Saturday, March 09, 2002

HAVE A GOOD weekend, everyone. Keep an eye out for the September 11 documentary on CBS Sunday night.
I DON'T KNOW ABOUT you, but I find it comforting, rather than chilling, that the administration has nuclear contingency plans against several countries. The implicit and ambiguous threat of nuclear war (then-Secretary Cheney's promise of "devastating and overwhelming" response) was what kept Saddam from using chemical weapons against US troops in the Gulf War. The LA Times article is uniformly critical, focuses on the reaction of arms control-niks, and makes very little effort to explore reasons for such a contingency plan; it is shocked that the US has plans for a nuclear war against China, but doesn't acknowledge the infamous Chinese diplomatic remark that American leaders "care more about Los Angeles than they do about Taiwan." It's a terrible article, and it's abhorrent that someone in Congress leaked the plan to the press.
HAWSPIPE finds an example of an emoticon trademark. Who knew?
TRUE CRIME AFFICIONADOS will want to read the 79-page opinion from the Anna Nicole Smith trial. You normally don't see such things unless both sides are afraid that they're too unsympathetic to go before a jury.
YOU WON'T SEE THIS ON Robot Wisdom. The New York Times has been running a poignant series of obituaries of victims of the WTC attack. This amateurish site catalogues Israeli casualties of terrorism, including photos and short biographies.
THE JERUSALEM POST has an interesting article about a change in urban tactics by the Israeli army, which raises almost as many questions as it answers, such as how come it took over fifty years for the Israeli army to learn the tactical lessons of World War II?
FROM WALL STREET JOURNAL Best-of-the-Web: Suicide bomber thwarted by citizens.
BLOGROLLING SMACKDOWN. One of the Irish Samizdatans got conned into reposting bogus tax protestor theories that the income tax is unlawful. Charles Kuffner takes him down a notch, but missed the link to Daniel Evans's Tax Protestor FAQ.
E-MAIL LORE. I'd be happy to credit the original author, but I don't know who it is.
French Intellectuals to be Deployed in Afghanistan To Convince Taliban of Non-Existence of God

The ground war in Afghanistan hotted up yesterday when the Allies revealed plans to airdrop a platoon of crack French existentialist philosophers into the country to destroy the morale of Taliban zealots by proving the non-existence of God.

Elements from the feared Jean-Paul Sartre Brigade, or 'Black Berets', will be parachuted into the combat zones to spread doubt, despondency and existential anomie among the enemy. Hardened by numerous intellectual battles fought during their long occupation of Paris's Left Bank, their first action will be to establish a number of pavement cafes at strategic points near the front lines. There they will drink coffee and talk animatedly about the absurd nature of life and man's lonely isolation in the universe. They will be accompanied by a number of heartbreakingly beautiful girlfriends who will further spread dismay by sticking their tongues in the philosophers' ears every five minutes and looking remote and unattainable to everyone else.

Their leader, Colonel Marc-Ange Belmondo, spoke yesterday of his confidence in the success of their mission. Sorbonne graduate Belmondo, a very intense and unshaven young man in a black pullover, gesticulated wildly and said, "The Taliban are caught in a logical fallacy of the most ridiculous. There is no God and I can prove it. Take your tongue out of my ear, Juliet, I am talking."

Marc-Ange plans to deliver an impassioned thesis on man's nauseating freedom of action with special reference to the work of Foucault and the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

However, humanitarian agencies have been quick to condemn the operation as inhumane, pointing out that the effects of passive smoking from the Frenchmen's endless Gitanes could wreak a terrible toll on civilians in the area.
UPDATE: This apparently comes from one Michael Kelly.
ALEXANDRA PELOSI. Journeys with George debuted yesterday, but no new news from the AP. Spiegel has a good photo, but I can't vouch one way or the other about the article in German.
JEALOUSY DEPT. Keith Law was a shlub just like you and me, an MBA who worked for a and wrote about fantasy baseball on the side. Now he's working for the Toronto Blue Jays, who matched his old salary; he's already had influence over their Rule 5 draft and their arbitration strategy.

And the scary thing is, the Blue Jays are going to be much better for it.
AMERICA, LAND OF THE FREE. Why toilets don't work any more.
TOO MUCH INFORMATION DEPT. Punky Brewster discusses her breast reduction surgery. (A little known requirement of blogging is the need to mention "breasts" once a week to ensure additional google hits. Salon also realized this a long time ago.)

