Saturday, March 16, 2002

LAWSUIT OVER computer animation rendering technology.
All brassy personality and purple duds, Pelosi was the toast of the festival for the first few days. "Journeys with George," her humanizing home movie of George W. Bush on the presidential campaign trail, packed the Paramount Theatre last Friday night and Monday afternoon, becoming one of the fest's few must-sees. (Curiously, the film took no honors, not even the audience award, at Tuesday's awards ceremony.)
Pelosi's "Journeys with George" demonstrated that having a star doesn't hurt -- especially if he goes on to become president of the United States. And yet, while audiences adored the film, the director said the film's future is uncertain. Serious funding is needed to get it released.

"I don't have a sugar daddy," said Pelosi, swathed in her trademark purple, to Monday's audience. "That's theoretically why you come to film festivals. Someone sees (your movie) and gives you lots of money."

FORMER BRANDEIS STUDENT SENATE President Michael Walzer has a phenomenal piece on the Left's response to the war in Afghanistan.
There was (and is) still a lot to worry about: refugees, hunger, minimal law and order. But it was suddenly clear, even to many opponents of the war, that the Taliban regime had been the biggest obstacle to any serious effort to address the looming humanitarian crisis, and it was the American war that removed the obstacle. It looked (almost) like a war of liberation, a humanitarian intervention.

But the war was primarily neither of these things; it was a preventive war, designed to make it impossible to train terrorists in Afghanistan and to plan and organize attacks like that of September 11. And that war was never really accepted, in wide sections of the left, as either just or necessary. Recall the standard arguments against it: that we should have turned to the UN, that we had to prove the guilt of al-Qaeda and the Taliban and then organize international trials, and that the war, if it was fought at all, had to be fought without endangering civilians. The last point was intended to make fighting impossible. I haven’t come across any arguments that seriously tried to describe how this (or any) war could be fought without putting civilians at risk, or to ask what degree of risk might be permissible, or to specify the risks that American soldiers should accept in order to reduce the risk of civilian deaths. All these were legitimate issues in Afghanistan, as they were in the Kosovo and Gulf wars. But among last fall’s antiwar demonstrators, “Stop the bombing” wasn’t a slogan that summarized a coherent view of the bombing--or of the alternatives to it. The truth is that most leftists were not committed to having a coherent view about things like that; they were committed to opposinf the war, and they were prepared to oppose it without regard to its causes or character and without any visible concern about preventing future terrorist attacks.

A few left academics have tried to figure out how many civilians actually died in Afghanistan, aiming at as high a figure as possible, on the assumption, apparently, that if the number is greater than the number of people killed in the Towers, the war is unjust. At the moment, most of the numbers are propaganda; there is no reliable accounting. But the claim that the numbers matter in just this way, that the 3120th death determines the injustice of the war, is in any case wrong. It denies one of the most basic and best understood moral distinctions: between premeditated murder and unintended killing.
I BET YOU'RE GOING TO feel much more secure about Life In These United States after seeing these photos of the results of a new scanning device for airports in action. The AP report demurely states that they leave nothing to the imagination, which is putting it mildly. The Orlando Sentinel didn't even mention the privacy issues.
CHARMING HOKUM relaying former Astros' manager Larry Dierker's meeting with the new manager, Jimy Williams.
PSLRA SMACKDOWN. The Recorder reports cursorily that the 9th Circuit rejected a claim of accounting fraud under the PSLRA, but it's impossible to tell from the article whether the PSLRA had anything to do with it, or whether it was a straightforward application of the considerably more ancient Rule 9(b).
IN INDIANA: Backyard roller coaster. (via metafilter)

Friday, March 15, 2002

IF YOU CAME HERE from Robert Musil, here's the Blue Sky post he refers to. I agree that our disagreement is at the margins, but there were plenty of prominent and not-so-prominent people warning that the dot-com was a bubble in 1999 (see, e.g., here or George Soros in January 1999 or Paul Krugman in March 1999 or Burton Malkiel), and a stinging rebuke from a Blue Sky commission would not have choked off the bubble, but, rather, would've been laughed at the way the other bears were being laughed at. If Alan Greenspan, the most admired economist in Washington, couldn't choke off "irrational exuberance," why would a bunch of no-name state bureaucrats have had more than a mild dampening effect?

