the deal," Kerry said. "And it doesn't mean he can't go out and say it somewhere if somebody else wants to have him say that."

Not the most important issue to me, by any means, but hey -- at least he's taking a stand on something.

IF I CAN'T ****, I don't want to be part of your revolution. Interesting bit on revolutionary condoms in Zimbabwe. I like the slogan "Get Up, Stand Up," too.

There's a Danny Goldberg tie-in here, somewhere. . . .

ANOTHER GLORIOUS DAY, with the temperature supposed to get up into the mid-70s. I had paperwork to deliver across campus, so I took the opportunity to stroll around. Here's a picture for you homesick University of Tennessee alumni and Knoxville expats out there.

It's the kind of day that would tempt me to take my class outside, but it's Constitutional Law, which is a big class (by our standards) with about 60 students. That's just too big to do outside, alas.

But Spring Break is coming, so the students (and I) will just have to hold out. Luckily, it looks as if it will be a good spring. I'm going to have to take a day and go to the mountains soon. But not today.

LEE HARRIS IS BEING SILENCED for not using bad language. "Why should I be punished by obscurity simply because I have never thought of saying something mean and stupid about Sean Hannity?"

HOW THE LEFT LOST TEEN SPIRIT: Personally, I think it happened in the 1980s, when Kitty MacKinnon and Tipper Gore decided to launch the Left's anti-sex purges. Danny Goldberg sort of agrees. He also asks the vital question: "How did we get these fucking zombies as our candidates?" Indeed.

UPDATE: Capt. Ed. is blaming the Boomers whose policies drive the Left:

This relentless focus on their own youth as a mythical Golden Age, combined with their greedy, ever-increasing grasp on public resources in the form of expanding retirement entitlements must strike the younger generation as ridiculous and tiresome. Even younger boomers such as myself wonder when my ge-ge-ge-generation will finally realize that they are not the center of the universe.

Shortly after death.

WINDS OF CHANGE has its war news roundup posted. Maybe the Kerry folks should be reading it!

They should also probably read this column on democracy in Iraq, by Austin Bay.

UPDATE: This column by Max Boot is worth reading. Excerpt:

Of course, the glad tidings shouldn't be exaggerated. One reason why attacks on coalition soldiers are down is that, as Tuesday's atrocities in Baghdad and Karbala demonstrate, terrorists are finding Iraqis an easier target. But although the terrorists can kill and maim, they cannot win public support. In the Sunni Triangle, where most of the violence is occurring, 21 imams issued a fatwa condemning "any act of violence against Iraqi state government workers, police and soldiers." . . .

More bombs, both real and metaphorical, are certain to go off in the days ahead, but Iraq already has confounded many Western "progressives" who doubted that the Arab world could ever make progress.

It's not over, but things are going much better than Kerry's Vietnam-era rhetoric suggests. I agree with David Adesnik that he needs to be paying more attention.

I SHOULD HAVE MENTIONED IT EARLIER, but Rich Galen has a new report from Iraq posted.


I'm somewhat surprised that Kerry is using quagmire language, e.g. "bogged down" to describe the situation in Iraq. With both guerrilla attacks and American casualties falling significantly, it seems strange to say that victory is not in sight. To be sure, the insurgents' murder of scores of Iraqis is horrific. But it is American casualty figures that matter to the electorate. As for NED and Halliburton, the good news coming out of the oil fields suggests Kerry might want to be more careful here as well. Like them or not, Cheney's boys are doing their country a great service and an expensive one. Although highly speculative, my sense is that Kerry hasn't been watching Iraq carefully enough to sense that the media's pessimism may not be worth investing in.

Read the whole thing, and scroll down for more.

March 03, 2004


Arlington, Va.: Is there any incumbent Senator of either party who would be a good bet to be defeated this time around?

Stuart Rothenberg: Only two are really vulnerable at this point: Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who was appointed to her seat by her daddy, and Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) who has a terrific opponent in John Thune and has lost the "clout" issue that saved his SD Democratic colleague, Tim Johnson, in 2002.

Strangely, however, he doesn't mention the BlogAd factor. (Via Daschle v. Thune).

UPDATE: But the blogads seem to be working:

Howdy just a note to let you know that your Adblogs for Thune is working. I have never made a political donation outside my own little neck of the woods before today. Your site's blogad gave me that "spur of the moment feeling" and I clicked the ad and made my modest donation to John Thune.

They certainly worked for Ben Chandler.

ANN ALTHOUSE has some helpful subject-line advice. If you send me an email with the subject-line "hello," it's likely to be unread.

On the other hand, a reader emailed me recently to report that a piece of Cialis-spam bore the subject-line "Magnificient Chomsky!" I'd probably have opened that one, only to be disappointed. I kind of like that usage, though, and I can't help but note that if you apply it here it explains a lot. Magnificent Chomsky, indeed. . .

Forget Viagra or Cialis. Like most dads, what I need is a pill that, when you take it, causes a babysitter to appear.

I JUST RAN ACROSS THIS JAMES LILEKS COLUMN on the war and the elections. I wish that James would link to his Newhouse columns from The Bleat.

UPDATE: More here.

And, for that matter, over at, where I have some thoughts on Kerry and the war.

WILL COLLIER has thoughts on electronic voting and bureaucracy.

WENT TO FUDDRUCKER'S with the kids the other night and had an Ostrich Burger. It was yummy and low-fat. A couple of other places in town have them, and some also serve Buffalo Burgers, which are also yummy and lowfat.

I talked to the manager and he said that the ostrich was selling well. I asked him whether that was because of its low-fat nature, or because of fears about Mad Cow. He wasn't sure which, but said that given the number of regular burgers they were selling he didn't think that Mad Cow fears were very widespread. That seems about right to me.

I'm a big fan of both ostrich and buffalo, and I'd certainly like to see them become more common -- they're much healthier, and taste just as good. In fact, I actually prefer the buffalo to regular ground beef. I suspect that whether or not Mad Cow fears are affecting consumer behavior, they're at least making people in the food business look at alternative products, just in case. And although I think that Mad Cow fears are probably overrated, I'll be happy if that makes these alterna-burgers more common.

UPDATE: Not these, please.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ostrich-fan Dave Farrell is happy:

From the heart of ostrich farming country in South Africa's Cape Province, bravo for the ostrich instalaunch. I swiitched to ostrich from beef after a triple bypass, and unlike margarine v butter, there isn't a downside. I now prefer ostrich steaks, ostrich mince in my spaghetti bolognaise, and ostrich sausage on the barbecue. I've also noticed that cooking ostrich medium rare is a lot less tricky than beef rump steak, because it seems to be bloodier.

I haven't grilled any ostrich, but maybe I'll give it a try.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Will Collier emails:

The Five Seasons brewpub in Atlanta has an occasional grilled ostrich special, and it is just outstanding. Like a really good, tender filet mignon. If I can find a meat market around here that carries ostrich steaks, I'm going to try those suckers at home the first chance I get...