Thursday, March 07, 2002

FRONT-PAGE NEW YORK TIMES: Pigeon rides the train! (via Ken Layne.) Typically, when the New York Times runs a piece of fluff on the front page, it's because it's the reporter's first story for the Times. He or she is given a spot on the front page with some trivial story, they get a plaque rendition of the front page for relatives to kvell over, and then the rest of the journalist world, still taking signals from the Times, rushes to cover the same story. Psych! Except Randy Kennedy's been writing for the Times for a while. So I don't have an explanation.
JENNIFER MENDELSOHN figures out the essential equation behind tabloid reporting.
REMAINING COMMERCIALLY PURE. A cartoonist's sad tale of interaction with fans from an advertising agency.
WELCOME FREQUENT READERS. My frequent repeat readers include some longtime friends I sent the initial announcement of the site, someone from the Bank of Montreal, someone from a Phildelphia IP law firm (or Seattle if they're keeping really early hours) who tries to hide their habit from their site administrator by using Google and Babelfish, and Tony Pierce. Plus Jim Treacher, self-googling. Tony's probably just trying to up his reference hit count from his page so I'll keep his, er, unique page linked. Don't worry, Tony, your link stays, and you should feel proud that I get more hits from your site than I do from bleedin' Kausfiles, for crying out loud -- the first time I get mad propz from one of the Big Three of Blogdom, and the endorsement is so tepid that the hoity-toits who read the site can't be bothered to click on the link. (Ok, third time if you include the two shout-outs in my pre-blog days, including the one from Kaus that almost landed me in the Washington Post with unwanted publicity.)

Now, of course, the friend from McKinsey is free with advice and twelve-point plans for site improvements, but I'm curious about the rest of you. Too much Beth Eggers and Alexandra Pelosi and not enough baseball? More screeds? More blogrolling? Max Power is responsive to his readers' needs!

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

PELOSI UPDATE: Richard Roeper on the new Alexandra Pelosi documentary.
UNPATRIOTIC BUSH ANECDOTE. From the Washington Post:
Sunday's Ford's Theatre Presidential Gala: When Stevie Wonder sat down at the keyboard center stage, President Bush in the front row got very excited. He smiled and started waving at Wonder, who understandably did not respond. After a moment Bush realized his mistake and slowly dropped the errant hand back to his lap.
I REALLY SHOULD STOP reading Jorn Barger's Robot Wisdom, as all it does most of the time is make me mad with its knee-jerk unthinking anti-American leftism. Sample entry, describing a New Yorker article on the planning to overthrow Hussein: "Grotesque Pentagon planning to annex Iraq into US-Israeli Empire." How many ways is this incorrect? "Pentagon planning" is accurate. That's about it, unless you believe that Iraq is Saddam Hussein: "Empire" is wrong, "US-Israeli" is wrong and typical of Barger's anti-Semitism, "to annex into" is incorrect, and getting rid of Hussein is certainly not "grotesque." I swear, sometimes I think the US should send Hussein a check for ten dollars just to watch the leftists reflexively forget their defense of him and go back to criticizing Hussein for being a tyrant. Kurds being oppressed by Turkey are worthy of activism, because the US supports Turkey; Kurds being massacred and gassed by Saddam Hussein are beneath mention, because Hussein doesn't like Israel or the US. Andrew Sullivan put it well:
I live blocks away from one likely target. So do hundreds of thousands of others. If the terrorists succeed, they could render Washington or Manhattan uninhabitable for decades. They could make the White House and the Capitol off-limits to human beings for a century. And our defense against this? Extremely limited. I’m taken to task sometimes for being impatient with those who keep questioning the need for this war, the necessity to move against the axis of evil that wants to destroy us. What I don’t understand is how they can be so complacent. Don’t they see the greatest danger this republic has ever faced is now in front of us? Don’t they understand that neutralizing Iraq is not some kind of interesting proposal in an unnecessary war – but the bare minimum to prevent a holocaust in the very heart of this country’s democracy? I’m not given to panic, but I can see nowhere any hard evidence that debunks the possibility of this scenario. In fact, the more you think about the amount of nuclear material out there that’s unaccounted for, the inevitable limits of prevention in an open society, and the evil fanaticism of our enemy, the more terrifying our predicament really is.
What is grotesque, albeit on a lesser scale, is another link to "CounterPunch" that borderline libels a couple of Chicago Law professors as "advocating corporate criminality," a pretty severe misrepresentation of the Easterbrook-Fischel canon. Here's the hypocrisy that seems to be omnipresent in leftist thinking: in another article, the same writers of the CounterPunch piece name Enron as one of America's worst corporations:
Enron, for costing many of its employees their life savings by refusing to let them dump company stock from their pension plans, as Enron plunged toward bankruptcy.
Except Enron didn't have a choice: US pension law prohibited the sale of the company stock from the pension plans. Are Mokhiber and Weissman advocating corporate criminality?