(In any event, the 1995 PSLRA merely completed earlier regulatory reform that ensured that any IPO meeting NASDAQ standards would sail through the state review; one likely would not have seen the Blue Sky speechifying Musil refers to, just as one can't recall any Blue Sky commissioners speaking out against the biotech bubble in the 1980's.)
IF YOU LIVE in Colorado, and want to know why your car insurance is about to go up, read this story.
SLATE HAS SUGGESTIONS for Steven Spielberg now that he's re-releasing "E.T." with the "disturbing" scenes digitally edited.
Schindler's List (1993) An alarming number of guns and children within the same frame here. Change all of them to walkie-talkies. (The guns. Not the children. Although changing the children to walkie-talkies would work, too, come to think of it. Who'd have a problem with guns pointed at walkie-talkies? )
ONE LAST BASEBALL THING FOR TODAY. Strat-O-Matic, about ten years after they could've done so, figures out that it should sponsor fantasy leagues.
TONY, TONY, TONY. Tony Pierce reacts to my defense of Bonds by slamming him more. Ok, Tony. Just say you don't like Barry Bonds. The only reason you have for not liking him is a bunch of sportswriters, over time, got pissed off when he was looking for a quote and Bonds wouldn't give it to him, and in their "Who does he think he is?" jealousy of a 100-1 pay-ratio bad-mouth him, and you come away thinking that Bonds has no friends (though unlike, say, Ken Griffey, one can't find a present or former teammate who will say anything but good stuff about him) and is somehow overrated (even though he's missed out on two or three MVP awards that he could've won but lost to players having lesser seasons).

But, really, Tony, you do yourself a disservice when "I don't like Barry Bonds" turns into this utterly irrational attack. It's funny how this sportswriter-driven hatred results in some really ludicrous statements.
I sold hot dogs and chablis and peanuts and garlic fries in section 3 at the 'Stick for the entire '97 season. The same section that Bonds would look towards to spy his wife and kids and wave and then strut to the plate and fail to advance the runner, or run out a grounder, or help his team do much.
I heartily recommend the amazing site. Looking up the 1997 Giants, we see that Bonds led his team in Total Bases and Slugging Percentage (meaning he advanced runners at a better clip than anyone else on the team), as well as On-Base Percentage (meaning he made fewer outs per plate appearance, regardless of how often he ran out grounders). And, oh, by the way, he led the team in G, R, H, HR, BB, SB, baserunner kills, and led the Giant outfielders in put-outs and fielding percentage. He also won the Gold Glove, and placed fifth in the MVP vote. He was the only Giant to walk more than he struck out. He was second on the team in batting average only to slap-hitting mediocrity Bill Mueller. Even though he had more plate appearances, he grounded into fewer double plays than Jeff Kent, so he couldn't have been failing to run out that many grounders. I don't care how often you hit a ground-ball to the right side, even if Barry Bonds never did it at all in 1997, it doesn't come close in making up the difference between what Bonds meant to that team and any other Giant meant to that team.
The Giants led their division for most of that year, yet they only had three sellouts in '97 - Opening Day, one game against the Dodgers, and one Friday night game when they were poised to clinch the title. This tells you that even the fans hated Barry.
No, Tony, it tells me that the fans hated Candlestick. Sure, you deny it, but the facts say differently.

As an initial matter, the 1996 Giants were 68-94. I don't care how well you start out the next season, when you go 68-94 the previous year, it hurts season ticket sales so much that it's near impossible to sell out a huge pit like Candlestick.