My favorite gourmet grocery has ostrich, but only frozen. Maybe I'll see if I can get 'em to order me some fresh steaks. Meanwhile Spoons emails:

Every time I go someplace that serves ostrich, they tell me they'll only serve it rare or medium rare. Since I can't stand meat cooked that way (it's medium or medium well for me), I always end up passing on the bird.

What is it about ostrich that requires it to be undercooked? What would happen if they cooked it to medium?

Beats me. I get the burgers medium and they're fine. I suspect that the low fat content means that it tends to dry out if its cooked more than that, though.

EUGENE VOLOKH has some thoughts on FCC indecency policy, and self-censorship by stations.

THE NEW YORK TIMES is finally correcting columnists' errors and distortions on its Website!

Or is it just a glimpse into some eerie, parallel universe? See for yourself!

UPDATE: Um, yeah, I do know that it's not real. I thought I was obvious enough. Apparently not!

CATHY SEIPP IS ALL OVER NAOMI WOLF: Sort of like Wolf says that. . . . Oh, hell, I'm not going there.

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE has bounced a reporter for bogus quotes.

SIGH. PEOPLE ARE ALREADY trying hard to keep the eight months until the November elections interesting.

I'VE MENTIONED ENGADGET, but I should note that Gizmodo is rocking on, with new folks at the helm and a very handsome send-off to Pete Rojas: "Pete wasn't just a pioneer commercial blogger. As a geek in hipster clothing, he knew that gadgets were more than a collection of technical specificiations."

DEAN PETERS is now blogging from Jordan.

I MENTIONED LEON KASS'S WASHINGTON POST OP-ED earlier, but now Ron Bailey is taking him to task for dishonesty in Reason:

Kass simply cannot with a straight face make the claim, as he does in [the] Washington Post, that the "personal views" of Schaub and Lawler are "completely unknown" to him. It's a shame that the White House has somehow persuaded a man as smart and principled as Leon Kass to deny in public what he must in fact know to be so.

Read the whole thing. As I've said below, the people on the Council have good credentials. But to pretend, as Kass does, that there's no ideological stacking here seems a bit much. And to pretend that he didn't know the views of the new additions is more than a bit much. Especially for an ethicist.

UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru has comments:

If, on the other hand, the appointment of Lawler is to be condemned because he seems, in general, skeptical of claims that biotechnology should be left unregulated, then perhaps the critics have a point. But my sense is that the vast majority of people do not share Bailey's almost-anything-goes views on this subject. That doesn't mean Bailey is wrong, of course. But it does take away a lot of the force behind the stacked-council critique.

Well, I don't think so. I don't have anything against any particular appointment. What's bothered me about it has been the sleight-of-hand that has seemed to mark the process since Kass presented Daniel Callahan as someone who took the other side on these issues. Kass's claims of ignorance are just another example. And when you're engaged in a project like this, where the product is hard to measure, process matters.

And while you can characterize Bailey's views -- or, I suppose, mine -- as "almost-anything-goes," I don't think that they're necessarily any less mainstream than Kass's. I want to see sick people healthy, and I want to see people live long lives in which they have a lot of choice about how they live. I'm not threatened by new reproductive technologies. Kass feels differently.

Although he's apparently mellowed on (or backed away from) the subject since, he was once "bitterly" opposed to in vitro fertilization, a widely-accepted procedure now. (He doesn't like birth control, either). As Eugene Volokh notes, if he was wrong about that, why listen to him now? Then there's his opposition to people living longer. I could be wrong, but I think that most Americans believe that living 20-40 more healthy years would be a good thing. (Kass's views on eating ice cream in public, while not relevant here, aren't exactly mainstream either, and suggest a more generalized discomfort with the messy, physical side of life -- and maybe there is a connection, in light of what he writes here, "as Bacon clearly understood, the successful pursuit of longer life and better health leads—as we have seen in recent decades—to a culture of protracted youthfulness, hedonism, and sexual license." The horror! Judging by Americans' behavior, most of us aren't as worried about that as Kass seems to be. In fact, the desire for protracted youthfulness, hedonism, and sexual license would seem to be hallmarks of American culture. They may or may not be desirable, but they're certainly mainstream.) I don't think that Ponnuru really means to characterize either me or Ron Bailey as fringe types, but I think it's probably wise not to open that subject up for further discussion, as Kass's views on gender relations, etc. probably don't reflect the views, or the practices, of a majority of Americans.

ANOTHER UPDATE: William Sjostrom says via email that Bailey doesn't give the full context of the Kass quote. I reprinted it below, but here it is again:

Their personal views on the matters to come before the council in the coming term are completely unknown.

Sjostrom's point is that Kass might know the panelists' views about therapeutic cloning, but not about the stuff the Council will look at next. I don't know -- if you read Bailey's piece, it seems to me to be about general attitudes toward advanced biotechnology, not just cloning.

On the other hand, here's some rather strong evidence in favor of Ramesh Ponnuru's argument that the problem is Kass's ham-handedness, not a stacked committee, in the form of an email from council member James Q. Wilson:

The Bioethics Council is NOT stacked. A large minority opposed its first report, and that group is largely intact. Bill May ASKED to be removed from the Council, and the President agreed. The new members include people who support what has been the minority view about therapuetic cloning.

Well, the Post story said "dismissed," which most people took to mean "fired," though that wasn't the centerpiece of my analysis. (Bailey, however, does speculate that May was fired.) The views of the new people, on the other hand, matter, and Bailey seems to make a strong case for a rather anti-technological bent. (And even Ramesh Ponnuru seems to think that the three new members are "antis.") Still, I regard Wilson's word as good, and if he says the Council isn't stacked, then I'm inclined to change my views, and simply regard it as overly narrow, and Kass as ham-handed.

WORRIED ABOUT CENSORSHIP? Here's the real thing, close to home.


According to a source close to the Kerry campaign, they will announce shortly that they have raised over $1 million through their website in the last 24 hours. This is apparently a record, at its peak the Dean campaign didn't raise so much in one day.



VIA ENGADGET, here's a review of the new Nikon D-70 digital SLR. Looks pretty cool.

UPDATE: Here's a terrific picture that shows what you can do with a digital camera (a Nikon D2H, in this case) and photoshop.

REPUBLICAN BLOGADS: As you may have noticed already (look to the left), Republican candidate John Thune, who's running against Tom Daschle, is advertising on Blogads now.

WINDS OF CHANGE offers an African roundup.


BUBBLES AND FUSION: Quite a few readers have sent me material on these developments relating to ultrasonic fusion. Here's the press release from Rensselaer:

Physical Review E has announced the publication of an article by a team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Purdue University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the Russian Academy of Science (RAS) stating that they have replicated and extended previous experimental results that indicated the occurrence of nuclear fusion using a novel approach for plasma confinement.

This approach, called bubble fusion, and the new experimental results are being published in an extensively peer-reviewed article titled “Additional Evidence of Nuclear Emissions During Acoustic Cavitation,” which is scheduled to be posted on Physical Review E’s Web site and published in its journal this month.

