May 20, 2006

THE BLOGOSPHERE HAS PEAKED: "Employers wiping out Net surfing on the job." Just watch those pageviews plummet!

WISCONSIN'S REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR, MARK GREEN, sits down with bloggers. Sean Hackbarth has the report, and audio.

AT GAY PATRIOT: "I just finished Mary Cheney’s book Now It’s My Turn: A Daughter’s Chronicle of Political Life and recommend it as the most important book addressing a gay topic of the year, if not the past few years. Indeed, it is must-read book for anyone who wishes to talk honestly about the Bush Administration’s record on gay issues."

FOOD AND FATNESS NOW AND THEN: One argument as to why people are fatter now has to do with restaurant portion sizes, which are a lot bigger than they used to be. Despite other arguments, Helen and I are always reminded of that when we visit Long's Drug Store, a Knoxville landmark that hasn't changed much since it opened fifty years ago.

longs3.jpgAs you can see, Helen's lunch is pretty small: Nothing supersized here. Of course, all she got was two eggs scrambled and toast.

But I got a cheeseburger. Still, it's no Monster ThickBurger -- just a modest piece of ground beef and some fries. (The crinkle-cut kind, still the best despite the McDonald's little-fry heresy.) They were actually more generous with the fries than usual.

Whenever we eat here (not all that often, alas) I think that it's a James Lileks kind of place, though it's perhaps more fifties-homey than fifties-glitzy, which seems more Lileksesque.



The other nice thing about our lunch is that it cost $7.16 -- plus tip, which was rather more than 15%. I don't feel like the waitresses should suffer for the low prices.

ANOTHER ROUGH DAY FOR AL JAZEERA: I hope these guys were from the Paris bureau, so that it'll at least be familiar.

DON'T GET TOO FAR ahead of the news cycle.

THE NSA TRANSCRIPTS of my phone calls have somehow leaked.

RANDY BARNETT has thoughts on judicial power and legislative restraint.

BACKUP PODCASTING: Various people wonder about my podcasting backup system. It's just the Dell Laptop, running Sony Acid Music Studio (the cheap version of the Acid Pro that I use regularly) and Sound Forge Audio Studio 8 (the cheap version of Sound Forge, which takes the place of the Adobe Audion that I usually use). Both are entirely adequate, though not as powerful as the stuff I regularly use. And they're a lot cheaper.

Sony seems to have managed to avoid ruining Acid and Sound Forge since taking them over from Sonic Foundry. On the other hand, judging by the customer reviews Adobe has managed to screw up Adobe Audition 2.0. I use version 1.5, which is quite close to the Cool Edit Pro that it replaced, but I figured that Adobe couldn't resist messing with things. Given that I hate Adobe's user interface, and overall design philosophy, I doubt I'll upgrade.

THOMAS DOHERTY: "The religion that once put the fear of God into Hollywood now has less influence over motion picture content than People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals."


Eastern Chad is now home for over 250,000 refugees, most of them in camps run by the UN and associated NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). About 20 percent of the refugees are Chadians, fleeing the increasing violence between Chadian security forces and various rebel factions. Some of the guys with guns are just bandits. These gangs, plus raiders from Darfur, and many of the Chad rebels, prey on the refugee camps, as well as the relief organizations. For example, relief organizations, despite hiring locals as armed guards, have had some 30 of their vehicles stolen. Food supplies and equipment are also taken regularly. The UN wants to send in peacekeepers to guard the refugee camps and the movements of relief supplies and aid workers. The Chad government doesn't want foreign peacekeepers, but it unable to provide security along the Sudan border. There's not exactly a war going on along the frontier. It's more like a breakdown in law and order, and dozens of groups of armed men wandering around stealing whatever they can. These guys are not interested in fighting. If they encounter security forces, or another armed group, they may exchange some fire, and if the other guy doesn't flee, just move on.


IRAQI PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW CABINET: That seems like good news. Things seem to me to be proceeding pretty much in accordance with this prediction from last year.

UPDATE: More thoughts here and here.

ALPHECCA NOTES A RARITY: positive media coverage of the NRA convention.

MILBLOGS: A Guantanamo roundup, plus a report from Korea.


Those “never say die” robots on Mars — NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity — continue to chalk up science at their respective exploration sites.

Looming large for the Opportunity rover at Meridiani Planum is Victoria Crater — a grand bit of territory that’s roughly half a mile (800 meters) in diameter. That’s about six times wider than Endurance Crater, a feature that the rover previously surveyed for several months in 2004, gathering data on rock layers there that were affected by water of long, long ago. . . .

“All of the cameras continue to work remarkably well and are continuing to acquire beautiful images,” said Cornell astronomer Jim Bell, the panoramic camera payload element lead for the Mars Exploration Rovers. “They have proven to be extremely robust to the extreme conditions on the Martian surface … large temperature swings, fine dust everywhere, large cosmic ray flux,” he told

Since the twin rovers independently landed on Mars in January 2004, Spirit’s cameras have taken about 82,000 pictures. Opportunity has taken about 71,500 pictures, for a combined downlinked image data volume of about 19 gigabytes. About 54,400 of Spirit's images and 49,500 of Opportunity's are high-resolution panoramic images, Bell said.

It's always nice when things work better than expected.

May 19, 2006

MICHAEL NOVAK didn't much like The Da Vinci Code.

GOOD NEWS FOR RAMONA DIXON: "The tumor is benign."

I HAD EMAILED CLAIRE BERLINSKI for an update on goings-on in Turkey, but to no avail. Claire responds:

No, Glenn, I'm in Paris right now -- otherwise I would surely be keeping you posted. David, meanwhile, is in Iraq, where evidently, contrary to all expectation, the only excitement to be found is a local sheep going into labor. He and I have both noticed that we have but to leave a country for all the excitement to begin. Given that we are both journalists, this is something of an odd karmic liability.

We'll both be flying back on Tuesday, and I'll tell you what we see when we get there. I would remark, though, that the phrase "rallying spontaneously" seems unlikely to me to be correct. This is the Turkish Republic we're talking about, large rallies are never more spontaneous than Al Gore doing the Macarena. I wish I could tell you more, but right now I'm no closer to it than you are. Stay tuned, though, I'll let you know when I'm back on the scene.

Changing the subject, I have been at times been tempted to respond to those who disagree with my assessment of the moral climate of the Netherlands, but if the invalidation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's citizenship does not persuade them, they are not susceptible to persuasion, so I may as well save my time and breath. Still, I think the event should be noted, and I note it thus.

I look forward to hearing more. And maybe we should pay Claire and David to visit places that need pacification!

PERSONALLY, I think it's fine if professors want to pose topless. (Photos probably NSFW, though not terribly titillating). I think they should be more reluctant to call student bloggers "unAmerican" just for criticizing them over their political views, though.

GOT A PHONE CALL FROM MICHAEL YON tonight. He's back from Afghanistan, and says he's really happy to be back in the States. He also reports that the Bill Roggio item I linked earlier is exactly right, and that the opium crop in Afghanistan is swelling. He's a big fan of some of the alternative crop efforts there, though it's hard for me to imagine that many crops could compete economically with opium. I'm still not sure why the United States doesn't start buying the stuff from farmers, which at the very least would drive up prices and put the squeeze on the warlords. Anyway, it was nice to hear that he's doing well, and we'll try to get him on another podcast soon. (Our earlier interview with Yon, if you missed it, is here.)