Second, guess how often the San Francisco Giants had above average attendance in their last two decades in Candlestick, 1980-1999. During that stretch, they won several division titles, participated in the most exciting pennant race in post-1969 National League history, and even went to a World Series. Answer: zero. Every year, for twenty years straight, the Giants had attendance below the National League average. In 2000, they opened up a new ballpark, and lo and behold, suddenly they're selling out every night and drawing 3.3 million fans a year, second in the NL out of sixteen teams. I guess the fans stopped hating Barry all of the sudden. Or maybe it was the acquisition of Russ Davis that excited the fans so.

In the team's history, the Giants have drawn two million fans five times. Twice in the last two years with the new ballpark. And two out of the other three times were Barry-led teams.

You can't compare how the 49'ers sell out in Candlestick. Football has eight home games a year, and every single one of them is meaningful, and 93% of them are on a weekend. Baseball has 81 home games a year, the pennant race is more of a marathon than the sprint of football, and 70% of the games are on weekdays.
My prediction: he hits 51 and pouts more than youve ever seen.
Oh, you mean that Bonds, coming off of The Greatest Season In The History Of Baseball (tm), might only hit the second-most home runs he ever hit in his career at the age of 38? Heaven forfend.

We live in exciting times. The best home-run hitter of all time and the second-best shortstop of all time just retired, and the best leadoff hitter of all time looks like he won't be able to find a job, but the best left-fielder of all time is still playing in San Francisco. It's a shame that, like the man formerly holding that honor, Ted Williams, he's not going to be fully appreciated in his own time.
HERE IS A better photo of the Tribute of Light.

UPDATE: LAN3 tips us that Ranjit also has some nifty photos.
JAY ZILBERT expresses pessimism over Bush's latest press conference. Let's hope this was Bush talking off the reservation when he doesn't have a script rather than a shift in policy.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

AUSTRALIANS HAVE MUCH cooler district names than we Americans do. This guy represents the Electoral Division of Batman.
MORE KIBO. Kibo's SeaTac airport adventure, with stopover in Salt Lake City.
WHAT I LEARNED TODAY. It's "just deserts," not "just desserts." Who knew? Is Mickey Kaus going William Safire on us?
INTERESTING STORY OF an amateur screenwriter who, through connections, got to do a rewrite of "Showtime." Reading between the lines, it sounds like his big contribution was to add William Shatner to the movie. I liked the movie preview, I liked the article, the writer seems nice enough, but it had the mysterious effect of making me want to see the movie less. It's hard to believe that a movie written with such chaos could be anything more than Hollywood drek.
I PROMISE THAT the only reason I know about Pachinko Sexy Reaction is because of this Kibo review (link added):
"Pachinko Sexy Reaction", a Japanese arcade game of recent vintage, playable via MAME 0.57 or later.

It's a PACHINKO game. That's dorky!

It's a VIDEO pachinko game. That's dorkier!

It's a STRIP video pachinko game. That's dorkiest!

It's a CARTOON strip video pachinko game. That's ur-dorky!

It's a cartoon strip video pachinko game featuring underage girls in their school uniforms. That's JAPANESE!
I THINK I'M GOING to submit this Ebay auction to McSweeney's.
WELL, IT'S BEEN over a week, and if you've been expecting Jorn Barger to take down the link to the bogus story about Israeli spies, or even acknowledge the refutation, you'll be sorely disappointed. Why does anyone still pay attention to Robot Wisdom? Nostalgia?
REFUTATION OF the bogus Marc Herold casualty figures for Afghanistan.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

CHARLES KUFFNER points out that Samizdata is still unapologetic about their approvingly citing to the loonybin tax protestor movement. Though, actually, the Samizdata post he points to is actually critical of the loonybin tax protestors for being insufficiently loonybin. The Left has a tendency to eat their own, but so do the libertarians.