Worse, who do Mokhiber and Weissman think that the Enron employees would be selling stock to? Ken Lay? No, they'd be selling to people who mistakenly believed that Enron wasn't plunging toward bankruptcy, and those people, including the requisite number of widows and orphans and blue-collar workers' pension plans, would be taking the loss instead. This economic reality doesn't even enter into these people's heads.

The list is brain-dead for other reasons: Coca-Cola and Philip Morris are listed because they're actually daring to try to sell products to willing customers; Bayer for trying to recoup its investment in research and development in Cipro; ExxonMobil and Southern Co. for supporting causes that are not deemed politically correct.

I've just always been dumbfounded how otherwise intelligent people can be so freaking stupid.
DO YOU LIKE ME OR ARE YOU IGNORING ME? Dan Bern opens for Ani DiFranco's solo tour on the East Coast.
FROM LILEKS: You've read about it in Jim Ellroy, now see the reality: "Castro Raped My Teenage Daughter!"
CATHY SEIPP pans Watching Ellie, with some good inside-baseball on the vanity production aspect of the show.
WHY AM I not surprised that Chicago Law students feel better prepared for legal careers than Harvard or Yale or Stanford Law students?
I COULD GET to like Mark Steyn, who is again on the money, this time on Saudi Arabia.
Prince Abdullah has no interest in Palestinians: It's easier for a Palestinian to emigrate to Toronto and become a subject of the Queen than to emigrate to Riyadh and become a subject of King Fahd. But the Prince's peace plan usefully changes the subject from more embarrassing matters -- such as the Kingdom's role in the events of September 11th.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

NIGHTLINE CONTROVERSY: Ted Koppel gets op-ed space in the New York Times, which also weighs in, but the Washington Post comes up with the real scoops.
THIS CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR tale of how Osama bin Laden escaped because he outbid Afghan mercenaries that American forces thought would stay bribed reminds me (and probably no one else) of the campaign finance debate.
"I paid him 300,000 Pakistani rupees [$5,000] and gave him a satellite phone to keep us informed," says Mohammed Musa, an Ali deputy, who says Ali had firmly "trusted" Khel.

"Our problem was that the Arabs had paid him more, and so Ilyas Khel just showed the Arabs the way out of the country into Pakistan," Mr. Musa adds.

Afghan fighters from villages on the border confirmed in interviews last week in Jalalabad that they had later been engaged in firefights with Khel's fighters, who they said were "firing cover for escaping Al Qaeda."
The Americans are now attacking al Qaeda using more Western troops instead of relying almost entirely on Afghan mercenaries. Sure, the US government is paying the American troops, just as they paid for the Afghan troops. The difference is that the American troops believe in the cause. Thus, not only does the US government not only have to pay them less per pound of effective fighting power than they would pay a pure mercenary, but these troops are considerably less likely to defect to a higher bidder.

Ladies and gentlemen, all those special interests giving money to corporations are no different. Emily's List doesn't give money to Hillary Clinton because they think that she'll be so enthused by the money as to sway her to vote for women's issues; they give her money because they know that her vote's already in the bag. Enron gave money to Texas Republicans because they believed that Texas Republicans understood the benefits of deregulation. You don't see the NRA and the Sarah Brady folk trying to outbid each other on a representative. And so on down the line. The most cost-effective way to spend your campaign contributions is to give money to someone who already agrees with you. To donate to a tabula rasa of a politician who blindly acts like Ralph Nader and Paul Krugman think politicians do, and gives his vote to the highest bidder, is a surefire way to waste a lot of money. The campaign finance reformers have the causal arrow backwards.
CORANTE DISCUSSES THE concept of "Google bombing", but the Kibologists were years ahead in their awareness of search-engine bombing, thanks to Archimedes Plutonium.
WHY CAN'T FRATERNITY MEMBERS be more respectful to our Lobster-American community? (via Obscure Store)
BASEBALL SALARY CAP: Derek Zumsteg, Joe Sheehan, and Ted Frank discuss the pros and (mostly) cons of a baseball salary cap at Baseball Prospectus.