The research team used a standing ultrasonic wave to help form and then implode the cavitation bubbles of deuterated acetone vapor. The oscillating sound waves caused the bubbles to expand and then violently collapse, creating strong compression shock waves around and inside the bubbles. Moving at about the speed of sound, the internal shock waves impacted at the center of the bubbles causing very high compression and accompanying temperatures of about 100 million Kelvin.

I have no idea whether anything will come of this, but I certainly hope that it works out. I imagine, though, that the path from this sort of laboratory work to actual power generation is likely to be somewhat difficult.

UPDATE: BTW, here's an earlier post on this subject from 2002. And here's another.

BUSH'S PROBLEM WITH THE "WAR BASE:" Here in the blogosphere it's been interesting to see a lot of people who have supported Bush on the war suddenly souring on him on a lot of other fronts, and in many cases even saying they won't vote for him in the Fall. This seemed to start when Saddam was captured -- just scroll through Andrew Sullivan's archives around that time and you'll notice a change, though it wasn't just Andrew -- and has steadily grown and spread.

This may mean nothing -- if GOP strategist Larry Purpuro is right, the blogosphere doesn't matter anyway. On the other hand, this may be an early-warning signal that the Bush folks ought to pay attention to. Which makes these comments from reader Glenn Boice relevant:

Your reader Karl Bade suggested in response to Phil Bowermaster that President Bush is pandering to an evangelical base on this issue in order to maintain the political support there required to win a second term, during which he could continue the vital work of fighting the war.

We have seen this idea suggested more than once over the months as the President's war-time supporters of various stripes become upset by some of his policies, ranging from the now-lifted steel tariffs, the education bill, perceived lack of support for judicial nominations, the growth of federal spending, the marriage amendment to the Constitution, now this bioethics committee, etc etc. There is no shortage of issues upon which to disagree, even just among conservatives. But relying upon the war as the issue to cement together a pro-Bush coalition in the face of objections to these other policies may not work without greater effort by the President to articulate the direction of this war in a second term.

As a libertarian-leaning small-government Republican I have acknowledged and yielded to this strategy myself. I have held my nose over many of the things the President says and does, because I believe his approach to the most important issue at hand - the war against our fundamentalist enemies - has been correct. I also have tried to maintain perspective on the other issues - for example, I am not a hysteric on the marriage amendment despite my opposition to federal involvement in marriage because I recognize that a president's support for it does not come close to making it the law. Thus my concerns and criticisms about the President have been tempered.

People like me make up a bloc of sorts for this president, too: call it the "war base," perhaps. But I have found that the President's clarity of vision following 9/11 has not been maintained as the news cycle bogs down over the many months with Iraq and its reconstruction. I believe there is still much to do - involving Iran, North Korea, Syria, Algeria, Pakistan's ISI, and others - and the president has not articulated a clear vision of what's next now that the Taliban and Hussein have been dispatched.

To my mind, continued support of a president who has many objectionable policies in other areas of interest to me is dependent upon confidence in his future leadership on the war. I for one need to hear much more from him about the war objectives for his second term.

This "pandering" political strategy works only when voters such as myself sacrifice less-important principles in favor of the most important, the war. However, if I come to believe that a Democratic candidate can be as effective on the war as President Bush, or - worse - that President Bush in a second term will be as ineffective on the war as the likely Democratic candidates, then my heretofore solid support for the President will be far less certain this fall.

I hope that you will consider using your influential blog to state this point. I wonder if it is widely held among the President's wartime supporters who are not being pandered to in other areas of policy.

I don't know how influential my blog is, but I think that this is an excellent point. The war effort is, in fact, going well -- but to some degree that's actually hurting Bush by taking it off the front burner. And if Osama turns up captured or killed, that will actually exacerbate the problem by making it easier for people to pretend that we don't need to worry about the war any more. And a lot of people want to do that either for self-interested reasons -- to get their own special interests on the agenda, or to distract people from their own war-related failures -- to which you can add the general war-weariness that even a lot of war supporters are feeling now. War is stressful, and the temptation to pretend it's over and put it out of your mind is strong. I suspect that even some people in the White House -- where the exhaustion level has got to be high after nearly thirty months of war -- feel that way, at least subconsciously.

If the war were, in fact, nearly over that would be okay. But it's not. (This cartoon, showing people squabbling over gay marriage while standing atop an Iranian A-bomb, captures the current political scene nicely.)

Bush needs to make that clear, and to spell out -- as best he can, given that in wartime not everything can be discussed publicly -- what's going on and why. Given Kerry's continued miserable failure at stating a position on the war, that shouldn't be too hard. But the job won't do itself. And the Administration can't rely on Steven Den Beste to do all the heavy lifting.

UPDATE: Hmm. Maybe Kerry will solve Bush's problem for him. Reader Catherine Johnson emails:

Responding to today's reader email from a "libertarian leaning small government Republican:" I'm a lifelong Democrat, 51 years old, who makes up part of President Bush's "war base."

I've never voted for a Republican candidate in my life (didn't vote for Gore, either; I abstained, a move I now consider prescient) and I will be voting for Bush in 2004. Period. There is nothing John Kerry could say to "tempt" me to vote for him; nor is there anything on the domestic front that causes me palpitations. Frankly, the current moaning and sighing over the many sins of George Bush calls to mind an expression Rob Lowe once used in a PLAYGIRL MAGAZINE interview with a friend of mine: Don№t get your panties in a wad.

I№m sorry to be crude, but at this point I am a Bush stalwart. My message to LLSGR and his friends is: Suck it up, guys. There's a war on.

Michael Totten seems to feel the same way.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Leonard Evans thinks that I'm advocating that Bush prolong the war for political advantage, and emails:

If war fatigue is the problem then the way to steel resolve (politically) is not to minimize success. It is to have success and articulate with clarity the next steps.

That's what I thought I was saying. Bush said early on that the war would be long, and on many fronts. I'm afraid that too many people will want to end it before it's over, if we have both Saddam and Osama accounted for. That's not the same as prolonging a war.

I got a lot of other email along another line. Pamela Shipman emails:

To the libertarian leaning, small government Republican (which describes me), I can only say.... and you would vote for JOHN KERRY for what reason? More effective on the war on terror?'ve got to be kidding me! And what about those domestic issues--- you think you'd be happier with KERRY? Again, you've got to be kidding me. Now, I've seen those commentaries that opine that perhaps we would be better off with a Democrat in the White House and a Republican Congress, but that's an awfully dangerous strategy it seems to me. The margins are just too close and a Kerry victory might just put the Democrats back in control, which is the last thing someone of our political persuasion would want to see. Bush is the best we've got folks.