What I immediately noticed is the following attempt at witticism in a different (but otherwise quite sensible) post:
Have you ever played poker for hours and ended up with the same money you started out with? Well these jokers think that we'd still play cards if the croupier stole a chip every deal.
I'd sure love to know where I can play poker without having to pay for the croupier. In LA, the button charge was $3-$4 a hand unless you played above $18 limits, where the fee was still in the double-digits an hour. The waiting list at the Commerce Casino on a Saturday night shows that people will happily play cards when the croupier taxes a chip every deal.
SLATE begins to tell the fascinating story of Ravi Desai, who appears to have hoaxed Slate and others in a manner that Stephen Glass could only dream of. I look forward to the updates.
THIS REPORT FROM the BBC tells of a Brown University experiment allowing computers to measure brain waves and manipulate objects on the screen. That's a killer app. The generation after us is going to live in some exciting times.
THE NEW YORK TIMES has good insight on the "sixteenth minute" of celebrity life in 21st century America. Vanilla Ice guested on an MTV special of the "25 Lamest Videos" that made fun of him and other flashes in the pan, and he tried to take it in good humor, but went berserk in a scene where he was supposed to destroy his video with a baseball bat. It's got to be hellish to peak that high that young, and know there's no hope of reclaiming the earlier glory after the backlash hits. He's reduced to "boxing" Todd Bridges, and if that wasn't embarrassing enough, getting knocked down two or three times must have been.

Anyway, as one would have expected, Paula Jones, a Southern woman raised never to compete in sports, spent eight minutes trying not to get hit by an Olympic athlete before conceding the fight to Tonya Harding.

Some of the has-been celebrities had an internet-gambling website temp-tattooed on their backs for advertising. Who gambles on a televised replay of an event that already happened?
CONSERVATIVE CATHOLICS Rod Dreher and Andrew Sullivan argue about gays in the clergy.
OUR FRIENDS THE SAUDIS. MEMRI translation of story in official government newspaper that informs Saudi citizens that Jews use gentile blood to bake pastries. Charming. (via WSJ Best-of-the-Web)
INTERESTING WASHINGTON POST piece on whether hundreds of Arthur Andersen partners are going to go down in response to challenges to their LLP structure, complete with quote from Randy Picker.
SO, I'M INTERVIEWING an expert witness, and he blurts out, "You look like Billy Joel!" The receptionist concurred. "He's right, you do look like Billy Joel." I clearly need to be getting more sleep. But perhaps it's why I get the full-body-take-off-your-belt-and-shoes search every time I take a cross-country flight.
WITH GEORGE BUSH piling on, the INS stupidity in approving Mohammed Atta's visa application two years after it was requested and six months after he had already killed over a thousand people isn't news, but I'm somehow not surprised. When my immigrant wife filed for divorce, I cancelled my sponsorship of her citizenship application by mail, got an INS notice to appear at a hearing two years later, physically showed up and verified that my letter was in her file, was assured that that would be that -- and then got another notice about another hearing a year later. This time I didn't go. When we were dating, I can't recall how often she got stopped at the border by the INS, but then it's more fun to interrogate young Canadian blondes than someone like Atta, who isn't nearly as good looking.
LLOYD GROVE outdoes himself today. First, he breaks the story that Ann "convert 'em all" Coulter is seeing a rich Muslim. He also breaks the story on National Geographic's story on Sharbat Gula, whose name you don't recognize, but whose face you will.
SLATE DOES A good piece on Richard Nixon's anti-Semitism.
ALSO IN BASEBALL news. Bud Selig is a jerk. Dog bites man. Etc.
I'D BE REMISS if I didn't link to Matt Welch's tale of Cuban baseball players at the time of the Revolution. Tony Pierce now has a baseball blog, with some spectacular photos, but I was disappointed in his commentary on the Bonds-Sosa spat. Tony repeats the urban legend that no one likes Barry; it's equally fictitious that Sammy Sosa is lovable, as any Chicago sports reporter will happily admit in private, but dares not say in public.
STREAMLINED BUREAUCRACY! The FTC and DOJ finally agreed on a split of jurisdiction on merger review. Previously, every merger was potentially in both agencies' bailiwicks, and they'd spend weeks fighting over who got to opine on a merger.
By law, the agencies have just 30 days to make a decision whether to approve a merger or issue a "second request" -- a burdensome discovery procedure that signals a deal is in for closer scrutiny.

