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Joshua Sharf

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March 29, 2006

Workin' and A-Swingin'

As I mentioned before, I'm transferring a bunch of my old tapes onto CD. Most of what I'm bothering to move is either off the radio or in mono. In this case, it's old Glenn Miller 45s that my parents had on a special RCA release from about 50 years ago. I taped them for some reason, and in this case, I can work, documenting some code for a client I'm finishing up with, pausing to break the recording into tracks on the software. Surprinsgly, given all the lousy treatment the tapes have been through, they still sound pretty good.

Ya gotta love Glenn Miller.

CJR's High Journalistic Standards (Update)

Columbia Journalism Review's Daily takes note of my comments on Hugh's interview yesterday with Michael Ware. In doing so, they exhibit the kind of straw-man argumentation that's made the MSM a kind of Jefferson Society with keyboards.

But the View isn't done. "[Ware] could do a lot more reporting under the protection of the US military than he either knows or acknowledges." (Ware doesn't know the embed option exists?) "If he's really concerned about either his safety or that of his staff, there does seem to be an answer."

This was the part of the interview I was referring to, and going back and reading it, it appears I misheard:

But I mean, what I'm saying to you is that if you think anyone would have the right to complain or to take umbrage at what I do, it would be the troops here on the ground. It would be U.S. military intelligence. It would be the U.S. military. You'd think that they wouldn't give me embeds, wouldn't you? You'd think that they wouldn't grant me backgrounders, or wouldn't take me out on special events. You'd think that they wouldn't give me access to the generals, or to military intelligence. You know, in this war alone, I've been in combat with virtually every kind of U.S. fighting force there is, from the SEAL's, to the Green Berets, to Delta, to Infantry, Airborne, Armored, Mechanized. I mean, I've been there, done that in combat. I've been in every major battle of this war, except from Najaf and the first battle of Fallujah. That includes the battle of Tal-Afar, the Battle of Samara, and the Battle of Fallujah, with front line units. I witnessed an event that the Pentagon subsequently asked me to write about as a witness, which is now a matter for the Congressional Medal of Honor nomination. And I am mentioned in that citation. So if anyone would have a problem with what I do in exploring the issues of this war, you'd think it'd be the military. Yet strangely, they don't.

When I heard this on the air, it sounded to me as though Ware was complaining that he might be denied access based on how he reported. Going back and reading it, he's clearly not saying that. But he does say this about other reporters:

And something happens, something that may not exactly play well back home. And yet, it's something that you know, well, people outside of this experience would never understand that. I mean, how do you relay that without betraying the trust and the confidence of the troops? And for some journalists, they have to bear in mind well, if I write a negative story about the military on this embed, will they give me another embed? So there's always these pressures from all the players. (emphasis added. -ed)

And yet, there's plenty of evidence that most reporters don't get out much beyond Baghdad, and those that do limit themselves to military press events. Bill Roggio reported that while he saw reporters on the ground outside of those events. Ware appears to have been all over the place, and does seem to have availed himself of the military's openness in a way that is unusual for western journalists.

Incredibly, the CJR responds to my complaint as though I had the right interpretation, and proceeds to defend the press on that basis.

UPDATE: In reading even further, I found another quote which supports my initial interpretation, that Ware seems to believe that the military picks and chooses its embeds based on their coverage. Ware's ostensibly referring to what other reporters believe, but then goes on to describe a case where he claims the Iraqi government came after him for a story he wrote. So he's also clearly tying this to his own experience. Whether his later comment is a clumsy recovery aimed at buttering up his, er, bread-and-butter is unclear, but it's certainly at odds with the second quote, from earlier in the interview.

Just Passing Through

Colorado has apparently turned into Staging Area Alpha for illegals coming into the country. Last week, in the middle of the annual tussle between winter and spring, winter got the upper hand on the plains. In the aftermath, a few of the highly-profitable jitneys running illegals from Mexico to points east spun out and closed the interstates.

Now, traffic's bad enough around here without this sort of complication, but it points to Colorado's central position as a collection and distribution point for the free flow of labor across the border. Take a look at a map. Colorado's got I-25 heading north-south, I-70 and I-76 heading east-west, and an hour farther north to I-80. (I-80, where "This is the place," takes on a whole new meaning.)

The inability of local law enforcement to help out is only making things worse. Denver's mayor hasn't exactly made this a high priority; the local latino politicos in Weld County openly oppose an ICE office in Greeley, and, this morning's Rocky details the long-haul meter-free taxi running from Denver to points east:

Law enforcement officials and local residents regularly see vehicles that they suspect are ferrying illegal immigrants to points east and west.

"With the need for agricultural workers beginning to increase, there will be more travelers in the next few weeks," Morgan County Sheriff Jim Crone said. "If we went out and focused on the interstate, I think we could get two or three loads of people a day, with anywhere from 10 to 25 people in a load. And that would overtax our jail."


The Morgan County population was 31 percent Hispanic in the last census, compared to 17 percent Hispanic statewide. But, the sheriff said, some local Hispanics believe the figure is now closer to 50 percent.

Some time ago, Crone said, law enforcement officials planned a week-long sweep in Morgan County to arrest illegal immigrants. However, "They stopped it after two days because they had taken so many people into custody that there was no room (in the jail) for any more."

Tancredo may be right that the protests on Saturday could have been broken up by a few ICE agents checking for papers, but cleaning up the problem that way would require either an armada of C-130s or a holding facility the size of the state.

I have to write this every time, because the issue has at least two parts: for me, this is a question of sovereignty and security as well as economics. We're not going to ship out 11 million people, no matter what Derbyshire says. Steve King can claim that Americans will work for $10 an hour, including employers' insurance, payroll tax, and unemployment insurance costs, but I haven't seen it. We need to come up with a solution that cements the loyalty of those already living here, while cutting off the flow of illegals who undermine that loyalty.

I'm also more than a little worried about importing workers whose intention is to make money and leave. I want people coming in who have a stake in the country and in building a community. There's a strong argument to be made that the reason Mexico is poor has nothing to do with our having stole half their country (and the half with the paved roads, at that), and everything to do with the attitude of the initial settlers.

North of the Rio Grande, people came to build and create. South of that line, people came to pull as much metal out of the ground as they could, and then go home. That's changed, but it's only now that they're starting to get out from under that corruption. I'm pretty sure we don't want to be importing it here, and the only way to prevent it is to limit immigration to assimilable numbers.

The protests in Denver featured many more Mexican than American flags (although the DenPo decided to magnify the latter in its photo). We are rapidly approaching a tipping point, beyond which the politics of the issue will start to resemble that of hijabs in Europe. SB90 is good news, and a start, but without local support, it'll be a dead letter involving years of litigation to prove and enforce, years we don't have any more.

Maybe She'll Blame the Jews

Cynthia McKinney has a little temper, temper:

Rep. Cynthia McKinney and a police officer scuffled Wednesday after the Georgia Democrat entered a House office building unrecognized and refused to stop when asked, according to U.S. Capitol Police.


Members of Congress do not have to walk through metal detectors as they enter buildings on the Capitol complex. They wear lapel pins identifying them as members.

McKinney routinely doesn't wear her pin and is recognized by many officers, the police official said, adding that she wasn't wearing it when she entered a House office building early Wednesday.

By one police account, she walked around a metal detector and an officer asked her several times to stop. When she did not, the officer tried to stop her, and she then struck the officer, according to that account

We're taking bets on how long before she accuses the Israel lobby of paying the officer to harass her.

Heavy Water

It appears that the break-in to the Blackstone, Mass. water supply was the work of teens, rather than terrorists:

Two boys and a girl have been arrested in connection with the water supply scare in Blackstone. This comes as people there anxiously wait for test results to come back this afternoon. The system was shut down Tuesday after someone broke into the town’s water storage facility, sparking fears it may be contaminated.

Police said all three suspects are 15 years old....

Police say the three teens broke into the facility Monday night. It houses a 1.3 million-gallon storage tank that supplies water to Blackstone and part of North Smithfield.

Someone cut barbed wire to enter the complex, cut the lines to an alarm, and then damaged an electrical panel and a vent at the top of the tank.

Authorities say the group left behind an empty, 5-gallon container that had an odor. Investigators were unsure whether it belonged to the water supply company that uses the facility.

OK, so it's not exactly Bierko dumping nerve gas into your home furnace, but the bad guys are watching. Since there's probably no way of securing every utility facility in the country against penetration, this sort of thing is going to have to be handled downstream through chemicals and filtration. Electrified and alarmed fences aren't a bad idea, though.

Neither is a decent stash of bottled water.

March 28, 2006

Reporting From the Other Side

One section of Hugh Hewitt's interview with Michael Ware struck me in particular. Hugh analogized to WWII, and what would happen if a reporter had the chance to report from the other side in that war.

Actually, William Shirer & other journalists did report from Germany during the war. But they did it 1) when the US wasn't a belligerent, and 2) while reporting that they were under Germany censorship. Neither of those conditions obtains with Michael Ware.

Like it or not, when the war broke out, the Germans didn't make it a habit to kill foreign correspondents; they deported them. Once the war started, any newspaperman wandering across the front lines to hang out with the Germans on maneuvers would have been shot as a spy. And for good reason. The mere fact this is at least a matter of dispute amongst the councils of our current enemy should tell you something about the service that Mr. Ware is performing.

Remember, too that normal military censorship has relatively well-known rules. Talk about morale if you like, but the troop train schedule is off-limits. Ware's admitted to being "careful," but without careful questioning after each story, it's impossible for a reader to figure out what kind of restraints he's putting on himself. Not only can't you read between the lines, you're not even sure what directlon the lines run, or if there are any lines.