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman rains on my buy-the-opium idea: "It's an old idea. We tried to buy Khun Sa's crop in the late 60s. It never works. The market defeats it every time."

Dang, supply-and-demand! Well, an even better solution would be drug legalization, of course. Then they could sell to Pfizer, not to organized crime. Kleiman has more here.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GREEN LINE: Michael Totten blogs from the West Bank. And don't miss the post-script.

CANNIBALISM IN CONNECTICUT? "Ah, it's sad, this message that there's no such thing as a liberal hawk. I wonder what Hillary's thinking about all this."

THE RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM seems to be getting out of hand.

HP UPDATE: Well, I finally got to someone at HP last night (my slowness, not theirs) and the computer is on its way back for repairs. They were quite nice. Am I getting special blogger-treatment? Possibly, but I've gotten several emails like this one from Gary Wishon: "My HP laptop was picked up FedEx on Tuesday and I was using it again on Thursday PM. With a follow-up call 2hrs after arrival. I'd buy HP again anytime--and have." And I didn't get any horror stories like I keep hearing about Dell (though I note that my own experiences with Dell have been mostly good). I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I've demoted the HP to family-room duty and done what I've meant to do for a while, putting a dedicated audio PC in the studio. I ordered one of these machines from Sweetwater Sound, and it came today. Had a minor setup glitch, called their support number, and got it taken care of with minimal hassle thanks to a guy named "Mikey." He even gave me some useful advice on configuring my M-Audio interface box with the computer, which is cool. The new computer is much quieter, which is nice.



Turks have had enough of their government’s unwillingness to take responsibility for its actions and its incitement. What some Turks are asking, though, is why the U.S. media is paying so little attention to the crisis. This isn’t just an instance of Turks being Turkey-centric. But it seems that when Islamists threaten to make inroads, U.S. media is all over the story. But when liberals fight back, there is silence. This is not only true in Turkey, but extends to general media sympathy toward Islamism.

Yes, it does seem that way.


The news reports of a major Taliban offensive in southeastern Afghanistan are inaccurate, as Coalition offensives and Taliban attacks have been lumped together to give the impression of a coordinated Taliban assault in multiple provinces. A reading of the various reports indicates that while the Taliban has launched a major strike on a police station and government center in Helmand province and a small scale attack on a police patrol in Ghazni, as well as two suicide attacks against U.S. contractors in Herat and an Afghan army base in Ghazni, the fighting in Kandahar was initiated by Afghan and Coalition security forces during planned operations. Over 100 have been reported killed during the fighting, with 87 being Taliban. Well over half of those killed were killed during the Coalition offensives in Kandahar.

He'll be reporting from Afghanistan starting next week, as he's heading over on an embed. Read the whole thing, and this report from StrategyPage has more.

THE BLOG WEEK IN REVIEW PODCAST is up, featuring me, Austin Bay, Eric Umansky, and Tammy Bruce. Topics include the NSA call-tracking program, Egypt, Iran, and more. Shockingly, Eric and I wind up agreeing a lot.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Some pretty good news, according to Mark Tapscott:

National Journal's Peter Cohn is reporting an agreement among Senate and House negotiators to cap spending in the emergency spending bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Gulf Coast hurricane recovery to $94.5 billion.

The total would include, according to Cohn, the $92.5 billion originally requested by President Bush and approved by the House of Representatives, plus an additional $2.3 billion to fund avian flu preparations. The National Journal is a subscription-only publication, so I can't provide a link to the full article.

Keep your eye on the ball. Er, and your hand on your wallet.

I THINK THIS IS GOOD NEWS: "Tens of thousands of Turks are rallying spontaneously in favor of secularism and liberalism."

SOME FURTHER THOUGHTS on parenting and expectations.

IN THE MAIL: Stanley Bing's 100 Bullshit Jobs...And How to Get Them. Number 13 is "blogger."

N.Z. BEAR offers advice to the White House. "Recognizing that the White House is not a blog, I think it can be informative to read their email as if it were a blog post, and judge it by the same standards we would apply to a blogger's work. And by those standards, it falls rather short."

THE UN-SILENCED BILL HOBBS has started a new web PR consulting company called Mesh Media Strategies, and reports via email that he's already got a stable of clients.

JOHN TAMMES offers another roundup of news from Afghanistan that you've probably missed.


UH OH: "The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the professional association of CPAs, has sheepishly announced that it has lost a computer file containing the names, addresses, and social security numbers of some of its members."

AMIR TAHERI looks at leading indicators in Iraq:

Since my first encounter with Iraq almost 40 years ago, I have relied on several broad measures of social and economic health to assess the countrys condition. Through good times and bad, these signs have proved remarkably accurateas accurate, that is, as is possible in human affairs. For some time now, all have been pointing in an unequivocally positive direction.

The first sign is refugees. When things have been truly desperate in Iraqin 1959, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1980, 1988, and 1990long queues of Iraqis have formed at the Turkish and Iranian frontiers, hoping to escape. In 1973, for example, when Saddam Hussein decided to expel all those whose ancestors had not been Ottoman citizens before Iraqs creation as a state, some 1.2 million Iraqis left their homes in the space of just six weeks. This was not the temporary exile of a small group of middle-class professionals and intellectuals, which is a common enough phenomenon in most Arab countries. Rather, it was a departure en masse, affecting people both in small villages and in big cities, and it was a scene regularly repeated under Saddam Hussein.

Since the toppling of Saddam in 2003, this is one highly damaging image we have not seen on our television setsand we can be sure that we would be seeing it if it were there to be shown. To the contrary, Iraqis, far from fleeing, have been returning home. By the end of 2005, in the most conservative estimate, the number of returnees topped the 1.2-million mark. Many of the camps set up for fleeing Iraqis in Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia since 1959 have now closed down. The oldest such center, at Ashrafiayh in southwest Iran, was formally shut when its last Iraqi guests returned home in 2004.

A second dependable sign likewise concerns human movement, but of a different kind. This is the flow of religious pilgrims to the Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf. Whenever things start to go badly in Iraq, this stream is reduced to a trickle and then it dries up completely. From 1991 (when Saddam Hussein massacred Shiites involved in a revolt against him) to 2003, there were scarcely any pilgrims to these cities. Since Saddams fall, they have been flooded with visitors. In 2005, the holy sites received an estimated 12 million pilgrims, making them the most visited spots in the entire Muslim world, ahead of both Mecca and Medina.

Over 3,000 Iraqi clerics have also returned from exile, and Shiite seminaries, which just a few years ago held no more than a few dozen pupils, now boast over 15,000 from 40 different countries. This is because Najaf, the oldest center of Shiite scholarship, is once again able to offer an alternative to Qom, the Iranian holy city where a radical and highly politicized version of Shiism is taught. Those wishing to pursue the study of more traditional and quietist forms of Shiism now go to Iraq where, unlike in Iran, the seminaries are not controlled by the government and its secret police.

