Monday, January 31, 2005

The New Stones Cry Out

Longtime readers here will know of my fondness for the blog Stones Cry Out. Longtime readers of Hugh Hewitt will know he feels the same way.

Anyway, I wasn't going to say anything until there was an official announcement on the old site. But Hugh spilled the beans already, and his traffic is WAY more significant than mine so why not?

Check out the NEW and IMPROVED Stones Cry Out. Rick did more than just put together a slick new look and feel. He snagged some of the best new bloggers around as his co-contributors to the new site; including our friend Drew from Darn Floor, and Minnesota's own Mark Sides from Sidesspot. Definitely a blog to bookmark and keep an eye on.

Disaster Update

It's good to have friends to see you through traumatic times. Then again, smart*ss friends can be a mixed blessing, God love 'em. But thanks for the sentiment expressed, even if you couldn't restrain yourselves from taking a shot. I'm a blogger. I get that.

Anyway, I navigated the dark waters of Dell's "off-warranty" service today. I can't say I'm thrilled with the price, but the procedure is pretty slick. They'll send a fellow over with a box and a shipping label. I put the patient into the box and hand it back to the same fellow, and 7-10 days later I'll have a healthy computer back. They also don't need my battery or hard drive to perform their miracle cure; which is pretty cool, since I have incriminating evidence proving I am indeed a conservative Republican all over that hard drive. And Dell is HQ'd in the moonbat bastion of Austin, Texas. You send a meal back, and restaurant cooks are reputed to spit in your food. I don't want to imagine what moonbats would do to a conservative blogger's notebook computer.

Incidentally, thanks to those of you who recommended good sources for replacement computers. But as high as this repair bill is, it's less than a third of the replacement cost. This notebook was purchased primarily for my IT work, so it's a freakin' monster. It's fast, has mucho memory, and plenty of other bells and whistles besides. It's also my favorite computer I've ever owned. And since I can't really blame the manufacturer for the fact that I dumped a martini into it, I'm sticking with Dell.

Bill Moyers - Oblivious to the Facts

Yesterday, I read something from that veritable icon of media gravitas, Bill Moyers. It was an article he wrote for the Star Tribune, called There is no tomorrow. In writing it, I think he unintentionally provided an amusing bit of irony.

The article was published on the day of an important election, in which people struggling to achieve freedom battled fundamentalist religionists who sought violently to keep them in anti-democratic repression. Moyers did indeed write about the danger to freedom presented by fundamentalists. The problem was, while most of the world saw the Islamic fundamentalists kidnapping and killing people in Iraq as the serious threat of the moment, Moyers’ warnings were about fundamentalist Christians in the U. S.

He wasn’t terribly careful to confine his criticism to a thin sect of believers either. Oh, he did make a half-hearted attempt at singling out Rapture believers. But he merely used some of their specific beliefs to smear conservative Christians in general:

“As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent election -- 231 legislators in total and more since the election -- are backed by the religious right.”


And lest you think this was a careless slip, he continues:

“A 2002 Time-CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book of Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with your radio tuned to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations, or in the motel turn on some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and you can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about converting from oil to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a word?"”


Did you catch that 59 percent number? What do you think Moyers thinks about these 59 percent of his fellow citizens? He offers some words directly speaking to that earlier in his article:

“When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.”


The irony was surely unintentional, but it is nonetheless poignant. On the day when a conservative Christian president saw his commitment to bringing freedom to Iraq vindicated, Bill Moyers speculated whether conservative Christians in America are bad for democracy. Can we say out of touch? On the wrong side of history? And, to turn Moyers own phrase back upon him, “oblivious to the facts”?

Senator Clinton Collapses

In surprising news, Senator Hillary Clinton collapsed today in the midst of giving a speech. She was taken to the hospital, where we have no further news of her condition.

In the interest of basic civility, let me add that I hope this is nothing serious and that she recovers quickly. Partisan disagreement doesn't have a place in moment like this. It's scary and troubling, and Senator Clinton and her family deserve our prayers and support.

UPDATE: The original report has been corrected to state:

The radio station initially was reported that Clinton had been hospitalized, but it later corrected the report to say she was treated by an emergency crew at the scene and declined to be taken to a hospital. It also said she planned to press on with a second speech scheduled at a nearby Catholic college.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Today's Heroes

I admit it. This caused my eyes to well with tears. Not tears of sadness of course. Tears of joy. And pride. For the Iraqis themselves of course. But mostly for these fellows who didn't live to see it happen, but who are owed such a tremendous amount of our nation's love for what they gave up their lives accomplishing.

America bashers - both the foreign and domestic variety - like to pretend sophistication by projecting the basest motivations upon our country's leaders and troops for invading Iraq. But there remain those of us who know that what stirs the heart of our soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors is something quite different. Something that caused them to put their lives on the line to achieve this...



This is a moment to congratulate and laud the Iraqi people. But it's also a moment for Americans to beam with pride over what our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, serving in Iraq have accomplished. It is through their blood, sweat, and tears that our nation will be judged by history. And thanks to them, that judgement will be one of honor, admiration, and respect.

America has never been an imperial or predatory nation. We're liberators who - incomprehensibly to our critics - find images like the above sufficient motivation to lay down our lives.

My God am I proud of our all-to-often unfairly maligned troops today. "Hero" is an overused word, but in light of what has happened today how can one fail to use it? How can one fail to see their sacrifice as noble and worthy as that of any previous generation of heroes we honor today?

I'm reminded of the scene near the end of Saving Private Ryan, where Tom Hanks, in the midst of dying, turns to Matt Damon, whom he had just given up his life saving, and simply says, "earn this." Today the Iraqi people showed their willingness to do just that. To live and behave as free men. To earn the sacrifice of America's (and Britain's, and Australia's, and Italy's, and Poland's, etc.) fallen.

Armies have historically marched for booty or glory. These troops marched for freedom. Today they got part of their reward. And for that all Americans should share their joy.

Computer Disaster

Serious events are going on in the world today. But you'll have to look elsewhere for news about them, because I have other things on my mind. Namely - I killed my computer last night. Killed as in dead-as-a-doorknob. It's now no more useful than a fancy and extremely expensive paperweight.

Things I blame: Gin. And the awkward shape and stability of the classic martini glass. And the fact that the CD player I was reaching for was sitting on the opposite side of the computer, forcing me to reach across. And the fact that Mama Ellen told me I looked tired and should go to bed a short time previously, and I agreed but didn't do it.

So anyway, just in case you were curious, gin, vermouth, and a small amount of olive juice is not something you should ever use to clean the keyboard of your notebook computer - intentionally or not.

On a more positive note, Dell computer support seems to be based in the U. S. again. After waiting almost an hour on hold I got to speak to someone named Lamont who actually sounded like a Lamont, rather than someone calling herself "Mary," who sounds like her real name is something rather more exotic.

Lamont listened to my problem. Checked the word "spillage" against my warranty, and gave me the not-terribly-surprising news that my warranty didn't cover the problem. He also gave me another number to call during regular Monday through Friday business hours, so I have another hour or so on hold to look forward to. That and a bill which might approach the cost of buying a new computer, since Lamont's script mentioned something about replacing the motherboard. That and the fact that I'll be stunned if I can get this fixed and returned to me within a month.

So for now I'm borrowing Mama Ellen's computer. She's not nearly as computer addicted as me yet, so that should work for a while. But I'll be kind of twitchy over the next few weeks as nothing will feel quite right, not having a computer to take with me to the coffee house, or even to work.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Blogs Versus Traditional Media

So I'm piling on Jack Schafer, which pleases him to no end. C'est la vie.

Because he's wrong. Wrong in spectacular ways, mostly due to his mistaking any threat to his bread-and-butter as interchangable with any other similar threat.

Shafer can't seem to appreciate the fact that you have a web browser on your desktop right now. He can't seem to appreciate the fact that you only need to type different characters into that web browser to call up contradictory content.

He focuses instead upon the previous promises on the cheap production of media opinion without serious reflection upon what the cheap acquisition of receptive media implies.

So Jack Shafer is not a serious critic of modern media. But he gets attention, so we acknowledge him, if only to point out why his opinions aren't worth serious consideration.

Only For Craig...

The Pioneer Press is awarded one "do over" (for this) on Craig's word:

"Nonetheless, the identity and consistency crisis at the Pioneer Press is highlighted when absence of a quorum can result is a wild departure from the reasoned analysis trend of recent months to a one-day turnaround of hackneyed praise for “pants on fire” rhetoric that is more appropriate 9.48 miles west.

I beg my paper a little slack until the “A” team is back on the field."
We'll be watching.