The fact is, there are plenty of embeds who reports what they see, good or bad. Michael Yon comes to mind. The military is confident in the rightness of its behavior to the point that as long as Yon doesn't pick up a weapon again, or as long as Bill Roggio doesn't have flashbacks to his service days, they can keep going and reporting as long as they like. While it does seem that Ware has gotten out of the bar at the Palestine Hotel, he could do a lot more reporting under the protection of the US military than he either knows or acknowledges. If he's really concerned about either his safety or that of his staff, there does seem to be an answer.

This is worse than the deal cut with Saddam, first, because it comes after Eason Jordan's nasty little revelation, and second, because you can't make normal assumptions about what's fair game and what's not.

This guy's sold his soul for a few bylines.

UPDATE: Upon further reflection, this post has been revised and extended from its initial form..

March 27, 2006

War Quickies

First, does anyone really believe that Moussaoui was in cahoots with Richard "Really Big Shoe" Reid to hijack a fifth airplane? It more or less goes against everything that we know operationally about that day. I'm content to believe that Moussaoui was part of the 9/11 plot at some point, but this sounds like the ravings of someone who's either trying to save his skin by confessing everything, or who's a few seats short of a full flight.

Secondly, are we finally getting serious about Mookie al-Sadr? I didn't like the deal we cut in the first place, letting him go, just to rebuild his militia. Didn't we already make that mistake with one Iraqi, er, strongman? Having private militias operating outside the government is a recipe for chaos. On the other hand, maybe this will be a test for the Iraqi security forces' competence and loyalty. Either way, we need to put Mookie out of business.

Painting the Map Red

Hugh's new book is out! It's basically the "take, clear, and hold" strategy of national politics, and you can buy it here. Colorado (along with Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio) are the battleground states Hugh identifies. Speaking from the front lines, I'd say he's got the Colorado part pegged.

March 26, 2006

GMU Rescues the NCAA

George Mason is going to the Final Four. I grew up a couple of miles from GMU, at a time when it was still struggling to establish itself after breaking free from U.Va. It was fully accredited, of course. But because of its newness and its suburban setting, it always seemed at least a full step below Georgetown and Maryland, and the in the latter case, that was saying something, sort of one step above a community college.

Now, with the development of a first-class economics department, and this, Mason is putting my hometown on the map. Like it or not, sports success is one of the surest ways to national attention, so I'm sure that Rte. 123 will be crawling with sports "reporters" looking for human interest stories amid the institutional architecture. The joke's on them - Rte. 123 pretty much crawls at all hours, anyway.

With two #1 seeds playing today, I had pretty much resigned myself to a boring Final Four, with nobody to root for and a #4 seed having to pass for Cinderella. The last #11 seed to crash the party was LSU in 1986, and since then 42% of Final Four teams have been #1 seeds, and an outright majority have been #1 or #2. The only year with any spice was gloriously uncompetitive 2000, when a #5 and two #8s made it, and the games were all decided by 12 or 13 points. Over time, the difference between #1 and #4 seeds has been shrinking, while the difference between #4 and everyone else has been growing.

The good news is that Mason can still meet LSU in the Finals.

AP: Criminalizing Illegality

Apparently, the AP doesn't think that illegal immigrants are breaking the law:

More than 50,000 people gathered downtown Saturday as part of a national protest against a crackdown in immigration laws, including federal legislation aimed at criminalizing illegal immigrants and building more walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. (emphasis added -ed.)

In fact, the proposed legislation would make being here in the country a felony. It's already a crime, of course.

This is at least a two-part issue. We can have an open immigration policy, or a closed policy, or something in-between. But we can't have any policy at all without control of our borders. The fact is, and it is a fact, one can be for strong border control and support a large flow of immigrants, or even a guest-worker program. This kind of obfuscation lumps all immigrants together, makes it easier to accuse border-control advocates of racism, and is part of a larger set of talking points designed to politicize the issue along partisan lines. The ultimate goal, of course, is to preserve the Hispanic vote for Democrats:

Speakers during the rally ridiculed the Republican party telling participants that "they're not on our side and they're pitting Americans against us."

Right. That's why the Democratic governors of Arizona and New Mexico - and Bill Richardson himself is Hispanic - have declared states of emergency along their borders with Mexico. If the rally itself was this politicized, the AP made no attempt to discern the political leanings of its organizing groups.

"This is the standing point of a new beginning," said protester Eli Chairez-Clendenin, 36, of Denver, who immigrated to Colorado in 1974. "We're not going to be intimidated or afraid to speak our mind. We're going to be who we are."

Mr. Chairez-Clendenin thus came here when he was, what, four years old? So he came here with his family. It's not as though he made this decision himself, as an adult, responsible for his decisions. To all intents and purposes, the man's a native, and his opinions on recent illegals need to be weighed with that in mind.

This was the wire service. It'll be interesting to see what the Denver Post does with it tomorrow.

March 24, 2006

The WaPo Wanders Off The Reservation

Apparently, certain readers aren't taking too well to's Ben Domenech's hiring by the Washington Post. Howard Kurtz's column has a slightly whiny tone to it: "Liberal bloggers, some of whom have been criticizing The Post since its editorial page backed the war in Iraq, have expressed varying degrees of outrage over Domenech's hiring." And while calling Ted Rall a "steaming bag of pus" may make Ted Rall upset, calling Dan Froomikin an "embarassment" could just as well be a professional assessment.

Still, the complaints smack of perceived betrayal of the faithful. Conservatives are upset over the monolithically liberal WaPo blogroll, while leftists are upset over the presence of a single righty. The fact that the leftys are screaming like a woman scorned suggests the degree to which they count on the Post's megaphone, and the risk that the Post has been running of ghettoizing itself.

On the other hand, maybe it's jealousy. If the lefty bloggers were as important as they think they are, they wouldn't need the Post anyway.

And finally, what business is this of Pete Stark's? When the White House folded like a cheap suit and attacked Bill Bennett for some offhand comments about the crime rate, conservatives were wondering why the White House felt compelled to comment. Don't expect liberals to be asking when Pete Stark got into the newspaper business.

The Language of Business

Mais Non!

If the French government cared about business, the fact that their businessmen get it might matter.

March 23, 2006

Instapundit vs. WSJ on Newspapers

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds suggested some things that newspapers could do to become more relevant and to stay alive:

  • First, I think I'd skip the "paper" part.
  • Second, I'd put some of the money I saved ... into hiring reporters and writers
  • Third, I'd stop insulting readers.
  • Fourth, I'd get readers involved.

On the same day, the WSJ (subscription required) discussed things newspapers are trying to do to make themselves more profitable:

  • New, smaller-circulation papers targeted at people who don't read Generation Y
  • New, smaller-circulation papers targeted at communities
  • Free (or low-cost) classifieds
  • Having search engines return advertising

Notice a difference? Reynolds is concerned with product; the WSJ is concerned with revenue model.

The WSJ also included this little bit of incoherence:

Newspapers remain a profitable business, despite the high fixed costs of printing plants, news-gathering staffs and home-delivery operations. As the primary advertising option in their local markets, most newspapers have enjoyed significant leverage with advertisers. They use that power to raise prices.

In 2005, publicly traded U.S. newspaper publishers reported that newspaper operations produced operating-profit margins of 19.2%, down from 21% in 2004, according to figures compiled by independent newspaper-industry analyst John Morton. He says that figure is still more than double the average operating-profit margin of the Fortune 500 companies.

Without seeing Morton's numbers, it's hard to know how he got there. It's also hard to see how this squares with the fact that newspapers have only maintained any profitability by cannibalizing each other at a rate that would make Idi Amin squirm. And self-cannibalizing, as well, which is the point of Reynold's item ). And raising prices in a declining market has a certain air of Detroit about it.

The fact is, both approaches are necessary. All of Reynold's product improvements won't make any difference if they can't figure out how to make the thing pay. Some newspapers are experimenting with the Net. The WaPo has turned the blogosphere into its comments section (although some blogs seem to ping generously in order to attract traffic). The Rocky has tried to get bloggers to cross-post in YourHub.

I got an email a couple of weeks ago from a local section editor asking for advice on what stories to cover. But if he had been reading the blogs, he wouldn't have needed to ask. (I answered anyway.) Mike Littwin insists that newspaper guys read the blogs obsessively, but the blogosphere itself (through Newsbusters, Powerline, a dozen other media-watch blogs) provides evidence on a daily basis that it's not doing much good.

To some extent, this is a matter of self-selection. After all, the Journal is a newspaper, and a business newspaper, so it's likely to focus on things like operating margins and revenue streams. Yet, in the past, it's covered other industries with far more attention to product, so I'm inclined to think that this isn't the business bias of the paper. To the extent that the Journal accurately reflects what newspaper magnates are thinking, they're decidedly not looking at their product.

And Detroit can tell them all about that.

March 22, 2006

Caucus Night

A couple of quick notes and advice from my first caucus night.

First, just because I'm wearing a yarmulker, that doesn't oblige you to comment on it. There were a few blacks there, few hispanics (aside from the party chairman), and a couple of Jews. I've got no brook for formal affirmative action, but repeatedly telling someone, even with good humor, that they look like a fish out of water is a great way to make sure things stay that way. I wasn't offended - the Party clearly sees the need to, er, broaden its base - just annoyed after a while. Successful outreach needs a little less clumsiness, and I've already self-selected.

Second, I'm sure that the older gentleman who read the rules has a history of long and distinguished service to the Party. Evidently that service doesn't include trying to maintain control over a roomful of adults with other obligations, in a hall with lousy acoustics. Get someone who people want to pay attention to. They don't have to be Robin Williams up there, you'd think that people with a lifetime in politics would know the value of public speaking skills.

Third, sell the post-caucus politicking. No, not sell as in, "office accounts," or "replacement for Deanna Hanna." Sell as in, get people debating. Almost everyone in that room ended up as a delegate to the state convention. If we're not just going through the motions, these things matter.