But when the agencies spend days or weeks fighting over jurisdiction, that leaves little time for anyone to look into the merits of the deal. As the American Bar Association Antitrust Section noted in a Jan. 23 letter to the DOJ and the FTC, this has led to second requests prompted "solely by a lack of time for a preliminary review of the proposed transaction."
Senator Hollings (D-Disney) is reported to be upset over the arrangement.
E-MAIL LORE update: That "French intellectual" airdrop "story" appears to come from someone named Michael Kelly. The original is too long by a few paragraphs, but the e-mail cuts the best one, which I've added in an edit of my original post.
IF YOU DON'T WANT TO sit through "Ice Age," here's the new Star Wars II trailer.
I MET EUGENE VOLOKH the year after he graduated law school, and I knew right away that he was going to go on to big things. I didn't try to become a law professor because, well, Eugene was already doing it, and doing everything I wanted to do, and doing it better than I would've done it anyway. Eugene, in the Gladwell canon, is that rarest of people, one who's both a Maven (and a Maven's Maven at that) and a Connector. The day he starts a blog, I give this sucker up. That could come soon if he gets used to the attention from his guest spots in Instapundit, and he's already churning out stuff better than 99.99% of the blogging community, including Professor Instant. Here's Eugene on campaign finance laws, succintly making the point I've been trying to make for three weeks:
JUST TAUGHT the campaign finance speech unit in my Free Speech Law class. So here's one item we focused on: A lot of reform proposals try to restrict not just contributions to candidates, but also "independent expenditures," through which an individual, a nonprofit group, or a corporation spends money to support or oppose a candidate. But somehow the media are always given an exemption from this constraint. How come?

When a newspaper or a magazine supports a candidate, through an editorial or through a puff piece, that's tantamount to spending thousands of dollars, under any sane accounting system. Newspaper and magazine spending is as potentially corrupting as other spending -- a newspaper endorsement can be a valuable bribe. Buying a newspaper will "buy access" to politicians more surely than running an independent spending campaign would. Same if we focus on equality of voice rather than corruption: The media's power to speak using their own money is surely as unegalitarian as wealthy people's power to speak.

Seems to me that if someone who owns a newspaper can editorialize all he wants using his money, then others should be able to rent space in that newspaper (by buying an ad) using their money. And, of course, in the cyberspace age, aren't we all part of "the press"? How can the law sensibly distinguish the L.A. Times, a local business corporation (which has a Web page and a newsletter, and wants to rent time on televiison), and me?

Funny, though, that the newspapers that keep calling for campaign finance reform never tell us why they should keep their rights to express their views using their money while we are stripped of our rights to do the same.
And, hey, he also notes the Fighting Whities story.
Hey, I just got spam from Brian Doyle!
DENNIS LEARY NOT ON CELEBRITY BOXING. Cathy Seipp endorses "The Job," a surefire sign that it will get cancelled. I watched and enjoyed one episode last year, but you could tell that this is the kind of show you shouldn't let yourself get attached to. I'm still mad about Bakersfield PD.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

CHINESE SOUVENIR. Osama bin Laden statuette. "Questionable taste" is an understatement.
HIGHLY APPROPRIATE. An Indian basketball team calls itself the Fighting Whities. (via Obscure Store)
YOU CAN NEVER HAVE too many Alexandra Pelosi links. This one's from the LA Times.
BLUE SKY LAWS. "Robert Musil" suggests that the federal repeal of state blue-sky laws took away an important countervailing force in the IPO world and was partially responsible for the dot-com bubble. I disagree.
(1) The bubble and its bursting corresponded precisely to the Federal Reserve's monetary policies in 1999-2000. A better explanation might be the overreaction to the concern that there would be a run on the banks in late December 1999 because of Y2K problems (remember Y2K?): the Fed pumped an inordinate amount of cash into the economy, and that cash needed somewhere to go. Even if "Musil" is right that Blue Sky commissions would've put a wrench in Net IPO plans, the economy is probably better off today that that money did go into speculative Internet stocks instead of blue-chips and real estate. The resulting dislocation only affected the speculative investors, and the value investors were not only left untouched, but cleaned up. Japan's still recovering from its bubble of ten years ago, and our bubble seems to have had negative effects for two years at most. When the Fed realized in early 2000 that it had overheated the economy, it had to slam on the brakes of monetary supply. The first shock to the dot-com world (the U.S. v. Microsoft opinion), combined with a lot of people having to sell stocks to pay capital gains taxes in April 2000, started the inevitable descent.