A third sign, this one of the hard economic variety, is the value of the Iraqi dinar, especially as compared with the regions other major currencies. In the final years of Saddam Husseins rule, the Iraqi dinar was in free fall; after 1995, it was no longer even traded in Iran and Kuwait. By contrast, the new dinar, introduced early in 2004, is doing well against both the Kuwaiti dinar and the Iranian rial, having risen by 17 percent against the former and by 23 percent against the latter. Although it is still impossible to fix its value against a basket of international currencies, the new Iraqi dinar has done well against the U.S. dollar, increasing in value by almost 18 percent between August 2004 and August 2005. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis, and millions of Iranians and Kuwaitis, now treat it as a safe and solid medium of exchange

My fourth time-tested sign is the level of activity by small and medium-sized businesses. In the past, whenever things have gone downhill in Iraq, large numbers of such enterprises have simply closed down, with the countrys most capable entrepreneurs decamping to Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Turkey, Iran, and even Europe and North America. Since liberation, however, Iraq has witnessed a private-sector boom, especially among small and medium-sized businesses.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: In response, Greg Djerejian sends this story from the New York Times claiming an exodus of middle class citizens from Baghdad. I heard a similar story on NPR a few weeks back, interviewing Iraqi expats in Jordan -- but the story omitted any overt mention of what seemed obvious from the interviews, which was that the refugees were former Baathists. Can't tell if that's true here, but Jim Hoft has looked at the NYT's numbers and says they're not supported. So it's hard to say for sure.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Much more here.

MORE: A less-positive take here from Iraq the Model: "On the other hand many of my friends, relatives or the people I know have either left Iraq or are planning to do so."


The logic seems inescapable. The U.S., in this sense, is an attractive nuisance like a swimming pool. If you want to keep neighborhood children from using the pool, and possibly drowning, you don't partially fence it in. You completely fence it in. ... Full funding for full fencing! ... P.S.: Sure, Bush has said "it's impractical to fence off the border." But earlier this week he wasn't willing to flatly endorse even the 320 miles the Senate supported. Today he was. Give him time. He's caving fast!

Mexican immigrants are adults, though, not children.

May 18, 2006

HOW AN IRAQI MINISTER is using the Washington Post. And vice versa.

REQUIRING A PHOTO ID TO VOTE? Doesn't seem that unreasonable to me, given that I have to show one to buy a beer.

UPDATE: Reader Barry Dauphin emails that he had to show one to buy Claritin-D.


I'M PROUD OF HARPER'S for publishing the Mohammed cartoons, but Ed Driscoll has some questions.

THE AMNESTY PROTESTS CONTINUE TO BEAR FRUIT: The Inhofe Amendment, which makes English the national language of the United States, has just passed the Senate by a sizable margin.

HOWARD LOVY on the latest raft of toxic nanotechnology stories:

It's frustrating to read and hear some of the coverage of this "story," since basic rules of journalism are apparently thrown out the window. Science and technology writers, especially, should know that there have actually been no tests showing that nanotechnology is toxic to anything or anyone. The old nanotube rat and buckyball fish studies show that if you pump these beasts full of raw nanoparticles, they'll probably suffocate or become brain damaged.

Any company that dumps a bunch of raw, uncooked, unengineered nanoparticles into any product would not actually be practicing "nanotechnology." So, these oft-repeated studies show absolutely nothing about the potential toxicity of nanotech products. It shows that scientists are practicing science, one small step at a time.


STEPHEN BAINBRIDGE has thoughts on The DaVinci Code.


HEH: "If you’re reading this at work, the answer is: 'Research. Why do you ask?'"

JAY ROSEN offers advice for Tony Snow and the White House. I think it's pretty good.

UPDATE: Mary Katharine Ham: "The more Snow, the better."

DOKTOR FRANK'S NEW NOVEL KING DORK gets a review from the InstaMom, a children's librarian. Click "read more" to read it.

Plus, Doktor Frank hits upon a new marketing strategy.

Read More ?

THE PUNDIT is flat.

AL GORE, RESURGENS: Howard Kurtz has the skinny.

NOT IN THE MAIL: For some reason, no one has gotten around to sending me a copy of Helen Thomas's new book, Watchdogs of Democracy? : The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public. However, I did get a press release saying that "Today's journalists, to hear Thomas tell it, have become subdued and are failing to fulfill their most vital role in American life: to be the watchdogs of democracy."

Well, just because it barks at everything doesn't mean it's a watchdog. Something Thomas herself might keep in mind. . . .

CAN'T WIN FOR LOSING: "Fading slugger hurting team by playing, but S.F. even worse without him."

Thanks to reader Bo McIlvain for this amusing headline.

JONATHAN ADLER: "If Congress really cares about high gasoline prices -- even if the gasoline is more affordable than in decades past -- they should consider the role of current federal policies in reducing supply, balkanizing markets, enhancing price volatility, and discouraging alternative fuel sources. Yet if Congress won't even reduce tariffs on ethanol imports -- which would significantly reduce the costs associated with current ethanol mandates -- I see little hope for more meaningful policy reforms."

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT, in Boston. Meanwhile, London Mayor "Red Ken" Livingstone goes after an anti-Chavez blogger.

IN THE MAIL: Shmuel Bar's new book, Warrant for Terror : The Fatwas of Radical Islam, and the Duty of Jihad.

A NEW APPROACH to North Korea?


porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: I like this from Dennis Hastert:

Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) today made the following statement regarding Senate attempts to use an across-the-board cut to make room for additional spending it included in its $109 billion emergency supplemental bill. The Senate passed its bill, which is more than $15 billion over the President’s $92 billion budget request, earlier this month.

“Any calls from the Senate for an across-the-board cut to make room for a bloated supplemental will be met by a busy signal in the House. The House will not join a shell-game spending spree with taxpayer dollars. President Bush requested $92 billion for the War on Terror and Hurricane Katrina relief spending. The House has passed a bill that exercised fiscal restraint. The Senate needs to throw overboard, unnecessary add-ons and help us get the needed funds to our troops in the field and our fellow citizens suffering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.”

Yes. That's certainly consistent with what Majority Leader John Boehner said in our PorkBusters interview. Boehner, by the way, also said that we may see a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment this year.

Meanwhile, I like this proposal for term limits for Congressional appropriators. It might even be a cure for Pork Envy.

CAM EDWARDS reports that the NRA is going after mayors and police chiefs who support gun control.

ED MORRISSEY calls John Conyers' oped on impeachment disingenuous. Personally, I wouldn't trust Conyers with my Thanksgiving turkey.

COMMENTS ON MURTHA'S LATEST, here and here. Plus, a call for censure.


In the last seven months, the U.S. Army has met or exceeded all of its recruiting goals. In that time, over 160,000 people have enlisted, or re-enlisted. The total strength of the active duty and reserve forces are 1.2 million men and women, all of them volunteers.

Except for a few months in 2004-5, the military has been able to maintain its strength, despite wartime conditions. The biggest problem has not been casualties (only about 10,000 soldiers have been killed or disabled so far, less than one percent of overall strength), but the disruption to family life caused by so many troops getting sent to combat zones. This discouraged re-enlistments in reserve units, although mainly among the non-combat troops. In combat units, re-enlistments were at record levels.

Interestingly, the biggest recruiting aid has been word-of-mouth from the troops themselves.