Finally, I think Mike Miles spoiled the party for everyone. If you can organize, organize, organize, pull surprise upsets at the caucuses and the convention, and still get only the votes of you and your mom in the primary, it calls into question the whole process. Maybe things were more exciting in counties where whole precinct delegations couldn't fit in a cupboard. But in trying to defend the process, I got the same feeling that I got from conversations with fellow train-travelers a couple of decades ago.

March 21, 2006

No, But I Got Nominated Real Good

Welcome to the blog of the new Precinct 648 Republican Committeeman, and delegate to the state convention this year.

Hold the applause. This is from Denver, where apparently going to Republican caucuses is one of those jobs that Americans just won't do. About 70 precincts met in the lunchroom of a local middle school, with each table set up for three precincts. There were three people there from my precinct, for three delegate slots. The state convention is on a Saturday, so if there's any writing involved, everyone's going to know who I voted for, if they care.

The fact is, for Colorado, the Republican map is inverted from the population centers. If the caucuses were organized like high schools, Denver and Boulder would house all the single-A schools and 8-man football teams. Kind of like Dennis Quaid's team in The Rookie, where showing up isn't 90% of life, it's closer to 99%.

Colorado has a strange schizophrenic system. There's a caucus, which selects the candidates who appear on the ballot for the primary. Then there's the primary. The caucus system has come under increasing attack as an anachronism, with some justification. But the parties get to pick the candidates, and there's no good reason why that task shouldn't fall to those most involved. The primary avoids smoke-filled room deals, although since the legislature is on the way to outlawing smoking, that's less of a threat now, anyway.

The other thing that the caucuses and conventions do is send resolutions to the national party for possible inclusion in the platform, so it remains the best way to gauge the party's collective wisdom, or, in the Democrats' case, its collective insanity.

Now for the fun. After tomorrow, I'll be on every candidate's mailing and phone list. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Fellow RMA member Clay Calhoun was also elected a delegate from the somewhat more-competitive Elbert County. The RMA begins its Long March to power.

UPDATE: Ray A. Rayburn, delegate from Boulder, has some useful clarifications in the comments section.

March 20, 2006

Civil Wars

One of the best descriptions that I've found of the politics of 1860 comes from Bruce Catton's The Coming Fury, the first in his trilogy of the Centennial History of the Civil War. Now, Catton was a northerner, and had the North's views of the causes of the war, which differ considerably from the South's. They do, however, have the added advantage of being right. (For instance, if states' rights divorced from slavery really were the issue, why was the CSA Constitution mute on that point?)

The key thing to remember is that at each point in the crisis, the two sides failed utterly to understand each other. The North, in particular the Republicans, had no idea of the threat they represented in the minds of the South, in particular the newspapermen. Lincoln justified his refusal to elaborate on his views on the legal status of slavery on the grounds that anything he said can and would be used against him in the court of public opinion. What he didn't see was that while it couldn't affect the election (he wasn't on any Southern ballots, anyway), his silence could be twisted just as effectively as any words he might have used.

In fact, throughout 1860, the North continued to view secession as a threat, and then as a political maneuver, long after the fire-eaters had hijacked the process and driven Union sympathy to the fringe. There was considerable Union sentiment, but it was a mile wide and an inch deep, and once the step was taken, loyalty was going to be sectional rather than national. In fact, the border states - including Virginia - didn't secede until it was evident that force would be used to protect Federal property and keep the south in the Union.

For the South's part, they didn't understand the North's commitment to the Union, and its unwillingness to be coerced into committing large portions of its GDP and legal system to the support of a crumbling institution. It also probably overestimated Southern sympathy in the border slave states, which is odd, considering that that's where the Constitution Party, whos platform essentially consisted of wishful thinking about reaching another compromise, got most of its votes.

In fact, the one character who comes out looking the most sane, the most rational, and the most insightful, is Stephen Douglas. Douglas was the only candidate who was willing to conduct a campaign on the actual issues of slavery and potential secession, while all other parties talked around the first and ignored the second. By doing so, Catton points out, they left an electino process designed for national decision-making not having resolved anything.

One last point is also worth considering. Secession was brought about by a confluence of southern temperment, and a skillful manipulation of the political process. The fire-eaters, William Yancey chief among them, maneuvered to get a crisis, promoting a schism in the Democratic Party and willing the election of Lincoln. They did this because they rightly calculated that much of the South was tired of compromise and talk and wanted action and a resolution. Douglas's sin was, in Catton's words, that he was proposing a politician's solution at a time when the political institutions had ceased to function. The fire-eaters denied him the nomination precisely because they feared he might be able to bring such an agreement about. From their point of view, it was better to split the party in order to lose the election, and then let the fear of Lincoln do its work.

For that reason, elections need to be about what they're about. It's one reason "trangulation" and "the permanent campaign" are so damaging to the body politic, and it they probably have soemthing to do with why we're now 48-48 rather than 40-40.

Carnival of the Capitalists

The Carnival is up!

March 19, 2006

Tape Conversion

As part of getting serious about cleaning up the house, I needed to get rid of a bunch of old audio tapes I've been keeping forever. I needed to audio equivalent of transferring home movies from Disneyworld in digital, and I stumbled across Digitalizer by Digitope. So far, it seems to be working all right, although the quality is difficult to regulate since there's no audio output from the system as it's recording. Still, it lets you cut an any-CD-player-ready CD, which is mostly what I'm going for on these old tapes.

The biggest problem is the editing. The visual display doesn't stay synched with the track that's playing, so there's a lot of scrolling back and forth, which makes track-realignment a real pain. Since most of the tapes are tapes of radio shows, the individual tracks aren't very clear, so I spend a lot of time with this crummy feature.

The fastest you can dub, and retain any kind of quality, is 1 sec/sec. You know how whenever Lileks starts a new book, he kvetches about spending more time with his scanner than with his daughter? This has the potential to turn into that kind of thing,

Sleeper Cell

Last week at Shabbat dinner, I met a fellow visitng from New York, who was working for Showtime on their series, Sleeper Cell. "Better than 24," he said. "So, the terrorists, they're...," I tried to ask. "Yes, they're Muslim, but they're not all Arab." "Hmm," I averred.

Well, the DVDs are out, for those of us unwilling to pay extra for what's mostly premium crap. While I'm not willing to agree that it's "Better than 24," the mere assertion of which plants doubt, that's mostly because it's a completely different animal. While Jack Bauer (reverent pause), has only one day to save LA and uncover conspiracies of increasing complexity, size, and scope, Sleeper Cell is more like Wiseguy.

The language is a lot rougher, the (brief) sex scenes are more explicit, although for some reason the violence is probably more explicit on 24. But the story is more subtle, and while the terrorists are clearly the bad guys, and the Muslim FBI infiltrating is clearly the good guy, he's got to deal with bureaucracy and ignorance in trying to get his superiors to play their cards right. At times, this borders on cliche, but at other times, there's real insight.

One episode shows how drug trafficking and prostitution are helping to fund terror rings, using our own vices against us. At the end of episode 4, Darwin (the FBI agent), informs his handler that "it's not just a war on terror, it's a civil war within Islam, and [the moderate Imam] and those like him are the only ones that can win it." There's a lot of truth in this, and while the outspoken moderate Imam has yet to appear outside of Hollywood, the outspoken moderate Muslims in LA, Denmark, and Holland could use real politicians saying more of this sort of thing.

Each season seems to be 12 episodes, and I've only been through the first DVD, but on the whole, I'm impressed.

Jimmah Strikes Out

At the risk of repeating myself, I'd like to point out that Hamas has apparently proven impervious to the entreaties of our worst ex-President, Jimmy Carter. Despite his pleas to keep the money flowing, in order not to radicalize Hamas (really!), the Islamofascists have decided to form a government "without moderates." While this may come as a disappointment to the Carters and the James Wolfensohns of the world, it's unlikely to change their opinions.

Keep an eye out for any MSM reference to these requests - essentially honored - and their failure to "moderate" Hamas in any future reporting. I doubt they'll be there. Instead, watch for the same post-Gulf-War-I dance to be repeated, this time with Hamas. Watch for the MSM to latch onto anything, anything at all, to avoid coming to the conclusion that Hamas means what it says.

Included in the AP report is this little gem:

The Palestinian Authority is highly dependent on foreign aid to prop up its economy, which has suffered a near fatal blow during five years of fighting with Israel.

In fact, the Palestinian economy has been destitute from at least the time of the first intifada, suffering first from a greater interest in making bombs than making, well, much of anything else. Also unmentioned is the complete lack of evidence that the foreign aid that flowed in like Niagara was going anywhere but into the pockets of Arafat and his Abu Buddies. Inasmuch as this corruption is the most-often-cited rationalization for why the Palestinians didn't really mean it when they voted for these thugs, it's an odd omission at best.

March 17, 2006

Thanks, Powerline

This week has been a blast, getting to know new readers, and hopefully having some new readers getting to know me. The Powerline guys have been incredibly generous.

The Fickle Finger of Fate is probably scheduled to move on tomorrow, when I'll be on the weekly Shabbat hiatus, so I'll thank them now, and hope that some of you who've visited will be tempted to come back from time to time.

Vacating the Field

Take a look ah the Issue groups focused on the Middle East that Project Vote-Smart tracks:

  • Council on American-Islamic Relations
  • Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA)
  • American Muslims for Jerusalem
  • Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel
  • U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

    See a pattern? Yes, I thought so.

    I'm fairly sure this isn't a bias Vote-Smart's part; every other section of the site has both sides represented where they exist. Since Israel's security isn't (or shouldn't be) particularly controversial among Jewish groups, why do the ADL, AJC, and AIPAC (AIPAC, of all people!) not publish ratings of their own on this matter?

    The standard answer is that we don't want, and can't afford, for Israel to become a partisan issue. It's not without merit. Since people vote on many issues, you don't want an election to turn on, say, the economy, and find that you've got a Foreign Relations committee taking campaign contributions from Hamas fundraisers. But I'm pretty sure than abandoning the field to the bad guys is having the opposite effect, and may eventually make Israel a bi-partisan issue, the other way. And I'm not even sure it's a completely honest answer.