Holly Watson says something similar:

I second Catherine's sentiments, and I've been meaning to email Sullivan about it. I understand his distress at Bush's spending sprees and Constitution pimping, but everything - gay marriage, fiscal prudence, whatever - will be fairly freaking moot if we lose the WOT, and I think that would be a distinct possibility under a Kerry presidency. I'm normally sanguine about presidential elections, and I normally don't think there's that much substantial, as opposed to stylistic, difference between the two parties, but this year is different. I voted for Clinton twice, but this is not the same Democratic party; as long as they refuse to give national security the serious and sober attention it deserves, I'm sticking with the spendthrift. I'd rather be broke than dead. Besides, the FMA has no chance, and Bush knows that.

Sounds like Kerry's doing a good job of mobilizing Bush's base. . . . Actually, that's too bad. I'd like it better if the Democrats had a nominee whose stance on the war was so clearly good that I had the luxury of deciding my vote on other issues. That turns out not to be the case.

Jeff Jarvis has further thoughts.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Marybeth Hayes writes: "Like your other reader Catherine Johnson, I have never voted for a Republican for president in my life (age 46), but I will this November." And reader Elizabeth Chang (I don't know why so many women are emailing on this topic) sends:

I agree with Catherine, Pamela and Holly. I've lived long enough through several presidents and several makeups of congress. One thing I've noticed is that it doesn't matter who holds the White House, most domestic issues are solved in Congress (if they are solved at all). So I feel that when it comes to domestic issues, the voters' focus should be on their Representatives and Senators. But when it comes to foreign policy and national security - you bet I'm looking at the White House. John Kerry does not inspire confidence, in fact, for me, he inspires horror! I think he would undo whatever advances we have made in making this country a little more secure and trying to do something to improve the lives of people in other parts of the world.

And Don Stubbs -- see, I do have male readers! -- observes:

I'm an independent who feels pretty much like the 51 year old life-long Democrat. I don't like some aspects of the Bush administration, but it ain't a perfect world either. The Democrats have NOTHING, ZIP, NADA to offer me.

I may lament that Republicans seem wishy-washy about some things I care about, or that they don't seem to stand up and be counted when it's needed. But the Democrats are very clear about where they stand, they speak (or at least the media filters make it seem that they speak) with a unified voice. My experience says that that many people being so unified means very few are thinking and the rest are following, in step, in line, like good little soldiers. And I don't care what group you are, that's not a good situation.

There is a WAR on, and I shudder to consider the possibilities should Bush not be re-elected. Things are changing in the Middle East, maybe slowly, but changing, and seemingly for the better. We surely don't know the outcome, but we know our past methods of dealing with the Middle East got us to 9/11. I wholeheartedly approve of the approach the Bush Administration took, and the path we're on. I hope they have the heart and strength to continue.

Further, whether they intended it or not, I think Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld make an effective good cop/bad cop pairing. Same for Tony Blair and George Bush. I love'em all, and I feel blessed that these people were in these positions at this time.

I'm getting a lot of email like this today.

MORE: Reader Chuck Burrill:

I agree with Catherine, Pamela, Holly, Marybeth, Elizabeth and Don.

I'm a 34 yo traditionally lefty voter, bay area native, homo who went to college in Santa Cruz.

I'm voting for Bush all the way, no ifs ands or buts.

Maybe the "war base" is more solid than I thought.

STILL MORE: Yep, maybe so. Reader Gerald Boisvert writes:

Why is it that I actually experience almost tangible fear when I think of Kerry winning an election against Bush? It makes no sense to me. I'm a Vietnam vet, and there's an unspoken feeling of some type of brotherhood, a kinship with others who served "in country". I don't get that from Kerry. Now with McCain, I feel that connection, no question ... (is he really a Republican?). Anyway, there's some kind of bond with those other vets. Not with Kerry.

Say what you will about Bush, I have always had this feeling that we went into Iraq not because of WMD, but because they were next on the list. The list we haven't gotten to the bottom of yet. So it doesn't matter to me that WMD haven't been found.

How can citizens of this country forget the attacks, yes plural, we have endured by those who want us dead because they are incapable of facing their own inadequasies as nations, people and men? This will take years, if not decades, to change. Bush stikes me as pricipled and focused. He will see it through until he's out of office, hopefully four more! There may be domestic issues that will result in great wailing and knashing of teeth by various factions, but the main event has to remain making the world safe for ALL who inhabit it.

If Kerry is so concerned about our future then he should get with the program, because there won't be any future unless there is a decisive effort to win this War on Terror. We need to think a bit less about our own little problems and agendas, support our administration and supply those who would enslave us with a dose of reality.

This IS a war, and it's eminently losable wih the wrong people at the helm. If Kerry stands that watch I would fear for my children and grandchildren. I don't trust him.

I'm hearing a lot of that. On the other hand, some of the war base is still on the fence.

AND FINALLY: Perhaps Bush should quote these words from Omar's Iraqi blog:

Some people still wonder what would be the relation between liberation of Iraq and war on terrorism. I think that the fact that nearly all the terrorists are gathered on our land to fight so fiercely should be more than enough an explanation. It may seem that the dictators and fanatics from outside are winning by inflicting such horrible losses in our lines and that the battlefield is Iraq, where in fact (my opinion) we are doing them a much more damage by building Iraq and that the battlefield is much more larger than Iraq. We are fighting them on their lands by showing their citizens what they can achieve once they are free. It’s still far from being an appealing vision, but soon it will be. These dictators, instead of trying to change so that they can find a place in the new world or at least take a safe shelter (Aristed) and not end being dragged from a sewage hole, are actually stupid enough to try to resist it. They are (spitting in the face of the wind).

Indeed. And although the sentiments are the same, don't go to Hammorabi's blog unless you have a strong stomach.

MICKEY KAUS was exit-polled yesterday, and shares what he learned.

IF YOU LIKE GIZMODO, you'll probably like Engadget, too, since it's written by Pete Rojas, who used to do Gizmodo!

March 02, 2004

HERE ARE SOME SPRING FLOWERS, shot Sunday during my run at Lakeshore park. Sadly, it poured rain most of today, though it was pleasantly warm. I guess I'll continue to credit the terraforming efforts.

I've been posting a lot of photos lately because, well, it's my blog and I like to do it. I've felt a bit guilty about it, since it's pretty self-indulgent, and there are a lot of better photographers out there, but people seem to like them fairly well. Each has generated some positive email, and no complaints.

I used to be a very serious photographer -- my senior essay was a photo essay with text loosely (very loosely) modeled on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, though I'm no Walker Evans or James Agee. (But my office overlooks James Agee's street!) And I worked briefly as a professional photographer before going to law school.

Once I got to law school, though, my interest in photography, or at least my motivation to do anything about that interest, largely dried up. It's been coming back lately, and I'm very happy about that. I hope you don't mind my occasional self-indulgence in posting some photos. Like most of my artistic endeavors, the proper assessment is probably (in Mark Tushnet's words about someone else's efforts) "Not bad -- for a law professor." But that's okay.

THE GOOD NEWS FOR KERRY: Lots of wins tonight, and the nomination in hand. The bad news for Kerry: A Ramsey Clark endorsement? Not his fault, I suppose.