MICKEY KAUS is blogging up a storm on immigration.

May 17, 2006

HMM: " President Bush helped raise $17 million for the Republican Party Wednesday, a welcome financial boost amid GOP gloom over the possible loss of majority control of Congress in November. "

Put that together with the whole barbershop thing and I'd say it's too early to write 'em off yet.

A HAROLD FORD BLOG: I'm mostly seeing signs of activity from the Harold Ford and Bob Corker campaigns -- though the latter includes annoying voicemail spam from Bob Corker's mom -- but what's happened to Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary?

THE DA VINCI CODE gets a lukewarm review in the Times: "In spite of some talk (a good deal less than in the book) about the divine feminine, chalices and blades, and the spiritual power of sexual connection, not even a glimmer of eroticism flickers between the two stars. Perhaps it's just as well. . . . So I certainly can't support any calls for boycotting or protesting this busy, trivial, inoffensive film. Which is not to say I'm recommending you go see it."

Ouch. The audience reviews are pretty negative, too, overall though I suspect that many of them haven't seen the film.

On the other hand, the New York Post's reviewer loved it.

RAMONA DIXON IS IN SURGERY NOW: Scroll to the bottom for the latest.


Citing research suggesting that some invisibly small engineered nanoparticles might pose health risks, a coalition of consumer and environmental groups petitioned the Food and Drug Administration yesterday to beef up its regulation of nanoparticle-containing sunscreens and cosmetics and recall some products.

The legal filing was synchronized with the release of a report by the environmental group Friends of the Earth that highlighted the growing number of personal care products with nanoingredients, defined as smaller than 100-millionths of a millimeter.

I'm agnostic on whether this is a good idea, but I think it underscores -- as I've noted before -- the unwisdom of the industry's strategy a few years back of identifying nanotechnology with this kind of stuff instead of with the more "spooky" advanced possibilities.

UPDATE: Steven Den Beste notes a math error that I shouldn't have missed, but did:

Lemme see: 1/100 million == 10^-8. A millimeter is 10^-3 meter. Multiply them together and you get 10^-11 meter. So they're talking about banning particles smaller than 10 picometers.

The smallest atom is helium, which is 280 picometers in diameter. The only things smaller are elemental particles such as protons, neutrons, and electrons. I guess we have to ban everything made out of them, right?

It would be interesting to know if this is the Wapo's mistake, or if Friends of the Earth really are that clueless. I wouldn't want to bet either way.

Jeez, I read that as 100-millionths of a meter, not a millimeter, and so it's hard for me to blame the Post. But it seems like a mistake that's easier to miss than to make in the first place.

UPDATE: Reader Josh Mandir says the problem isn't math, but English:

I went through the same calculation that Steven Den Beste did and basically came up with the same answer and was ready ro ridicule the math error myself, but I realized that they probably mean 100 units of 1 millionth of a millimeter. One millionth of a millimeter is a nanometer, 100 of those is 100 nanometers. And 100 nanometers seems to be about the upper limit of what you could reasonably call something nano in science.


UH OH: "The conservative blogosphere's anger towards President Bush has begun to resemble the foam flecked frothy faced insanity of the left. And I do not like the comparison."

TIM CHAPMAN JUMPS INTO the Tapscott/Geraghty debate.

PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW HOW HEWLETT-PACKARD has responded to my computer crash. Not at all, yet, because I haven't called them. Too busy producing the podcast (on the backup machine -- here at InstaPundit we take a blasting and keep on 'casting) to call. I'll keep you posted.

A MINOR CORRECTION: Right after Bush's speech, I linked to a report at The Corner suggesting that Lou Dobbs liked the speech. If he did, he has apparently reconsidered.

The Glenn and Helen Show: Interview with Seth Roberts

Okay, a while back I was skeptical of Seth Roberts' new book, The Shangri-La Diet: The No-Hunger, Eat Anything Weight Loss Plan. Most diets don't work, and this one sounded particularly oversold. Lots of folks emailed that they like it, though, and Helen was interested, so we decided to look him up and see what he had to say about it. Can you really lose weight with a little bit of sugar-water or olive oil?

It's an interesting approach -- though my two-week test-drive hasn't seemed to do much -- and he has some useful thoughts on societal attitudes and behaviors regarding food and fatness in general. Plus, Helen -- a Weight Watchers expert -- has some insights of her own.

You can listen to the interview directly (no iPod needed!) by clicking right here, or you can subscribe via iTunes (we like that).

There's an archive of previous podcasts here.

Music is by Audra and the Antidote.

As always, my lovely and talented cohost is soliciting comments.

FIXING IMMIGRATION FROM SOUTH OF THE BORDER: Some further thoughts on Mexico and America, over at

DONALD SENSING has further thoughts on parents and children in response to my TCS column.


MORE COFFEEBLOGGING: Various people wanted followups on my earlier coffeemaker post, and, anticipating requests for more consumer-blogging, I have undertaken an actual in-home coffeemaker test.

I ordered this cheap Black & Decker model, which was warmly endorsed by many readers. And, at about the same time, someone from Starbucks offered to send me this more expensive DeLonghi that Starbucks sells. I've tried 'em both out for a few days, and even had some blind taste-testing at the Mother's Day bash here on Sunday.

Both are good. The Black & Decker wins hands-down for price and for its easy and uncomplicated user interface. (Yes, it's the 21st Century and coffee pots have user interfaces.) It's easy to program and use, and the "Perfect Pour" carafe doesn't spill or dribble. It keeps the coffee hot enough, but doesn't burn it.

The DeLonghi has a thermal carafe. It's not hard to program it or set the clock, but it's not as easy as the Black & Decker. Any idiot can figure out the Black & Decker, while some folks might need to look at the manual to figure out the DeLonghi. It has a thermal carafe, which also doesn't dribble or spill. It keeps the coffee hot enough for two or three hours; after that it's a bit cool for my taste, though it takes a while longer to get down to lukewarm. It's easy to fill with water and coffee, too.

So how's the coffee? It's good from both. The Black & Decker -- as seems common with the coffeemakers that use basket-type filters -- tends to come out a bit on the weak side. You can make up for that by adding more coffee, but if you do that you may find that the savings on the pot is offset by the expense of extra coffee.

The DeLonghi makes excellent coffee, stronger and more full-bodied on the same amount of coffee than the Black & Decker. In our blind taste tests, everybody -- including my brother-in-law Joe Smith, a former coffeehouse mogul here in Knoxville -- pronounced coffee from both pots good, but the coffee from the DeLonghi richer and fuller-bodied, with more coffee flavor. (I used identical amounts of Starbucks Sumatra for the test).

Conclusion: You can't go wrong, really, between these two. The Black & Decker is good, and cheap. The DeLonghi is better, but more expensive, though you might make that back via using less coffee, especially if you like expensive beans. And neither one dribbles or leaks, something that you ought to be able to take for granted in a coffeemaker but, alas, can't.

WITH THE MOUSSAOUI TRIAL OVER, the Pentagon has released video footage of Flight 77 striking, er, the Pentagon. I doubt that this will do much to quite the conspiracy theorists, but it's worth pointing to this piece from Popular Mechanics on "Debunking the 9/11 Myths."