    By allowing the other side to drive the ratings, you're creating an incentive for one party to seize the issue as soon as they think the bad guys may have some strength. And in a hyper-partisan era, when one party thinks that impeachment is a winning campaign issue, this becomes a real possibility. In the short run, you encourage it to become a partisan issue. In the long run, your friends start to ask why they're supporting you in the first place. That's how politics works.

    I think there's also something else at work here, though. I think there's a reluctance on the part of a traditionally Democratic leadership to admit that that party has become the (still uncomfortable) home of anti-Semitism, a la Cynthia McKinney and Al Sharpton. I think they and their largely Democratic membership don't want to face that fact, and the fact that conservative Republicans are now Israel's most reliable supporters, in part because they've been listening to their own press clippings about "theocracy." In the meantime, the actual theocrats are busily enrolling in Yale where they can take a census of gay and Jewish students to see how large the swinging wall has to be.

    Further, it's too easy to just write off Republican support as "those evangelicals." Maybe, somewhat. (Evangelicals aren't a majority of the party; they aren't even really driving the agenda.) But if you do that, then you have to explain why you can't carry the Democrats anymore, why you can't appeal to them on their terms, and that's profoundly embarassing, as well.

    Either way, the Jewish leadership isn't doing its job here.

    For statistical geekery, continue reading below.

    Still don't believe there's a difference between the parties?

    CAIR in 2005 was either 100 or 0, so it looks as though they only followed one vote in the House. Here's the chart:


    The Washington Report is a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel publication from DC. Here are (most) of the 2004 aggregates for the House and Senate:

    US House:


    US Senate:


    These are so lopsided, I didn't even bother to run chi-square tests. One more, "American Muslims for Jerusalem," from 2003-2004. This is a score, rather than a voting %, so the basic statistics are listed rather than only a count:

    OfficePartyAverageStd DevCount
    U.S. HouseDemocrat-4.996.82183
    U.S. House Total-7.176.11387
    U.S. SenateDemocrat-1.433.7814
    U.S. Senate Total-3.683.8737

    (By the way, the Diaz-Balart cousins, Catholics both, are at -10 and -15, apparently it's not just for evangelicals, anymore.)

    Once again, you can run the comparisons if you want, but I think you'll end up with z-scores in the triple digits.

  • RFID Hacks

    I had a chance to review two books on RFID recently - The Spychips Threat and RFID Essentials. Each took on the issue of RFID security differently.

    Now, it turns out that the greater threat (at least immediately) isn't to the individual, but to the business, because that's where the money is.

    Best hack:

    Lacking their own power source, the chips are also susceptible to so-called power-consumption hacks. Adi Shamir, a professor of computer science at the Weizmann Institute of Science, announced in February that he and a student researcher were able to hack into an RFID tag and extract its kill password, which is a code that effectively makes the tag self-destruct.

    The researchers deduced the password by monitoring the tag's power consumption. (It turns out, the tag's power consumption rises when it receives incorrect data from the reader). The researchers uncovered the tag's kill code in three hours. While that tag was dated, more recent iterations, which came on the market in the second half of 2005, could react in similar ways, the researcher says. And a tag can be hacked with a tool as simple as a cell phone.

    Let's see. Port security. Ubiquitous RFID tags on cargo containers. Viruses. I think I see the outlines of next year's 24 story arc starting to take shape...

    Better Late Than Never

    While inhabitants of the blogosphere have known about the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's exploits in Tall Afar for some time, apparently the news is just penetrating the Denver Post newsroom.

    Better late than never, I suppose. I don't have the print version in front of me, so I can't say what page it's on, but it's nice to see a report about local soldiers that doesn't focus solely on their funerals.

    Just Arrived

    Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong. I've been a Bill James fan for a long time, and this sort of thing never ceases to fascinate me. It'll be interesting to see how well it holds up against the baseball blogs.

    Holtzman v. Beauprez

    With Hugh Hewitt having identified Colorado as one of the purple states we need to keep tilting red, the governor's race this year is turning into one of national importance. I moved out here in part to get away from the hot house of national politics, so I'm feeling a litle like Wilmer McLean, but I'm here, and there's no helping it.

    I had a chance to see the first face-to-face debate (although not the first joint appearance) between Marc Holtzman and Bob Beauprez, and my first impression was that it stengthened my previous impressions. Holtzman is more of an ideas guy, while Beauprez has a somewhat more governmental approach to things. Holtzman is less comfortable speaking in public, while Beauprez is polished enough to allow himself some humor. Holtzman, running an outsider's campaign, is working harder to establish contrast, while Beauprez is working harder not to offend anyone just now.

    While my heart's with Marc and his efforts, the campaign is starting to look a little like the Mike Miles-Ken Salazar matchup. So any pressure that can be brought on Beauprez to force him to talk more about ideas is good for the party. I sent an email with some of the following observations to Holtzman, not because they haven't thought of them, or because I'm declaring for one side or another, but because I think a good primary is good for the party, and helps win the battle of ideas.

    First, about that speaking style. Holtzman has gotten better, but Beauprez's humor is still disarming. Holtzman really sees himself as continuing the Reagan revolution, but while the words are optimistic, the voice and facial expressions are a little too strained and earnest. It leads to Beauprez walking away with a higher Q-rating, even though there's no need for it. Instead of saying, "I have a plan, and I know what I want to do," Holtzman could earn points by getting out from behind the lectern, gesturing to the crowd, and telling them that, "you already know the answer," before telling them what it is. He's not tall enough to lean over the lectern, but doing that would really compliment his audience.

    A terrible moment came at the end of the debate, where Beauprez was responding to some of Holtzman's comments, invoked Reagan, and Holtzman lost his cool and interrupted Beauprez. While the look on Beaprez's face was worthy of Al Gore in the first debate, Holtzman lost any advantage by breaking the rules and giving Beauprez a chance to stay in command, and put Marc back in his place a little. I'll have audio of that (and other portions) loaded up this afternoon.

    Second, on issues, Holtzman is full of ideas, but needs to work harder to connect them with themes and with items that matter to people. On the other hand, his ideas are appealing to a Republican crowd, and are more specific that Beauprez's on water and transportation. Beauprez wants to address transportation through roads, rails, and airports. Honestly, that ought to sound terrible to a Republican audience. The Denver railyard is already slated to be moved out east, and airports are largely private enterprises alread. People want to hear about roads, and this talk about "studies" to "get ahead" of the curve sound like expensive boondoggles that don't address specific problems that we're familiar with.

    On health care, Holtzman ought to be winning hands-down. Again, there's a limit as to what the state can do, but if you start with the fact that the government has turned the health-care "market" into a pretzel, things like HSAs and federal waivers are no-brainers. They should be at the top of the list, not where Beauprez has them, down at the bottom after, "encourage electronic recordkeeping."

    The biggest difference, though, the one that Holtzman kept hammering on to create contrast, was immigration. Holtzman repeatedly banged on Beauprez for not being tough enough on illegal immigration, including references to a bill to crack down on sanctuary cities. Beauprez cited Tom Tancredo's endorsement, and given Tancredo's willingness to be a one-issue candidate and one-issue endorser, that does carry some weight. And the fact is, while Beauprez can't cite the same 100 and 95 ratings on immigration that he can on more general issues, Vote-Smart has him doing pretty well, there, too. Still, it's clear that Beauprez would rather not talk about immigration as his top issue, and Holtzman seemed to get under his skin a little there.

    One area where I just flat-out disagree with Holtzman is on CAFTA. My only western-hemisphere free-trade regret is that we didn't get a chance to extend the thing all the way down to the South Pole before Latin American governments started going Left and looking to China for succor. Beauprez's right on this one, and Holtzman is wrong, and we can deal with immigration without ditching free trade.

    Look, it's not like Beauprez has no ideas about what to do. He's probably looking ahead both to the general and at having to govern, possibly with a minority in one or both state legislative houses. And Colorado's governor has, at some level, less power than Denver's mayor. The two candidates are probably identical on that issue, except that Beauprez can draw on legislative experience dealing with other states on the issue. Colorado's centrality comes from geography and population rather than any particular talents Beauprez has, but it's still an advantage for him.

    Cross-posted at the RMA's gubernatorial primary site, Holtzman v. Beauprez.

    New Header Graphic

    Thanks to reader Arthur Lemay for the new, less-jarring header graphic, which lines up the mountain vista much more smoothly.

    Bonds. Iraqi Bonds

    Powerline's John Hinderaker is undoubtedly correct when he says that it'll be decades before we know if the Iraqi experiment has succeeded. According to this morning's Wall Street Journal, some American money managers are willing to take that bet:

    T. Rowe Price Group Inc., based in Baltimore, says about $16 million of its $558 million Emerging Market Bond Fund is invested in the new Iraqi bonds. Standish Mellon Asset Management Co., of Boston, says it has about $2 million in Iraqi bonds, spread out among some of its emerging-market mutual funds. It declined to identify the funds but said they had a total of $400 million in assets.

    ING Group and Merrill Lynch & Co. recently showed up on a brokers-only computer network as bidders for the Iraqi bonds, one person with access to the system says. It couldn't be learned whether the firms were interested as buyers for their own accounts or for customers. Merrill and ING said they couldn't comment on interest in Iraq.

    A couple of points. Since the investors are few, and most individuals won't touch them, it's hard to get a true market for the bonds just yet. Secondly, their relative stability is probably as much due to the US stake in Iraqi success as in any inherent confidence that Mookie al Sadr is following the market. Finally, everyone's a sucker for oil. Everyone, all the time. Venezuela could nationalize everything tomorrow, and in five years, after having wrecked their economy and driven off improvements, they could open it back up and all would be forgiven.