Meanwhile Oxblog reports that Dean's primary victory today has his supporters calling for him to re-enter the race. Not too likely, I'd say.

UPDATE: I guess Ramsey Clark got the memo.

DODD HARRIS has thoughts on the demise of the gun bill. Meanwhile Clayton Cramer reports (and it's actual reporting) that the NRA sank the bill.


WALTER IN DENVER offers a Rocky Mountain Blog Roundup, which is cool. What's also cool is that the Rocky Mountain News is pointing it out with a link from its op-ed page. Bravo! (And thanks to Linda Seebach for the pointer.)

BIG ATTACKS ON SHI'ITES IN IRAQ. It seems to me that this suggests that the captured Zarqaawi memo, which spelled out a strategy of engaging in just such attacks in the hopes of encouraging Iraqi Shia to attack Iraqi Sunnis, thus pushing the latter in the Al Qaeda camp, was in fact genuine.

I also think that this makes clear what the terrorists are really about, even to those who didn't get it before. This is about a drive for dominance by a particular group of fanatical Wahhabists, not a more general Islamic struggle against the West, or Zionism, or any of the other excuses offered in the "why do they hate us?" vein. They attacked civilians in the United States because they thought it would help advance their campaign to restore the Caliphate with themselves on top. Now they're attacking Iraqi civilians because they hope that it will advance their chances of survival in a world in which even most Sunni Arabs don't like them.

That also suggests that we're making progress.

UPDATE: They're attacking Shi'ites in Pakistan, too. I don't think this will help their cause.

RAMESH PONNURU HAS RESPONDED to my TechCentralStation column from yesterday on the stacked Kass Council. It turns out that we don't disagree all that much on some important issues:

I am not sure that the Kass council on bioethics has done anything worthwhile -- anything, that is, to justify its existence.

I agree. He also says that Leon Kass has been gulty of "ham-handedness" in his handling of the appointments I complain about. (I provisionally agree; see below). But he says it doesn't matter, because -- even though the Council was stacked -- the Bush Administration won a less than complete victory.

Um, okay. Here's what I know, and how it's shaped my assessment of the Council. When Kass was first contacted by the White House, he was asked to bring someone who disagreed with him. Instead, as Virginia Postrel noted, "he did quite the opposite. He brought along someone whose views, both on the issue at hand and on medical progress more generally, mirror his own."

That was a setup; an odd behavior for an ethicist. And, with the Council, both at the time and since, people I trust have felt that Kass was doing exactly what Ponnuru says he should have done, but claims he didn't:

It seems to me that the entire point of appointing such a council, if the executive branch already basically knows its mind on the relevant issues, is to provide support for its positions.

That wasn't what Bush said the Council was about, but Kass has acted in ways that made it look as if Ponnuru's philosophy was driving things, even if not to an outcome that was entirely to Ponnuru's satisfaction. (Ham-handed, indeed.) Now two people generally less sympathetic to Kass's views have left, and have been replaced by people who, go figure, seem to be more in agreement with Kass, moving the already-unbalanced Council farther in that direction. As I said before, they're not bad people, they're just not bringing ideological breadth to the Council; in fact, they seem to be part of a narrowing and consolidation.

If the Council is, in fact, a vehicle whose sole purpose is to dream up justifications for policies already arrived at, then none of this matters -- it just means that those justifications won't gain any additional force by virtue of the Council's name, or its makeup, or its deliberative process. And, you know, that's what I've been pointing out.

UPDATE: This statement by Natasha Vita-More in U.S. News isn't really true, but it's certainly catchy: "The council is against cloning but it’s full of nothing but clones." Things aren't actually that bad, but it does seem as if Kass is aiming at an intellectual monoculture.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Leon Kass has written an oped in the Washington Post in which he denies that there's any commission-stacking going on, and says that the Bioethics Council is remarkably diverse. It's notable, though, that he focuses on the credentials of the new appointments -- which no one challenges -- rather than offering any specifics on viewpoints, which are the real issue. (And are we supposed to take this statement at face value? " Their personal views on the matters to come before the council in the coming term are completely unknown.")

I hope, of course, that Ponnuru is right, and that the problem is Kass's heavyhandedness, rather than outright bias. I still think, as many do, that the Council was stacked, and that the new appointments make that problem worse. I'd be happy to be proved wrong, of course.

EXIT POLLS show a Kerry sweep.

UPDATE: Edwards is quitting.

EVIDENCE OF WATER, but not life, on Mars.


UPDATE: Mark Schmitt, on the other hand, says there may beless here than meets the eye.

DID BUSH JUST LOSE THE ELECTION? Could be. More likely the bill will just die.

UPDATE: Yep, the bill's dead now. That didn't take long.

TOUCH-SCREEN VOTING IN MARYLAND: Bryan Preston has tried it, and he didn't like it:

The problem is, you get no paper record of how you voted. No receipt comes out, so you can't look walk away with anything in your hands that shows how or even whether you actually voted. And I couldn't see any security mechanism that would stop poll workers from casting votes for absentees when no one is around--well, other than the fact that some are supposed to be Republicans and some are supposed to be Democrats and therefore they're supposed to serve as a check on each other. But what if there is a strong third-party challenge? It's not unthinkable that the two major parties could collude and block the third party using these electronic machines and their lack of verifiable output. It's very disturbing. What if the machine misregistered my votes? I have no way of detecting error, and therefore no recourse.

What's more, here's a similar report of voting machine problems from Georgia. This is deeply disturbing.

Fortunately, there's a technological fix that can be deployed, if people are willing to do so.

Meanwhile Kevin Holtsberry is reporting from Ohio, where he predicts a Kerry win.

UPDATE: Athena Runner emails from California:

My husband and I went to vote this morning at 7 a.m. in Carlsbad, CA (San Diego County) and the new and improved *cough* electronic voting system wouldn't boot up. I went back twice and at 8 a.m., they still weren't working. Apparently it's a sporadic problem county wide.

When voter turnout is so low already, forcing people to try and come back multiple times is a huge problem. I miss my paper ballot.

Bryon Scott also emails:

At least the machines in Maryland are working. Here in San Diego the local radio stations are reporting that more than a dozen areas in the county can't even get the machines up and running.

Paper always works.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bruce Bender emails:

New voting machines were down in at my polling place in Oceanside, CA (next door to Camp Pendleton). Many people here leave for the day to work in San Diego and Orange and will either try again tonight or not vote. It is a strange feeling to be denied the chance.

Several other readers are reporting problems in various locales. You can't expect any system to work perfectly, of course, but this really doesn't seem ready for prime time.

MORE: Stephen Bainbridge reports that electronic voting (employing a different mechanism) is working fine in Los Angeles. But Maryland reader Mike McDaniel joins in dissing Maryland's system:

I can verify that the new system is wretched. Clumsy and horribly insecure. Worse, Maryland has a long and sordid history of election fraud - and these electronic systems seem tailor-made for fixed elections. What REALLY steams me is that our county had to give up perfectly good, secure, optically scanned paper ballots for this trash.