Wine Cellars

As regular readers will recall, I like wine. I like wine a lot. I like wine too much sometimes, but that's an issue between me and my liver, and we don't need your input.

But I don't necessarily like wine to the extent that I have pulled the trigger to buy a temperature / humidity controlled cellar yet. And this pains me.

One of the most mind-blowing wine experiences I ever had was when my uncle served me a 14 year old bottle of Niebaum-Coppola Rubicon. This was one of my favorite wines already, but I'd never had one properly aged. The intensity of flavor was stunning. Everything I liked about the younger wine was amplified, and everything unpleasant was muted or absent.

That particular uncle lives on the Pacific coast, just south of San Francisco. His wine cellar is his garage which, thanks to the Pacific Ocean, maintains a consistent temperature and humidity year-round. Minnesota's climate isn't quite as accomodating.

And so, I'm stuck pondering rather expensive cellaring units which I want badly, but never seem to work up the nerve to buy. Anyone out there who knows of terrific deals in cellaring units is encouraged to let me know. I have some 2000 Bordeaux in mind that I would love to share with my son on his 21st birthday (2000 being the year of his birth). But the wine-rack next to the kitchen heating vent isn't terribly suitable to see it through.

Lambert Meets Dayton

Hat tip to Dayton v Kennedy for this unintentionally hillarious piece of news, reported in the Star Trib this morning: Brian Lambert to be Dayton media adviser.

Why is this hillarious? Let me count the ways...

The first is how often Lambert, while writing his "entertainment" column regularly ripped Republicans but could never admit he had a partisan bias. So I suppose Senator Dayton just pays more than Senator Coleman or something.

Next is this terrific line from the article:

"Politics will be a new gig for Lambert, a journalist with more than 25 years experience in the Twin Cities, 15 of them writing for the Pioneer Press, where his popular column was a must-read for the Twin Cities media. The paper terminated the beat last summer."

Lambert must be the only "must read" columnist to have his column terminated for apparently no reason. And, I might note, without explanation offered. Kinda funny considering all those readers who "must read" a column one day, didn't raise a peep when it was pulled the next.

Then comes the clincher reason I find this the most hillarious... Lambert wasn't exactly a hot property. He was fired ... I'm sorry... "his beat was terminated" in his previous job as an "entertainment critic." And now he'll be responsible for shaping the message of one of the least charismatic politicians in Minnesota. Granted, you can probably count a great deal of his experience as an "entertainment critic" as political experience, since he had a rather pronounced problem confining himself to talking about entertainment when he felt a Republican needed addressing. Still, one cannot conclude that speaks all that well for Lambert's skill in political rhetoric, since his thinly masked partisan diatribes coincided with a period of rapid Republican growth in Minnesota.

But let's set that all aside to welcome Mr. Lambert to the service of Senator Doofus Dayton. We appreciate the way he has offered himself up as a valid political target, as criticism about his journalism had already been done to death.

Random Saturday Morning Thoughts

It turns out that some time in the past decade or so I have forgotten how to make an omelette. Oh, I can still get everything into the pan and cooked properly. But the technique that allows one to fold the omelette without making a terrible goopy mess has abandoned my memory entirely. Fortunately, I'm not too proud to eat a terrible goopy mess.

I could have turned to Mama Ellen for help, except that the boy decided sometime around 3am that he needed to see her about every 15 minutes until he finally collapsed into sleep around 7am. So she's sleeping. He got up about 9:30 perfectly refreshed. *&@$!% youth! From about 5am on I got to "sleep" with a wide-awake middle child, so I'm also exhausted. But Mama's exhaustion out-ranks mine, encompassing both more sleepless hours and more children.

All of which makes what was to be a rather relaxing Saturday slightly less pleasant. I have a trip down to Surdyk's to look forward to. I was originally going to take one of the kids with me, but I'm feeling rather anti-child at the moment, so we'll see.

The purpose of the trip is to pick up some wine for a dinner Gary from Dayton v Kennedy is kindly hosting for our families tomorrow. When I started blogging I truly didn't anticipate how much of a social activity it would turn out to be. Now I'd have to say it is probably the central reason for most of my social outings. Stereotypes about loners blogging away from the isolation of their mother's basements may be true in some places. But the center-right poli-blogs of the Twin Cities certainly aren't that way.

Which is one of the reasons I chuckled when I read this quote, from Duke University Journalism Professor Susan Tifft writing about her experience at the recent conference on blogging and journalism:

There was a lot of talk about the "community" that blogging fosters. I was bemused, therefore, to look around the room and at any given time see a third of the participants staring at screens and tapping on keyboards, presumably communing with others while those in the room were speaking. (Some were monitoring the webscast, I know). Much has been said in these posts about the enormous value of being with people this weekend, face to face. I agree. Which is why it was interesting to witness the art of being together, and apart, at the same time.

No, Professor Tifft, the community element isn't some kind of magic that works just because you stick bloggers in a room together. It's something that happens over time as people read each others words over weeks and months and then get together because they've discovered things they have in common.

But we're all sort of just discovering this through experience, so I can't blame her for not quite grasping it.

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Keep your namby-pamby peace and love style supreme pontiffs. I give you...

Superpope.

(Hat tip Mirabilis.ca)

Friday, January 28, 2005

Sprit of America Iraq Election Coverage

From Jim Hake, at Spirit of America:
Great news! We've just received confirmation that C-SPAN is planning to
cover Spirit of America's Iraq election event this Sunday from 2pm to
4pm Eastern (11am to 1pm Pacific). Please watch. Your support has
made this possible. Please forward this message far and wide and
encourage people to tune in.

Iraq's elections are an historic event. This broadcast will provide a
unique, more complete picture of the elections with ground-level news
and views from the Iraqi people. You will get much more than the
typical focus on violence and terrorism. We'll have reports, photos
and video from all corners of Iraq. The broadcast event is described
more here: http://www.spiritofamerica.net/site/blog/459

You can see reports and photos now at:
http://www.friendsofdemocracy.info. And, during the show on Sunday,
we will be publishing the discussion at
http://www.friendsofdemocracy.info and asking for your comments.
Please visit the site and tell us what you think.

Bill Clinton - Blogger

Hat-tip to Darn Floor (I've been doing that a lot lately - have you blogrolled him yet?!), for this interesting bit of news....

Bill Clinton has a blog.

What's more, it's not a shallow daily one-liner kind of blog. He might have someone ghost-blogging for him, but it's darned effective nonetheless.

The Clintons are coming back folks. Hillary wants to be president, and Bill wants to be U. N. Secretary General. I wouldn't put it past either one. They're always ahead of the political curve just far enough to frustrate the efforts of their opponents.

Unless of course, it's a hoax. This entry has me wondering:


You know, I worked really hard all my life. I tried to make America a better place. For 8 years it was a better place. I leave office and everything spirals out of control. I can't help but blame myself. I made many mistakes. But I also blame those, who believe in the Democratic party, but, who never contribute their time or money to see their party prevail. I blame myself, but I also blame you.
UPDATE: Todd (in the comments section) says it's a hoax, and I'm inclined to agree.

Thoughts on Blogging for Kyle

My old friend Kyle, in the midst of some criticism about my post on the memo posted at Radioblogger, offered some interesting comments about blogging.

"I've been trying to give your Blog and others a chance as an alternative to the MSM (Main Stream Media for those like me who don't intuitively know your blog-jargon") My take thus far is that it's mostly opinion and a bit a interesting/creative fact interpretation/gathering. You seem enamored with its "inevitable" evolution into the best way to get ones news. If this is an accurate assessment of your blog (and others), don't you feel an onus to be more deligent when memos (or other dubious bits of evidence) surface? Why is it "whistling past graveyards" to call attention to this gaff? Why respond as you did? My guess is that you just want to get onto the next article or issue.

I get that you have tremendous passion for this and other topics, but why go low road at all? If you're gonna be more than an intelligent, witty guy who drinks wine and writes well, be a tad more deliberate. Otherwise, you run the very real risk of being taken as seriously as Jon Stewart."

Interesting stuff in there. I'll leave Kyle's challenges regarding the specific memo in question confined to that thread, and tackle to more general comments regarding the future of blogging here.

Kyle is a smart guy, and not exclusively because he has the good taste to read Bogus Gold. He's skeptical, but gives new things a fair try and evaluates with an independent mind. Couldn't ask for more.

But he makes a few assumptions I would not agree with, and I call them out because I suspect they're assumptions many others new to the blogosphere will make as well.

Let's take the first one: blogs as an alternative to the MSM. This seems dangerously close to the exagerrated position that the MSM will fade away and blogs will replace them. I don't agree. I think blogs will transform the way the MSM operates. I think there is an interesting and in some cases shocking transition in the way MSM approaches reporting forced by the activity of the blogosphere. But they won't go away to be replaced entirely by blogs. I'm more of a "fusion" believer than a "replacement" guy.