    The one fund that we know is dabbling in the bonds, T. Rowe Price's Emerging Markets Bond Fund, has above-average Lipper and Morningstar ratings, and above-average performance over a long period of time. And it's had the same manager for 12 years, so it's not some new guy desperate to push up returns this quarter or else. (Although it would be interesting to know what happened in 3Q1998; that was a meltdown quarter for foreign bonds - LTCM - but they underperformed their group by 30%.)

    Now, the yield on that debt has risen substantially, from 5.8% when issued to 9.5% now, the highest dollar-denominated debt in the world. Still, that's not 1970s Latin American levels, and it indicates a willingness by serious managers to take the bonds seriously.

    Campaign Finance, Iraqi Style

    Among the documents released by the military is one with the following tantalizing description:

    Correspondence among various governmental offices regarding the French law for funding and financing election campaigns. The original French text of the law translated into Arabic, referring to the rules of the authority to regulate the financing.

    I don't read Arabic, but I'll bet they weren't just keeping track of Chirac's Adventures in Money Laundering for entertainment purposes.

    Blogger-Newspaper Relations

    The Wal-Mart/blogger story, and the New York Times getting scooped by its own subject (Hat Tip: InstaProf), has gotten me thinking about my own newspaper-blogger relations, and what newspapers seem to expect from bloggers.

    A few months ago, I contacted a reporter for one of the local dailies about what I considered to be either bias or sloppiness in one of her stories. After a somewhat unsatisfactory exchange, I finished off the correspondence by saying that I intended to publish it on the blog for people to judge, and that this was her chance to respond to criticism I was planning to level.

    She reacted as though I had sent her electronic anthrax. "Don't publish this; I never intended to participate in your private forum." I shopped around for some opinions, and eventually decided to respect her wishes, not wanting to antagonize people unnecessarily. Still, even now, I have a hard time seeing why a correspondence concerning her very public work should be kept confidential after the fact.

    And then, last week, I received an email from a section editor from one of the local dailies ("local" ranging from Ft. Collins to Pueblo) saying that he was canvassing Colorado blogs for story suggestions, There was no request for confidentiality included. I replied with a fairly comprehensive but constructive critique of the paper's reporting on the subjects, with some specific examples. I got back a respectful reply, and he even took the time to correct one criticism I had made.

    When I told him I'd like to publish it - and let's face it, a major daily asking for advice from bloggers is news - he replied that the whole thing had been off the record and he'd prefer not to let that be known. Although he did say that my critique was my own, and I could publish that as a stand-alone piece. Again, it seems to me this is expecting a courtesy he'd never extend to, say, a mayor who went around calling newsrooms asking, "How'm I doin'?"

    Since I agreed to keep these exchanges off the record, I'll continue to do so for these cases. But it seems that the newspapers are expecting a degree of freedom that they'd never extend to other public figures. So from here on out, all bets are off unless they specify and receive agreement up front.

    UPDATE: I would like to point out a distinction here. On a couple of occasions, Jim Hughes of the Denver Post has called to interview me for a story about blogging. It never occurred to me then to "scoop" him by running that fact. The two instances cited above are substantially different.

    It's not news that a reporter interviews people for a story. That's his job. It is news when a newspaper seeks out bloggers' advice on how to do its job. It's also news when a reporter agrees to discuss her story that's already appeared in print, and answer questions about the topic at hand. After all, she's emailing with a blogger.

    March 16, 2006

    Iraqi Intelligence: al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2002

    So that first set of declassified documents from Iraq includes this interesting item:

    2002 Iraqi Intelligence Correspondence concerning the presence of al-Qaida Members in Iraq. Correspondence between IRS members on a suspicion, later confirmed, of the presence of an Al-Qaeda terrorist group. Moreover, it includes photos and names.

    Unfortunately, like the dog in the Beggin' Strips commercial, I can't read (Arabic). Still, you'd think this sort of thing would be getting some attention.

    March 15, 2006

    More Gas Prices

    I was on the other side of town for a meeting today, and noticed something that should put to rest the idea that big oil companies set gas prices. (Senator Schumer, please pay close attention.)

    There were two gas stations, both selling Conoco, right next to each other on a major north-south street. One was on the northwest corner, and the other on the southwest corner of the intersection. There was no obvious commuting advantage to one over the other: the side street wasn't terribly busy, and they were both on the same side of the major street.

    One was selling gas for 10 cents cheaper than the other. That's a huge difference, especially for the same brand.

    There was no obvious difference between the two - both had pay-at-the-pump, both had carwashes - except that the cheaper one also had a small mini-mart, too. Is it possible that the mini-mart made up enough margin that the first one could undercut the second on price to that extent, and so bring in the extra gas business? (Remember, if there isn't some imbalance, either station could always match the other's price.)

    In any case, Conoco obviously wasn't setting the prices here.

    That'll Be $1250 For the Fender, Mate

    My parents just returned from a 3-week cruise of Australia and New Zealand. (You know, New Zealand, land of 21 million sheep, 4 million of whom think they're people.)

    It turns out that Australia doesn't have much problem with jaywalking. Apparently, the street crossing signs are pretty clear, and if you get hit by a car jaywalking, you're responsible for the damage to the car. That's not quite like the Chinese billing the families for the bullets, in that Australia's rule actually seems just.

    Yearning to Blog Free...

    Instapundit reports that Bill Frist has introduced HB 1606, the Online Freedom of Speech Act into the Senate. Here's the text of the bill:

    Paragraph (22) of section 301 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(22)) is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: `Such term shall not include communications over the Internet.'.

    Colorado Representative Marilyn Musgrave is a co-sponsor in the House. Might make an interesting question for her Democratic challengers.

    In Presidential terms, this is going to force McCain to take another stand that likely to be unpopular with the Republican base. Since the announcement appeared on Frist's funraising arm, VolPac, my guess is that the two are not entirely unrelated. It's harder to do this sort of thing in the Senate than in the House, of course, but count on seeing more of this sort of thing.

    Of course, the the New York Times has come out against the bill as inimical to its interests fair campaigns

    Politicians who chafe under the law's "soft money" ban would be free to run unlimited ads online, empowered by private donors who would not even be required to file campaign records. A similar loophole attempted by the Federal Election Commission has already been struck down in court for inviting "rampant circumvention" of the anticorruption law.

    A far preferable alternative measure would fully protect the growing legions of bloggers, but not at the cost of turning the Internet into a tool for the abusive enrichment of candidates. A critical question is whether the Republican leadership will deny the public a fair debate over this issue by bottling up the alternative bill this week.

    It is imperative that the courageous lawmakers who supported the McCain-Feingold reform law four years ago stand together against making the Internet a cornucopia of political corruption. Wavering Democrats, in particular, need a strong leadership call to stand fast, despite campaign-year cravings for more money. Voters need to pay particular attention to which lawmakers endorse this unfettered sale of political influence.

    One gets the sense that for the Times, as for Gorbachev's USSR, its internal contradictions are finally forcing it to implode. How paying me for a campaign ad on my site enriches the candidate is hard to see. Admittedly, it's a little like office accounts, and we'll be waiting to see what the Denver papers have to say about it. But it's much more like 527 activity, which the Times and the Denver Post only seem to oppose on a partisan sporadic basis.

    The call to "wavering Democrats" would have a lot more punch if Harry Reid hadn't introduced an identical bill - SB 678 - last year.

    A better alternative wouldn't be HR 4900, but to scrap the whole thing from start to finish, admit reality, and start over with a bill that permits complete political speech and requires disclosure as to who's paying for it. The Times like HR 4900 because it essentially captures Internet speech under the same rubric as the rest of campaign finance law, albeit with some exemptions that can be closed over time.

    One problem is the sheer size of the Net. Any enforcement would be spotty at best, and therefore subject to partisan tinkering, or the appearance thereof, which is at least as bad.

    Secondly, the Times can afford to hire lawyers to defend itself and its employees, if it chooses to do so, and if you're Judith Miller, you know what I mean. Since most of us do this for the fun and not the money, it raises the cost of compliance beyond what most of us are willing to pay. Sure, the limit's $5000, but why are attorneys and accountants entitled to a cut of anything over that?

    Finally, when the Feds walk in and sieze the computer I blog from, they're also taking my business, means of livelihood, family finances, and so on. Try do that to ol' Pinch and see what happens.

    Still, HR 4900 does conclude with these soothing words:

    Not later than 150 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Federal Election Commission shall publish a single policy guideline for the use of individuals engaging in online communications which describes in plain language the rules and regulations applicable under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to individual Internet activity.

    That makes me feel much better.

    Denver Rep Opposes Military Recruiters

    Last night, the House voted 347-65 in favor of a resolution supporting the Solomon Amendment. Surprisingly, all 65 who voted against were Democrats (Hat tip: Tax Prof)

    Among those voting against military recruiting on campuses receiving your tax money was Denver's own Diana DeGette. Why not call - (303) 844-4988 - or email (politely, of course), and ask, um, what on God's green earth she was thinking?

    Red Light District

    Greenwood Village (at least I think it's Greenwood Village; ever since that whole Centennial Secession thing a few years ago, I can never tell) has put up red light cameras at some of its intersections. Boulder's been using them for a while.

    Why these are legal under Colorado law when the unmanned photo radar vans aren't is beyond me. Maybe because the red lights are fixed, shouldn't be surprised. And yet you are, anyway. I was at a red light, stopped behind the line for the little old lady with the stolen grocery cart. The light changed, I entered the intersection, and Saw The Flash. Suddenly, I was like a Democrat who's had his office account records subpoenaed. I have not gotten a pic-tick in the mail, so I can say with a clear conscience and some credibility that - unlike that Democrat - I didn't do anything wrong. And I still spent the next 5 seconds trying to figure out what had happened.

    Reynolds's suggestion is intriguing. But as everyone who's ever gotten a ticket knows, for most drivers, the cost of the ticket is a nice meal out (unless you've decided to bring NASCAR to I-25), and the points don't accumulate unless you're terminally distracted. It's the insurance. And if there's a public record, even as a warning or points on the license, the insurance companies are going to want to know about it.