There's been a lot of Google-paranoia on the right, but this is only going to make things worse.

HOWARD KURTZ ON TONY SNOW: "He showed more emotion in 60 seconds than Scott McClellan did in three years."

DIAGRAMMING THE NEW FRONTIER'S IMPLOSION: I think I'm pretty much a New Frontiers liberal, which today, I guess, puts me on the libertarian right?

THE PARENT TRAP: As people talk about demographics, birth dearths, and the like, my TCS Daily column offers one explanation for why people aren't having more children.

MARK TAPSCOTT has more on conservative battle fatigue

THINGS CAN'T BE THAT BAD FOR THE REPUBLICANS: Traditional barbershops are making a comeback. Well, sort of traditional. Except for the wi-fi and stuff.

Better than this, anyway.

UPDATE: Reader Peter Ingemi emails:

As that fellow who works mostly from home (and some unusual places) laptop in hand I want to second that barber shop story.

Here in Fitchburg we still have old barber shops. I went to Bob's a couple of weeks ago. Bob has been at his shop since before I was born. He knew my grandfather whose barber shop was a block or two from his and was cutting hair when he was (He died in 1967). Bob will still give you a haircut for under $10 and is not likely to retire.

4 Blocks away on Day street Ideal hair is the only place in town that give the old fashioned barber shop shaves. (Bob did it for me on request but I think I was the only guy he shaved in 3 decades). They do the whole 10 yards with the hot towels, lather and the straight razor.

You have not lived unless you have had one. It is a lost art. The Barber's father died a few years ago and the son is in his late 50's early 60's.

Between that and the Romano's Butcher shop down the road we can be mighty retro around here, but people don't know what they're missing.

Now if I could only find somebody to block and steam my Fedoras.

Find that and Lileks will move in next door.

May 16, 2006

IT'S NOT DELL HELL: The computer in the studio just died; sounds like a hard-drive crash. Fortunately, I just did a backup. It's an HP, though, not a Dell. I'll let you know how the warranty service goes. We're doing a podcast interview tomorrow, but luckily I've got a backup computer. Belt-and-suspenders -- it's the only way to go!


If you think that libertarianism is incompatible with "family values" conservatism, then think again. And read Jennifer Roback Morse's book.

Single moms and the welfare state go together. Strong families and free markets go together. Morse argues that a combination of weak families and free markets is much less likely to persist.

That seems plausible. And Arnold's essay leads Megan McArdle to discuss the virtues of nagging.

HELICOPTER PARENTS: They just keep hovering.

THE UN-SILENCED BILL HOBBS offers advice on how George W. Bush can save his presidency.

FOREIGN POLICY makes a shocking omission.

"MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF MOE AND CURLEY." Yes, it is a great title.


Illegal immigration to the United States is "Mexico's disgrace," caused by the government's failure to create enough jobs, the country's leftist presidential candidate said on Tuesday.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who trails conservative Felipe Calderon in polls ahead of July 2 elections, accused President Vicente Fox's administration of causing the flight of millions of Mexicans to the north, which prompted President Bush to order National Guard troops to the border.

"They are the ones mostly responsible for what is going on because there is no employment, there are no jobs in Mexico so people need to emigrate," Lopez Obrador said on his morning television show."

Upside: If Mexico goes communist, Bush won't have to do anything: they'll build a wall themselves!

IT'S A PORKBUSTERS PODCAST INTERVIEW with House Majority Leader John Boehner, about spending, earmarks, and more. He talks pretty tough, and says that the climate on spending has changed because of constituent pressure.

So, if you care about spending, keep the pressure up!

UPDATE: Yes, this was recorded via my studio, and yes the sound is better than most of the Glenn and Helen podcasts. That's because I used my new digital phone interface, which gives a much clearer signal and a much lower noise floor -- which also lets me use a lot more compression on the mix, helping even out the volume and make it punchier. It also helped that Boehner was on a good phone -- N.Z. was on a cordless, and you can hear the difference. One problem I've discovered in doing these things is that lots of people literally don't own a wired phone handset anymore.


An investigation of a professor who likened some of the Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi found serious cases of misconduct in his academic research, including plagiarism and fabrications, a University of Colorado spokesman said Tuesday.

One member of the five-person investigative committee recommended that ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill be fired, and four recommended he be suspended, university spokesman Barrie Hartman said.

Pirate Ballerina has much more, including a link to the full report.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has several posts on topic -- scroll down from this one.



The universe of public broadcasting today is "an embarrassment of niches."

This topic statement, uttered by Jake Shapiro of the Public Radio Exchange, launched a torrent of speculation and anxiety over both the future and funding of public media -- whether radio, television or otherwise. . . .

"The challenges and the problems that public media face are not at all different from what private or commercial media faces," said Diane Mermigas of the Hollywood Reporter. "You could be Rupert Murdoch, Sumner Redstone from Viacom or Ted Turner, and they're asking the same questions you are. I know because I sit down with them all the time."

The trick, said Terry Heaton of media consulting firm Donata Communications, is to meaningfully tap the expertise of one's audience. Whether a program's subject is antiques, history, baseball or brewing, the advice is the same.

"You're setting yourselves up for problems in the future if you're going to be only a content provider," he said. "That to me is suicide, because the real value is at the opposite end."

That's probably right.

DESPITE THE GOP'S PROBLEMS, it's gaining in Minnesota. Go figure.

BUSH'S SPEECH is reportedly polling better than I would have expected.

INSTAPUNK says that big media are winning via a Chinese water-torture approach:

While the bloggers were fighting their various and diverse battles in the name of truth, justice, and common sense, the MSM ocean was harnessing its entire immensity on just one story, told an infinite number of times, in every possible inflection, from every direction, and with the deadly persistent accuracy of a dripping tap: George W. Bush is no good.

It doesn't have to be true, it doesn't have to be fair, it doesn't have to be consistent in its terms. All that matters is that it is repeated with uniform constancy: drip, drip, drip. George W. Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good. Change the headlines, seem to change the subject. Abu Ghraib. European disdain. Tom Delay. Katrina. Deficits. Valerie Plame. Gas prices. Karl Rove. Death in Iraq. Angry mothers. NSA wiretaps. Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, the lede is always the same. George W. Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good. Forget the good news, bury the accomplishments or ignore them altogether. Drip, drip, George W. Bush is no good, George W. Bush is no good, George W. Bush is no good.

It took the MSM three years to bring George W. Bush's approval ratings down from their post 9/11 high to 52 percent on election day 2004. It's taken them just six months to bring him down another 20 to 25 points. They never forgot their mission. While the princeling bloggers pissed and moaned about Harriet Miers, and immigration, and federal spending, the MSM kept on dripping out its one story, and now they are within reach of their goal .

Read the whole thing. It's an interesting perspective, though it assumes a shocking degree of cynicism, partisanship and commitment on the part of Big Media.

GASOLINE: Still cheap, by historical standards.

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY REPORT ON MEDIA GUN COVERAGE IS UP: Among other things, he actually finds a positive story on guns from Time magazine.

RYAN SAGER OFFERS advice for libertarians.

Meanwhile, Jim Geraghty offers advice on how frustrated conservatives can reassert control over the GOP.

In both cases, the advice goes well beyond staying home in 2006.

A BOGLE BLOG: Jacob Corrй emails: "Jack Bogle, the founder of the Vanguard Group, father of retail passive investing and the most important advocate of individual investors alive, has started a blog. This I think is an important event for both his industry and the world of blogging (to which the term "industry" doesn't quite seem to fit)."

It's here.

IN THE MAIL: Richard Posner's new book, Uncertain Shield : The U.S. Intelligence System in the Throes of Reform.

This Posner column from the WSJ (free link) captures some of the gist.

NATIONAL GUARDSMAN JOHN TAMMES has thoughts on deploying the Guard at the border.

TRAFFIC CAMERAS: Guilty of racial profiling.

HUGH HEWITT'S SHOW LAST NIGHT ran for an extra two hours, as an extended symposium on immigration and the President's speech. Lots of it is posted, as transcripts and audio, over at Hugh thought the President's speech was a good start, but was deeply unimpressed with Julie Myers' followup.

JOHN PODHORETZ on the immigration debate: "The immigration debate is a very heated and passionate one, and the heat and passion on the part of those on the restrictionist side have been useful tools for pushing the conversation in your direction. But there's a difference between heated disagreement and the insistence on lock-step uniformity. . . . This inability to stomach disagreement on a hot-button issue should be troubling to anyone and everyone who has found an intellectual home on the Right — in part to avoid the kind of crippling self-censorship that has afflicted the P.C. Left."

Yes. If you find yourself sounding like a Kos diarist, step away from the blog and take a break, lest you do for your cause what the Kossacks have done for theirs.


As Washington insiders pore over the latest low job-approval ratings for George W. Bush, and as aficionados of British politics ponder the latest low ratings of Tony Blair, let's take a longer look at the political ebb and flow in America and Britain over the last quarter century or so. There is a certain parallelism.

Read the whole thing.

CHESTER says to stop moping.

May 15, 2006


HEH. Yet another reason to oppose gun control.


In addition to the unfair imprisonment of the liberal secular opposition figure Ayman Noor, the recent crackdown and arrests of protesters is yet another proof that the government has other enemies beside its traditional nemesis. These protesters who were demonstrating in support of two judges facing a disciplinary hearing came from different political persuasions, from Islamists to Marxists. Among them was Alaa Abdel Fatah, a prominent blogger and political activist.

My question to the Egyptian government is this: what crime did Alaa and the others who were arrested commit? Were they involved in the Dahab terrorist bombing? Was their peaceful demonstration in support of two judges whom they think were being unfairly targeted considered an attempt to undermine Egypt's national security? And what crimes did the judges commit? Did they turn into criminals when they judged correctly and said that there were irregularities in last year's parliamentary elections?

Frankly speaking, the Egypt regime has undergone a series of reform actions in the past year. Despite its shortcomings, the decision to amend the constitution to allow multiple candidates elections was a step in the right direction. We have been experiencing considerable press freedom for almost a year. Today several opposition papers directly attack the President and his family. It was unthinkable to do so in the past. Unfortunately, actions like the ones mentioned above make all these changes appear as if they were intended to be a dйcor aimed at convincing the West, and especially the United States, that the Egyptian regime is keen on reform. While the truth is, it would rather have political Islamists act as a "ghost" that scares the West than open up and face the possibility of allowing a secular alternative to blossom.

Read the whole thing.

I'M SUPPOSED TO BE ON HUGH HEWITT in a few minutes, with Kaus, and N.Z. Bear, talking about the speech. You can listen online here if you're interested.

JOE MALCHOW LIKED THE SPEECH. "This is the best offer American sovereigntists—which is to say almost everyone, whether they realize it or not—will have for a long time."

Jonah Goldberg: "My guess is he sounded pretty reasonable to most Americans not already deeply committed on the issue of immigration."

Hugh Hewitt calls it "a good start."

Mark Tapscott thinks it sounds familiar.

John Hinderaker thinks Bush blew it.

Ed Morrissey: "President Bush tried reaching for the center -- a position he has occupied on this issue all along. He tried a one-from-column-A, two-from-column-B approach that probably will leave all sides more or less dissatisfied. His declaration that catch-and-release would end was the most welcome news in the entire speech. He delivered that well and sounded forceful and presidential, but most people will wonder why this practice didn't end on September 12, 2001."

IAN SCHWARTZ has Bush's speech on video in case you missed it.

MY THOUGHTS SO FAR: Bush is right to stress assimilation. That should have been the cornerstone of the speech.

UPDATE: Reportedly, Lou Dobbs liked it.

Here's liveblogging by Colin Pedicini.

ANOTHER UPDATE: My prediction: Over the next few weeks, lots of back-and-forth with Congress (this is an opening bid), ending with no guest worker program and with a slightly-less-open amnesty path to citizenship.

Sampling the punditry on TV, the reception isn't too bad, considering.

FROM THE WHITE HOUSE, here's the full text of Bush's speech. Click "read more" to see it.

Read More ?

HERE'S A BIG BLOG POST ROUNDUP on the immigration issue, from Pajamas Media.

UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein has more thoughts. And Michelle Malkin is giving the speech a bad review before it's even happened.

The Hotline Blog examines how this is already hurting the GOP House races. I think the White House's biggest mistake has been in not taking the base seriously on this issue, and on a series of previous issues such as Harriet Miers and the Dubai Ports deal. (By "taking seriously" I don't necessarily mean "doing what they want," just responding straightforwardly and, yes, seriously.) This has caused a gradual decline in trust and affection that is now costing Bush dearly. And unnecessarily.

Bush should at least push the upside: People in droves are trying to get in to the country. So much for the Bush = Hitler thing!

NEO-NEOCON says it's the end of the beginning. Shrinkwrapped has further thoughts.

UPDATE: There's wisdom in this comment.

FROM THE RNC, some advance excerpts of Bush's speech. Click "read more" to read them.

Plus (emailed from Frist's office), Frist on a border fence.

Read More ?

N.Z. BEAR HAS SET UP A SPECIAL PAGE pulling together bloggers' comments on Bush's immigration speech tonight.

I WAS LISTENING TO THE RADIO and heard Mary Cheney being interviewed about her new book. The interview turned on the contradiction of an "out" lesbian supporting the Bush campaign in light of its views on gay marriage -- but that seems a bit odd to me, given that John Kerry made very clear that his views on gay marriage were the same as Bush's: "'I'm against gay marriage,' he said. 'Everybody knows that.'" Or, as Kerry said on another occasion: "The president and I have the same position, fundamentally, on gay marriage. We do. Same position."

I haven't read Mary Cheney's book, but it seems to me that given the apparent identity of the Bush and Kerry positions, a gay person might just as readily support one as the other. Unless, of course, you think that Kerry was lying about his position, in which case one might plausibly choose honesty over pandering, I suppose.

A lot of people on the left seem to regard her as a traitor, though, judging by the Amazon reviews. Apparently if you're gay, you're only allowed to support Democrats, whatever they say about gay marriage.

UPDATE: David Boaz has some related thoughts, here and (with a Howard Dean angle) here.