That leads to this point: "My take thus far is that it's mostly opinion and a bit a interesting/creative fact interpretation/gathering. You seem enamored with its "inevitable" evolution into the best way to get ones news."

Depends on what that means. Very few blogs I know perform original reporting. The closest I've come was when live-blogging some event, or conducting an interview, and neither is terribly frequent. Most blogs I read are indeed about commentary. But there are important distinctions even within the commentary sphere. Some are about sarcasm, some more issue oriented, and others explicitly partisan.

My blog, for example, is intentionally eclectic. This isn't a "hard news all the time" blog. Yet that's not to say the blogosphere doesn't occupy that role. One mustn't confuse the medium with the message. I write a blog. So does Captain Ed. So does Michele Catalano. So does Varifrank. None of us approach it quite the same way. We're not even trying to do so. Ed is more of your hard news guy. Varifrank is your weekly magazine essayist. I have no easy categories for what Michele or I are doing, but it's definitely something else.

Confusing a space the blogosphere can occupy with the role of the entire blogosphere is like assuming paper printed with ink can fill only one role.

That being said, to the extent Kyle thinks news items I report aren't trustworthy provides the answer to his own challenge. He won't continue to come here for that kind of information. And that's exactly the way it's supposed to work. The cost to "subscribe" here is free. Cost to leave is the same. No barrier for entry or exit. That's a kind of fluidity the MSM can scarcely conceive, and their current economic models aren't built to handle.

Then we come to this: "If you're gonna be more than an intelligent, witty guy who drinks wine and writes well, be a tad more deliberate. Otherwise, you run the very real risk of being taken as seriously as Jon Stewart."

Ah, but I'm not remotely convinced I wouldn't be satisfied being taken as seriously as Jon Stewart. I do know this blog is not about producing the next Edward R. Murrow. And Jon Stewart is certainly closer to the mark, if not spot-on. I would rather mock my political opponents than pull a Woodward and Bernstein on them. It's not just because it's easier (though it is), it's also something that I enjoy.

My blog is, first and foremost, a projection of my personality. I may not always be careful, but I'll be honest about my biases and why I might believe a particular item. I'll post in fits of pique at times. I'll post in fits of silliness at times. And now and then I'll post with careful research and seriousness. But I'll go one step further. I'll leave myself open to feedback and criticism, because that's part of what blogging is about too.

When Scholarship Curdles

(Hat tip to Reasonable Prudence for the following.)

Heard about this fellow? Name is Ward Churchill. He's a professor at the University of Colorado. He's also a walking cesspool of moral degeneracy. The man deserves your respect the way gum on the bottom of your shoe deserves your respect - respect the fact that it's unpleasant, but also not very important.

Still... we should point out a couple of things. He wrote an essay, in which he contends:

...the hijackers who crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 were "combat teams," not terrorists.

It states: "The most that can honestly be said of those involved on Sept. 11 is that they finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course."

The essay maintains that the people killed inside the Pentagon were "military targets."

"As for those in the World Trade Center," the essay said, "well, really, let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break."

Obviously, this kind of thinking is the product of a culture of moral equivalence which has festered among the multi-cultural crowd on college campuses for a few decades now. In response to protests raised about this essay, a university where he is to speak released a statement:

A spokesman for Hamilton College released a statement noting that Hamilton is committed to "the free exchange of ideas. We expect that many of those who strongly disagree with Mr. Churchill's comments will attend his talk and make their views known."


A noble sentiment. But one can't help but wonder how many pro-Western, anti-terrorism scholars, like say Daniel Pipes, they will invite to lecture and/or employ on their faculty to counterbalance the extremist anti-American, pro-terrorist views of this kind of scholar. Or, as I suspect, are the students free to disagree, but without a smidgen of official support "scholarship" of Professor Churchill's flavor receives? I'm willing to give the college the benefit of the doubt. But if I was paying tuition there I would certainly look into that question.

And just for the record, here is a convenient list of all those civilians whose innocence the smug professor scoffs about. Quite a few people the professor seems to hold in contempt. Any doubt he'd just as happily dance on your grave should a "combat team" take you out?

UPDATE: Dang! Instapundit is not only on the case, he's moved to write some serious commentary as well as provide his killer links. Kudos Blogfather!

Lessons of Afghanistan

On the topic of the Iraqi elections, Jeremy Brown, guest-blogging at Michael Totten's, wrote an insightful article a couple of days ago: The Unwinnable War

Let me bring you back a few years to a time when a great many people -- many of them very reasonable and reasonably intelligent (I was very briefly one of them way back then) -- predicted that a war in Afghanistan, whether justified or not, would result in a quagmire that would rival Viet Nam or, more to the point, Russia's Afghan war.

I remember very well. The certain pronouncements of the inconquerability of Afghanistan. How ineffective our bombing would be. The deviousness of the local warlords. The Afghan hostility to foreign intervention would cancel out any ill feelings about the Taliban. The disaster the brutal Afghan winter was sure to bring for U. S. troops.

And then, after a few weeks, the whole place fell like a house of cards. Within a year, women who had been among the most oppressed anywhere in the world were attending schools and casting ballots. The Taliban didn't just retreat, they disintigrated.

As awful as any war inherently is, why didn't the Afghan war of 2001 go the route of Russia's atrocious war in that country?

I think the answer is clear: all those warnings about the impossibility of successfully invading and conquering Afghanistan presupposed an invading army attempting to defeat the will of the entire Afghan people. But the U.S. goal of toppling the Taliban regime, it should be perfectly obvious, was entirely in concert with the will of the majority of Afghans.

An important question to ask about the war in Iraq, then, is: which side, if any, is struggling to achieve an end that reflects the will of the majority of Iraqi people. Anyone who denies, however much many Iraqis may dislike being occupied by Coalition troops, that the majority of people in Iraq want democratization to succeed and the 'insurgency' to fail, is just not paying attention.
This is where Europeans drawing from their colonial experience (and U. S. leftists drawing from their Vietnam-era nostalgia) miss the big picture. Yes, there are terrorists and Baathists and other terrible forces opposing the creation of a democratic Iraq. But they do not come close to approaching a popular movement. Plenty of Iraqis want U. S. troops out - but almost none want them out before Iraq's democracy is established and stabilized.

But we need to be realistic. Iraq became a country when post World War One British officials drew lines on a map. The Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites seem to share a desire not to split their nation. But the kind of unified Iraq that would please all of them is far from certain. After these elections comes the herculean task of crafting their new national constitution, which is scheduled to be completed in August. Then that constitution goes before the people for ratification.

These elections are just one more step in a long process in which Iraq reinvents itself as a democratic nation. But, as in Afghanistan, pessimism and wisdom are not necessarily soul-mates.

Iraqi Election Analysis on MPR

I listened to MPR last night. I don't listen often enough that I could tell you the name of the show, but it was the one on at 9pm.

The segment I listened to had two college professors, one in political science and the other in history who also held a "critical thinking" chair, discussing the upcoming Iraqi elections. Both of them offered some interesting personal perspective, as well as some more detailed explanation of how the election process actually is supposed to work.

But then, as I knew he would, the host steered the discussion in an American domestic political direction. I let out a sigh. MPR - college professors - Iraq - did they even need to open their mouths for us to know where they stood here? I was somewhat gratified that the professors seemed to be of the rational dispassionate variety. They certainly seemed to share the pessimistic mindset common among the left in which every possible outcome in Iraq carried a downside which cancelled out the good. But I was struck by something else.

The gist of their analysis revolved around the actions and statements of the Bush administration leading up to the Iraqi election. They talked about how Bush had redefined success so far downward that no matter the outcome, the administration would declare it a success.

I was reminded of the moment in the debate between John Kerry and President Bush when Kerry insisted it would be impossible to hold elections in January. That they would have to be delayed. Bush insisted it was possible, and we would help Iraq get it done. And this Sunday, that is exactly what will happen.

So who exactly has been redefining the terms of success here? There are plenty of grounds for criticizing the administration's conduct in Iraq, but lack of a consistent message regarding Iraqi elections isn't one. On this matter, Bush has stood like the Rock of Gibralter against persistent pressure to back down.

Incidentally, the professors both predicted around 50-60 percent turn out at the polls. If the turn out is much higher, do you suppose they will declare a greater than expected success? Or will they redefine success upward?

More than any political figure since Reagan, Bush's critics seem drawn to project their own behavior upon him.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Democratic Senators Blocking Minorities?