Of course, Frank is absolutely wrong when he attributes the 49ers' success in the 1980s to the salary cap, as the NFL salary cap was put into place in 1994.
ONE LAST LA PIECE: Ken Layne mourns the California Republican party self-immolation. Looks like Riordan will lose the nomination to an anti-abortion candidate, which means four more years of Gray Davis.
PELOSI UPDATE in Newsweek. The Austin Chronicle also has a review of Alexandra Pelosi's documentary.
FROM THE LA TIMES: "Medical researchers fear the group that says space aliens have instructed them to start cloning humans will cause lawmakers to ban the technique."
KOBE BRYANT UPDATE: As I guessed, the LA Times would have a bit more today, though without actually getting into details. T.J. Simers, one of my least favorite sportswriters, did have a good point:
SOMEONE IN the NBA front office must really know what Reggie Miller said to Kobe Bryant and it must have been a real doozy--something as low down and troubling as the punch Kobe took at Miller, because there's no other way to justify the two of them getting the same punishment. Kobe and Miller aren't saying what was said, and I wouldn't want to guess--in case I was right.
MLB PLAYERS ARE considering boycotting the All-Star Game, which will be played in Commissioner Selig's ballpark in Milwaukee. Interesting maneuver.
A PHOTO OF two Israeli victims of a terrorist attack.
PHENOMENAL RESOURCE: The Federal Judges Biographical Database covers all judges who have served on Article III courts since 1789. Alas, it only says "private practice" rather than the name of the firm with which a judge practiced, but it is otherwise impeccable.
THE PROBLEM WITH so much science reporting is that it's premature. The Washington Post couldn't wait before putting these yet-to-be-verified claims of table-top fusion on the front page of Tuesday's paper.
MUCH TO MY DISAPPOINTMENT, Philip Greenspun adds his voice to those panning the Handspring Treo. Still looking for the killer-app cellphone...

Monday, March 04, 2002

THE SECRET'S OUT! Fellow Maroon Megan McArdle has clearly been trying to hide her face, even resorting to photoshop blurring. But it's little known that an unretouched photo of Megan McArdle can be found at the UChicago web site.
SET THE WAYBACK machine for 1996, and see's first web page.
UNFOUNDED NBA GOSSIP: Justin Slotman, who was Instapundited the same day that he linked to me, resulting in all sorts of collateral hits to my page in a record-breaking day, wonders why Kobe Bryant got so upset at Reggie Miller. This press report is even more intriguing than the ESPN one Justin cites to:
Only Miller and Bryant apparently know what was said.

Miller remained mum, except to issue a written statement that said, "Kobe has other issues he has to deal with. This had nothing to do with me or the basketball game played on Friday evening."

Jackson seemed to confirm as much, saying, "There's more to it." He did not elaborate.

It is well known among the Lakers that Bryant has been coping with a variety of personal issues the last two seasons, but how that might have contributed to Friday's events is unclear.

Jackson said he was not surprised at Bryant's violent response.
In other words, everybody in the press knows what it is, but no one will say it explicitly, because they're afraid of getting Kobe mad at them, and losing the access they need to get quotes to file stories several days a week several months a year on the NBA. (The LA Times wouldn't even go as far as the quoted language here, though perhaps tomorrow's paper will say more.) Bryant also punched teammate Samaki Walker last month in an incident that got little publicity compared to, say, a Charles Oakley tiff.

Of course, the lack of disclosure, as any game theorist knows, only leads to worst-case speculation. What could it possibly be? There were rumors that Kobe married a high-schooler to avoid statutory rape charges, rumors so loud that the New York Post ran a blind item that wasn't especially blind.