And Brendan Loy has more on California's problems. And Ann Bishop notes that it doesn't have to be bad:

We've been using touchscreen systems for years. We must sign in with multiple real people before we get that little initialed slip that we hand to the machine attendant. I'm sure his total slips must match the total votes on his machine at the end of the day. ~~Ann Bishop in Nashville

Auditability is key. I'm getting a lot of mail on this, but this is a two-class afternoon so I'm pretty busy. I'll try to pull some more stuff together tonight.

A CULTURE OF CORRUPTION? That's what I keep hearing.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT VENEZUELA, which is unravelling under the radar. Caracas Chronicles and Miguel Octavio are blogging the subject, as is CaribPundit.

OXBLOG NOTES a disappearing quote at the New York Times.

UPDATE: And, in connection with a different story, Ed Cone is accusing The New York Times of a coverup. Apparently, facts that don't fit the storyline just don't make the story, however, um, prominent they may be. . . .


The prevalence of rape in prison is fearsome. Line officers recently surveyed in one southern state estimated that one in five male prisoners were being coerced into sex; among higher-ranking officials, the estimate was one in eight. Prisoners themselves estimated one in three. . . .

Last year, Congress passed the Prison Rape Reduction Act, which allocates $60 million to support rape-prevention programs run by federal, state, and local corrections staff and to aid investigations and punishment of perpetrators. The bill, which enjoyed bipartisan support in the House and the Senate, also requires states to collect statistics on prison rape. Backers of the legislation hope federal oversight will make sexual assault prevention a priority for jail and prison systems across the nation. . . .

A higher hurdle, however, is the task of changing the way Americans think about prison rape. While San Francisco was honing its rape-prevention protocols, the state's attorney general, Bill Lockyer, was joking that he "would love to personally escort" Enron CEO Ken Lay "to an 8-by-10 cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says, 'Hi, my name is Spike, honey.' "

While humor about conventional rape has always been taboo, jokes about prison rape remain common. A recent 7-Up ad, eventually pulled from the air, depicted a spokesman handing out 7-Up in prison. When he accidentally drops a can, he says, "I'm not picking that up." Later, the spot shows the spokesman sitting in a cell, being hugged by an inmate. "When you bring the 7-Up, everyone is your friend," he says nervously. "Okay, that's enough being friends," he adds as the cell door slams. The insinuation of what's going to happen next is clear—and it's played for a laugh.

Commercials like this one might merely be examples of corporate tastelessness, but there is ample evidence that they are symptoms of a more disturbing phenomenon: an indifference to the rights of prisoners or perhaps even an acceptance of rape as a de facto part of the punishment.

That's clearly Lockyer's position, which is unfortunate since he's the chief law enforcement official of California.

UPDATE: Ronnie Schreiber emails:

There is only one reason why jokes about prison rape are acceptable - because men are the victims. In our current popular culture, men are fair game for being the butt of all sorts of jokes and comments that would be completely unacceptable if they were about women. Almost every commercial on television or radio that uses male characters treats the men as idiots and women as the font of all human knowledge and good behavior.

Yes, this sort of systematic demeaning of men is well-entrenched in the culture, though people are starting to notice and complain.


Presidential hopeful John F. Kerry has been a virtual no-show in the U.S. Senate over the past 14 months, but he hasn't missed a paycheck, even though a dusty federal law says some of his $158,000 salary should have been withheld.

During his run for the presidency, Kerry has missed every one of the 22 roll call votes in the Senate this year and was absent for 292, or 64 percent of the roll call votes last year, according to a Herald review of Senate records.

That means the Massachusetts senator has been away from his post in the Senate chamber for at least 128 days over the past 14 months. . . .

Section 39 of the United States Code Service requires the Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Administrative Officer of the House to deduct daily pay from members for each day they are absent.

The only legal excuse is if the senator or representative, or one of their family members, is ill, the law states.

This seems to actually refer to 2 U.S.C. sec. 39, which provides:

The Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives (upon certification by the Clerk of the House of Representatives), respectively, shall deduct from the monthly payments (or other periodic payments authorized by law) of each Member or Delegate the amount of his salary for each day that he has been absent from the Senate or House, respectively, unless such Member or Delegate assigns as the reason for such absence the sickness of himself or of some member of his family.

I hope he'll cut a check to the Treasury immediately.

UPDATE: Despite their near-total absence from the Senate in recent months, Kerry and Edwards are returning to Washington today to cast pro-gun-control votes, even though it's the biggest primary day of the season, according to a story I just heard on NPR.

I guess this makes clear where they stand on the issue, something that people may wish to remember in the Fall.

March 01, 2004

THE WEATHER HAS BEEN TERRIFIC, and it got to 70 degrees today. I thought it was just good luck, but looking more closely at the truck shown to the right, I guess that the University of Tennessee Physical Plant people have been hard at work on the climate. Terraforming: It's not just for Mars anymore!

I just didn't realize that things had progressed so far.

IF YOU'RE MAKING A FILM OR TELEVISION SHOW about the military, you might want to read this.

Of course, they don't do any better with lawyers, and most Hollywood people actually know lawyers.

EUGENE VOLOKH has some interesting thoughts on rebooting.

FRANK J. INTERVIEWS G. GORDON LIDDY: Funny, I always thought Frank J. was G. Gordon Liddy.


I'm all in favor of political theorists with University of Chicago connections who write about Montesquieu, really I am. But these changes have the clear intent and effect of making the advisory council more intellectually homogenous and less likely to air any dissent from Kass' essentially religious and anti-science views.

The Straussian link to foreign policy is deeply overstated. That to the bioethics commission is much less widely-known-- other than to longtime readers of Virginia Postrel's blog-- but much more real. The President is at complete liberty to replace members of the council; there's no procedural irregularity here, no wrongdoing. Just a very bad idea, and one that illustrates the administration's approach to science and research questions. After Kass was appointed chair of the council, much was made of the overall intellectual balance of the group. With the spotlight gone, that balance is getting replaced with something else altogether.


UPDATE: Phil Bowermaster observes:

I was, at best, lukewarm on George W. Bush until September 12, 2001. I have been a staunch supporter ever since, believing that he has done exactly what was needed by taking the war to our enemy. I understood that the war had to take precedence over everything else, but I'm beginning to wonder...does President Bush understand that? If he does, then why is he pandering left and right? The smart thing would be to move to the center on all these social issues and keep his support solid. As it is, in November I plan to hold my nose and vote for Bush. The fact that I have to put it that way indicates that he has, indeed, wasted the good will that I had for him.