(2) Simply put, people wanted to invest in the Internet in 1998-2000. If that investment had not come from IPOs because of Blue Sky commissions, basic economics tells us it would have come from somewhere else. Several blue chippers ended up writing off hundreds of millions of dollars in Internet investments; that figure would've been in the billions but that the expense of investing in the net world prevented Borders from buying Amazon or United from buying Priceline at their peaks. The blue chip stocks then would have pitched themselves to the market as net plays, and that's where the money would've gone.

(3) Point two is more than a theoretical counterfactual. Enron made its money in the energy world. It lost its shirt trying to be a broadband player. The real casualties of the dot-com era are not the evanescent dot-com stocks that shot up to triple-digit figures and now sell for pennies on the dollar of their peaks: those stocks had small floats, so the "losses" affected the perception of Jeff Bezos and Michael Saylor's largely imaginary wealth far more than it affected investors in the market. The minute Bezos would have tried to liquidate his Amazon holdings in the larger market is the minute the bubble would've burst. It only took a handful of enthusiastic investors, enthused by The Motley Fool's success in AOL and subsequent pitching of Amazon, to pump the price of the stock so high because of the limited supply. The real losses came in broadband, where huge company after huge company invested billions of dollars to build next-generation networks and now discover they have expensive overcapacity that can't generate the revenue to pay the interest payments. That's nothing new: the 19th century US economy was wracked much more severely by railroad overbuilding.

(4) I'm skeptical the Blue Sky commissions would have made a difference. The dot-com bubble was hardly the first stock market bubble in American history, or even in the second half of the twentieth century. Boonton Electronics Corp.'s first day of trading priced at a 150% increase to its IPO price, then quickly doubled again. Within two years, it was down more than 80%. Same with Geophysics Corp. of America, IPO'ed at 14, trading at 27 its first day, peaking at 58, dropping to 9 the next year. But the president was Kennedy, rather than Clinton. There was the conglomerate boom and bust of the 1960s, the concept-stock bubble of 1968-71, the "Nifty Fifty" bubble of the early 1970s that saw PE ratios on blue-chip stocks soar to near triple-digit levels, and the biotech bubble of the 1980s--a bubble that looks in retrospect identical to the tech stock bubble in everything except pervasiveness. Blue Sky laws did nothing to stop these bubbles, and they wouldn't have stopped the most recent one. And that's before you consider the drag on the economy that multiple regulatory schemes had.
GEORGE W. BUSH, male model. Or not, but the 1980 J.C. Penney catalog is still trippy.
FOR THE LIFE of me, I don't know why this woman in Vancouver linked to me, but I'm honored. I think. Also recently linking to me: Bob Owen and Ben Sheriff. I've long admired Walter Olsen's Overlawyered site, so I'm definitely pleased to get a shout-out from him.

Monday, March 11, 2002

THE "Tribute of Light" seems a bit less dramatic than the original proposal.
LATE SHIFT II anti-climax. Letterman stays.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

WAITING FOR THE RED CROSS. I doubt we'll hear any press conferences about the following report from Al Qaeda caves:
Beheshti also said he saw a Westerner held captive: a tall, blond man with a military-style haircut who had been stripped naked and beaten with sticks.
[The] 1989 earthquake found Bruce Stephan on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. That was his 1984 Mazda in one of the day's famous pictures, dangling, seemingly impossibly, from where the bridge's upper deck had collapsed onto the lower one. He clambered to safety.
Twelve years later, he escaped the WTC attacks.