Who knows? The referees swallow their whistles during the playoffs, and if the Lakers' stars keep losing their tempers because they're not getting calls, we could be seeing a Pat-Riley-Miami-Heat-style playoff implosion rather than a Pat-Riley-LA-Laker-style championship run.
IF ONLY THERE WERE crossing gates to protect people from the hazard of the, um, crossing gates. (via Obscure Store)

Also from Obscure Store: PETA goes after the Indiana sparrow-biter.
SOME OF MY friends may recall a mutual friend who enlisted friends in her efforts to game the best-seller lists into temporarily including her book. She was a piker compared to this guy, who allegedly took advantage of Barnes &'s free shipping offer to order thousands of copies of his own book, which then promptly popped up on the NY Times best-seller list, at which point he returned the books.
IN OTHER "ENTERTAINMENT" news, Paula Jones seeks to make a prophet out of James Carville and has replaced Amy Fisher as Tonya Harding's boxing opponent on FOX.
THE PRODUCERS GUILD selected Moulin Rouge for best picture, making the Oscar race that much more interesting, especially with the rumors that Russell Crowe's tantrum at the BAFTAs may cost him a second straight Best Actor Oscar.
A TEXAS POLITICIAN dared to suggest that a Spanish-language debate might not be appropriate in a predominantly English-language state and is being to taken to task for it. Sheesh.
TEST YOURSELF FOR hidden bias. Fascinating stuff. (via Melissa Schwartz)
THE CASE AGAINST Third World debt forgiveness. Meanwhile, a Bono visit to Senator Daschle must've been a disappointment for the former when he learned that the latter intended the meeting not as a chance for a rock-star to dabble in policy-making but an opportunity for a politician to dabble in music (third item).
THE SUPREME COURT WILL hear the multi-billion dollar NextWave license dispute. But they denied cert on the curious 2-1 Ninth Circuit decision that prohibited the Venetian from being able to control the casino-owned sidewalk. This will be a disappointment to tourists who were hoping to avoid the "adult-entertainment" pamphleteers that pervade the parts of the Strip that are not in front of casinos; there will now be that many more of them.
$62,000 DINNER UPDATE. You just knew the Wall Street Journal would come to the defense of the investment bankers, but I wasn't aware of or expecting the expression of ethnic pride that appears here. Fun detail: one of the six diners was a teetotalling Muslim who presumably had the $5 bottles of water.
JURY CONSULTANTS. This Recorder story is entirely laudatory. In my experience, I've seen jury consultants range from very helpful to about-as-helpful-as-a-focus-group to a useful crutch for an insecure lead counsel to pure phrenology.
SAUDI ARABIA. More from the Boston Globe on how Saudi government-run schools teach intolerance and anti-American attitudes. The Globe also has good stories on the families of the Saudi 9/11 hijackers.
THE JOY OF JOLLIBEE: Justin Slotman points me to this Economist piece on the Filipino fast-foodery Jollibee. Kibo reviews the Los Angeles version of Jollibee.
"The Producers" goes to Vienna and Berlin. (via Gary Farber)
LATE SHIFT II: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO. The latest Bill Carter reporting on the Letterman saga. Meanwhile, the Nightline staff reacts.
THIS WASHINGTON POST STORY about a journalist who switched careers and ended up caught up in the tech boom seems like a typical "I'll talk to some people I already know, and report it as a trend" job of reporting, but has some unintentional insights about how reporters view the corporate world.
Within a week, in late 1993, Stewart got his first telecom job -- director of communications for PacTel's Washington office.

Some newspaper colleagues were stunned. PR? Telecom? Many reporters liked to think of their jobs as a public service. PR, some reckoned, was more about the money. He heard gentle ribbing: Going over to the dark side? [...]

The new gig, however, took some getting used to.

For one, he had to wake up early, a foreign concept to many newspaper reporters. For another, foul language -- part of the daily lexicon of a newsroom -- didn't fly in the corporate suites.
I'd also like to know what a "double-digit salary increase" is.
THIS DISTURBING TIME magazine story on future terrorist prevention quotes an FBI official
"If you go back and look at the hijackers, they had zero contact with any known al-Qaeda people we were looking at. They didn't break laws. They didn't do anything to come to anybody's attention. Are there other people in the U.S. like that? We don't know."
This seems inconsistent with earlier reporting, such as the questions Alex Knapp asked a month ago about the Washington Post reporting. And here's the current Washington Post reporting on the subject.
KEVIN SMITH: The View Askew site has the new "Clerks" short, plus an auction site named "EJay", at least until the Ebay folks see that logo and have their attorneys write a letter.

Sunday, March 03, 2002

TEN DAYS IN SEPTEMBER: Mickey Kaus cuts down the 40,000+ word Washington Post series down to size, and notes what got left out.
MORE ON THE Beth Eggers saga. Or, meta-more, anyway.