    March 14, 2006

    Happy Purim!

    Today marks Purim, the annual celebration commemorating the Jewish people's escape from annihilation at the hands of a Persian genocial maniac.

    Le plus ca change, plus le meme chose.

    March 13, 2006

    Wal Mart's Pharma-Power?

    The Denver Post yesterday lauded Wal Mart for abandoning its principles in the face of regulation and legislation, calling it a step in the company's evolution towards "good corporate citizen." The paper was particularly concerned with Wal Mart's decision to start carrying the Plan B emergency contraception pill, subject to the local pharmacist's discretion:

    With its 3,700 pharmacies, Wal-Mart's decision not to stock Plan B was a huge setback for women's health. Wal-Mart was the only major chain that had refused to sell the drug, known as the morning-after pill. If taken within 72 hours of intercourse, the pill can prevent pregnancies.

    Wal-Mart opened the door but it hasn't fully committed itself. The company is still allowing pharmacists who object to Plan B to refer customers to another pharmacist - or another pharmacy. It's a short-sighted and troubling policy, and Wal-Mart needs to think about the women who may not have other pharmacies nearby. In many small rural communities, Wal-Mart has edged out the smaller mom-and-pop stores and pharmacies.

    Emphasis added. It seems to me that in their editorial zeal to appropriate someone else's cash flow, shelf space, inventory, morals, and ethics, the Post has made the mistake of including a falsifiable (or verifiable) claim; that the claim that Wal-Mart's policy is a "huge setback" relies almost entirely on the fact (or non) that Wal-Mart's pharmacy is the only choice for many women for miles around.

    So I decided to test the thesis. There are two rural areas in Colorado: the plains and the mountains. First, I looked for all Wal-Marts with pharmacies within 100 miles (the maximum allowable distance on the Wal-Mart website) of Hugo, a city centrally located on Colorado's plains. The only stores not located on I-25 in a major city are:

    La Junta, CO 81050
    Fort Morgan, CO 80701
    Lamar, CO 81052

    I extended the search to the rest of the plains, and found an addition store in Sterling, and two more in Trinidad. Since Trinidad is the sex-change capital of North America, my guess is that Wal-Mart isn't the only pharmacy in town.

    None of these towns is tiny, although all are small. Still, just to be fair, I searched DexOnline for Pharmacies in or near (within 25 miles) of each of these four towns. I chose 25 miles because it's a trip that could be made during lunch hour or after work without too much inconvenience. The score:

    Lajunta - 9
    Fort Morgan - 5
    Lamar - 3
    Sterling - 2

    In none of these places, did Wal-Mart have a 24-hour pharmacy. One of the two in Sterling was. Also, there were other pharmacies in more remote rural towns, where Wal Mart had no presence, so it's not like people in those places had to drive to Sterling, only to discover it monopolized by Wal Mart and bereft of Plan B.

    On the Western Slope, I found the following Wal-Marts not in major cities or major destinations (again, if you're in Avon, you're serving Vail, and again, my guess is that the number of broken legs justifies more than one Wal-Mart Pharmacy in town):

    Alamosa, CO 81101
    Canon City, CO 81212
    Cortez, CO 81321
    Delta, CO 81416
    Durango, CO 81303
    Frisco, CO 80443
    Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
    Gunnison, CO 81230
    Montrose, CO 81401
    Rifle, CO 81650
    Salida, CO 81201
    Steamboat Springs, CO 80477

    And the Pharmascore:

    Alamosa - 8
    Canon City - 4
    Cortez - 2
    Delta - 4 (many in small towns nearby)
    Durango - 5
    Frisco - 8
    Glenwood Springs - 4
    Gunnison - 1
    Montrose - 3
    Rifle - 2
    Salida - 5
    Steamboat Springs - 2

    In this case, there is one town without another advertised pharmacy - Cortez - but without further research, it's impossible to tell if Wal-Mart displaced, replaced, or had nothing to do with whatever pharmacy may have been there before.

    It is true that in a couple of small towns, the only other competing pharmacies are supermarket chains, but what this has to do with the Post's argument is beyond understanding. If anything, the larger chains are more likely to carry this sort of thing as policy, whereas a small-town druggist might shy away from it, which is precisely the Post's complaint about Wal-Mart's policy.

    Conclusion - at least in Colorado, the Post, having declared Wal-Mart guilty, is itself guilty of assuming facts not in evidence.

    UPDATE: A Google search on "Pharmacy" and "Cortez" revealed that both City Market and Safeway had pharmacies in town, and that, as of December 15 of last year, Walgreen's had gotten approval to build a store there. The numbers have been updated to reflect these facts. As a result, Wal-Mart's monopoly in rural Colorado disappears entirely.

    Things To Do In Denver When You're An Imam (or a Mufti)

    I didn't take much notice when St. John's Episcopal Church here in town hired Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni to head up their Abrahamic Initiative. Sure, the guy was anti-Israel, but that didn't make him dangerous.

    Then, I found some interesting, uh, reading material on the web, and went to go hear him speak yesterday.

    First, the reading material. Kazerooni was chosen, pre 9/11, to translate a speech by the Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, Ayatollah to the Stars, or, in this case, the current President of Iran. Yes, that President of Iran. If you'd like to know more about the current theologician behind the throne, go here, or here.

    The speech itself, which I've uploaded and transcribed as best I can (the quality is truly lousy), is a sermon celebrating the 21st Anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.

    Now, you might think that this is an academic translation, not really indicative of Kazerooni's beliefs. Guess again. It was at a public event, the Imam's voice is clearly full of reverence, and in any case, you don't just happen to get chosen for something like this because you can speak English. Islam, like Judaism, runs on the personal ties and confidence of its leaders, so suffice it to say that Yazdi knew what he was looking for. Go ahead and listen, with the text in front of you. (Corrections and amendments accepted.)

    Then, there's this interview, with Homiletics Online, a leftish religious site dedicated - as near as I can tell - to the principle that Christians don't necessarily believe anything worth arguing over. Wherein you will find the following pearls of wisdom:

    Number one, one has to start dealing with the premise that is used for such an argument. If we look around the world from Northern Ireland to Lebanon to the Far East, to South America, conflict exists between various religious communities. This violence is not unique to Islam. In Northern Ireland you have the Catholics and Protestants fighting each other. In the Balkans you had Christians on one side and Muslims on the other. In the Middle East you have Jewish-Muslim conflict, in India and Pakistan you have a Hindu and Muslim conflict.

    So if we are trying to make a judgment based on contemporary events, I don’t think it is unique to Islam in particular.

    OK, I'll give him Northern Ireland. City centers fenced off and searched, and nary a mosque in sight. But Latin American? Religious strife there pretty much ended with the last of the Inca converts, unless you want to count the uncontracted demolition of the Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center by, um, Iranians.

    As for the rest of the conflicts, you might notice a certain common thread: Lebanon (Muslim-Christian, Sunni-Shiite), Far East (Philippines: Muslim separatists; Indonesia: Muslim separatists; Sri Lanka, Muslim separatists), Balkans (Muslim-Orthodox), Middle East (ok, Israel here, to be precise, Muslim-Jewish), India (Muslim-Hindu). So really, it's not just Muslims involved, but by and large, they're one of the dance partners.

    And this qualifies as his defense.

    He also claims that 1) Israel doesn't care about world opinion (if only!), that 2) Israel deliberately killed Rachel Corrie, 3) that moderate Muslims like himself don't get enough platforms to speak, 4) Hezbollah isn't really terrorist, because they were only killing Israelis.

    Read the whole thing. And this is the guy who wants to bring understanding to the world.

    Oh, right, him and the Mufti of Jerusalem.

    Both Vincent Carroll and Dave Kopel had some choice words for the Denver Post's coverage of this wretched little anti-Semite's appearance here in town.

    Yesterday, one of the guests (not panelists) was the girl from MILA, who had defended this fellow's appearance and was surprised that the Jewish community wasn't shoulder-to-shoulder with them on it. She was there to promote the appearance this Friday of a Muslim comedian at DU. I'm sure he's a laugh riot. Shame he's performing on Shabbat.

    Denver's Muslim community has been among the least radicalized around. Too bad these guys are getting a platform.

    More about yesterday's appearance soon.

    UPDATE: The Kopel/Carroll links have been fixed

    History Rhyming?

    I'm off to a Denver Center-Right Coalition meeting, so I'll have to make this much briefer than it deserves.

    I wonder if, instead of being the FDR or William McKinley that we had hoped, President Bush isn't going to end up more like Lyndon Johnson. Even many conservatives, being fed a steady diet of bad news from the front, are starting to look for a way out of Iraq, and Federal spending, fed a steady diet of entitlements, is starting to look like Edgar just before the gas attack. Right now, that's not inflationary or recessionary, but only because everyone else's long-term interest rates are even lower than ours.

    If the party split grows, it could open the door for a serious but unpopular candidate like Hillary, playing the role of Nixon. Nixon's party at the time was about as minority as the Democrats are now - controlled nothing, and hadn't for a while. His victories did little to improve the overall party's standing, another Clinton parallel. But they did make the party credible again, and set the stage for Reagan to break the decades-long liberal monopoly on ideas.

    Gotta run. Discuss.

    Carnival of the Capitalists

    ProHipHop has this week's edition, and seems to have made it though without reference to this year's Best Original Song. Thank goodness.

    March 11, 2006

    Welcome Powerline Readers

    It's an honor to be the first Powerline Blog of the Week selection, and not just for the traffic. I've been reading their stuff (and sending the occasional email) since Hugh Hewitt first starting mentioning them, and they hit the big time almost immediately. They've been incredibly generous with both time and links, and this is just the latest example. Take a look around here, and around the rest of the Rocky Mountain Alliance & Friends, and then keep up to date with Powerline News.