Well this is interesting. Radioblogger has posted a memo allegedly originating from Democratic Senator Dick Durbin. If authentic, the memo seems to be a "smoking gun" indicating that at least some Democratic senators have engaged in a strategy intentionally blocking minority nominees to the bench.

Radioblogger states:

It is fair to ask Senator Durbin if this memo is accurate, if he's seen it, and then we can start questioning whether the Democrats in the Senate are holding back conservative minorities for political reasons.

Actually, if the memo is accurate I'd say the answer to that question is already known. Yet even then, who is going to hold them accountable?

Those Darn Christians Again

Hat tip to Darn Floor for locating this piece at Sundries Shack: The Christians are Coming! The Christians are Coming!

In response to a William Raspberry column contending that religious Americans threaten the spirit of compromise that makes for a functioning democratic government, Jimmie writes:

“Believers haven’t changed what they believe, nor have they measurably changed how they express that belief. The idea that, in the last four years, Christians of every stripe have suddenly come to think that compromise on their beliefs in the public arena is sin is certainly one theory, but not one that’s very plausible.

Here’s a better theory. People of faith have seen their own beliefs discounted, eroded by legislation, and shoved to the backwaters of public discourse and public policy. They’ve been increasingly treated as ignorant hicks for their faith and told that their personal beliefs have no place in public while watching others’ personal beliefs becoming the law of the land. The problem, in their minds, has been that they have been too willing to compromise. They’ve been willing to give ground on all sorts of issues because they believed that the entire point of compromise was fair play. Except they didn’t get compromise in return. They got derision. They got condescension. They got insults. And they’re tired of it.”


This is an under-appreciated point. “Believers” have been a predominant group in American politics since the nation’s founding. Yet lately we’ve been assaulted by repeated analysis alleging that the growing influence of religion upon our politics represents some new threat to our system of government. It's far more plausible that Christians are like any other group in American politics, and when their interests are assaulted, they're going to respond.

There ought to be a basic check such analysts must pass before having their views taken seriously – the check of history. In order to contend any new or growing threat to our government from religion, they should first be able to demonstrate how religious belief is more dominant now than it has been previously in American history. If this cannot be established (and it can’t), any analysis based on such a premise should be dismissed.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Smoking Bans Considered

Craig Westover is too damn good to have just one blog. I can't figure out which freakin' post of his to link to today.

The theme is Minnesota's impending smoking ban. And d*mn if he doesn't have a post or three better than anything you'll read in the MSM on the topic. Heck, he even tosses in his own MSM column for good measure.

Speaking as a non-smoker (well, I smoke an occasional cigar, but those are already banned almost everywhere), I have to say this debate floors me. Has America come to the point where a majority can ban any behavior it disapproves in a minority? Can we finally legislate that hip-hoppers pull their pants up? Or that "womens studies" majors shave their legs?

No we can't. This is not an example of any clear principle enacted in law. It's pure legislative bullying. No one respectful of freedom should endorse it. Let me repeat that so the hate mail doesn't miss me: NO ONE RESPECTFUL OF FREEDOM SHOULD ENDORSE THIS SMOKING BAN.

And to those crypto-nazis who do think the force of government should be employed to ban smoking in private establishments, allow me to convey a message: please die. Seriously. This would relieve your pain as well as relieving the necessity of heaven and earth bending to your high-maintenance self-centered concept of other people's behavior. Much more efficient than banning smoking when you think about it.

Just Asking

Can any current Democrat tell me with a straight face that you’re not the least bit embarrassed that resistance to the first black female Secretary of State in American history was lead among Senate Democrats by a living, breathing former KKK member?

Are there no Democrats concerned that your party now boasts the only Senator who has voted against confirming both black Supreme Court justices (Marshall and Thomas), voted against the Civil Rights Act, and now voted against a black Secretary of State as well? Does the pattern here disturb you in the least?

Trent Lott made an indelicate remark about Strom Thurmond's segregationist past and as a result conservative bloggers raised an outcry that forced him to resign from Senate leadership. Will there be any similar lefty-blogger outrage turned against Senator KKK?

Fertilizer Portrayed As A Rose

The Pioneer Press editorial board, after flirting with the idea that perhaps the Twin Cities could use an independent minded professional newspaper in contrast to the leftist-hackery of the Star Tribune, has apparently decided a continuing existence as the junior lickspittle media organ for the DFL is good enough for them.

Evidence of this decision comes in the form of a disgusting little missive they attempt to pass off as an editorial this morning: Dayton puts focus on truthful dialogue.

Let's start with the public figure in question, Senator Mark Dayton. Remember him? The idiot scion of wealth who purchased Minnesota’s Senate seat with his inheritance and famously freaked out about an impending terrorist attack on Washington? I first suspected that the editorial board had crafted the title in irony. The notion that Senator Dayton had finally crawled out from under his desk out of his great devotion to truthful dialogue is surely laughable on its face. But the Pioneer Press obviously assumes they have a readership almost as stupid as Dayton himself, so they decided to run with that line in all seriousness.

They begin with this:

“Sen. Mark Dayton led the rhetorical charge Tuesday on the Senate floor against confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.”


Have you ever listened to this mouth-breather give a speech? He’s barely capable of leading a rhetorical stagger, much less a charge. The next passage is more telling:

“There was no surprise in his opposition. The Democratic senior senator from Minnesota said last week that he would vote against her confirmation despite almost certain success for the nomination.”


Now that sounds more like Dayton: conducting a self-glorifying empty gesture while wasting everyone else’s time. God knows crafting legislation isn’t one of Dayton’s strengths, and at least he didn’t attempt to panic all of Washington this time.

But wait, the junior-idiot editorial board has a different take on this:

“But Dayton's speech during the Senate floor debate rose to the best traditions of that storied chamber. It is the obligation of the loyal opposition to stand up when it matters greatly.”


Didn’t we just establish above that this was about holding up an inevitable confirmation? So Dayton’s grandstanding “matters greatly” how exactly?

“The conduct of war and foreign policy more broadly do matter greatly. And it does matter greatly to say so if, as Dayton believes, the Bush administration has been evasive and untruthful about the reasons for going to war in Iraq and in how it is conducting that war.”


Since we can rule out the notion that Dayton was conducting either war or foreign policy from the Senate floor, let’s focus on that latter statement. We’re left with the editors endorsing the notion that it is important what Dayton “believes” about the Bush administration’s truthfulness. Well, sure. It does matter. It matters greatly especially because his beliefs fly in the face of a bi-partisan Senate report on the matter. Basing his opposition on his “beliefs” rather than a higher standard – like evidence – is representative of Dayton’s irresponsible nature, and the lack of seriousness with which he approaches his job. That Pioneer Press editors find this behavior laudable serves to condemn their own judgment, as well as common sense.

The Pioneer Press conclusion embarrassingly spills out here:

“We think some things are larger than partisan envy. Open examinations of U.S. foreign policy and its leadership are duties of Congress and especially the Senate. Count Dayton among senators rising to these duties in fierce and frightening times for America in the world.”

Hear that, you stupid, stupid readers of the Pioneer Press? Despite all appearances, Marky Dayton wasn’t acting like an obstructionist partisan, pulling unfounded accusations out of thin air, and leveraging Senate procedure to hold up a certain confirmation. No sir. He actually rose above partisanship, and only coincidentally did this amount to a knee-jerk partisan attack against an administration from the opposite political party.

Listen, idiot crap-weasel editors of the number two local paper, leave sucking up to the DFL to the guys across the river. We don’t need two papers singing the same tune in this town.

As you well know, the truth here is that Dayton decided to throw in with the most extreme partisans of his party (Senator Byrd (D-KKK), Senator Kennedy (D-Chappaquiddick), and Senator Boxer (D-Short Bus)) to throw a dog and pony show for the benefit of the leftist hacks in the press. Evidence? Purpose? Pshaw! A good attack on Bush needs no justification, and is an automatic ticket to glowing praise in the media. If ever such a notion could be considered an unfair media criticism, let this Pioneer Press editorial be preserved as proof.

(Dayton v Kennedy has more on the matter.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

In the Interest of Objectivity

Drew at Darn Floor makes an interesting comparison between Reuters and the Washington Times report upon the same story: "Creeping Fundamentalism" Watch.

A Hazy Shade of Hewitt

So Hugh Hewitt apparently thinks the Simon and Garfunkle song "Bookends," comes from the Bridge Over Troubled Water album. Allow this fellow from a later generation who surely doesn't jive to Hugh's grooviness disagree.

I'm actually a huge Simon and Garfunkle fan. I own every album and know most of the lyrics by heart.

Paul Simon's solo work is nothing to sneeze at either, though he hasn't produced an album since Rhythm of the Saints worth your time (and yes, I'm including this). Rhythm of the Saints actually includes a song I consider a pro-life anthem: Born at the Right Time. I doubt Simon intended it to carry that meaning. But it does all the same.

And yes, Paul Simon is certainly a lefty. So what?

I truly hate the frequent conservative political meme that suggests conservatives should shun the work of lefty artists. Nonsense. I value good art, shun bad art, and mock bad politics independent of either one. Some of my favorite artists are also laughably self-important lefty poseuers. So I laugh at that part. Doesn't change my enjoyment of the stuff that's not political. This apparently makes me as rare as a unicorn in some circles.

UPDATE: It's actually the song "Old Friends," rather than "Bookends." The remainder of the post - including the album attribution - is unchanged from my previous post.

A Newspaper Thinks About Bloggers

Pioneer Press associate editor Mark Yost wrote a very nice article this morning about the blogosphere: The blogosphere's here to stay. (hat-tip to Mitch for finding it)

Would have been a bit more “man bites dog,” if someone other than the “new blood” at the Pioneer Press had authored the piece. Still, nice to see such an article published in one of our traditional media sources.

And it was nice, as far as it went. It just didn’t go very far. The basic thesis of the editorial was that these blog thingies aren’t just a fad. Okay. But what does that mean?

Yost begins to hint at some implications at the tail-end of the article.

For instance, Saint Paul [of Fraters Libertas] wondered why more Letters to the Editor aren't available online than in the paper. That's an excellent idea that, as letters editor, I know is somewhat limited by resources.

But I'm going to explore that, because I think the letters should appear quicker, which would make them more of a dialogue than a commentary.


I’m not going to pick on Mark Yost too much, because to the extent that idea engaged him and made him rethink the way newspapers do their thing he’s proceeding in the right direction. But I will point out that this idea ought to be only one of two or three-dozen others editors at the Pioneer Press ought to be debating, and they ought not be waiting for some bloggers to spoon-feed them.

Even more important, they ought to be weighing all of these ideas against three different paradigms:

  1. Their traditional printed product (which they can’t afford to abandon)
  2. Their online electronic product (which they ought to see as their future)
  3. Transition ideas which bridge the two (their competitive advantage over other electronic publications at the moment)

The biggest flaw in the newspaper business these days is the word “newspaper.” The long-term trend is away from paper and onto electronic media. The current market says a newspaper company needs to have both. These companies are accustomed to thinking of their newspaper product, and the restrictions and practices required to produce it, as being of primary importance. The needs of the electronic product are treated as novel and/or secondary.

But the electronic medium presents opportunities and challenges that “newspaper” businesses are proving slow to understand, making them vulnerable to competition. Here are just a few items waiting to clobber newspapers that fail to adapt:

1. Geographical independence. Publish your “newspaper” on the internet, and someone in Taiwan has access as easily as someone in Saint Paul. Are newspapers doing anything to try to compete for those potential new readers? Are they doing anything to compete against other electronic “newspapers” their traditional readers now have easy access to (to say nothing of news-sources like blogs)?

2. Fewer Content Restrictions. Traditional newspapers are confined by the size of the printed page, the cost of paper and ink, distribution costs, and many other factors which have lead to publishing standards constraining content. Electronic media have few similar restrictions. As a result, content provided in newspapers frequently appears thin and shallow compared to native electronic content (blogs, online journals, etc.).

3. The hyper-link. Traditional newspapers do a terrible job utilizing hyper-links. Hyper-links are quickly becoming the online standard for providing sourcing, background, and reference for serious publications. Newspapers which fail to do this are as lacking in depth compared to basic blogging as a 60 second evening newsbite is compared to a standard newspaper article.

4. Specialization versus generalization. Newspapers traditionally attempted to offer content about a little bit of everything, assuming a subscriber used them as their main daily news-source. This is neither characteristic, nor necessarily desirable in an online reader. Online readers are likely to get news from many different sources in a given day. The value of reading the same national AP article published at the Pioneer Press site, versus half a dozen other newspaper sites is questionable. Rather than featuring stories available in greater depth elsewhere, newspapers should be trying to identify areas where they can be the expert source to which people turn. The most obvious place this should be for a local newspaper is to focus on original local reporting. But surely, innovative newspapers will not stop there. They need to find what they're particularly good at delivering and focus effort there.

5. Competition for eyeballs. Newspapers are accustomed to thinking about their readers in terms of anyone who picks up the paper. This is too imprecise for the electronic world. They need to pay attention to which specific items are drawing the most traffic. Is their sports section drawing 90% more traffic than their national news section? Is there a particular columnist developing a national following, while others draw only locally? Tracking the way eyeballs are falling on specific pages means more than adjusting advertising revenue. It is of crucial importance in adapting their online product to attract a new kind of readership.

A point many newspapers are failing to grasp is that the online readership is not going to wait around for them to catch on to this. What's more, there is nothing that necessarily indicates that a company good at delivering a print product will ever become adept at delivering a quality electronic product. The warning newspapers ought to be taking from the blogosphere is far more than "there is some new competition." They ought to be taking warning from the way the electronic medium is changing publishing, reader behavior, and brand loyalty.

Monday, January 24, 2005

It Could Never Happen Again?

On the week of the 60th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz, here's a cheerful little item reported in the AP today:

MOSCOW - A group of nationalist Russian lawmakers called Monday for a sweeping investigation aimed at outlawing all Jewish organizations and punishing officials who support them, accusing Jews of fomenting ethnic hatred and saying they provoke anti-Semitism.


In a letter dated Jan. 13, about 20 members of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, asked Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov to investigate their claims and to launch proceedings "on the prohibition in our country of all religious and ethnic Jewish organizations as extremist."


Sheltered leftists in this country like to criticize the foundation of Israel, believing that little more than neo-Western colonialism was the driving force behind that event. But one doesn't have to look very hard or very far to find anti-Jewish pogrom mentality continuing to bubble up, as it has throughout history. This is why Israel is so crucial to Jews world-wide.

For the record, this is far from a majority movement in the Russian Duma. But as the AP article continues to note:

While the Russian state itself is no longer anti-Semitic, there are "anti-Semitic campaigns that are led by all sorts of organizations," she said.

"The economic situation is ripe for this. An enemy is needed, and the enemy is well-known, traditional," Gerber said.

Echoing anti-Semitic tracts of the Czarist era, the letter's authors accuse Jews of working against the interests of the countries where they live and of monopolizing power worldwide. They say the United States "has become an instrument for achieving the global aims of Judaism."

Hardly original to speak about America as dominated by Jews. Hitler did the same. I'm quite happy to belong to a nation which people of such low character find painful to contemplate.

Tom Wolfe Review

An excellent review of the new Tom Wolfe novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, over at The American Mind this morning.

Excerpt:

I Am Charlotte Simmons is Tom Wolfe delving into college life. You'd think a 74-year old man would not be able to portray such an environment with any accuracy. Somehow the old reporter pulled it off. Being almost eight years out of college I'll tell you that I Am Charlotte Simmons is pitch perfect. He got teenager's cadence and obsessive use of "like" and "totally" down pat. Males' need to constantly watch SportsCenter as well as their need to get drunk are also spot on.

This is one on my "read soon," list. Along with the new Michael Crichton novel.

Monday Rousing

Funny thing about Monday following an extended bout of flu. It feels a little bit like returning from vacation, and a little bit like waking up from a coma. A good deal of my time is spent trying to remember what I had been working on, what my priorities are, who I'm supposed to talk to. Flu turns out to be an excellent alibi as I work through this though. This time of year, you mention you're getting over the flu and you not only get plenty of space, you also find people aren't all that concerned about whatever it was they came to see you about. "Hope you're feeling better, gotta run."

Other than a bit of a cough, I don't really have any symptoms remaining. But I'm happy to coast on a bit of sympathy while I catch up.

Another unexpected result of my current state is that I find most current events and political news unimportant. I'm not really even sure what all is going on in the world this morning, and don't feel terribly concerned about it either. I know Johnny Carson passed away yesterday (very nice write up about the man here). And to me, that was plenty of news all by itself.

Lileks wrote something this morning suggesting the Tonight Show was uncool to teenagers in his youth. That's probably true to a degree. But I never found it so personally. For some reason, I could sit next to mom or dad on the couch and watch the Tonight Show without worrying about whether or not it was "cool." And I did on plenty of occasions.

Johnny Carson was one of those icons I grew up with, but rarely thought about much. It wasn't until his retirement that I ever paid attention to his own talent. To me the Tonight Show was always about the guests. Johnny was just.... well, he was just Johnny. Same guy he always was. I very much took him for granted. How was I supposed to know he was one of the last remaining icons of a television era that was passing in front of my eyes?

These days television is so different. And so is the culture. The things Johnny Carson represented so well seem to have gone missing from the landscape entirely. I'm left wondering how much of these elements I ascribed to the prior culture were really just attributes of Carson himself.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The MOBsters Ball Report

Well that was fun.

I did indeed make it down to the MOBsters Ball tonight at Keegan's, with Mama Ellen in tow. Attendance was excellent. I got to meet many, many bloggers I had yet to have the opportunity to meet.

Could I be so gaudy as to list them all? Hmm... yeah. Probably.

For the record, James Lileks was in attendance. And despite thinking up about half a dozen cute intro lines and related gambits involving asking him to have his picture taken with me, I ended up allowing him to enjoy his drink and conversation without my intrusion. The enjoyment he gives me via the Bleat ought to be worth at least that much.

Got to meet King Banian from SCSU Scholars for the first time. Provided he remembers me, he even agreed to do an interview some time. Should be fun.

I got to meet (i.e. say hello and shake the hand of) Scott Johnson, from Powerline. Thanks to Saint Paul for the intro.

Captain Ed was also in attendance, and I got in a brief greeting.

All of the Fraters Libertas were there as well. Chad the Elder, Saint Paul, and Atomizer I'm accustomed to seeing at Thursday night trivia. But it was the first time I've met J. B. Doubtless; and might I say he's a fine fellow. He blogs too darn infrequently, but otherwise stands shoulder to shoulder with the finest.

Lets see.... other BIG names in attendance included Eloise and Warrior Monk, from Spitbull (nice to meet you both); and of course Muzzy, from Blogizdat, who (sort of) live-blogged.

I got to finally meet Swiftee, from Pair O' Dice, Mary, from Itsnoonsomewhere, DC, from Brainstorming, Derek, from Freedom Dogs, Cathy in the Wright, Rex "R-Five", from Speed Gibson, Douglas, from Belief Seeking Understanding, Kathy, from Cake Eater Chronicles, Ryan, from Rambling Rhodes, Peg, from what if?, Learned Foot (not sure I ever learned his real name) from The Koolaid Report, and others I'm sure I'm pissing off by forgetting to mention.

Obviously, there were plenty of others I already have the pleasure of knowing in attendance as well. David and Margaret, from Our House, Jo and Mark, from Jo's Attic, Craig "Captain Fishsticks" Westover, Gary, from DaytonVKennedy, John, from The First Ring, Noodles, from People's Republic of Minnesota, John, from Policyguy, Scott, from Pinkmonkeybird, Flash, from Centrisity, Paul and Jim, from Nihilist in Golf Pants.

I also met the Solablogola guy, and the Around the World in 80 Days guy, but for the life of me, their real names aren't coming to me. Apologies guys! I remember what you look like, so hit me up for a free beer for forgetting your name next time.

Criticism Of Rice Over the Line?

Via RCP today, I found this column from Colbert King writing in the WaPo: Why the Crass Remarks About Rice?

King takes exception to the way Condoleeza Rice was characterized by Senator Boxer in her confirmation hearing, and cartoonist Pat Oliphant. In different ways, both depicted Rice as an empty-headed rubber-stamp for anything President Bush wanted.

It's hard to imagine a more demeaning and offensive caricature of a prospective secretary of state, let alone the most senior official on the national security staff. It's equally difficult to understand what prompted Boxer to imply that Rice is little more than a diligent echo of Bush's thoughts. There's nothing in Rice's background or in her performance to suggest that she is a mindless follower of presidential orders. In fact, Rice comes across as just the opposite.

Very true. No person of intelligence and honesty could look at the record of Condoleeza Rice and come away with the assessment: sycophant. We may give Boxer a pass due to the intelligence test, but still King may be on to something.

King is no conservative, and finds ample ground to criticize Rice. Thus his puzzlement at why these fellow liberals drive away from substance, instead attacking Rice personally.

What's the motive behind this kind of assault? Is it a desire to demean or put her down? Is it a wish to marginalize Rice in the public eye, to suggest that by reason of her intelligence, ability or integrity, she is unqualified to hold her present post or to become secretary of state?
Curiously, King doesn't answer this question. But gives a fairly strong indication he knows what the answer is all the same:

It calls to mind John Sylvester, a white radio talk show host in Madison, Wis., who recently went Boxer and Oliphant one better -- or worse. "Sly," as he calls himself, went on the air and caricatured Rice as a servile black, laboring slavishly for the Bush White House. He called her, of all things, an "Aunt Jemima."
Interesting implication. And I think accurate. A certain segment of the Democratic party seems to believe that adopting thinly-veiled racist rhetoric is an acceptable political tactic provided the target is conservative.

It isn't that white liberals invented it either. This has long been the tactic of demagogues and race-hustlers within the black community. Think of the despicable way Clarence Thomas was (and continues to be) characterized for daring to dissent from views deemed acceptable for his race.

Perhaps we're beginning to see an end to the acceptability of this behavior. If so, it will have to begin by the black community going after liberals like Senator Boxer and Pat Oliphant with the same fervor they would go after Trent Lott. (And perhaps finally this guy.)

Friday, January 21, 2005

Media Matters

Hat tip to the Belmont Club for pointing me to the comments at BuzzMachine regarding the Journalism/Blogger conference.

I was especially taken by this bit:

: Jimbo Wales, founder of Wikipedia, says that a few years ago, nobody could have predicted that a bunch of unpaid citizens could replace the Encyclopedia Brittanica with its budget of $350 million but it happened. He said that the business model of The New York Times is not sustainable. Abramson shudders, of course. Kaplan said Wales doesn't know what he's talking about; he has not been in a place like Baghdad and does not know the dififculty of getting information there and does not know how the existing system can be replaced.

Wales is right. He is so very, very right. But so few people listening even know what that means (and the comments that follow what I bolded give evidence to that fact). I wish I had more time to go into this further tonight, but I don't.

Suffice it to say, the future of the blogosphere is not about media organs like the New York Times slowly bringing bloggers into their fold. The new media will expand as quickly as it can, and old media who fail to keep pace will be left behind.

Remind Me Of The Downside?

Getting over the flu, I have already noticed that I've dropped over ten pounds. And of course there was the time off work. And now there is this little commute I'm missing.

Why do people get flu shots again?

Blog Ethics

Hat tip to Muzzy at Blogizdat for linking to this: Blogger Influence Raises Ethical Questions.

The article makes a few decent points. It also has this little "get over yourself" award entry:

Longtime blogger Rebecca Blood circulated guidelines that call for disclosing any conflicts of interest, publicly correcting any misinformation and linking to any source materials referenced in postings.

"It seems pretty clear to me that having some kind of standard contributes to an individual blogger's own credibility," she said.

Yet Blood knows of fewer than 10 bloggers who have adopted her guidelines by linking to the document.

Hey "longtime blogger Rebecca Blood," considering that 95% of bloggers I know consider that stuff common sense and have never heard of you, perhaps there might be another reason you're not terribly link-worthy (i.e. you state the obvious).

Personally, I think it's a bit amusing watching the legacy media and academic types scramble around for some kind of top-down rules and restrictions to impose on the blogosphere. It's completely backward. The blogosphere is bottom up. A blogger either has your trust, or not. The reader is the check here. And that scares the pants off those who still see information as something controlled by an elite.

Addressing A Serious Problem

Time for some tough love. No one seems to be willing to say it, so I will.

POKER IS NOT A TELEVISION SPORT!!!!

Keeeee-Riminey! I sort of understood that "World Series of Poker" thing. It was novel. Different. High stakes. But now things are getting out of hand.

Show of hands. How many people out there actually watch this stuff on TV? Come on. Don't be shy. Hands up.

BLAM BLAM BLAM

And now how many people watch this stuff on TV?

I'm not about to be persuaded by any arguments based on the fact that other people like it regardless. This is an argument based on principle. And the principal is that calling televised poker a sport is sick and wrong.

... And that's more or less how my letter to ESPN went. Think they'll bring back Australian rules football now?

Let It Snow

Have you heard the news? We're going to have snow!! In Minnesota! In January!!

Normally not news. But this year it is. We haven't had a real snowfall yet. Nothing more than an inch in a single snowfall here so far. And now we're supposed to get 6 to 9 inches by tomorrow morning.

How many people are confident their long-neglected snow-blowers are going to start? I'm pretty sure mine won't. Nothing wrong with it. In fact, it was brand new last winter. But this is just the way these things seem to work for me. I'm a fan of the progress of machinery over manual labor. But the feeling is not reciprocated. In fact, I regularly feel my gadgets intentionally tease me.

We'll see soon enough. Nothing more than a trace of new snow yet. The serious stuff is supposed to come down this evening. Should make parking for tomorrow's MOBster's Ball a bit more challenging.

The Tickets are Coming

Got an e-mail this morning informing me that my hoity-toity upper-class tickets to the Hugh Hewitt / Peter Beinhart steel-cage match are in the mail. That should truly be a fun evening.

Let's just hope I can avoid coming down with Beri-Beri or Yellow Fever or whatever else I have yet to come down with this winter and having to miss it.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Four More Years

Turned on the TV and saw there was some kind of parade in Washington D. C. today. Did anyone catch what it was for?

Kidding, of course. I'm not that far out of it. Not at the moment anyway.

But I did catch a bit of the inauguration activity. Rather somber, really. The cold, grey weather had something to do with it of course. And my own mood might have colored it a bit too. But still, there didn't seem to be tremendous joy on display. The emotion was not at all one I would call "celebratory." The overwhelming sense I got from the president and those in his administration was one of resolve. Perhaps this is what it means to be a wartime president.

The second term is shaping up to be as frustrating for his opponents as his first. Far from pulling back from the mindset that led to invading Iraq, he explicitly restated it in terms that are already being called The Bush Doctrine. One can only imagine the effect that speech will have when passed around (most likely in secrecy) in places like Iran, North Korea, and Cuba.

Barely hinted at in the inaugural address were the domestic issues Bush will focus on in the second term. Social Security is obviously the big item on this list. But I wouldn't be surprised to see some other bold attempts as well - tort reform comes to mind. And though he will try to keep immigration reform off his plate, that might prove challenging.

Thinking about all of this makes me realize why the mood seemed resolved rather than celebratory. This is not a president who intends to coast in his second term. He knows full well that his political opponents will concede nothing. They'll continue to spit in his hand every time he reaches out, and then blame him for failing to unite. The MSM will continue to loathe him and negatively spin everything he tries to do. And yet, he has no intention of backing down.

I'd like to wrap up by saying something pithy about the next four years, but nothing seems to suffice. I think it's going to be messy, and hard-fought both on the foreign stage and domestically. Thankfully we have a president equal to such a challenge.

Today's Health Update

Sorry about the sparse posting lately. Despite what you might have read in the papers, having a house full of the flu isn't really all that amusing. It also doesn't lend itself to great flights of bloggy inspiration.

We're hoping to have our health improve by this weekend so we can make the MOBsters ball. But things are looking rather iffy at the moment. Can't leave sick kids with a babysitter, and don't care to play Typhoid Mary at Keegan's.

On the upside, as of Tuesday afternoon when I was in the doctor's office, I had lost 8 pounds. Screw your diet and exercise. Catch the right virus and you're well on your way to a waistline you haven't known in years.

Now pardon me as I curl back into a fetal position and resume pathetic moaning.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Hey Les, It Was A Joke!

The problem with writing anything satirical about Legacy media these days is that they might decide to one-up you with their real behavior. Case in point...

When I made my Predictions for 2005, I included this line:

" In an attempt to stay hip and relevant, NBC will name Comedy Central's "Daily Show" Host John Stewart as their new evening news anchor."
From Reuters today (hat-tip to Hugh):

"[CBS Chief Les Moonves] refused to comment on reports that he had spoken to Katie Couric, the popular co-host of NBC's "Today" show or that he was trying to enlist comedian Jon Stewart, who hosts a newscast parody on cable TV, as a commentator."
Alright, so the network is different and it's not exactly the anchor position. But negotiations are apparently still under wraps, so we can't know for sure. But just for the record, note to Les Moonves - It was a joke!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

New York Times Smears Iraqi Bloggers

Normally I wouldn't link to a story Instapundit already discovered, because an Insta-link is generally sufficient to attract attention without my meager assistance. But this is one I can't let go.

Insty links to Ed Cone, and Jeff Jarvis regarding a story in the New York Times today, in which reporter Sarah Boxer demonstrated some incredible errors in basic journalism and basic judgement. Jarvis is the one who most thoroughly takes her article apart.

Here's the cliff-notes version. Boxer used the NYT to spread a rumor that the bloggers from Iraq the Model work for the CIA or Defense Department. As Jarvis shows, the allegation is entirely unfounded, and Ms. Boxer did almost no investigation into it. She's just rumor-mongering here. Worse, in the article Boxer recognizes the danger these bloggers might be under for being pro-American and then publishes their full names, something they have scrupulously avoided doing themselves for obvious security reasons.

This is an outrageous act for several reasons. Let me just spout off a few that really gall me.

  1. The New York Times is well aware that anti-democratic forces intend to increase acts of terrorism leading up to the election. Boxer just placed an inviting target on the backs of these people. Her editors didn't see a problem here.
  2. We continually hear that the difference between blogs and legacy media is in fact checking and professionalism. Where were either one on display here? Will the reporter suffer any consequences here? Don't bet on it.
  3. She simply cannot accept the fact that even some Iraqis are pro-American. Evidence be damned. "Fake but accurate" seems to be catching on.
Without the blogosphere this kind of lazy smear-job pretending to be "reporting" would go virtually unchallenged.

Joe Gandelman Interview

There is an interactive interview going on at Random Fate at the moment with Joe Gandelman, from The Moderate Voice, and weekend Guest Blogger at Dean's World.

This isn't a shallow, one-liner kind of interview. The focus seems to be substance rather than speed. In fact, I have no idea if this interview is intended to finish today, or go on as long as it takes. Only one question into it so far, but when you read the depth of the response, you'll appreciate the pace. Definitely worth checking into.

Jack, who is conducting the interview, is also soliciting for suggestions or questions from others.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Newsflash: It's Cold

Much talk near and far about the recent cold spell in these parts. We have a word for it here: winter.

Still, I cannot pretend to enjoy the truly nasty cold snaps when they arrive. I doubt those of you from warmer climates realize the true suckiness scraping frost off your windows in sub-zero temps adds to your everyday commute. And did you know that when it gets really cold (fifteen below when I was scraping my windows this morning qualified) the frost is a lot more stubborn in clinging to the windows? Did you also know that frost tends to form on the inside of your windows if you park in the shade after getting to work on one of those frigid mornings? Well now you do. De nada.

Other little things you learn not to take for granted... like your car starting just because it has gas and you turned the key. Hah! Until I lived here I didn't even know motor-oil came in different "weights." These days when I winterize my car I'm careful to ask what motor oil they put in, and smile when I hear 5W-30. Sometimes I even spring for the synthetic.

But I can't pretend this has been a truly miserable winter. Number of snowfalls that have required the snowblower to clear the driveway - zero. Which is truly freaky for this far into winter. Mother Nature is saving up something nasty for us for sure.

Anyway, it's supposed to climb all the way into the mid 20's tomorrow. Do you have any idea how warm that feels after fifteen below? If you live up here, of course you do. If you don't, of course not. But it holds the answer to why those of us who choose to live here do so. It's like the guy who was asked why he kept hitting himself in the head with a hammer, who replied, "Because it feels so good when I stop."

Blogroll Changes

Trying something new with the blogroll. I finally left the ol' HTML behind and got me one of them thar' new blogrolling whatchamajiggers. Supposed to be the wave of the future.

Anyway, the blogroll is currently in a state I will dub "transition." I'm looking at it right now and thinking the old one was better. The old one was broken up into categories, and I'll be getting back to that shortly. But for now I'll leave it where it is to see how I like the javascript whosemejanger compared to my old reliable HTML blogroll.

Incidentally, I added a few more blogs to the blogroll in the process, and while I did I remembered something I meant to do. So I'll do it now.

Welcome to the blogosphere Macaroni Penguin (formerly known as Mrs. Noodles, of PRM fame). This two-blog household thing is becoming a trend. Glad to see you didn't let Noodles have all the fun to himself.

New Blogging Rule

Being a self-proclaimed arbiter of the terms of political debate in the blogosphere, I hereby introduce a new rule:

No one is allowed to state: "I find it hysterical," or "I find it hillarious," unless there is some actual hillarity to be had in the statement that follows. Mere irony is not sufficient. Peals of laughter had better ensue in the vast majority of cases when people read about what you found hysterical or hillarious, or else you are penalized five points.

Example:

Proper use: I find it hillarious when Iowahawk parodies the Washington Post story from this past weekend about Blue Staters exploring Red State America.

Improper use: I find it hysterical when wingnuts on the right claim to care about minorities but oppose affirmative action.

If the distinction is lost on you, it's best just to avoid using the phrase altogether.

Media Aiding the Enemy In Iraq?

Tip o' the hat to Dean's World for directing me to Blackfive, which posted an essay by Lieutenant Colonel Tim Ryan. The essay carries the straightforward title: Aiding and Abetting the Enemy: the Media in Iraq

The lead:

What if domestic news outlets continually fed American readers headlines like: "Bloody Week on U.S. Highways: Some 700 Killed," or "More Than 900 Americans Die Weekly from Obesity-Related Diseases"? Both of these headlines might be true statistically, but do they really represent accurate pictures of the situations? What if you combined all of the negatives to be found in the state of Texas and used them as an indicator of the quality of life for all Texans? Imagine the headlines: "Anti-law Enforcement Elements Spread Robbery, Rape and Murder through Texas Cities." For all intents and purposes, this statement is true for any day of any year in any state. True -- yes, accurate -- yes, but in context with the greater good taking place -- no! After a year or two of headlines like these, more than a few folks back in Texas and the rest of the U.S. probably would be ready to jump off of a building and end it all. So, imagine being an American in Iraq right now.
This essay is absolutely loaded with great stuff. Here are a few samples:

The journalistic adage, "If it bleeds, it leads," still applies in Iraq, but why only when it's American blood? ...

Earlier this year, the Iraqi government banned Al Jazeera from the country for its inaccurate reporting. Wonder where they get their information now? Well, if you go to the Internet, you'll find a web link from the Al Jazeera home page to CNN's home page. Very interesting. ...

Strange, when the enemy is the instigator the media does not flash images across the screens of televisions in the Middle East as they did with Abu Ghuraib. Is it because the beheaded bodies might offend someone? If so, then why do we continue see photos of the naked human pyramid over and over? ...

Did it ever occur to the media that this type of notoriety is just what the terrorists want and need? Every headline they grab is a victory for them. Those who have read the ancient Chinese military theorist and army general Sun Tsu will recall the philosophy of "Kill one, scare ten thousand" as the basic theory behind the strategy of terrorism. ...

And for all of those who read all they can regarding Iraq from MSM sources and feel informed, we are offered this insight:

I believe one of the reasons for this shallow and subjective reporting is that many reporters never actually cover the events they report on. This is a point of growing concern within the Coalition. It appears many members of the media are hesitant to venture beyond the relative safety of the so-called "International Zone" in downtown Baghdad, or similar "safe havens" in other large cities. Because terrorists and other thugs wisely target western media members and others for kidnappings or attacks, the westerners stay close to their quarters. This has the effect of holding the media captive in cities and keeps them away from the broader truth that lies outside their view. With the press thus cornered, the terrorists easily feed their unwitting captives a thin gruel of anarchy, one spoonful each day. A car bomb at the entry point to the International Zone one day, a few mortars the next, maybe a kidnapping or two thrown in. All delivered to the doorsteps of those who will gladly accept it without having to leave their hotel rooms -- how convenient.

The scene is repeated all too often: an attack takes place in Baghdad and the morning sounds are punctuated by a large explosion and a rising cloud of smoke. Sirens wail in the distance and photographers dash to the scene a few miles away. Within the hour, stern-faced reporters confidently stare into the camera while standing on the balcony of their tenth-floor Baghdad hotel room, their back to the city and a distant smoke plume rising behind them. More mayhem in Gotham City they intone, and just in time for the morning news. There is a transparent reason why the majority of car bombings and other major events take place before noon Baghdad-time; any later and the event would miss the start of the morning news cycle on the U.S. east coast. These terrorists aren't stupid; they know just what to do to scare the masses and when to do it. An important key to their plan is manipulation of the news media. ...

As for the "quagmire" talk:

Also bothersome are references by "experts" on how "long" this war is taking. I've read that in the world of manufacturing, you can have only two of the following three qualities when developing a product -- cheap, fast or good. You can produce something cheap and fast, but it won't be good; good and fast, but it won't be cheap; good and cheap, but it won't be fast. In this case, we want the result to be good and we want it at the lowest cost in human lives. Given this set of conditions, one can expect this war is to take a while, and rightfully so. Creating a democracy in Iraq not only will require a change in the political system, but the economic system as well.
As he wraps up his essay, LTC Ryan makes this important observation:

This war is not without its tragedies; none ever are. The key to the enemy's success is use of his limited assets to gain the greatest influence over the masses. The media serves as the glass through which a relatively small event can be magnified to international proportions, and the enemy is exploiting this with incredible ease. There is no good news to counteract the bad, so the enemy scores a victory almost every day. In its zeal to get to the hot spots and report the latest bombing, the media is missing the reality of a greater good going on in Iraq. We seldom are seen doing anything right or positive in the news. People believe what they see, and what people of the world see almost on a daily basis is negative. How could they see it any other way? These images and stories, out of scale and context to the greater good going on over here, are just the sort of thing the terrorists are looking for. This focus on the enemy's successes strengthens his resolve and aids and abets his cause. It's the American image abroad that suffers in the end.
Obviously, go read the whole thing.

Will the Democrats Ever Get Serious About Iraq?

I caught a little of NBC's Meet the Press yesterday morning. On it was Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL). Nice looking fellow. Had that sort of blow-dried look we've come to expect from politicians. But the words coming out of his mouth made me want to throw a brick through the television screen.

When Russert let him spew his garbage without serious challenge, I turned the channel. But this morning I dug up the transcript:

MR. RUSSERT: How do you think President Bush has handled the situation in Iraq?

REP. EMANUEL: Well, Tim, we have a situation in Iraq. You know, there was basic presumptions made that--I think--and, you know, as Dan said earlier, Dan Bartlett, that, you know, plans go awry. I don't think we had a plan for when after the statue of Saddam Hussein came down. There was not a plan. We thought we were going to go in there, and, you know, on this show, Vice President Cheney said we're going to be greeted as liberators. Well, let me just say this: Iraqis have a very funny way of greeting liberators.

They said it was going to be easy and quick. It's turned out to be long and hard. There was not a plan for the occupation. There was not a plan for an exit strategy. And so at every step of the way, the United States Congress has provided the president the resources he's asked for, the resolution he's asked for. I think the one thing we've asked for back, and one thing the American people deserve, is a modicum of competency in the management of this war. None of the things that we face today in Iraq had to be this way. It's because of the way this has been managed at the Defense Department, in my view.

Let's examine some of the idiocy that passes for statesmanship in the Democratic Party lately:

"They said it was going to be easy and quick..." Who the heck is this "They" who said this. The president himself said the opposite repeatedly.

"There was not a plan for the occupation..." B freakin' S. Yes there was. The fact that utopia didn't suddenly spring up between the Tigris and Euphrates is not due to a failure of U. S. planning. It's because creating a functioning democratic state from the ruins of a thugocracy isn't something you can do without the remaining thugs taking offense.

"There was not a plan for an exit strategy..." Not one a modern Democrat might recognize I suppose, but there is such a plan. It's called victory.

"None of the things that we face today in Iraq had to be this way. It's because of the way this has been managed at the Defense Department, in my view." And like the rest of his party, you'll notice the attention to detail as he carefully lays out his alternate plan to "manage" Iraq.

The Democratic Party has become the party of sniping from the sidelines. How should we handle Iraq? After careful deliberation the opposition party has decided they have the answer: "Better." Brilliant.

Then the Congressman launched into one of those weird defenses of his vote in support of the war, even though now his rhetoric now doesn't match what it was then. In the midst of it he offered up this golden oldie:

REP. EMANUEL: You can make--you could have made a case that Saddam Hussein was a threat, and what you could have done also, Tim, is worked with other countries, go through the U.N., take the time to do it.
Oil. For. Food. Scandal.

What kind of alternate reality are folks like this living within? At least two of the members of the U. N. Security Council were on the take from Saddam. They were not ever going to support serious action.

Then we get this:

Again, the problems with our troops and the country today faces in Iraq isn't about whether we should or should not have gone to war, whether we should or should not have removed Saddam Hussein, it's how they have pursued this war, the lack of planning, the lack of processing, thinking about there was no plan, as you know, for after we removed Saddam Hussein, what would you do. There was no plan for--as you know, before war, you had to have an exit strategy. One has not even been annunciated. There's been a presumption that we were going to be greeted as liberators. There was a presumption this would be quick and easy, and then we can turn the country over. None of that has been laid out, and that has to do with the competency and the planning that goes in, and they did not have a plan for the day after "hostilities ended."
Here is the reason this bothered me so much. Skippy the Congressboy here isn't just speaking for himself. He was clearly sent out with some obvious talking points, and he dutifully kept spouting them.

The election is over, and yet the left continues their attempt to demoralize the nation in regard to Iraq. By a combination of flat-out lies and negative spin they hope to accomplish... what exactly? Is this laying the groundwork for the 2006 elections? Are they never going to get out of campaign mode and get into governing mode again?