I thought the "end of the line" promise couldn't possibly be real. It isn't! ... Senator McCain, the "straight talk" expert who has beaten the "end of the line" phrase into insensibility while defending his legalization bill, might profitably be asked to explain its highly deceptive and fictional aspects.

I think McCain's too busy dissing the blogosphere to focus on this stuff.

CATHY SEIPP: "What did you do in the mommy wars?"


Bush and the Republican Congress have had a difficult time selling themselves to the public because their policies have not been appealing. They have adhered to a philosophy, big-government conservatism, that has finally alienated nearly everyone. The War on Terror delayed the effects of this alienation for several years, but ultimately the Bush administration's errors and Congress's addiction to big spending -- which was based on this big-government conservative philosophy -- alienated both those outside the party, first, and then a great proportion of Republicans themselves. . . .

The one positive element for Republicans at this point is that they are learning today, almost six months before the coming elections, that their philosophy has run its course. There is time for them to change.

They'd better get cracking. In a related post, Jim Geraghty has thoughts on why stay-at-home Republicans are wrong:

Trent “I’m tired of hearing about Porkbusters” Lott, Ted “Bridge to Nowhere” Stevens, John McCain, Arlen Specter, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Nice job, guys. Your effort to re-conservativize the Republican Party in Washington by staying home this year will have the effect of massacring the actual conservatives and empowering the moderates who you disdain. Perhaps we can call this counterproductive maneuver “RINO-plasty.”

But that’s okay, the staying-at-home-conservatives insist. The GOP will win back the House and Senate in 2008, establishing a true conservative majority.

Maybe. But as I mentioned, what kind of lengths do you think the Democrats will go to in order to keep power once they’ve got it? Does the “Fairness Doctrine” ring a bell? You think Pelosi and Reid wouldn’t try that tactic to hinder conservative talk radio? How about McCain-Feingold 2.0, with a particular focus on controlling “unregulated speech” on the Internet and blogs?

Think the MSM was cheerleading for Democrats in 2004? How much more fair and balanced do you think they’ll be when their task is to defend Democratic House and Senate majorities AND elect President Hillary Rodham Clinton? My guess is, they’ll make the CBS memo story look accurate and evenhanded by comparison.

Yes, the dissatisfied members of the base should probably be thinking about this. But shouldn't the GOP leadership be showing a similar sense of urgency?

PLUGGING LEAKS: The real reason the press is upset about the phone-number-tracking story?

IN THE MAIL: Barry Werth's 31 Days : The Crisis That Gave Us the Government We Have Today.

JOEL KOTKIN thinks high gas prices might actually be good for suburbia:

CNN recently published a study that suggested that the "best cities" in an oil crisis are those much-loved traditional cities such as San Francisco, New York, Boston and Chicago.

Yet in reality, these fears -- or hopes -- may well prove misplaced. Higher energy costs could make people look for work closer to home, which for most of them is the suburbs.

Perhaps the best way to test the thesis of higher energy prices constricting suburbia is to look at the experience of the 1970s. In that decade, Americans faced an even steeper price rise than that anticipated by almost anyone today. Worse, we were hopelessly unprepared for it, and far more jobs, particularly high-paying ones, were located in the urban core.

So what happened? People reacted, but not by jumping on mass transit in big numbers. In fact, transit use continued to decline from 6.4 percent of commuters to 5.3 percent between 1970 and 1980.

Nor did people move en masse to traditional older cities. In fact, the 1970s proved to be the only decade in the 20th century that overall urban population declined. Suburbanization proceeded apace, with jobs and people heading out to the hinterlands.

(Via NewsAlert). I've had some related thoughts here and especially here.

MURTHA GETS HECKLED: Gateway Pundit has a roundup.

AYAN HIRSI ALI emigrating to the United States?

Hmm. Back in the 20th Century Europe lost a lot of smart people to religious persecution, and it's never really recovered. You'd think they'd want to put a stop to that. Of course, there's a backstory that goes beyond religious persecution.

UPDATE: Dave Weigel seems, strangely, to be almost pleased with Hirsi Ali's problems. It's one thing to agree, as Peaktalk does in the item linked above, that she deserves to resign. It's another, however, to use that to dismiss the very genuine religious persecution she's suffered with a passing comment.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dave Weigel emails:

I see how you could get the (mistaken) impression I was pleased with Hirsi Ali's persecution. My pithiness obscured my point, which is that the extreme immigration solutions of Hirsi Ali's party ended up mitigating her emigration, and that's something immigration restrictionists in Europe should reflect on. But maybe I doomed myself by trying to pithy at all about this topic.

Anyway, I wanted to point out the small irony that the first person I could find gloating about Hirsi Ali could well be a distant relative.

Fair enough. Pithiness risks misinterpretation, as I know all too well.

ROGER SIMON is blogging from the Personal Democracy Forum.

DON SURBER: "In reading Sheryl Stolberg's story in the New York Times today of a congressman's addiction to painkillers, I see where she discussed the congressman's painkiller addiction without mentioning a painkiller. A very famous person also is addicted to painkillers. The law pursued that famous person years. But when the congressman ran across the law, the police drove the congressman home and tucked him in bed."

THE BELMONT CLUB LOOKS AT THE RULES OF WAR. I think reciprocity should be the rule.

IN RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS, those lake photos below were taken with my old Toshiba not the Nikon. I don't think you can buy the Toshiba any more, and I think the quality on them is uneven, but this one produces good images even in large sizes. (In fact, a reader blew this picture up to 20x24 -- I sent the original-size file -- and says it turned out very well.) Megapixels, past a certain point, are mostly marketing. The Toshiba has an excellent Canon lens, and that makes a big difference. Keep that in mind when shopping for cameras yourself: Glass matters.

UPDATE: Reader John Marcoux emails: "Glad to see this camera tip. Instapundit has been notably deficient lately in consumer reports."

I'll try to do better!

SALLY SATEL has an oped on organ donation in the New York Times.

You can hear our podcast interview with Virginia Postrel, about her experience donating a kidney to Sally and her own thoughts on how to reform organ donation policy, here.

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Robert Novak looks at "corporate porkbusting:"

Half a billion dollars is chump change at the Pentagon. But it is a symbol that the intensifying battle against individual lawmakers' earmarks in spending bills is turning to corporate welfare. That category of pork until now has been inviolate, protected by a bipartisan conspiracy of silence.

The Northrop Grumman earmark was inserted by the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman himself, Thad Cochran of Mississippi. That once would have guaranteed passage without public notice, even though the Defense Department and the Navy oppose the spending as wasteful.

But pork-busting freshman Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma now scrutinizes money bills, and he caught the Northrop Grumman earmark. The company, whose revenue last year totaled $40.7 billion, has received $500 million from its insurer and is in litigation seeking another $500 million. The Defense Contract Management Agency has declared "it would be inappropriate to allow Northrop Grumman to bill for costs potentially recoverable by insurance because payment by the government may otherwise relieve the carrier from their policy obligation." Factory Mutual Insurance Co., with 2004 revenue of $2.7 billion, then would be receiving indirect corporate welfare.

Coburn told the Senate on May 2 that the Northrop Grumman payment "sets a terrible precedent for the future." He called it "a step too far. I believe we need to back up and let the private sector take care of its obligations." He mentioned unspecified federal "largesse" for the company, pointing to the questionable DDX destroyer. . . .