A President is bound to alienate some supporters with some things that he does. But it certainly seems as if I've been hearing this sort of thing from a lot of people, on a lot of different issues, and often put far more negatively than Phil does. It makes me wonder what, exactly, the plan is.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Bennett emails:

It strikes me that the Kass bioethics council is Bush's equivalent of Clinton's National Monologue (er, "dialogue") on Race -- both DOA for not being genuine dialogues between the two widely-held poles of opinion on the subjects under discussion. There is no national consensus on either cloning or affirmative action, and to have a national exercise that excludes one of the poles makes the whole thing pointless at best and offensive to many.


MORE: I've gotten a number of emails -- interestingly, all seemingly from University of Chicago alumni -- saying that I'm being too hard on Kass. I don't think so, as this has been the modus operandi from day one:

In other words, when the president of the United States asked Kass to bring along someone who disagreed with him, he did quite the opposite. He brought along someone whose views, both on the issue at hand and on medical progress more generally, mirror his own.

This smacks of dishonesty, to me, and his behavior since has been consistent.

STILL MORE: David Bernstein offers perspective.

MORE STILL: Reader Karl Bade observes:

Has Phil considered that W is pandering precisely because the war takes precedence over everything else? Why does Phil think that moving to the center on social issues will keep his support solid? If conservative evangelicals sit at home this November, there won't be enough moderates in this country to make up for it. If Phil wants to argue that the evangelicals should understand that the war takes precedence over everything else, fine. There are a number of responses to such an argument, but it would be an interesting debate. I would note in passing that W is acutely aware that his Dad alienated conservatives for the sake of obtaining domestic support for the Gulf War, and it earned GHWB an early retirement, which was followed by eight years in which our response to terrorist attacks was minimal.

Yes. And while I'm happy to complain here, I freely admit that I might have the politics of what's going on here all wrong -- there's a strong tendency to confuse doing things one dislikes with acting politically dumb, and the two aren't necessarily the same. From where I sit, though, it seems as if Bush is in danger of getting the worst of both worlds -- moving far enough right to alienate non-evangelicals, without giving the evangelicals enough to inspire them on election day. But I'm no expert on that sort of political calculation. Of course, it's true that there are all sorts of people vulnerable to criticism on these issues:

Many of the same types who would criticize Bush for including religious opinion on a scientific panel debating the use of fetal cells - are those who refer to transgenic crops as "Frankenfood" .

Biblical scholars have no place in scientific discourse, but Mary Shelley does?

I don't mind Biblical scholars on a panel. (Or science fiction writers, though Shelley may prove unavailable. . . .) My complaint about this panel, though, is that it's stacked to produce the recommendations that Leon Kass (and, presumably President Bush) want. As Jacob Levy notes, there's nothing illegal about that -- but on the other hand, there's nothing admirable, or persuasive, about it, either.


My list would be slightly different, but Mickey's is worth reading.

UPDATE: More here.

I'M GIVING A TALK ON BLOGGING RIGHT NOW, and this is a post to illustrate how easy it is to put something up.

THE END: Reportedly, Judge Roy Moore opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment because it would interfere with States' Rights.

Hmm. I thought it was dead before, but now I really think so.

GEORGE BUSH'S MULTILATERALISM (here, too!) contrasts interestingly with John Kerry's bellicose unilateralism.


Set to be announced in April, the stem cell plan will bring together researchers from Harvard and all of the Harvard-affiliated hospitals to unlock the mysteries of a type of cell that has the potential to develop into any healthy tissue in the body, but has triggered ethical controversy over the way it is created. Though not housed in a central building, the initiative will be large, even by Harvard standards, with a fund-raising goal of about $100 million, according to the scientists involved.

The move by Harvard, one of the nation's top centers for biomedical research, marks a declaration of independence from the rules surrounding federal science funding and signals increasing frustration among American stem cell scientists. Embryonic stem cells, they say, hold tremendous promise to cure diseases such as Parkinson's and diabetes. Yet President Bush, citing concerns about the use of fertilized human egg cells in research, sharply curtailed government support for the research in 2001.

The federal government doesn't fund this sort of research, but it's not illegal, though some people would like for it to be.

Note, too, this article saying that U.S. researchers are losing their edge in stem cell research because of the federal funding ban.

Antitechnology sentiment has seriously damaged Europe's biotechnology industry. Since I'd rather not see that happen here, I'm glad to see non-government sources stepping up to the plate. (Via The Speculist).

5.6% UNEMPLOYMENT: "low" under Clinton, high under Bush! Go figure.

BLUE RIDGE BLOG is a photo blog focusing on, you guessed it, the Blue Ridge. "Harbingers of spring" are a theme over there, too.

OIL PRODUCTION IN IRAQ is approaching prewar levels. What's more there's agreement on a new Iraqi Constitution. And -- though I don't want to make too much of this because trends are too hard to identify -- casualties from terrorism seem to be down significantly, too. There seems to be a lot of good news coming out of Iraq lately, which I guess is why John Kerry prefers to talk about Vietnam.

THE CARMEN ELECTRA OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH: I look at the President's Council on Bioethics, and how the Bush Administration is blowing things, in my TechCentralStation column for this week.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel is unhappy, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here, via Hit&Run, is a piece by Ron Bailey on the Council from its early days that's still worth reading. Bailey regarded the Council as insufficiently diverse (in an intellectual sense) then; it seems unlikely that the latest round of changes is going to improve matters.

STEPHEN BAINBRIDGE has an article up arguing that Martha Stewart never should have been prosecuted.

Personally, I think they should be devoting their resources to investigating insider trading within the United States Senate.

UPDATE: These topics and many others are addressed at this week's Carnival of the Capitalists. Don't miss it!

LAW PROFESSOR ANN ALTHOUSE writes that John Kerry is drastically wrong about DNA testing and the death penalty.

Why isn't the press catching major factual errors like this? (And scroll up to see her defending Kerry on another issue.)

February 29, 2004

HERE'S A PICTURE FROM LAKESHORE PARK, taken as I went for a run this morning. And, to the right, [LATER: Moved here to keep from slowing the page too much for dialup users] a picture of the Sterchi building downtown as I headed home from the Downtown Grill and Brewery this afternoon. It's definitely trying to become spring.

One of my friends in Alaska once told me that there was an Inuit word that translated, roughly, as "being really mad because it's freakin' April and it's still freakin' winter!" February in Knoxville isn't the best time of year here, but it was 65 and sunny again today, and while there weren't leaves on the trees or flowers (well, not many of them, anyway) it at least feels like spring is on the way. And it'll be here in a week or two.

Back when I was in Elementary School I used to resent the lame "signs of spring" and "signs of fall" type assignments I'd get. (Remember ironing leaves between sheets of waxed paper?) Now I look for that sort of thing on my own.

Luckily, the signs of spring are everywhere now.

UPDATE: Reader Aleta Jackson sends this picture taken from her office window -- it's snowing in Mojave. And a reader asked that I post an enlarged version of the Lakeshore picture. You can find it here if you like.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Several people email to ask what camera I used to take those pictures. It was the Toshiba. The Sterchi photo was on the maximum quality setting; the Lakeshore photo is on "medium." It's not one of the high-end cameras that I've been writing about, but it's surprisingly good. My only real criticism is the lack of an optical viewfinder -- there's an LCD display on the back, and another one behind an eyepiece, but I'm enough of a traditionalist that I find it vaguely disquieting, although it works fine this way.

I'M HERE AT THE DOWNTOWN GRILL AND BREWERY, taking advantage of their free wireless internet to finish up my TechCentralStation column. (It's savaging the Administration for their cheesy behavior with the Bioethics council, a topic I've hit on before. It'll probably run tomorrow.)

They brew on Sundays, which is kind of cool. I used to be a homebrewer, but haven't made any beer in several years. There's less reason to, with the proliferation of excellent brewpubs with free wireless Internet!

I wonder if there were people who feared brewing technology when it was new? "They put in water and stuff, and out comes beer, which alters your consciousness. It's evil magic!"

Actually, I'm pretty sure that there were people like that. Would Leon Kass have been one of them, had he lived back then? I'm just, you know, asking.

UPDATE: Several readers have noted that brewing was responsible for civilization. Well, yeah. But that doesn't mean that it wasn't opposed by small-minded people at the time.

THE CALIFORNIA DEBATES get a negative review from Wonkette.

UPDATE: And James Lileks suggests a followup question for Elizabeth Bumiller, along with some pointers to Kerry on what he should answer if he gets asked this next time.

DAVID BERNSTEIN points out a "nonapology apology" by Rep. Corrine Brown, for the racist remarks mentioned here earlier. Bernstein: "How about a little outrage that Rep. Brown can't just say she finds the policy stupid, but needs to racialize her criticism?"

JACK NEELY has an interesting story about ex V-Roy Scott Miller's Amtrak-based multicity musical tour.

And, in a bonus for journalistic trivia buffs, a chance meeting reveals the fate and whereabouts of Wes Yoder, the New York Times stringer involved in the Rick Bragg scandal last year.

ANTIAMERICANISM HASN'T BEEN ENOUGH to save Gerhard Schroeder from an electorate that's unhappy with him for many reasons:

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats were trounced in a regional election in the city-state of Hamburg seen as a key test for his center-left government, exit polls said.

I think it's a trend:

The Hamburg defeat follows three landslide defeats in major states last year. Further losses this year and next would weaken Schroeder in the run-up to the next general election in 2006.

Gee do you think? What's unfortunate is that his economic-reform package, though probably inadequate, represents at least some recognition of economic reality. German voters seem even less willing to face economic reality than to accept international political reality.

UPDATE: More on Germany's problems with reality, here.

I'VE BEEN TELLING YOU that Randy Barnett is a Constitutional Law "rock star" -- but now he's started hanging out with Elton John and discussing libertarianism with Clint Eastwood.

ARISTIDE IS OUT and an "international force" is on its way in. Given that the only period of (relatively) good governance Haiti has enjoyed was when it was under the control of the United States, it's hard for me to be optimistic about its long-term prospects, but this is at least a short-term improvement and it was a necessary precondition to any long-term improvement.

I expect that Caribpundit will have more as the situation develops.


UPDATE: More (of what, I'm not entirely sure. . . .) here.

THE BIG HEIST: Roger Simon -- who has been following the oil-for-food scandal closely -- has some comments on the New York Times story mentioned below:

Let us hope this is only the beginning and I think it is because I suspect from the research revealed in her piece that there is a lot more to come. Good. We’re waiting. Since this may be among the Biggest Heists of All Time, if not the biggest, we need to know as many facts as possible.

He has an interesting proposal about what to do to prevent United Nations corruption in the future, too.

UPDATE: More here, including this spot-on observation:

Obviously, it was those who supported the war to remove Saddam Hussein that could justifiably have used the slogan "no blood for oil" against the opponents.


ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader sends this interesting observation:

The New York Times article this morning on Iraq's Oil for Food program mentions Glencore but conveniently leaves out that this is the new name for Marc Rich's Swiss Trading Company. Just Google, Marc Rich + Glencore and look at all the matches. Do you think that the New York Times did not want to mention that the recipient of Clinton's most famous pardon was buying Iraq oil and kicking back to Saddam?

Hmm. Well, the Times story does say that:

Iraqi records, for example, show that Glencore, a Swiss-based trading company that was one of the most active purchasers of Iraqi crude, paid $3,222,780.70 in surcharges. But the company said in a written statement that "it has at no time made any inappropriate payments to the Iraqi government" and "had no dealings with the Iraqi government outside the U.N. approved oil-for-food program."

So Glencore's denying the kickbacks, for what that's worth. But this story from Forbes seems to indicate that Marc Rich isn't associated with Glencore anymore:

After more battling, Rich left his namesake firm in 1993, which was later renamed Glencore and remains one of the world's largest commodity dealers. Rich got back to business in late 1995 with the Marc Rich Group.

So it sounds as if Glencore and Rich no longer have a connection, and haven't had one for quite a while, which would certainly explain why the Times doesn't make one. Am I wrong here?

ARMED LIBERAL NOTES A DEAFENING SILENCE where Rep. Corinne Brown's racist comments are concerned. (Kevin Drum is a notable exception.) He writes:

Someone explain to me how I can demand, with a straight face, that Dixiecrat Trent Lott or Jew-baiter (and MBNA shill) James Moran be punished when she isn't, or how I can give moral - as opposed to political - standing to those who only bust one side for the same crime.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Ed Cone has more thoughts on racism and double standards.


No one denies Mr. Kerry’s four bemedaled months in “Swiftboats” or his seven-months’ service as an electrical officer on board the USS Gridley, during its cruises back and forth to California, or even his months as an admiral’s aide in Brooklyn, before he was able get out of the Navy six months early to run for office.

Taking a look at Mr. Kerry’s much-promoted Vietnam service, his military record was, indeed, remarkable in many ways. Last week, the former assistant secretary of defense and Fletcher School of Diplomacy professor,W. Scott Thompson, recalled a conversation with the late Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr. that clearly had a slightly different take on Mr. Kerry’s recollection of their discussions:

“[T]he fabled and distinguished chief of naval operations,Admiral Elmo Zumwalt,told me — 30 years ago when he was still CNO —that during his own command of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam,just prior to his anointment as CNO, young Kerry had created great problems for him and the other top brass,by killing so many non-combatant civilians and going after other non-military targets.‘We had virtually to straitjacket him to keep him under control,’ the admiral said. ‘Bud’ Zumwalt got it right when he assessed Kerry as having large ambitions — but promised that his career in Vietnam would haunt him if he were ever on the national stage.” And this statement was made despite the fact Zumwalt had personally pinned a Silver Star on Mr. Kerry.

A lot of people are all over Kerry about various Vietnam-related issues, but personally, I think it's shameful that anyone would ever criticize a former Naval officer who won a Silver Star over his positions on Vietnam.

UPDATE: BlackFive has more thoughts on medals.

Also, via this post at Rkayn, read this story on a related topic.