    Since, as Hugh says, if I don't tell you about myself, nobody else will, here goes.

    I grew up in Fairfax County, just outside Washington, DC. Fairfax County had then and has now fine public schools, largely because it taxes the rest of the country to get them. I recevied a BS in Physics and Math from the University of Virginia, where I was also President of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. I then went on to a career in defense and intelligence contracting. When the Internet (well. HTML, really) came along, I left that career for one in web development, and have been mostly contracting in that field for about 10 years.

    I moved to Colorado 9 years ago this week, and last year, I earned my MS Finance and MBA from the University of Denver, and have been trying to change careers into investment and portfolio analysis.

    In addition to blogging here, I am also a contributing editor at, on the masthead at Oh, That Liberal Media, and a contributor to

    March 10, 2006

    LPR Friday

    Yet again. Today, we're having a discussion on Atlas Shrugged, especially the speech on money. It's a real stemwinder, in case you haven't read it.

    March 9, 2006

    Not Your Kids' Spychips

    The review of a more technical book on RFID, O'Reilly's RFID Essentials, is up over on the book review section.

    Oh, Those Middle East Experts

    The Washington Post this morning reports on a supposed anti-Muslim backlash in the United States:

    James J. Zogby, president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, said he is not surprised by the poll's results. Politicians, authors and media commentators have demonized the Arab world since 2001, he said.


    Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, agreed, saying Americans "have been given the message to respond this way by the American political elite, mass media and by select special interests."

    Cole said he was shocked when a radio talk show host asked him if Islamic extremists would set off a nuclear bomb in the United States in the next six months. "It was ridiculous. I think anti-Arab racism and profiling has become respectable," he said.

    Messrs. Zogby and Cole, Paging Messrs. Zogby and Cole, Please pick up the white courtesy phone, your spaceship has arrived.

    Sure, it has all to do with that avalanche of Hollywood films showing Arabs and Muslims as the bad guys, that non-stop stream of race-baiting invective from the White House and Congress, and, no doubt, the posting of the Danish cartoons as reading material for the long lines of young, Middle-Eastern men being detained by TSA for screening.

    Nothing at all to do Iran's eschatologically loopy President, riots and embassy bonfires over a few innocuous drawings, MSM depictions of an Iraq seemingly resistant to common sense, French Citroen-fueled marshmallow roasts, and a CAIR that's to be worried that the McCarthy era won't return and they won't be in charge. Indonesia and Malaysia stand as symbols of how Islam can work within the modern world, but they're not the ones getting the ink, and most (but not all) of the loudest American Muslim groups are less interested in battling for the soul of their religion than in protecting the "rights" of the opposition. That's bound to leave an impression, even if it's not the right one.

    What's remarkable is that Juan Cole's opinions on the matter are still considered newsworthy. This and this leave little doubt as to the "special interests" he has in mind. Cole's reading of the 9-11 Commission report beggars description. And he's been a leader in the attempt to keep government money flowing to Middle Eastern Studies departments, while not producing the skilled language experts the money is supposed to help fund. (He's not anti-war; he's just on the other side.)

    Finally, Cole is an intellectualy bully who has slandered the indispensible MEMRI, called publicly for opposition research on Martin Kramer, and spends a lot of time rejecting calls for intellectual honesty as McCarthyism while hinting darkly about lawsuits against his detractors.

    The next time the WaPo needs a real Middle East expert, allow me to suggest Fouad Ajami, Amir Taheri, Bernard Lewis, Martin Kramer, or Daniel Pipes.

    Expensing Options Makes No Sense

    At least according to the Rocky Mountain News this morning. In an article about stock and stock-option compensation for United executives who skillfully guided their company through a period where they didn't have to pay their bill, and successfully off-loaded their welfare state pension plan onto the taxpayers, the paper notes this:

    The stock could be worth an estimated $193 million, although it's impossible to predict the value because the shares become usable at different times during the next four years.

    The estimate for restricted stock incorporates the market value of the shares on the date it was given. The value of the stock options assumes that United's stock appreciates 10 percent annually over the life of the options. They would be worth less, or more, if United's return is lower or higher.

    "The value obviously is theoretical at this point," said Jean Medina, a spokeswoman at United, which is the largest carrier in Denver and employs more than 5,000 here.

    Given that the entire justification for expensing options is opportunity cost, and given that the Rocky has just pointed out that such a cost is impossible for calculate, I trust we won't be seeing any future editorials about the need to debase the currency of fact-based accounting.

    March 8, 2006

    Google Pays

    Google has agreed to pay $90M to settle an advertising click fraud case; evidently on grounds that it didn't catch the fraud. Google's defense had been that it does reimburse for fraudulent clicks, and the WSJ claims that the settlement apparently leaves that defense intact.

    $90M is a lot even for me, but for Google, frankly, it's pocket change. Their latest quarterlies have them at almost $4B in cash & equivalents. That's down from $5.5B the prior quarter, but the difference has gone to short-term investment, not burn rate.

    Google uses some strange proprietary formula based on the number of clicks, number of ads, priority, phase of the moon, and position of the owners' yachts in the latest test race. It was opaque to both the advertiser and to me, and the added layer of uncertaintly almost certainly makes for a less efficient market.

    Personally, I think BlogAds has the better model. I never really understood the click rates except as a proxy for eyeballs, and nobody pays for any other kind of advertising that way. You don't see people charging for urban billboards by how many people changes busses just to hit the Macy's sales.

    I've only had a couple of BlogAds, but it's easier for me, since I set a fixed rate up front for a set period time. You know, like a normal product, or normal advertising. In some sense, it's based on how many people see the ad, but in another sense, it's also based on the sales the advertiser sees rather than the visits. Market signals are much more direct this way.

    Hanna Resigns

    State Senator Deanna Hanna has resigned. Ken Gordon calls it an "unselfish act," which is probably true, but it was still the right thing to do. Hey, it's hard out here for a pimp.

    I wonder if she gets to take her office account with her, though.

    March 7, 2006

    Al Qaeda's Navy

    For all of you concerned about the UAE ports deal, the History Channel is re-running a 2004 hour-long episode on Al Qaeda's Navy. It's on now, and will repeat at 6:00 PM Eastern.

    I only managed to catch a few minutes, but it was certainly enough to re-raise suspicions.

    More importantly, there was this little tidbit. We all know that Hugo Chavez is playing Mussolini to Iran's Hitler. We also know that Venezuela has been supporting Colombia's insurgency, hoping to destabilize a democratic US ally. And we also know that drug money has been supporting al Qaeda activity, even as we shut down domestic money pipelines.

    What I hadn't realized is that the bustling tri-state border region between Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil, has acquired for itself quite the sea of Middle Eastern immigrants for the terrorists to swim in. Yes, the area's landlocked, but it's also remote, so an excellent place to organize sea-borne missions out of sight and out of mind.

    This matters because most of al Qaeda's merchant fleet are small ships. They probably couldn't hit the US from across the ocean, but they can from South America. And the trip from Africa to South America is much, much shorter.

    Watch the whole thing.

    Hanna Barbarians

    In case you haven't had to buy a house recently, State Senator Deanna Hanna is working overtime to neutralize the corruption issue for Democrats.

    In the meantime, both citizens and the JeffCo DA are starting to circle, initiating recall petitions and investigations.

    While Republican Joe Stengel did the right thing by paying back the money and resigning his leadership post, Hanna seems to be stonewalling, claiming that she did nothing wrong, counting on the partisans in the ethics investigation to cover for her "reparations" request.

    Maybe they can just make the check out to her office account.

    March 6, 2006

    A Stadium of Davids

    Sure, the title sounds like a John Kruk at-bat, but if you've ever wanted to be your own Bill James, this is the book for you.

    Hamas to Jimmy Carter: Drop Dead

    Hamas has used its outright majority in the PA legislature to emasculate alleged "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas. (Abbas, who prefers his nom de guerre, "Abu Mazen," was last seen complaining that Israel was killing Islamic Jihad mililtants death-squadders who were taking refuge among children.)

    Hamas has 74 seats in the new parliament and Fatah just 45, and the first order of business for Hamas was to cancel the powers the outgoing parliament gave to Abbas, the Fatah leader, authorizing him to cancel laws passed by the new parliament and appointing Fatah officials to key positions.

    Now, as I recall, ex-President Jimmah Carter, the Democrats' shadow Secretary of State, was arguing that the EU and the US should keep right on funnelling money to the PA, in order not to radicalize the new government. The EU rushed to move money in under the deadline, and the US promised to find ways to help free up money for guns by funding essential services recruiting tools such as schools and hospitals.

    Wow, I'm sure glad that worked out as planned.

    Day of the Doctors

    Maybe I was just imagining it, or maybe I felt left out, but there were some bumps on the back of my neck that seemed to be getting larger, and a couple I hadn't noticed before. And when you live in Cancer Country with a complexion like the Pillsbury dough-boy, you can't be too careful. Yes, I do tan, but I also burn. So, Thursady, after three-week wait, it was off to the dermatologist for a look-see.

    Thank goodness, nothing. The doctor himself had a bedside manner that could best be described as Late Postmodern Undertaker, but he wasn't unpleasant or nasty, so when he said that the "moles" were just skin pricks, I refrained from making the obvious joke.

    In the meantime, I had spent about a week and a half feeling wiped-out, dizzy, exhausted, and light-headed during the day. (Gee, we couldn't tell a thing. -ed. Uh, thanks.)

    Doctor: Do you wake up feeling like you want to go back to sleep?
    Me: Zzzzzz.
    Doctor: Now, about the Restless Legs Synd- ow!
    Me: Zzzzzz.

    And so, Thursday night, it was off to the Sleep Center for a raucous night of highly-monitored and much-interrupted bed-rest. They hook you up with about twenty-five sensors, the best that can be said about which, is that it's not preceded by the phrase, "Send in Richards." On the other hand, it's also not followed by, "This'll help with the pain."