Efforts such as Coburn's over the years have been slapped down hard, but not this time. The Coburn amendment barely lost, 51 to 48, in a rare Senate vote crossing party lines. Republicans split 28 to 27 against Mississippi's powerful senators, with John McCain and Majority Leader Bill Frist supporting Coburn. Democrats voted 24 to 20 for Northrop Grumman. North Dakota's twin deficit hawks, Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, voted with Coburn, but Edward M. Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and Democratic Leader Harry Reid supported corporate welfare.

The House Appropriations Committee not only rejected the Northrop Grumman payment, but asserted that federal money should not "substitute for private insurance benefits."

Keep the pressure on.

A LOOK AT the uppity military.

JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH, REVISITED: I think that Galbraith, like Oliver Wendell Holmes, has benefitted excessively from having an excellent prose style.

May 14, 2006

YES, THE NSA NUMBER-TRACKING PROGRAM isn't really "eavesdropping" on calls. But as reader Liz Mauran notes, the misleading press coverage probably doesn't matter: "It seems to me, judging from the number of people in airports, restaurants, and other public venues talking on their cell phones, that it's just fine to have a non-private telephone conversation."

Yes. I wish that people valued their telephonic privacy a bit more. And based on my own experience, I'd pity any NSA agent who was forced to listen to some of the stuff I've overheard. . . .

THE RESULTS OF THE USA TODAY/ GALLUP POLL that Dan Riehl participated in are out, and Dan is unimpressed.


You could barely swing a cat without hitting a David at La Ronde yesterday as the almost 40 year-old theme park opened its latest thrill ride.

It was a festival of Davids, a sea of Davids of every shape, size and age. Grey-haired Davids and red mohawked Davids, Davids in hiking boots and sandals, all of them sporting red T-shirts that said, in French: "I beat Goliath."

In an inspired promotion, anyone with David as their first, middle or last name, was eligible for a contest draw to be the first to ride Goliath, the tallest and fastest roller coaster in Canada.

David vs. Goliath. Get it?

Amusingly, the headline to this article is: "Goliath conquers army of Davids as La Ronde thrill ride is launched." I guess the meme has penetrated.

They should've given them all a free book, of course. What better souvenir?


I WASN'T ABLE TO ATTEND THE SINGULARITY SUMMIT AT STANFORD, though they were kind enough to invite me. But here's a roundup. And here's a story on the summit from the San Francisco Chronicle.

CONSERVATIVE BATTLE FATIGUE: Mark Tapscott continues the discussion with a thoughtful post. He offers some extensive thoughts on constructive action.


THE RELIABLE SOURCES PEOPLE send me these highlights from John Stossel's appearance on the show today:

On journalists being clueless about science and hostile to capitalism

STOSSEL: Most journalists are clueless when it comes to science...I'd say journalists are hostile to capitalism and clueless about science and economics.

KURTZ: Hostile to capitalism. What do you base that on?
STOSSEL: I base it on the people I work with. People just don't like business. We hate our employers who pay us but love the government, which takes a third of our money and squanders it. There's a bias against business.

On reporters being in favor of government and opposed to business

STOSSEL: Reporters look at business with great suspicions. And hype Enron and WorldCom as if that's the norm…I think reporters cheer on the ignorant politicians...

On bias in the "liberal media"

STOSSEL: I don't think journalists are trying to push the agenda. I think most of you think you're right down the middle. But the people you hang around with all think as you do here in New York and Washington. And that leads to a bias…Not everyone, but most.

KURTZ: So you think it is to some degree subconscious or, at least because -- in other words, you think that journalists are out of touch with ordinary people, who perhaps are and ought to be more skeptical of government regulations?

STOSSEL: Yes. I think we are steeped like tea bags in "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times", and it affects the way we view the world.

KURTZ: Are there people who, at ABC News who don't like what you do or don't like your point of view on all this?
STOSSEL: Yes. But God bless ABC News, they still feel I deserve a place at the table.

And good for them, though I suppose it doesn't hurt that Stossel's ratings are strong.

WE'RE HAVING A BIG FAMILY MOTHER'S DAY GET TOGETHER, and I was going through digital memory on the camera when I found these pictures I had forgotten taking. They're off Northshore Drive, taken last October. I hope this will make homesick Knoxville expats feel better. As you can see, the waterbirds are coming back nicely.




I'VE DISCOVERED A SHOCKING OMISSION in Michael Totten's reporting from Lebanon.


So there are now two basic templates in terrorism media coverage:

Template A (note to editors: to be used after every terrorist atrocity): "Angry family members, experts and opposition politicians demand to know why complacent government didn't connect the dots."

Template B (note to editors: to be used in the run-up to the next terrorist atrocity): "Shocking new report leaked to New York Times for Pulitzer Prize Leak Of The Year Award nomination reveals that paranoid government officials are trying to connect the dots! See pages 3,4,6,7,8, 13-37."

How do you connect the dots? To take one example of what we're up against, two days before 9/11, a very brave man, the anti-Taliban resistance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, was assassinated in Afghanistan by killers posing as journalists. His murderers were Algerians traveling on Belgian passports who'd arrived in that part of the world on visas issued by the Pakistani High Commission in the United Kingdom. That's three more countries than many Americans have visited. The jihadists are not "primitives". They're part of a sophisticated network: They travel the world, see interesting places, meet interesting people -- and kill them. They're as globalized as McDonald's -- but, on the whole, they fill in less paperwork. They're very good at compartmentalizing operations: They don't leave footprints, just a toeprint in Country A in Time Zone B and another toe in Country E in Time Zone K. You have to sift through millions of dots to discern two that might be worth connecting.

I'm a strong believer in privacy rights. I don't see why Americans are obligated to give the government their bank account details and the holdings therein. Other revenue agencies in other free societies don't require that level of disclosure. But, given that the people of the United States are apparently entirely cool with that, it's hard to see why lists of phone numbers (i.e., your monthly statement) with no identifying information attached to them is of such a vastly different order of magnitude. By definition, "connecting the dots" involves getting to see the dots in the first place.

The income tax point is an excellent one. After all, we've been told for years that only kooks worry about the government having all their financial information on file. (Via Newsbeat 1).


THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE on Sympathy for the Devil.

A LOOK AT political blogging and its impact. (Via NealeNews).

FROM A TIME PRESS RELEASE in this morning's email:


New York, NY-There was a time-say, four years and nine months ago-when news that the government had been gathering up the country's phone records might have been the making of a scandal, or even a constitutional crisis. But although there have been protests from civil libertarians and some criticism on Capitol Hill, early indications suggest the revelation could actually give a political boost to President George W. Bush, reports TIME's Karen Tumulty in the new issue of TIME, on newsstands Monday, May 15th.

This should be interesting. Let's see if Bush's approval jumps in the next round of polls.

UPDATE: Well, that didn't take long: "President Bush's job approval rating has jumped six points in the wake of a media barrage of criticism over his administration's telephone records collection program."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dave Weigel emails that the story above is unreliable, comparing two polls with different methodology. So I guess we'll have to wait a bit longer to find out.

HMM: "Mammoth Extinction Caused by Trees, Study Suggests."

I guess Reagan was right!