    Thusly attired, with enough muscle sensors that I could fly an F14 remotely by moving only my eyes, I turned in for half the night. (Actually, given that it was private, it wasn't nearly as bad as the time an optometrist sent me outside - through the waiting room - wearing these to make sure the prescription was right this time. Walking back, I caught some woman staring at me, and turned and said, "Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.")

    Halfway through, they start the real experiment - the dreaded CPAP machine. For those of you who aren't acquainted with the CPAP machine, it fits over your nose, and gently forces air down into your lungs, the theory being that if you can't breathe out, you can't wake up. Actually, it's not all that bad once you get used to it, although the air flow practically forces air into your mouth if you try to open it, making it more or less impossible to speak.

    Actually, as I was writing this, the doctor called, and it turns out I do have "severe sleep apnea," although with oxygen loss, which means that for now, it's making me very tired, but it's not turning me into a coronary risk. This isn't an entirely surprising diagnosis, inasmuch as the last truly restful sleep I had was in September of 2000. Really.

    So the CPAP machine looks like it's going to be a semi-permanent fixture. The good news is that I'll actually wake up feeling like it, which may give me more energy, and boost the immune system to the point where I don't get sick every time I lose weight.

    Carnival Time!

    Yes, I know Fat Tuesday was last week, but for Capitalism, the Carnival never ends! Free Money Finance is hosting the week's festivities.

    March 3, 2006

    Addicted to Natural Gas

    It turns out that China, by capping gas prices in an attempt to shift from coal & oil, has driven consumption up to the point where they're pricing themselves out of the natural gas market.

    Despite a significant improvement in Tongchuan's air quality, local leaders are planning a new plant and it is going to be powered by coal. They blame sharply rising gas prices. "We have plenty of coal, why don't we use it?" says Zhao Guanlong, the deputy director of the city's development and planning commission.

    China has backed out of at least one multibillion-dollar deal to buy gas from overseas oil companies and other deals are in jeopardy. Plans to build more than a dozen terminals to receive gas shipments in liquid form are on hold. Chinese officials are discouraging new gas-related investments because they fear the terminals won't be fully utilized.

    This indicates the folly of "energy policy."

    Of course, it's going to make LNG more appealing to us, and put more pressure on oil prices, which is why this is good news:

    As the Bureau of Land Management faces increasing pressure to speed up gas-drilling permits on federal land across the West, it has begun extending deadlines in Colorado because companies can't start drilling fast enough.

    BLM officials in Colorado recently changed their rules to stop the clock for drilling companies that can't find rigs to drill gas fields they've leased from the government. Previously, companies that couldn't start drilling before their lease expired lost their lease. M/blockquote>

    Since it's smaller companies that are having a hard time finding drilling equipment, this serves as a help to smaller business; and it also suggests that it's time to look into companies that make (not necessarily operate) NG drilling equipment. Note that a large part of the cost of LNG is transportation, so this undercuts that cost.

    One other point. The WSJ notes that China has the world's second-largest energy use. But it only just became the world's fourth-largest economy. So it's apparently incredibly inefficient when it comes to energy use, and incredibly dirty when it comes to pollution. Its exclusion from Kyoto is another reason to ignore that treaty.

    Booming Border Business

    The Journal today reports on the bomming retail business on the US side of the Mexican border. This is, of course, what NAFTA promised. It also highlights the problems with people who want an iron wall across the southern border. Along with employees, US businesses are now getting lots of customers from Mexico, and some of them may be illegal.

    American stores that don't have Mexican outlets, such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap Inc., American Eagle Outfitters Inc. and Victoria's Secret, are the most popular with Mexican shoppers, who buy large quantities of clothes to bring back to friends and family. The average Mexican shopper spends twice as much per trip as an American shopper, according to Simon Property Group.

    Carmen Soto, mall manager at Valle Vista Mall in nearby Harlingen, says Mexicans sometimes buy clothes without even trying them on. "They think, 'It's American! It's authentic! So what if it doesn't fit?' " Ms. Soto says.

    Of course, the clientele implies a Mexican staff, as well, raising the question as to how much of the sales staff is here illegally as well.

    Still, in addition to a guest worker program, maybe we also need a guest-shopper program.

    Marginal Morningstar

    Morningstar announced today that 1) they'll start ranking ETFs and 2) they're adding several new categories.

    Besides the new ETF rankings, Morningstar today also is launching five new mutual-fund categories, including "long-short" funds, which make money by betting that some stocks will rise in price while simultaneously betting that others will fall, and "target-date" funds, which automatically adjust the fund's asset allocation in order to meet investors' specific retirement date.

    The bad news for Morningstar is that they're still going to use the Size-Value-Growth grid for ETFs, when there's no reason to think that they'll work any better for ETfs than for regular mutual funds.

    The problem with Size-Value-Growth is that it unnecessarily constricts managers' decision-making. When a "value" or "growth" manager sees a stock, it rarely matters what size it is. Likewise, rating companies can't agree on what "value" and "growth" actually mean. A stock that a growth manager finds attactive might remain beyond his reach, because S&P considers it a value stock. Given their druthers, virtually no managers would actually make decisions this way. Moreover, the Nine Boxes don't define asset classes, so diversifying across them doesn't significantly help a portfolio.

    The interesting news here is that the new categories are based on actual style, i.e., criteria that managers use when deciding where to put their money. It's perhaps evidence that Morningstar is trying to diversify its own portfolio of rankings. The question is whether or not managers, advisors, consultants, and investors are so invested in the current SVG "style" grid that Morningstar can wean itself from the giant Stay-Puft Marshmallow Turkey it's created.

    March 2, 2006

    A Few Maps Short Of An Atlas

    By now, you've heard about Jay Bennish, the geography teacher who's a few maps short of an atlas. Apparently his own personal compass has been deviating from true north for a while now, but only now has a student caught his, um, lectures, on MP3. This is a bit Ward Churchillian, in that it's one of public education's many dirty little secrets; teachers do this sort of thing all the time, and it doesn't make them any less popular or any less tenured.

    (Just for fun, though, Bennish on the doctrine of pre-emption:

    Why doesn't North Korea invade South Korea, because they're afraid of being attacked.

    Uh, been there, done that. I suppose it's too much to expect a public school geography teacher to find the letters "DMZ" on a map, but maybe he could hit his older brother up for a few bucks to rent some old M*A*S*H DVDs.)

    But keep your eye on the ball here - not the teacher, but the administration:

    Superintendent Monte Moses, who received a copy of the recording on Monday from 850 KOA-AM radio show host Mike Rosen, said it appears "a breach of district policy" occurred.

    "Our policy calls for both sides to be present ... in the interest of intellectual discourse," Moses said. Bennish's presentation appeared to be unbalanced, he said.

    The district is looking into whether the incident was an isolated one and will ensure that a balanced viewpoint of the president's State of the Union address is provided to students, Moses said.

    Something's certainly unbalanced here, and it's not just that Bennish's Triptik leans a little to the East, if you know what I mean. It'd be generous even to suggest that an "intellectual discourse" is possible with someone who buys into the whole Bushitler meme. But what goes for universities - where academic freedom is valued for the research it produces - is completely and utterly irrelevant for a high school geography class.

    What on earth is the "other side" of saying that President Bush is like Hitler. That President Bush isn't Hitler? If those are the terms of the debate, even winning it doesn't get you very far, and even agreeing to debate the point legitimizes it.

    If you actually listen to Bennish's ravings, you find them to be as fact-depleted as any comment posting over at DailyKos. What, exactly, would constitute equal time for "capitalism is at odds with humanity?" For equation of Hamas with Israel? For claiming we want a strategy of "divide and conquer?" Or that the Twin Towers were "military targets," taken out to equalize the loss of a Sudanese aspirin factory?

    If these assertions aren't immediately ridiculous - and it certainly sounds like a fair number of students are willing to go along with them - then they're the product of a radical worldview that hates this country. (Yes, for the record, I am questioning Bennish's patriotism.) A 20-minute editorial from the other side, especially now that Bennish himself has become a cause, would be worse than pointless.

    No, the only "balance" available is what used to be called, "an education."

    March 1, 2006

    Lileks on Tech

    Lots of work today, so more linking than thinking. In this case, linking to someone else's thinking. Lileks explains why the New Connectivity is cool.

    Why on-demand is better than video stores:

    No doubt. I can’t say I’d miss that. We have one in our neighborhood, part of a small chain, and while the owners were always friendly and nice when I went there (I could bring the dog!) the place smelled of wet musty carpet, the new stuff was always sold out, and half the store was given over to VHS tapes. And since the shelves faced big broad windows, the sun had leached the color from the boxes. So you’d walk past the store and see WESTWORLD and SUPERMAN II and other hits of the VHS era propped up like tiny little tombstones for a dying medium.

    And the difference between living in the past, and liking to look at it:

    All this is entirely separate from my love of the look of old things and my interest in the details of life in previous decades. I don’t want to go back. Technology has given me tremendous freedom and opportunities – it lets me work wherever, lets me spend 10X more time with my kid, and lets me bring my writing machine and my entire music collection to a coffee shop, with a small thin device in my pocket that will ring if my editors in Washington DC have a question.

    ...A cell phone is a phone without a cord; a laptop is a typewriter; an iPod is a HiFi system. You used to be defined by where you were, most of the day. No more. Now you are what you do, not where you do it. Huzzah.

    Read the whole thing. Wherever you like.


    Power, Faith, and Fantasy

    Six Days of War

    An Army of Davids

    Learning to Read Midrash

    Size Matters

    Deals From Hell

    A War Like No Other


    A Civil War

    Supreme Command

    The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

    The Wisdom of Crowds

    Inventing Money

    When Genius Failed

    Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

    Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

    How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

    Good to Great

    Built to Last

    Financial Fine Print

    The Day the Universe Changed


    The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

    The Case for Democracy

    A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

    The Italians

    Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

    Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

    Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud